1) We’re all just people.
I find that most people are under the impression that ancient peoples were stupid, and for some reason, it’s like this huge joke to make us feel better about ourselves. Well, they didn’t have all the facts right and believed in multiple gods, so they must have been stupid. I understand that it’s difficult to see ancient humans being anything like ourselves considering that they lived so differently. However, humans haven’t evolved very much since we became Homo Sapiens (yes, the theology nut is going to talk evolution; don’t get too excited).
“Homo Sapiens” showed up 200,000 years ago (Wikipedia [yes, I got information from Wikipedia. Bad author]), and modern humans, as we think of ourselves now, came around 50,000 years ago. Therefore, this encompasses all of modern society. So, the Ancient Greeks? They look like you. They think like you. No matter the education level, they can reason just like you. Maybe even better than you, because let’s face it, the Ancient Greeks are awesome.
What absolutely sealed this idea for me was when I started reading the translations for graffiti found in the ruins of Pompeii. Yeah, not Greek, but what can you do? First of all, heh, it’s graffiti! Second of all, it’s just as awful as an profane as spray-painted dicks under an overpass. For example, “(Bar/Brothel of Innulus and Papilio); 3932: Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!” and “Nuceria Necropolis (on a tomb); 10231: Serena hates Isidorus”(Graffiti from Pompeii/pompeiana.org). Yeah, I don’t know Isidorus, but I really want to know what he did.
We are way more similar than anyone realizes. It should not be surprising that humans could erect these monuments or have these vast kingdoms. It’s not surprising, because to say that they couldn’t do it means that we couldn’t do it. They’re us just with a different set of beliefs and culture. Ah, which brings me to…
2) Culture is arbitrary.
I can’t really find one resource that led me to this conclusion, but I’ll try and explain myself. Humans tend to be a little ethnocentric. We believe that our way is the right way, and everything we believe to be sacred (or even unjust) now is the way that it’s always been. For example, many people believe that it is natural for a woman to be overemotional and prone to crying, and this has been the mark of women forever and always was. Well, throughout history, it was actually the opposite. (I’m sorry that I have no proper citations. I learned this in History class when I was reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography and found it weird when he kept expressing how much “affection” he had for other men.) To be emotional and crying were marks of passion, and only men who had all this testosterone (although they didn’t call it that obviously) could be passionate. It was considered normal for women to be calmer or even stoic. A passionate or emotional woman was considered unfeminine.
What I’ve learned by delving into history is that culture is a collective idea and subject to change. And it does, constantly, based on the ideals of its members.
3) There’s such a thing as Rock Gong.
Seriously. Check it out.