Monday, January 28, 2013

Ten Ancient Mistakes I

About a month ago, I mentioned a newspaper article about ten business mistakes never to make. While I applied it mainly to higher education, it also applies to the ancient world. So here are the mistakes looked at in an ancient context.

#1 Dishonesty

One of the more interesting examples of dishonesty is Ramses II. When Ramses II went up against the city of Qadesh, he was lucky to come back alive. The Hittites routed the Egyptians and plundered the camp. They almost killed Ramses II too. Fortunately for Ramses, he was able to snatch a stalemate out of the jaws of defeat. He retreated to Egypt but the Hittites followed him taking Egyptian territories behind him.

When he got back to Egypt, Ramses portrayed the battle as a great victory for Egypt and even had poetic verses praising his accomplishments composed. One wonders how many of the soldiers who were at the battle believed Ramses' account. These days, we do not believe Ramses because we also have the Hittite accounts of the battle. As a result, many wonder if he was really as brave as he claimed. Given that he never went on campaign again, one might be forgiven for having doubts.

Ramses II was dishonest in another way. He would take the monuments of earlier pharaohs and carve his name in place of theirs, thus giving the appearance that he was a more prolific builder than he actually was. He really did not need to do so because he was a prolific builder in his own right and because of his lengthy reign, he outbuilt most pharaohs. As a consequence, when scholars see Ramses' name on a monument, the first thing they ask is if he really built it.

In the long run, dishonesty disgraces those who engage in it and diminishes what might otherwise be significant accomplishments.