Thursday, 10 March 2011
I have just finished reading The Ides of March, by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, a gripping chronicle of the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar (code-name The Eagle). In vain do messengers brave the hazards of ice, snow and floods to warn Caesar's supporters that 'The Eagle is in danger'; when a messenger finally arrives, wounded and half dead having survived a murderous attack, he croaks out his vital message only to be told, 'The Eagle is dead.' Imagine how that man must have felt, having risked his life only to discover he had arrived too late.
Lying in bed last night, mentally reviewing the book, I couldn't help thinking 'If only the Romans had invented the telephone, there would have been no need for these men's heroic struggles. A couple of phone calls and Caesar could have been whisked to safety and Brutus and his fellow conspirators clapped behind bars.
Then I got to thinking, what other modern inventions could have changed the course of history? (This is by no means a new thought, of course; this game has been played many, many times, but never before by me!) If a cure for TB had been found in 1820 instead of the 1940s, John Keats could have gone on to enjoy decades more of writing his wonderful, sensuous poetry instead of dying in 1821 aged only 25. If modern machinery to record seismic activity had been around just over 2,000 years ago, could the residents of Pompeii have been evacuated in time?
If you had a time machine and could take a modern, scientific or medical invention back in time to help an individual or society as a whole, or to stop a catastrophe occurring, what would you choose?