History summary ancient civilization




History summary ancient civilization


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History summary ancient civilization


Background to Civilization -- the development of homo sapiens sapiens before the Neolithic Revolution.  Our species emerges in about 100,000 BCE, probably in East Africa, competes with Neanderthals, eliminates them; humans live in small communities where life is uncertain but simple and relatively egalitarian.  This is to change with the Neolithic Revolution.
The Neolithic (Agricultural) Revolution, c. 8000 BCE -- the beginning trappings of civilization, e.g., a            

technological revolution (pottery, bronze tools, the wheel, etc.) in which humans settled down, began to live in cities, and invented agriculture and animal husbandry.  Occurred in the Ancient Near East and spread to other areas..
What are the ingredients of 'civilization?'  Urban (importance of commercial centers, capitals and administrative centers), complex and stratified (advanced division of labor leads to radical inequality among the sexes and classes), literate (starts off as record-keeping and then used in religion), things of the mind and spirit, including painting, sculpture, monumental architecture, epic poetry, etc.


Development of Civilization in Mesopotamia

            Why did it happen in Mesopotamia,/Sumer?  All the early civilizations occurred in river valleys -- water, transportation, fertile ground, long growing season.  Obviously requires organization to put the water to good use.
Began with Sumerian city-states, which fell to Semitic (Akkadian) invaders after a few centuries.  The perils of disunity; the nomads enter the civilized areas.  Hammurabi the most famous of all Semitic kings, largely because of his law code.  Living around 1700 BCE, his capital was at Babylon.
Mesopotamia was literate -- cuneiform: wedge-shaped characters on clay tablets which after a while are baked to make them last longer.  A pictographic writing system (similar in principle to the Chinese, but unlike the phonetic Phoenician system).  Used in the beginning for record keeping, but soon turned to religious and literary purposes.  The cuneiform system was used by successive nations in this period to express their language.
The famous code of Hammurabi was found on a stele by 19th century archeologists.  Hammurabi protested much that he sought to protect the weak and the poor as well as the rich and powerful.
Mesopotamian society was hierarchic with three castes and great inequalities.  There was a significant mercantile establishment that conducted trade with other parts of the Near East.  Agriculture was the main economic activity.  The legal code showed some signs of humanitarian fairness (e.g., the prevalence of fines instead of harsher punishments), but was basically harsh, employing the 'eye-for-an-eye' principle.  Women were primarily domestic creatures and second-class citizens, but the Code of Hammurabi does discuss their rights extensively and gives them some guarantees.
Religion is the rather typical anthropomorphic polytheism of the ancient world; the main gods stood mainly for big natural forces.  Mesopotamian religion is quite pessimistic, perhaps reflecting the warfare and natural disasters common to the region (compare the much more favorable climacitc conditions in Egypt).  In the Flood Story from Gilgamesh Enlil sends the waters because earth people are making so much noise that he can't sleep at night (compare to Bible where God is angry at the Hebrews because they have misbehaved ethically and broken the covenant).  In "Lament for Ur" Enlil sends disasters to oppress Ur, but with no indication of why; the text says that he "hates" Ur.  There is no, or little, idea of an afterlife: in the epic Gilgamesh seeks eternal life, but is finally told that there is no such thing.  Death is dark, dank, inert; if there is some survival after death, it appears it would be better to be dead.


The Ancient Civilization of Egypt

Brief discussion of the NOVA website on the Internet.  The author argues that the pyramids were built by native Egyptians using their own labor, architects and technology; it is not necessary to posit unknown civilizations, etc. that mysteriously constructed these great monuments.  The author has also discovered the remnants of bakeries and fish-processing plants that prepared "loaves and fishes" for the Egyptian laborers drafted to work on the pyramids.
Egyptian geography was kind to Egypt.  The gentle flooding of the Nile brought water and nutrients to the soil on an annual predictable schedule.  Enormous amounts of warm weather and sunshine making for a long growing season. The Nile was an effective superhighway uniting Upper and Lower Egypt; a boat's progress upstream (south) enabled by northerly winds. Egypt was relatively isolated from exterior threats thus contributing to the famous stability and continuity of Egyptian civilization.
The rough chronology of Egyptian history: 1) the Old Kingdom in the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE; 2) the Middle Kingdom in the first part of the 2nd millennium BCE; 3) the New Kingdom in the second part of the 2nd millennium BCE; 4) various periods of foreign domination culminating in the Hellenistic Ptolemies and Cleopatra. The Romans take over in the first century BCE, followed by the Arabs in the 7th century CE.
The Old Kingdom is the classical period of Egyptian history.  The pharaoh reigned supreme over the land; he was a god himself and the key to a good relationship with the major gods.  Egypt was administered by an effective bureaucracy (look at the pyramids!), was primarily an agricultural economy, and was a hierarchical society with the bulk of the population being serfs under the rule of their landlords and who owed labor service to the state.  Egypt's form of writing was hieroglyphics that was used first for religious incantations but evolved into a general writing system.  Like cuneiform it was originally pictographic.  Modern archeologists were first able to decipher old hieroglyphics with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by French archeologists in Egypt in 1799.  Later versions of Egyptian writing, known as hieratic and then demotic, usually appeared on papyrus rolls.

Ancient Egyptian religion was, like Mesopotamia's, polytheistic.  Re, the sun disc, was the chief god.  The story of Isis and Osiris points out 1) the presence of romantic relations between the sexes in Egyptian society, and 2) a pervasive search for immortality in this culture.  Osiris becomes the god of the Underworld after his "resurrection" by his wife.  The cult of Isis becomes very popular in the Roman Empire, and is perhaps a transition to adherence to Christianity.
In the Old Kingdom the pharaoh and the very rich were able to attain eternal life by going through elaborate funerary and burial rituals so as to identify themselves with Osiris.  This was particularly important for the pharaoh since Egypt needed an advocate in the afterlife.  Mummi-fication, incantations, amulets, scarabs, wall paintings, etc. were all important to achieve eternal life.  The mummy must be preserved since the spiritual ka must have a physical one to reside in in the afterlife; the mummy should also physically resemble the dead person, and preferably wall paintings should include the facial features of the dead.  The funeral chamber should be equipped with wall paintings and other artworks that provide the deceased with the necessities and pleasures of life; suitable prayers and incantations should be said to ease the deceased's passage to the afterlife.  Security of the burial chamber was of course indispensable; grave robbers were common even in ancient Egypt.
There was little ethical content to the Old Kingdom formula for eternity, but in the New Kingdom good behavior was considered indispensable: souls recently died appeared before the Judge of the Dead and established that they had been morally good in their lifetimes.
Egyptian sculpture was very famous and influential. It had elements of realism, but the formulaic, stylized characteristics stand out.  The statue of Menkaure and his wife is stiff, formal and frozen (unlike "natural" Greek sculpture).  The iconography of painted subjects often included three simultaneous views in one depiction of a human subject, presumably to facilitate the ka's recognizing the person.

The New Kingdom was a time of change, at least more than usual in Egyptian history.  Famous rulers include Hathshepsut (Egypt's only queen and the builder of a spectacular funerary temple not far from the Valley of the Kings), and Ramses II, the great conqueror of the 13th century BCE.  Major changes:
1) Egypt acquired an Empire, all the way from Syria and Palestine and up the Nile River to Nubia.  New military technology (bronze and wheeled chariots) is introduced.  It is in this period that the Hebrews are brought as slaves to Egypt.
2) The power of the priest caste is greater than in the Old Kingdom, as witnessed by the great temple complexes at Thebes and Luxor (these were not burial chambers, but specialized buildings for the worship of the gods).  Pharaohs and others abandon the pyramids as too expensive and insecure, and instead bury (using more or less the same rites) in underground chambers carved in the cliffs of the Valley of the Kings.
3) Akhnaton tries religion experiment in the 14th century BCE -- worship of the sun disc (Aton), who is essentially the only God.  An interesting experiment in monotheism that did not outlast the life of the pharaoh; the old rites and priests were restored under the reign of his successor, Tutankhamon, famous mainly because of the "good" fortune of having his tomb discovered and raided by the English archeologist Carter in the 1920's.


Ancient Civilization in India

Be familiar with the essential geography of India: its extent; the Ganges and Indus Valleys; the Deccan Plateau, the island of Sri Lanka; the monsoon climactic pattern in East India; India as unified more as social and cultural whole rather than politically; the present-day religious divisions of India.
The enigma of the Harappan Civilization in the Indus Valley: passed through the Agricultural Revolution about 6500 BCE, and then to civilization by the 3rc millennium BCE.  Western archeologists did not discover any remains until the 1920's.  The civilization seems in many ways similar to Sumer.  Agricultural economy, walled cities, autonomous city-states that traded and probably warred among themselves.  Two major cities -- Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. 
Harappa apparently went though a period of decay in the 2nd millennium BCE, and was progressively overrun by the Aryans, a subgroup of the Indo-European tribes (origins around the Black Sea) who migrated to areas such as Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Greece in this period. The Aryans were relatively light-skinned and established themselves as a kind of elite over the dark-skinned native peoples, sometimes called Dravidians (descended from the Harappans?).  The peoples of southern India remained more dark-skinned.  The Aryans brought their chiefs (rajas) who often coalesced larger political units under maharajas.  They brought iron implements and turned the Ganges Valley into one of the great fertile regions of world agriculture.
The true Aryans had very little to do with the Aryan racial theories advanced by Nazis and other European and North Americann racists in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Mauryan Empire was created by Chandragupta Maurya at the end of the 3rd century BCE.  It was quite despotic in structure with a large army and bureaucracy.  The Mauryans followed the Hindu practice of ruling benevolently in the interests of their people.  Most of the information we have about his reign comes from the Greek writer Megasthenes.  The Greeks love to investigate and write!
The caste system in ancient India is a particularly rigid version of ancient hierarchical societies.  Much of it is based on color distinctions between upper caste Aryans and lower caste Dravidians.  The four main castes (brahmins, kshatriya, vaisya, sudras, and untouchables, the last of which is not really part of the caste system) are rigorously separated, not eating together, not intermarrying, performing assigned economic functions, etc.  The Untouchables perform the worst jobs and are true outcasts. (In the 20th century Mohandas Gandhi campaigned against the caste system.  Discrimination against the untouchables was outlawed by the 1946 Indian constitution.)
Women had a particularly low status in Ancient India (always considered minors, cannot own property, etc.).  Note the tradition of the sati where women are expected to sacrifice themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.  Codified by the Law of Manu.

The Ramayana provides opportunity for class discussion.  The discussion focused on four topics. 1) Rama as the "typical" Indian hero.  He was a great warrior, but also had important civilian virtues such as conscientiousness, concern for the well-being of his subjects, fidelity to his word, a certain amount of prudence....  He does make some mistakes (carelessly allowing Sita to be kidnapped, unjustly accusing Sita of infidelity, etc.), but they are always corrected, and he appears to learn from them.  2) Divine and mortal in the world of Indian myth.  The two are thoroughly mixed (contrast with modern secular assumptions of western society).  The world in peopled with devils.  Human and divine natures are often mixed as in the case of Rama (avatar of Vishnu) and Sita.  Combat takes place with supernatural weapons, incantations, mantras, etc.  If someone appears to you, you always ask the question of whether it is a supernatural illusion.      3) The status of women.  In general women should remain in the private sphere, stay at home.  They are powerful because of their influence over men (men don't resist female beauty); they are dangerous because of their willfulness and must be resisted.  Many of the bad decisions made by men in the story are because of the influence of women such as Kaikeyi and Soorpanaka (she is an asura).  Sita is the ideal of the woman, beautiful, sensible, restrained, virtuous, domestic and faithful.  4) Every person in the story is subject to dharma, his duty, his own moral code (which in Hindu tradition can vary from caste to caste).  The story is fascinated with moral debate of which there are several; characters stop fairly often to discuss what is right, wrong or proper; no one seems to have any compunction about speaking out on important subjects, e.g., whether it was proper for Rama to have killed Vali.  The story is a strong melodrama -- the good guys are clearly separated from the bad guys, and the former win in the long run; the story has a happy ending; even the evil characters tend to repent from their evil ways when they are dying.

Indian Religion has had a particularly powerful impact on the world.  Yoga, vegetarianism, and Zen Buddhism are quite popular in contemporary USA.
Hinduism is the original religion that grew out of the experience following the Aryan invasion.  Its classic texts are the Vedas and the Upanishads.  There was a great reform flux in Hinduism about the time of Siddhartha (6th century BCE).  It is very complex and constantly changing shape (e.g., just who are the chief gods in the Indian pantheon?).  It is polytheistic, the main gods often being Brahman (creation), Vishnu (preserver), and Siva (destroyer).  It has two sets of practices for ordinary Indians; 1) the way of sacrifice: accept success and comfort in the world and satisfy the gods with animal and other sacrifices; the priests are very important for knowing what you need to do to attain salvation; 2) asceticism, kind of the opposite extreme: deny oneself all pleasure of life -- sex, meat, comfort, etc., even some forms of self-mutilation.  Mostly brahmins are active here.  Modern-day yoga comes out of asceticism, although self-mutilation was not the norm among ascetics.
Hinduism believes in reincarnation, i.e., the individual soul (atman) may move up the ladder of creation to final fulfillment, union with Brahman.  The scale more or less corresponds to the different ranks of the caste system, with animals listed below (the most exalted animal is the cow).  At each level the individual has a dharma that is peculiar to that stage; you accumulate karma while alive; if you have good karma, you may move on to the next stage through (apparent) death and reincarnation.  You eventually escape from the world to union in a "dreamless sleep" with Brahman.  It may however take a long time!
Buddhism.  Siddhartha Gautama, "The Buddha" founded this "religion," although he probably did not mean to found a new religion.  He was dissatisfied with Hinduism, which he found too complex, too hierarchical, and too extreme.  After living lives of secular enjoyment and then of extreme asceticism, he experienced "enlightenment" as a young man under a bo tree.  Buddhism is probably best seen as reformed Hinduism (admittedly a rather radical one).  Buddha accepted the Hindu ideas of karma, reincarnation and fulfillment, which he called nirvana.  Nirvana would bring peace and serenity as individuals renounced their individuality and dependence on material things.  He denied the objective existence of the individual soul, and proclaimed the individual and the material world an illusion; reality was spirit.  In his Benares Sermon, he proclaimed the Four Noble Truths and the Middle Way, in which he opted for a more consistent, simpler and egalitarian religious way: as an ethic he preached renunciation without self-mutilation.  Buddha did not claim to be God, but in later centuries, many of his followers did state that he was a worldly manifestation of the World Spirit.

The spread of Buddhism was sure and persistent, although sometimes slow.  The Mauryan king Asoka, after spending his earlier years fighting, converted to Buddhism; thereafter, he ruled in a more public-spirited manner, and promoted Buddhism (missionaries and monasteries) throughout India.  He renounced public violence, and proclaimed tolerance in his reign; all "conquests" were to be made by persuasion.  He erected inscribed pillars throughout his domains to explain his values.  His son carried the religion to Sri Lanka.  Buddhism later spread to Asia: first to Southeast Asia (Thailand and Myanmar), and then over the Silk Road to China, where it became the quintessential Chinese religion.  From China it continued to Korea and Japan, and later to Indochina.  Buddhism became enrooted in India, but was never practiced by more than a small minority of the Indian population.
The Mauryan Empire split up shortly after the death of Asoka, and India returned to a 500-year period of political disunity.


Ancient China

The oldest continuous civilization (contrast with the instability of the West), although it originated at least a millennium after the older civilizations.
The geography of ancient China.  Civilization originated first on the Yellow River, later spreading to the Yangtze River Valley under the Zhou Dynasty.  China is relatively isolated from the rest of the world.
The mythology of the founding of China: the gifts brought by the gods Fu Xi, Shen Nung and Huang Ti.
The Shang Dynasty (c. 1700 BCE - 1100 BCE).  Grew up in North China.  Some speculation by archeologists that the civilization might be influenced by Indo-European invaders, whose remains have been discovered recently in Xinjiang Province.  Governance was largely feudal (aristocratic) in this period.  Contrast the tradition of bureaucratic central rule (typical of most phases of Chinese history) and a feudal system (government by personal relationship), which is much less effective as central government.  The Shang known for their bronzes.
Overthrown around 1100 BCE by the Zhou Dynasty: a bigger state that embraces the Yangtze Valley and which decreases the power of the nobility.  The state is more centralized, and the Emperor is thought to rule with the "Mandate of Heaven," (Tian Ming) by which he has responsibility to implement the laws of the universe in China.  If the Emperor doesn't do a good job, he is subject to being overthrown and replaced by a ruler who will do better.  The last phase of the Zhou was characterized by internal conflict, "The Era of the Warring States."  The economy was prosperous: development of a merchant class (closely supervised by the state) that exported silk products along the Silk Road; invention of coinage; technological innovations such as iron plowshares and natural fertilizer; a strong tradition of public works, especially to control flooding along the rivers and to provide irrigation water.
About this time the Chinese develop their ideographic and pictographic language that soon has thousands of characters.  Chinese never evolves into a phonetic system, partly because of the beauty of Chinese writing (calligraphy), but mainly because the written language is an important unifying force in China.  Development of a privileged and valuable class of scribes/scholars who make up the backbone of the future Chinese bureaucracy.  The high prestige of scholars and learning in traditional Chinese society.

The Hundred Schools of Ancient Philosophy. 


Things going poorly in the late Zhou -- the period of the "Warring States."  This prompts a rethinking of the basics of ethics and political theory, and leads to the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy.  These thinkers interested less in religion, theology, metaphysics, etc., and more in principles of right behavior (ethics), and political and social theory.  They influence educated folk and intellectuals, and hardly at all the common people.
1) The most conservative of the schools was Legalism.  The most famous proponent was Han Fei, a noble educated under the Confucian system, who advised Shi Huangdi before he became Emperor; Shi Huangdi had him executed before taking over his ideas! Legalists believed that human nature was essentially destructive, and that the only way to attain a certain level of harmony and happiness was by detailed legal codes with draconian punishments that would deter anti-social behavior.  The most important political factor is doing the will of the ruler, not looking to some code of behavior.
2) By far the most popular and influential was Confucianism, developed by the great teacher Confucius in the 6th century BCE.  He was a pragmatist and a moderate, and concerned primarily with secular rather than religious issues.  Every individual has the duty to follow his dao (the way), which is the proper behavior for a person of that station; even the ruler must follow his dao, which was to see universal law brought down to earth.  If the individual does his duty, then the family does its duty, and so on up the line to the ruler.  He developed ethical values of humanity, which included compassion, empathy, the Golden Rule ("Do not do unto others as you would not have them doing unto you!") tending toward "serene repose" and "calmness of mind."  He thought the state must be reformed, mainly by giving preference to the meritorious, who would dominate the state at the expense of the nobles and those of hereditary influence.  The rule of merit became a key part of Chinese political tradition after Confucius.  The ruler was expected to reflect the virtues of the scholar -- an enlightened educated gentleman.  Confucians generally preached the value of tolerance. They stressed obedience to those in positions of authority -- children should obey their parents, peasants their lords, etc.\
3) Daoism has much less influence on ethics, social and political theory, and more on personal religion and ritual.  Daoism is individualistic and anarchic.  It is anti-rational and to some extent anti-social.  Individuals should seek to conform to their own dao by "inaction" and a kind of spontaneous conformity with the impulses of their own nature.  Daoism has certain resemblances with extreme manifestations of European Romanticism.  It is later influenced by Buddhism when it makes its way into China.  Daoism more or less leaves the political and social field open to Legalism and Confucianism.
Most of these religious movement have little to do with the common people, who maintain a sort of polytheism with an emphasis on honor and sacrifice to ancestors (so-called "ancestor worship").

The Qin Dynasty identified almost entirely with the rule of Qin Shi Huangdi, 221-206.
This was an attempt to set up in China a sort of totalitarian state, in which the state would dominate most areas of life.  The Emperor was a sort of megalomaniac who thought he could completely dominate Chinese society through an extreme application of Legalism.  He set up a highly centralized bureaucracy, and under his rule eunuchs became highly influential at the court.  The state made an attempt at thought control, and the historian Sima Qian reports book burnings and other measures to control the opinions of Chinese people.  Qin Shi Huangdi pursued an aggressive foreign policy pushing Chinese dominion south into Vietnam and constructing the first version of the Great Wall aimed at the nomadic horseman operating to the north. His megalomania demonstrated by his enormous tomb that was begun to be unearthed in the 1970's: so far terra cotta representations of 6000 palace guards have been uncovered with much more to come.  The scale of the tomb reminds one of the pyramids of ancient Egypt.  The Qin Dynasty collapsed within a couple years of the Emperor's death.
The Han Dynasty succeeded the Qin and lasted for about 400 years.  This restoration of a more traditional regime was met with great relief; Chinese historians have treated this period as one of the gold ages of China.  The Han maintained the Legalist framework of Qin law and administration, but did away with the thought control and persecution of dissent.  Confucianism with its moderation and its concern for the public welfare was adopted as a kind of official ideology.  In 165 BCE the first civil service exams were administered: henceforth, young people acquired jobs in the Chinese bureaucracy based on their knowledge of Chinese language and the classics.  The Han was a time of great prosperity: many technological innovations, for example in the are of ship navigation; maintenance of the imperial expansion of the Qin; pursuit of trade with points west along the Silk Road; the population of China climbed from about 20 million to about 50-60 million.  Problems set in in the last decades of the dynasty, with the Han disappearing in the 3rd century CE.  Court intrigues, especially centered around the eunuchs, became a problem in the central government.  The provinces saw an increasing impoverishment of the peasantry, and a rise of the influence of the nobility at the expense of the central government.
After the fall of the Han, the country entered a period of weakness and instability that lasted almost 400 years until the unification of China under the Tang in the 7th century.

The family had great importance throughout Chinese history.  An exception was under the Qin, who tried to reduce the significance of the family vis-à-vis the state, but official favor was restored under the Han.  The family was adopted by Confucianism as the center of its social philosophy: it was the most basic of the "five relationships" stressing filial piety and obedience.  Women remain quite subordinate and domesticated in Chinese society; as the poet says, "how sad it is to be a women." (p. 86)


Ancient Greece was perhaps the most brilliant and surprising of all civilizations.  Here at the dawn of western civilization Greece brought astounding innovations in politics ("democratic" participation), philosophy (rational analysis) and art (classical aesthetics).
The geography of Greece to some degree determined its civilization.  Greece is small, not characterized by large river valleys, mountainous and relatively barren, and surrounded by the sea.  It seemed fated to have small states separated by the mountains and to carry on trade exporting wine and olive oil and importing foodstuffs.
Although politically divided, Greek had a certain unity based on culture, language (they all spoke and wrote Greek) and religion (all worshipped the Olympian gods and met at Delphi and Olympia; the Greek pantheon included Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite and Athena; traditional Greek religion was a fairly typical polytheism).  The oracle at Delphi and the Olympic Games at Olympia (begun c. 776 BCE) were important foci of Greek culture.
The Minoans inhabited Crete in the 2nd millennium BCE: a wealthy, sophisticated, mercantile, good-living people with no walls around their cities.  Their art is characterized by pleasing, sensuous pictures done in bright colors.

The Mycenaeans, on the other hand, were a warrior people living in beautiful fortified mountain palaces on the Greek mainland.  It was probably they who conducted the expedition against Troy in the 13th century BCE.  Homer, who lived probably 600 years later at the end of the Dark Age, wrote his two great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, based on memories of this historical war.  Homer was the basis of Greek education in the classical period.
When the Mycenaeans collapsed, Greece entered the Dark Age until about 750 BCE.  The level of civilization collapsed throughout the area as the Dorians invaded from the north.  Many Greeks emigrated to Ionia, the western coast of Turkey; once the crisis was over and prosperity restored, many others left to found colonies in the Black Sea, and particularly along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  Greeks were particularly numerous in southern Italy and Sicily.  Most of the colony cities maintained ties with their mother cities in Greece.

The evolution of Greek politics and events in the historic period (700 BCE to about 300 BCE), and particularly in the Classical Age (500 BCE to 338 BCE).  The central institution of Greek politics was the polis, the small city-state of which there were many in Greece.  Politics were very important to the active political class (adult free males); ostracism was one of the worst punishments.  The armies of the Greek states were based on the hoplite (heavily armored) infantry, essentially a citizen army raised from farmers, artisans, shop owners, etc.  Their military important gave them extra leverage in politics.  The hiring of lower class Athenians to man the triremesin the Athenian navy gave political importance to common people.  Only a small percentage of the population of Athens were active citizens; they excluded women (restricted to domestic responsibilities), resident aliens and numerous slaves.

Athens was a wealthy commercial city, very sophisticated and open to foreign influences.  The 6th century saw much political conflict; the pattern was the formation of tyrannies that brought reforms edging the city toward increasing democracy.  The process culminated in the victory of the Athenian fleet (and the common rowers in the ships) in the Persian Wars.  The system them moved to democracy in the age of the famous Pericles.  Some of the institutions of Athens were rather extreme: all citizens (adult male freemen) could sit in the Assembly; polis officials were either elected by the Assembly or chosen by lot.  Sparta was quite different.  It was essentially a military camp where boys were separated from their families at the age of 7 and trained to be soldiers.  The city had a eugenics ideology to produce stronger soldiers (men were not supposed to have sex with their wives except when they were very "ardent!").  Women were childbearers and hometenders, but they actually had more freedom than Athenian women (they were allowed to exercise naked!).  Sparta was very provincial: the culture frowned on intellectual activities, precious metals, monumental buildings, travel abroad, etc.  Education was restricted to practical literacy.
The 5th century BCE was a time of great drama for the Greeks.  Herodotus was the historian of the Persian Wars.  The first Persian invasion came in 490 BCE; the Greek states (for once) formed a defensive confederation, and the Athenians defeated a Persian army at Marathon.  The second invasion came in 480 BCE.  The Persians fought through the Spartan/Greek defenses at the Battle of Thermopylae, but the invasion was defeated essentially by the Athenian naval victory at Salamis.  Thus began the gold age of Athens in which this city built an impressive empire of Greek states surrounding the Aegean Sea.  Athens rebuilt the Acropolis with tribute money collected from tributary states in their empires.  Other Greek states under the leadership of Sparta formed a counter-coalition.  War broke out in 431 BCE, beginning the Peloponnesian Wars; after the disastrous defeat of the Athenian invasion force in Sicily, Athens was finally defeated in 404 and subjected to a humiliating defeat.  The great Athenian historian Thucydides attributed the Athenian defeat to the hubris of Athens, which brought nemesis on their heads.  The Greeks however did not stop fighting among themselves, until their independence was taken away from them by Philip of Macedon in 338 BCE.
Greek sculpture owed much to Egyptian examples, but developed its own style: ideal naturalism that has had an enormous impact on art styles in Rome, Europe and elsewhere ever since.  Be sure to take a look at the bronze copy of Poseidon in front of the Sacramento Community Center.
Alexander the Great (d. 323 BCE), son of Philip, was one of the wonders of world history.  In a few years he confirmed his domination of Greece, invaded and subdued the entire Persian Empire (revenge for the Persian Wars and the burning of the Acropolis at Athens!); Alexander's armies even penetrated into Afghanistan and the Indus Valley in India.  His empire fell apart at his death, and was essentially divided into three parts by his top generals; the most famous were the Ptolemies in Egypt, of which Cleopatra was the last ruler.  The Hellenistic World (eastern Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East, c. 323 BCE - c. 100 BCE) had a certain unity despite its political instability.  The upper classes throughout this area tended to be Greeks, many of whom emigrated from Greece in this period; the international language was koine, a popular form of Greek.  The great majority of the local populations was not Greek and did not speak Greek.  There was a fruitful mixing of traditions that produced a dynamic culture.  They are famous for their scientists, particularly Aristarchus, who believed the earth was a sphere, and Eratosthenes, who measured the circumference with a simple but ingenious system bnased in Egypt; and Archimedes, a Sicilian Greek who discovered and developed many physical laws and the author of the California motto, "Eureka."  Perhaps the foremost philosophical school was the Stoics who: posited the existence of a single, more-or-less benevolent God; emphasized the importance of ethical behavior in order to achieve personal happiness; and who founded the idea of natural law that has had a major influence on western civilization and Christian philosophy.  The Hellenistic world was also the host for several mystery religions such as the Cult of Isis.  In a world where civic religions provided little emotional comfort, the mystery religions promised personal immortality achieved by some sort of communion with a savior figure (such as Isis or Mithras the Bull) followed by an ethically upright life.  There are obvious parallels between these mystery religions and Christianity that triumphed in the Roman Empire beginning in the 4th century.


Aeschylus' Oresteian Trilogy (458 BCE) tells us a great deal about Greek civilization.  Past events have a lot of influence on the action of Agamemnon.  The reader needs to know something about the forced cannibalism of Thyestes, the sense in which Helen caused the Trojan War, Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis, and the course of the war.  Agamemnon is by far the most dramatic of the plays, but the three make a coherent thematic and dramatic whole; action is merely suspended after the first play.  Clytemnestra is perhaps the most dramatic and commanding of all female characters in Greek tragedy.  The Greeks were undoubtedly horrified by her male-like boldness, but to the modern eye, her will, resoluteness and personal power are more attractive.  We are horrified by her crimes and rebellion, but mesmerized by her stature and relentless will.  The story of the three plays takes the viewer from the old dispensation of the Furies in which crime is met by retribution (and on to infinity) to the new dispensation of the Olympian gods where differences must be settled by reason, accommodation and the rule of law.   The trilogy leads us from darkness to light, from savagery to civilization, and from vengeance to justice.  In the Eumenides Athena intervenes (in behalf of her father, Zeus?) and persuades the Furies to submit to the new order.  Athena and the Athenian jury finds Orestes innocent, and the goddess inaugurates an era of good will, peace and prosperity with (one hopes) the cooperation of the Furies who have been turned into chthonic fertility goddesses.  Incidentally, "uppity" women such as Clytemnestra have been returned to their true place, the hearth; Elektra is the model of the good girl; the Furies have been handled severely; Athena, admittedly the paragon of harmony, discussion and compromise, emphasizes her masculine characteristics.


Ancient Rome as the second part of the origins of Western Civilization.  Rome was much influenced by the Greeks, although Rome was more practical and less aesthetic and intellectual.  It is influential for its practical achievements of functional architecture and trans-national empire.  It originated in central Italy in Latium.  The overthrow of the Etruscan monarchy was dramatized by the Roman historian Livy, writing in about 70 CE.  His story of the 'Rape of Lucretia' demonstrated the civic virtue of the Roman Republic, the domestic skills and chastity expected of Roman matrons, and the bad reputation of monarchy in Roman culture. 
Afterwards, the Romans set up a republic which was largely aristocratic in nature.  The most powerful body was the Senate composed of patricians (nobles) and rich plebeians.  Many rich Romans, particularly the patrician families, derived their wealth from latifundia, large landed estates that often exploited slave labor for profit.  The tribunes, who were elected to defend the interests of the plebeians, were also very influential in the constitution.  The elected governing officials were primarily the two consuls, who were elected for one year and had the imperium (the power to command), the praetors, who were judicial officials, and the censors, who oversaw public morality and behavior.  Polished formal oratory was a famous Roman skill developed particularly by the immortal Cicero.  There was much political conflict but no political violence before the time of the Gracchi.

Roman expansion was rapid and efficient.  There was no preconceived plan, but the process seemed to build on its own momentum.  Roman success was due primarily to the excellence of the Roman army; look particularly at it supply organization and to the excellence of the Roman communications system (Roman roads).  Roman character and persistence also played a major role.  The stories of Horatio at the Bridge, Cincinnatus as temporary dictator, and the suicide of the noble Lucretia (all from the 2nd century CE Livy) illustrate Roman image of their republican virtue.  The Battle of Cannae (216 BCE in which an entire Roman army was destroyed by Hannibal) illustrates the point; rather than give up, Rome raised yet another army and then fought a guerilla war against the invincible Carthaginian.  The Romans also usually treated their conquered peoples well; e.g., they gave the Italians "allied" status and always the possibility of Roman citizenship; eventually all the free inhabitants of the empire were given citizenship (about 212 CE).  Expansion went in three stages: 1) absorption of the Italian peninsula, achieved by about 275 BCE; 2) absorption of the Carthaginian Empire, composed primarily of Sicily western North Africa and Spain, by the end of the Third Punic War (Cato - "Carthago delendum est!"); and 3) relatively painless annexation of the territories of the eastern Mediterranean including Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine and Egypt, by the end of the 2nd century BCE.

The Republic declined and disappeared in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE.  The basic problem was a social crisis in Italy arising out of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the contrast between the growing power of the Roman state and the inefficient executive of the republic.  The Gracchi brothers tried to reform the social constitution of Rome in the 2nd century, but they made little progress and were assassinated by political thugs.  The taboo on political violence was broken!  About the same time the Roman army became politicized.  Marius found that to recruit enough soldiers, he had to hire professional soldiers; they were more loyal to their general than to the Roman state, and if the civilian leadership (the Senate) refused to grant concessions, the general could use his army against them to force compliance.  Sulla marched on Rome and once in power he conducted a reign of terror against his political opponents; he then retired from politics!  The process culminated in the career of Julius Caesar who, after military success in Gaul, "crossed the Rubicon" and had himself made dictator in Rome.  He was assassinated in 44 BCE by republican conservatives such as Brutus.  Caesar's death, however, did not stop the process.  It culminated in a confrontation between Marc Antony and Octavian (Julius Caesar's nephew) in which the latter defeated the former.  By this time public opinions was heartily sick of conflict and welcomed a statesmanlike winner.

Octavian (known as Augustus) installed a "restored republic;" he was a moderate who built up his constitutional power while maintaining traditional institutions such as the Senate, and traditional values such as marriage and the family.  Augustus was careful to maintain his connection to republican traditions.  He was a great supporter of literature and the arts.  45 years of peace and prosperity made him extremely popular, and there were no calls for a return to the old constitution upon Augustus' death in 14 CE.
The Empire (with a capital 'E') was prosperous and stable for its first 200 years, despite the rule of corrupt emperors like Caligula and Nero in the first century.  The "Good" Emperors of the 2nd century (e.g., Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius) reigned over the golden era of Rome: the Roman Empire reached its greatest extension under Trajan; peace and prosperity everywhere; the Emperor built up his power at the expense of traditional bodies like the Senate; much of the strength of Rome was in the provinces such as Gaul and Spain.  The arts, while strong especially in literature (cf. Tacitus and Vergil), always took second place in Rome to practical accomplishments.The most impressive was perhaps architecture and engineering: Romans were able to build large, impressive and useful building by applying two engineering innovations -- the arch and concrete.  The skeleton of the Colosseum was constructed of aggregate (concrete) and it was covered with a skin of stone to make it "look Greek."

The Roman economy was highly dependent on slaves, and there was a widespread and justified fear in the empire of slave crime and revolt.  Spartacus' bloodily repressed slave revolt in 73 BCE was a case in point.  The Romans treated their slaves pretty cruelly.  There were a large number of poor in Rome, and the ruling classes and Emperor were concerned to keep them from getting politically active.  Partly as a result, Roman emperors always inaugurated their reigns with the construction of public works, most commonly baths, many of which are still standing in Roman cities.  The public baths were extremely elaborate and well equipped, and had facilities for all classes.  Juvenal talks about the usefulness of "bread and circuses."  As many as 200,000 Roman poor were on the dole, receiving free food from the state.  More famous were the circuses organized for the entertainment of the Roman populace.  The chariot races in the Circus Maximus would attract more than 100,000 spectators; and the slaughter of wild beasts and the gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum would attract as many as 60,000 spectators to watch gladiators battle to the death.  The policy appears to have worked, since the Roman mob never became involved in politics.
Meanwhile the Roman Empire after about 200 CE began to encounter problems including falling population (perhaps due to epidemic diseases?), falling production, inflation and declining efficiency from the Roman army.  The pressure on the frontiers increased in the 3rd century from incursions from various barbarian tribes including the Goths.  Diocletian and Constantine put through reforms that extended the life of the western half of the empire.  There were two main reforms: 1) divide the Empire into two distinct, though related, parts, the western, Latin empire ruled by an emperor in Rome and the eastern Greek empire ruled by an emperor in Constantinople, founded by Constantine. 2) increase the power of state regulation to save the economy: the state tried price and wage ceilings, and attempted to tie workers to their professions.  Although the latter reforms were generally not successful, the efforts of these two emperors extended the life of the western empire until the end of the 5th century.  Nb. This was also a momentous time for the Christians.  Diocletian launched a ferocious persecution against them that seemed for a while to be having success.  Constantine, however, reversed the policy, favored the Christian religion during his reign and converting on his deathbed.  Christianity became the official religion of state at the end of the 4th century.

The western, Latin half of the empire finally collapsed in the late 5th century (traditionally 476 CE), giving rise to numerous Germanic kingdoms in Western Europe that kept some of the Roman traditions such as language alive.  The eastern Roman Empire, however, continued to thrive as the Byzantine Empire ruled by the Emperor in Constantinople.  This empire had glorious days ahead, and did not disappear until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The Rise of Islam:  Reasons for studying Islam are so obvious that they don't bear repeating.  It was in any case one of the great late-emerging civilizations of the world.
Arabia before the time of Muhammad was a polytheistic, pastoral society with commercial cities such as Mecca and (later named) Medina.  There was much acquisitive commercial behavior in the cities, and since the society was organized on tribal lines, there was a lot of inter-clan political violence.  Muhammad (570-632) was born into a trading family in Mecca; he worked as a caravan manager before he became disillusioned with the secular values of his society.  He retired to caves outside the city where he received revelations from the Angel Gabriel; these revelations were later written down as the Qur'an.  In the hegira he fled to Medina, later overcoming his enemies by force and returning to Mecca where he died in 632.

The teachings of Muhammad are contained primarily in the sacred scriptures, the Qur'an, edited in the few years after his death, and the Hadiths, compilations of the prophet's sayings executed in the two centuries after his death.  Muhammad saw himself as bringing monotheism to the Arab peoples.  Muhammad considered Jews and Christians as privileged "people of the book," who would not be compelled to convert to Islam.  God had revealed himself to these two peoples, but they had distorted his message; in the post-Qur'anic tradition, Muhammad's revelation is the ultimate one, superseding the previous revelations.  Islam is first a religion of faith -- the believer must confess his faith daily: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."  It is also an ethical religion enjoining proper ritual and behavior in order to achieve salvation in Paradise (the disobedient will end up in Hell).  The Last Judgment is an indispensable part of Muhammad's teaching.  Students should learn the "Five Pillars of Islam."  Islam commands strict behavior in sexual ethics, honesty, charity, etc.  Men are allowed to have a maximum of four wives.  Women are enjoined to be modest in their dress and behavior, but seclusion and veiling of the face are not in the Qur'an.  Muslims had strict taboos against the consumption of pork and alcohol.  There is in Islam, as in Christianity, an important egalitarian element that tended to be diluted by the societies where the religion thrived.  In contrast to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, there are many parallels between Christianity and Islam that strike the eye -- monotheism, strict ethical behavior, the importance of prophets and of scripture.  Differences include the Christian belief in the Trinity, the heavy Christian reliance on the clergy, and the Christian belief in the sacraments.

The political expansion of the Arabs and Islam was remarkable in the few decades following the death of Muhammad.  Arab imperialism was probably motivated by a combination of secular factors (desire for power, wealth, status from a people used to making raids to make a living) and religious enthusiasm derived from Islam.  Although the term 'jihad' has several meanings focused on everyman's struggle against evil, Muslims were enjoined to support the defense of Islam against its infidel enemies and to support its expansion; if you died in such a just war, you would go to heaven.  References to war in the Qur'an are usually defensive.
The victorious Arabs set up remarkable states and societies all the way from Spain (Arab armies were not successful in conquering France; defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732) to Central Asia.  A fateful succession crisis occurred in 661 with the assassination of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali; this lay the foundation of the historic split between Shiia and orthodox (Sunni) Muslims.  The Arab empires were ruled by caliphs (emperors) who exercised theoretically religious powers (as imams) along with their secular authority.  The first dynasty were the Umayyads, who had their capital in Damascus.  "More political than pious," they were overthrown in the 8th century by the Abbasids, who moved the capital to Bagdad.  There Persian influence was great.  The caliph's prime minister was called the vizier. Their rule was also more political and secular than pious (the steps to the caliph's throne were paved in gold; the caliph and his concubines bathed in pools of wine, homosexuality was common, etc.).  The most renowned Abbasid caliph was Harun al-Rashid (789-809), who reigned in a period of stability and prosperity and sponsored learning and the arts.  The dominance of the Abbasids in the Mideast was ended by the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in about the 11th century; they were followed by incursions from the Christians (the Crusades) the Mongols, Tamerlane, and the Ottoman Turks who stabilized the area beginning in the 14th century.
The Arab states were generally tolerant.  Jews, Christians and Persians were allowed to practice their religion and maintain their culture upon payment of a tax (Qur'an -- "there is no compulsion in matters of religion").  Conversions to Islam -- which eventually dominated the area -- came more or less voluntarily over a period of time, up to 200 years.  The result of this was the creation of an international Muslim culture with Arabs eventually making up only a minority of Muslims across the world.  Persian culture and intellectuals generally prevailed in the later years of the Abbasids.
Islam developed a remarkable diverse religious profile in the Middle Ages.  The Shiites emerged as a sectarian movement already in the 7th century; they claimed that they had the correct descent from Muhammad through Ali.  They tended to be "stricter" in their interpretation of the sacred texts than many Muslims; they favored esoteric and secret interpretations.  They were often resistant to political authority and more inclined to look for guidance from their religious leaders, the imams.  Their importance in places like Mesopotamia and Persia led to their persecution in some places in this period, and to the formation of the Sunni movement that stressed a "sensible" and reasonably broad interpretation of Islam that could be adopted by most Muslims.  The popularity of the Shiites was diminished somewhat by the popularity of the mystical Sufis in the later part of this period.  Sufis withdrew in some way from society, and attempted to enter into direct communication with God.  The Persian mystic poet Rumi (13th century) is the best known of the Sufi leaders: known for his monasteries and the practice of ecstatic dancing and music ("whirling dervishes"), he is still popular today among a small number of Sufi brotherhoods.  In modern Islam (about one billion adherents) Sunnis make up a majority of 85%, Shiites most of the rest.

The secular culture of the Arab world has also enjoyed popularity in the modern West.  Arab scholars were responsible for preserving much classical learning in their universities; when western medieval scholars were searching for reliable texts of Aristotle's work in the 12th century, they found them in Muslim Spain.  Arab mathematicians were also responsible for many inventions in mathematics: Arabic numerals, algebra, and the concept of zero.  The skeptical, secular poetry ("eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die") of Omar Khayyam (The Rubaiyyat) appears to be influenced by Roman poetry; it also had an impact on modern western readers.  The famous "Arabian Nights", stories of romance and adventure (e.g., "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp") were first collected by Arab scholars around 1500 from oral sources; they were translated into French in the 18th century and then into English in the 19th century.  The "Arabian Nights" are secular adventure stories, where a desire for money and luxury play a big role.
Medieval Arab culture was brilliant, secular, diverse with intensely felt religious beliefs.  It was not afraid to borrow from other cultures.

India in the "medieval" period (c.350-c.1500) did not enjoy long-lived political unity, but excelled in religious developments and in its cultural dynamism.
The main instance of political unity occurred under the Gupta Dynasty that ruled northern India from about 320 to about 550 CE.  Chandragupta and Samudragupta were two of the kings.  The empire stretched "from sea to sea" across northern India.  The kings, who normally played musical instruments, were known as patrons of the arts (they even founded a university devoted to the fine arts), and as tolerant promoters of religious establishments, both Hindu and Buddhist, although the kings were Hindus.  The economy was quite prosperous in this period, as evidenced by the comments of Chinese visitor, Fu Xian, and the existence of a widespread gold coinage done in a pleasing style. 

The first main religious development was the rise of the popularity of Buddhism in the early period, and the split of the movement into two main wings.  The Theravada movement seems closer to the original inspiration of Gautama Siddhartha; it retained its ethical, philosophical orientation and stressed strict personal behavior and meditation, preferably in a monastery, as a means of escaping the wheel of life.  Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, developed the "religious", devotional, ritualist side of Buddhism.  They stressed that Buddha was a manifestation of God, and they recognized bodhissatvas, who were somewhat similar to Christian saints and who helped the common folk in their striving toward release.  The idea came originally from discussion of Siddhartha's life; the current bodhissatvas were preliminary incarnations of a second Buddha who would appear on earth at a future date.  Common people could aspire to become "arhants," or "worthies," who while not fully enlightened could attain nirvana.  Their nirvana resembled the Muslim/Christian idea more closely. 
Soon, however, the popularity of Buddhism began to decline in India.  Theravada Buddhism became dominant in Sri Lanka and in many areas of Southeast Asia, whereas Mahayana Buddhism migrated to China over the Silk Road and then on to Korea and Japan.

Perhaps the main reason for Buddhism's decline in India was the arrival of Islam on the northwest frontier in roughly the 9th century.  The Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, whose power base was in Afghanistan, extended his power over Northwest India in about 1000 CE.  Eventually Muslim rulers established their authority over Hindu subjects in the Delhi Sultanate that extended over the north part of India; it was visited by Ibn Battuta in the 14th century.  Large portions of the population of west, east, and north India were converted to Islam over the years, thus establishing the population base for Pakistan and Bangladesh.  The impact on Indian society was somewhat modest compared to the religious change.  Instead of abolishing castes, Muslim Indians set up their own castes thus preserving the system.  Every indication is that the Hindu custom of sati was preserved, although its frequency does not seem to have been great.  Muslim Indians did adopt the purdah (secluding and veiling their women), although not to the extent of the Arab areas of Islam.  Overall, while religion changed significantly, culture and society changed only incrementally.

The Sikhs, founded at the beginning of the 16th century by the guru Nanak, originally intended to combine the best of the Indian religions into a new one that would supersede the old.  The Sikhs believed in a single personal God; they rejected castes, images and pilgrimages, but maintained the concepts of karma and reincarnation; their sacred Golden Temple is in Amritsar.  Sikh men were not supposed to cut their hair (thus wearing it in a turban) and they all took the name of "Singh" (lion), whereas the women were named "Princess."  Most of Sikh history has been devoted to defending their autonomy.  They were friendly with the British, and not enthusiastic about being part of India after 1946.  Most Sikhs currently live in India with significant émigré communities (e.g., in Yuba City); Sikh militants demand a separate Sikh state in North India.

Indian culture is diverse, brilliant and sensuous: compared to Christian and Islamic culture, there is in India little opposition between sensuality/sexuality and spirituality.  The Gupta and post-Gupta period gave rise to the classic secular period of Indian arts.  Indian painting and sculpture dwelled fondly on female nudity (take a look at examples in the text), and the famous "Kama Sutra," composed in the 3rd century BCE, focused explicitly on enhancing the pleasure of partner sex and on the spirituality of sexual relations.  Kalidasa was the most famous author in the Gupta period.  He is famous for his poem "Cloud Messenger," which with its sensual evocation of nature, speaks of the author's nostalgia for his homeland.  His most famous play was Shakuntalathat speaks of the birth of a strong erotic love bond between a king and a maiden that he encounters in an enchanted forest.  Many parallels are drawn between the harmony and fertility of the forest on the one hand and the feelings and bodies of the lovers on the other.


Chinese culture and power probably reached its height under the Tang (618-907 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) dynasties; and to a lesser extent under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries.  The extent of Chinese power was great, including tributary states in Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia (but not Japan, which repelled a Mongol invasion in the 13th century; nor Tibet until the time of the Yuans).  Ambassadors of tributary states had to bring money to the Chinese Emperor in his capital, and kowtow to him.

The Sui and the Tang brought political unity and internal peace again to China at the beginning of the 7th century.  Their main instrument was a loyal bureaucracy that was staffed by civil service personnel chosen at least in part through competitive examinations.  The process got going again under the Tang who, although partly dependent on old-style aristocrats who received their posts through recommendation of the influential families, filled some of their bureaucratic posts by examination.  The system reached its culmination under the Song.  Civil service examinations were administered every three years in three stages; the students who passed were given civil service posts.  Exams were administered in three stages every three years -- from the local to the regional to the national/imperial. After about 1000 the examination tested a candidate's ability to write in Chinese characters, his calligraphy, his knowledge of Confucian classics, and his ability to write commentaries (sometimes on practical subjects such as foreign policy and fiscal policy) on classic texts.  The Buddhist and Daoist texts used under the Tang were dropped under the Song.  Many of the exam candidates were from the middling gentry, who moved up the social scale as a result of their academic and administrative success.  Social mobility was a strengthening factor in Song China; one of the Ming stories, "Journey of the Corpse," attests to the strength of the idea of social mobility through state service.  The civil service examinations were an indication of the rising strength of the Neo-Confucians under the Song.  The civil service of the western world did not catch up with the Chinese until the late 19th century.

A weakness in the Chinese system was the power of the eunuchs.  "100%" castrated (both penis and testicles!), they were put in charge of the harems of the Emperor, "entertained" many of the women in the harems, and also had authority over the education of the Emperor's sons (and thus over emperors and princes when they came of age).  They were much resented by Chinese public opinion, which, encouraged by mandarin historians and other jealous bureaucrats, held them responsible, along with women, for China's political ills (they called eunuchs "crows" and "stinking eunuchs" perhaps because of their urinary problems).  The eunuchs often fomented and dominated court intrigue; under the Ming dynasty they embezzled billions of dollars from the state.  They weren't finally kicked out until after the republican revolution of 1911.

Tang and Song China were also a time of prosperity.  Public works remained an important part of the function of the state: the Sui dynasty was particularly renowned for its construction of the Grand Canal joining North and South China, the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.  The population of China remained stable at about 50 million+ until the onslaught of the Black Death in the 14th century.  With a population of about 2 million, the Tang capital Chang'an was almost certainly the largest city in the world; it was a bustling commercial center; all the world's great religions were represented there.  Commerce developed significantly under both dynasties.  With its strict salt monopoly, the Tang dynasty retained some of the prejudice against merchants, but private merchants thrived under the Song: the majority of the population of the important southern port of Canton was of foreign origin.  China was easily the most technologically advanced civilization in this era.  Steel was produced in large quantities to arm its enormous armies.  The Tang developed woodblock printing that was used to reproduce classic texts (whether Buddhist or Confucian) used by candidates for the civil service exams; some historians think that movable type printing was in use under the Song.  The Chinese invented paper under the Han; it greatly increased the efficiency of the bureaucracy and reduced the cost of producing books.  Paper was first seen in Bagdad in about 800 CE; after that, it spread through the Arab, European and African world.  The Chinese also invented gunpowder, probably sometime in the 9th century CE.  It was used first for civic celebrations, but was soon adapted to military use: flares, bombs, land mines, etc.  The Mongols were perhaps the first to use cannon.  Paradoxically, Chinese expertise in the use of firearms declined between the 13th and 17th centuries, at which time the Chinese court was employing Jesuits to cast their cannon!  Gunpowder had a much greater impact on western society than on the Chinese.

Women continued to have low status in China in this period.  As always, they were expected to obey their husbands unconditionally: "Marry a chicken, follow the chicken.  Marry a dog, follow the dog."  It was considered praiseworthy for a widow not to remarry; the "saintly Miss Wu" earned praise for not remarrying and spending her life taking care of her mother in law; she did this at the direction of the Lord of Heaven. A graphic indicator of women's status was female footbinding, which began sometime in the 10th century. Girls' feet were compressed to about 3-4 inches; the bindings/ pretty little shoes were kept on through adulthood to keep the feet from returning to a more natural shape.  The main reason appears to have been social status (find a good husband), although many men apparently found it sexually attractive -- much of Chinese erotic poetry was foot fetishist.  Footbinding was more common in North China and among well-off women, less popular in the South and among peasants.  It was very widespread in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  It lasted into the 20th century when it was stamped out by republican forces in the 1920s and 1930s; it appears that it still survives in isolated parts of China.  The Empress Wu Zetian (624-705) was the only female empress in Chinese history (Confucius: having a female empress is like "a hen crowing with the roosters at dawn."). She rose to power through marriage and through managing her several sons.  Although cruel (not uncommon in Chinese politics), she was an effective ruler in the early Tang period, first as a regent for her son and then Empress in her own right (founding a new dynasty).  She defended the northwest frontier, promoted the civil service examination, favored the spread of Buddhism, etc.  She was forced to abdicate shortl;y before her death in 705, leading to the restoration of the Tang.


Three stories from the Feng Menglong collection, "The Pearl-Sewn Shirt," "the Journey of the Corpse," and "the Canary Murders" shed some light on Chinese society in the Tang and Song periods.  They all profess to be cautionary tales telling us what a good Chinese person should do.  The "Pearl-Sewn Shirt" is probably the best story of the three from a literary point of view.  It tells us something about romantic/sexual love in China, and about merchant society. Chinese people are enjoined to care more about their spouses than about money, and to be faithful to one another; the moral purpose of the story is undercut somewhat by the narrator's dwelling on the lurid aspects of the seduction of Fortune, and by the perhaps artificially happy ending.  "The Journey of the Corpse" stresses the importance of the civil service in the lives of ambitious young men in this period, and of the reality of social mobility at least under the Song; the avowed theme of the story is about friendship. The story preaches the virtues of friendship and loyalty among men, although at the expense of leaving the women and children behind and neglecting them.  "The Canary Murders" is perhaps the least engaging of the three stories; it is an interesting Chinese take on the murder mystery; it tells us quite a bit about Chinese judicial procedures, which while similar to western ones, rely more on family initiative for investigating crimes; and stresses the importance of (harsh: particularly heinous crimes are punished by slow, painful and disfiguring executions) justice to set things again aright. All the stories deal with urban scenes (the stories were written to appeal to an urban audience): one learns quite a bit about running after money, commercial activities in China, the importance of the civil service, the position of women, marriage and burial customs, and the justice system.


China underwent some interesting religious developments in this period.  Buddhism arrived in China at the end of the Han dynasty.  The Tang emperors tended to favor Buddhism and Daoism, and included Buddhist classics in the civil service exams.  By the end of the Tang period, however, a reaction grew against Buddhist predominance, partly because Buddhists were considered foreign and undignified (Han Yu), partly because Buddhist quietism and withdrawal were considered unfavorable to the promotion of Chinese civic virtue, partly because the wealthy Buddhist monasteries were siphoning off too much of Chinese wealth.  Hence the revival of Confucianist prestige in the form of Neo-Confucianism.  One of the most famous neo-Confucianist philosophers was Zhu Xi (1130-1200) under the SongHe developed a metaphysics of li (principle, law) and qi (matter, material force) that was similar to some of the metaphysical systems of Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle.  He appears  to have denied the existence of a personal, eternal God (li is eternal, but abstract and not personal) and the immortality of the human soul (since the human personality is composed of both li and qi, the disintegration of the qi at death implies the end of the existence of the individual).  In any case, he endorsed the reality of the world (as opposed to Buddhists, who in principle saw the world as an illusion) and the obligation of Chinese people to engage in it, and to do their duty for family and state.  He was responsible, for example, for composing elaborate social ceremonies like marriage to reinforce Chinese traditions.  Neo-Confucianism became again the "official" ideology of the state, remaining paramount in China until the beginning of the 20th century.  The republicans and the Communists have campaigned against this tradition, and it does not seem influential at the beginning of the 21st century.  do not, however, rule out the return of Confucian influence in Chinese culture and intellectual life.


The Mongols made a dramatic, destructive impact on the history of China, Central Asia and Persia in the 13th and 14th centuries.  They were disunited nomads from Mongolia before Temujin (Genghis Khan, d. 1227) united them and led them to dramatic victories in China and Central Asia.  The Mongols fought largely on horseback, also using archers and flame-throwers adapted from the Chinese.  The Mongol army was composed largely of non-Mongolians, and Genghis had a policy of promoting able officers to top ranks regardless of their nationality.  They were unusually cruel, often destroying whole captured cities and putting most of the population to death; their reputation preceded them and often undermined opposition.  The reputation of the Mongols is still fearsome in places like Persia and Mesopotamia.  After Genghis' death, his sons and grandsons established their rule as far west as Russia, and then defeated Song China by 1279.  Khubilai Khan (1260-1294) became Emperor of China establishing the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1369).  With Mongols in top posts, he ruled China according to traditional principles and using many of the traditional Chinese elites.  Under the Mongols Chinese borders were extended to include Korea, Tibet, and parts of Burma.  The Yuans highly prized merchants, and Chinese mercantile activity was probably greater than ever.  Mongols domination over such a side area created the "Mongol Exchange" that favored contacts between east and west as never before.  This promoted trade, but also enabled the rapid propagation of infectious diseases, such as the bubonic plague that decimated the populations of China, the Middle East and Europe beginning in the middle of the 14th century.  With the exception of China, Mongol rule was usually short-lived: they had the habit of splitting their empire among the dead Khan's sons, and in any case their interest in a sedentary, civilized lifestyle seems to have been marginal.  After their decline, they returned to their old lifestyle in Mongolia.


Japan was a late starter in the development of civilizations.  Its island geography, the difficulties experienced in centralizing its government, and its willingness to borrow from other traditions, particularly from China, mark most of it history.  Rice cultivation was introduced in about the 4th century BCE.  The Yayoi people first settled it.  An effective Japanese state was first constructed by the famous Shotoku Taishi (572-622) who issued a "Seventeen Article Constitution" (more of a series of Confucian political maxims that civil servants were expected to observe), created a centralized bureaucracy and instituted a civil service exam, all according to Chinese models; however, the Japanese Emperor was styled "Son of Heaven" rather than the Chinese "Mandate of Heaven" to emphasize his divine status.  Shotoku also heavily promoted Buddhism in Japan.  Japan in this Heian period (up to about the 10th century) consciously imitated China, regularly dispatching diplomatic legations to China to learn more about Chinese administration, technology, etc.  The civil service system was not as effective in Japan since top jobs continued to be reserved for members of the great aristocratic clans.  The new Japanese capital was at Kyoto where it remained for many centuries.  Japan in this period developed a sort of feudal system, in which local lords/ warlords (daimyos in the 16th century) held most of the power and were supported by a class of knights known as samurai.  They were mounted warriors owing fealty to their lord.  They had a code of behavior (bushido) stressing military values, loyalty, duty and the obligation not to work; their code was much influenced by Zen Buddhism; they did not however have a code of chivalrous behavior toward women.  The parallel with the feudal system of the Middle Ages and with European knights is quite close.  The curious should view some of the historical and samurai movies of Akira Kurosawa. 
Beginning in the 12th century, the Kamakura Shogunate established a fairly reliable system of central control for a century or two: the shogun wielded effective central power in place of the Emperor who was rarely seen or heard from; the shogunate too became hereditary.  Japan continued, however, to suffer from political disunity and civil war.  Internal conflict was rife in the period following the Heian and in the Period of the Warring States (late 15th and 16th centuries).    Political conditions in the 15th and 16th century were near chaotic (the entire city of Kyoto was, for example, put to the torch) paving the way for Western influence and the (abortive) Christian missions around 1600; western influence was particularly strong in Kyushu.  Japan was united again about this time under the Tokugawa shogunate and it has enjoyed more or less effective central government for the rest of its history.  The Meiji Revolution of the 1860s attempted to install a sort of western constitutional system, but instead ended up with military control in the 20th century.

Japanese religion was originally Shinto (the divine way), a polytheistic animist religion that greatly prized nature; shrines located in beautiful natural areas were characteristic of Shinto; it also promoted patriotic respect for Japan as a homeland and the divinity of the Emperor.  Buddhism arrived from China and Korea beginning in the 6th century.  Zen (Chan) Buddhism came in the 12th century and with its emphasis on a direct, simple and immediate perception of nature as a means to enlightenment (satori), it had a great impact on Japan.  Buddhism (with Shinto aspects) remained the dominant religion in Japan until the modern day.  Shinto was revived in the late 19th century by the Japanese state as a means of social integration and promotion of an often extreme Japanese nationalism.
Japanese arts have a classical flavor.  In all areas the values of spareness, simplicity, refinement, delicacy and harmony predominate.  In the Heian period the Japanese adopted Chinese characters to provide a literate written system for their own language.  Literature thrived during the Heian and Kamakura periods; almost all the authors were women.  Haikus, which express the Japanese penchant for formalism and simplicity, originated in this period.  By far the most famous work of the Heian period is Lady Murasaki Shikibu's Tales of Genji(about 1000 CE) that with a delicacy of sentiment and psychological insight paints an idealized picture of the Japanese court.  Japanese aristocratic women enjoyed high status at the Heian court.  Although their dress styles would not suit modern tastes (huge amounts of cloth, a powdered white face with black teeth!), they had considerable social freedom, conducting love affairs almost as frequently as their husbands. Love affairs were quite formal, calling for mandatory poetry at important steps in the affair ("leaving you yesterday morning was like a lamb being torn away from its mother for slaughter!").  Such women were more likely to be judged for their choice of colors in their clothes and for the quality of their poetry than for their moral behavior. 
In its intimacy, simplicity and harmony, the Japanese garden seems influenced by Zen.  The concern in Japanese garden design is to include in a harmonious whole all the elements found in nature -- water, mountains, plants, buildings; Japanese people debated as to whether a spring garden (flowering peach blossoms) or a fall garden (fall colors of Japanese maples) is more beautiful.  Zen also heavily influenced the Japanese tea ceremony.  Although tea was first introduced into Japan in the 9th century, it did not really catch on until the Zen masters became popular in the later middle ages.  The tea ceremony was developed as a part of Zen discipline and in Zen temples: "tea and Zen have the same flavor."  The Great Tea Master, Rikyu (1522-91 -- he probably committed suicide at the behest of the Shogun Hideyoshi) was more responsible than any other for the development of the ceremony.  The ceremony took place in a small room, followed a specific ritual with certain utensils, and promoted the values of peace, respect, purity and tranquility.  The samurai who participated were expected to leave their swords at the door; to one famous practitioner, the sound of the boiling water in the kettle reminded him of "a breeze passing through the pine needles."  It is still popular in Japan today (and too bad it is not practiced everywhere), although less formal than before.

The European Middle Ages stretch roughly from 500 CE to the beginning of the Renaissance in 1400.  The term 'Middle Ages' ('medieval') was coined by Renaissance writers who saw the Middle Ages as a benighted and barbaric time after the decline of true civilization (Greece and Rome) and its revival in the Renaissance.  The 'Dark Ages' (primitive conditions) stretched from about 500 to 1050; the 'High Middle Ages' (great dynamism) from about 1050 to 1300; and the 'Late Middle Ages (time of crisis and change) from about 1300 to 1450.

After the fall of Rome, Western Europe went into a deep crisis.  The Germanic kingdoms were often primitive (the result of Gregory of Tours attempt to settle a feud between two Frankish clans); the economy generally collapsed, and focused almost exclusively on local agricultural production; and Magyars and Vikings raided many parts of Europe in the 9th and 10 centuries.  The Vikings settled permanently in Normandy in 911.  The impact of this political and social chaos was the formation of the system of feudalism, a sort of substitute for political authority based on personal relationships between lord and vassals to preserve order.  The military class of knight was of the highest status in this period.  Lords and vassals had mutual obligations: for example, the lord granted the vassal a fief (land to provide income), and the vassal promised military service, fees at certain periods of his life, and the exercise of police and judicial powers at the local level.  Beginning in the 12th century, knights were theoretically subject to a code of chivalry (from the French word 'cheval' meaning 'horse') that sought to "tame" their loutish behavior; at the behest of the ladies, this code came to include 'chivalric' treatment of women, protection of the Church and of the poor, some training in music and poetry, etc.  Of course, much of this was theoretical.


The famous story of Tristan and Iseultwas essentially a Celtic folk tale written down by French and German monks beginning in the 12th century.  The edition read in class is a modern French compilation of the many stories written on this theme by medieval authors.  Marking the beginning of the tradition of romantic love in the West, it has had an enormous influence on western attitudes since then.  The story is obviously set in a social and cultural milieu that is part pagan and part Christian: there is little reference to medieval ecclesiastical institutions, but there are many allusions to Christian morality and faith.  The slant of the tale is not however orthodox.  On many occasions, God/nature/the common people endorse the behavior and values of the lovers vs. conformist cultural standards: e.g., the occasion in which Iseult passes the ordeal despite her obvious intention to mislead everyone around her. The story largely defines the "romantic" tradition in the West: mysterious beginning as seen in the incident of the magic potion; its obsessive nature and the inability of the lovers to stay separated; although their relationship has a sexual, physical side, it is also a spiritual, soulmate-style connection that will last for an eternity; hostility to social and religious institutions (marriage and the Church), indeed the author presents the lovers' love as superior to civilization; usually a tragic, ennobling ending.  Finally, it can be read for the light it sheds on attitudes about women in the Middle Ages.  Women are essentially creatures of the domestic sphere; they are ruled by their emotions (especially the feelings of love!), etc.  But in a broader sense, the story ennobles women by raising the status of 'their' thing - love - to a sphere higher than society and civilization.

Western civilization revived beginning in the 11th century.  Agriculture production grew rapidly due partly to the clearing of new lands (aided by improvement in the weather) and partly to new technology such as the three-field crop rotation, the invention of the shoulder harness for horses (compared the Roman neck harness that 'strangled' the beast), and the widespread use of watermills and windmills.  The population of Europe approximately tripled in this period. Cities grew rapidly especially in the industrialized area of Flanders (production of woolen cloth) and in Italy, where Venice was the leading commercial city. (Dynamic cities in these areas led to cultural beginnings of the Renaissance in the 15th century.)  Meanwhile, the kings of western Europe enhanced their power at the expense of the nobility.  The kings usually allied themselves with the Church and the new towns, and anyone else concerned about security and predictability, to expand their jurisdiction and power at the expense of their overmighty vassals.  Germany was the exception, due in part to the fascination of the German Emperors (Holy Roman Empire) with expanding their power in Italy, thus leading them into conflict with the pope.  The Capetian kings of France began to expand their power in the 11th century radiating out from their power base in the Île-de-France.  Philip II Augustus (1180-1223) had little success against Richard II of England ("The Lion Hearted"); but he was particularly successful in his campaigns against John "Lackland;' upon Philip's death, the monarchy had effective control over Normandy, most of Aquitaine, and a good part of the South.  Unlike the English, the French did not develop a strong sense of elected representation; they developed an Estates General, but it had very little influence.

England already had an effective centralized state under its Anglo-Saxon rulers when William I "The Conqueror" took England in 1066.  These Norman kings, and then the Plantagenets (beginning with Henry II [1154-89]) then expanded their power, fought unsuccessfully to maintain their position in France against the French king, and then presided over the first stages of the establishment of the English political system.  Magna Carta (1215) established the principle of the rule of law in England, to which the king was subject like any other Englishman.  The 13th century brought a nationwide common law enforced by the king's courts, and the famous Model Parliament (1295) defined the composition of a legislature (composed of country and borough members), which was to cooperate with the king in passing laws and raising taxes.  This English system is the obvious ancestor of American political institutions and of the liberal idea in European civilization.
The gothic cathedral is perhaps the greatest visible monument of the Middle Ages; it is testimony to the deep faith of the people, to the importance of the Latin Church in their lives, and to the engineering sophistication of the builders.  Chartres, finished about 1220, is perhaps the most beautiful.  It has an enormous interior vault, reaching toward God; the vaults are supported by the innovative flying buttresses on the outside.  The cathedral is cruciform; it has an extensive iconographical, education element in the sculpture on the outside and the exquisite stained glass windows on the inside.
The Middle Ages also marked a dramatic increase in the power and influence of the Catholic (Latin) Church (which had formally separated from the Greek Orthodox Church in the middle of the 11th century).  Its importance to the lives of medieval people is symbolized by the enormous resources devoted to the Romanesque and gothic cathedrals constructed throughout Europe in this period.  The 11th century was marked by efforts of reforming popes like Gregory VII to increase the purity of the Church and its power and independence vis-à-vis secular rulers like the German Emperor.  A famous incident in the struggle between church and state was the Emperor's humiliation at Canossa (1077), when he had to wait two days in the snow to be granted an audience by the pope.  The papacy's zenith was reached in the reign of Innocent III (1198-1216), who claimed to be the sun casting light on the Emperor's moon.  The great influence of the papacy in this period laid the foundations for decline beginning already in the 13th century.  This was also a time for the renewal of the clergy.  In addition to the secular, parish clergy, the monastic clergy (monks) continued to "work and pray" in rural monasteries.  More typical of the Middle Ages was the founding of the friars to minister to the spiritual needs of the cities in the early 13th century.  The Franciscans, founded by St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), were the most popular religious order of the High Middle Ages.  The Dominicans were founded about the same time to fight heresy in the South of France; they were less popular due to their association with the Holy Inquisition.


The Late Middle Ages (1300-1450) was a time of crisis, but it turned out to be a temporary one that led to the renewal of European civilization in the Renaissance .  The overwhelming demographic event was the Black Death that decimated the European population from 1347 to 1350 and then returned every 15-20 years thereafter (until about 1480) to cause further damage.  On the average, it killed perhaps 30% of the rural population and as much as 60% of the urban population in the first visitation.  It began in Italy and swept northward and then eastward through Europe.  There was no way to deal with it medically, largely because no one understood how the disease was propagated ("Ashes, ashes, all fall down.").  The only effective technique was isolation and quarantine, and it took a long time to figure it out.  Its impact was enormous.  Outbreaks of popular hysteria were widespread; the Flagellants, who were active particularly in Germany, showed the spiritual dislocation caused by the plague.
There was also a lot of social and economic dislocation in most parts of Europe.  The Peasants' Revolt in England (1381) was a case in point, since it was caused by peasant resentment against Establishment attempts to impose pre-Plague wages on the rural workers.  In some ways, the tradition of social conflict in Europe dates from this period.  The crisis was deepened by endemic conflict between England and France in the 100 Years War (1337-1453), caused in part by Edward III's claim to the French throne.  The battles between the two sides resulted mostly in English victories (Crécy 1346, and Agincourt 1415) largely because the English were better tacticians.  The English however lost the war, largely because France was a much larger and richer country.  Joan of Arc provided an important rallying force in her campaign to raise the siege of Orléans in 1429; she was later burnt at the stake by the English for witchcraft and heresy.  The French used modern cannons to expel the English from the continent in 1453.  The latter part of the 15th century was characterized by political revival in Europe.  Spain was unified under Ferdinand and Isabella, and fielded the strongest army in Europe from this period until the middle of the 17th century.  The great commercial and manufacturing cities of North Italy laid the economic foundation of the Italian Renaissance in the same period.

The Late Medieval Church went through a time of almost continual crisis.  After the fiasco of Boniface VIII (d. 1303), the papacy was forced to move to Avignon, where for several decades it remained under the thumb of the French monarchy.  Moving the pope back to Rome in 1377, however, produced the Great Schism, where two popes, and for a few years even three, coexisted to the great scandal of the Christian world.  The schism was finally ended in 1415, but then the papacy entered a long period of worldliness, finances and power known as the Renaissance Period.   Some popes such as Alexander VI were immoral, corrupt, and perhaps even violent; others, such as Sixtus IV and Julius II, were able politicians and patrons of the arts.  None of them were holy men concerned primarily with the well being of the Church.  Disillusionment with the Roman papacy helped lay the groundwork of the Protestant Reformation.


The Renaissance was a time of renewal in Western Civilization, beginning in Italy in the 15th century.  It continued in Italy until the middle of the 16th century.  It also affected the North, but there it lagged behind Italy by about a half a century.  The late 15th century saw a general quickening of the West, including an economic revival, renewed population growth, and the growth of state power.  The Renaissance, however, deals mainly with the arts and humanities.  It was characterized by its fondness for, and obsession with, the arts and literature of the classical world; all Renaissance scholars and artists admired the culture of classical Greece and Rome.  The leading idea was probably humanism, that denoted a focus on the thisworldly destiny of human beings (cradle to grave!) and a confidence in the abilities of humans acting individually.  This confidence is ably expressed by the famous "Oration on the Dignity of Man" by Pico della Mirandola.  This period also the invention of movable type printing.  First developed by Johannes Gutenburg in Germany in the middle 15th century, it led to an information revolution throughout Europe.  The printing press played a major role in the Renaissance, and even more importantly in the Protestant Reformation.
The Renaissance in art (painting and sculpture) is perhaps the most famous aspect of the movement.  Renaissance artists attempted to emulate the classical art style that one might sum up as "ideal naturalism."  Renaissance painters developed original techniques for simulating naturalism on canvas: atmospheric modeling, linear perspective and expert rendering of textures.  The copy of the 5th century BCE "Poseidon" in front of the Convention Center in Sacramento sums up classical style in sculpture.  Artists such as Fra Angelico and Sandro Botticelli illustrate the earlier Florentine Renaissance of the 15th century.  Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Michelangelo typify the High Renaissance that was focused around the patronage of the popes in Rome in the first part of the 16th century.

Luther's theology might be summarized as follows: 1) Recognize God's awful sovereignty.  He transcends puny human understanding or worth.  Humans are far inferior, "depraved" compared to God.  2) Humankind is justified by faith and not by works.  Nothing we decide or do can earn us salvation.  It is a gift of God to us from all eternity.  All our worthiness comes only from God.  We are enjoined to perform good works; but they cannot save us from perdition.  3) "The priesthood of all believers" means that we all stand directly before the throne of God in His presence.  Obviously this implies that we can dispense with the papacy and the rest of the heavy weight of the Catholic Church, including most privileges of the clergy and the majority of the sacraments, which are reduced from seven to two.  4) We can know God's plan for us exclusively through Holy Scripture ("Sola scriptura"), which we all must read in the presence of the Holy Spirit, i.e., thoughtfully and under the guidance of a minister.  5) Luther, who was originally inclined toward a sort of religious toleration, soon turned to state religions when his moderate solution was threatened from the right and the left.  The organization of religion in Europe did not turn to toleration until the end of the 17th century.  In the 16th century inhabitants of a state (of which there were many in Germany) were expected to follow the religious lead of the sovereign.

John Calvin agreed with most of the ideas of Luther, but differed on some details: 1) He has a more pessimistic interpretation of human nature.  2) He believed in predestination, i.e., God has chosen from all eternity both the souls to be saved and those to be damned. 
What was the response of the Catholic Church?  The Counter Reformation or the Catholic Reformation, which got under way in the 1530s.  The spirit of the Counter Reformation was an aggressive counter-attack against the unbelievers; there was to be no compromise.  The Council of Trent  (1545-63) redefined traditional Catholic doctrines, but with few if any concessions to the Protestants; for example, salvation was still considered to be due to a combination of faith and works; it also reaffirmed all seven sacraments.  The Council also attempted to eliminate some of the worst abuses of the Renaissance papacy: bishops were expected to take their responsibilities seriously; they must have seminaries in every diocese, etc.  The Church also resorted to more repression, including the reactivation of the Inquisition in Italy, and the creation of the "Index of Forbidden Books" which included large numbers of unorthodox books that Catholics were forbidden to read.  This was also the time of the creation of the Jesuit Order by Ignatius of Loyola: "the shock troops of the papacy," they performed great services for the Church in missionary work and in education.  This begins a dynamic spiritual period in the history of the Church that was to last until the end of the 17th century.  Much of Europe was won back to Catholic allegiance; rarely has the Church had so many dynamic and dedicated saints.

Europe in 1600 was sharply divided between Protestant and Catholic zones.  Highly destructive religious warfare mars European history until the middle of the 17th century.  Toleration does not begin to creep into European institutions until the end of that century, primarily in Holland, England and North America.  The forces of secularism, coming from the Renaissance and the development of capitalism, and of religious militancy, coming from the Reformation and the Catholic reaction to it, were equally strong in this period.  The stage is set for modern history!



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History summary ancient civilization



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