Heroes of History by WIll Durant

Summary
  1. Great compilation of some of the world’s most influential, powerful, innovative people of all time
Key Takeaways
  1. History is philosophy teaching by example
  2. Best way to prepare for present problems is to study the past for that is where you learn the true nature of humankind 
  3. Due to our hunter gatherer past, humans are innately promiscuous, acquisitive, innovative and pugnacious. Civilization and morality developed around and in order to keep these characteristics in check
  4. Excess generally creates its opposite. One of the most regular occurrences in history is the cycle between Puritanism and hedonism
  5. Confucius
    1. Living a simple life in accord with nature is wisdom
    2. Wisdom cannot be transferred through words, only can learn from experience
    3. Aimed to spread morality through education
  6. Buddha
    1. Return hate with love
  7. Akhenaten
    1. Egypt lasted longer than any other civilization
    2. Menes founded Memphis and built the first pyramid in order to preserve his “ka” for the afterlife
    3. Were able to achieve many miracles from their time from architecture, engineering, architecture, irrigation, science and more
  8. Old Testament
    1. Hammurabi
    2. Abraham
    3. Jacob
    4. Joseph
    5. Moses
    6. Samuel
    7. Saul – first king of the Jews
  9. Greece
    1. Succeeded in activities of the mind more than any other civilization. The establishment of a limited democracy is one of their historic achievements as is their spread of the scientific method
    2. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
    3. Heracles – lead Athens through their Golden Age
    4. Alexander the Great
  10. Rome
    1. Jesus Christ
    2. Peter
    3. Paul
  11. Renaissance
    1. Abelard and Heloise
    2. Petrarch
    3. Dante
    4. The Renaissance was not so much a period of time but a mode of thought and ideas
    5. Lorenzo de Medici and Leonardo da Vinci were the ultimate “Renaissance men.” Da Vinci was not the best in any given field but was so well versed in every field that he will go down as one of the most talented and well rounded men in history
    6. Raphael
    7. Michelangelo – most famous for the Sistine chapel but also had many other masterpieces
    8. Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia – the state should not abide by the moral rules that it imposed upon its citizens
    9. Pontificate of Clement VII was the most disastrous in history as Rome was sacked and Christianity was severely weakened due to the English Reformation
    10. The Venetians held much power towards the end of the Renaissance
  12. Freedom is a luxury of security 
  13. Money is the root of all civilization
  14. The Reformation
    1. John Wycliffe – the church should live modestly and give away it’s great wealth
    2. A papal schism occurred in the early 1400s which nearly severed the church but a council at Constance resolved the issue and kept the church in power
    3. Erasmus – one of the most famous social critics, theologians and priests of his time
    4. Martin Luther
    5. St Theresa
    6. St Ignatius
    7. Martin Luther – began the Lutheran movement, denounced indulgences, salvation received not from good deeds but only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus
    8. Church became one of the best run organizations in history with some help from the Jesuit spirit
  15. The Enlightenment (Shakespeare and Bacon)
    1. Had hundreds of factors but England’s freedom from external control, political stability, appropriation of ecclesiastical wealth for educational purposes, growth of agriculture/navigation/finance and commerce, defeat of Spanish Armada, easy access to America, were all very important to the blossoming of intellect and art during this time
    2. Loss of faith lead to an age of pessimism best seen through English literature
    3. Bacon was one of the first to call for an age of reason, for science to focus more on observation and practical implication than simply theoretical thought. Bacon forayed into every imaginable field and became the most powerful and influential intellect of his time
    4. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed (Align with the universe!)
What I got out of it
  1. Really good overview of history and powerful people that is worth reading multiple times (as any good book should be!)