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DAWN The Review, 2001

"The Hall of Souls

Helen of Troy Alexander the Great Cleopatra
Jehangir Shahjehan Muhammad Shah
From left to right in the first row: "Helen of Troy", Alexander the Great, Cleopatra. Second row: Jehangir, Shahjehan, Muhammad Shah

But history is not only about power. It is also about dreams, love, passion, feelings and emotions. The responses of individuals in history were based on the same feelings that we all experience: arrogance, love, hatred, jealousy, desire, sorrow or joy.

Helen of Troy: Whether she existed in real or not, in the stories written about her by the male authors, old and new, she represents the essence of female sexuality as it is perceived by men. For the spirited earlier Greeks, to whom the fear of death was an exciting challenge, she was a woman of unrestrained desires whose sexual arousal could unleash war at the largest scale. Subsequent generations modified her according to the secret desires, and fears, of their own hearts.

Alexander the Great: An artist at heart, who chose the most difficult medium for expressing his talent: Time. He was like a romantic poet writing his poem about the ideals of poetic justice and human perfection on the small piece of time granted to him, and the only tool he used to write it was his own life. Through more than two millennia he has continued to inspire generations.

Cleopatra: A woman who asserted her authority in a man's world on her own terms. Historians, mostly men, have rarely forgiven her for that, while the fascination she has held for generations is comparable to that of Alexander the Great. Reviving the simplicity of a bygone matriarchal civilization, she hurled patriarchal ethics into the face of posterity and exposed its double standards for times to come. 

Jehangir: The prince who refused to be anything but his human self. His evils were stamped with a primordial innocence while his generosities revealed a depth of passion few would admit to possess.

Shahjehan: A cold-blooded sovereign who lived by the dictates of his mind, and proudly claimed that he had never committed a mistake in life. But mind can be defeated at its own game, and Shahjehanwas dethroned and imprisoned by his own son who then put to death all his brothers, all dearly loved by Shahjehan.

Muhammad Shah: Denounced by puritan historians for being too licentious, he stands out as one of the few monarchs in history who had the vision to cut down the excessive baggage of an overgrown empire in order to consolidate what could be safely kept under the thrown.

But history is not only about power. It is also about dreams, love, passion, feelings and emotions.

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