Durant’s ‘heroes’ of history are far from perfect. In most cases, their flaws exceed their virtues. But there is no doubt they were all influential. What I find most interesting is that in times of crisis, someone invariably arises who provides a pivot point that shifts the flow of history one way or another. Someone who has been pushed too far and who has the necessary combination of ideas, personality, and circumstances, ends up being a catalyst for change, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. The individuals are both a consequence of events and a catalyst for them. It’s the wider events, though, that I find most interesting, and the same types of things seem to recur throughout human civilization.
Let me just provide a brief quote from the book (page 125 on the Roman Revolution of 133 B.C.) that describes one such repeating motif.
…in every civilization and in almost every generation, the natural inequality of economic ability, and the popular institution of inheritance, had produced an increasing concentration of wealth… Periodically such concentration is challenged by social unrest, sometimes by revolution.
Sound familiar? This kind of situation has arisen time and again since the dawn of recorded history. Sadly, we still haven’t discovered a way to prevent it.