By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
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Timeline

Land: Europe and Mediterranean

From prehistory to post-medieval.

History by historical land mass is yet another wonderful lens into knowledge. These insights are the backbone to Mike‘s articles and his longer effort books. A part of his lifelong commitment to study. While they are not complete, they are useful.

History of the Lands
Switch To: Africa & Middle East | The Americas | Asia | Europe-Mediterranean | Oceana-Australasia

Hominin World Population: 2 Million (maybe)
Hominin World Population: 2 Million (maybe)
300,000 BCE
Very speculative.

At the time when Homo sapiens were just beginning to emerge, the population of Homo sapiens and their close ancestors in Africa was likely a few hundred thousand or less. However, the overall hominin success was thriving. Though speculative, estimates could reasonably range from 1.1 to 2.1 million for all hominin species. This range is a wild guess based on the fact that the combined population today for chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans in the wild ranges from approximately 400,000 to 700,000.

This period was characterized by significant evolutionary developments, with Homo sapiens in nascent stages primarily in Africa, while other hominins like Neanderthals, Homo heidelbergensis, and possibly remnants of Homo erectus occupied broader ranges across Eurasia. In Africa, emerging Homo sapiens accounted for a small fraction of the population, while other established hominins like Homo heidelbergensis dominated, indicative of their adaptive successes in various ecological niches. In Europe and Asia, Neanderthals and Denisovans were adapting to their environments, with sophisticated tool-use and social structures that likely supported their survival in challenging climates. While Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Medditeranean, and Asia including China had significant populations, hominins had not made it to the Americas yet not to the Oceana-Australasia zone.

The speculative nature of this narrative underscores the dynamic yet unclear picture of early hominin distribution and interaction, highlighting the need for caution in interpreting these ancient population dynamics.

This narrative, while speculative, helps us imagine the ancient world.

Extinction: Homo heidelbergensis
Extinction: Homo heidelbergensis
200,000 Years Ago

Homo heidelbergensis lived in Africa, Europe and Asia from 700,000 to 200,000 years ago. They coexisted with humans in Africa, Europe, and Asia from our emergence around 315,000 years ago until their extinction about 200,000 years ago.

Imagined Image: A Homo heidelbergensis campsite a few thousand years before they went extinct, set in a lush European forest. The scene includes several individuals in a communal setting, showcasing aspects of their life and environment.

World Population: 1.5 Million
World Population: 1.5 Million
50,000 BCE
Estimates range from 500,000 to 2.5 million

Cognitive Revolution

50,000 BCE – 70,000 BCE. Population range: 500,000 to 2.5 million.
Given the uncertainties and lack of direct data, the following are speculative estimates.

  • Africa-Middle East: 50-60% or 600,000 to 1 million people
    Africa, being the origin of modern humans, likely had the highest population density at this time, particularly in Sub-Saharan regions which were more conducive to human habitation due to their climate and available resources.
  • Asia: 40% or 200,000 to 400,000 people
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 10% or 50,000 to 100,000 people
  • The Americas: 0.
  • Oceana-Australasia: 1% or 10,000 to 15,000 people
    The initial colonization of Australia around 50,000 BCE by modern humans involved small, isolated groups who managed to navigate sea crossings, leading to a very low initial population density. The rest of the remote islands of Oceania were among the last to be reached by humans.

A Shared Earth! Neanderthals-Hobbits-Flourensis

Around this time, Homo sapiens shared the Earth with other hominin species. Neanderthals were still widespread in Europe and parts of western Asia. In Asia, particularly on the islands of Indonesia, Homo floresiensis, often referred to as the “Hobbit” due to their diminutive stature, survived until about 50,000 years ago. Additionally, Denisovans, a less visually documented but genetically distinct group, also roamed Eurasia, leaving behind a genetic legacy that persists in modern humans, particularly among populations in Melanesia.

Upper Paleolithic Cave Art with Symbols
Upper Paleolithic Cave Art with Symbols
circa 40,000 BCE
Spain & France

Earliest known symbol use in the Europe/Mediterranean zone. 

Dating back to around 40,000 BCE, the Upper Paleolithic cave art found across Europe presents a compelling narrative of early human communication and symbolic expression. Sites like Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain feature elaborate depictions of animals, human figures, and abstract symbols that recur with remarkable consistency across diverse regions. These symbols, including dots, lines, and geometric shapes, suggest a standardized usage that transcends mere artistic decoration. Researchers speculate that these symbols may have served proto-writing functions, possibly representing early attempts to record important information such as seasonal changes, ritual practices, or social codes.

Extinction: Neanderthals
Extinction: Neanderthals
38,000 BCE
Extinction range: 38,000 BCE to 22,000 BCE

Homo neanderthalensis: Neanderthals and humans coexisted in Europe and Asia until around 40,000 years ago. While their exact cause of extinction remains debated, competition with modern humans and climate change are thought to be contributing factors.

Imagined image: Left is a neanderthal, right a human. Just as human looks vary widely, Neanderthals did too. This is perhaps one way neanderthals might have looked. The likely looked a bit more human than this too, but this gives you a good idea of the differences.

Seasonal Settlements at Franchthi Cave
Seasonal Settlements at Franchthi Cave
20,000 BCE
From circa 20,000 to 3,000 BCE

Earliest known seasonal settlement in the European Mediterean zone: Nestled in the Argolid region of the Peloponnese in Greece, the Franchthi Cave offers a unique window into the lives of early Europeans spanning from the Upper Paleolithic through the Mesolithic and into the Neolithic periods. For over 23,000 years, from about 20,000 BCE to 3,000 BCE, this cave served as a seasonal hub for prehistoric communities.

The strategic coastal location of the Franchthi Cave allowed early humans to exploit both marine and terrestrial resources effectively. The abundance of marine shells and fish bones found within the cave layers suggests that these groups were highly adept at fishing and shellfish gathering, activities that likely formed a significant part of their subsistence strategy during their stays.

As seasons turned, these early inhabitants would have utilized the cave as a base from which to conduct their hunting and gathering activities. Over millennia, the evidence shows a gradual shift from reliance on wild resources to the introduction of domesticated plants and animals, signaling the start of agricultural practices in the region.

This transition marks Franchthi Cave not just as a site of temporary habitation but as a pivotal location where significant cultural and technological transformations occurred. The cave’s extensive use and the layers of habitation offer profound insights into the evolutionary journey of human societies in the Mediterranean, showcasing how a simple seasonal settlement could eventually evolve into a cornerstone of early agrarian life.

Franchthi Cave thus represents one of the earliest known seasonal settlements in the European-Mediterranean zone, providing invaluable lessons on the adaptability and innovation of early human communities in the face of changing environmental and social landscapes.

Imagined image: This image portrays a seasonal settlement at Franchthi Cave around 10,000 BCE, where early humans utilized natural materials to construct temporary shelters nestled within a lush landscape. Central hearth areas serve as communal hubs for cooking and social gatherings, illustrating the strategic use of space and resources by these early inhabitants. The arrangement of shelters around the cave entrance highlights their reliance on the natural environment for survival and community activities.

Earliest Known Domesticated Animal: Dogs
Earliest Known Domesticated Animal: Dogs
By 20,000 BCE

Eastern Asia and Europe: The domestication of dogs marks one of the most remarkable and earliest examples of animal domestication by humans. This significant event occurred approximately 20,000 years ago, with some studies suggesting an even earlier date. The process began when wolves, drawn by the waste and remnants of hunting left by human groups, started to linger around the fringes of hunter-gatherer camps. Over time, a mutual relationship developed: these ancestral wolves provided humans with alertness to dangers and help in hunting, while humans provided a steady food source.

The transformation from wild wolves to domesticated dogs likely took place in several regions independently, but genetic evidence points to significant early domestication events occurring in Eastern Asia and Europe. Through a natural and then increasingly intentional process of selection, humans favored wolves that exhibited traits beneficial to their lifestyle—traits like reduced fear and aggression, which made them better companions and guards. This led to genetic divergence from their wild counterparts, morphing wolves into various forms and breeds of dogs as we recognize them today.

These early dogs were not just pets but integral to human societies, assisting in hunting, guarding territories, and providing companionship. Their roles expanded as human societies grew more complex, with dogs adapting to various climates and cultural expectations. The domestication of dogs not only highlights the adaptability and intelligence of these animals but also underscores the deep, symbiotic relationship that developed between two distinct species, setting the stage for the later domestication of other animals and the rise of agrarian societies.

World Population: 4 Million
World Population: 4 Million
10,000 BCE
Estimates range from 2 to 5 million

Late Stone Age

Mesolithic Period: 10,000 BCE – 6000 BCE.

  • Africa-Middle East: 30% or 1.2 million peopleg
  • Asia: 40% or 1.6 million people
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 15% or 600 thousand people
  • The Americas: 10% or 400 thousand people
  • Oceana-Australasia: 5% or 200 thousand people
Neolithic Revolution
Trevethy Quoit a Portal Dolmen in Cornwall
9,700 BCE
Start of "our" Holocene geological epoch
468 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

The Neolithic Revolution is the earliest known Agricultural Revolution. It is very likely that humans practiced forms of agriculture earlier. How much earlier? Well, without evidence, we are guessing. For convenience, anthropologists label humans as hunter-gatherers prior to the Neolithic Revolution. The fact is that the current theory states that agriculture started magically all around the world circa 9,700 BCE. I think it is much more likely this is simply the earliest farming we have yet to discover and will likely push this date back further and further over time.

The Neolithic revolution is the belief in a wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly large population possible. These settled communities permitted humans to observe and experiment with plants, learning how they grew and developed. This new knowledge led to the domestication of plants. A stable lifestyle led to more leisure time and more time to think about things which led to what we would call civilization today. Only the most sturdy of structures from this time period survived the test of time.

Phenotype Variation: Blue Eyes
Photo of Woman With Blue Eyes and Black Hair
8000 BCE
Genetic Mutation from the Neolithic Era

Blue eyes emerged

stands out as a striking example of a genetic mutation that spread across populations. Traced back to a single individual living between 6,000 and 8,000 BCE in the region near the Black Sea, this genetic adaptation marks a notable divergence in the genetic makeup of modern humans. The mutation involved is a specific change in the OCA2 gene, which alters the way melanin is produced in the iris. Originally, all humans had brown eyes, but this mutation led to the reduction of melanin in the iris, resulting in blue eyes.

This change likely occurred during the Neolithic period, a time of significant human development and migration. As communities expanded and migrated from the Near East into Europe, the gene for blue eyes spread, becoming particularly prevalent among European populations. The spread of this trait exemplifies how a single genetic mutation can influence the physical characteristics of populations over thousands of years.

The occurrence of blue eyes in a single ancestor highlights the interconnectedness of human populations and the shared genetic heritage that links diverse groups back to common ancestors. This story not only reflects the complexity of human genetics but also the way in which our aesthetic and phenotypic diversity has evolved over millennia from relatively small genetic changes.

Greece: Sesklo Culture (Agrarian)
Greece: Sesklo Culture (Agrarian)
circa 7500 BCE
Europe/Mediterranean Agrarian Society

Earliest known agrarian society in the Europe/Mediterranean zone: The Sesklo culture in Greece is recognized for its early adoption of agriculture, including the cultivation of cereals and legumes, and domestication of animals. This Neolithic culture is noted for its distinctive pottery and advanced housing architecture, reflecting significant societal organization.

Imagined image: The Sesklo Culture village around 7400 BCE, featuring sturdy mud-brick houses with thatched roofs, organized around a communal area, set in a lush, agriculturally rich landscape. This early Neolithic settlement in Greece exemplifies one of Europe’s first transitions to a settled, agrarian lifestyle.

Cheese
Delicious Cheese board. Assortment of cheese, camembert, brie, Gorgonzola, parmesan, olives
Before 5500 BCE
Poland

In the Neolithic villages of Poland, milk, a nourishing gift from domesticated animals, is left to curdle, giving rise to the earliest form of cheese.

Skara Brae Scottish Village
Skara Brae Scottish Village
3180 BCE
3180 to 2500 BCE

Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of the largest island of Scotland. It consists of ten houses made of flagstones within earthen dams that provided support for the walls; the houses included stone hearths, beds, and cupboards. A primitive sewer system, with “toilets” and drains in each house which carried waste to the ocean using water to flush waste into a drain.

World Population: 15 Million
World Population: 15 Million
3000 BCE
Estimates range from 9 to 16 million

Stone Copper Age

Chalcolithic Period: 3,000 BCE – 500 BCE.

  • Africa-Middle East: 36% or 5 million people
    Early civilizations include Egypt and Mesopotamia with a relatively higher population density.
  • Asia: 36% or 5 million people
    Early civilizations include Indus Valley and ancient China. They saw early urban development and agriculture which supported larger populations.
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 14% or 2 million people
    Smaller due to the varied climatic conditions and the later development of agriculture compared to the Middle East.
  • The Americas: 7% or 1 million people
    More sparsely populated with many diverse hunter-gatherer communities and early agricultural societies, particularly in regions like Mesoamerica.
  • Oceana-Australasia: 7% or 1 million people
    These regions were among the least densely populated, with scattered tribal groups primarily leading hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
Cretan Hieroglyphic script: Greek Island
Cretan Hieroglyphic script: Greek Island
1900 BCE
from circa 1900 BCE to 1700 BCE

Earliest known writing in the European/Mediterranean zone. 

The earliest known writing system in the European/Mediterranean zone is the Cretan Hieroglyphic script from ancient Crete, part of the Minoan civilization. This script dates back to around 1900 BC to 1700 BC. Closely related and slightly later in development is Linear A, which emerged around 1800 BC and was also used by the Minoans.

These scripts were used primarily on the island of Crete and remain largely undeciphered, making it difficult to fully understand their content and purpose. Linear A, in particular, appears to have been used for administrative and religious purposes. Following these, the Mycenaean civilization developed Linear B, derived from Linear A, which has been deciphered as an early form of Greek and dates back to around 1450 BC. Linear B provides substantial insights into the administrative, economic, and daily activities of the Mycenaean Greeks.

File:UCB Phaistos Disc Symbols.png” by ÅñtóñSûsî (Ð) is licensed under CC BY 3.0
The Birth of Logic
The Birth of Logic
624 BCE
Circa 624-546 BCE

In the vibrant intellectual climate of Ancient Greece, the 6th century BCE marks the embryonic stage of formal logic, attributed to the philosopher Thales of Miletus (around 624-546 BCE). Thales, recognized as the first of the Seven Sages of Greece, embarked on a quest that laid the foundational stones of logical thought. He shifted the explanation of natural phenomena away from mythological interpretations towards rational principles.

Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)
Pythagoras (570-495 BCE)
103 Generations Ago

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was born in Ancient Greece on the island Samos which is about a mile off the coast of modern Turkey. History looks at Pythagoras as an educator and philosopher as well as a cult leader. He discovered the musical octave, used deductive reasoning, and embraced an early version of forms which was a stepping stone to Plato’s forms. His early theories on math as the answer to the universe are elementary and off course, but these first attempts led the path for future mathematicians to explore. He is most remembered for his Pythagorean theorem which states the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides

As a cult leader, he spent his life brainwashing anyone who would follow him. Like Jesus, he said he was the son of God. His cult had strange rules including that you had to be silent for five years before you could join. A clever trick that meant only true believers who would not tell others of the crazy could get in. The crazy ran deep. You must spit on your finger clippings. You cannot urinate toward the sun. They sacrificed an ox whenever they proved a mathematical formula.

Pythagoras never wrote anything down or at least none of his writings survived so we have to rely on what others say he said and did, but we’re likely never to know what was Pythagoras’ pure ideas from the evolved or altered ideas of later writers. 

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to Pythagoras:

  • Reason is immortal, all else mortal.
  • There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.
  • As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.
  • Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.
Heraclitus (circa 535-475 BCE)
Heraclitus (circa 535-475 BCE)
535 BCE
Pre-Socratic Philosophy
102 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 7: Heraclitus and Your Worldview
Touchstones:
Impermanence, Worldview, and Identity

Pictured: Bust of an unknown philosopher. Some believe this might be Heraclitus. This bust is in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, but the museum makes no such identity assumption.

As Eastern luminaries contemplated the rhythm and flow of nature, their counterparts in the West were embarking on an equally significant intellectual path. The pre-Socratic philosophers, guided by a new rational perspective, challenged the stronghold of mythology, and propelled human thought onto a trajectory marked by reason.

Little is known for sure about Heraclitus. Born around 535 BCE, storied indicated he lived about 60 years. Heraclitus hailed from noble lineage, destined for a prominent position, perhaps even a kingship. With conviction in his heart, choosing philosophy, he rejected sovereignty in favor of his brother.

My Favorite Sayings:
  • Everything is in Flux.
  • No man ever steps in the same river twice.
Socrates (469 – 399 BCE)
Marble statue of the ancient Greek Philosopher Plato.
469 BCE
99 Generations Ago

Socrates was a Greek philosopher and is frequently credited as the founder of Western philosophy. He left no writings, but his student Plato documented his philosophy.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to Socrates:

  • Enjoy yourself — it’s later than you think.
  • He who is not content with what they have will not be content with more.
  • Do not praise someone wealthy until you known how they employ it.
  • We should hear and see more than we speak.
  • False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
  • He is rich who is content with the least.
  • Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.
Law of the Twelve Tables
Law of the Twelve Tables
451 BCE

The Twelve Tables were rules citizens had to follow, and limits on the powers of the government. This idea was used several times during Roman history to force the Patricians, aristocrats, to consider the views of the plebeian citizens, commoners. In 451 BCE, plebeians went on strike to protest the tyranny of magistrates. The Twelve Tables came out of that strike. These bronze tablets were set up in the Forum of Rome for all citizens to see and students to study.

Content examples:

  • Table I – when a person is accused of something, both accused and accuser must be present at a trial. If only one party shows up, the judge is free to rule in their favor.
  • Table III – debtors have 30 days to pay off a debt. After that, a creditor is free to imprison them.
  • Table IV – approval to put to death a dreadfully deformed child.
  • Table V – all women, except Vestals (virgin priestesses), must have a guardian regardless of age. The guardian had no say in her private matters, but did guide her public matters especially matters of money.
  • Table VI – a man’s will is binding.
  • Table VIII – lists specific punishments for specific crimes. And, a person who fails to show up as a trial witness, can never again be a witness. And, a person shown to have lied in court will be put to death.
  • Table IX – judges who have taken a bribe as well as anyone committed of treason will be put to death.  
  • Table XI – prohibits marriages between plebeian (aristocrats) and patrician (commoners).
Plato (428-347 BCE)
Plato (428-347 BCE)
428 BCE
Platonism
98 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 8: Plato and Rationalism
Touchstones: Reflective Inquiry and Ignorance is Bliss

Plato was a Greek philosopher born in Athens. He was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. Plato’s Theory of Forms asserts that the reality is only a shadow, or image, of the true reality of the Realm of Forms — abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space.

My favorite sayings:

  • Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. 
  • If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.
  • If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.
  • Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
  • Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind.
  • Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
  • If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)
384 BCE
Aristotelianism
96 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 9: Aristotle and Empiricism
Touchstones: Syllogisms, Rationalism, Empiricism, Logic, Logical Fallacies, & Eudaimonia

Aristotle was the greatest Greek philosopher and covered nearly all subjects including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, meteorology, geology, and government. His Aristotelian philosophy characterized by deductive logic and an analytic inductive method.

Some of my favorite translated sayings are:

  • The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
  • Happiness depends upon ourselves.
  • Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
  • The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.
  • Quality is not an act, it is a habit.
Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)
Pyrrho (360-270 BCE)
360 BCE
Skepticism
95 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 10: Pyrrho of Elis and Skepticism  
Touchstones: Skepticism and Social Constructs

Pyrrho, the skeptic, believed no one knows anything. Everything can be questioned. The best approach is to keep an open mind. Like Socrates, Pyrrho himself left no writings. We know of his teachings through his students and later writers. 

Phrases that best represent skeptics:

  • Question everything.
  • Do not trust your senses.
  • What difference does it make if you are alive or dead?

There’s a big difference between a pure skeptic questioning literally everything, and a moderate skeptic who evaluates everything with an open mind. Pyrrho is reported to have been a pure skeptic, I’m more of a moderate skeptic.

Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
341 BCE
Epicureanism
94 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 11: Epicurus and Epicureanism
Touchstones: Agnosticism and Pleasure

Epicurus founded Epicureanism in 307 BCE. The goal of Epicureanism is to help people attain a happy (eudaimonic), tranquil life characterized by ataraxia (free from fear) and aponia (free from pain). He authored over 300 books, scrolls, none of which survived the test of time.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to him:

  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not
  • Death is not something experienced in life.
  • Fear of death is a waste of time.

My favorite saying is the Epicurean epitaph “Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo.”

  • I was not; I was; I am not; I do not mind.

I sometimes refer to myself as an epicurean stoic. A balance between enjoy the journey, and duty to yourself and others. Enjoying the complimentary yin and yang of my journey on Earth.

Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paolo_Monti_-_Servizio_fotografico_(Napoli,_1969)_-_BEIC_6353768.jpg
334 BCE
Stoicism (Founder)
94 Generations Ago

Zeno is considered the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. When events occur in life, people react. Life is a series of events and immediate reactions. A stoic introduces a third middle step, a judge step. On their life journey, a stoic strives for a series of event-judge-react experiences. When you introduce a judge step, you can frequently change your reaction to a healthier reaction.

Cicero (106-43 BCE)
Cicero (106-43 BCE)
106 BCE
84 Generations Ago

The stoic philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of Rome’s greatest orators and had an immense influence on the Latin language.

Some of my favorite translated Cicero quotes:

  • If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
  • Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.
  • Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.
  • Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.
  • Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.
  • Love is the attempt to form a friendship inspired by beauty.
Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)
Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE)
4 BCE
80 Generations Ago

The stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger has the distinction that more of his writings survived the test of time and is therefore a valuable primary source for stoic philosophy. 

Some of my favorite translated Seneca quotes:

  • Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
  • All cruelty springs from weakness.
  • Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
  • We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.
  • If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.
  • No man was ever wise by chance.
  • Only time can heal what reason cannot.
Epictetus (50-135 CE)
50 CE
78 Generations Ago

Epictetus stressed that philosophy is a way of life and not simply analytical. The stoic philosopher Epictetus was cited by Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations. Epictetus was one of the future emperor’s teacher’s during childhood up to the age of 14. Although no writings by Epictetus are known, his students documented his beliefs and sayings well. Epictetus is my favorite philosopher. I like nearly all the quotes attributed to him.

Some of my favorite translated sayings attributed to him:

  • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
  • The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you.

 

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)
Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE)
121 CE
Stoic Tradition
76 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 13: Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism
Touchstones: Cognitive Reframing, Negative Visualization, and Cognitive Distancing

Some of my favorite translated meditations include:

  • Learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.
  • The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
Upper and Lowercase Starts
Upper and Lowercase Starts
800 CE
50 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

Uppercase and lowercase started circa 800 CE. Notice in the image above of an actual book from 460 CE that although it is missing word-spacing, punctuation, paragraphs, and lowercase it does make use of two colored text as well as margin notes to orient the reader. Many pre-printing press books very well made and gorgeous with very creative pages.

Word-Spacing
Word-Spacing
1000 CE
40 Generations Ago

Spaces between words started circa 1000 CE because those copying texts found it easier and faster to copy if they introduced spaces between words. The 1215 Magna Carta is a good example of this quality of writing which included word-spacing, uppercase, and lowercase, but no punctuation, nor paragraphs. 

Peter Abelard (1079-1141)
Peter Abelard (1079-1141)
38 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 18: Peter Abelard and Universals
Touchstones: Intent, Object-Oriented Nature, Pattern Recognition, and The Idea of Ideas

Born in 1079 in Le Pallet, a small village in France, Peter Abelard hailed from a noble lineage. His father, a knight of the local lord, intended for his son to follow in his footsteps. Instead, Peter chose a path of knowledge. His brilliance propelled him to the forefront of the intellectual circles in Paris, where he challenged established ideas. Early philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, noticed patterns in nature including things in common between objects. Remember schemas? The categories, groups, and patterns we notice in life. In the realm of philosophy, these patterns are “universals.” Abelard’s conceptualism is a middle ground.

Magna Carta
Magna Carta

The Magna Carta in 1215 established the following principles:

  • everyone is subject to the law, even the King,
  • individuals have rights,
  • everyone has the right to justice,
  • and everyone has the right to a fair trial.

The Magna Carta recognized individual responsibility in all, including the King, and it established that the law “should” be applied to everyone equally. Although King John got the pope to void the Magna Carta only 10 weeks after signing it, it was reissued several times over the next century and became a seminal legal document when Sir Edward Coke used it extensively in the 17th century. (Sir Edward Coke was a mentor to Roger Williams.)

More Info

Hourglass
Hourglass on the Beach

Hourglasses, also known as sandglasses or sand timers, were first used in the 14th century, although it is unclear exactly when they were invented. The earliest written reference to an hourglass dates back to the early 14th century in Europe, but they may have been used earlier in other parts of the world. Hourglasses were used as a reliable way to measure time, especially for tasks that required precise timing such as navigation at sea, cooking, and scientific experiments.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
20 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

Montaigne was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. In addition to furthering skepticism, he also extended stoicism. He also extended literary style by promoting the essay format and by breaking norms of his day. For example, talking about himself in his own writing.

My favorite translated Montaigne quotes: 

  • Obsession is the wellspring of genius and madness.
  • He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.
  • What do I know?
  • My art and profession is to live.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
18 Generations Ago

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561, in London to a prominent and influential family. The young Francis Bacon received a comprehensive education, attending the prestigious Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of 12. Bacon is the Father of the Scientific Method, but notice he is not the inventor. Bacon laid the foundation for his major work in “Novum Organum.” Published in Latin in 1620 when he was 59 years old. Bacon’s method pioneered inductive reasoning, but he didn’t invent it, but he did develop it into a method, and it gave birth to the scientific method.

30 Phil, Chapter 20: Francis Bacon and the Scientific Method
Touchstones: Absolute Truth, Truth Hammers, and The Scientific Method

Pictured: Portrait circa 1618, Francis was about 57.

Big History Thresholds: 1=Big Bang | 2=Stars&Galaxies | 3=Chemicals | 4=Solar System | 5=First Life | 6=TI | 7=Agrarian | 8=Science

The Modern Revolution: The 8th threshold for Big History began about 500 years ago and continues to the present day. It includes the scientific revolution, industrialization, and the information age, leading to rapid technological progress and profound changes in human societies globally. In 30 Philosophers, the modern age starts later in 1859 with Charles Darwin, but I follow human thought with a philosophical lens, Big History tells our story using the lens of a historian.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
18 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 21: Galileo and the Scientific Revolution
Touchstones: Relativity, the Infinitesimal, and Modern Cosmology

Pictured: Portrait circa 1638, Galileo was about 74.

Galileo Galilei, more of a scientist than a traditional philosopher, forever altered our understanding of nature. He was born on February 15, 1564. Galileo was a great scientist in his time. His “way,” his method, of performing science helped push us toward our modern approach. The story of Galileo is also the story of Copernicus, and the story of modern cosmology. This is the era in which humanity started to learn about the fundamental structure of the universe. Galileo’s book “Two New Sciences,” published in 1638, contains his most significant contributions to science, particularly his work on motion and the strength of materials. Galileo was a master mathematician, and his contributions to mathematics were both scientific and philosophical. Galileo’s ideas about the infinitesimal were so clear, within decades, both Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz independently developed calculus. Still under house arrest, he passed away at the age of 78 in January 1642.

Microscope Invented = Microworld Discovered!
Various bacteria cells in microscope. Streptococcus pneumonia, p

With the invention of the microscope, humanity became aware of the microworld which is defined as 1 to 1000 microns. A micron is equal to one thousands of a millimeter. A cell is about 10 microns wide. Paper is about 100 microns thick. The unaided human eye can see items as small as 50 microns, or about half the width of a piece of paper.

Scientists use three scales when talking about the biological world: the milliworld, microworld, and the nanoworld. The milliworld contains all visible items down to 1 millimeter and includes very small things such as ants, fleas, and grains of sand.

By 1640, the microscope was perfected to the point that allowed the introduction of the microworld to humanity. The microworld contains items with a diameter from 1 millimeter to 1 micrometer, or 1 micron. The microworld contains things like single celled organisms as well as the largest bacteria. By 1640, humanity started it’s introduction to trillions of organisms living everywhere including nearly everything you touch, in the ground, inside plants, and even inside humans. Humans host over 10,000 species of organisms in, on, and through the human body — known as the human microbiome. Every human no matter how clean you think you are is playing host to 10-100 trillion organisms. This fact gradually changed how every human on Earth views life.

The nanoworld which includes smaller bacteria as well as viruses, proteins, and molecules would have to wait for the invention of the electron microscope in 1931. 

Note: The micron and micrometer are the same size, but you use microns (μ) when measuring thickness, and micrometers (μm) when measuring the distance between things. So you can say a cell is 10 microns wide, or you can say the diameter of a cell is 10 micrometers. The term nanomicron, which would be equal to a nanometer, is not currently in regular use.

Rene Descartes (1596-1649)
Rene Descartes (1596-1649)
17 Generations Ago

30 Phil, Chapter 22: Descartes and Cartesian Dualism
Touchstones: Mind-Body Dualism, Idea Modeling, and Pragmatism

René Descartes was born into minor nobility in the Kingdom of France on March 31, 1596. In 1637, Descartes published “Discourse on the Method,” he sought to identify certain knowledge by using doubt to strip away uncertain beliefs. Cartesian Skepticism is a system of doubt aimed at identifying certainties by dismissing all beliefs susceptible to even the slightest uncertainty. On February 11, 1650, in the presence of a small circle of friends, he exhaled his last breath.

The Birth of Baroque Art
white and brown concrete building painting

From Baroque music and paintings to sculptures and archicture. The dawn of the 17th century witnessed the birth of the Baroque era, marking a transformative period in the history of art that spanned from circa 1600 to 1750 CE. Originating in Italy and spreading across Europe, the Baroque movement represented a significant evolution in artistic expression, characterized by its dramatic, detailed, and exuberant style. This era brought about a profound change in music, visual arts, and architecture, emphasizing motion, contrast, and a vivid sense of emotion that sought to engage the viewer or listener directly. In music, the Baroque period saw the invention of opera as a new form of musical and theatrical expression, the development of complex tonal systems, and the creation of instrumental music forms such as the concerto and sonata. Composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and George Frideric Handel epitomized the Baroque’s intricate harmonies and elaborate compositions. The Baroque era’s emphasis on blending different forms of art to evoke a heightened emotional response represented a significant evolution in the way art was conceived and experienced. It laid the groundwork for future artistic movements and continues to influence the arts profoundly, underscoring the intricate relationship between human emotion, expression, and creativity in the journey of cultural development.

King James Bible Published
King James Bible Published

Roger was about 9 years old when the King James Bible was published in 1611 under the auspices of King James I of England. The King James Bible was the accepted standard from about 1650 through the early 1900s.

This interpretation of the Bible was evolved from earlier versions but is a reflection of its times. It was still created during a very primitive time in human understanding. Albert Einstein summed it up this way, “…the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.” Although the telescope was invented in 1609, nearly all believed the Earth was the center of the universe. Blood circulating in our bodies was discovered 17 years later in 1628. One has to wonder how different this version of the bible would have been if the authors knew what we know now.

Change continues to influence Roger. Changes to religious doctrine is difficult even when dictated by a King. While Roger was growing up, there was much debate and interpretation of the Bible as well as the role of government in dictating religious doctrine. This debate likely leads to his openness to various viewpoints on religion.

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