Written by Lydia Serrant, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
1. Community is Crucial
Loneliness is at record levels in the modern world. Due to technology, face-to-face socialization has steadily declined over the past 20 years.
Loneliness was not likely a problem in ancient societies. Families rarely left their home village and there were no smartphones. Studies have revealed drops in IQ and rises in early death for individuals that socially isolate.
In other words, surround yourself with people you love – it could literally extend your life.
2. Cheap Labor Doesn’t Last
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built for next to nothing.
Rome relied heavily on free slave labour. The Roman citizenry was largely unskilled, and many relied on government subsidies.
Whilst modern societies aren’t using slaves, they are using cheap labor, with some workers being paid less than 64 cents an hour.
As Rome declined and Christianity condemned slavers, the slaves revolted. The labor force eventually collapsed, and the empire along with it.
3. Collaborate with Your Neighbors
Ancient societies flourished when they opened themselves to trade with neighboring countries.
The Social Reactors Project at Arizona University has studied the expansion of the Roman and Incan Empires and found that much of their economic expansion owed itself to open trade.
They concluded that general populations were better off economically living in cities that allowed skilled workers to migrate and export their goods freely.
4. Prioritize Survival Over Progress
Civilizations tend to Peak and Crash, rather than slowly decline.
Today’s modern societies are at serious risk of crash and burn. We are growing faster than anyone could imagine and if history is anything to go by, a Rise always comes before a Fall.
The Mayans saw this coming in 300 AD so they swapped out large-scale agriculture for smaller, sustainable farming. This method generated less wealth but kept them in business for another 600 years.
5. Power Should Be Diluted
When we think of Ancient Meso-American societies, we imagine them as places where rulers governed with an iron fist. However, this was not necessarily the case. Cities like Mexico’s Teotihuacan were close to a republic than an autocracy.
Overall, research has found that Ancient Meso-American cities that had a collective government lasted longer than those that did not. This is not too surprising. Greece and Rome are perhaps the most famous democratic societies with long lifespans.
6. Too Much Private Industry Can Cause Collapse
In Ancient Egypt, the flooding of the Nile was everything. Too much or too little floodwater, and famine would follow.
The Egyptian Priests used Nilometers to predict annual flood levels. They could foretell a bad harvest, and make prior arrangements to protect society from starvation.
Modern economies are reliant on stock markets rather than flood levels, and our bankers are economic priests.
Our economic priests are not so concerned with protecting the public, however. They will over-invest for private profit. This creates market bubbles that almost always burst.
Whilst private industry is good for the economy, too much of it can be devastating.
7. Peace is More Valuable than War
Warfare is risky. Aside from the tragic loss of life, civilizations often exhaust all their resources trying to destroy one another.
A modern example of this is Uber and Didi. They almost bankrupted themselves trying to compete with each other. In the end, Didi won not by destroying Uber, but with a clever strategy that resulted in a merger between the two.
As the famous military leader Sun Tzu put it, the best way to win is not to fight at all.
8. Keep an Eye on Climate Change
These empires were hit by a drought that lasted between 50 and 100 years. Political strife and economic instability reigned as rulers came and went during this period of unrest. As a result, they either collapsed or entered a Dark Age.
We must recognize the impact that climate has on our societies before it is too late.
9. Equality is Worth Fighting For
Rome’s biggest internal war was between the patricians and the plebeians. The plebeians were common people with little to no opportunity to work their way out of poverty.
Plebeians were amongst the first to campaign for equality, and their example changed history. Even so, in ancient Rome, richer Plebeians did very little to help those of lower status, and people still had to fight from the bottom up – but at least they had a chance.
So, whilst human nature may never change, societies can change — as long as there are those willing to stand up for equality.
10. Nothing Lasts Forever
From ancient times to the modern day, no empire has lasted forever. People change, societies shift and empires rise and fall. There is very little that can be done to prevent it.
This grand cycle of change can teach us a thing or two about gratitude.
If you’re in a good position in life, stop and be thankful. If you ‘re in a bad place, rest in the knowledge that it will pass.
In the end, it’s our contributions to society, not the society itself, that will stand the test of time.