First, the scope of the physical human achievement throughout history is just simply inconceivable. Trying to compute the time, strength, will, and ingenuity it took to build the things I saw this weekend, to put it plainly, short-circuits my brain.
Then I tried to translate those qualities into the world of today... not so easy. Suffice it to say that it took a different kind of strength to build the Segesta Temple in 400 B.C. than it took to build more modern places of worship like Yankee Stadium. While both are impressive architectural achievements, the former certainly required a more robust physical presence than the latter.
I think this type of physicality is the ultimate example of what we now call "functional strength." It didn't exist in a gym with med-balls and thera-bands and single leg hops. It was all around, all the time. And everyone had it. In primitive societies, men and women were strong and fit because their lives demanded it. In order to build something like Segesta, EVERYONE had to be strong. In order to defend the city in battle, EVERYONE had to fight. At one point or another, they were all warriors, hunters, and architects. Today we're lucky if one in ten of us can get the wheel barrow up the damn hill.
Some will argue that ancient societies had masons and generals responsible for specific tasks the way contractors and soldiers are paid to be experts in their fields now. And I'll admit, some level of specialization probably existed in every era. But not the way it exists today. And those worlds certainly didn't encourage the physical de-conditioning of their non-specialized populations the way our life of room service, remote controls, and catalogue landscaping has surely done. Some take the fact that we can afford to hire someone else to fix our roofs, and pave our roads, and build our walls as a sign of civilization's progress and technological adaptation. I think it's laziness and ineptitude. In sheep's clothing, of course.
I ask this: Why not be able? This is a fundamental question. Whatever the physical challenge, why not meet it? In 400 B.C. Sicily, there was no choice. Society dictated the standards of fitness by what it required of its people. You were physically able, contributing, and valuable; or you were physically unable, detracting, and expendable. Today the standards are set by the individual, and they aren't very high. This is my reflection as I look at pictures I took of Segesta. Weathered and bleached, but unbroken by 2400 years of history, I think it's a penultimate reminder of where our standards should be.