Doing the Impossible

Book being read: Valerio Manfredi, The Lost Army, (2009) – a fiction book, check me out!  Ok, it is a fiction book by an archaeologist telling the story of Xenophon’s Anabasis and I intend to use it in my thesis, but still . . . fiction!!

There are times I feel, where you believe you can do something unique, something that you have been told can’t be done but you ask why not?  You then follow this “why not?” with an “I’ll show you” and off you go to do the impossible, not unlike a Lhasa Apso puppy charging head first into a fully grown lab/retriever trying to push it over.

I had one such moment many months ago.  As regular readers may remember, I went to the Annual meeting for post graduates of Ancient History and was told the public were to thick to understand what ‘we’ do (see this blog).  ‘We’, unfortunately, meant ancient historians.  I replied that this was not the case and that there was a market for what ancient history is researching and producing at the moment (for example look at Mary Beard’s book sales!).  I was told this was wrong and there was no desire for ‘our’ work.  Well, I said ‘why not?’, followed by “I’ll show you” and wombled off.

This was followed quickly by an idea I had to write an article proposal on my research of combat stress in ancient Greek warfare – but rather than dumb it down or just story-tell, the proposal was solely about the methodology of such a study and the use of Biology in history.  To my surprise Ancient Warfare magazine accepted it with open arms, even to the point of ignoring their own deadlines so it could be included.  But this was not in a normal edition but their 2011 special anniversary edition for the Battle of Marathon!  This put my work along some rather illustrious names.

So there it stands, a popular history article in a popular history magazine solely about cutting edge (if I do say so myself) research methodology, I had done it – I was revolutionary . . . well, that was until I read the magazine myself.  Unfortunately for me (fortunate for anyone else who reads it) I was not the only one who wrote on their methodology; in fact one of the most illustrious authors, Peter Krentz of who’s work I am a big fan, had done the exact same thing about locating the battle site. Something new and exciting has happened, and I am a part of it, but not as a revolutionary – I’ll have to find something else to do that!

So I say to any budding or well standing historian, ask “why not?” to the critics you encounter, tell them you will show them and run off to do so; just don’t be surprised if you find a selection of people doing the same thing.  For, as the cliché goes, you are unique – just like everybody else.

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