Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘empires

Islamophobia is anathema to rational thinking; (October 18, 2009)

 

            Islam is quickly becoming an integral religion in the Western world.  There is a growing sense of uneasiness for Islam devotees: they pray at least three times a day facing Mecca (the Kaaba) and take seriously the fasting month of Ramadan. The various Christian sects barely practice their religion; the “Christians” mostly use their religion as political platforms during voting seasons to discriminate among cultures for the “proper way of life”.  A recent scandal broke out in England: the government is wire taping the Moslems on ground of social study.  In France there was an attempt at disqualifying Arabs as carrier of any philosophical civilization that could have impressed on European Renaissance.  The Arabic media didn’t respond to “Aristotle on Mount St. Michelle” simply because the book talked of philosophical import and didn’t discuss the scientific aspects.

            The main confusion in Europe or in the Arab/Islamic world is about what Empires we are alluding to: Arabic Empires (culture) or Islamic Empires (civilization) and how to discriminate among the cultures of each one of the Empires.  The modern nationalistic models (brainchild of emerging Europe) could not correspond to ancient models of thinking and thus, the attempts to explaining past Empires with modern models of what constitute a nation is confusing research and biasing facts with awkward interpretations.

            In all periods, elites of Empires needed an ideology to assure the articulation of various heritages (Arab, Persian, Byzantium, Roman, Greek, and Aramaic).  The unstable structure of ancient Empires frequently pressed upon its elites to rethink the new culture of the emerging Empire and re-construct it via a mould where diverse elements were poured in (ethnicity, community, belief systems, and language).  Thus, social thinkers struggled to present a coherent understanding of the new Empire; the purpose was not an erudite analysis for posterity but to get the new Empire functioning properly.

            This post is meant to investigate the allegation that European civilization is fundamentally the heritage of ancient Greece civilization.  I have examined the contention that “Europe civilization is because of Christianism”, a proposal that I refuted in a previous post (read “The Barbaric Catholic Church of Rome”) where the centralized church prohibited the influx of “heretic” scientific manuscripts to Europe from the Near Eastern Byzantium Empire and later from the Islamic Empire till way the 16th century.

            The best route for this examination is to consider two civilizations that imbibed the Islamic Empires.  The first Umayyad Arabic Empire 650 to 800 AC had for Capital Damascus; the culture in the Near East in that period was principally Hellenistic in the sense that scholars and educated people wrote in two languages, the Greek and Syriac languages (Aramaic dialect developed in Edesse, current Turkey) ; the common people spoke the language of the land or Aramaic.  Aramaic is the root language for Hebrew and the various local languages, especially the two Arabic branches that were spoken in Mecca and in Yemen.  It is in this period that lasted 150 years that translation of Greek and Syriac manuscripts into Arabic received its impetus.  Translation of Greek works to Syriac continued way into the 9th century. The people easily assimilated the spoken Arabic of Mecca and gave Arabic its proper alphabet and grammar.

            The second period can be called the Islamic Empire when the Capital was re-located to the newly erected city of Baghdad (Baghdad was to become the largest metropolis in this Empire of over one million inhabitant); this Islamic civilization was marked by the Persian culture and language with high import from India: trade was cut off with Europe for many centuries first during the Mamluk Empires after kicking out the last remnant of the Crusaders and later the early Ottoman Empire as Constantinople fell in around 1450. 

            The Umayyad Dynasty exported to Islamic Persia the embryo of the current scientific works and the nascent Islamic philosophy (falsafa); the more developed scientific works were later mostly written in Persian language; the same scholars wrote the disciplines that were related to religion, philosophy, rhetoric, legal, mathematics, and algebra, in Arabic because they were needed for the proper function in the administration of the Empire.  Educated and cultured people who were familiar with Greek works met in “salons” (majalis) to discuss on various subjects, philosophical incursions into the possible, the intellect, the sensibility and the soul. 

            Schools of learning were erected and knowledge was no longer the prerogative of the initiation of master to disciple for rich people. By the first century of Islam (8th century), schools were exploding everywhere with targeted practical disciplines (algebra, geometry, arithmetic, trigonometry, jurisprudence, theology (kalam), science of tradition (hadith), history, linguistic, lexicography, math combinatorial analysis, cryptography, and grammar) mainly to support the functions of the Empire administration and train cadres for offices such as fiscal, heritage, religious calendar, and army logistics. The schools were inspired by different traditions such as Greek, Persian, Indian, and Syriac).  By the second century of Islam specialized schools in theoretical mathematics, medicine, physics, optics, and astronomy were booming.

            The first acknowledged Moslem philosopher Al Kindi (9th century) admitted that Aristotle was the most eminent Greek philosopher and wrote: “We have to thank the prior thinkers who shared with us what is right; they made it more accessible to us researching the truth and they provided the premises that leveled the way for what is true.  Offering reasons and demonstrations are part of the acquisition process in the sciences for veracity. Those strangers to scientific inquiries are trafficking in religion even though they have got no religion: indeed the one who sells one thing does no longer belong to him.”

            Personally, I tend to attribute the name of Islamic civilization for the import of scientific disciplines such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, physics, optics, and chemistry.  Arabic civilization should be restricted to the Umayyad Dynasty period in matters of rhetoric, legal, practical mathematics, Kalam (reflection on the world according to the Koran paradigm), grammars, language, and the import of any outside scientific knowledge that the Old World reserved in Constantinople, Persia, India, and China.

            A follow up post will demonstrate that European Renaissance in the 16th century was fundamentally Islamic scientifically; the decentralization of the Christian power away from Rome was also inspired by the decentralization nature of Islam as a religion.  The title is “Europe’s Renaissance is Islamic”.  It is worthwhile for researchers not to confuse the recent period of Islamic radical decadence with early Islamic civilization that lasted from 650 to 1100 AC in the Orient and then re-surfaced in Andalusia (Spain) from 800 till 1400 AC.  After 1400 AC Christian Spanish monarchs chased out the Moslems and Jews from their kingdom; the Catholic Church in Rome instituted the Inquisition to harass the new converts to Christianity.

Persia/Iran civilizations: Achemenide Dynasty (Part 2, February 26, 2009)

            There are no Persian historical accounts of antiquity Achemenide Persia Empire.  Most of the stories are excerpts of biased Greek accounts, mainly of the Greek historian Herodotus, and some chapters in the Old Testament.  Archeology would like to say that tribes in Afghanistan and Central Asia moved to south east Iran around 1000 BC of what is called Fars. The Babylon and Assyrian Empires mentioned the Kingdom of Elam with Capital Suse (Khuzestan by Iraq) that bordered Fars.  Cyrus established his Kingdom “Anshan” in 557 BC that spoke the Elam language and in cuneiform writing.

            Cyrus conquers the Kingdom of Medes (North of the Zagros mountain chains) in 550 and the Kingdom of Croesus in Turkey in 546.  Babylon and the Near East Kingdoms are vanquished in 539 and pursue his military advances toward Bactrian (current Afghanistan and part of Central Asia).  Cyrus allowed the Jews in “captivity” in Babylon to return to Judea; the poorer Jews returned and Cyrus funded the reconstruction of their temple. It was during that period that the Jewish Old Testament was initiated in writing and then completed many centuries later after Christ. Cyrus’ son Cambyse conquers Egypt and Darius I expands toward the Indus River regions.  The north of Greece in Thrace and beyond the Danube River is part of the Achemenide Empire.

            The administration of this huge Empire was very structured and divided into Satraps (about 20 of them) of local elites and Kings.  The governor of Satrap (protector of the power) was administered by the central powers in Suse, Ctesiphone, Ecbatane, and later Persepolis in matter of Imperial Army, finance and taxes. The Imperial decrees were translated into the Aramaic language, the most widely local language outside Persia.  The Persian Emperor moved from one capital to another to satisfy the yearly calendar of rituals of the Ahura Mazda religion.  The Satraps were to meet the Emperor visiting their lands and the population offered what they produced such as milk, cheese, dates, and fruits of the season for sumptuous banquets that lasted 7 days and nights; about 15,000 were invited to share in the banquets.  Every year, during the anniversary of the coronation of the monarch a special banquet is thrown and the monarch offered gifts and perfumed his head.  The custom would not permit any demand or request to be denied.  This custom was adopted by the Satraps and it became a tradition in all courts; Herode could not deny Salome her request for the head of Jean the Baptist.

            When Alexander occupied Damascus after the battle of Issos they inventoried the residence of the Imperial Persian Artaxerxes III; there were 46 braiders of crowns, 14 manufacturers of perfumes, 329 female musicians or royal concubines (pallakai).  The monarchs were to create, design, and plant royal gardens called “paradeis” 

The route of the Imperial caravan was well defined from start to finish and horses were ready at every station.  The Imperial army needed 30 days to cross from Suse to Persepolis and it was a true migration of thousands of people.  When the monarch dies all the fires in Ahura Mazda temples were put out.  The new monarch was enthroned in the town of Pasargades and in the shrine of Goddess Anahista, 60 kilometers off Persepolis.  Meticulous and detailed ceremonials of all sorts are obligated on the monarch.

Alexander of Macedonia subjugated Persia in 331 but he did not change anything in the political structure of this well organized and administrated Empire; he even adopted the luxury and ceremonials of the Persian monarchs which angered the Macedonians soldiers greatly.  Seleucus, one of Alexander officers, finally inherited the Persian Kingdom after many decades of infightings but short of Greece and Egypt.  Pretty soon, the Satraps recovered their autonomies.


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