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.

The Janus Faced Monster: the Right and the Left

The conservatives (rightists) think that their civilization is not being given the respect and praise that it deserves. They want to see only the bright side of their civilization. They prefer to ignore the areas of darkness. The liberals (leftists) think that their civilization is being given too much respect and praise. They prefer to ignore the bright side of their civilization. They want to see only the areas of darkness.

Both sides are wrong in this debate. A study of both—the bright and the dark side is important to have a fair picture of the past.

Both sides are violent, inept, corrupt, and decadent. The conservatives destroy lives outside their country; the liberals destroy lives inside their country. The conservatives blame their woes on the outsiders (everyone who is not an original member of their culture or ethnic group is a barbarian and an invader); the liberals blame their woes on the insiders (everyone who is not a leftist or liberal is a counterrevolutionary, racist, and bourgeoise).

They are the two faces of the Ancient Roman mythological entity Janus. One side of the Janus face speaks falsehoods towards the right (calls itself conservative or rightist); the other side of the Janus face speaks falsehoods towards the left (calls itself liberal or leftist).

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Greek Way of Sexualizing Military Victories

In 478 BC, the Greeks led by Athens met on the island of Delos and formed the Delian League whose purpose was to capture the vulnerable areas of the Persian Empire. Between 469 or 466 BC, the Delian League besieged the cities of Sestos and Byzantium (modern Istanbul). Persian Emperor Xerxes did not order an immediate offensive action against the Greeks—he was engaged in suppressing revolts in other parts of his far-flung empire. He probably did not see the Delian League as a major threat, since the Greeks in Anatolia were on the Persian side and were fending off the attacks of the Delian League.

Eventually the response came from the Persian side. Their army and navy gathered at the Eurymedon River, from where they planned to move through the coast of Asia Minor and drive the Delian League out. While the Persians were engaged in developing their battle plan, and were waiting for reinforcements to arrive from Cyprus, the Athenian general Cimon learned of their plans. He moved in with 200 triremes to preemptively attack the Persian force at Eurymedon. The Greeks smashed the Persian ships which were moored at the river’s bank, and then they landed on the bank and slaughtered a significant number of Persian troops.

The Battle of Eurymedon was a great victory for the Greeks and it was a humiliation for the Persian side. Soon after the battle, potters of Athens created the Eurymedon vase, currently preserved at the Museum of Hamburg. The arrogance and overconfidence of the Athenians is in full display in the vase which carries the motif of a bearded Greek, naked except his mantle, holding his turgid phallus in right hand and advancing towards a Persian archer who is bent forward. The vase carries an inscription in Ancient Greek which has been translated as: “I am Eurymedon, I stand bent forward.”

It is not known how many Eurymedon vases the Athenians created to boast that their victory over the Persians was a sexual conquest. Some of these vases might have reached Persia and come to the notice of the Persian elite.

In 463 BC, there was a revolt in Egypt, a Persian satrapy. The Athenians took the ambitious decision that the Delian League should intervene on the rebel side and wrest control of Egypt from the Persians. An Athenian fleet of 200 triremes sailed into Egypt. Initially the coalition of Egyptian rebels and Athenians won some victories. They killed the Persian general Achaemenes, and besieged the Persian garrison at Memphis, a town in lower Egypt. The siege of Memphis dragged on for three years. Artaxerxes I, then the Persian Emperor, dispatched reinforcements under a new general, Megabyzus.

The arrival of Megabyzus transformed the situation in Memphis. The Athenians and the Egyptian rebels who were besieging Memphis were wiped out. Some Athenians escaped the Persian dragnet in Memphis but they were captured or killed in other parts of Egypt. The Persians wanted to avenge the defeat at the Battle of Eurymedon and were merciless. The Greeks suffered a massive loss of 50,000 men. It can be imagined that while attacking the Athenians, the Persians might have boasted, “This is Eurymedon in reverse”—alluding to the Eurymedon vase. There is no evidence that the Persians made their own vases to give a sexual angle to their Egyptian victory.

The Greeks taught the art of sexualizing military power and victory to the Romans, and the Romans disseminated this art to modern Western culture. The Western soldiers are depicted in media, books, and movies as sexualized superhuman beings, beefy as Rambo and Conan the Barbarian—it is said that ten of them, armed with high tech weaponry, would be enough to defeat any number of enemy soldiers, and that a thousand of them would suffice to transform the culture and politics of any non-Western nation. Such bombastic claims can be dismissed as a display of chauvinism of the calibre of the sexualized Athenian Eurymedon vase.

The sexualizing of military power and victory did not enhance the power and prestige of the Greeks and the Romans—they lost most wars. The Greeks fought a disproportionately high number of wars, as compared to the Persian Empire, Macedonians, and Thracians, but they could not expand their territory, while the pace of expansion of the Roman Empire was very slow. 

The depiction of soldiers as sexualized Rambos and Conans will not help the West in the twenty-first century. War is a serious enterprise, and the side that is frivolous, overconfident, and impatient generally loses. The serious people with a long term view of culture win the war. There are Rambos and Conans on all sides. The West does not have a monopoly on physical strength, courage, and the will to power. It would be a mistake to underestimate your rivals because history never ends and there will certainly be new wars in the future.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Europe’s Great Mistake: The Roman Empire

The Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC. It took the Romans about 300 years (by 218 BC) to consolidate their rule over just the Italian peninsula, and it took them another 350 years to reach the highest extent of their empire (under Emperor Trajan in 117 AD). Contrast the slow progress of Rome with the rapid expansion of other empires. The Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan and his descendants had amassed six times more territory than the Roman Empire in just 50 years. The Maurya Empire of India had become as large as the Roman Empire in just 5 years. The Spanish Empire became twice as large as the Roman Empire in just 30 years.

There is one important reason for the slow expansion of the Roman Empire. The Romans were obnoxious people and they were the masters in the art of making enemies. Every tribe which lacked Greek and Roman traditions was labelled by the Romans as barbarians. The Gauls, the Visigoths, the Goths, the Ostrogoths, the Avars, the Celts, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Suebi, the Franks, the Alans, the Britons—all of them were barbarians, according to the Romans. It didn’t matter to the Romans that these tribals were not invaders from Asia, Africa, or South America—they were the original inhabitants of Europe. They were natives. 

Would you like to be part of an empire that disrespects your community, cares nothing for their life, and labels them as barbarians? Most non-Roman tribes in Europe did not want to be part of the Roman world because they never got any respect from the Romans. They fought the Romans for every inch of soil. With much of Europe pitted against them, the progress of the Roman Empire had to be slow. In the time of Emperor Augustus, the Romans tried to develop a policy of assimilating the barbarians by getting them to serve in the Roman military, but by then it was too late since most of Europe had already developed an anti-Roman ideology. 

The Colosseum, built by Emperors Vespasian and Titus in the first century AD, is a tourist attraction in Rome. Most of the gladiators who died in the Colosseum and other such arenas were the European barbarians who were unlucky enough to be captured by the Romans. Some were political prisoners and Christian martyrs. In a single sporting season at the time of Emperor Trajan 10,000 gladiators were killed in just 123 days. No other culture in the world has turned the killing of humans into a spectator sport on the scale that the Romans did. Entire city, including the intellectuals and the political elite, used to sit in the Colosseum (and other such stadiums) and watch humans being tortured and killed.

Try to imagine what the Western reaction would be if an edifice like the Colosseum had been built in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China—anywhere outside Europe. They would have held this edifice as the ultimate proof of the vileness and the bloodthirstiness of the culture which had built it. They would have passed 100 United Nations resolutions condemning the structure and demanding that it be pulled down or branded as a land of evil. They would have written hundreds of books and articles condemning it. But the Colosseum is today regarded as one of the great examples of Western art, architecture, and culture. The gladiators are mythologized as the symbols of Roman valor, fighting skills, and courage.

In my article, “The Myth of Western Military Superiority,” I wrote: “[The West] is a civilization of marketers, advertisers, propagandists, publicists, fiction writers, and fake historians. Their forte is in bragging, self-promotion, and selling propaganda.” If they can sell the Colosseum as an example of sophisticated culture, and the gladiators as an example of bravery and valor, then they can sell any nonsense to their own people and to the people in other cultures. The Western version  of history is an abortion in the womb of the past. The Western historians do not present a fair picture of the past—their account is completely one-sided and false. They always try to abort the non-Western perspectives of the past. 

The irony is that if the Roman Empire had not fallen in 476 AD, and the Kingdom of Goths had not arisen in its place, Christianity might not have conquered Western Europe. Even in the Eastern Roman Empire, Christianity could not make any progress, despite the efforts of Constantine the Great, till the Romans were in control in Western Europe. I am not interested in romanticizing the Visigoths, but compared to the Romans, the Visigoths were a paragon of good governance. The Visigoth Kings did not brand other tribes as barbarians. They did not force other tribes to fight as gladiators. Many European tribes, which were the implacable enemies of the Romans, voluntarily joined the Kingdom of the Goths, and they accepted the Visigoth religion, which was Christianity. 

The great teacher of Christianity, St. Augustine, did his work in Carthage. In his time, Carthage was a center of Christian learning. But the Roman rule in Carthage (and Egypt) was so bad (corrupt, extortionist, violent, and unstable) that when Islam arrived in North Africa in the middle of the seventh century AD, people willingly converted. They were eager to get rid of their Roman past which had brought them nothing except misery, violence, and the social status of barbarians.

Just read the account of the corruption, chaos, and violence that the Western Crusades (which were conceived in Rome) perpetrated in the Levant during the 200 years of rampage (the eleventh to thirteenth centuries). They destroyed the Byzantine Empire which they were supposed to protect. They defiled the culture of the Holy Land (Jerusalem) which they wanted to liberate. They spawned decline, destruction, and decay wherever they went. The 200 years of Crusades became the phase of highest growth for Islam. This was the period when people in the Levant, North Africa, Eastern Europe, Transoxiana, and other regions rejected West European culture and en masse converted to Islam.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Who Overthrows the Superpowers? Allies or Enemies

Most superpowers were annihilated by their trusted allies and vassals, and not by their enemies. The Persian Empire was annihilated by its former vassal, the Kingdom of Macedonia. In the sixth century, the Macedonians were a minor tribe in Europe. The Persian Emperor Darius I made them the legitimate satrap of Macedonia. The Persians gave military training to the Macedonians and armed them, so that they could serve in the Persian army as mercenaries. 

The Western Roman Empire was conquered by its former vassals, the Visigoths (who emerged from the Gothic groups in the fourth century AD). The policy of using barbarians in the Roman army was introduced by Augustus. By the third century AD, the Roman army was very diverse—it had a large number of barbarian soldiers. In the fourth and fifth centuries AD, Goths played an important role in defending Rome against the Hun army. But in 410 AD, the Goths sacked Rome and conducted a great massacre. In 476 AD, the Goth King Odoacer captured the Roman imperial throne, bringing the Western Roman Empire to an end. 

The Byzantine Empire played an important role in the rise of Arab Islamic power in the Levant. They funded, armed, and trained the early Arab warriors because they wanted to use the Arabs against their enemy, the Second Persian Empire (the Sassanid Empire). But after conquering the Second Persian Empire, the Arab movements turned their eyes towards the territories of the Byzantines. The Arab army first besieged Constantinople in 674–678 and then in 717–718. Both sieges failed but the Byzantine Empire’s reputation was shattered in the Levant. 

The Byzantine Empire was destroyed by two of its allies—the Western Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire. The Western Crusaders had arrived in the Levant to strengthen the Byzantine Empire but they did more to destroy it than any Islamic Kingdom in the Levant. The Ottoman Sultans began as allies of the Byzantines in the thirteenth century. The Byzantines helped the Ottomans in expanding their power in Anatolia in exchange for using Ottoman mercenaries in their army. But the Ottomans started nibbling at Byzantine territory. In the fifteenth century, the Ottomans conquered the last outpost of the Byzantines: Constantinople.

Here’s a brief account of the evolution of the Macedonian vassalage to the Persians:

In 512 AD, Darius I, King of Persia, began his campaign to suppress the Scythian nomadic tribes who were destabilizing the outlying areas of his empire. At that time, Amyntas I of Macedon, ancestor of the future Alexander the Great, became a vassal of the Persian Emperor, and Macedon became a part of the Persian Empire (the Achaemenid Empire). Amyntas offered the homage of earth and water to Megabazus (the general of Darius I) in a gesture of submission to Persia. A large number of Macedonians joined Darius’s army which chased the Scythians into Ukraine, the tribe’s original homeland, and razed their farmlands and habitations.

Amyntas’s successor, Alexander I, continued to be a vassal of the Persian Emperor. He gave his sister in marriage to Persian general Bubares to cement his bond with the Persian Empire. He was the ruler of Macedon when Xerxes became the King of Persia in 486 BC. The Macedonians were a part of the Persian Army which invaded Greece in 480 BC. When the Persian navy was defeated in the Battle of Salamis, Alexander I played an important role in the peace negotiations. Herodotus has mentioned Alexander I several times. He says that Alexander I had the title of hyparchos (viceroy) and that he was constantly by the side of Xerxes to take his commands.

After the end of the Persian war in Greece, Xerxes granted a significant amount of autonomy to Alexander I in Macedonia. Several generations later Philip II acquired the throne of Macedonia. He was a military genius. He gained full independence from the Persian Empire and created an army of 50,000 soldiers. His son Alexander the Great used this Macedonian army in 334 BC to invade and conquer the Persian Empire. It had taken the Macedonians 178 years to transition from vassals of the Persian Empire to its conquerors.

When a superpower falls, it is not shown any mercy by its civilizational rivals. To establish itself as a superpower, a civilization has to commit a lot of virtuous acts, courageous acts, and brutal acts. When it is at the peak of its power, people of other cultures recognize the superpower’s acts of virtue and courage, and they admire it, but when it falls, they remember only its acts of brutality, and they despise it. They want to punish it for its past brutality—this leads to several excesses. When a superpower falls, it is completely crushed, and it never rises again.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Myth of Western Military Superiority

The West is regarded as the world’s great military power. But the history of the wars between Western and non-Western powers shows that whenever the West faces a serious military challenge from a non-Western power, it is either defeated or is bogged down in an endless conflict. The idea of Western military superiority is a great myth. The West is not a civilization of warriors. It is a civilization of marketers, advertisers, propagandists, publicists, fiction writers, and fake historians. Their forte is in bragging, self-promotion, and selling propaganda. They love to project themselves as a military power. But they are not a military power.

The history books written on the basis of the one-sided accounts of Herodotus, Thucydides, and other Greek chroniclers, create the impression that Classical Greece was the world’s great military power in its time. This is not true. The Greeks were a bunch of sparsely populated city-states, which were continuously squabbling with each other. Athens and Sparta fought for more than 150 years, but whenever they fought with non-Greek cultures, they lost. They were defeated by the Egyptians, Syracusans, the Persians, and were eventually conquered by the Macedonians.

Western chroniclers call Alexander the Great the world’s first great conqueror, but he did not conquer any territory that was not first conquered by Cyrus the Great and his two sons and successors: Cambyses II and Darius I. After Alexander’s death, a civil war broke out between his generals. The civil wars went on for five decades, after which three new states emerged, two of which were antithetical to Western culture. Instead of making the Persian Empire a part of the West, Alexander’s conquests had turned the Persian territory into a breeding ground for a new crop of anti-Western powers.

Rome is called a great military power, but from 509 BC (the founding of the Roman Republic) to 476 AD (the fall of the Western Roman Empire), the Romans never defeated any non-European power quickly and decisively. Against a non-European adversary, the Romans used to get bogged down in an endless conflict. Rome’s first major war with a non-European power was with Carthage (the Punic Wars). These wars began in 246 BC and continued till 146 BC. Even after 146 BC, the Romans could not pacify Carthage and the fight dragged on till the time of Augustus.

The Romans could not stabilize the areas outside Italy. Their soldiers could not venture beyond the Danube. The barbarians on the other side of the Danube, told the Romans—you can come this far, but not an inch further. In Britain, the Romans could not expand beyond Hadrian's Wall. When the Romans led by Marcus Licinius Crassus, Roman General and Statesman, attacked the Parthians in 53 BC, they were decimated by a much smaller Parthian cavalry. Crassus and his son were killed by the Parthians along with most of the Roman army. 

The Romans got hold of the Iberian Peninsula not due to their own military might but because these lands were the territory of Carthage. Augustus annexed the Iberian peninsula in 19 BC by claiming that this land belonged to Rome since it was part of Carthaginian territory. He tried to expand the Roman territory in the Levant, but got bogged down in endless wars with the Second Persian Empire and other powers. 

When the Huns (the nomadic tribe from Central Asia) arrived in the fourth century AD, the Romans could not fight them. The Huns rampaged through Europe till the sixth century AD, and the Romans could do nothing to stop them. Eventually the Huns were stopped by the Goths. The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was weaker than the Western Roman Empire. The Huns and other barbarian tribes raided their lands every year, but they could not defend their territory. In the fifth century AD, the political elite of the Byzantine Empire built a wall around Constantinople to protect themselves from the barbarian raiders.

Rome could be the most sacked city in history—it was sacked about a dozen times by its own generals. The outside groups which sacked Rome include: the Gauls, the Visigoths, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Normans, and the Holy Roman Empire (the pillaging of the city by Charles V). In 711 AD, the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula and by 759 AD, they had expanded their territory into Gaul. They held this territory till 1492 AD. If the Mongol campaigns of Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu Khan had not weakened the Islamic movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, then a major part of Europe would be under Islamic rule today.

In the eleventh century, the Western powers launched the crusade, and they sent their army to the Levant with the purported aim of saving the Byzantine Empire and liberating Jerusalem. But instead of saving the Byzantine Empire, the crusaders played a seminal role in destroying it. Instead of liberating Jerusalem, they destroyed its intellectual culture and ensured its complete domination by the Islamic forces. They were beaten by almost every power in the Levant—the Zengids, the Abbasids, the Ottomans, the Seljuk Turks, and many other minor groups.

During the Age of Imperialism (16th century to 1945), the Western powers had some success in their attempts to win colonies. But the wars of imperialism were not conventional military wars. The imperialists arrived so suddenly and they appeared so different that the locals in remote areas were psychologically emasculated. They could not fight to save their land, wealth, and lives from the invaders. It took a couple of centuries for a military style opposition to Western rule to develop in the colonies. When they were confronted with a militaristic opposition, the Western powers immediately fled to Europe. By 1950, imperialism was finished.

The First and the Second World Wars were European wars in which the Europeans and North Americans massacred millions of their own people. But even in these two wars, they fared badly against the non-Western powers. In the First World War, the Ottomans caused massive damage to the West and despite losing the war, they managed to create a new nation called Turkey in Anatolia. In the Second World War, the Japanese thrashed the Americans everywhere—had it not been for the American nukes, the Japanese would never have surrendered. 

After 1950, the Western powers have lost in every military confrontation with non-Western powers. The debacles in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba, the never-ending standoff in the Korean Peninsula, the failed interventions in the Middle East, the futile wars in South America, the ineffective campaign against China, and the imbroglio in Afghanistan that has been going on since the 1970s are a proof that the West is incapable of winning wars against a non-European power. In the future, when a war comes to their own shore, the West will not be able to defend its territory and people. They are incapable of defeating the military of non-European powers.

The Meteoric Fall of the Superpower

When you have reached the top, there is only one way you can go—downwards. It should come as no surprise that the world's only "superpower" has been going down since the 1950s. Where else could it go from its perch in the clouds? In the twenty-first century, this superpower has gathered a massive momentum as it hurtles towards the earth like a meteor dropping from the sky. In the next ten years, this superpower, ruled by a clique of naive, corrupt, and complacent plutocrats and technocrats, will hit the earth, shatter into pieces, and create a catastrophic geopolitical event which will cause considerable damage to peace and stability of the world. The fall of this superpower is irreversible since it has already passed the point of no-return. By the laws of physics and history, it must self-destruct by crashing into the ground.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Alexander And America

Alexander the Great never tried to be a world conqueror. He fought wars in two areas: the Balkans and the Persian Empire. He never took his army outside the Balkans and the borders of the Persian Empire. Much of his time in the Persian Empire was spent not in fighting wars but in suppressing rebellions against the Macedonian occupation. He became the King of Macedon in 336 BC, after the assassination of his father King Philip II, the military genius responsible for building a powerful 50,000-strong army which relied on an infantry of pikemen. Armed with 15- to 18-foot-long pikes (known as sarissas), these pikemen soldiers used to confront the enemy in a tight block or phalanx formation.

In 335 BC, Alexander began the Balkan campaign in which his pikemen army won decisive victories against the Greek hoplites. He immediately proved that he was capable of being a brutal warrior. When Thebes refused to surrender—he decimated the city, slaughtered most of the citizens, and spared only the temples. The destruction of Thebes was a warning to the Greeks that they could surrender or die. Most of the Balkans, including the two traditional belligerents Athens and Sparta, surrendered to Alexander. In 334 BC, the Macedonian army crossed the Hellespont and entered the territory of the Persian Empire. The Persian King was informed of the arrival of the Macedonian army but he failed to make preparations to repulse them.

The Persian Empire was in a troubled state at that time. In 338 BC, Artaxerxes III was poisoned, and the throne went to his son Artaxerxes IV. But in 336 BC, he too was murdered in a palace coup. A nobleman called Artashata acceded the throne under the royal name Darius III. Though Darius III was remotely related to the wider Achaemenid dynasty, he was not a descendent of Artaxerxes IV. A powerful faction of Persian nobles saw him as a usurper. Soon after he acquired the throne, revolts erupted in Babylon and Egypt. Before he could do anything to suppress these revolts, Alexander arrived with his Macedonian army.

The Persian army was inexperienced since it had not fought a war for twenty years. In contrast, the Macedonian army had been fighting continuously and was battle hardened. The first encounter between the Macedonians and the Persians was in May 334 BC, at the Battle of the Granicus River. The Persians fought bravely but they did not stand a chance against the Macedonian pikemen. After that the battle shifted to Anatolia. Alexander captured the cities of Sardis, Ephesus, Miletus, and Halicarnassus. He had control of most of Asia Minor by the end of 334 BC. In 333 BC, he captured the important cities of Celaenae and Gordion.

The Persians, under their general Memnon, launched a naval counteroffensive in 334 BC. They captured a number of the Aegean Islands. This counteroffensive was short-lived as Memnon suddenly died in 333 BC of illness. In November 333 BC, Darius gathered an army of 50,000 and attacked Alexander at Issus (Southern Anatolia). A large number of Greek mercenaries who were pained by the Macedonian conquest of their homeland had joined the Persian army. Alexander’s army numbered 40,000. This battle resulted in a decisive Macedonian victory.

The next targets for Alexander were the Persian cities of Tyre and Gaza, which had refused to surrender. He conquered both in 332 BC, with the help of the Persian navy, a faction of which had joined him. From Gaza, Alexander marched into the Persian colony of Egypt. The Egyptians hated the Persians. The Persian Satrap himself welcomed Alexander into Egypt and accepted Macedonian suzerainty in exchange of the continuance of his satrapy.

Meanwhile, in Mesopotamia, Darius had organized another army which included soldiers and cavalry from the far-flung areas of the Persian Empire. In 331 BC, Alexander set out from Egypt to confront Darius’s new army. The two armies met near the village of Gaugamela, east of the Tigris. Alexander’s army prevailed and Darius fled to the mountains with a few loyal troops. Now he was powerless to save Persia from the Macedonians. Alexander went to Babylon and proclaimed himself Great King of Persia. After that he captured the city of Susa where he found wealth greater than his imagination. He sent to Greece a sum more than six times the annual income of Athens.

Darius was trying to raise another army but in 330 BC he was captured and stabbed by Persian insurgents who regarded him as a usurper and were disgusted by his inability to stop Alexander. After Darius’s death, Alexander spent the next seven years, till he died in 323 BC, rushing from one end of the Persian Empire to another to curb rebellions. He tried to start a campaign on the Indian border in 327 BC. But this campaign failed. His troops were exhausted by the endless Persian wars and they refused to press into the territory of the Indian kings. Alexander returned to Susa in 324 BC, He lost most of his men in the harsh desert. On 10 or 11 June 323 BC, he died.

Alexander did not have any imperial ideology—except perhaps the notion that “might makes right,” or “the one who wins the war owns the land”. He had no plan to pacify the Persian Empire. He had no model of governance. He had no strategy for uniting Macedonia, Greece, and Persia. He won several wars but he could not gain control of the government and culture of the Persian Empire. Immediately after his death, a war broke out between his generals. Alexander’s three wives and his only son were quickly consumed in the war, which continued till 275 BC, when three Macedonian successor kingdoms emerged: the Antigonids in Macedon, the Ptolemies in Egypt, and the Seleucids.

The American way of war after 1950 closely mirrors Alexander’s way of war in the fourth century BC. Like Alexander’s Macedonian army, the Americans are good at winning the battles of the initial phase but they don’t know what to do with their early victories. They have no plans for pacifying and governing the country that they have won. They have no ideology other than “might makes right."

The French King and the Mongol Queen

When Guyuk Khan (the son of Genghis Khan’s eldest son Ögedei Khan) died on April 20, 1248, his Christian wife, Oghul Ghaimish became the regent of the Mongol territories that he used to control in the Levant. At that time, the Mongol Empire was at its height—they had proved that they were capable of defeating any foe in battle. The King of France Louis IX saw a military opportunity in the rise of a Christian Mongol Queen in the Levant. He felt that the Mongols under her leadership could be persuaded to join France in an alliance against the Islamic states.

In 1250, Louis IX’s envoy to Oghul Ghaimish, a Dominican Monk named Andrew of Longiumeau, arrived in her court in Western China, along the Emil River. He had arrived to negotiate a Mongol-European alliance in the Levant, but the Mongols had the impression that he had arrived on the orders of his King to surrender Christian Europe to her. Oghul Ghaimish knew about the bad performance of the Western crusaders and the Byzantines in the Levant, and she saw no value in entering into a military alliance with them. Her response to Louis IX was rude and undiplomatic. 

She sent him a list of rulers that she claimed that she had executed because they failed to pay tribute to her, and she commanded the French King to start sending her tribute. She wrote: “send us so much of your gold and of your silver each year, if you hold it back from us, we shall do what we did to those whom we named before.” When Louis IX saw her response, he simply said, “I feel sorry that I sent a mission to her court.” Oghul Ghaimish was unable to keep the Mongol throne in her branch of the family, and in 1251 Mongke Khan became the Great Khan.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Cyrus, Christianity, Cicero, and Caesar

When the European nations gained mastery over a significant part of the world, between the fifteenth and the twentieth centuries (the Age of Imperialism), they were inspired by the four Cs: Cyrus, Christianity, Cicero, and Caesar. The imperialists of Europe were barbarian warriors, preachers, empire builders, and ideologues. 

In the sixth century BC, Cyrus the Great founded the First Persian Empire (the Achaemenid Empire), which at its peak spanned 5.5 million square kilometers, stretching from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. The geographical expanse of Cyrus the Great’s empire became an inspiration for the European conquerors and adventurers who came after the fall of the First Persian Empire. 

Alexander the Great tried to conquer all the lands that Cyrus had conquered. The Emperors of the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) were inspired by the size and scope of the First Persian Empire.

Cyrus played an important role in the founding of Christianity. He allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build their Second Temple. The construction of the Second Temple began in 537 BC, according to the Biblical book of Ezra. Around 500 years after Cyrus, Jerusalem became the birthplace of Christianity, which united the European nations under a common culture.

Caesar was the political icon of the imperialist powers, and Cicero was their intellectual icon. The leaders of the imperialist powers aspired to be a warrior king like Caesar, and they were motivated by the philosophy of Cicero. During the Renaissance, which was contemporaneous with the initial phase of imperialism, Cicero was Europe’s most powerful philosopher. Aristotle and Plato were being studied, but Cicero continued to dominate European philosophy till the 19th century.

There was no connection between Ancient Athens and Imperialist Europe. During and after the Roman Age, Ancient Athens was a dysfunctional and utopian university town full of teachers, preachers, and philosophers who were known for their verbosity, unworkable political theory, rationalistic moral philosophy, and endless arguments.

After 1915, the European nations started rejecting the four Cs—Cyrus, Christianity, Cicero, and Caesar. Due to the rising influence of modernist thinking, preached by an Athenian style dysfunctional and utopian university establishment, they became atheistic, liberal, and non-militaristic. This transformation precipitated the decline of the European nations. By 1945, these nations had lost their colonies. By 1960, they had lost their military and economic superiority, and became woke, weak, and nihilistic. 

The 21st century marks the end of European (and North American and Australian) supremacy. What will the future be like? It will be unlike anything the world has seen before. A global revolution is currently underway.

The Three Gods of 330 BC

In 330 BC (the year of the fall of the First Persian Empire), 65 percent of the human population on earth worshipped three Gods: Vishnu, Ahura Mazdā, and Zeus. Here’s my analysis:

In 330 BC, the population of the Persian Empire (which included the Levant, and a big slice of North Africa and Central Asia) was 50 million. The population of the Indian subcontinent (then dominated by the Nanda Empire and the Maurya Empire) was 100 million. The population of those parts of Europe which were influenced by the Greeks, Macedonians, and the Persians was 10 million. The human population on earth in 330 BC was 250 million.

This means that 65 percent of the human population in 330 BC lived in the Persian Empire (Ahura Mazdā was the chief deity), the Indian Subcontinent (Vishnu was the chief deity), and the Greek, Macedonian, and Persian influenced parts of Europe (Zeus was the chief deity). During this period the kingdoms fought wars on all kinds of political and economic issues, but never religious ones.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Myth of 300 Spartans at Thermopylae

The movie 300 shows King Xerxes of Persia as a deranged seven-foot tall hairless creature who wears bizarre jewelry, talks in a booming voice, is convinced that he is God, and is probably delusional and sexually deviant. If the real Xerxes had been this kind of a “cartoon figure” he would not be the ruler of the Persian Empire (the Achaemenid Empire), which was bigger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. At its peak, the Persian Empire stretched from Asia Minor to Egypt, and to Central Asia, right up to the Indus Valley.

Alexander the Great was not the first great conqueror of the world. The Persians under Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, and Darius the Great had already conquered much of the same territory that Alexander won. We know a lot about Alexander because so many history books have been written on his exploits, and relatively little has been written on Cyrus and Darius.

In the case of the Battle of Thermopylae, the negative portrayal of Xerxes and his Persian soldiers is the result of the one-sided history written by the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks were good story tellers. They knew how to write texts which would glorify their own side and portray the other side as monsters and slave-drivers. Much of what is known about Xerxes’s invasion of Greece comes to us from Herodotus, whose account is full of spurious information. He is often regarded as the “father of lies.” The other important Greek sources are Thucydides and Xenophon—both were military men. They fought for the Greeks and were biased against the Persians.

There are a number of Persian resources which give a totally different account of Xerxes, Persian culture, and of the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians. Even in the Greek and Roman tradition, there are resources which offer a balanced account. Plutarch has written a positive biography of the Persian King Artaxerxes II. In the Hebrew Bible (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah), the Persian Emperors are given a favorable treatment—they are praised for their tolerance and compassion. In 605 BC, the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem in 539 BC.

Persian kings did not see themselves as God. Xerxes never claimed that he was God. The people in the Persian Empire did not worship him. The population of the Persian Empire at the time of Xerxes was around 50 million, and the world population was 150 million—this means that one third of humanity of this age was living under Persian rule. The number of Persians in the empire was just one million but they were ruling over a multiethnic, multi-religious, and multicultural population of 50 million. In contrast, the population of Athens was 200,000 (only 30,000 had rights). The population of Sparta was 50,000 (between 20,000 to 25,000 had rights).

The Greeks were a significant chunk of the Persian population. There were more Greeks living in the Persian Empire than the combined population of Athens and Sparta. Xerxes probably had more Greek soldiers fighting for him than the combined military of Athens and Sparta. Many Greek and Macedonian kings, including Alexander I, the ancestor of Alexander the Great, were on the Persian side. It is not true that Xerxes had one million troops and the Spartans at Thermopylae numbered only 300. Most historians estimate that Xerxes had 80,000 troops and 10,000 cavalry.

In August 480 BC, when the Persian army reached Thermopylae, they found that the mountain pass was being guarded by 7000 Greeks (this included 300 Spartans under King Leonidas). Since these 7000 soldiers were well-entrenched, it was difficult to evict them from their positions. The commanders of the Persian army followed the textbook military strategy of distracting the Greeks by frontal attacks, while they found a path through the mountains that led inland. A contingent of Persian army went on the other side of the mountain and outflanked the Greeks.

When Leonidas found that he was being outflanked, he ordered the other Greeks to withdraw. Only the Spartans remained and they were all killed by the Persians. It had taken Xerxes less than a week to clear an entrenched mountain pass, which was the only obstacle in his path to Athens. His army marched through the territory of Boeotia and the city of Thrace, both of which were on the Persian side, and late in August, they reached Athens. Most Athenians had already fled. The Persians stormed into the city, killed all those who were still there, and set the buildings on fire.

If Xerxes had continued to attack the Greek cities on land, he would have won. He became overconfident by the easy victories that he had won at Thermopylae and Athens, and he made the mistake of sending his fleet to Salamis to engage the Athenian navy. The naval Battle of Salamis took place in late 480 BC. The Athenians knew the water and the wind, and the Persians did not. The Persian navy got smashed by the Athenian triremes, and they lost many ships. They were forced to withdraw. With the loss of his navy, Xerxes could not supply the massive army that he had brought to Greece and he was forced to withdraw. 

The defeat at Salamis did not mean the end of the Persian Empire, which continued to flourish till 330 BC. Why did Xerxes invade Greece? In my opinion, both sides were at fault. The Athenians tried to stir up a revolt in Ionia, which was Persian territory, and the Persians retaliated by invading Greece. The argument that the Greek side was pro-liberty is ridiculous. Athens and Sparta had such a large slave population that they were constantly in fear of slave uprising. As soon as the Persians withdrew from Greece, the Athenians and Spartans went back to slaughtering each other. Their war would go on till 404 BC, when Sparta defeated Athens. 

The lies for which a civilization is truly punished by history are the lies that it tells itself. Despite its economic strength and technological superiority, America has not been able to win any war since 1945 because its view of other cultures is founded on false accounts of history. They believe in the ridiculous myth of 300 spartans at Thermopylae and many other such historical myths, and they have formed the habit of underestimating every non-Western culture. They send their troops to fight overseas battles without making adequate long term preparation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What Constitutes the Western Civilization?

The European nations did not identify as Western Civilization when they were waxing, between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries. In the twentieth century, when they started waning, they formed an association called Western Civilization. Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (Volume 1 and 2), published in 1918 and 1922, has played a major role in propagating the ideal of Western Civilization, but his white and Christian supremacist conception of the West would not be acceptable to the Europeans and North Americans of the post-1950 period, when the term “Western Civilization” became popular.

What is the criteria for being part of Western Civilization? Is race the criteria? Is it religion—most Europeans and North Americans in the twenty-first century are atheist? Is it language—Europe is a Tower of Babel? Is it ideology—the Europeans are divided between the right and the left? Is it geography? Is Russia a part of Western Civilization? What about the people of European origin who have settled in non-European countries—are they included? What about Turkey, which exists on the land that was originally Anatolia, the epicenter of Ancient Greek, Ionian, and the Byzantine cultures? By using various criteria, different maps of what might be Western Civilization can be created.

The true believers in Western Civilization cannot define it. They cannot even define what they mean by Western culture: is it religious or atheistic? Is it Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox? Are non-Christian religions included? Is it woke and liberal or traditionalist and conservative? Is it nihilistic or puritan? Are Nazism, Fascism, and Communism part of Western culture? Whenever the true believers try to define Western Civilization, they decimate it—because they get mired in historical, linguistic, religious, and racial controversies. The true believers treat Western Civilization as a nebulous ideal which is real and unreal at the same time.

The term “Western Civilization'' was first proposed by the French philosophers in the Age of Enlightenment. These French philosophers were atheists—they didn’t want to say that theirs was a “Christian Civilization,” and so they used the secular word “Western.” They theorized that human progress must have a single civilization as its goal—to this civilization they gave the name Western Civilization. Western Civilization that they envisioned consisted of countries in Western Europe and North America. Rest of the world, they posited, was populated with barbarians who had to be subdued and forced to accept Western culture.

In the 20th century,  the Europeans fought two great wars—the First and the Second World Wars—in which they slaughtered millions of their own people and reduced large parts of Europe to rubble. It is wrong to see these two wars as world wars—these were first and foremost European wars. These wars were the climax of the political and cultural disputes that had been raging in Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the bloodbath of these two wars, it was impossible for the European nations to conceive of themselves as a part of Western civilization.

The Mongol Khans and the Romance of Alexander

The Romance of Alexander is an account of the adventures of Alexander the Great. It is attributed to Callisthenes, Alexander’s court historian. The historical Callisthenes died in 327 BC, four years before Alexander, so he could not have written the chapters on the final four years of Alexander’s life. The book’s unnamed author is called Pseudo-Callisthenes.

Genghis Khan and Alexander were separated by 1500 years, but the Romance of Alexander was the first Western book to be translated into Mongolian. In the book’s Mongolian version, when Alexander becomes a great conqueror, he says: “I have become Great Khan. On this very earth there has not been born a Khan who has enjoyed life as I.” The Mongolian version of the book ends with these lines: “It is over, is ended, ended!” 

Genghis Khan’s biography, The Secret History, contains several references to Alexander. According to the book, in Afghanistan Alexander killed a unicorn, which is a sacred creature. Due to the curse of killing a sacred unicorn, he soon died. Marco Polo, who worked in the Chinese court of Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan, has claimed that Alexander’s horse Bucephalus bred with a unicorn to produce a new breed of horse with a mark on its forehead.

According to some Mongol chroniclers, Monge Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson who became the Great Khan in 1251, used to examine the Mongolian version of the Romance of Alexander to discover insights for administering his Mongol empire.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Mongol Khan’s Letter to the Pope

The Mongols followed the policy of killing any religious leader who claimed an authority higher than the Great Khan. Genghis Khan had Teb Tengeri, the preacher of Mongolian religion of Sky God, killed. When Hulagu Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson, captured Baghdad in 1258, he killed the Caliph of Baghdad.

The Mongols tried to summon the Pope to their court for observing his attitude towards the Great Khan. If the Pope had accepted their invitation, they might have killed him.

On March 13, 1245, Pope Innocent IV wrote a letter called “cum non solum” to the Great Khan, demanding that the Mongols should desist from attacking Christians. The Pope inquired about the future plans of the Mongol Empire, and expressed the hope that there would be peace between the Mongols and the Christians. He was probably unaware that the word “peace” was a synonym for “subjugation” in the Mongol language.

A papal delegation, led by Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (also known as John of Plano Carpini), made a perilous journey of more than three thousand miles and brought the Pope’s letter to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire, in July 1246. After a month of waiting, they had an audience with Güyük Khan, then the Great Khan (he was the son of Genghis Khan’s eldest son Ögedei Khan).

In November 1246, the papal delegation was allowed to leave Karakorum with a response in Mongol, Latin, and Arabic from the Great Khan. Towards the end of 1247, they found the Pope in Lyon and delivered to him their report and the Great Khan's letter.

Güyük Khan’s imperiously worded letter to the Pope begins with a preamble, which is translated as: “We, by the power of the eternal heaven, Khan of the great Ulus, Our command.” The letter declares that the office of the Great Khan is the scourge of God and it makes the following demand from the Pope:

"You must say with a sincere heart: "We will be your subjects; we will give you our strength". You must in person come with your kings, all together, without exception, to render us service and pay us homage. Only then will we acknowledge your submission. And if you do not follow the order of God, and go against our orders, we will know you as our enemy.”

Just as the Mongols did not tolerate any rival monarch, they did not tolerate any rival religious leader. Genghis Khan and the Khans who followed him were the God’s true representatives on earth. To defy the Great Khan was to disobey God.

Attila the Hun: The Lord of Water

The Huns believed that land on earth was infinite and as they kept conquering, there would always remain land that was unconquered. They thought that real power comes from conquering the resource that was finite: water. Attila proclaimed that he was the ruler of the Danube and all other water bodies. He declared that he owned every treasure that was contained in the seven seas. The word “Attila” means father of the sea—this word is related to the Turkish word “talay” and the Mongolian word “dalai” which mean sea. Attila gave his favorite son, the name Tengis, which means ocean in Turkic and Mongolian. Attila was the first leader of a steppe nomadic tribe to develop the notion that he was destined to rule the world.

Monday, August 16, 2021

A Comparison Between America’s and the Soviet Union’s Foreign Policy

In matters of foreign policy, the Soviet Union never compromised on its communist ideology. They never entered into an alliance with rightist and religious groups. In Syria, they allied with Hafez al-Assad’s socialist Ba'ath Party; in Iraq, with Saddam Hussain, a secular socialist; in Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh’s communist party; in India, with the socialist Congress and the communist parties; in Cuba, with Castro’s communist party; in Korea, with Kim Il-sung’s WPK; in Britain, with the Labor Party.

When the pro-American Iranian government led by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in the 1978 revolution, the American think tanks feared that the new theocratic regime in Iran would join the Soviet camp. That didn’t happen. The Soviets refused to accept the Iranian theocrats as their allies. In fact, communism in Iran was wiped out after the theocrats took over. The pro-Soviet Tudeh Party of Iran used to flourish under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1982, the Tudeh Party was banned in Iran. In 1988, several Iranian communists were executed.

Unlike the Soviet Union, the American political establishment has no ideological, moral, and political principles when it comes to foreign allies. They will join hands with any regime or movement—religious fundamentalists, totalitarians, fascists, communists—to achieve their short term political agenda.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s government trained and armed the Afghan insurgents for defeating the Soviet Union. It didn’t matter to the Americans that culturally and politically America had nothing in common with the Afghans. They didn’t consider the possibility that in the future these insurgents might become a threat to American geopolitical interests. They didn’t consider the fact that the Christian movements and the Islamic movements have been battling each other since the eleventh century.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Intellectuals, Tyrants, and Warlords of Rome

When Cicero accused Mark Antony and Octavian Caesar of destroying Roman freedoms, Octavian was outraged. In 43 BC, Octavian had Cicero executed. To remind the Romans of the exact nature of the crime that Cicero had committed, he had Cicero’s hands chopped off and nailed to the Senate door, so that the senators and the masses could see the fate of the hands that had dared to pen a diatribe against Antony.

Octavian was trying to portray himself as a defender of Antony—that is why he claimed that he had Cicero executed for the crime of tarnishing Antony’s reputation and not his own. The execution of Cicero and other outspoken Roman intellectuals can be seen as the political fallout of the divide that had developed between the intellectuals and the politicians of the Roman Republic. This divide was one of the causes of the fall of the Roman Republic.

In 44 BC, Octavian, Antony, and Marcus Lepidus had formed a Second Triumvirate to defeat the army led by the assassins of Caesar. This Triumvirate had a lifespan of five years. In 37 BC, under the treaty of Tarentum, the Triumvirate was extended by another five years. But due to the competing ambitions of the three members, the Triumvirate was torn apart in 36 BC, when Lepidus was stripped of his powers and exiled.

Octavian and Antony became bitter enemies. At the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, Octavian defeated the combined military of Antony and Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. Octavian became the first Roman Emperor and he turned Rome into an Empire.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Destruction Precedes Creation

To create a civilization a civilization has to be destroyed—this is the rule of history. The great civilization builders of history were first and foremost merciless destroyers and killers. The act of destruction precedes the act of creation.

The Vulnerability of Modern Civilization

An army of tribals, motivated by faith, led by a medieval political structure, armed with low-tech weapons, and making use of medieval nomadic strategy of warfare, has forced the very high-tech, well trained, and disciplined armies of two superpowers—the USSR and the USA—to withdraw from their country. This shows the vulnerability of modern civilization.

Neither capitalism nor communism can assure victory. Communism creates a corrupt and criminal ruling class; capitalism creates a corrupt and complacent (woke) ruling class. Both ideologies are capable of creating their own Armageddon.

In the last 400 years, the West has played a leading role in history. But 400 years is a small chapter in history. A lot has happened before the West became powerful and a lot will happen in the future. The world has entered a post-Western phase and we don’t know the problems that lie ahead of us and we don’t know what skills we will need to prosper in the future.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Triumvirate: the USA, Western Europe, and China

The USA, Western Europe, and China are not rival civilizations. They are one. Despite their cultural, linguistic, economic, and political differences, they are a monolith—they are united in a single, global civilization which is determined to maintain its hegemony in all parts of the globe. Their world order is a triumvirate. If one part of the triumvirate collapses, it will trigger a chain reaction that will ensure the devastation of the other two.

History is repeating itself, and it has brought the USA, Western Europe, and China in the situation that is analogous to the triumvirate which acquired power during the final years of the Roman Republic: Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar. When Crassus died while fighting the nomadic warrior tribe of Parthians, the triumvirate was finished, and a civil war between Pompey and Caesar was immediately triggered. The troops loyal to Caesar killed Pompey in the civil war, but subsequently Caesar was assassinated by a group of Roman senators who were jealous of his power.

The USA, Western Europe, and China do not fear each other. They need each other to dominate the world. What they fear is the rise of a fourth force, an entity like the Parthians, which does not play by their rules, which is not in awe of the power of the triumvirate, and which might appear suddenly, draw any one of them into a decisive battle, and wipe out the present world order.

Alexander’s Mass Wedding in Persia

After conquering the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great conducted a mass wedding in the Persian city of Susa in 324 BC. The purpose of the mass wedding was to mingle the Macedonian and Persian bloodlines and unite the two cultures.

Eighty of Alexander's generals took Persian brides. Alexander himself took a Persian bride—a lady called Stateira (also known as Barsine), the eldest daughter of Darius III and his wife, also named Stateira. In 327 BC, Alexander had married Roxana, the daughter of Oxyartes, Chief of Bactria. Persian law allowed men to have multiple wives. In the same ceremony, Alexander took a third wife, Stateira’s cousin Parysatis, the daughter of Darius’s predecessor Artaxerxes III. The younger sister of Stateira (Darius’s second daughter) was given by Alexander to his close friend and favorite general, Hephaestion.

By marrying the daughters of Darius III and Artaxerxes III, Alexander was identifying himself with the Persian royal family and securing his position in Persia. He could now claim to be the son and the son-in-law of both Persian emperors.

Alexander’s mass wedding ended in mass divorce—clearly these marriages were not a match made in heaven. After his death in 323 BC, his generals, except Hephaestion, who died before Alexander, and Seleucus, divorced their Persian wives. Alexander’s three wives suffered a gruesome fate. Roxana was pregnant when Alexander died. Since she was expected to produce a legitimate heir to Alexander, she was protected by the Macedonian generals. Stateira and Parysatis were murdered in 323 BC on her command. 

A boy, Alexander Aegus, was born to Roxana in 323 BC. But she lost the power struggle. She could not organize Alexander Aegus’s accession to the throne of the empire that Alexander had conquered. She and the 14-year-old Aegus were poisoned by Alexander’s generals in 309 BC.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, and British Nationalism

British nationalism became the driving force of British politics and culture during the reign of the Protestant monarch, Elizabeth I. Her rivalry with Catholic Spain, and other Catholic powers of Europe, including the Papacy, made the masses in her island nation realize, probably for the first time, that they were a distinct people, that they were not just Christians, that they were British Christians, and that the Catholics of mainland Europe were their enemies.

When the British united to defend their island nation against the invasion of the Catholic powers, they developed a sense of their unique history and culture. When England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, British nationalism came of age. This nationalistic spirit had consequences which went far beyond the war with Catholic Europe. Nationalism would eventually inspire the British to orchestrate the Industrial Revolution, build a Navy that would rule the sea, and conquer the world’s biggest imperialist empire which would climax with Pax Britannica.

Shakespeare has written about people from all over the world—Cleopatra of Egypt, Caesar and Antony of Rome, Hamlet of Denmark, and Othello, the Moorish general of Venice. In 1595, when he wrote Richard II, he was probably influenced by the spirit of nationalism that was flowing through England after the success of the British Navy against the Spanish Armada. This play has his most famous nationalistic lines, spoken by the character John of Gaunt:

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, 
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, 
This other Eden, demi-Paradise, 
This fortress built by Nature for herself 
Against infection and the hand of war, 
This happy breed of men, this little world, 
This precious stone set in the silver sea, 
Which serves it in the office of a wall 
Or as a moat defensive to a house, 
Against the envy of less happier lands—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

Such intense nationalist sentiment was unknown in British literature before the reign of Elizabeth I. A century earlier Thomas More had written the book called Utopia, but he did not present Britain as the utopian paradise. More’s utopia is located on an imaginary island.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

One City, Four Names: Byzantium, Constantinople, Konstantiniyye, Istanbul

Some cities have a longer lifespan than civilizations. Consider the city of Byzantium, which was founded in 667 BC by Greeks from Megara. 

Byzantium was sacked by the Persians in 626 BC. In 478 BC, the Greeks from Sparta rebuilt Byzantium. Between 324 AD and 330 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great conducted a large-scale reconstruction in Byzantium. He renamed the city Constantinople. In 1453, the Ottomans captured the city and radically transformed its culture from Orthodox Greek to Islamic. They renamed it Konstantiniyye. In 1930, the rulers of the Turkish Republic renamed the city Istanbul.

In its history of over 2600 years, the city of Byzantium was ruled by the Pagan Greeks, Zoroastrian Persians, Pagan Romans, Orthodox Christians, and Islamic Turks, and it was renamed thrice.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Machiavelli: On Isabella and Ferdinand

During the cooperative reign of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the foundation of Spain’s global Empire was established. The two spectacular successes of their reign was the liberation of Southern Spain from Islamic occupation and the discovery of the American continent by Christopher Columbus. Machiavelli was an admirer of Ferdinand. In his book The Prince, he explains the popularity of Ferdinand in these words: “Nothing wins a ruler respect like great military victories and a display of remarkable personal qualities. One example in our own times is Ferdinand of Aragon, the present King of Spain…” Machiavelli was impressed by the Spanish campaign in Granada, undertaken in 1492 by Isabella and Ferdinand. He writes in The Prince:

“We have in our time Ferdinand of Aragon, the present King of Spain. He can almost be called a new prince, because he has risen, by fame and glory, from being an insignificant king to be the foremost king in Christendom; and if you will consider his deeds you will find them all great and some of them extraordinary. In the beginning of his reign he attacked Granada, and this enterprise was the foundation of his dominions. He did this quietly at first and without any fear of hindrance, for he held the minds of the barons of Castile occupied in thinking of the war and not anticipating any innovations; thus they did not perceive that by these means he was acquiring power and authority over them. He was able with the money of the Church and of the people to sustain his armies, and by that long war to lay the foundation for the military skill which has since distinguished him. Further, always using religion as a plea, so as to undertake greater schemes, he devoted himself with pious cruelty to driving out and clearing his kingdom of the Moors; nor could there be a more admirable example, nor one more rare…”

There is no important matter on which Isabella and Ferdinand had a difference of opinion. The motto of their prenuptial agreement was: “Tanto monta, monta tanto, Isabel como Fernando.” (They amount to the same; Isabel is the same as Ferdinand.) Faith in God was important for Isabella and Ferdinand. They believed in the adage: “Those monarchs who do not fear God fear their subjects.”

The Vodka-Hashish Dividing Line

In his lecture, the Era of the Crusades, historian Kenneth Harl makes this interesting comment: “Some scholars have argued that Central Asian steppe nomads were almost destined to convert to Islam because of their religious tradition and their location relative to the “vodka-hashish” dividing line. In the forest zones of Russia, where vodka was consumed, Christianity prevailed. The steppe nomads who used hashish inclined to Islam.”

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Sultans Who Occupied Delhi's Imperial Throne

In 1192, Muhammad Ghuri defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in the Second Battle of Tarain. With this victory, a large part of North India came under Ghuri’s control. He entrusted the running of his North Indian kingdom to his Mamluk general Qutb ud-Din Aybak. When Ghuri died in 1206,  Aybak became an independent sultan. Aybak was followed by his son-in-law Iltutmish who ruled from 1210 to 1236. After Iltutmish’s death in 1236, his daughter Radiyya Begum became the ruler. Radiyya's regime was overthrown in a coup. After her, a series of weak sultans followed.  In 1296, power went to the Khilji dynasty, in 1320 to the Tughlaq dynasty, in 1414 to the Sayyid dynasty, and in 1451 to the Lodi dynasty. The Mughal dynasty acquired power in 1526.

The Western Ideologues Can’t Lose in Debates

“An ideologue—one who thinks ideologically—can't lose. He can't lose because his answer, his interpretation and his attitude have been determined in advance of the particular experience or observation. They are derived from the ideology, and are not subject to the facts. There is no possible argument, observation or experiment that could disprove a firm ideological belief for the very simple reason that an ideologue will not accept any argument, observation or experiment as constituting disproof.” ~ James Burnham in Suicide of the West. Burnham is right. The Western ideologues—communists, capitalists, liberals, and libertarians—can’t lose in debates. Their ideology is shock-proof because it has nothing to do with experience and observation.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Opening Lines of the Alexiad

Anna Komnene, the author of the work of Byzantine history, The Alexiad, was the leader of a failed coup against her brother John II Komnenos, the heir to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. She was defeated in the power struggle and was exiled for the rest of her life to a monastery on her brother’s orders. She wrote The Alexiad while she was imprisoned in the monastery. 

The opening lines of her book are memorable. Here’s a translation by E A Dawes:

“TIME in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things, and drowns them in the depths of obscurity, no matter if they be quite unworthy of mention, or most noteworthy and important, and thus, as the tragedian says, “he brings from the darkness all things to the birth, and all things born envelops in the night.”

“But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and to some extent checks its irresistible flow, and, of all things done in it, as many as history has taken over, it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip away into the abyss of oblivion.

“Now, I recognized this fact. I, Anna, the daughter of two royal personages, Alexius and Irene, born and bred in the purple. I was not ignorant of letters, for I carried my study of Greek to the highest pitch, and was also not unpractised in rhetoric; I perused the works of Aristotle and the dialogues of Plato carefully, and enriched my mind by the “quaternion” of learning. (I must let this out and it is not bragging to state what nature and my zeal for learning have given me, and the gifts which God apportioned to me at birth and time has contributed).

“However, to resume—I intend in this writing of mine to recount the deeds done by my father for they should certainly not be lost in silence, or swept away, as it were, on the current of time into the sea of forgetfulness, and I shall recount not only his achievements as Emperor, but also the services he rendered to various Emperors before he himself received the sceptre.”