One of my friends asked me once this genuine question, ‘How old do you have to be so that people class you as ancient?’ I didn’t know, I thought maybe a hundred years old, five hundred years, a thousand years. I looked it up and there was no clear answer. It depended on the context and the relativity of the situation. The only thing that was certain was that it meant too old, and that I knew.
But the question made me wonder since ancient means too old, and we can use it to refer to a person, a culture or a civilisation that has been around for centuries, or left its remnants behind as a constant reminder of its existence, deeming it perpetual in its own eccentric timeless way, what can we class as immortal. The ancient Greeks and Romans left behind pillars, statues, amphitheatres and Colosseum. The ancient Egyptians left behind pyramids, temples and obelisks, even their dead they mummified so that they remain. Remaining was always what these great ancient nations wanted to do, and leaving a story to be told was what they tried to pass down. Chronicles were carved on temple walls, papyrus records were preserved in pottery jars and leather pouches.
To be remembered, the new pharaoh right after ascending the throne, would commission a statue, an obelisk, a new temple maybe and some even went as far as ordering the build of a pyramid. When they died the most beautiful works of art were put down with their mummies in royal temples, masks of gold and statues of marble and stone. Tutankhamun, the child pharaoh, has been immortalised not by his great achievement as a great king, god and ruler, but through the 1922 discovery of his intact tomb and the artefacts found in it, including the incredibly beautiful golden mask.
Now he and others are remembered for something they have not done, but had it done for them. It is the artists, the engineers, the writers, the craftsmen that achieved these rulers’ immortality. A power they had to give to others, but lacked the ability to bless themselves with. A very scarce number of artists from these times are known, fewer even are remembered when referring to these civilizations. However ultimately it is the work of art that remains, holding in its curves and timeless eaves the memory of the ancient and the beauty of its immortal presence.