Preserving Something For Time To Make Better

Before I explore the main subject of this essay, I wanted to relate a tale about Alexander the Great’s leadership acumen.  The historian Arrian relates an event that he believes best distills Alexander’s genius for command.  It can be found in VI.26 of his History of Alexander.  When Alexander and his army were passing through the Gedrosian desert (a part of what is now Baluchistan), they ran low on water and began to be tormented by extreme thirst.  Water was almost nowhere to be found, and it would be some time before they could reach a reliable aquifer.

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Friedrich Schlegel, The Sanskrit Language, And The Beginnings Of Comparative Philology

The great antiquity and depth of Indian civilization had been known to Europe and the Middle East for many centuries; yet the precise contours of Indian advances in mathematics, literature, and philosophy were hidden behind the veils of preconception and confusion.  We know that the caliph Harun Al-Rashid, in Baghdad in the 9th century A.D., commissioned translations of some prominent works of Indian literature, but such knowledge remained in the hands of scholars and was not widely diffused.  Things began to change gradually with the advancement in geographic, scientific, and commercial knowledge in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Antonio De Ulloa’s Explorations In South America

Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral may have been Spain’s greatest explorer of the eighteenth century.  The hardships he endured certainly merit his inclusion on any list of that century’s great cultivators of geographic knowledge.  He was born in Seville on January 12, 1716; and like many accomplished travelers, he received a thorough education in the traditional disciplines.  He came from a family with a naval tradition, and young Antonio was eager to follow in these footsteps.

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Treachery Ensnares Some, But Is Defeated By Others

Every man who goes about his business must be attuned to the realities of his surroundings.  He should not close his eyes to what lies within his field of vision; and he must not delude himself by rationalizing the treacherous intentions of others.  The prudent man will not see plots and conspiracies everywhere, for this is the mentality of a craven fool; but he will still maintain a healthy alertness and awareness of his environment.  Such a policy might have saved the life of the camel in the tale that follows, as we will see.

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Georg Wilhelm Freytag’s Latin Compendium Of Arabic Proverbs

About a year ago one of the readers here at Fortress of the Mind informed me of a work of scholarship that he thought might be of interest.  The work was Georg Wilhelm Freytag’s monumental Latin treatise Arabum Proverbia (literally Proverbs of the Arabs, but better rendered as Arabic Proverbs), a three-volume collection of classical Arabic proverbs drawn from the Compendium of Proverbs (مجمع الامثال) of the medieval philologist Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Al-Maydani (احمد ابن محمد الميداني).  I was able to locate this impressive yet forgotten work, and have found much pleasure in poring over its pages.

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