[ Originally posted on MySpace.com on Oct 30, 2009 ]More than fifty years after first reading it, I am slowly reading again H. G. Wells's The Outline of History. Here and there some of his observations make one stop and think. A few months ago, I reported on his anticipation of the theory that an asteroid striking the earth was the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The following is another thought-provoking extract from Wells: " And it was chiefly the poorer citizens of Athens who sustained this empire by their most vigorous and incessant personal service. Every citizen was liable to military service at home or abroad between the ages of eighteen and sixty, sometimes on purely Athenian affairs and sometimes in defence of the cities of the Empire whose citizens had bought themselves off. There was probably no single man over twenty-five in the Athenian Assembly who had not served in several campaigns in different parts of the Mediterranean or Black Sea, and who did not expect to serve again. Modern imperialism is denounced by its opponents as the exploitation of the world by the rich; Athenian imperialism was the exploitation of the world by the poorer citizens of Athens. "
We have all been told numerous times that even only a hundred years ago the average life expectancy was only around age 40. Few people lived beyond that age. Yet, the city of Athens in ancient Greece had its citizens serving in the army up to the age of 60! Surely, people were not all that enfeebled. It has always seemed to me that low life expectancies in the past were due to high rates of infant and child mortality.
Recently, the newspapers have given some publicity to a new book, Manthropology, by an Australian anthropologist, Peter McAllister, who presents evidence that prehistoric men were physically stronger and more robust than modern men. He states that the average Aborigine in prehistoric times could outrun the world's champion runners today. He also states that a Neanderthal woman could defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in arm wrestling! (Although the Neanderthals were certainly superior as thugs, that did not save them from extinction.)