Arnold J. Toynbee on the Aryan invasions, and the transmission of Civilization across the Silk Roads

- Peter Myers, update February 11, 2018.

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Arnold J. Toynbee, Mankind and Mother Earth, Paladin, London 1978; first published by OUP in 1976. The Preface is dated 1974; Toynbee died in 1975, so this book represents his latest thinking.


THE Kassite barbarians from the western rim of the Iranian plateau made their first descent on Babylonia in 1743 B.C. and they gradually extended their encroachments till they occupied the city of Babylon itself after Babylon had been sacked in 1595 B.C. by the Indo-European-speaking Hittites. The Egyptian Middle Kingdom seems to have been brought to an end by a similar gradual encroachment of barbarians, the so-called Hyksos, who infiltrated into the north-eastern corner of the Nile delta c. 1730 or 1720 B.C. and eventually occupied Memphis and extinguished the Twelfth Dynasty's feeble Thirteenth-Dynasty successors in 1674 B.C. To judge by their personal names, the Hyksos seem to have been Semitic-speaking; and, if a West-Semitic language was their mother-tongue, they were not the Kassites' kinsmen. But the contemporaneity of the Hyksos invasion of Egypt and the Kassite invasion of Babylonia and the devastation of the first set of palaces in Crete suggests that these movements may all have been put in motion by pressure from the rear.

Behind the movement of the Hyksos into Egypt there was certainly a massive movement into Mesopotamia and Syria of Hurrians from the highlands in what is now eastern Turkey; but, as has been mentioned already, there is linguistic evidence for the presence of primary-Sanskrit-speakers among the invaders who, in the eighteenth century B.C., established the Kingdom of Mitanni in Mesopotamia (the Jazirah), as well as among those who imposed Kassite rule on Babylonia. This linguistic evidence suggests that, behind the local pressures, there may have been some single prime mover, and that this may have been an eruption of primary-Sanskrit-speaking people from the northern hinterland of South-West Asia.

This hinterland is the Eurasian steppe. It is accessible from the Indo-European languages' probable place of origin somewhere in eastern

{p. 92} Europe, and its southern shore adjoins South-West Asia in Turkmenistan. If there was an eruption from the steppe, this may have followed the domestication of the horse, which made pastoral nomadism feasible there. At Troy, the bones of horses have been found in the lowest stratum of Troy VI, the date of which is c. 1800 B.C. On the other hand, horses were not yet possessed by the Sumero-Akkadians in the Age of the First Dynasty of Babylon or by the Egyptians in the Age of the Middle Kingdom. This indicates that the horse was domesticated on the Eurasian steppe not long before 1800 B.C. and that the invention and dissemination of a new military weapon - the horse-drawn chariot accounts for the eighteenth-century-B.C. barbarian invasions of Sumer and Akkad and of Egypt, and also for the invaders' success.

{For more on the archaeology of horse and chariot see needham-anthony.html}

Pastoral nomadism, like urbanism, is a non-agricultural way of life which is parasitic on agriculture and which could not have come into existence except within reach of, and in association with, agricultural populations who were already producing a surplus of food beyond their requirements for their own subsistence. Townspeople buy food from agriculturists in exchange for urban manufactures and services. Pastoral nomads likewise need to buy the products of sedentary societies by selling livestock and hides. Though the pastoral nomads themselves have abandoned agriculture, their novel way of life is not only post-agricultural but is practicable only in a symbiosis with neighbours who have continued to till the soil. Subject to this condition, pastoral nomadism is the most productive way of utilizing dry grassland without ruining it. The cultivation of land of this kind may yield greater returns in the short run; but there each year's harvest is precarious, and the penalty for ploughing up the grass-roots may be the transformation of a prairie into a desert. On a prairie the long-term alternative to using it for pasture is to use it as a hunting-ground, as the prairies of North America were used by the indigenous Americans till, in the nineteenth century A.D., settlers from Europe exterminated the wild herds of bison that had been the native people's game, and replaced the bison by a short-lived 'cattle kingdom'. On a prairie, pastoral nomadism is the most lucrative form of human usage that can exploit Nature without sterilizing her.

In order to make dry grasslands support the maximum head of stock the pastoral nomad has to be constantly moving his stock from one pasture-ground to another in a regular seasonal orbit. He cannot conduct his flocks and herds on their recurrent trek without the aid of non-human auxiliaries such as horses and camels; and, since the trek has to be carefully planned and precisely executed if it is not to be overtaken by disaster, the nomadic pastoralist has to put himself and his animal auxiliaries, as well as his cattle, under a strict discipline. The logistics of a nomadic pastoral community's trek resemble those of a military

{p. 93} campaign, and consequently pastoral nomadism automatically trains its practitioners for waging mobile warfare, though normally they make their annual round without coming into conflict either with other nomadic peoples or with the nomads' sedentary neighbours and trading-partners.

The domestication of the horse gave Man the non-human auxiliary that made pastoral nomadism practicable, but the original domesticated horse was a puny beast. He could not bear the weight of a human rider, and a team of four horses was required for drawing a two-wheeled chariot made of the lightest possible materials. A thousand years of horse-breeding were required for producing a horse that could carry even a lightly equipped cavalryman, and several centuries more were required for producing the 'great horse' that could carry armour of its own, as well as a rider armoured cap-a-pie. Yet, from the start, the pastoral nomad was militarily formidable on the exceptional occasions on which he broke out of the steppe that was his normal habitat. The invasions that were suffered by Babylonia and Egypt, and perhaps by Crete too, during the second half of the eighteenth century B.C. may have been the indirect effects of the first of a series of eruptions of nomad peoples that continued on the Eurasian steppe till the eighteenth century of the Christian Era, and on the North-Arabian steppe till after the First World War.

The inventors of pastoral nomadism on the Eurasian steppe seem likely to have been the primary-Sanskrit-speakers who, beyond the southern bounds of the steppe, made a temporary mark on Babylonia and on Mesopotamia and a permanent mark on India. But pastoral nomadism, once invented, did not remain the monopoly of any single people. The Eurasian steppe was occupied at different times by peoples speaking primary Sanskrit, Iranian, Turkish, Tungus, Mongol, and Finnish (the language of the Magyars). With the domestication of the one-humped camel on the Arabian steppe before the end of the second millennium B.C., and the acclimatization of the horse there before the beginning of the Christian Era, pastoral nomadism extended its domain to Arabia and, from Arabia, to North Africa. The pastoral nomads made history from the eighteenth century B.C. until a date that is still within living memory.

{p. 98} Akhenaton's major conflict was with the ecclesiastical wing of the 'establishment'. Like his Fourth-Dynasty predecessor Cheops, Akhenaton quarrelled with the priesthood over a theological issue, and, by this time the priesthood had become more formidable. Cheops' ecclesiasticai opponents had been the priests of Re's holy city Heliopolis. Since Thebes had become the political capital of a re-united Egypt, Re, the head of the Egyptian pantheon, had been identified vvith Amun, who had been the local god of Thebes since at least as early as the reign of the founder of the Twelfth Dynasty, Amenemmes I, and Thothmes III had organized the priests of all the local gods of Egypt into a Pan-Egyptian corporation under the presidency of Amun-Re's high priest.

Akhenaton was putting Pharaoh's officially absolute authority to a practical test by challenging the greatest power in the Egyptian World other than Pharaoh himself. Akhenaton might have defeated the priesthood if he had won the people's support, and he might have won this if he had challenged the high priest of Amun-Re on behalf of the god Osiris; for Osiris was the giver of immortality, and immortality was the Egyptians' supreme objective. However, Akhenaton was contending, not for immortality, but for monotheism, and the ideal of monotheism left the people's hearts cold, besides being a menace to the priesthood's vested interests. Akhenaton's One God, the sun-disk (Aton), was only one man's god; and, though this one man was Pharaoh, even Pharaoh's power was not great enough to prevail over an ecclesiastical corporation serving a pantheon that was consecrated by tradition.

It is not surprising that Akhenaton failed to substitute the Aton for Amun-Re and the rest of the traditional pantheon, but it is remarkable that Akhenaton's revolution made a lasting mark nevertheless. Amun-Re was re-instated, but he was transfigured to the likeness of the One God whom Akhenaton had tried in vain to substitute for him. Akhenaton had composed a hymn to the Aton as the giver of life to all living creatures in the Universe; the post-Atonian hymns to Amun-Re present the old god in the abortive new god's guise.

Akhenaton had moved the site of the capital to a new city, and for this he had had precedents. The Old-Kingdom Pharaohs had migrated from Nekhen-Nekheb downstream, first to Thinis, and then to Memphis. The founder of the Twelfth Dynasty had migrated from Thebes to Iz-Taui, a new city not far upstream from Memphis. When the Theban founder of the Eighteenth Dynasty had re-unified Egypt once more,

{p. 99} Thebes bccame the capital again. Akhenaton had migrated to Akhetaton (the present-day Tall-al-Amarnah), which he had built at a point about half way between Thebes and Memphis. After Akhenaton's death, this new city was deserted, and the capital reverted to Thebes. Thebes was, indeed, no longer awkwardly close to the southern fringe of the Egyptian world now that the Empire extended as far up the Nile as Napata. However, Thebes did not retain for long her recaptured privilege of being the sole capital of the New Kingdom. The operational capital was pulled northwards, much farther to the north than the site of Akhetaton, by the pressure from the north-east that was making itself felt already in Akhenaton's reign. The ostentatiously orthodox soldier Horemheb (ruled de facto c. 1349-1319 B.C.) governed the Empire from Memphis; before the New Kingdom expired, its operational capital had shifted still farther north-eastward to Tanis, in the north-eastern corner of the Delta, on or near the site of the Hyksos capital, Avaris.

Akhenaton was a revolutionary in the fields of literature and visual arts, as well as in the fields of religion and politics, and in these fields, too, he left his mark. In literature he took to writing in the living language of his time, not in an obsolete language, and this innovation survived him till, in the course of ages, the living Egyptian language of the fourteenth century B.C. became a dead language in its turn. In art he stood for naturalism and for truth to life - including unflattering lifelike portraits of himself.

Akhenaton's taste for naturalism may have been caught from the Minoans. In the wall-paintings of New-Kingdom Egyptian tombs there are portrayals of Minoans carrying what appear to be Mycenaean, not Minoan artefacts, and this is evidence of commercial and cultural relations between Egypt and the Aegean World in this age. Besides being prompted by his own genius, Akhenaton was inspired by his time and place. The empire whose throne he had inherited was ecumenical - not, of course, in the geograpllical sense of being literally co-extensive with the Oikoumene, but in the cultural sense of comprising a fair sample of the diversity of human cultures. This was the first ecumenical empire in this sense and it is not a mere coincidence that one of the rulers of this empire was the first recorded monotheist; for Akhenaton's monotheism is ecumenicalism expressed in religious symbolism. He conceived ofthe Aton as being, not a local god, but the lord of the whole Universe, and he signified the Aton's ubiquity by building temples for him in Syria and in Nubia, as well as in Egypt.

{Sigmund Freud claimed that Moses was an Egyptian, and Jewish Monotheism is derived from Akhnaton: moses.html}

{p. 102} Soon after 1400 B.C. the palace at Knossos was destroyed - presumably by a second wave of continental Mycenaean invaders. The Mycenaean palace at Thebes was destroyed at about the same time or perhaps rather later in a fratricidal war with Mycenae itself if there is a grain of truth in the legend that survived into the Hellenic Age of Greek history. In spite of these disasters, the Mycenaean civilization flourished in the fourteenth century B.C. As a result, perhaps, of the occupation of Knossos c. 1480/1450 B.C, a syllabic phonetic script˛Linear-B - was invented for conveying the Mycenaean-Age form of the Greek language, in imitation of Linear-A, which had previously been invented by the Minoans for conveying their own, not yet deciphered, language {probably semitic: see gordon.html}. The Mycenaean craftsmen drew level with their Minoan teachers. The Mycenaeans who built the 'bee-hive' tombs emulated their Egyptian counterparts' skill and precision in the use of masonry. In the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. the Mycenaeans traded as far eastward as Ugarit (Ras-ash-Shamrah) at the northern end of the coast of Syria, as far southward as Egypt, and as far westward as Sicily. They were equally ready to trade and to raid, whichever of those two activities promised to be the more profitable.

In the thirteenth century B.C., Mycenaean militarism became more grim. The Mycenaean palaces on the east side of Greece - for instance, Mycenae itself and Tiryns in the Argolid, and the acropolis of Athens - were now massively fortified, and pains were taken to make a water-supply accessible for the defenders if the fortress were to be besieged. During the same century there were man-made disasters on the eastern shore of the Aegean too: Troy VIIA was destroyed by human assailants c. 1260 B.C., and, farther south, the Hittite Empire was in trouble. The Hittites had found it easier to overthrow the rival empire of Arzawa than to bring its territory under effective Hittite control. Hittite rule over western Asia Minor was challenged by local rebellions and by Mycenaean incursions. Both the Hittite Empire and the Mycenaean principalities in continental Greece and in Crete were equipped with the elaborate administrative apparatus, in the Sumero-Akkadian and Egyptian style, which literacy made practicable. But we may guess, from the sequel, that, in Asia Minor and Greece, the literate class was a small minority and that the bureaucracy was too heavy a load for its economic foundations to carry without an excessive strain.

Thus trouble was brewing to the west of Egypt and of the Sumero-Akkadian World in the thirteenth ccntury B.C. The contemporary situation in India is obscure. We have no archaeological evidence for dating the overthrow of the Indus civilization by primary-Sanskrit-speaking invaders. If these had erupted from the Eurasian steppe in the eighteenth century B.C., they may have reached India as rapidly as they reached

{p. 103} Babylonia and Mesopotamia, but it is also possible that it took them several centuries longer to find their way across the Hindu Kush from the Oxus Jaxartes basin to the Indus basin.

In China, a regional civilization - labelled with the name of the Shang (alias Yin) dynasty - made its appearance c. 1500 B.C. Some of its elements were derived from the last phase (i.e. the Lung-Shan black pottery phase) of the regional Neolithic culture; and the emergence of civilization was not accompanied in China by a change of location, as it had been in the Fertile Crescent of South-West Asia and in Egypt. In China, as in the Levant, the regional Neolithic culture had depended on rainfall for watering its crops; its locus had been the belt of relatively high-lying wind-blown loess soil that had been deposited in Kansu and in the basin of the Wei tributary of the Yellow River and also farther east, along the watershed between the Yellow River and the Rivers Han and Hwai, and this was also the locus of the Lung-Shan Neolithic culture's successor the Shang civilization. The creators of this civilization did not open up the alluvial soil of the valley-bottoms for cultivation and settlement. Water-control on the Sumerian and Egyptian scale did not become a salient feature of the Chinese economy till about a thousand years after the appearance of the earliest civilization in China.

In this respect there was less of a break between this civilization and the antecedent Neolithic culture in the Yellow River basin than there had been between the Sumerian civilization and the antecedent Neolithic cultures in Mcsopotamia and in western Iran. There was, however, one common and comparable new departure. In China, as in Sumer, the transition from a Neolithic culture to a civilization was accompanied by a sharp differentiation, in wealth and in privilege, between rulers and subjects. The royal tombs at Anyang, the last of the capital cities of the Shang dvnasty, resemble the tombs of the First Dynasty of Ur, though these were more than a thousand years older. The Shang tombs, too, are grandiose and the grave-goods, including human victims, are lavish. In Sumer, the increase in the community's aggregate wealth through the opening-up of the alluvium for cultivation enabled a dominant minority to live and to die luxuriously. In China the same invidious change was imposed on the community without any simultaneous increase in the community's total economic resources.

At the dawn of Civilization in China, there were also innovations that recall those that accompanied the apparently sudden appearance of Civilization in the Indus basin and in Egypt; and in China, likewise, the suddenness of the appearance of these innovations seems to indicate that, here too, Civilization was brought to birth by a stimulus from abroad, in contrast to the apparently autonomous development of the Sumerian civilization.

{p. 104} One sudden innovation was the use of horse-drawn chariots, and this must have been introduced into Shang-Age China from the Eurasian steppe in or after the eighteenth century B.C. A second innovation was the use of a script, and the invention of the Shang-Age script of China, from which the classical Chinese characters are manifestly derived, must have been inspired, as the invention of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script must have been, by the influence of a Sumerian pattern. This inftuence may have been remote and indirect. The Chinese characters, like the Egyptian hieroglyphs, have a distinctive style of their own, but the structure of the script is Sumerian, and this structure - an illogical and clumsy use of ideograms and phonemes side by side with each other - is too peculiar for it to be credible that it was invented independently on three different occasions. A third sudden innovation in China at the dawn of civilization there was the use of bronze for casting tools, weapons, and sacrificial vessels, and this art, too, must have come to China from the west. The Shang bronzes, like the Shang script, have a style of their own which is already distinctively Chinese; the bronze vessels are elaborate, and the technique that they display is highly skilful. It is conceivable that they may have had Neolithic-Age wooden prototypes that have left no trace; but this hypothesis (and it is no more than that) would explain the apparently sudden appearance of the artistic style alone; the sudden acquisition of the metallurgical technique would still remain unexplained.

{For recent evidence supporting Toynbee on this point, see needham-anthony.html}

Shang bronze has a high content of tin - seventeen per cent - and the nearest sources of tin and copper to the Yellow River basin are Malaya and Yunnan; but the techniques of alloying copper with tin and of casting the composite product cannot have been introduced into the Yellow River basin from the south. The earliest South-East Asian bronze culture - labelled 'Dong Son', the name of a site in North Vietnam - is no older than the latter half of the last millennium B.C. However, the two metals may have been imported to the Yellow River basin from the south, even if the technique for working them came from elsewhere. The tropical zone of Asia may well have been Shang China's source of metals; for the Shang civilization had a component of tropical origin, besides the elements that it had inherited from the antecedent Neolithic culture of northern China and besides the other elements that had reached northern China from the west, via the Eurasian steppe. The Shang-Age Chinese cultivated rice as well as wheat and millet; they had the water-buffalo as well as ordinary cattle; and one of their two breeds of pig was of southern origin.

The water-buffalo and the rice-plant must have been domesticated originally in some tropical swampy region. The society that domesticated them must have been on a par culturally with the Neolithic precursors

{p. 105} of the Shang civilization in northern China. But there does not seem to be any evidence for the existence of a pre-Shang-Age Neolithic culture of this calibre anywhere in the tropical zone of Asia to the south of the Yellow River basin. The regional civilization that was the least remote from the Yellow River basin geographically was the Indus civilization. But the Indus basin and the Yellow River basin are segregated from each other not only by sheer distance but also by a series of intervening mountain barriers. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Indus civilization spread eastwards and southwards into those parts of India in which, today, rice, not wheat, is the staple crop.

Thus the source of the tropical elements of the Shang civilization is a mystery. According to the Chinese tradition, the whole of what has now become China to the south of the Yellow River basin, and, a fortiori, what has now become Vietnam, received civilization only through being Sinified, partly by the assimilation of its native population and partly by the infiltration of Chinese settlers from the north. This tradition cannot be dismissed as being a mere reflection of Chinese cultural prejudice; it is confirmed by the survival, down to the nineteenth century A.D., of enclaves of culturally primitive unassimilated natives in some of the less accessible highland districts in the southern half of the Yangtse basin. There are other still surviving primitive peoples along the border between the southern frontier of present-day China and China's present South-East-Asian neighbours. The region in which the rice-plant and the water-buffalo were originally domesticated has still to be identified.

When, in the Yellow River basin in China, the Shang civilization was making its appearance, Meso-America was entering on the early 'Formative' phase of its culture. We can equate this with the Old- World Neolithic Age if we recognize that the invention of agriculture, not the invention of the technique for grinding stone tools, was the Neolithic Age's distinctive achievement. By c. 1500 B.C. the peoples of Meso-America had advanced from the 'Archaic Age', in which they had made their living by food-gathering and hunting, into a new age, labelled 'Formative', in which they were making their living by agriculture. The domestication of maize was almost certainly achieved independently by pre-columbian American homo sapiens. Maize was unknown in the Old World till it was imported from the Americas by Europeans who had realched the New World by crossing the Atlantic. There seems, however, to have been a time-lag, which had no counterpart in Old-World economic history, between the domestication of a food-plant and the inauguration of an economic regime in which the cultivation of this plan was the staple means of subsistence. In the Old World the changeover from food-gathering to subsistence by means of agriculture seems to have followed promptly after the achievement of domestication.

{p. 109} After the damnatio memoriae of the Pharaoh Akhnaten, a name compounded with the name of the Sun-disk could not have been given with impunity to any Egyptian subject. However, the Israelite tradition represents Moses as having lived for a time, before he led the Israelites out of Egypt, in a territory beyond the Egyptian Government's jurisdiction, and it is in non-Egyptian but ex-Egyptian territory, if anywhere, that

{p. 110} Akhenaton's religion might conceivably have survived. The Israelite tradition also represents Moses as having negotiated, after the Exodus a pact, between Israel and a god called Yahweh. His name is said to have been previously unknown to the Israelites. It has been interpreted tentatively as meaning 'live' or 'life-giving', and these had been attributes of the Aton.

These considerations suggest that Moses may have been a real person, like his well-attested Libyan counterparts and probable contemporaries Maraye and Mesher. Even if he did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt he himself may have had an Egyptian cultural background. The historicity of Moses is not impugned by the obvious legendariness of some of the elements in the traditional account of his career. Some famous figures that are undoubtedly historical have come to be identified with legendary heroes of folklore. For instance, there is no doubt about the historicity of Cyrus II, the Persian founder of the Achaemenian Empire, yet the legendary story of the hero's miraculous escape in infancy from an exceptionally dangerous threat to his life has attached itself to the traditional accounts of Cyrus II's infancy and of Moses' infancy alike.

The Egyptians had saved their country from being conquered and forcibly occupied by barbarian migrants, but the cost had been too high. Egypt was exhausted. Circa 1087 B.C. the country fell apart into two states (a sure sign of weakness in Egypt), one still governed from Thebes and the other from Tanis, in the north-east corner of the Delta, which may have been the operational capital of Egypt since the beginning of Ramses II's reign c. 1290 B.C. Wen Amun, who, c. 1290 B.C., was sent by the Theban government to Byblos to buy timber, was treated with contempt, even in this city that had been Egypt's trading partner for 2,000 years. The King of Byblos refused to fell the timber on Mount Lebanon for Wen Amun till he had received payment in kind from the Egyptian government at Tanis. (The two Egyptian governments were in friendly relations with each other.)

However, the most remarkable sequel to the Egyptians' repulse of the Libyans' and the 'sea-peoples' ' military assaults was the eventual establishment of Libyan rule over Egypt by a gradual process of 'peaceful penetration'. Circa 945 B.C. the Double Crown was assumed by Pharaohs of a new dynasty (the Twenty-second) who styled themselves 'Chiefs of the Meshwesh'. We do not know whether these were descendants of the prisoners of war who had been captured in 1220 and 1194 and 1188 B.C., or whether they were descended from Libyans who had subsequently entered Egypt peacefully with the Egyptians' acquiescence. In any case, the 'take-over' of the Pharaonic government by Meswesh c. 945 B.C. seems to have been peaceful and to have been carried out by agreement between

{p. 111} the Libyan soldiery and the Egyptian priesthood. The Libyans respected the autonomy of four Egyptian temple-states - not only Thebes, which had been under the rule of the Chief priest of Amun-Re since c. 1087 B.C., but also Heliopolis, Memphis, and Letopolis, which were left respectively under the rule of the local priests of the gods Re, Ptah, and Horus.

Thus Egypt succumbed to the barbarian Volkerwanderung in the end. The Libyans, who had been signally defeated by the Egyptians, at least three times, when they had presented themselves under arms, eventually established themselves in Egypt as a military caste in partnership with the native Egyptian priesthood. In Egypt the history of the Volkerwanderung is recorded in contemporary documents. Elsewhere, except in so far as the Egyptian documentary information refers to regions outside Egypt itself, our contemporary evidence is archaeological, whereas our literary evidence is retrospective; it is derived from a tradition that in some cases had been transmitted orally for a number of generations before being committed to writing. In the Aegean region the tradition conflicts on a number of points with the archaeological evidence, and this discredits the tradition, but it does not give us the correct positive information. The history of the Volkerwanderung in the Aegean basin c. 1250-950 B.C. presents many puzzles which the archaeological evidence has, so far, failed to solve.

We have archaeological evidence that, at Mycenae itself, the suburbs outside the fortified palace were raided before the close of the thirteenth century B.C. Circa 1200 B.C. all the Mycenaean palaces except the acropolis of Athens were sacked, and Mycenae was sacked for the second time c. 1150 B.C. On the other hand, there is no archaeological evidence for comparable destruction at this date in either Crete or Thessaly, and eastern Attica and the Aegean islands escaped unscathed. So did the Ionian Islands, and the adjacent north-west corner of the Peloponnesos became an asylum for refugees who brought their ancestral Mycenaean culture with them. The archaeological evidence also indicates that successive waves of Mycenaean refugees occupied Cyprus in the course of the twelfth century B.C. There is no incompatibility between this Aegean archaeological evidence and the contemporary Egyptian documentary evidence; for Ramses III, in recording that the migration of the 'sea-peoples', which he brought to a halt, had started in the Aegean islands does not say that the islands themselves were devastated, but he does say that Cyprus was one of the countries that the migrants did devastate en route towards Egypt.

The Mycenaeans had already battered the Minoan civilization, and now the Mycenaeans' own civilization was crushed. After the catastrophe of c. 1200 B.C. Iiteracy was lost in the Aegean basin. A syllabic script

{p. 112} inspired by, if not directly derived from, one of the Aegean linear scripts was adopted in Cyprus for conveying the Greek language, which had presumably been introduced into Cyprus by the twelfth-century-B.C. Mycenaean Greek immigrants, and here this script survived the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet and continued to be used, side by side with this, till the third century B.C.; but, in Crete and continental Greece, the Aegean scripts fell into lasting oblivion. Texts were eventually disinterred, and the Linear-B texts were subsequently deciphered, in the twentieth century A.D. Nor was literacy the only cultural asset that was lost in Greece at the downfall of the Mycenaean civilization. The mason's craft also ceased to be practised. Lamps ceased to be manufactured. There was general impoverishment. Gold disappeared and the elaborate style of dress that the Mycenaeans had copied from the Minoans was abandoned. To judge by the number of sites known to have been inhabited in the thirteenth and in the twelfth centuries respectively, there was also a precipitous decline of population in the Mycenaean civilization's former domain as a whole, even though there were local increases in areas occupied by refugees.

There is no conclusive evidence that the devastated areas, from which the refugees had fled, were occupied by the devastators. If these were the 'sea peoples', they moved on to loot other regions farther east and south, according to the testimony of the Egyptian documents. During the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C., the southern part of the Peloponnesos (Messenia and Laconia) seems to have been almost deserted; but, until c. 1050 B.C., the surviving inhabitants of the devastated areas retained the Mycenaean civilization in a degenerate form. It was then that a new civilization, with a distinctive style of its own, began to show itself in the defunct Mycenaean civilization's former domain.

There is archaeological evidence that the colonization of Ionia (the middle section of the west coast of Asia Minor) by settlers from Greece began in the tenth century B.C.; but there is no archaeological evidence for the arrival of the people, speaking the North-Western dialect of the Greek language, who came to be known retrospectively as the 'Dorians'. The evidence for their migration is the dialect-map of the Greek-speaking world in the last millennium B.C. On this map the zone occupied by North-West-Greek-speakers extends diagonally from Epirus in the north-west to the Dodecanese and to the south-west corner of continental Asia Minor in the south-east. A different dialect, the Arcado-Cypriot, was now spoken on either side of the Doric dialect's zone. This non-Doric dialect must have been brought to Cyprus by the Mycenaean Greek refugees who settled there, and it must have been retained in Arcadia because this heart of the Peloponnesos was a natural fastness. The Arcado-Cypriot Greek dialect of the last millennium B.C. is, in fact,

{p. 113} closely akin to the Mycenaean-Age Greek dialect that is conveyed in the Linear-B script.

The south-eastward spread of the North-West-Greek-speakers can hardly have been later than the tenth century B.C., and the archaeological evidence for thc survival of the Mycenaean style of material culture in the region that was devastated c. 1200 B.C. does not rule out the possibility that the so-called Dorian migration may have taken place as early as the twelfth century. Barbarian intruders may obliterate their tracks by adopting the material culture of their civilized victims.

In the Aegean basin, the destruction caused by the Volkerwanderung of c. 1250-950 B.C. went to extremes. There are a number of known cases in which a literate people has exchanged one script for another, but the loss of literacy itself in the Aegean basin c. 1200 B.C. is a unique event, and it gives the measure of the catastrophe that caused it. The civilization of Asia Minor fared better. Though the Hittite Empire, like the Mycenaean principalities, was overthrown, successor-states survived in northern Syria, which the Hittites had wrested out of Egyptian hands; and these refugee Hittites continued to use a Luvian hieroglyphic script which had been invented in Asia Minor before the Volkerwanderung, though they ceased to write the Indo-European Hittite and the Akkadian language in the Sumerian script.

The overthrow of the Hittite Empire had one abiding consequence that has come to be of world-wide importance. It ended the previous Hittite embargo on the dissemination of the knowledge of the technology for producing wrought-iron that was as hard as bronze. This technology seems to have been discovered in Asia Minor. When the Greeks made their way into the Black Sea, they attributed the invention to a legendary people, the Chalybes, whom they located on the north coast of Asia Minor. This had never been included in the Hittite Empire, but the Hittites managed to monopolize the invention and to keep it to themselves as a valuable state secret. The Hittite kings occasionally gave iron objects as choice presents to foreign rulers, and, outside the Hittite Empire until its fall, iron was treated as one of the precious metals.

Actually, the technology for making hard wrought-iron weapons and tools is more sophisticated, and proportionately more difficult to master, than the technology for making bronze implements of equal hardness. The incentive for using iron is that iron-ore is to be found close at hand almost everywhere (with, of course, such notable exceptions as the alluvial lower Tigris-Euphrates basin) . Compared with iron-ore, copper-ore is rare, while tin is still rarer. Since bronze is a mixture of copper and tin, the enabling condition for the production of bronze is the possibility of transporting ingots of metal over long distances. There

{p. 114} is therefore a premium on using iron instead of bronze at times and places at which communications have broken down.

This happened in the Aegean after the series of disasters there in the twelfth century B.C.; and, since the Aegean is next-door to Asia Minor, it is not surprising that, at Athens, iron began to be used for making tools and weapons as early as c. 1050 B.C. Here, iron continued to be the predominant industrial metal for the next two centuries, but then, as communications became better again, bronze came back into use, now side by side with iron, for some purposes. In Egypt, on the other hand, iron did not supersede copper as the material for tools till about the seventh century B.C. The Egyptians had fended off the 'sea-peoples'; their way of life had not been utterly disorganized; and, since the reaction against the revolution that had followed the fall of the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians had become conservative-minded. In Pharaonic Egypt more stone was cut than anywhere at any subsequent date. Yet the Egyptians did most of their stone-cutting with tools made of un-alloyed copper. They did not take kindly even to bronze. The Yellow River basin was remote from the Levantine seats of the earliest civilizations, yet the Chinese had mastered the art of bronze-working by about the fifteenth century B.C. Their virtuosity as bronze-smiths became great, and sources of supply of both copper and tin were continuously accessible to them. This perhaps partly explains why it was that, in China, iron did not supersede bronze as the standard material for tools and weapons till about the fourth century B.C.

The dialect map of Asia Minor in the last millennium B.C. reveals an intrusive zone of Thraco-Phrygian language, running diagonally from north-west to south-east, like the 'Doric' Greek zone in the Aegean basin; and, here again, the previously prevalent languages, in this case Luvian and Hittite, survived on either side - Hittite in northern Syria and Luvian in western Asia Minor (i.e. in Lycia, Caria, and Lydia). The Phrygians were certainly not identical with the 'sea peoples'. They broke into Asia Minor, not from the Aegean archipelago, but from Thrace; they simply occupied a vacuum that the 'sea peoples' had created; but the date of their migration, like the date of the Doric-speaking Greeks' migration, is not revealed by the archaeological evidence.

The movement of the Chaldaeans and Israelites and Aramaeans out of Arabia into the Fertile Crescent seems to have been long-drawn-out. The Israelites were already in Palestine before the end of Pharaoh Merneptah's reign, i.e. before 1214 B.C. 0n the other hand the Aramaeans' pressure on Mesopotamia and on northern Syria cannot have been heavy in the reign of King Tiglath-Pileser I of Assyria (ruled c. 1114-1076 B.C.), considering that he succeeded in marching westward as far as the shore of the Mediterranean. Assyria was not hit so hard by

{p. 115} the Volkerwenderung circa 1250-950 B.C. as she had been by the previous Vulkerwanderung in the eighteenth century B.C. On that occasion she had fallen under the suzerainty of Mitanni. During the years 1250-950 B.C. she retained her independence. The 'sea peoples' did not cross the Euphrates in their devastating migration that ended in 1291 B.C.; and the Euphrates, together with the Antitaurus and the Taurus Range, were obstacles in the Phrygians' path in the direction of Assyria.

India's history during the years 1250-950 B.C. is unknown. The primary-Sanskrit-speaking invaders may have entered the Indus basin and have destroyed the Indus civilization a quarter of a millennium earlier. Alternatively they may not have arrived in the Indus basin till c. 1250 B.C., and, if this was the date of their arrival, they may have been propelled into India by migrants who had broken out of the Eurasian steppe in their rear.

In the Yellow River basin, the Shang dynasty was overthrown and replaced by its former vassals, the Chou, in 1122 B.C. according to the canonical chronology, or in 1027 B.C. according to an alternative reckoning that may come nearer to the true date. The Chou invaded the North-China plain from the basin of the Yellow River's Wei tributary - that is to say from the direction from which, in previous ages, China may have received elements of culture from regions to the west, via the Eurasian steppe. But the archaeological evidence does not indicate that the Chou brought any further cultural innovations with them. The political change from Shang to Chou did not cause a breach of cultural continuity such as was caused in Greece by the overthrow of the Mycenaean principalities. The Chou seem to have been Chinese, or at any rate to have been thoroughly Sinified before they supplanted the Shang; and the arts of writing and of bronze-casting not only survived the change of regime; they continued to advance.

Moreover, the change of dynasty does not seem to have produced any immediate substantial change in the political structure of Chinese society. The archaeological evidence for the character of the Shang regime includes not only artefacts but also documents, namely, the inscriptions on the 'oracle bones'. The discoveries of Anyang, which, according to tradition, was the last of five successive capitals of the Shang dynasty, indicate that this dynasty was the dominant power in the Yellow River basin in the Anyang period. No comparable contemporary site, which might have been the seat of a rival power of the same calibre, has yet been found. The site at Cheng-Chou, about one hundred miles farther south, is thought to have been an earlier capital of the Shang power itself. However, the 'oracle bone' inscriptions show that the Shang lived in fear of enemies - a fear that was justified by the event.

{p. 141} The scriptures of Hinduism cannot be dated. ...

{p. 142} The earliest genre is the Vedas: a collection of hymns and charms that were recited in liturgies which consisted of ritual acts and gestures as well as verbal formulae. The next genre is a collection of treatises on liturgical practice: the Brahmanas. These two earliest genres of Hindu literature are not distinctive; there are parallels to them in the religious literature, oral or written, of other archaic societies.

At this stage, the Hindus were mainly concerned to persuade or constrain the gods to fulfil their worshippers' wishes. The Hindu gods, like the Hittite and Greek and Scandinavian gods, were marshalled in a pantheon, and the pantheons of these Indo-European-speaking peoples were perhaps ultimately derived from a Sumerian model. The worship, according to correct ritual, of a team of gods has, for many peoples, been the end, as well as the beginning, of their religious history. But in the Aranyakas and Upanishads the Hindus went on to probe the mystery of the Universe in which a human being awakes to consciousness. They asked themselves what is the nature of the ultimate reality, what is the nature of a human soul, and what is the relation between the soul and the ultimate reality. They concluded that the soul (atman) is identical with the ultimate reality (brahman) in and behind the Universe, and that an intuition of this identity can be attained by introspection. This intuition is expressed in the three Sanskrit words Tat tvam asi: 'that is what thou art' or 'thou art that' - 'thou' being a human soul, and 'that' being the ultimate reality.

This second phase of Hindu religion is a surprising sequel to the first phase. In the first phase the Hindus were concerned with the external side of religion; in the second phase they turned from ritual to meditation, and, in their exploration of the psychic dimension of the Universe, they went far.

{The "first phase" was not really Hinduism, but Vedism or Brahmanism; the "second phase" included the rise of the Jain and Buddhist religions. Buddhism became dominant under Asoka, but Hinduism, a synthesis between this "second phase" and Brahmanism, ousted Buddhism}

We can follow the evolution of Hindu religion through its successive stages in the deposit of scriptures that each stage bequeathed to posterity. The evolution of the structure of Hindu society has to be inferred from non-contemporary evidence. The characteristic Hindu social institution is caste; and varna, the Sanskrit word that has been translated as 'caste' in modern Western languages, means 'colour'. This shows that caste originated in an attempt, on the primary-Sanskrit-speaking invaders' part, to keep themselves segregated racially from the conquered native population, who must have differed from the invaders in the colour of their skin, as well as in their manners and customs. The invaders' regime of apartheid was rigid, and we may guess that the reason for this was that the invaders were out-numbered by the 'natives' and were also outclassed by them in point of civilization. The 'natives' were heirs of the Indus civilization; the invading Aryas were barbarians.

{More on the Aryan invasion of India: rig-veda.html}

This attempt to maintain a rigorous segregation of the conquerors

{p. 143} from the conquered had an effect on the internal class-structure of the dominant Aryan community itself. The Aryas, like many other peoples in many different parts of the World, were divided into three classes: warriors, priests, and commoners. These classes were hereditary among the Aryas, as among other peoples, but, after the Aryas had established themselves as the ruling caste in India, their own internal class-divisions became as ultra-rigid as the division between Aryas and 'natives'. Gradually, too, the priests (brahmins) wrested from the warriors (kshatriyas) the status of being the highest class - a tour de force, considering that wealth and political power remained in the warrior class's hands. Thus the class-division within the dominant Aryan community became as hard-set as the caste-division between the dominant community and the 'natives'; and the result was a division of Hindu society into four castes, not just two, with the priests, not the warriors, at the summit. Each of the four castes eventually split into numerous sub-castes as Hindu society enlarged itself, partly by further conquests and partly by the assimilation of 'natives' through their incorporation into one or other of the four basic castes.

Since the Aryas had originally descended upon India from the Eurasian steppe, their first foothold in India must have been in the Indus basin, and the geographical evidence of the Vedas, such as it is, seems to indicate that this was the Aryas' habitat at the time the Vedas were being composed. By the Buddha's time, the geographical heart of the Hindu World had come to be the middle section of the Jumna-Ganges basin. By the second century of the Christian Era, the Hindu World had expanded southwards in the Indian peninsula and south-eastwards into what are now South Vietnam and Indonesia. The dates of this progressiye expansion of the Hindu civilization are not recorded, but one thing is manifest: the farther this expansion went, the greater was the part played by assimilation, as opposed to conquest and colonization. The Aryas' Sanskrit language and its derivatives have never spread even over the whole of the Indian subcontinent. The Hindu civilization with its specific institutions, such as caste and the use of Sanskrit as a sacred language, has spread far more widely. When the Buddha ignored caste and challenged the belief in a soul that is identical with the ultimate reality, the Hindu civilization gave birth to a missionary religion that has captivated the whole of Eastern Asia.

{p. 155} The evidence for the invasion of South-West Asia by the Eurasian nomads in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. is contemporary, and it comes from Judahite and Greek, as well as Assyrian, sources. The

{p. 156} evidence for the Eurasian nomads' migration in other directions is posthumous. Their presence to the north of the Caspian and the Black Sea is attested by Herodotus, who wrote in the fifth century B.C.; their presence in the Indus basin is attested by the descriptions and the names of some of the peoples whom Alexander the Great encountered there in the years 327-325 B.C. Did the Eurasian nomads invade China, too, in the eighth century B.C. ?

It has already been noted that, in China, the Chou dynasty suffered a disaster in 771 B.C. In that year they were attacked by barbarians and were defeated so severely that they were constrained to move their capital eastwards from the basin of the Yellow River's tributary, the Wei, to Loyang on the eastern plain. The Wei basin is China's north-western march against barbarians beyond the pale. So long as the Chou were defending this march, they were performing a valuable service for the whole of the Chinese World. When they ceased to be marchmen, their prestige and power inevitably declined. They were followed in the Wei basin by the Ch'in, and, once agin, the performance of the marchman's service was rewarded eventually with the gaining of a dominion over the Chinese World as a whole. However, we have no evidence that the barbarians who evicted the Chou from the Wei basin in 771 B.C. were Eurasian pastoral nomads. They may have been local sedentary barbarians. The earliest evidence of direct contact between China and the Eurasian nomads seems to be the record that, in the fourth century B.C., Yen, the north-easternmost of the local Chinese states in that age, imitated the nomads by creating a cavalry force equipped in the nomad style. We have no evidence that the barbarians who defeated the Chou in 771 B.C. were a wing of the nomad cavalry that invaded South-West Asia and south-eastern Europe before the eighth century was over.

The extant accounts of the eighth-century-B.C. and seventh-century-B.C. nomad invaders of South-West Asia present them as being merely savage and destructive, and this is not surprising, considering that these records have been made by the nomads' sedentary victims. However, it is possible that, on this occasion, the nomads may have imparted to some of the sedentary peoples on whom they impinged a distinctive set of beliefs and practices.

In both the Greek World and the Indian World in the sixth century B.C. there were people who believed that death was not the end of a living being's existence. Its soul, so they held, survived to be reincarnated in another living being which might be of the same or of a lower or higher species. Whether the next reincarnation would be a promotion or a demotion would depend on the character of this soul's moral performance in previous incarnations. The number of re-births might be endless, and this was a prospect that was felt to be far more formidable than

{p. 157} any of the successive intervening deaths. For a believer in reincarnation, the objective, so far from being immortality, was to bring the series of rebirths to an end, and he believed that this could be done by living austerely as well as virtuously.

The resemblance between the Indian and the Greek form of the belief in reincarnation and its corollaries is so close that it can hardly have been fortuitous. It seems much more likely to be due to an historical connexion. The belief might have been transmitted from India to Greece or from Greece to India, or it might have been derived in both Greece and India from a source outside both regions. A possible medium of direct transmission in either direction was the Persian Empire, which was put together in the sixth century B.C. and which included both the estern fringe of India and the eastern fringe of the Greek World. The establishment of the Persian Empire was accompanied by an improvement in the means of communication within the vast area that this empire covered. However, the belief in reincarnation was not shared with the Indians and the Greeks by the Iranian {Zoroastrian} makers and masters of the Persian Empire whose homeland in the last millennium B.C. Iay between the Greek and Indian worlds. We have therefore to consider an alternative possibility. The belief in transmigration may have been derived by both the Indians and the Greeks from the Eurasian nomads who invaded their respective domains in the seventh century B.C.

In northern Asia down to the present day, there is a belief that the soul can leave the body and re-enter it. The shaman's soul re-enters the body from which it has disengaged itself; it does not enter a different body that may be of a different species. Yet the shaman's belief is the essential enabling condition for a belief in transmigration. Thus it is possible, though it is not demonstrable, that the common belief of the Greek Pythagoreans and Orphics and their Indian contemporaries may be of Eurasian nomad origin.

{But the nomads did not prize vegetarianism and permanent celibacy, which were part of the ahimsa religions in India, and Pythagoreanism in Greece and Italy. More on the connection between India and Greece: india.html}

{p. 184} THE FIRST PERSIAN EMPIRE, C. 550-330 B.C.

ASSYRIAN militarism, especially in its last and most demonic phase (745-605 B.C.), had been a tribulation for all its victims, including the Assyrians themselves. The devastation had been aggravated by a Eurasian nomad invasion. The immediate sequel to the fall of the Assyrian Empire had left the Levant politically divided and insecure. The measure of this tormented region's need for peace and order is given by the ease with which the Levant was united politically by Persian empire-builders within the quarter of a century c. 550-525 B.C. The Persian Empire gave the Levant a sorely-needed rest-cure. Its wars of conquest were less brutal than the Assyrians'; the administrative organization of the vast conquered territories was less oppressive. Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians were content to make their presence felt to the minimum degree required for making their sovereignty effective. They gave latitude to the existing local authorities; the Persian provincial governors' role was to supervise rather than take over local administration. Above all, the Persians made a point of respecting and patronizing their subjects' religions - an enlightened policy that did much to win acquiescence in Persian rule, except in the rare but embarrassing cases in which a subject community was torn by religious dissension in which it was difficult for the Persian authorities to preserve neutrality.

The Persian Imperial Government's toleration of alien religions is the more creditable and the more remarkable, considering that Darius I and at least his immediate successor Xerxes are shown, by their own inscriptions, to have embraced a religion which was akin to Zarathustra's - and militancy, not toleration, had been Zarathustra's spirit. In this spirit, Zarathustra had rejected the traditional religion of the Iranian-speaking peoples and had replaced it by a new one. Zarathustra believed that he had been commissioned to propagate this faith by the one good god, Ahura Mazda, to whom he had given his undivided allegiance. We

{p. 185} do not know how far Darius I and Xerxes committed themselves to Zarathustra's religion. They do not avow themselves to bc Zarathustra's followers; indeed they do not mention his name. The prophet himself must have been born about a century before Darius I, and his mission-field seems to have been the north-eastern part of the region inhabited by sedentary Iranian-speaking peoples (the present-day Khorasan, Soviet Central Asia, and Afghan Uzbekistan).

{Mary Boyce on the history of Zoroastrianism, and its influence on Judaism: zoroaster-judaism.html. The first books of the Bible were edited by Ezra in Babylon under the First Persian Empire: bible.html. Just as Zoroaster rejected traditional Iranian religion, so Ezra purged the Jews' older religion, which included a goddess. Ezra copied Zoroaster's militancy and intolerance, and re-worked the earlier Jewish stories to give the Bible this spirit}

This region had been annexed to the Persian Empire by Cyrus II, prohably at some date later than 539 B.C., and Darius' father was the Persian governor of Khorasan (Parthia) in 522 B.C., when Darius himself assassinated and supplanted the false or authentic Smerdis. Darius' branch of the House of Achaemenes may not have become semi-converts to Zarathustra's religion till after 539 B.C., and we do not know whether, at this stage, even a diluted form of Zoroastrianism was adopted by the Persian and the Median people as well as by the Achaemenidae. Evidently Darius I was no friend of the Magi - the Median people's hereditary priesthood, who eventually took over Zarathustra's religion in a form that might not have been acceptable to the founder.

The Persian emperors' religious, as well as their political, liberalism reconciled to Persian rule the peoples of Syria, who had resisted so strenuously first their Assyrian and then their Babylonian conquerors. In the eyes of the Phoenicians, Samaritans, and Jews, the Persians were liberators.

The incorporation of the Phoenicians in the Persian Empire gave Phoenician traders a huge continental hinterland, while, in the Mediterranean it won for them Persian support in their competition with their commercial rivals, the Greeks. The Asian Greeks had, like the Phoenicians, become Persian subjects; but they were recalcitrant subjects, whereas the Syrophoenicians played the Persians' game and won their favour. Three Syrophoenician city-states - Aradus, Tyre, and Sidon - were given miniature local empires of their own. The Phoenicians had no temptation to be disioyal to the Persians, and the Persians therefore had no fear that the colonial Phoenician city-states would try to meddle in Syria. The Persians did not try to incorporate the Libyphoenicians, as well as the Syrophoenicians, in their empire. On the contrary, they made an anti-Greek entente with Carthage when, towards the close of the sixth century B.C., the colonial Phoenician city-states formed a united front under Carthaginian command.

The Babylonian Jewish community was also the Persians' natural ally, since these expatriate Jews had not forgiven the Babylonians for having deported thcm. They were therefore a Persophile local minority and, as such, they were valuable to the Persians in a Babylonia in which the native majority of the population was irreconcilable, notwithstanding

{p. 186} Cyrus II's tactful gesture of signifying, by 'taking the hands of Bel', that he intended to respect the Babylonians' national amour propre. Cyrus II gave leave, to as many of the Jewish deportees as wished, to repatriate themselves in Judaea and to rebuild their temple at Jerusalem. Cyrus II's decree was traced in the archives at Ecbatana (Hamadan), and was then confirmed, by Darius I. Either Artaxerxes I in 445 B.C. or Artaxerxes II in 384 B.C. gave his Babylonian Jewish butler, Nehemiah, leave of absence from Susa, the Persian imperial capital, with a commission to go to Judaea and to refortify the city of Jerusalem. Both Darius I and Artaxerxes made a grant of imperial revenue and building-materials to the Jews for carrying out the public works at Jerusalem that they had authorized .

The Persian Empire was profitable for the Aramaeans as well as for the Jews and for the Phoenicians. The spread of the Aramaean script and language, which had begun under the Assyrian regime, made further progress under the Persian regime. In Syria the Canaanite (Hebrew) language was gradually supplanted by Aramaic. In Syria, Canaanite survived only as a liturgical language. As a language in everyday use it survived only in the colonial Phoenician World in the western basin of the Mediterranean. Eastward, the use of Aramaic continued to spread hand in hand with the Aramaic alphabet - a much more convenient script than the cuneiform. The Persians, like the Phoenicians at Ugarit seven or eight centuries earlier, invented an alphabet composed of characters selected from the Sumero-Akkadian repertory. Darius I, in his trilingual record of his acts on the cliff-face at Behistan, carved a Persian version in the Persian cuneiform alphabet side by side with Elamite and Akkadian versions in which the cuneiform characters were used in the traditional clumsy Sumerian way. However, the Persian cuneiform alphabet had the same fate as the Ugaritic. It failed to hold its own against an alphabet stemming from the one, composed of simpler and plainer letters, that had become current in Phoenicia at an early date in the last millennium B.C. By 330 B.C. most of the Persian Empire's official papers were being written in the Aramaic language and script; but these documents were probably being read in Persian - the group of letters composing an Aramaic word being pronounced as if it were the Aramaic word's Persian equivalent.

Thus the principal Syrian peoples were content to be Persian subjects. The Persians' kinsmen, the Medes, were less happy, as they showed by revolting in 522 B.C. They remembered that they themselves had formerly been an imperial people, and that the Persians had been their vassals. Hovvever, in spite of their revolt, the Persians re-admitted the Medes to partnership in a Medo-Persian Empire that was greater and grander than the former Median Empire. The Elamites were probably

{p. 187} flattered by the promotion of their national capital, Susa, to the status of an imperial capital. The north-eastern Iranian-speaking peoples demonstrated their attachment to the Persian Empire when, after its fall, they maintained a three-year resistance-movement against the Persians' Macedonian Greek conquerors. The eastern nomad Skyths (the pointed-hood Sakas), who had resisted Cyrus II, seem to have become loyal to the Persian Empire after they had been subdued by Darius I. In Xerxes' campaign in European Greece in 480 B.C., they were given posts of trust, and in 330-328 B.C. they assisted their sedentary neighbours in their resistance to Alexander the Great.

Three subject peoples, however, proved irreconcilable to Persian rule, namely the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Asian Greeks. The Babylonians revolted not once, but twice, in the critical year 522 B.C. They revolted again in 484 B.C., but, this time, the Persians repressed the revolt so crushingly that, from then onwards, the Babylonians lay low till they were eventually liberated by Alexander. The Persians could not afford to let Babylonia escape from their control. Babylonia was the granary and the workshop of the Persian Empire, and it was also the central node of the Empire's internal network of overland communications. On the other hand, the occupation of Egypt was superfluous for the Persian Empire, as it had been for its Assyrian predecessor; Egypt was even farther from Fars than it was from Assyria; and, in revolting against a continental Asian master, Egypt could count on receiving support from the Greeks by sea. Though Egypt had lain low in 522 B.C., she revolted before the end of Darius I's reign; she was independent again from 464 to 455 B.C., and, once more, from 404 or 395 to 343 B.C. Egypt was then reconquered by the Persians only a dozen years before the Persian Empire itselfwas overthrown.

Even if all the subjects of the Persian Empire had been as loyal to it as were the Phoenicians and the Jews, its sheer size would have made communications a pressing problem for the Imperial Government. Overland communications were speeded up by the building of trunk roads and the provision of relays of horses for governmental despatch-riders, but Darius I saw that he must also try to link his empire's extremities by water. He sent a Carian seaman, Scylax, from the eastern-most province of the Empire to the nearest navigable waterway in the Indus basin, with instructions to make for the Red Sea coast of Egypt via the Indus River and the Indian Ocean. When Scylax duly accomplished his mission, Darius annexed the Indus basin; and either after this, or in anticipation of it, he finished cutting the canal that Pharaoh Necho II had started to cut from the easternmost arm of the Nile delta to the head of the Gulf of Suez. Xerxes tried to repeat Necho II's feat of circumnavigating Africa. But Xerxes' squadron, which set out, not from

{p. 188} the Red Sea, but from the Mediterranean, turned back, and Darius' and Xerxes' oceanic-mindedness was not inherited by their successors.

The First Persian Empire was short-lived, but its policy of religious toleration had an enduring effect. This policy confirmed the tendency towards syncretism that had already been stimulated by the Assyrian and Babylonian policy of deportation. A conqueror could deport a conquered country's human 'establishment', but not its gods. The remaining native peasantry would continue to worship them, and alien incomers would have to reckon with them. The cult of Yahweh at Bethel, the principal religious shrine of the extinct Kingdom of Israel, was carried eastward into Babylonia and southward to Elephantine, the frontier fortress at the foot of the First Cataract of the Nile, where, in the fifth century B.C., the gods Eshem Bethel and Anath Bethel were worshipped, side by side with Yahweh, by a Jewish garrison in the Persian service, recruited from descendants of the Judahites who had taken refuge in Egypt to escape being deported to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar.

The Jewish community at Elephantine was in friendly correspondence with Sanballat, the headman ofthe Samaria district, in which Jerusalem was included under the Persian regime before Nehemiah's mission. Sanballat was the descendant of a Babylonian deportee, to judge by his name (Sinuballit); but, to judge by his sons' names (Delaiah and Shelemaiah), he and they were Yahweh-worshippers, not Moon-worshippers. (The present-day Samaritans are strictly monotheistic Yahweh-worshippers who do not accept as canonical any of the written scriptures beyond the Pentateuch, and do not admit the existence of any unwritten scriptures.) However, Sanballat came into conflict with Nehemiah when this representative of the Babylonian Jewish community arrived at Jerusalem with a commission from the Persian Emperor.

The Persians were impartially well-disposed to the Babylonian, Elephantinian, and Samaritan Yahweh-worshippers, but, by Nehemiah's and Ezra's time, the Babylonian Jews had a programme of religious and social apartheid from all other communities, and they succeeded in imposing this programme on the Judaean am-ha-aretz ('the people of the land', i.e. the peasantry who had not been uprooted). The intermingling of populations and religions had been followed by intermarriage - especially among the leading families, whose range of social relations was wider than the peasants' range. Intermarriage had been having the humanizing effect of breaking down the social barriers between communities, after these had paid for their traditional hostility to each other by forfeiting their independence. Nehemiah and Ezra forbade intermarriage, and they excommunicated those members of the Judaean Jewish community who had committed what, in Babylonian Jewish eyes, was a heinous offence.

{Zoroastrians are also forbidden to intermarry; it's likely that Ezra's strictures were derived thence}

{p. 189} By Nehemiah's and Ezra's time, the descendants of the Jewish deportees in Babylonia had succeeded in preserving their own communal identity for at least 150 years, and for 200 years if their patron Artaxerxes was the second, not the first, Achaemenian Persian emperor who bore that name. This had been a remarkable tour de force; this one batch of deportees had succeeded in swimming against the tide that, in the Levant, had been setting so strongly towards a transcenence of traditional tribalism and a recognition of the brotherhood of man. The Jewish deportees in Babylonia had successfully resisted this tendency among themselves, and they had now reversed it in Judaea too, but this at the cost of reviving the traditional hostility between the Judaean Jews and their neighbours - including those neighbours who, like the Judaean and the Babylonian Jews, were Yahweh-worshippers.

How had the Babylonian Jews managed to preserve their separate communal identity under the adverse conditions of exile? They had achieved this unique result by creating a unique institution, the synagogue. King Josiah had made it an article of Judahite faith that the liturgical worship of Yahweh could not be performed legitimately anywhere except in the temple at Jerusalem. The destruction of the temple there and the deportation to Babylonia of the Judahite 'establishment' had deprived the hereditary priests of their role, pending the rebuilding Of the temple and the re-inauguration of the liturgy in it. The synagogue was the new institution that filled this vacuum, and, but for this new insitution, the descendants of the 4,600 Judahite deportees in Babylonia might have lost their corporate identity as irretrievably as the descendants of the 27,290 Israelite deportees in Media. The synagogue was a weekly meeting - eventually held in a permanent meeting-house - in which the deportees' portable possessions (the books of the Law (Torah) and of the Prophets) were read and discussed. Hezekiah's and Josiah's innovations which had been revolutionary before the deportation, became orthodox after the event. The Torah was now scrupulously observed, and the Prophets were posthumously honoured, by the deportees and their descendants, and this sovereign prescription for the preservation of the Babylonian Jewish community's corporate identity, which had worked wonders in Babylonia itself, was now imposed on the Jewish community in Judaea with the Persian Imperial Government's acquiescence.

In enabling Nehemiah and Ezra to do their decisive work, the Persian Imperial Government was unwittingly reversing its own general policy of toleration. This exceptional complaisance with a breach of one of the most important of the Persian Government's own rule was a negative act of state. It is one of the ironies of history that this negative act was fraught with more momentous consequences than any positive act to which the Persian Government ever committed itself.

{p. 293} Shiva has the moral ambivalence of the primordial images of the Weather and the Vegetation and the Mother. He can be destructive as well as creative; he has never become incarnate; and his human devotees are at the mercy of his caprice. Shiva

{p. 294} is the spiritual reality ander pow {should be "and power"} behind the totality of Nature. He is not particularly concerned for Man's welfare; but Man has to take Shiva as he finds him, since Man himself is a part of the Nature that Shiva represents.

In Iran Zarathustra's militant monotheism had missed fire. His revolutionary religion had been captured by the hereditary Iranian priesthood, the Magi, as in India the devotional worships of Vishnu and Shiva were captured by the Brahmins. In Iran after Zarathustra's death, as in Pharaonic Egypt after Akhenaton's death, polytheism revived in response to a continuing hunger for it. Ahura Mazda's spiritual attributes became so many goddesses in their own right. Moreover, Anahita, a cherished pre-Zoroastrian water-goddess, succeeded in re-instating herself. These were steps towards the transformation of Zoroastrianism into an emotional religion; but these first steps were not followed up, and even the adulterated Zoroastrianism of the Magi never fully won the Iranians' hearts.

The Levant, even including the Tigris-Euphrates basin, is no larger in area than either India or China, but, in the age before this area was united politically in the Persian, and eventually in the Roman, Empire, the Levant was far less homogeneous on the cultural plane than either the Indian or the Chinese subcontinent. This relatively small region to the west of Iran housed no fewer than five civilizations: the Sumero-Akkadian, the Pharaonic Egyptian, the Syrian, the Anatolian, the Hellenic. Moreover, these five civilizations, in spite of the closeness of their juxtaposition to each other, were not merely separate; they were strikingly different from each other both in their outward style and in their inner spirit. Their interplay was therefore lively when the experience of a time of troubles created the demand for a religion that would be emotionally satisfying. The interplay was stimulated by the conspicuous spiritual poverty of one of the five regional civilizations, namely the Hellenic. It is true that the post-Alexandrine Hellenic World was not so poor in indigenous spiritual resources as contemporary China. In the new age that was inaugurated in the Levant by Alexander's invasion of the Persian Empire in 334 B.C., at least two major Hellenic religions still retained their vitality: the Eleusinian mysteries and the worship of Dionysos. The Eleusinian Demeter was Mother Earth; her daughter the Girl (Kore) was the Seed that dies and is buried and comes to life again. Initiation into the mysteries guaranteed everlasting bliss, after death, in a paradisiacal Other World. Dionysos was the Hellenic counterpart of Shiva. He was the capricious moral ambivalence of Nature. In the post- Alexandrine Age of Hellenic history, the Eleusinian mysteries survived, and the worship of Dionysos achieved a positive revival.

{Alain Danielou on Dionysius as Shiva: danielou-paglia.html}

At the same time, private life asserted its claims against the demands

{p. 295} of public service, and both the Eleusinian mysteries and the worship of Dionysos catered for the spiritual needs of human beings, regardless of whether their customers happened to be citizens or aliens, free persons or slaves, males or females. There was, of course, a public cult of Dionysos at Athens; the Attic drama was one part of this. The Eleusinian mysteries, too, were under the Athenian city-states' wing; but Eleusis itself was not, like Athens, a sovereign city-state. It was a holy city that happened to lie in the Athenian state's territory; and, as a non-political holy city, Elceusis was accessible to any human being. As for the worship of Dionysos, its revival in the post-Alexandrine Age was an achievement of private religious enterprise, catering for personal spiritual needs. The agents of the Dionysiac revival that spread through the vastly expanded post-Alexandrine Hellenic World were not governments; they were private congregations (thiasoi); and the popularity of this wild religion when it became a private affair put some governments in a quandary. Ptolemy IV (ruled 221-203 B.C.), the most eminent politically of the post-Alexandrine Bacchants, required the Bacchic thiasoi in his dominions to register. The Roman Government crushed the Bacchic thiasoi in Italy in 185-181 B.C.

In the Levant after Alexander's overthrow of the Persian Empire, and round the whole perimeter of the Mediterranean after its political unification in the Roman Empire, there was a competition between rival religions for the prize of becoming the universal religion of the region as a whole. This competition was won by Christianity by a method that had been foreshadowed in Pharaonic Egyptian theology. The Egyptians believed that, when a Pharaoh died, one of his souls, his detachable soul, ascended into Heaven and there devoured the other gods whom the newcomer found in occupation. By devouring these rival gods, Pharaoh appropriated their powers. Christianity appropriated the powers of its competitors by emulating an ascending Pharaoh's mythical performance. Christianity devoured Syrian, Egyptian, Anatolian, and Hellenic gods and goddesses and thereby made their powers her own.

In the competition for capturing the role of the Mother, at least five candidates presented themselves. These were Egyptian Isis, Phrygian Cybele, Ephesian Artemis, Eleusinian Demeter, and a goddess incarnate ln Mary, the wife of a Galilaean Jewish carpenter. Mary won by assuming the character, image, and attributes of a Hellenized Isis. In 204 B.C. the Roman Government had relieved the anguish of the Hannibalic War by importing Cybele from Pessinus, or perhaps from Pergamon, in her native form of a black stone served by eunuch priests. When the anguish abated this rashly invited Phrygian guest was insulated at Rome as far as was practicable. On the other hand, Isis had been Hellenized as a radiant counterpart of Demeter before she had become sea-borne

{p. 296} (pelagia), and in this guise Isis had made a triumphant conquest of the Roman Empire.

{p. 300} Christianity started as one among a number of sects within Judaism. The Judaeo-Christians, who were the original Christians, believed, no doubt, that Jesus had come to life again after having been put to death. Whatever may have been the experiences that gave rise to this belief among Jesus's followers, the belief itself was unquestionably sincere, and being sincere, it was exhilarating. This accounts for Christianity's recovery from the disillusionment that had been the Christians' first reaction to Jesus's crucifixion. The Judaeo-Christians can hardly have believed that the man - their fellow Jew - who had risen from the dead was the son of God in any but a figurative sense; for, if they had believed this, they could not have stayed within the Jewish fold, and they did stay within it till they died out.

An astonishing feat - performed by a Judaeo-Christian, Paul - is the extrication from Judaism of a non-Jewish Christianity to which non-Jews were free to adhere without having to commit themselves to the observance of the Jewish law. It is equally astonishing that this ex-Jewish Christianity succeeded eventually in converting all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire except the Jews themselves and the Jews' strict fellow-Yahwists the Samaritans.

Pauline Christianity had got the better of rival regional religions of non-Jewish origin by absorbing them, at the price of diluting the monotheism that Christianity had inherited from Judaism. In Pauline Christianity, as in Magian Zoroastrianism, the attributes of a Sole True God - in this case, Yahweh's Word and Yahweh's Spirit - were raised to the status of co-equal facets of the godhead. Jesus became God Incarnate in the same sense as Pharaoh and Caesar and Rama and Krishna. As the 'Mother of God', Jesus's human mother became in effect a goddess.

The Christian Church also derived strength from the efficiency of its organization. The rival Levantine religions, like the Buddhist monastic order, had no central organization. The local congregations that adhered to these other religions were administratively independent of each other; all that they had in common was an identical doctrine and ritual. Christianity, too, had its local congregations. These coincided geographically with the Roman Empire's city-state cells. But Christianity copied the Roman Empire to the further extent of subordinating its local cells to an ecclesiastical hierarchy on an imperial scale; and this organizational achievement was unique. The extinct secular empires of Alexander's successors Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus were resuscitated in the form of Christian ecclesiastical patriarchates, and the Patriarch of Rome ('the Pope') was recognized by his eastern colleagues

{p. 301} as being primus inter pares, though they did not accept the Pope's claim to have been invested with a supremacy and an autocratic authority over the whole of the Catholic Christian Church outside the Roman-Patriarchate's geographical limits.

The metamorphosis of a Jewish sect into the ecumenical Christian Church is indeed astonishing; but so, too, is the metamorphosis of the Indian Theravadin Buddhist philosophy into the ecumenical Mahayanian Buddhist religion. The strength of the Mahayana as a missionary religion lay in its devotees' willingness to come to terms with the pre-existing religions of the areas that the Mahayanian missionaries evangelized. The Mahayana was not inhibited by anything in its Theravadin Buddhist past from being frankly tolerant and from overtly aiming, not at conquest, but at symbiosis. On the other hand, Christianity's Jewish past was a handicap for Christian theologians and missionaries. Christianity could not bring itself to live and let live; it had either to destroy its rivals or to absorb them; and it would absorb them only in so far as it could do this covertly. Yet Christianity absorbed far more than it destroyed. In fact, its method of propagating itself was more Mahayana-like than its official representatives could afford to admit.

The rise and spread of the Mahayana and of Christianity gave a new turn to mankind's history. The Old-World Oikoumene was the theatre of these dramatic events, but the eventual effect of them has been global.

{p. 328} Justinian's lasting achievements were in the fields of law and architecture. Between 529 and 533 Justinian I's jurists reduced to manageable compass (though not to rational order) not only the Roman laws that had been enacted, but also the far greater mass of legal opinions that had been rendered, in the course of the previous miliennium. In architecture Justinian did not make a revolution, but he confirmed and consecrated one by commissioning two men of genius, the mathematician-engineers Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus, to design and build a masterpiece, the Church of the Ayia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople.

The original standard shape for a building in the Hellenic World had been the megaron, an oblong rectangular house with a gable roof. Embellished with external columns, either at the front end only or on all sides, this had served as the design for the temples of pre-Christian Greek, Etruscan, and Roman gods and goddesses. With the columns transferred from the exterior to the interior, the megaron had become the basilica in the post-Alexandrine Age, and the basilica had been designed for secular uses before it had become the standard model for a Christian Church. But, in the second century A.D. in Italy, the invention of a new kind of cement had provided the technical means for constructing a round building surmounted by a shallow dome. The pioneer building in this style is the Emperor Hadrian's Pantheon in Rome. In the Church of St. Vitalis at Ravenna, which uas completed by Justinian I and his consort Theodora, and in the Church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus at Constantinople, which was built by them, a dome is superposed on an octagonal base - a plan that sets the architect a difficult problem. In the Church of the Ayia Sophia the dome is supported on four piers, delimiting a square.

The Ayia Sophia at Constantinople can confront the Parthenon at

{p. 329} Athens with confidence. Ictinus' art is less subtle than that of Anthemius and Isidore. In the megaron the predominant features are perfectly vertical and horizontal lines, and perfectly even surfaces, and the columns are perfect cylinders. But there are no perfect geometrical figures in Nature: such figures (either genuine or apparent) are devised and constructed by human minds and are imposed by human hands on Man's non-human environment. In a Byzantine church in the style of the Ayia Sophia, the predominant features are domes and semi-domes that reproduce the curves of living bodies. They seek, not to dominate Nature, but to achieve a harmony with her. A Byzantine church would be more pleasing than an Hellenic temple to a Taoist Chinese philosopher's eye.

{Is Toynbee something of a Taoist himself?}

The Hellenic Greeks did not disdain natural curves. They were supreme masters of the naturalistic representation of the human body, and the curve is the beauty of Hellenic vases in all their successive styles, from the Protogeometric style onwards. The Hellenic Greeks also knew how to introduce nicely calculated curves into their buildings, but here the curves were designed to give the optical illusion of perfect straightness. The Byzantine architects put their treasure, not in apparently straight lines, but in curves akin to those that were congenial to Hellenic sculptors and potters, but not to Hellenic architects.

Justinian I's Ayia Sophia still stands, and his Corpus luris has inspired codes of law that are still in force; but his ephemeral western conquests brought to the ground, only thirty-seven years after his death, the Empire that his prudent predecessors had carried safely through the storms of the fifth century. In 550, before the end of Justinian's long-drawn-out war of attrition with the Ostrogoths, troops levied in his native Vlakh country for service in Italy had, en route, to repulse raiders from the north bank of the Danube. When, during the Romano-Persian war of 572-91, the East Roman Army was concentrated in Asia on the Empire's eastern front, Avars and Slavs raided the Empire's Balkan provinces unopposed. During the still more agonizing Romano-Persian war of 604-28, the Slavs returned and, this time, they stayed.

The East Roman Empire's Sasanian Persian counterpart was afflicted with the evils that the East Roman Empire avoided or combated, while the same evils had been the death of the West Roman Empire in the fifth century. In the Sasanian Empire, as in its predecessor the Arsacid Empire, high office was not merely monopolized by the grandees; particular offices were the hereditary perquisites of particular noble families. Moreover, the Zoroastrian Church was as powerful in the Sasanian Persian Empire as the Christian Church was in the Constantinian and Theodosian Roman Empire ...

{end Toynbee quotes}

Cyrus H. Gordon on the East Mediterranean Culture Common to Greek and Hebrew Civilisations; Phoenician/Babylonian influence on the Greeks: gordon.html.

Arnold J. Toynbee says that before Ezra (& Persian influence during Babylon exile), Judaism was polytheistic: toynbee.html.

Arnold J. Toynbee's foreword to Robert John's book The Palestine Diary: balfour.html.

Toynbee on Trotsky and the Bolshevik Revolution: toynbee2.html.

Write to me at contact.html.