The celebration of an ancient goddess associated with Venus bears a number of things in common with the celebration of another birthday last week, of a divine child associated with the Sun, with whom I’m far more familiar. Most of us in the modern Western world know that story far better than the story of Inanna, which is to be expected. And we would certainly look at most of the literature around Inanna as evidence of a religion in service to a royal, monarchical society.
As a history teacher, I’ve spent most of the last 15 years explaining the pattern of civilizations around the world: They rise from obscurity due to considerations of trade routes, climate and popular vigor; they grow due to a combination of deliberate, organized violence and canny diplomacy; achieve a state of maturity and imperial favor; and begin to decline due to bureaucratic and military sclerosis combined with popular discontent. Eventually a new civilization replaces the old one, usually with a combination of barbarism and economic collapse interposed between the old and the new.
This week, I’m teaching the American Constitution, which conveys not only the deep mistrust of government which we’re constantly told existed; but also lays out a highly-rationalist plan for a government that will not fail until the ending of the world.
Today, on the feast of an almost-forgotten goddess, and in the window of opportunity when we sing of the birth of another god, I’m reminded again that the world is not static, but that certain themes rise to the surface again and again.
History may not repeat itself, as Mark Twain said, but it often rhymes.