When we consider ancient societies, peoples and times... we usually suspect that our time today is so far removed and evolved (better) far and away from such archaic realities.
I am not so sure.
Much how, inversely, we are sometimes tempted to think that our past circumstances were better times than our present circumstances.
All a matter of perception and a limited view of things, I say.
We may look at our past in an idealistic manner, and since we didn't know as much while growing up or when we were younger as we do now, it is easy to perceive a more innocent past or 'easy going' time in our lives.
We personally know more of the world today, having had our share of personal mistakes and failures, and perhaps we cannot always see objectively our past experiences when comparing them to the present.
People sometimes project this same view of past histories and events, thinking the current 'modern' societies and cultures to be the very best example of man's development, suggesting that 'today' we are living at the highest moral or ethical reach.
Anyone with a clear view of past history knows this is certainly not the case, nor has every been the case broadly speaking, perhaps only in certain societies and only at certain times.
Our very life experience is much the same, having times of triumph and times of failure, times of overcoming personal challenges, and perhaps times of being swallowed up by such challenges.
All it takes for our minds to hold a certain idea of the past is to read a historical narrative written in a school book according to a distinct perception, and that particular paraphrasing is etched into our minds as 'true' and objectively accurate.
Scholars debate such mindsets and narratives all the time.
Take the term “barbarians” when thinking of the Roman empire.
All peoples who were not citizens or subject to Rome were labeled as “barbarians”.
Our minds conceived a dark, sinister and lawlessness society outside of Rome's domain with the labeling the hundreds of tribes / peoples / cultures who, at any given time over several centuries, were not subjects to Rome's imperial cultural stamp.
But insightful archeological and historical remains can paint another image outside of such a negative point of view.
“Pagan” was another term used in other times and empires when speaking of peoples outside one's common understanding and accepted societal norms.
These labels also carry over into religious perceptions, as well as ethnic and so on.
Some people have pierced through these false narratives, the divisive labeling of others, to arrive at a comforting clarity: we are all related, all belonging to a single human family, divided only by time and geography... and our ideas... and this mental division is slowly eroding away.
Although the same patterns of our collective humanity linger on with some citizens of any given nationalistic or religious mindset viewing those outside their common perceptions as 'pagans' or 'barbarians', we also see, as evidenced by past ideas, that not all people adopt the view that the past was better or worse than the present.
If the individual perceives their past as having been better than their present, they may not be making the best effort in growing along with life's changes.
Much how if today's society considers itself to be at the cusp of what is best when reflecting upon the past, such arrogance can only spell more misperceptions and faulty idealism.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
and benefits those who see the sun.
Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
Wisdom preserves those who have it.
- Ecclesiastes 7: 8-12