The title speaks for itself so here are the rules:
No stealing. No killing. No major altering of history. No Promethean effort to bring new technology and/or medicine to a civilization. I can only go to the past or present. No meeting people I know. Photography and videography allowed. I have a flying DeLorean.
1. Visit the Library of Alexandria during its prime. Historians can’t agree whether or not Julius Caesar purposely set fire to the library, but almost all agree that Caesar was somehow responsible for a fire that ruined at least part of the library during the Alexandrian War in 48 BC. So I’d go around 50 BC. Formally known as the Royal Library of Alexandria, the scholars and librarians managing it were charged with gathering all of the world’s knowledge. The library represents the largest collection of ancient scholarship and thinking, and would provide tremendous insight to the cultures and histories of the most influential empires of the times. Although there is some mythology built into the lore of the Library, it would be very interesting to read (and take photographs of) the original scholarly writings of all the classical civilizations.
2. Look for Atlantis. After visiting the Library, I would most certainly find some documents that reveal, or at least point to, the location of the legendary civilization of Atlantis. The few descriptions that exist of Atlantis say that it was a large island-continent in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately along the latitudes west of Europe, or an island in the Mediterranean Sea. If it exists at all, I’m curious to see how much more advanced they were than their contemporaries. Some scholars even believe that the remnants of the Atlanteans were found in the Mayan and Aztec cultures (ever wonder how the Mayans had such an incredibly sophisticated calendar?).
3. Gather up NBA superstars in their prime and have them play pick-up. Jordan. Magic. Bird. Kobe. Russell. Wilt. Lebron. Kareem. Shaq. Duncan. Oscar. The list goes on. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen half of these players play, but these are the some of the names that constantly come up when sports broadcasters talk about the greatest of all time. Remember the 2011 Christmas Day NBA commercial? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad made me want to see something more than this.
Convincing them to get into my time machine would be the hard part, but I get them together on the court, their competitiveness would naturally lead to best of 7s. Maybe I would ask them to play 1-on-1, too. Oh, and I would film it.
4. Go see the dinosaurs. You know how much I loved dinosaurs? When I was 6, my Sunday school teacher told our class to draw a picture of our mothers for Mother’s Day. I completely disregarded this assignment and drew a brontosaurus. Who doesn’t like dinosaurs? For all the children of the 80s who grew up on “The Land Before Time”, our love for dinosaurs began when we were in preschool. Brontosauruses, triceratops, stegosauruses, and the mighty T-Rex were the main four, and then we learned about others like the flying pterodactyl, the anklyosaurus with its mace-like tail, and the dolphin-resembling ichthyosaurs. These giant reptiles ruled the world once, and I want a close up.
5. Witness the Battle of Thermopylae. Most of us have witnessed the motion picture “300”, starring Gerard Butler as King Leonidas I. Although the film may have exaggerated the battle using slow motion and special effects, it may not have fully captured the magnificence of one of history’s most famous last stands. Despite that fact that it wasn’t actually just 300 Spartans (there were 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, and a couple hundred other Greeks along with the “300”), Leonidas faced a Persian army that greatly outnumbered his small force (most historians agree that it was between 100-150 thousand). The battle lasted three days and was one of the earliest examples of how superior training, equipment, tactical use of terrain, and the power of patriotism could withstand an overwhelming force (though they were eventually routed due to the traitorous actions of Ephialtes). While it was clearly a Persian victory, the Battle of Thermopylae served to give the contemporary Greeks a stronger collective consciousness, and set the example of free men fighting for their country and their freedom against the imperial subjects of Xerxes. Many ancient writers reference this battle as one of the most glorious in all of antiquity, and I want to see it live.
6. Witness the events of Exodus 7 – 14. I’m a Christian so I believe that the entire Biblical account of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt is true. Scholars debate the historicity of these events, and scientists have tried to explain the plagues as a chain of natural phenomenon. Can you imagine watching the 10 Plagues descend upon Egypt? It would be a tremendous and frightening thing to behold. Everything from blood, to flies, to frogs, to pestilence covering the entire region, I can’t think of a more calamitous event in history that would be a spectacle to behold. I would probably need to befriend some Hebrews so I could avoid the tenth and final plague, since I’m the firstborn in my family. Or obtain some lamb’s blood. This only gets us through Chapter 12. The next two chapters detail the actual exodus of the Hebrew people, as God sent a “pillar of cloud” to guide them out of bondage. And at night, there was a “pillar of fire” just chilling next to the camp of the Israelites. Then comes the parting of the Red Sea, where God “drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it to dry land”. Seriously, a heavenly wind creates a travelable path in Red Sea and becomes the exit strategy for the Hebrews. Who doesn’t want to see this?