A new term at my current institution has just begun, and so I have once again been spending some time thinking about the way I teach and the reasons that I teach. It occurs to me that I have talked about it before, something about doing what I do in part because of the jokes. And that remains true; as has been pointed out, earlier writers had as well developed senses of humor as current writers--if not more. But there are other reasons...
As I was catching up on the reading I missed during my trip overseas, I read through the September 2012 National Geographic. Andrew Curry's article, "Roman Frontiers" (106-27) captured my attention. Part of the attraction comes from the fact that some of what Curry discusses had been discussed in one of the classes I took while I was at the University of Cambridge. More of it, though, comes from the comment Curry makes: "Understanding why the Romans were obsessed with their borders--and the role their obsession played in the decline of the empire--might help us better understand ourselves" (110). The comment draws a parallel to late Rome and some of the more contentious immigration issues in the United States and elsewhere*--we do seem to be preoccupied with the boundaries between countries--and serves as a reminder that we are now as we always have been.
There is a remarkable continuity of human endeavor and of human nature. What we have done we still do, what has been important is still important, perhaps not in its surface trappings, but in its fundamental nature. And that is another reason that I study what I study: it helps me to understand that person I am. For I, as are we all, am a product of all that which has gone before me, whether I am aware of it or not. By learning more of it, I learn more of who I am, and I approach closer to the one great truth towards which all who seek learning and seek to develop new knowledge strive.
*I am not here going to go into the question of whether the implication that the current state of affairs is an empire as doomed as late Rome was. Later, I might get into it. Might.