Durant

The first lesson of philosophy is that we may all be mistaken.
The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 845 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

 

 

In 1498 Vasco da Gama, after a voyage of eleven months from Lisbon,
anchored off Calicut. He was well received by the Hindu Raja of Mala-
bar, who gave him a courteous letter to the King of Portugal:
“Vasco daGama, a nobleman of your household, has visited my kingdom, and has
given me great pleasure. In my kingdom there is abundance of cinnamon,
cloves, pepper, and precious stones. What I seek from your country is
gold, silver, coral and scarlet.”

His Christian majesty answered by claiming India as a Portuguese colony, for reasons which the Raja was too backward to understand.

The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 613 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

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“Usually in history, when two nations have contested for the same markets,
the nation that has lost in the economic competition,
if it is stronger in resources and armament, has made war upon its enemy.”
The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 933 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

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State

“The state as distinct from tribal organization,”
says Lester Ward, “begins with the conquest of one race by another.” 9
“Everywhere,” says Oppenheimer, “we find some warlike tribe breaking
through the .boundaries of some less warlike people, settling down as
nobility, and founding its state.” 10 “Violence,” says Ratzenhofer, “is the
agent which has created the state.” 11 The state, says Gumplowicz, is
the result of conquest, the establishment of the victors as a ruling caste
over the vanquished.” “The state,” says Sumner, “is the product of
force, and exists by force.” 1 *  (p.24)

 

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Crimes of violence are as old as greed; the struggle for food, land and
mates has in every generation fed the earth with blood, .and has offered
a dark background for the fitful light of civilization. Primitive man was
cruel because he had to be; life taught him that he must have an arm
always ready to strike, and a heart apt for “natural killing.” The blackest
page in anthropology is the story of primitive torture, and of the joy that
many primitive men and women seem to have taken in the infliction of
pain. 79 Much of this cruelty was associated with war; within the tribe
manners were less ferocious, and primitive men treated one another— and
even their slaves— with a quite civilized kindliness. 80 But since men had to
kill vigorously in war, they learned to kill also in time of peace; for to
many a primitive mind no argument is settled until one of the disputants
is dead. Among many tribes murder, even of another member of the same
clan, aroused far less horror than it used to do with us.  (p. 52-53)

 

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Or the soul was to declare its innocence of all major sins, in a “Negative
Confession” that represents for us one of the earliest and noblest expressions
of the moral sense in man:
Hail to Thee, Great God, Lord of Truth and Justice! I have
come before Thee, my Master; I have been brought to see thy
beauties. … I bring unto you Truth. … I have not committed in-
iquity against men. I have not oppressed the poor. … I have not
laid labor upon any free man beyond that which he wrought for
himself. … I have not defaulted, I have not committed that which
is an abomination to the gods. I have not caused the slave to be ill-
treated of his master. I have not starved any man, I have not made
any to weep, I have not assassinated any man, … I have not com-
mitted treason against any. I have not in aught diminished the sup-
plies of the temple; I have not spoiled the show-bread of the gods. 
… I have done no carnal act within the sacred enclosure of the
temple. I have not blasphemed. … I have not falsified the balance.
I have not taken away milk from the mouths of sucklings. I have . . .
not taken with nets the birds of the gods … I am pure. I am pure.
I am pure. 

Egyptian prayer around 1550 BC

The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 203-204 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

———————————————————

Ikhnaton

monotheism— seven hundred years before Isaiah.

he changed his own name from Amenhotep, which  contained the name of Amon, to Ikhnaton, meaning “Aton is satisfied”;

His youthful spirit rebelled against the sordidness into which
the religion of his people had fallen; he abominated the indecent wealth
and lavish ritual of the temples, and the growing hold of a mercenary
hierarchy on the nation’s life. With a poet’s audacity he threw compromise
to the winds, and announced bravely that all these gods and ceremonies
were a vulgar idolatry, that there was but one god— Aton.

……………….

It is one of the tragedies of history that Ikhnaton, having achieved his
elevating vision of universal unity, was not satisfied to let the noble quality
of his new religion slowly win the hearts of men. He was unable to
think of his truth in relative terms; the thought came to him that other
forms of belief and worship were indecent and intolerable. Suddenly he
gave orders that the names of all gods but Aton should be erased and
chiseled from every public inscription in Egypt; he mutilated his father’s
name from a hundred monuments to cut from it the word Amon; he
declared all creeds but his own illegal, and commanded that all the old
temples should be closed. He abandoned Thebes as unclean, and built
for himself a beautiful new capital at Akhetaton— “City of the Horizon
of Aton.”

………….

for the rest he left art free, merely asking
his favorite artists, Bek, Auta and Nutmose, to describe things as they saw
them, and to forget the conventions of the priests. They took him at his
word, and represented him as a youth of gentle, almost timid, face, and
strangely dolichocephalic head. Taking their lead from his vitalistic con-
ception of deity, they painted every form of plant and animal life with
loving detail, and with a perfection hardly surpassed in any other place
or time. 280 For a while art, which in every generation knows the pangs of
hunger and obscurity, flourished in abundance and happiness.
Had Ikhnaton been a mature mind he would have realized that the
change which he had proposed from a superstitious polytheism deeply
rooted in the needs and habits of the people to a naturalistic monotheism
that subjected imagination to intelligence, was too profound to be effected
in a little time; he would have made haste slowly, and softened the transi-
tion with intermediate steps. But he was a poet rather than a philosopher;
like Shelley announcing the demise of Yahveh to the bishops of Oxford,
he grasped for the Absolute, and brought the whole structure of Egypt
down upon his head.
At one blow he had dispossessed and alienated a wealthy and powerful
priesthood, and had forbidden the worship of deities made dear by long
tradition and belief. When he had Anion hacked out from his father’s
name it seemed to his people a blasphemous impiety; nothing could be
more vital to them than the honoring of the ancestral dead. He had under-
estimated the strength and pertinacity of the priests, and he had exagger-
ated the capacity of the people to understand a natural religion. Behind
the scenes the priests plotted and prepared; and in the seclusion of their
homes the populace continued to worship their ancient and innumerable
gods. A hundred crafts that had depended upon the temples muttered in
secret against the heretic. Even in his palace his ministers and generals
hated him, and prayed for his death, for was he not allowing the Empire
to fall to pieces in his hands?
Meanwhile the young poet lived in simplicity and trust. He had seven
daughters, but no son; and though by law he might have sought an heir
by his secondary wives, he would not, but preferred to remain faithful
to Nofretete. A little ornament has come down to us that shows him embracing the Queen;

he allowed artists to depict him riding in a chariot
through the streets, engaged in pleasantries with his wife and children;
on ceremonial occasions the Queen sat beside him and held his hand,
while their daughters frolicked at the foot of the throne. He spoke of
his wife as “Mistress of his Happiness, at hearing whose voice the King
rejoices”; and for an oath he used the phrase, “As my heart is happy in
the Queen and her children.” 270 It was a tender interlude in Egypt’s epic
of power.

Into this simple happiness came alarming messages from Syria.* The
dependencies of Egypt in the Near East were being invaded by Hittites
and other neighboring tribes; the governors appointed by Egypt pleaded
for immediate reinforcements. Ikhnaton hesitated; he was not quite sure
that the right of conquest warranted him in keeping these states in sub-
jection to Egypt; and he was loath to send Egyptians to die on distant
fields for so uncertain a cause. When the dependencies saw that they were
dealing with a saint, they deposed their Egyptian governors, quietly
stopped all payment of tribute, and became to all effects free. Almost in a
moment Egypt ceased to be a vast Empire, and shrank back into a little
state. Soon the Egyptian treasury, which had for a century depended upon
foreign tribute as its mainstay, was empty; domestic taxation had fallen
to a minimum, and the working of the gold mines had stopped. Internal
administration was in chaos. Ikhnaton found himself penniless and friend-
less in a world that had seemed all his own. Every colony was in revolt,
and every power in Egypt was arrayed against him, waiting for his fall.

He was hardly thirty when, in 1362 B.C., he died,

Two years after his death his son-in-law, Tutenkhamon, a favorite of
the priests, ascended the throne. He changed the name Tutenkhaton
which his father-in-law had given him, returned the capital to Thebes,
made his peace with the powers of the Church, and announced to a rejoicing
people the restoration of the ancient gods. The words Aton and lkhnaton
were effaced from all the monuments, the priests forbade the name of the
heretic king to pass any man’s lips, and the people referred to him as “The
Great Criminal.” The names that lkhnaton had removed were recarved
upon the monuments, and the feast-days that he had abolished were
renewed. Everything was as before.

The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 206-213 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

 

 

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The strong might not oppress the weak,  and they should give justice to the orphan and the widow.

Hammurabi , 1750 BC, Babylon

The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, page 220 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954

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Slavery

Most of the physical work in the towns
was done by them, including nearly all of the personal service. Female slaves
were completely at the mercy of their purchaser, and were expected to pro-
vide him with bed as well as board; it was understood that he would breed
through them a copious supply of children, and those slaves who were not
so treated felt themselves neglected and dishonored. 46 The slave and all his
belongings were his master’s property: he might be sold or pledged for debt;
he might be put to death if his master thought him less lucrative alive than
dead; if he ran away no one could legally harbor him, and a reward was
fixed for his capture. Like the free peasant he was subject to conscription
for both the army and the corvee— i.e., for forced labor in such public
works as cutting roads and digging canals. On the other hand the slave’s
master paid his doctor’s fees, and kept him moderately alive through illness,
slack employment and old age. He might marry a free woman, and his
children by her would be free; half his property, in such a case, went on his
death to his family. He might be set up in business by his master, and re-
tain part of the profits— with which he might then buy his freedom; or his
master might liberate him for exceptional or long and faithful service. But
only a few slaves achieved such freedom. The rest consoled themselves
with a high birth-rate, until they became more numerous than the free. A
great slave-class moved like a swelling subterranean river underneath the
Babylonian state.  (p.229)

Such a society, of course, never dreamed of democracy; its economic
character necessitated a monarchy supported by commercial wealth or
feudal privilege, and protected by the judicious distribution of legal vio-
lence. (p.230)

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Gradually the qualities of body and character that had helped to make
the Assyrian armies invincible were weakened by the very victories that they won;……….

The extent of her conquests had helped to weaken her; ……. More and more the army
itself was filled by these men of other lands, while semi-barbarous marauders harassed every border,
and exhausted the resources of the country in an endless defense of its unnatural frontiers.
…………
Fourteen years later an army of Babylonians under Nabopolassar united with an army
of Medes under Cyaxares and a horde of Scythians from the Caucasus, and with amazing ease
and swiftness captured the citadels of the north.
….

At one blow Assyria disappeared from history. Nothing remained of her except certain tactics and weapons of war,
certain voluted  capitals of semi-”Ionic” columns, and certain methods of provincial administration that passed down to Persia, Macedon and Rome.
……

In a little while all but the mightiest of the Great Kings were forgotten,
and all their royal palaces were in ruins under the drifting sands.
….

Not a stone remained visible of all the temples with which Assyria’s pious warriors had sought to beautify their greatest capital.
Even Ashur, the everlasting god, was dead.

The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, p. 283-284 , Will and Ariel Durant, 1954