It’s no secret − I’m a nerd as well as a geek. It’s not all about Optimus Prime and marathons of Doctor Who episodes…no, no! For a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time contemplating worlds other than our own, I do have an interest in real-life stuff. Take history, for example. I’ve been a history buff since I was very young. In fact, I can pretty much trace what initially sparked my interest in the subject down to one incident.
I was born in Athens, a small town out in the piney woods of East Texas. One Sunday morning when I was about four or five, I was sitting in church, listening to the story of the Apostle Paul’s famous sermon on the Areopagus, or the Hill of Ares, in Athens, Greece.
Not realizing that there were, in fact, many cities with that name, my mind lit up with the possibilities. I was sitting on the lap of my godmother, or “Nanny,” and the conversation went something like this:
Me: So, Paul went to Athens?
Nanny: Yes, that’s right.
Me: Wow! I didn’t know he came here. Athens is that old?
Nanny: (With a knowing smile) No, honey, he went to Athens, Greece.
Me: You mean there’s more than one?
Me: (Processing this new information) So…why did they name their city after us?
Nanny: (Another knowing smile) They didn’t. We named our city after them.
It was a whole new world for me. There was another Athens that I had never even heard of before, and it was apparently so cool and awesome that we were merely a reflection of it. It planted the seed of curiosity. I wanted to know just what this ‘super’ Athens had done to warrant such a thing. It made me want to know about them.
As soon as I could, I started reading about Greece. Democracy, theatre, philosophy and the Socratic Method, astronomy, sculpture, marathons, the Olympics, the foundations of the Roman alphabet, classical architecture (most notably the Parthenon), strides forward in mathematics and music, the Hippocratic Oath of Doctors, concepts of social justice, civic duty and community, epic poetry, military strategy, and on, and on. The Greeks either gave us those things outright, or made huge leaps in existing fields. Athens played a big part in all of that.
Makes me proud to be an Athenian. Of a sort…
So, big surprise, that era of history is one my favorites. I just can’t read enough about it. Western civilization owes much to the ancient Greeks. So remember that next time you play Stratego, eat a gyro, or bust out your copy of Clash of the Titans.