The greatness of individuals can be decided only by those who live after them, not by their contemporaries.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.

In our world, the accomplishments of individuals are celebrated and remembered by subsequent generations. This has happened repeatedly, as the stories of heroes and legendary figures permeate our popular culture, from movies and books to video games and board games. However, the greatness and legacy of a person’s achievements are often questioned by those who lived contemporaneously.

Some scholars may insist that such legends were merely great in their own time, becoming legends only later in history when they were celebrated by succeeding generations. Others may point out that if the accomplishments of historical figures were indeed so significant, they would have left a lasting mark on history. Regardless of which argument one agrees with, it is difficult to deny that humans have a tendency to glorify the achievements of the past and that those who do not live long enough to see their legacy become legend are often left to wonder ‘what if’ or speculate how history might have unfolded without them. But, as history has taught us, outstanding achievements rarely occur in isolation.

A quick look at the political history of Italy offers some insight into this phenomenon. In his 1999 book, Italo Calvino, the Italian writer, and philosopher, discusses how the accomplishments of his contemporary, Benito Mussolini, had been unfairly overshadowed by the reputation of his rival, Giuseppe Mazzini. Calvino argues that even though Mussolini’s impact on history is unquestionable, much of what he did was built around Mazzini’s ideas and philosophies. Without Mazzini, Mussolini would have likely been less successful and driven only by the desire for power.

In the case of Giuseppe Mazzini, his views on Italian Unification were decidedly unconventional. They were at odds with those of the more mainstream Italian leaders and thinkers of the time. He favored a federation of Italy’s various regions, a plan embraced by the moderate leader, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour. However, when Benso was assassinated, Mazzini emerged as the rallying point for the unification movement. His ideas were so popular that he could rally much of the Italian population and force the government to recognize the need for Unification. This political achievement alone would have secured his reputation as a great leader, but his ideas about liberty and democracy helped solidify his status.

However, even the most extraordinary men must contend with critics, and Mazzini was not immune to criticism. Many of his policies alienated many Italian people, who became disillusioned with his idea of a republic. Moreover, Mazzini had not served in the military, and his military opponents were more than capable of deposing him. Finally, the political instability and violence that accompanied the unification process and the rise of Fascism spurred many people to abandon their ideals and rally to the banner of Fascism. As a result, his popularity waned, and his reputation began to fade. This does not mean that his work was without merit, only that his accomplishments were only appreciated by later generations.

Like Mazzini, many of history’s most significant figures were not universally revered by their peers. For example, Charles Darwin is often considered one of the greatest biologists of all time, but his theory of evolution was entirely controversial at the time of his publication. Scientists who did not adhere to Darwin’s ideas regarded him as a reckless and heretical thinker and not worthy of consideration. It was left to later generations to overcome this opposition and realize that Darwin’s theory had accurately predicted many events and phenomena, including the development of human beings, which defied conventional wisdom. Although many of Darwin’s contemporaries questioned his theories, these are questions that future generations will be asking for many years to come.

Many people believe that if individuals were genuinely great, they would leave their mark on history, regardless of whether or not they were well known during their lifetimes. However, this line of thinking is flawed as history has shown that outstanding achievements often require a team, and individuals rarely achieve greatness on their own. For example, Albert Einstein was famous for his theory of relativity, but he was not the only contributor to the view. He was the third person to propose the theory of relativity, which greatly benefited from the contributions of other scientists. Had Einstein not existed, someone else would have eventually discovered the theory of relativity, but the result would likely have been less accurate, and the achievement rendered far less significant.

Moreover, such an individual would have been unable to collaborate with others and utilize the wealth of knowledge available at the time. Similarly, Henry Ford’s automobiles were revolutionary, but they would not have been as efficient or as affordable without the contributions of others, including Frederick Taylor, Harvey Firestone, and Ransom Olds. Had they existed in isolation, it is unlikely that they would have realized such success.

Many people assume that individuals must have had a profound impact on the world to be great, leaving a lasting legacy that future generations will remember. However, this is not always true. Many of the most outstanding achievements in human history were achieved without widespread recognition or acclaim. For example, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity was revolutionary, but at the time of its publication, few scientists and scientists even considered it. It was only after Einstein’s death that his work was rediscovered and praised by the scientific community. Had Einstein lived long enough to see his theory become widely accepted, it is doubtful that he would have been as successful or as famous. Similarly, although many consider Thomas Edison one of the greatest inventors of all time, many of his inventions were not adopted for many years after his death. His light bulb, for example, was not widely used until decades later.