Mildly Amusing, yet Deeply Sage, Historical Anecdotes for Young Ladies of the Modern Era
Updated: Jul 30
By: Angelica Vecchiato
The study of History for many is a source of boredom and ennui. I have heard countless tales, where the modern history student will fall asleep drowsily in the classroom as the teacher drones on about some battle fought by petty warlords eons and eons ago. However, in the spirit of inspirational writing, let me present to you readers a historical scene that might arouse your interest, and have you question with burning suspense: what does this seemingly far removed historical incident have to do with us young women of the modern era?
Allow me to paint a hopefully intriguing scene for imagination and conceptualization purposes: the year is 52 BC, and Julius Caesar has just subdued Gaul (modern-day France) at the battle of Alesia. After a bloody, gory, and vicious 8 year campaign against the Gauls, Caesar has finally managed to claim control over those pesky, tireless French. Rome is victorious, leaving Caesar to feel proud of his accomplishments so that he might dwell fondly upon himself and his greatness.
Upon his return to Rome, he is celebrated as a great hero. He is processed throughout the streets of the city--wearing a laurel crown and sporting a purple toga-- while he is carried luxuriously in a grandiose horse-drawn chariot where a slave would softly whisper into Caesar’s ear, “remember that you are a mortal,” or “memento mori” in Latin so that the general wouldn’t become too obsessed and haughty in his glorious celebrations, of which the whole city would take part.
However, according to the Roman tradition which many modern scholars have unearthed, as Caesar was processed, he would make sure to show off his war wounds to the general populace. Caesar would flaunt to the crowds all the scars and injuries he would have received fighting in Gaul.
Now, it is here one might question, “why would he show his wounds?” There are two answers I can give: firstly, Roman generals and the Roman people at large loved a good show. It almost seems as if looking at a soldier's bloody injury takes the place of our modern television! Secondly, however, wounds proved honour on the battlefield. To have been hurt means to have been courageous; wounds are a testament to strength. In Rome, great sufferings or hurts, such as painful wounds, would be grounds for societal praise.
As we all are well acquainted with, suffering is not something solely limited to the ancient world. We young ladies of the modern era can suffer much as well, perhaps emotionally or even mentally, may that be through the loss of a loved one or through the loneliness brought about by the pandemic. With this having been understood, I’m about to suggest something perhaps a bit radical: rather than understand our day-to-day suffering through the lens of sadness, we should imitate (in certain respects) the Roman generals of old, who understood suffering as something honorable.
I’m not suggesting to show yourself off in a horse-drawn chariot, wearing a purple toga from 2000 years ago, only to announce your tales of woe to the whole city. On the contrary, I am encouraging you, dearest readers, on a more personal level, to embrace your suffering and idiosyncratic hurts as experiences that have invariably molded you into the person you are today. I know this can be extremely difficult because suffering, quite blatantly, hurts. However, as the Romans have shown us, suffering can be a source of great pride and honour.
On a more modern level, many writers throughout their journeys, have experienced much suffering in that what they write might be rejected. As a writer myself, I have felt the burden of this experience first hand throughout this year, as I have attempted to improve and hone the skill of writing. However, rather than understand the rejection of my writing as a wound, I have tried to look at this experience through a more positive lens.
After all, isn’t it true that someone’s character can only be sharpened in dealing with misfortune and conflict? The most intriguing and beloved characters of modern literature are beloved for the very reason that the journeys in which they have embarked upon were filled with various distresses; it is in conquering their trials that these protagonists forged good characters. How could we possibly be enamored with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, without knowing about the great pains he took to rid himself of his pride and (dare I say) prejudice? How could we relate with Jo March from Little Women without knowing about her long-time struggle with having her writing rejected and the extreme difficulty of attempting to slow the workings of her quick tongue? It would be a truly monumental task.
In other words, hopefully consoling ones at that, I wish to offer you, dearest readers, a means to uplift yourself in turbulent times of suffering. Just like the Roman generals of old, I invite you to take a sort of pride in your conflicts, troubles, and suffering. In the end, your troubles are your tales. If you seek to understand and deal with them in the right way, you will build a strong character, weaving a fascinating life tale, perhaps rivaling those in books and even throughout the course of history.