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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Live by history, die by history

Live by history, die by history. The civilizations which write one-sided history texts, which project their side as virtuous and their rivals as wicked, have an advantage when they are in the phase of growth. Their history texts give rise to the feeling that the past was happy and glorious. People are galvanized by the stories of past heroes, innovators, leaders, explorers, and thinkers. They are inspired to equal the achievements of their ancestors. Filled with optimism about the future, they are motivated to work together to take civilization forward.

When civilization is on the decline, then its people are confronted with a new interpretation of the same one-sided history. Its intellectuals pore into the history texts and they manage to ferret out the details of the instances when the civilization has acted wickedly for the achievement of geopolitical goals. They make the case that in the past, when civilization was in the phase of growth, it did not practice the moral values that it preaches in the present. They present history as a compendium of the immoralities and crimes that the civilization has committed in the past.

Thus, history is no longer optimistic. It is pessimistic. It is no longer a praise of the past. It is an accusatory finger pointed at the past and the present. Instead of making the case that good civilizations are created by the just efforts of virtuous and strong people, the chapters of history reveal that good civilizations are made by enslavers, invaders, mass murderers, and looters. This negative sense of history demoralizes the population that is bred on the modern notions of morality. It makes them feel alienated from their past. 

In the twenty-first century, the West is in the phase of steep decline. The Western history is no longer an optimistic record of their past accomplishments—it is a pessimistic record of their past immoralities and crimes. Most people who read Western history are likely to become alienated from the West. That is why the humanities students in most Western universities are virulently anti-West. They feel disgusted by their civilization’s past. They see no heroes in their past, only monsters who violated the tenets of morality for making geopolitical gains. 

There exists a contradiction between Western history and Western sense of morality and the pretension that the West stands for liberty. This contradiction cannot be resolved. Either the West will have to give up its sense of morality, its pretension of being a bastion of liberty, and revert to the barbarism of the Age of Imperialism, or it will have to discard its sense of history. The West cannot avoid falling into the chasm that divides the past and the present. History helped the West in making gains during the Age of Imperialism. Now history is leading to its downfall.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand

Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon were cousins. Under Catholic law, they were not allowed to get married. When they (in consultation with their powerful families and supporters) decided to get married, probably for political reasons because they had not met before their marriage, Isabella was less than eighteen and Ferdinand was sixteen. The Papal representative in Spain, Antonio Veneris, forged a document which made it possible for Ferdinand to marry his cousin. The document which made the marriage legal was signed in January 1469.

With this marriage, Castile and Aragon were united into a formidable kingdom, jointly ruled by Isabella and Ferdinand. During their reign, the Nasrid kingdom of Granada was destroyed, the Reconquista was completed, Spain was aggressively Christianized and united, Columbus was sent on a voyage in which he made the discovery of a new world of fertile territory, gold, and slaves, the Americas, and the foundation of the Spanish Empire was laid. This marriage launched the Age of Imperialism which brought territory, slaves, and wealth to the imperialist nations and resulted in Europe marching far ahead of all other civilizations. 

There was a bit of sin involved in his marriage, since Isabella and Ferdinand were within third degree of cousinage. But Pope Alexander VI granted them the title of “Catholic Monarch.” From the point of view of Western history, the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand is the most important one—it is the West’s marriage of the millennium. Had they not married, then it is possible there would be no Western power today and history could have taken a different course.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Victor Davis Hanson’s Neoconservative History

Victor Davis Hanson’s book A War Like No Other is neoconservative drivel. He claims that the Peloponnesian War contains wisdom that can help America (the West) in dealing with problems like Islamic fundamentalism, the civil war in Lebanon, and the rising trend of anti-Americanism in the Middle East. He wrote this book in 2005, when America was fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that period, I remember watching a TV debate in which Hanson had lambasted the Islamic thinkers for their tendency to take a flight to Late Antiquity, the era of the first four Caliphs, to find answers to the problems that the Islamic nations face in the present. Apparently, Hanson thinks that he is being rational when he takes a flight to the Ancient Age. But if others take a flight to Late Antiquity, he will vilify them as fundamentalists and madcaps.

He compares America with Athens, and Sparta with the fundamentalist regimes of the Middle East and, in a few passages, with Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. He wants his readers to believe that there are parallels between the challenges that America faces in the twenty-first century and the Athenians faced during the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century BC. To be effective, the propaganda must be subtle—it must be written in a style which will beguile the reader into believing that this is a work of real scholarship. But Hanson is not subtle. He is not scholarly. Anyone who has read Greek history and knows about the Peloponnesian War will easily see through Hanson’s feeble propaganda. He writes history like a neocon activist. He wants his readers to believe that the “West is the best military power.” Of course, he gets to define what is the West: Athens is the West, while Sparta is not.

He ignores the fact that both the Athenians and the Spartans were Greeks. They worshipped the same Gods. They celebrated the same festivals. They followed the same traditions. They ate the same kind of food. They drank the same type of wine. They spoke the same language. They engaged in the same kind of hoplite land battles and trireme-based sea battles. Due to his ideological bias, Hanson distorts the reasons for the Peloponnesian War. He claims that Sparta was responsible for the war since it was an oligarchy, and that Athens desired peace since it was a democracy. This is not true. In his history books, Donald Kagan gives a better explanation for the causes of the war. The war was fought over economic and political issues, and not ideological ones. Athens was probably more to blame for the war than Sparta.

Hanson uses phrases like "roughneck Lacedaemonian granddads" and "oligarchic fundamentalists” to describe the Spartans. No serious historian will use such terminology without offering justification. Hanson offers no justification. He labels, the Athenian democratic system “Athenianism”—which is an absurd term, since the Athenians were not ideological. He asserts that Alcibiades was “Kennedyesque”—this term might seem fine in a magazine article, but in a history book it makes no sense. To describe the impact of the Peloponnesian War on Greek life, he uses the phrase “Lebanonization of Greece”—what a silly phrase.

He presents Sparta as a slave society that is alien to the West. He presents Athens as the “hyperdemocracy” and the fountainhead of the West. He ignores the fact that the Athenians had more slaves than the Spartans and that the Spartan women could inherit property while the Athenian women could not. He ignores the fact that the Spartan league was larger than the Athenian league and that the Spartans had support in Southern, Central, and Northern Greece. They controlled access to the critical Isthmus of Corinth. He tries to present the Spartans as bumbling oligarchs who could not understand the power of Athenian democracy. He ignores the fact that the Spartans were better strategists. The Spartans showed the ability to interact with not just the oligarchic institutions but also the Athenian type democratic institutions.

In the early section of his book, Hanson tries to establish the credentials of Thucydides as a trustworthy historian. He asserts, without providing any justification, that much of what Thucydides has written in his book, The History of the Peloponnesian War, is correct—this view makes no sense. No serious scholar of Greek history will rely on a single chronicler from the past for developing his thesis. They usually cite multiple resources to make their case. Hanson's book is almost entirely based on the account given by Thucydides. For the last seven years of the war, Hanson has relied on the work of Xenophon (since Thucydides's account ends at 411 BC).

Hanson ignores the fact that in Ancient Greece, history was a branch of literature. Its objective was to entertain and inspire. In Greek literary tradition, historians were allowed to invent speeches. They were allowed to assign popular figures of their time at the scene of major battles. They were allowed to invent the sacking of cities and massacre of citizens. They were allowed to amplify the number of soldiers involved in any battle. For instance, Herodotus says that there were 2.5 million soldiers and an equal number of support personnel in Xerxes’s army when he attacked Greece. Modern historians estimate that the number of soldiers in Xerxes’s army cannot be more than 200000. Some historians have suggested that Xerxes had just 20,000 soldiers.

Thucydides’s account could be as off the mark in many of the claims that he makes as the work of Herodotus. But Hanson has a blind faith in Thucydides.

Hanson has been in the business of distorting Greek history for a long time. In his 2001 book Carnage and Culture, he offers a one-sided account of the Battle of Salamis to establish his naive theory that democracies always prevail over tyrannies. How did the Persians view the war? Hanson ignores the Persian perspective. In his account, the Persians come out as tyrannical warmongers. He ignores the fact that the Athenian attack on Persian territories prompted the Persians to retaliate. He ignores the larger context of the Greco-Persian conflicts. He ignores the fact that the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War, and were conquered by the Macedonians, who were barbarians and monarchists. By focusing on the war between the Greeks and the Macedonians, a conclusion that is opposite of Hanson’s thesis can be drawn: that a barbarian monarchy can beat a democratic state.

For writing history, you have to examine evidence from multiple resources. Hanson is incapable of conducting in-depth research. He is incapable of making a fair assessment of the perspective of the people who are non-Western. In the beginning of every book he reveals that his agenda is to prove that the “West is the best military power.” How can you write a serious work of history if you are prejudiced from the beginning? You cannot. Hanson’s books are a laughing stock among the serious scholars of history.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Roman Way: Carnage and Entertainment

The Romans built the Colosseum to hold gladiatorial games, they built the Circus Maximus to hold chariot races, but they never built a proper zoo. The Romans didn’t want to watch the beasts in a peaceful environment; they wanted to watch them in the act of killing or being killed. In the Empire’s later period, spectacles featuring beasts and gladiators were being held for half of the days of the year. Every year traders brought thousands of beasts from the Middle East and Africa to be slaughtered for mass entertainment in Rome: rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, bulls, hyenas, giraffes, lions, panthers, leopards, bears, tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. 

Commenting on Roman Gladiator sports, historian W. E. H. Lecky writes: “Four hundred bears were killed in a single day under Caligula… Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with bulls and elephants. In a single day, at the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus, five thousand animals perished. Under Trajan… lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes, bulls, stags, even crocodiles and serpents were employed to give novelty to the spectacle.” In another passage, Lecky writes: “It is related of Claudius that his special delight at the gladiatorial shows was in watching the countenances of the dying; for he had learnt to take an artistic pleasure in observing the variations of their agony.”

In 107 AD, Emperor Trajan celebrated his victories in Dalcia by hosting a three month gladiatorial festival at the Colosseum. About 11000 gladiators (slaves and criminals) were killed in this festival. The number of animals killed is the same. The festival attracted five million spectators during the course of three months. In another gladiator show 32 elephants, 10 elk, 20 mules, 10 tigers, 40 horses, 60 lions, 30 leopards, 10 hyenas, 10 giraffes, 6 hippos, a rhino, and several dozen gazelles and ostriches were slaughtered in a single day. 

The bloodbath at gladiatorial games and chariot races went on for centuries with hardly any protest. Why didn’t the Romans build a proper zoo? One reason could be that they were a warlike culture. Perhaps the Roman emperors were trying to sustain the military spirit of the Empire by giving the populace the opportunity to watch the slaughter of men and beasts in gladiator shows. But there are other warlike cultures which have built proper zoos and gardens.

The ancient Egyptian capital of Hierakonpolis had a zoo in 3500 BC. King Solomon of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah had collected several animals for his zoo. The Babylonian Kings built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the sixth century BC. All major rulers in Ancient India have built gardens which held a variety of plants and animals. The Chinese Emperors have been building zoos since the ancient period. The Persian Empire had zoos and gardens in most of its cities (including Babylon). During his conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great was impressed by the Persian zoos and gardens, and he sent several animals to Greece.

The Circus Maximus, where the Romans held their chariot races, was designed to maximize collisions. The racing track would narrow suddenly after the sharp turns and this increased the likelihood of collisions between the chariots which were racing each other neck to neck. The collisions were often fatal. Most charioteers died not in the collision but from being dragged around the track after the collision. This is because the charioteers used to tie their arms to the reins. The Circus Maximus often became the venue for beast hunts and gladiatorial fights.

The bloodiest Roman gladiator sport was the naumachia which featured naval battles for mass entertainment. The first naumachia was organized by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. He made 2000 warriors and 4000 oarsmen (all of them prisoners of war) fight a naval battle in a basin dug near the Tiber river. Most of Rome's population came out to watch the 6000 people fighting to death. The largest naumachia was organized by Emperor Claudius in 59 AD, on a natural body of water, the Fucine Lake. 19000 combatants (all of them prisoners) were put in 100 ships and made to fight. Roman historian Tacitus said: “After much blood had flowed, the survivors were spared.”

Stupidity or Malice

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” ~ Hanlon's Razor (Robert J. Hanlon). People believe that the intellectuals and politicians are malicious. What if the intellectuals and politicians are plain and simple stupid? The disasters that they cause are not due to their malice but because their stupidity makes them incapable of taking the right decisions. They are not out to get you—they are acting insanely because they are stupid. Goethe has said something similar in his 1774 book The Sorrows of Young Werther: “Misunderstandings and lethargy perhaps produce more wrong in the world than deceit and malice do.” Here’s a comment that Churchill made about Charles De Gaulle: “His ‘insolence… may be founded on stupidity rather than malice.’” (From Churchill’s letter to King George VI in February 1943)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Conservatives: The Inheritors of the Empire

The conservatives didn’t build the modern West. They inherited it from their imperialist ancestors. Being born and bred in an empire that has already achieved a certain standard of living, the conservatives are used to an easy life. They have developed a sense of entitlement and they regard themselves as the sole guardians of their culture. They can be pompously verbose while talking about the virtues of their civilization but they are lousy political fighters since they are incapable of making sacrifices, suffering discomfort, and taking risks. Most conservatives are pro-war when their nation is winning, and when their nation is losing, they turn anti-war. 

The conservative doctrine evolved in England and America in the nineteenth century, at a time when the Age of Imperialism was at its peak and Western power had already taken the world in a vice-like grip.

Before the Age of Imperialism, Western power did not exist outside Europe. Even within Europe there were serious rivals to Western power. The Age of Imperialism was the factory in which the modern West was built. The Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, were not conservatives. They were revolutionaries and religious zealots. They were prepared to risk everything in savage wars for propagating their faith, acquiring new territories, and gaining access to gold, silver, slaves, and other resources. The next monarchs of Spain, Charles I and his son Philip II, had a similar mindset. The English Protestant Queen, Elizabeth I, was not a conservative either. She was a conqueror like the Spanish monarchs.

Europe’s Age of Imperialism began under the leadership of Isabella I, Ferdinand II, Philip II, Elizabeth I, and the leaders of Portugal and the Dutch Republic. The conquistadors of Spain, the privateers of England, and the merciless generals and warriors of Portugal and the Dutch Republic were the builders of the imperialist empires. By the nineteenth century, when conservatism began to evolve into a movement, imperialism had already transformed the West into a prosperous world power. The conservatives had no role in creating the West. After the conservative movements became popular in Europe (around 1850), imperialism started to decline. Conservatism was at its peak in 1945, when the Age of Imperialism came to an end. 

William Pitt the Younger was the first conservative Prime Minister of England. He became the Prime Minister at the age of 24 and is often credited with saving England from a French Revolution kind of bloody civil war. But Pitt saved England from a bloody revolution by sacrificing civil liberties. During the two phases of his rule (1783 to 1801; 1804 to 1806), there was a massive loss of civil liberties in England. Marxist historians E.P. Thompson and Eric Evans have castigated Pitt for unleashing a “reign of terror” in England—this is certainly an exaggeration but under Pitt there was a great expansion in the powers of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and many people who held politically undesirable views were persecuted.

Misusing the law enforcement machinery of the government to suppress dissent, and misusing the military to exploit other countries has always been the conservative way. The conservatives impose restrictions on their own people and they wage wars on other nations. Under conservative regimes, there is generally an expansion in government’s size, expenditure, and power. The conservatives empower the law enforcement and intelligence agencies at the cost of civil liberties. They increase taxes. They wage unnecessary wars. The conservatives do everything that they accuse the leftists of doing. Those who expect the conservatives to improve civil liberties, reduce taxes, and avoid unnecessary wars are ignorant of the performance of the conservative governments since the nineteenth century.

The conservatives differ from the communists in one respect—communism leads to a quick demise of the nation while conservatism leads to a slow demise. A slow demise is more cruel since it prolongs the agony.

Empire's Slogan: après moi le déluge

An empire, to deserve our support, should practice what it preaches. There has never been an empire that is not hypocritical, that is not savage towards the outsiders while expecting kindness, economic benefits, and respect in return, that does not indulge in propaganda to hold the outsiders culpable for the crimes that it has knowingly committed for making petty geopolitical gains, and that is not disrespectful to the outsiders. Lastly, there has never been an empire that does not believe in the French slogan, “après moi le déluge” (after me, the deluge)—the empires like to brag that they are indispensable for mankind. It is due to such attitudinal problems that the empires lose support of the outsiders and of their own people. They get mired in civil wars and external conflicts. All empires have fallen within 50 years of reaching the peak of their power.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

On the Ramayana

There are two great dynasties: the Surya Vamsha (solar dynasty) and the Chandra Vamsha (moon dynasty). The Ramayana is the story of Rama, the descendant of Ikshvaku, the first king of the Surya Vamsha. Ikshvaku and his descendants ruled over the Kingdom of Kosala, which was located in North India and had its capital in two cities, Ayodhya and Shravasti. Rama had two sons, Lava and Kusha. After Rama, Lava ruled over South Kosala, whose capital was located at Shravasti, and Kusha ruled over North Kosala, whose capital was located at Kushavati. Lava founded the city of Lavapuri, today’s Lahore. 

It is impossible to date the Ramayana. By using the information on star positions and eclipses that are mentioned in the Ramayana, researchers have come up with widely varying dates for Rama’s birth, ranging between 7323 BC and 1331 BC. In his 1991 article, AK Ramanujan asserted that there were 300 versions of the Ramayana. But it is not right to call these stories different versions, since they are a different retelling of the same story. Over several centuries, most local languages in India have developed their own retelling of the Ramayana. The religious and philosophical movements (primarily Buddhism and Jainism) have developed their own retelling. There are modified versions of Ramayana available in the neighboring countries: China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Iran. 

The Sanskrit version of the Valmiki Ramayana is regarded as the authoritative text by the modern scholars. Between 1951 and 1975, the Oriental Institute of Baroda developed a Critical Edition of the Valmiki Ramayana after consulting about 2000 ancient manuscripts. The text contains 24,000 shlokas (verses) which are distributed across seven Kandas (parts): Bala Kanda (Book on Youth), Ayodhya Kanda (Book on Ayodhya), Aranya Kanda (Book of the Forest), Kishkindha Kanda (Book of Kishkindha), Sundara Kanda (Book of Beauty), Yuddha Kanda (Book on the War), and Uttara Kanda (Book on the Sequel). 

The Mahabharata, which is the story of the Chandra Vamsha, includes a lengthy presentation of the story of the Ramayana in its Ramopakhyana section. In this version, when Yudhishthira was in exile in the forest, he asked if anyone had suffered the kind of fate that he had, and then he is told the moralizing story of Rama and Sita. Since there is reference to the Ramayana in the Mahabharata, it can be surmised that that the Ramayana is an earlier composition. The incidents described in the Ramayana happened in the Treta Yuga (age), while the incidents of the Mahabharata happened in the Dvapara Yuga. In the Puranas, Rama is the seventh avatara (incarnation) of Vishnu, while Krishna is the eighth. 

The action in Ramayana happens along India’s North-South axis, while the action in the Mahabharata happens on the East-West axis.

Machiavelli’s Impossible Advice

“He who establishes a dictatorship and does not kill Brutus, or he who founds a republic and does not kill the sons of Brutus, will only reign a short time.” ~ Machiavelli in Discorsi. I believe that Machiavelli is wrong. He is assuming that it is possible for a dictator to kill Brutus and that the republican leaders can identify the sons of Brutus and kill them. No dictator, no group of republican leaders, can achieve this feat. Brutus and his sons are not a few people. They are a legion. They are unlimited men. They cannot be suppressed. The fate of every dictatorship and every republican nation (or a democracy) is to decline and fall. Brutus and his sons are the tools of history. Their purpose is to ensure that no civilization lasts forever.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Myth of “Classical”

The word “classical” is probably the most abused word in philosophy and history. This word is the favorite tool for the pseudo-historians and propagandist-philosophers who are convinced that they can influence the politics and culture of the present by promoting certain empires and movements of the past as the outstanding achievements of humanity. Their method is to first append the word “classical” to the name of an empire or movement and then proclaim that this empire or movement is exceptional because it is classical. The word “classical” is supposed to offer a demigod kind of status to anything to which it gets appended.

The name “Classical Greece” is often flung around by the pseudo-historians and propagandist-philosophers as the exemplar of a perfect society from which all societies in our time ought to seek an inspiration (even though Ancient Greece was extremely unstable, economically backward, feudalistic, brutishly patriarchal, and mired in slavery and warfare). There is “Classical Athens” which is presented as the fountainhead of the world's rational philosophies (even though Athens was the biggest cause of senseless wars, enslavements, and massacres in Ancient Europe). There is “Classical Liberalism” which is supposed to be the ultimate method of creating a free society (even though in every country where the classical liberals have gained influence has fallen prey to nihilism, socialism, communism, nazism, and fascism). Classical music is the kind of music (noise) that people will often praise in public though they might not want to hear it in private.

There are several other instances where the word “classical” has been abused for propaganda purposes. Beware of this fraudulent word. Distrust any empire or movement which is labelled “classical.” If you become awed by the word “classical,” then you will be mentally enslaved.

Who Were the Etruscans?

Etruscan culture began in Northern Italy between the eighth and ninth centuries BC—about three centuries before the year of the birth of the Roman Republic. Their language and customs were alien to Europe. Since the last Roman kings seem to have Etruscan sounding names, some historians have surmised that the Etruscans had became the rulers of the ancient Roman village (founded in 753 BC). They might have played a role in the evolution of the Roman village into first a kingdom and then a republic in 509 BC.

The debate about the origin of the Etruscans has been raging for centuries. The eighth century BC Greek writer Hesiod has described the Etruscans as the people who live in Central Italy. One of the oldest historical accounts of the origin of the Etruscans comes from Herodotus. He says that the Etruscans migrated from Lydia, an Iron Age kingdom in present day Western Turkey.

Herodotus says that in Lydia there was a 18-year famine, which led the King of Lydia to order half the population to leave the country and find a better life elsewhere. These people sailed from Smyrna (now the Turkish port of Izmir) to look for a new home. After several adventures, they reached Umbria in Italy where they founded their colony which developed into a sophisticated culture and expanded to cover much of Northern Italy. Herodotus claims that the Lydians invented the game of dice to divert their mind from the misery of the famine.

The Roman notion of gladiator games probably originated with the Etruscans. In Etruscan custom when an important political figure died, two warriors fought to death at the funeral ceremony. This tradition was imitated by the Roman Kingdom, and the later Roman Republic institutionalized it. For much of the period of the Republic, the gladiator games remained a minor affair and took place mostly at the funerals of the leaders. The first large-scale gladiator game was held by Pompey the Great in 57 BC at Rome’s Circus Maximus.

There are Hindu texts which claim that the Etruscans were a lost Indian tribe. Some words that the Etruscans used are related to Sanskrit and other Indian languages, and many of their customs have parallels in Hinduism. But there is no historical evidence to back this claim. DNA testing is currently going on to trace the origin of the Etruscans. Mitochondrial DNA has been extracted from 30 individuals buried in Etruscan sites in Italy. But this testing has been challenged by some scholars who argue that the DNA in these remains would be contaminated by modern DNA.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Athenian Propaganda Against Dionysius I

Who was the worst tyrant in Europe during the classical age? Most texts from the Classical Age suggest that it was the Greek ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius I (ruled from 406 to 367 BC). He is described as a cruel, ruthless, corrupt, suspicious, and capricious ruler. The source of the information on the basis of which he has been branded as the “Tyrant of Syracuse” is Ancient Athens. The Athenians were the masters in the art of writing one-sided history for propaganda purposes. They knew how to promote themselves as the best people to ever walk on earth, while sullying the reputation of their political rivals by hurling innuendoes.

The relation between Syracuse and Sparta in the fifth and fourth centuries BC was positive. The Athenians followed the policy that every nation which cooperated with Sparta was their enemy, and they were suspicious of Syracuse. In 416 BC, ten years before the accession of Dionysius I, they launched the Sicilian expedition, with the aim of capturing Syracuse. But the expedition was a disaster. The Athenian side was decisively beaten. Almost all the Athenian soldiers (about 50,000) who had participated in the expedition were killed. Since the Athenians could not defeat Syracuse militarily, they resorted to vilifying its rulers in their literature and history texts. 

Much of the negative material on Dionysius I was produced by Timaeus of Tauromenium who lived in Athens for fifteen years, which was the time when he completed his work of history, the Histories. Timaeus belonged to a political family in Sicily and he had a grudge against the rulers of Syracuse. He is unfair to Dionysius I and is full of praise for Timoleon, the Corinthian general who took advantage of the chaos created by the civil war between the Syracusan general Hicetas and Dionysius II to usurp power in Syracuse in 343 BC.

Dionysius I was a well educated and philosophically inclined ruler. He possessed considerable rhetorical powers and was the author of several works of literature and history. In his writings, he speaks against tyranny. He states: “Tyranny is naturally the mother of injustice.” He has referred to the “gazing eye of justice, regarding all equally.” He has made a number of philosophical comments in his writings: “Anxiety is for every man,” “only the Gods are happy,” “no mortals can ever judge themselves until they have seen their happy end,” “the dead alone is secure and happy.” In one of his plays, Dionysius has given a negative portrayal of Plato. The play is not extant but there are some references to it in ancient texts. 

If Syracuse was being ruled by the worst tyranny in Europe, then why did Plato decide to create an ideal society there during the rule of Dionysius II, son of Dionysius I. Plato could have selected Athens for his political experiment. He could have selected Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Delphi. He could have tried Macedon or Thrace. He could have ventured into the Greek states in Southern Italy or the Ionian states in the Persian Empire. He selected Syracuse, because he knew that Syracuse was the best administered place in Europe of that time. He first visited Syracuse in 388 BC on the invitation of Dionysius I who wanted to engage him as a tutor for his son.

Plato’s method of creating an ideal society was to work through a monarch. In the Republic, he argues that the world was being ruled by monarchs because the demos were incapable of grasping the truth. Plato tried to influence Hermias of Atarneus, when Hermias was studying philosophy at Plato’s Academy. Plato was supportive of the Thirty Tyrants (the pro-Spartan oligarchy that took power in Athens after its defeat by the Sparta led alliance in 404 BC). He was critical of the failure of the Thirty Tyrants to cure Athenian society but he did not oppose their overthrow of the Athenian democracy.

The Imperialist Roots of the West

British imperialism is the father of the modern West and Spanish imperialism is its mother. Before the Age of Imperialism, the West was not a global power. The Classical Greeks and the Romans were not global powers—they were powers in an Europe that was deeply divided and mired in unending wars and massacres. The West held some territories in the Levant and North Africa during the Ancient and the Middle Ages, but the empires of the Levant and North Africa too held territories in Europe for centuries.

The first teachers of the Romans, the Etruscans, were conquerors who had arrived from the Levant (according to Herodotus, they were from Anatolia). Carthage dominated the Spanish territories and Sicily for centuries. The Islamic powers dominated Spain till the fifteenth century. The Ottomans controlled Eastern Europe till the twentieth century. The barbarian tribes from central Asia controlled large parts of Europe during the time of the Roman Empire. The barbarian raids were a regular feature in Europe till the Middle Ages.

The modern West became wealthy and powerful during the Age of Imperialism. In 1945, the Age of Imperialism came to an end and the West started losing power. Without imperialism, the West cannot be a global power—I doubt that it can even be a European power for long.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Athenian Disaster: The Sicilian Expedition

Ancient Athens was the most violent place in Europe and the Levant. The Athenians were not a stable society—they did not believe in peaceful coexistence. There was never a time when they were not at war but they were incompetent strategists and warriors. Despite suffering massive casualties and economic losses in their wars, they could not conquer even an inch of land outside Greece. The war in which the Athenians made the most brazen display of their militaristic incompetence and absolutist politics was the Sicilian Expedition.

In 416 BC, Alcibiades became a champion of sending a fleet to aid the Sicilian city of Segesta which had been an Athenian ally since 420 BC. Segesta had lost the war to Selinus, which was allied to Corinth, a component of the Sparta led Peloponnesian league.

Nicias took a stand against Alcibiades. He argued that the war would be an ill-advised adventure. There was a heated debate between him and Alcibiades. Nicias attacked Alcibiades, calling him an inexperienced and self-aggrandizing man who was trying to lead Athens into a futile war. In his response, Alcibiades recounted his own virtues and talked about the successes that he had achieved for Athens in the past. Alcibiades was a much better talker than Nicias, and he managed to convince the Athenian Assembly to vote for war. Having failed to stop Athens from going to war, Nicias recommended that the departure of the expedition must be delayed but Alcibiades insisted that this was the right time to launch the war.

In 415 BC, Athens sent out its largest overseas expedition since their 455 BC expedition to Egypt (which too had ended in a disaster for the Athenian side). The Athenian thinking was that they needed to make gains in Sicily since that area had the potential to become a decisive theatre of operations for the Peloponnesian War, which had been raging since 431 BC.

The original plan was to let a board of three generals—Alcibiades, Lamachus, and Nicias—lead a naval expedition in which too many Athenian lives would not be put to risk. But in the second meeting of the Assembly, the Athenians vastly increased the scope of their expedition. They voted for a massive fleet of 135 triremes, several cargo ships, and a large army. Now there was no doubt that under the guise of aiding Segesta, the Athenians were aiming to capture Syracuse.

On the night when the expedition was about to depart, there was an incident in Athens that was interpreted as an ill omen. Someone mutilated the stone markers representing Hermes, the guardian male figures that stood around the city for good luck. The mutilation could have been the work of the Athenian faction which was against the war and wanted to delay the expedition. The rumor was spread that the associates of Alcibiades were responsible. But he was not charged and the expedition was allowed to leave the next day. In 415 BC, Syracuse was divided. The Syracusans did not believe that Athens would send a massive expedition to Sicily and they had not made any preparation to defend themselves. A united Athenian military leadership might have captured Syracuse. But the Athenians were not united.

Since the Assembly had failed to define the aims of the war, a clash between the three generals was inevitable. The three generals came up with three different strategies. Nicias proposed a minor battle, followed by return to Athens. Alcibiades proposed that they should try to win over allies in Sicily and then attack Selinus and Syracuse. Lamachus proposed that they should directly attack Syracuse. The Athenian fleet was divided into three sections, one for each general.

Contrary to what the Athenians had expected, most cities of Sicily did not welcome the Athenian expedition. Only two cities, Leontini and Segesta, received the Athenians. Another problem was that Segesta, which had earlier promised that it would pay for the expedition, declared that it did not possess the funds. On learning this, Nicias recommended that they should make a show of force in the area and then proceed to Athens. But Alcibiades advised that the right course of action would be to encourage revolts against Syracuse, and then attack Syracuse and Selinus. Lamachus continued to insist that Syracuse must be attacked immediately.

Alcibiades managed to conquer Catania, but before he could conquer more cities in Sicily, a ship arrived from Athens and he was informed that he was under arrest for the crimes of destruction of the Hermai and profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries. Alcibiades promised to return to Athens to stand trial. But he gave the prosecutors a slip and took a ship to the Peloponnese, where he sought refuge in Sparta. His flight to the Spartan side was taken by the Athenians as a proof of his guilt, and an Athenian court passed a death sentence against him.

Now only two generals remained in Sicily: Nicias, who was against the war and had a reputation for inaction, and Lamachus, who was not a popular figure though he had a credible military record. A significant part of the summer had been wasted and in the fall of 415 BC, Nicias finally agreed to attack Syracuse. They faced no opposition while entering the harbor and managed to land their army at river Anapus. There was a hoplite battle between the Athenian and the Syracusan side. The Syracusans lost around 260 men, and the Athenians lost 50. After this encounter, the Athenians moved to Catania to spend the winter.

In the spring of next year, the Athenians were back in Syracuse. This time they landed on the Epipolae, the cliff above Syracuse. In the fighting that ensued, 600 Syracusan soldiers were killed. The Athenians began the construction of a series of walls known as “the circle,” with which they hoped to blockade Syracuse from the rest of the island. The Syracusans responded by building their own series of counter-walls to connect their various forts. The Athenians managed to destroy one counter-wall but the Syracusans built another wall, this time with a ditch which blocked the Athenians from extending their own wall to the sea. A group of 300 Athenian soldiers attacked the new Syracusan counter-wall and captured it but in a short time, they were beaten back by the Syracusans.

Lamachus was killed during the Syracusan counteroffensive, leaving Nicias as the sole commander of the expedition. The Syracusans destroyed about 1000 feet of the Athenian wall, but they could not destroy the circle, which was defended by Nicias. The Athenians managed to extend their wall to the sea and tightened their blockade of Syracuse.

The Syracusans appealed to Sparta for help. The Spartans nominated their general Gylippus to command their expedition for Syracuse. The failure of Nicias to finish construction of the wall provided Gylippus with an opportunity to land the Spartan forces at Himera and march them overland to the Syracusan city. Gylippus immediately put his men to work in helping the Syracusans in building the counter-walls. In the first engagement between the Athenians and the Spartans, the Athenians managed to drive the Spartans back, but in the second attempt the Spartans defeated the Athenians. The work for building the counter-walls went on. When the Syracusan counter-walls were completed, the Athenian walls became useless. The Syracusan and Spartan side was bolstered with the arrival of a fleet from Corinth.

The Athenian expedition was now in trouble. Nicias should have called off the expedition and returned to Athens. But he sent a letter to the Athenian Assembly claiming that he was too sick to command the expedition and he needed assistance. He was hoping that the Assembly would call off the expedition but to his surprise they responded by sending another expedition to Syracuse, commanded by the military general Demosthenes (not the philosopher).  In 413 BC, Demosthenes arrived with 73 ships and 5,000 hoplites. He was shocked to see that Nicias had allowed the situation in Syracuse to deteriorate to such an extent.

Demosthenes realized that there were two options left: either capture Epipolae or retreat to Catana. In a risky night-operation (which was opposed by Nicias), Demosthenes attacked the Syracusan counter-walls on Epipolae. His troops breached the wall but they were defeated by the Spartans on the other side. In the darkness many Athenians became disoriented and, according to Plutarch, around 2000 of them fell to their death from the cliff. After this debacle, Demosthenes advised Nicias that they should return to Athens and defend their homeland. But now Nicias became worried that if he retreated at this stage, the Athenians would have him executed for cowardice and incompetence. He insisted that they should continue to fight.

In a series of naval engagements, the Syracusans destroyed several Athenian ships. In the battles being fought on land, the Spartans led by Gylippus inflicted heavy casualties on the Athenians. The Athenian situation became perilous. They decided to burn the rest of their ships and march towards Catana through the river Anapus. On the way, they were continuously attacked by the Syracusans. The ferocity of the Syracusan attacks forced Demosthenes and Nicias to change the direction of their retreat to the south. But the Syracusans continued to come after the retreating Athenians and in the next two days hundreds of Athenians were slaughtered.

At the river Erineus, Demosthenes and Nicias became separated. After a short battle, Demosthenes and his 6000 soldiers surrendered to the Syracusans. The troops with Nicias fled towards the river Assinarus with the Syracusan soldiers in hot pursuit. There was a breakdown of order on the Athenian side—in their rush to find drinking water, many soldiers were trampled to death. Tempers flared and fights broke out between the Athenians. They ended up killing a large number of their own soldiers. When the Syracusan soldiers caught up with the fleeing Athenians, there was a great slaughter. Thousands of Athenian soldiers were cut down. Nicias surrendered with a small band of Athenians.

Against the orders of the Spartan general Gylippus, both Demosthenes and Nicias were executed by the Syracusans. A few Athenian soldiers who had survived the massacre were kept for days in a horrible prison, where they slowly died of disease, thirst, and hunger. Most accounts suggest that Athenians had lost 10,000 hoplites and 30,000 experienced oarsmen. Considering the fact that the Athenian population was just 150,000, this was a massive loss. They had lost most of their triremes. The population of Athens revolted. In 411 BC, the Athenian democracy was overthrown and power went to an oligarchy.

The Hyena With A Fountain Pen

Jean-Paul Sartre admired the Soviet Union, while Albert Camus despised it. In 1950, when North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea, Camus said to Sartre: “What will happen to you when the Russians invade France? Perhaps the hyena with a fountain pen would not be allowed to have the last laugh?” Stalin’s cultural commissar, Alexander Fadayev, had earlier called Sartre, “a jackal with a typewriter, a hyena with a fountain pen.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Importance of Mythologies

In times of great crisis, mythologies can be more inspiring than history. The more unbelievable the story, the more believable it seems to the people who have become overwhelmingly nervous about the future. Mythologies might appear totally irrational in stable times, but when the times are bad, they are readily embraced by the people.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Who is the Better Savage: The Civilized or the Primitive?

Civilized people are more violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous than primitive people because they believe that their civilization grants them the privilege to invade any land, take control of the natural resources, destroy the local way of life, kill hundreds of thousands of people, and kidnap men, women, and children to be sold as slaves. On the basis of my reading of history, I can surmise that about 80% of the killing and enslaving during the civilizational clashes of the last 1000 years has been committed by civilized people.

Civilization is supposed to make people compassionate, wise, and erudite. It is supposed to make people capable of empathizing with cultures different from their own—this is what the books on philosophy and religion teach us. Instead, we find that throughout history most civilized people (not all) have acted as merciless invaders, killers, destroyers, and slavers. More brutality, immorality, and sinful acts have been committed in the name of civilization than on anything that the primitive could conceive. This is the paradox of civilization.

On October 12, 1492, when Columbus made a landfall in San Salvador, he was greeted with respect by the locals. They gave him and his men their food and their traditional gifts. Columbus took the niceness of the locals as a sign of their weakness and savagery. He kidnapped ten of his local hosts and transported them to Spain, where he displayed them before the Spanish elite as specimens from a tribe of weak savages who lived in a land that he had discovered. Within a decade of Columbus’s voyage, the Conquistadors arrived in the Americas.

History is written by civilized people. The civilized depict themselves as the epitome of culture, compassion, and progress, and they portray the primitive as savages, killers, and philistines. It is due to such one-sided accounts of history that people in our time harbor the notion that civilization makes a man cultured, compassionate, wise, and peaceful. The truth is that civilizations have made maximum territorial, technological, and economic progress when they were being led by people who were violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and contemptuous of primitive ways of life. 

Who pays the highest price for progress—the civilized people who conquered, enslaved, and slaughtered, or the primitive people who lost their land, culture and, in many cases, life? The carnage and destruction committed by civilized people in their lust for land, natural resources, and slaves can be defended by invoking the notion that what leads to mankind’s progress is good; it can be defended by invoking the ideas of “might is right” and the “manifest destiny of the civilized to rule over the primitive.” But it cannot be defended by using the tenets of any existing moral and religious theory.

Being civilized means being focused solely on the territorial, technological, and economic progress of one’s own ethnic group. It means being violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous. It means being unconcerned about the life, propriety, and culture of the people who are deemed primitive. It means being free of moral and religious constraints.

The empire on which the sun never sets

In his Histories, Herodotus says that before invading Greece in 480 BC, Persian Emperor Xerxes made a speech in which he said, “We shall extend the Persian territory as far as God's heaven reaches. The sun will then shine on no land beyond our borders.” During the Age of Imperialism, these words spoken by Xerxes became an inspiration for the Spanish and the British—they started bragging that they were an empire on which the sun never sets.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

How to Overthrow a Superpower?

If China intends to usurp America’s position of superpower, then it will not use military means. The cost of militarily defeating America will be too high and no nation, which is ruled by wise leaders, will attempt to precipitate a war with America. The world is not in a mood to fight a great war (though things might change in the future if the American side becomes weaker). There are non-military ways of forcing the American order (Pax Americana) to fade out of the world.

While America possesses considerable military strength, it is not a military power. Its key strengths are economic, technological, diplomatic, and bureaucratic. The four instruments through which America exercises power over other nations are: (1) The dollar which is the default currency in international transactions; (2) the financial markets; (3) the American patent system; (4) the geopolitical bureaucratic institutions—the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, the WEF, and the WTO.

Through its control of the dollar and the bonds and securities markets, America has the power to meddle in the financial sector of most countries. Since the dollar is not pegged to gold, America is in a position to raise any amount of debt. Other countries are forced to pick up American debt and allow American inflation to percolate into their economy because they need access to dollars and the financial markets. America’s most lucrative export is the dollar.

The patent system was established to protect intellectual property in case the invention was novel, non-obvious, and useful. But after 1990, the patent system was corrupted to serve the interests of the American multinationals. These multinational companies have filed a massive number of dubious patents which give them a stranglehold over most sectors. The world’s digital industry is now dominated by oligarchs who have cornered the important patents.

The geopolitical bureaucratic institutions were founded by America and its allies to preserve a world order which would offer them a distinct advantage. Occasionally, it might seem that the UN is not passing resolutions which safeguard the geopolitical interests of America and its allies, and the institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, WEF, and WTO are not doing enough to safeguard their trading interests, but the actions of these institutions are generally aimed at empowering Pax Americana.

If these four instruments are compromised, America will lose its economic, technological, diplomatic, and bureaucratic power, and will not be in a position to dominate the world. 

China has made some solid gains in these four areas in the last 15 years. If China can convince a significant number of nations to use another currency for their International transactions, if it can take control of the global financial markets, if it can provide patents which will counter the power of American patents, and if it can provide a new global bureaucratic system, then American power will decline and Pax Americana will become irrelevant.

The transition from Pax Americana to another geopolitical system (which might be led by China and its allies) during the next 20 to 30 years will be largely bloodless. A few minor military engagements cannot be ruled out, but these will not impact the global balance of power. The important contests for world dominance are right now happening in the economic, technological, bureaucratic, and diplomatic areas.

The Clash of Intellectuals and Politicians

Intellectuals always hate the masses. To them the perfect people always exist just behind the last corner, in the mists of the past, or they exist beyond the next, in the myth of the future. All that the intellectuals possess comes from the masses but they escape the masses in their rationalizations of the past and future. Civil wars are necessary at regular intervals to free society from the stranglehold of alienated intellectuals. The nations which do not fight civil wars are corrupted and misdirected by their intellectuals. When intellectualism becomes a debilitating disease, civil wars are the cure. 

Many of the Roman civil wars can be analyzed as a contest between Greek intellectualism and Roman paganism, realism, and militarism. The purge of intellectuals from the Library of Alexandria in 145 BC, during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon, and then the burning of the library in 48 BC, by the Roman legionaries commanded by Julius Caesar, must be seen as the efforts of the Roman political establishment to curtail the power of the Greek intellectuals. The last traces of the Library of Alexandria were wiped out in 391 AD under a decree issued by Coptic Christian Pope Theophilus of Alexandria.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Rome Lost the Civilizational Clashes

If religion is taken as one of the primary pillars of culture, then it can be argued that the Roman Empire was not a cultural power. The Romans could not win the clash of civilizations in Europe and the Levant. Both halves of the Roman Empire, the Western and the Eastern, lost their dominant religion and underwent cultural transformation before and after they fell. 

With the issuance of the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Constantine the Great made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. But this did not lead to a significant conversion to Christianity. Paganism continued to be the dominant religion. The number of Christians was very small. The Christian believers were sometimes prosecuted, though the official policy of the Roman Empire was to leave the Christians alone as long as they did not interfere in imperial authority. 

In 476 AD, when the Roman Empire fell to the Visigoths, Christianity was still a minority religion in Europe. The Visigoths were devout Christians and under their rule, there was large scale conversion to Christianity. Thus, the fall of the Roman Empire led to the fall of Rome’s pagan religion and the rise of Christianity in Europe. The Roman Gods were forgotten. The Visigoths trounced the Romans on the political and the religious fronts.

In the eighth century AD, Christianity was the dominant religion in the Levant and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) was the dominant political power. The Romans could not sustain their supremacy in the Levant. Between eighth and the fifteenth centuries AD, the entire population of the Levant converted to Islam and the Byzantine Empire was wiped out.

Goethe: "More Light"

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” ~ Goethe in his novel Elective Affinities (1809). This line is full of wisdom—Goethe is probably one of the wisest writers in modern German literature.

In my opinion, people who brag about being free turn out to be the ones who are easily enslaved—they are also quite ruthless in enslaving others. If you want a free society, then never take advice or support from those who brag about being free.

When Goethe was dying at the age of 82, it is said that his last words were: “More light.” Perhaps he wanted someone to light a candle or open the window, but his last two words can be taken as a metaphor for his quest for illumination or wisdom.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Empires: the Hunters or the Hunted

An empire must either be the hunter or the hunted. In the phase of hunter, the empire’s population is united, optimistic, energetic, hard working, moral, unselfish, religious, and serious. They are devoted to conquering new territories, destroying their enemies, transforming the landscape with infrastructure projects, and expanding the field of knowledge through their inventions and discoveries. Their heroes are the successful military generals, the individuals who perform acts of self-sacrifice and courage, strong-willed politicians, and the visionary industrialists and builders. 

No empire can remain in the phase of hunter forever—the stage comes when the population grows weary of the role of hunter. They become convinced that wars are immoral and cruel. They start believing that infrastructure projects destroy the environment and sully nature. They try to avoid fighting, destroying, and creating. They become diverse, disunited, pessimistic, dispassionate, lazy, amoral, philanthropic, compassionate, self-centered, atheistic and frivolous. They examine the philosophies to find ways of preserving society without having to fight. They try to deal with their enemies through negotiation and bribery. Their heroes are vapid artists, frivolous celebrities, alienated intellectuals, lying journalists, traitorous politicians, and crony capitalists. 

In the twenty-first century, the dominant empire is in the final phase of being hunted. Hunters have converged on it from the inside and the outside. The hunters might finish this empire by 2050 and create space for one or many aggressive and energetic empires of the hunters to arise. The twenty-first century can be seen as a phase of transition from the empire of the hunted to the new empires of the hunters.

History’s Tools: The Pen and the Sword

“Cease quoting laws to us for we carry swords.” ~ Pompey the Great’s warning to Roman Senators during Sulla’s civil war (82 BC) which saw the massacre of thousands of Romans, including senators.

The man who wrote the cliche, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” probably never carried a sword. He probably did not understand the great power that men who carry swords possess to change the course of history through wars, civil wars, massacres, and assassinations. The pen wilders have the power to change history too. There are numerous instances in history when the pen wilders have immobilized the sword wilders through negotiations, abstruse legalism, rationalizations, and endless arguments and counterarguments.

Both—the pen and the sword—are equally powerful tools for making history. There are times when the pen prevails and there are times when the sword does.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

On Hulk’s America

What has America done to promote liberty in the last 100 years? What has it done to promote democracy and free markets? What has it done to promote human rights? America might have practiced these values in a limited measure within its own borders but it is not the fountainhead of these values and it is not fit to be the propagator of these values. In the last 100 years, the Americans have performed the role of the crusaders who have no sense of values, no sense of history, no knowledge of political and cultural systems, no capacity to identify the real adversary, who are angry without knowing why they are angry, and who use military might to cause damage to their own side.

The bombastic claim of the American chauvinists that America is the “world’s only indispensable nation” is nonsense. All nations are man made entities and nothing that men make can ever be indispensable. The Americans think too highly of themselves—which is a clear proof of their insecurity, immaturity, and ignorance. Their egocentric view of their country has made the Americans incapable of developing an effective foreign policy. If you start with the presumption that you are God’s chosen crusader of liberty, free markets, and human rights, and that it is your prerogative to lead humanity to the promised land, then you will create disaster after disaster. Instead of leading your people to the promised land, you will lead them to hell.

The First and Second World Wars were European wars. America probably did its European allies a favor by wading into these two wars, but it did no favor to the nations in other continents. The non-European nations had negligible stake in these wars. Fascism, Nazism, Communism—these are European or Western ideologies. The fight over these ideologies was a wholly European fight. The Europeans view themselves as the masters of this planet—that is why they named their internal civil wars as “World Wars.” The truthful name of these two wars would be: Western War I and Western War II.

The Americans claim that they saved the world from the Soviet Union. Which countries did they save? Which people needed their savings? The Soviet Union did not have the power to conquer the world. They were always a financially bankrupt empire. They were always mired in food shortages, corruption, and domestic political violence. Most countries—barring the effete, utopian, and pampered elites of Europe—were capable of countering the Soviet Union. The non-European countries didn’t need American power to defend themselves. Due to their highly publicized summits with the Soviet elite, the Americans enhanced the reputation of the Soviet Union and enabled it to dominate world politics for 80 years.

Afghanistan would have thrown the Soviets out on its own without any American assistance. In fact, the Americans ruined Afghanistan by engineering a transfer of power to the theocrats. Whenever the Americans have tried to save a country from the Soviet Union’s communism, they have created a political quagmire that has lasted for decades. The disasters in Vietnam, Korean Peninsula, and Cambodia were “Made in Washington” disasters. The tribalistic politics that has developed in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal is a “Made in Washington” disaster. Religious fundamentalism would not have become such a big problem if the Americans had not promoted it with the aim of taking control of the petroleum reserves in the Middle East.

For getting cheap petroleum, the Americans meddled in the Middle East, and created a series of dictatorships which they thought they could control. For getting hold of cheap TV, fridge, laptop, mobile phones, undergarments, shirts, pants, shoes, they created the industrial economy of fascist China. Now they claim that they are fighting both the dictatorships of the Middle East and fascist China. First the Americans create the problems and then they claim that they are against these problems. When they start fighting the problems, they create even bigger problems.

America has created more global bureaucratic organizations than the Soviet Union ever could: United Nations, World Bank, IMF, World Trade Organization, G8, G20, Paris Climate Agreement, and many other such organizations could not have come into being without American support. Who benefits from these organizations—it is the American political establishment that benefits. The Americans have promoted more apocalyptic theories on which the poor nations are forced to squander their wealth than the Soviet Union ever could: Ice Age, Global Warming, Climate Change, Acid Rain, Ozone layer depletion, and much else. They have promoted the Frankfurt School in their academia. They have distorted the idea of liberty by letting the libertarians, hippies, nihilists, and anarchists run amok with their puerile theory of total freedom.

America loves to brag and virtue signal. America wants to see itself as Superman who saves the world. But this country is not a Superman. It is like Hulk, the cartoon superhero who will break ten things in his futile attempt to save one thing. I can’t think of anything worthwhile that this country has achieved by using its political and military strength.

Most Americans (especially the conservatives) are convinced that the West was fighting for liberty and democracy for the last 2500 years. They have developed this false notion because of their one-sided reading of history. In the name of history of the West, they promote the narrative on some periods and they ignore everything else. Their strategy is to project the good things that have happened in Europe in the last 2500 years as a proof of Western supremacy, and flush down the toilet all information regarding the bad things that have happened in Europe, and in rest of the world due to European lust for other people's land and wealth. To propagate the myth of invincibility of Western armies, they focus exclusively on the wars where the West was victorious and they ignore the wars where the West was trounced.

They ignore the fact that the biggest slave owning civilizations in the world were the Western entities of the past: Ancient Greece, Rome, the American South, the Colonial Caribbean and Brazil. They ignore the cultural devastation that they have caused in South America in the last 500 years. The demography of many regions in South America has been transformed because of the slaves that the Western colonists brought from other continents. The Americans are still meddling in South America—since 1970s, they have been inflicting pain on this continent in the name of war on drugs. America is not a promoter of liberty, democracy, free markets, and human rights. It is as much a foe of these values as the Soviet Union was. America cannot be trusted.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Slave Societies of History

The economy and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome (the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire) was fundamentally dependent on slave labor. 

Despite its pretensions of being a bastion of liberty, rational philosophy, and democracy, Ancient Athens had the largest slave population in the Balkans and the Levant. Most historians accept that there were at least 80,000 slaves in Ancient Athens when it was at the peak of power (out of a population of 120,000). But the actual number of slaves might be higher than this. In the census ordered by tyrant Demetrius Phalereus, between 317 and 307 BC, it was found that the population of Attica consisted of 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 400,000 slaves—this means that the number of slaves was twenty times more than the free citizens. Prostitution flourished in Ancient Athens and was dominated by the slave women and men captured in wars.  

Slavery was regarded as a natural and necessary condition in the city-states of Ancient Greece. Aristotle held the view that slavery was necessary for philosophical life. On an average, the households of Athens had four to five slaves. Almost all Athenian citizens owned at least one slave. Not owning even one slave was a clear sign of extreme poverty. Aristotle defines a household as a house that contains freemen and slaves. Socrates has talked against the institution of slavery but his two wives—Xanthippe and Myrto—probably owned several slaves.

Ancient Rome took the institution of slavery to a new level. The purpose of the Roman Army was to conquer new territories and capture new slaves. Wherever the Roman Army went, a large contingent of Roman slave traders followed. The soldiers would catch people, immobilize them by tying them up or clubbing them on the head, and then sell them on the spot to the slave traders, who would transport the slaves to the slave markets which flourished on the trade routes running through the Roman territories. A significant part of the operational cost of the Roman Army was being recovered from the sale of slaves. In the time of the Roman Republic, the unskilled slaves used to cost at least 2000 sesterces (two years of the Roman version of minimum wage), and a skilled slave would cost much more. 

The irony is that the Romans killed and enslaved a massive number of Greeks (a people whose philosophy and culture they admired) in the period when they conquered Greece. In the Battle of Corinth of 146 BC, the Roman general Lucius Mummius set fire to the city, slaughtered all the men, and enslaved all the women and children. After the barbaric destruction of Corinth, the rest of Greece was quickly subjugated by the Romans.

The number of slaves that the Roman soldiers caught and sold is astounding. The Samnite War in the third century BC resulted in 55,000 Samnites and Gauls being captured and auctioned in the slave markets. The destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War flooded the slave markets with more than a million slaves. Julius Caesar once sold the entire population of a conquered region (close to 53000 people) to slave dealers on the spot. Under Roman law, the slaves had no rights—their body was owned by their master. Sexual exploitation and torture of slaves was a common practice in Rome. The use of former enemy soldiers as slaves led to armed rebellions—like the one led by Spartacus. Close to 70,000 slaves participated in Spartacus’s rebellion.

In his book Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, Professor Moses Finley argues that there have been only five genuinely slave societies in history: Ancient Greece, Rome, the American South, the Colonial Caribbean and Brazil. All five were the key centers of Western power in the age when they were making massive use of slave labor. By genuinely slave societies, Finley means the societies which use a disproportionately high number of slaves, where the economy is heavily dependent on slave labor, and where the elites have developed cultural and political arguments for defending their use of slave labor. The slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome was not based on ethnicity, but the slavery in American South and the Colonial Caribbean and Brazil was.

There can be serious counterarguments to Finley’s points. In most civilizations, going back to the earliest Mesopotamian civilization, slavery was prevalent. The Egyptians, the Chinese, the Mongols, the South Americans, the Persians, the Islamic states, and many other cultures have made use of slave labor. But these civilizations were not as dependent on slave labor as Ancient Greece and Rome, and the colonial territories in North and South America. Consider the fact that between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries, the British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spanish brought millions of slaves from Africa and other regions to their colonies in North and South Americas. They totally transformed the ethnic makeup of these lands.

Advanced Civilizations are Sitting Ducks of History

How can anyone read history and still believe that advanced civilizations can win wars? If you leave aside the Age of Imperialism, when the wars were won through psychological and diplomatic strategies, then you find that the primitive civilizations, which have a high birth rate, intense cultural cohesion, and the will to fight to the end, have in most cases trounced the advanced civilizations in wars and even in cultural conflicts. History tells us that advanced civilizations always get conquered by the people that they view as barbarians. An advanced civilization is like a sitting duck that is waiting for a barbarian attack and takeover.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Mankind’s Collective Destiny: Dystopia of Apes

If there is a collective destiny of mankind, then it is to move in cycle that goes on till infinity. You will not get a clear picture of mankind’s destiny from the last 2500 hundred years. You must go back by 70,000 years. The archaeological evidence of the last 70,000 years tells us that civilization is a rat race. It is an endless pursuit. Every land of the civilized ultimately falls into decay and becomes the land of the uncivilized savages. 

One ethnic group, and then another has transcended the fundamentally “ape-like” human mentality and created a civilization of some kind. In the earliest stages of mankind’s history, the civilized folks lived in cave dwellings and mud structures. In the last 5000 years, a more advanced way of life has evolved. But civilization, whatever be its degree of sophistication, has never lasted. Nature outfoxes the civilized folks and finds new ways of forcing them to discard the civilized mentality and reassert their ape-like character. Once the ape-like nature reasserts itself, the civilization declines and falls—its dominant population transforms into savages.

No ethnic group is special. The ethnic groups that were dominant 70,000 or 10,000 years ago are now beating drums, performing tribal dances, killing each other with stones, wooden clubs, and knives, and herding cattle. The fate of today’s dominant ethnic groups will not be different. In 500 to 2000 years, perhaps earlier than that, instead of clambering on airplanes and space shuttles, the civilized folks will be clambering up and down coconut trees, they will be beating drums, and using flint knives to hunt animals.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Gates of the Temple of Janus

In the Roman Republic, the gates of the Temple of Janus, the two-faced Roman God, symbolized wartime and peace. When Rome was at peace, the gates of the temple remained closed. When Rome was at war, the gates would be opened. According to Livy, the Temple of Janus was built by King Numa Pompilius (reigned 715–673 BC). During the 500 year history of the Roman Republic, the gates of the Temple of Janus were closed only twice which means that the Romans were at war almost throughout the Republican age. In the second instance, the gates were closed by Augustus, after the death of Antony and Cleopatra.

The credit for killing the highest number of Roman soldiers in a single day probably belongs to Hannibal. In the Second Punic War, during the Battle of Cannae (2 August 216 BC), Hannibal’s forces trapped a Roman army of 86000 soldiers in a double envelopment tactic and hacked 70,000 Roman soldiers to death in just four to five hours. In the First Punic War, during the Battle of Cape Hermaeum (255 BC), around 100,000 Roman soldiers had been killed due to a sea storm that blew up suddenly and devastated a fleet of 390 Roman warships. 

Due to the high casualties that the Roman Republic suffered in wars, which came in quick succession, the Roman society was always plagued by the shortage of men who could serve as soldiers. The birth rate of Roman women was very high during the period of the Republic, and the Romans were able to replenish their population numbers within 10 years of a major war. If the birth rate of the Roman women had been lower, the Roman population might never have recovered. The feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir has criticized the Romans for treating their women as mere soldier producing factories. Simone was probably right. Having enough soldiers to fight the next war was the primary concern for Roman leadership.

The Romans replenished their numbers by granting citizenship rights to the local aristocratic families and in some cases to entire cities. Many conquered cities were given the status of socii, or allies, of Rome. The socii could be moved to a higher level of full citizenship, if they fully cooperated with Rome. The conquered areas were required to pay tribute to Rome but the universal obligation imposed on them was to put their army under Roman control. They had to contribute their young men to serve as soldiers for the Roman army. The Romans were ruthless in dealing with cities which failed to provide tribute and soldiers. They would raze such cities, enslaving their population, and even slaughtering them completely.

As the Romans continued to conquer new cities in Italy, the manpower pool from which they could draw their soldiers became bigger, enabling them to build larger armies with which they subdued the entire Italian peninsula. After that they turned their eyes towards other parts of Europe and towards Sicily and North Africa.

The Twenty-first Century Geopolitics: Feminists Vs. Patriarchies

The West is a civilization of feminists. The Chinese civilization is very patriarchal—the same is the case with the Islamic kingdoms in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. This means that the contest for global power in the twenty-first century boils down to a fight between the feminist nations and the patriarchic nations. If the fate of the world is decided through negotiations, then the West has a chance to prevail, since feminists are generally good at negotiations. But if a full-fledged war breaks out, then I believe the Chinese and the Islamic nations might succeed in overthrowing the West because patriarchies are generally good at savage warfare.

Jarasandha: The Issue of Succession

The slaying of Jarasandha, King of Magadha, is described in the Shanti Parva section of the Mahabharata. Krishna, Bhima, and Arjuna travel to Magadha and challenge Jarasandha to a life and death kind of duel. Jarasandha accepts the challenge and chooses to fight Bhima. They fought in the arena for two and a half to three hours, till both were fully exhausted, everyday for twenty-six days.  Bhima tried every tactic of fighting but he could not kill Jarasandha. On the twenty-seventh day when they were fighting, Bhima looked at Krishna and asked, “What should I do?” Krishna picked up a leaf and tore it into two. Bhima instantly knew the way by which Jarasandha could be killed. He placed one leg on Jarasandha’s left leg and tore him into two.

Jara, the Jungle Goddess, had created Jarasandha by uniting the two halves of a divided-son born to King Brihadratha. There was only one way by which Jarasandha could be killed: the two halves of his body had to be ripped apart. After Jarasandha’s death, Krishna, Bhima, and Arjuna did not usurp his Kingdom of Magadha. They installed his son Sahadeva on the throne and departed from the kingdom. In the Mahabharata war, Sahadeva fights on the side of Krishna and the Pandavas, the people who were responsible for his father’s death.

The notion that the throne of a kingdom should go to the rightful heir has been part of the Hindu tradition since the Vedic period. When a king defeated another kingdom and killed its ruler, in most cases he allowed the next person in the legitimate line of succession to occupy the defeated kingdom’s throne. This system of the throne always going to the legitimate heir has hindered the consolidation of the Indian subcontinent into a single empire. In this land, for much of history, there have been around 500 hereditary kings who could trace their ancestry to the ancient periods. They often went to war but most winners did not try to annex the kingdom of the losing side. This code of hereditary right of succession probably led to fewer wars.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Army of the Pampered Western Generation

In the age of the Roman Republic, the Romans did not enjoy a significant technological and tactical superiority over their rivals. Their military victories are attributable to one quality: dogged persistence. The Romans would never give up. If their military was slaughtered by the enemy, they would return to the battlefield with a new military. When they ran out of men to continue the war, they waited for 12 to 15 years for a new generation of soldiers to arise and then they went to war again. Irrespective of the losses they suffered, they kept fighting till they won.

In the Battle of Cannae (2 August 216 BC), the Romans deployed an army of 86,000 soldiers against the 50,000 Carthaginian soldiers under the command of Hannibal. The Carthaginians surrounded the enemy in a double envelopment tactic and slaughtered the trapped Roman soldiers. About 70,000 Roman soldiers were hacked to death in just four or five hours. Most cultures would have given up after suffering such a great carnage and they would have surrendered to Hannibal. But the Romans were not like most cultures. Surrendering was not the Roman way. They continued to fight and in 201 BC, they decisively defeated Hannibal’s army and captured Carthage.

By the end of the second century AD, the Romans had become the most pampered, complacent, and decadent people of Europe. They had lost their spirit of dogged persistence. Their young generation did not want to fight in wars. Fighters from non-Roman tribes (like the Goths) had to be recruited to serve in the Roman army. After defeat in any major war, the Romans would find it difficult to continue the war against the enemy. In the fifth century AD, the Western Roman Empire was lost because there were no Romans left who would fight to save their homeland.

The military capabilities of present day West can be best compared to that of the Roman Empire after the second century AD. The spirit of dogged persistence has vanished from the Western civilization. If a small number of their soldiers die, they lose their courage and mind. Concern for the lives of soldiers is a good thing, but if you are unable to bear the loss of a few soldiers, why did you go to war? There cannot be a war in which only the Western side kills the soldiers and civilians on the other side. In wars, people on both sides die.

The only places where the West can still fight wars are Hollywood movies, the TV serials on Netflix, and video games. Despite their technological and tactical superiority, they cannot win real wars. The loss of ten to fifteen soldiers throws the West into an apoplectic tizzy. They start venting their trauma on social media. They flood social media with millions of pictures of their fallen soldiers. A public mourning over fallen soldiers when the war is far from over sends a signal to the enemy that the West is weak and lacks the will to fight.

During the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944, 10,000 Western soldiers died in the first wave. 90% of the population in the present day West would suffer from apoplectic trauma and depression if their nation had to fight a war in which there were 10,000 casualties on their side. The present generation of the West is convinced that they are entitled to live forever. I remember a line in the movie Conan the Barbarian: “Do you want to live forever?” Conan does not want to live forever, he wants to die fighting for the right cause, and he wins the battle of his lifetime. 

The present-day West is good in sexualizing its soldiers, they are good in propaganda, they are good in bragging, they are good in making war movies, TV serials, and video games, they are good in making preachy speeches, but they are not good in fighting actual wars. Never again should they send their soldiers to fight wars outside their country.

When Empires Fall

When an empire falls it does not disappear in a puff of smoke. A new empire does not appear immediately to occupy its space. The geopolitical structure of the empire that falls is usually the first to go, then go the dominant institutions of its domestic political structure, but the cultural, religious, and financial institutions, and some of the political institutions get reinterpreted and transmitted in several ways and remain in existence for centuries. The Persian Empire fell in the fourth century BC, but its cultural and linguistic legacy can still be detected in the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and Europe. The Western Roman Empire fell in the fifth century AD and the Eastern Roman Empire fell in the fifteenth century AD but their political and cultural institutions still exist in Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The West: Gone With the Wind

When the West falls and disappears into the mists of a different kind of cultural and geopolitical entity, the people who are currently rooting for its fall, and are trying their best to annihilate it, are going to miss it. During the 400 years of imperialism, the West gained an experience of ruling the world—most of the enemies of the West do not have this experience. The West bumbles frequently but its enemies, when they take charge, will bumble even more; they will create much worse disasters. They and several generations of their descendants will try to recreate the West, but they will fail. A civilization “gone with the wind” never returns.

The Non-Athenian Foundation of Modern West

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” ~ Zeus didn’t say this. He didn’t care about the meek. When Zeus threw his thunderbolts, the meek would die with the evil. The thunderbolts of Zeus do not differentiate between the meek and the evil. The deceptions of Zeus are legendary. His sexual conquests, mostly through the use of deception, include: Hera, Aegina, Alcmene, Antiope, Callisto, Danae, Io, Nemesis, Europa, Ganymede, Leda, Metis, and other women of antiquity. There is no evidence that the exploits of Zeus made the world a better place. 

The religion of Ancient Athens was founded on the exploits of Zeus. The Athenians tried to emulate Zeus in everything—they were violent and warlike. They imposed restrictions on their women. They enslaved the meek. They fought for the sake of fighting with no concern for making the world a better place. They needed to fight because they needed to prove to their Gods that they were violent, valorous, and unbeatable. A warrior’s death was what the Athenian males yearned for. Like Achilles, they chose to die in battle and be forever remembered and honored. 

The legends of Zeus and other Greek Gods are entertaining, but these legends do not contain anything like the good theology that is found in other religions.

Christianity has a lot in common with the religious thought of the Persian and the Hindu Empires. The idea that the meek will inherit the earth was never part of Ancient Athenian tradition. But it was part of the Zoroastrian and Hindu (Vedic and pre-Vedic) traditions. The ideas of last judgement, of paradise and hell, of kings who are bound by the tenets of morality, of not fighting unjust wars, of not killing innocent people, and the insistence on ethical conduct, on being compassionate and forgiving—these are the essential features of Zoroastrian and Hindu traditions, and also the Christian tradition.

All three monotheistic faiths which originated in the Levant have deep connections with ancient Zoroastrian and Hindu thoughts, and they have little to do with the Ancient Athenian religious system which is founded on the exploits of violent and deceptive Gods. When the West accepted Ancient Athenian philosophy, it also received some aspects of the Ancient Athenian religion of Zeus. Fueled by Ancient Athenian philosophy and religion, the West indiscriminately throws its thunderbolts, which mostly descend on the meek.

Athenian Philosophy: The Philosophy of a Decadent City-State

Ancient Athenian philosophy was the philosophy of an overcrowded city-state where just 25000 people had rights, and the rest were right-less women and slaves—it was not the philosophy of a nation where everyone had rights and it was definitely not meant for an intercontinental empire.

It was the philosophy of liars, rationalizers, braggers, propagandists, and the writers of one-sided accounts of history—it was not the philosophy of the seekers of truth, of the realists, and of those who intended to present a fair picture of cultures other than their own. It was the philosophy of people who thought that only they were the macho men and valiant warriors—who believed that every non-Greek culture was populated with effeminate and cowardly men who didn't know how to fight wars. It was the philosophy of people who were insecure of the female sex—who preferred to keep their women locked in isolation, forced them to wear veil when they had to step out of the house, and denied them the right to participate in politics and inherit property.

It was the philosophy of the losers of history—it was not the philosophy of the winners. The Ancient Greeks could not conquer an inch of land outside their traditional homeland despite the fact that they were extremely brutish people, and were constantly at war on multiple fronts. In the last 2500 years, whichever part of the West has imbibed Athenian philosophy has fallen into decay, decadence, and depravity. Today all of the West has been brainwashed by Athenian philosophy— now they cannot win any of the economic and military battles. All that the West can do is rationalize, lie, brag, and pontificate. Important lesson for the non-Western civilizations: Do not accept Athenian philosophy.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Women in Ancient Athens and the Persian Empire

Which ancient land had such a view of women:

“Women must be banned from politics. Women cannot be allowed to represent themselves in courts. If women are allowed to inherit property, men will become effeminate and the nation will fall. Women should not go out in public without a veil and unless they are escorted by a male relative. Women are irrational, conniving, dangerous, and naive. Women should not interact with men who are not related to them. Female children should not be given education. Women are fit for only two roles: to bear children, and to run the household.”

The answer will surprise you. It is Ancient Athens. The Athenian philosopher Aristotle has claimed that Sparta fell because the Spartan men had become effeminate after they allowed women to inherit property. Greek literature casts women as troublemakers—Hera and Aphrodite are portrayed as jealous goddesses who employ feminine wiles to mislead men.

Contrast the poor status of women in Ancient Athens with the economic, legal, and political power that women enjoyed in the Persian Empire. Herodotus says that Empress Atossa, the wife  of Emperor Darius I, was the real force behind the invasion of Greece in 492 BC. If this is true, then it shows the power that women enjoyed in the Persian Empire. Herodotus claims that Atossa was responsible for ensuring that Xerxes became the Emperor after the death of Darius I. He says that the wife of Xerxes, Amestris, was the most powerful person in the Persian court. He makes a similar claim about Parysatis, wife of Darius II.

Herodotus’s comments about the power of the Persian queens is not a praise for Persian society—he is being contemptuous. His thinking is that the Persian kings were so effeminate that they allowed their women to dictate the state’s policy. The Athenians (and sometimes the Spartans) used to brag that the Persians must be effeminate because they could not control their women.

In the Persian Empire, women were free to step out of their house without wearing a veil and move around without being escorted by a male relative. They enjoyed the freedom to bathe in public, in lakes and rivers. In Persian cities there were outdoor swimming pools which were shared by men and women. When the Greeks used to come to the Persian Empire, they used to be horrified by the sight of women moving around without veils and bathing in public. They used to take this freedom for women as a sign of Persian effeminacy and decadence.

In palace ceremonies, the Persian women played a prominent role. They attended the meetings and banquets in which foreign dignitaries had been invited. The Greeks had a hard time accepting the presence of women in their state-level meetings with the Persians, since in Greek culture only the prostitutes and courtesans attended the gatherings of political figures. The Greek dignitaries would often return to Greece with a low opinion of Persian culture, and they would spread canards about the moral character of women in the Persian royal family.

There are several records of Persian women excelling in hunting and warfare. The Greek and the Persian sources talk about Roxane, a relative of Emperor Artaxerxes II, who was a champion in archery and throwing javelin. The Persian women routinely went on hunting. They were capable archers and horse riders. Greek chroniclers talk about the warlike nature of the Persian women. Ctesias mentions that in the time of Cyrus the Great, the Persian women stood in the streets and taunted the men who were trying to flee from the Battle of Medes.

There are records of Persian women buying, selling, and owning property. The Persian men were allowed to bequeath their property to their daughters and daughters-in-law. There are records of Persian women who ran their own businesses and made great wealth. They were allowed to pass on their fortune to the next generation or to anyone outside their family. In the time of Darius I, there was a Persian businesswomen called Irdabama. In her enterprise, based in the city of Shiraz, she used to employ 480 laborers. Several seals, which record her business transactions, have been found.

Persian Women could rise to the position of satraps, the second highest position after the Persian Emperor. Artemisia I of Caria was the Queen of the ancient Greek city-state of Halicarnassus and of the nearby islands of Kos, Nisyros and Kalymnos (these were within the satrapy of the Persian Empire). In the movie 300: Rise of an Empire, actress Eva Green has played the role of Artemisia, depicted as a ruthless satrap who enjoyed great influence on Emperor Xerxes and commanded the Persian fleet during the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. It is true that Artemisia commanded a section of the Persian fleet.

Though Artemisia was devoted to Xerxes and fought for his side in the Battle of Salamis, Herodotus had a favorable opinion of her. He praises her fighting and leadership skills. He says that the Athenians could not bear the thought of fighting a female warrior. They had placed a bounty on Artemisia's head, offering 10,000 drachmas to the man who captured or killed her but despite the threat to her life, she did not leave the battlefield. There are other fascinating women in Persian history. The story of the two Persian ladies Mania of Dardanus and Epyaxa of Cilicia is worth reading.

Immigration, Colonization, Reconquista, Declining Birth Rate

If you are looking at the issue of immigration without looking at the issue of colonization, then you have no heart. If you are looking at the issue of colonization without looking at the issue of the crusades and the Spanish Reconquista, then you have no head. If you are looking at the issue of immigration without looking at the issue of the declining Western birth rates, then you have no economic sense, no political perspective, and no culture. There are hard arguments on all sides of the debate. If you argue on the first point, you get trapped on the second point, and then on the third and the fourth points. In the modern age, the West has accepted Athenian philosophy—but on the merits of this philosophy, the West cannot win the political debates of our time.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Ancient Athens: The Tyrant of Ancient Greece

The Athenians called their leader Pericles, Zeus Pericles. He had a thundering voice. When he spoke at the Athenian Assembly (the Agora), the crowd would have the feeling that Zeus was thundering at the mortals from heaven. Pericles used to appear at the Athenian Assembly bearing the arms traditionally associated with Zeus. Before beginning his speech, he would make a show of praying to the Gods. He was the longest lasting democratic leader of Athens—the period in which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is known as the Age of Pericles.

When the Athenian assembly was in session, the mob of voters would gather in the assembly and create a ruckus. Scuffles between the political factions was a regular feature of the assembly—at times people would get injured or even killed. The noise at the Athenian assembly would be so great that unless a leader had a thundering voice he could not control the restive crowd and make himself heard. Cimon, the military general who was Pericles’s rival in Athenian politics for several years, is known to have complained that Pericles was favored by the Athenians because his voice was louder than mine.

Which class of individuals is capable of speaking in a thundering voice? Obviously, the military generals who have the experience of screaming orders to troops in battles. A civilian from a humble background had no chance of winning the support of the Athenian crowd because his voice would not get heard. From the sixth century BC, when the Athenian democracy developed, to 322 BC, when the Macedonians conquered Athens and wiped out the democratic system, every leader elected by the Athenians was a loud-talking warmongering military general.

Athens was a democracy in name only. It was a militaristic, aristocratic, and bloodthirsty republic. A series of powerful military families dominated Attica and held political office in Athens. Most voters were financially dependent on the military generals of aristocratic lineage who held the mortgages and controlled the land. The population of Athens was 250,000. Majority of the people were slaves who had no rights and lived in extreme destitution. Only about ten percent, about 25000 people, had rights and could participate in the government. The adult male citizens who had completed their military training had the right to vote.

Unless there was a war in which Athens performed well, the generals could not make a favorable impression on the mob of voters. For their own political survival, the generals of Athens had to get their city-state into new battles which they could quickly win in time for the next election. Only the generals who won in the battles went on to win the elections. The losing generals were either exiled or executed by the Athenian voters. The notion of checks and balances was not part of the Athenian system—the Athenian voters were truly sovereign. They could vote for the confiscation of anyone’s property, or having him exiled, or even executed.

Athenian democracy was the major cause of instability, violence, and warfare in the Balkans, South Europe, and the Levant. The Athenians fought battle after battle with Sparta for almost 150 years. Strange thing is that neither side could win a decisive victory during this period despite conducting a humungous slaughter of each other’s populations. The root cause of the wars between the Persians and the Greeks was always the Athenians. The Athenians did not have the military power or the political strategy to conquer Persian territory but they kept attacking again and again, like a bloodthirsty mosquito buzzing around a lion. They caused massive bloodshed, but they hardly ever won a significant territory outside the traditional boundary of Athens. 

In 478 BC, about 200 Greek city-states aligned to Athens met on the island of Delos and formed the Delian League whose purpose was to capture the vulnerable areas of the Persian Empire. But the Athenians turned the Delian League into their own Athenian Empire. They shifted the treasury of the Delian League from the island of Demos to the Acropolis in Athens. This move enabled them to use the funds belonging to the Delian League for their own purposes. They misused the Delian League’s military power to suppress the freedom of other city-states. If any city-state tried to leave the Delian League, the Athenians would attack it and slaughter its population.

In 446–445 BC, the Athenians enacted a policy mandating that all adult male citizens of the city-states that were a part of the Delian League had to swear an oath of loyalty to Athens. Such oaths of loyalty were inconsistent with the notions of autonomy and freedom in the ancient world. Even the Persian Empire did not demand such an oath of loyalty from its Greek allies. Other Greek city-states, including Sparta, regarded Athens as a violent tyranny which was aiming to impose its system of governance over all city-states. The slogan of the Spartans during their war with Athens was “freedom for all Greeks.” What they meant was—freedom from Athenian tyranny. They fought with Athens because they wanted to be free.

The naive and biased Western conservatives and libertarians of the modern age want people to think that the Athenian democracy was the first paradise of liberty on earth. But the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Thracians, and the Persians despised the Athenian democracy. They knew that Athens was the land of demagoguery, mob violence, instability, militaristic oligarchy, corruption, economic decline, and endless wars.