Maybe it sounds better in the Old English.
One is to have that revelation of "oh, wow, these folks are just like me!"
The other is to have the revelation, "wow, these folks are nothing like me, and here's what they felt was important, beautiful, terrifying, etc"
Both are pretty important, even if the latter doesn't come as naturally. You'll never be completely empathetic to it, but at least you can learn to be sympathetic.
I think the other thing one realizes with history is how much makes up the present, it’s part of our cultures today. We didn’t invent ideas of equality, women and animal rights, Aristotle references ancient states with these ideals — notably he mentions them as vulnerable to demagogues. Almond milk was used as a milk substitute in medieval French cooking since it’s easier to use. I feel we’re dismisive of previous generations and think of our selves as better when really nothing has changed outside of technology and our physical sciences.
Intriguing, could you give us a flavour?
The author attributes the successes of early Imperial Japanese Navy to the men in leadership roles being wise enough to focus on enabling their competent subordinates do their jobs and nothing more. At least a lot early 2nd volume is spent on organization and management structure. Japan spent a lot of time studying Chinese culture so it would make sense that they would addopt similar ideas.
This article https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/07/22/the-talent-myt... claims this "loose tight" for of leadership is responsible for collapse of Enron.
Take as just one brief example these passages from XXXIV lines 52-7 and XXXV lines 5-7 :
So to hoar-headed hero ’tis heavily crushing
To live to see his son as he rideth
Young on the gallows: then measures he chanteth,
A song of sorrow, when his son is hanging
For the raven’s delight, and aged and hoary
He is unable to offer any assistance.
Every morning his offspring’s departure
Is constant recalled
So the helm of the Weders
Hrethel grieves for Herebald.
Mindful of Herebald heart-sorrow carried,
Stirred with emotion, nowise was able
To wreak his ruin on the ruthless destroyer
This is a description of an experience almost (but not totally) unknown in modern American/western culture. To dmreedy's point, this captures the duality that on the one hand, these were humans just like us, and fathers who have lost sons violently in war or crime who are weighed down with the burden of that grief and the inability to do anything, to take any vengeance, can probably identify with this ancient father. These words can be a foil that gives voice to their own hearts. On the other hand, we can consider how different Anglo-Saxon society was by looking at the culture of vengeance and reciprocal warfare that resulted in this son's death. Very few of us even experience war, much less can imagine a life in which we expect every spring/summer to be attacked by, or to go out and attack, some neighboring city.
What forces shaped society to develop those systems? How can we prevent returning to that? What was good about life then - what did the people enjoy, and what was evil? These are all questions that are worth asking and trying to answer. But we only get to explore those questions if we approach these texts, as the article's author states, as texts with presence in time and place, creations of real people from a certain time, encoding their particular moment with all its similarities and differences to ours.
Lastly, it does sound better in Old English .
(edit for formatting)
Something like this article might explain the distinction I'm not articulating correctly: http://nautil.us/issue/65/in-plain-sight/why-doesnt-ancient-...
I taught myself a good chunk of Anglo-Saxon about 5 years ago specifically to read the elegiac poems in the books mentioned in this article, and Beowulf (which has escaped me so far; need more vocab). It sounds like a big lift, but it really isn't.
FWIIW my parents, baby boomers who went to ordinary high school, read Beowulf in Anglo Saxon, so it used to be a fairly common thing. I need to get back to it to the point where I can read Beowulf. After that, Icelandic is pretty close (I could read menus and such on my visit, despite my faded vocab).
Edit add Bagby's recitation is super great:
I read all three volumes of Lichtheim's Ancient Egyptian Literature first, though, so that may have spoiled me. It's dry as hell but way better than either of those other volumes. Was good enough that I remember quite a few details and individual works from it years later, unlike those.
I've got about seven volumes of ultra-early literature (the last 1.5 or so of Lichtheim aren't that early), six of which I've read or attempted (haven't made it to the Indian philosophy sourcebook yet, some of which is quite old) and of them the only one I'd recommend to the general reader is Stephen Mitchell's Gilgamesh, which was entirely excellent and so wildly better than any of the other Mesopotamian work from that time that I suspect Mitchell embellished heavily (IIRC reviews indicate he didn't, but still) or the modern version of the work was much improved by the time any of the copies or large fragments we have were written/chiseled. It's crazy good. A couple later Egyptian tales were of similar (though definitely lesser) quality but absolutely nothing else Sumerian or Akkadian's even got a hint of anything like that, from what I've seen.
I'm not sure I'd recommend the Sumerian or Akkadian collections to anyone, really, unless that's their specialty in which case they don't need me to recommend things to them. It's possible I just chose poor collections, though. Certainly the Akkadian one was no good, though I'm not sure there's any better in English.
The books I have and am slowly trying to get through are:
"Myths from Mesopotamia" by Stephanie Dalley
"History Begins At Sumer" by Samuel Noah Kramer
"Guide To Understanding Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Cananite And Phoenician Tablets, Slabs, Symbols And Cuneiform Inscriptions" by Maximiliien de Lafayette
"Cuneiform" by Irving Fincel and Jonathan Taylor
"Sumerian Mythology" by Samuel Noah Kramer
"Introduction to Sumerian Grammar" by Daniel Foxvog
The Cuneiform book was fun (if you're interested in Cuneiform) as cuneiform is easy to write and I was able to write my name phonetically :)