The Dinner Party: Historical Figures I’d Love To Dine With


Agreed 100 percent!

 

Dinner For Schmucks?

“Want a Twinkie, Genghis Khan?” ~Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

 I always like to pull down one of my “writer’s ideas” books down for inspiration. That is, after all, what they are for. I normally hate the ones that ask me to describe what grey tastes like (tapioca gone bad), or recall a story from my childhood (the one about me as Boba Fett always seems to get a laugh.) I do, however, really enjoy the subjective questions. Today’s question dealt with which historical figures I would invite to an imaginary dinner party in an imaginary time flux.

There are many historical figures I enjoy, but whose company at dinner I might find completely intolerable. Friedrich Nietzsche and Edgar Allan Poe would no doubt be searching the room for opiates the whole time. Genghis Khan and Boadicea would probably violently row over who got the last turkey leg (or Twinkie, for that matter.) And Nicola Tesla and J. Robert Oppenheimer might be discussing how best to turn the chandelier into a weapon of mass destruction. So none of these famous people, despite my admiration, made the cut.

I had to actually think fairly long and hard on whom I would invite. (This is provided that the old Hollywood idea of being magically able to communicate in 21se century English would apply, as many of my favorites were non-English speakers.) At a dinner party, I prize intellectual conversations above all else. I’d also want to discuss with my guests their lives and times, and how they related to mine. Get their opinions on the current state of affairs in the world. Ask what they regretted or didn’t regret about their lives. So, I’ve narrowed my list down to these lucky Historical Figures, trying to incorporate a representative from several major eras. Some are easily recognizable; others perhaps not as much, but all left their stamp on history. 

The Ancient World: Xenophon of Athens (c. 430-354 BC)

Scholar of Socrates, mercenary general, and, most interestingly to me, one of the original scholars of horsemanship. He was a veteran of the Peloponnesian War who later found employment as a soldier of fortune in Persia under Cyrus the Great. He was also one of the few Athenians of his time who saw much wisdom in Spartan culture. Think of him as a kind of ancient Greek version of John “Hannibal” Smith.

The Roman Empire: Emperor Trajan (53-117 AD)

This one was a toss-up between Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. Trajan is perhaps lesser known. Although he was as much into conquests and imperial expansion as most of his predecessors, he also shaped many of Rome’s public building projects and established pension funds for widows and orphans of soldiers. He was later revered as a virtuous pagan by Christians such as Thomas Aquinas and Edward Gibbons. And, in perhaps his greatest legacy, he was honored by the Roman Senate with a prayer: Felicior Augusto, melior Traiano…meaning “luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan.”

The Dark Ages: St. Bede (“The Venerable Bede”) (632-735)

In most of Europe during the Dark Ages following the collapse of Rome, few could read or write outside the Church. Bede, an English monk, is often known as the Father of British History for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Skilled in Latin and Greek, he was an important bridge between paganism and Christianity, and eventually became a saint in 1935. He also appears as a character in Dante’s Paradise.

Medieval Europe: Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431)

Few women, much less medieval women, have had as much written about them as Joan of Arc. Whether or not she actually heard the voice of God is still a mystery; I’m inclined to believe she did. Her story is well-known: a leader of men who lifted the siege of Orleans, France, and paved the way for Charles VII to become King of France. Joan herself died when she was only 19(!), a victim of a false charge of heresy. She is a saint of the Catholic Church as well as one of the patrons of France.

Feudal Japan: Tomoe Gozen (1157-1247)

Admittedly, I love women warriors, especially the ones as fierce as her. As one of the few documented female Samurai, Tomoe Gozen is noted as being a skilled archer, equestrian, and swordsman. Though her existence is, like Robin Hood, largely the stuff of myth and legend, memorials to her in Japan still exist today.

 The Renaissance: Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)

Yet another Catholic saint; More was (to use a pun) so much more: lawyer, statesman, philosopher, and counselor to King Henry VIII. His Utopia , from which the word itself was coined, is an allegory for individualism and statism, religion and atheism. More ultimately was executed for his refusal to recant his Catholicism in the face of the Protestant Reformation. He was one of the true Renaissance men, to be sure.

Revolution and Enlightenment: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Often described as “the first American,” Franklin truly was a man of many, many talents. Among his many hats were statesman, ambassador, inventor, printer, scientist, satirist, and activist. He was one of the men who truly embodied the spirit of the Enlightenment, along with the birth of the Industrial Revolution, along with the movement for freedom in the American colonies. I can only imagine picking at his remarkable brain for an evening.

The 19th Century: Harriet Tubman (1820?-1913)

Tubman was the definition of a remarkable woman. Born into slavery, she escaped and became one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad, bringing slaves to the North. She also served as an abolitionist, Union spy during the Civil War, and suffragist. She embodied the spirit of America, and helped bring an end to the evil of slavery.

 Two World Wars: General George S. Patton (1885-1945)

They don’t make ’em like him anymore. Outspoken, fiery, and tough, Patton served as one of the most successful field commanders in U.S. history, and his leadership carried the day in North Africa and Europe. Many saw him as abrasive and confrontational. I’d be eager to meet him. Sadly, he died in a car accident months after World War II had ended.

The Modern Era: J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

He spent so many years as a recluse. It might be fun to have him as a captive audience, provided he’d agree to talk.

I suppose the real question would be, what would be on the menu? And who would carve?

Like what you read? Like me on Facebook and tell your friends, or write me at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Dinner Party: Historical Figures I’d Love To Dine With”

  1. An evening with Patton would be quite interesting…and considering his knowledge of history (and belief in reincarnation) you’d get a lot of history!

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