“History repeats itself” is an overused banality that warrants exploration. The cyclic nature of our societal traipsings, though ostensibly obvious, bear examination should we wish to moderate its catastrophic excursions. Ascendant and descendant paradigms are too often disguised by perturbations which, if not controlled, promote chaos and despair; that is, if they do not reverse the extant paradigmatic cycle. That we are on an ascending path seems evident; however, the too frequent downward excursions suggest the likelihood of a trend reversing change; hence the title “Dawn or Dusk” for absent a frame of reference they too are indistinguishable. Which way will we head and how can we impact our future is a dominating issue.
To address this and other questions I turn to history and affirm that not only does it repeat itself, but we make the same mistakes − time after time. The focal point of the story is the Greco-Roman world. The 5th century dominates because the western part of the Roman Empire was unable to reverse a downward trend while the Eastern Empire reversed a very negative series of excursions and prospered for another 1000 years as the Byzantine Empire.
Historiographies provide a systematic recording of the past in a form that gives the impression, at least to most of us, that it is objective in its recitations, when in fact history seems better described as empathetic subjectivism, for the assembly of the presented material has been altered not only by transliterations but by attempts to favorably explain acts and remove heretical opinions. That Rome, the Empire, fell as a direct consequence of a victorious sacking of Rome, the city, by barbarians exemplifies this process. If you are to learn from history, the filter must be you and the material provided must be appropriately prepared, for to learn from your own mistakes is far easier than to learn from the actions of others. Motivations must be analyzed and interpreted, for the acts of others are not, in themselves, sufficient. Expanded to include sociological elements adds yet another dimension, for now the impact of social mores both accepted and resisted, must be considered.
The adopted format is that of an historical novel. The focus is on understanding the attitudes of the people responsible for the history recorded. The story is told by Greeks and Romans of the early 5th century; they are for the most part real and their views are condensed from the many books which record their actions and deliberations. Leading the cast is Proclus, the last great classical Neoplatonist, and Priscus, a noted historian of the period, who chronicled the life of Attila. Pope Leo the Great, Aëtius, Attila, Galla Placidia, Emperor Theodosius and many others contribute to the dialogue. You will be amazed, as was I, in the repetitive nature of the problems faced by these 5th century Romans and the civilizations that preceded them. Immigration, banking failures, the role of government and the impact of religion are but a few of the problems that have tormented societies for more than four millennia.
The protagonist is a 21st century student who is not only in search of the “true” past, but herself as well, as she questions the immutable essence of man and explores the commonality of elements of discord. That we are looking at a rising sun is proposed − though realizing the Dawn may depend on our ability to make reasoned decisions. The ball is now in our court!