In the mid-1840’s, a group of property speculators, each of whom had a claim of a square mile of riverside land, made a claim on a stumptown that became the city of Portland. It took a bit of time, but advantages of location as well as the accidents of history led that stumptown to become a large city. On the other hand, there have been plenty of large and organized efforts that have not gone so well. There are at times little accidents in dark corners that manage to succeed and other times where large efforts are trumpeted that fail. Yet sometimes in life there are things that are talked about as big and important that actually end up being so, and many things that are obscure and forgotten and that are never remembered. It is impossible to tell how large something will be from the beginning.
There is a great deal of thrill in life from the way in which history takes effect in such an indirect fashion. Legendarily, the city of Rome was founded in 753BC, around the time that Jeroboam II reigned over the Kingdom of Israel. At the time that Rome was founded it was a small city in Latinum, not even the most important in its area. It was, like Portland, located near the confluence of a river that was not a seaport but was rather an easily defensible spot near the coast on a river valley. Samaria, at the time, was an important city of an important kingdom in an important location. In 753BC, one might have thought that Samaria was a more important city than Rome. Of course, within thirty years Samaria would be besieged and taken by the Assyrians, and never again to be a major city. Rome would eventually become one of the largest cities of the world, before suffering hundreds of years of abuse before being restored to some sort of greatness once again, largely based on the times.
The verdict of events often takes a long time after those events take place. All the time we make provisional judgments about the sorts of experiences that we have had or the historical events that have happened before. The relevance of those events changes as history changes. In the early middle ages, when Rome was nearly deserted, the verdict on Rome’s history or significance would have been likely to have been a very negative one based on the glories of the time before. Now, the verdict is less negative because of restoration as well as Italy’s position as a somewhat important nation in the world. Who knows what people will think of Portland in a few hundred years, if they think of it all. Who knows the courses of life and how we will be remembered, if we are remembered at all.