Monday, August 8, 2011

Why people seem smaller today than in the past

Mon. 8 Aug 1757. I took a walk in the Charterhouse. I wondered that all the squares and buildings, and especially the schoolboys, looked so little. But this is easily accounted for. I was little myself when I was at school, and measured all about me by myself. Accordingly the upper boys, being then bigger than myself, seemed to me very big and tall—quite contrary to what they appear now, when I am taller and bigger than them. I question if this is not the real ground of the common imagination that our forefathers, and in general men in past ages, were much larger than now—an imagination current in the world eighteen hundred years ago. So Virgil supposes his warrior to throw a stone that could scarce be wielded by twelve men. Qualia nunc hominum producit corpora tellus
So Homer long before: Oioi nu'n brotoi" ejisi. Whereas in reality men have been, at least ever since the Deluge, very nearly the same as we find them now, both for stature and understanding.

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