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Nation is its epic

by on 16/08/2015

This article is a response to the following link:

EugenR Says:
August 13, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Reply

I meditated and asked myself, can a short term onetime event like a battle, change the world history?
The answer is not so obvious as it may seem. Let’s take some historical examples, and I will try to do it chronologically.
The most important battle from the ancient times that comes to my mind is the battle of Kadesh, fought between Ramses II and the King Muwatalli II of the Hittite Empire, dated between 1274-1290 b.c. The battle was the most important one fought between the two superpowers of the ancient world, and ended actually in draw. Thanks to this result, the young Egyptian pharaoh understood the limits of military power, and agreed to sign peace treaty with the Hittites that lasted for the remaining of his whole long reign of at least 60. And still surprisingly nothing is written about this battle, not in Greek historical sources and not in Bible, which is even more interesting, since in the Bible is mentioned the name of Ramses as a city built by the Hebrews. Also according to the bible chronology, presumably the epoch of the judges and Joshua is very close to the epoch of reign of Ramses, and Kadesh is very close to the northern borders of Israel. But i will rather not comment on the historical genuineness of the Bible, which get it’s written form about a half millennium later.
If not “Napoleon’s” Egyptologists, nobody would remember the battle of Kadesh. So this is a historical event, that had no importance what so ever for the future historical developments.
On the other hand the Greek victories upon the Persians at Marathon, did have a long term influence, seen even today. Why it is so? It definitely is not because this battle ended with clear victory of the Greeks against the Persians, and this happened contrary to all the odds. I would say the reason this victory is so well remembered and penetrated even the contemporary consciousness is it becoming part of Classical Greek epical memory, its influence on human consciousness is profound. So not with the battle itself won the Greeks the war, but turning it to an iconic cultural event.
There is another battle of historical consequences  of different category, the battle of Hastings, in which William the conqueror won against Harold a relatively small battle, with less than 15,000 fighting participants, that changed the future of England and France. If not this battle, England would remain probably Saxon, without Norman influence and Norman Kings. Since the Normans ruled also in parts of France, this victory paved the road to claim of English kings to French territories. It may sound strange, but the whole regional but also European history would be very different, if this battle would end differently or would never happened.

Patrice Ayme Says:
August 13, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Reply

Can a battle change world history? It depends which battle. But yes. Marathon is the obvious example.

The battle of Kadesh is known in detail (Ramses saved the day, in the end, barely). However, frankly, I doubt it would have changed anything: Egyptians and Hittites were not dissimilar. The alphabet arose around Tyr, Phoenicia (a few minutes flight time from Kadesh). The People of the Sea wiped out the Hittites, but then they were defeated and enslaved by the Egyptians (once again, barely).

Kadesh was mild plutocracy against mild plutocracy.

Marathon was Direct Democracy (Athens) versus invasive giant plutocracy (Persia). The Persian defeat was crushing. Democracy gained nearly two centuries. I warn you against falling in the same sort of mood as Michel Foucault (the medium is the message, as the equally clueless Marcuse proposed, in a bleating echo of “French Theory”).

The Normans did NOT rule part of France. Guillaume’s army was full of French barons. The Normans; had accepted the king of France as suzerain in the early tenth century. Claims of English kings on French territories never happened. It was more like claims of French on French. For example Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine married the king of France, had 3 daughters, then married the king of England, had 5 children, including 3 sons. One of those Richard Coeur de Lion (Lion Heart), is in front of Westminster (Whom his mother vastly improved). However, in his entire life, he spent less than 3 years in England. Richard was a French king, mostly.

The Duchy of Aquitaine was bestowed originally as a division of the late Roman empire (before the Frankish Renovation)…. So its infeodation to Paris was not clear.

Edward III of England (who launched the 100/485 years war between France and England) was the grandson of Philippe Le Bel. His mother, the queen of England, was also nicknamed the “SHE WOLF OF FRANCE”, and, legally speaking, OUGHT to have been made Queen of France.

It’s flattering the Brits to call the wars with France the way they are usually called. Actually they were Franco-French wars.

A little more on the period, my way:

EugenR Says:
August 15, 2015 at 4:10 am | Reply

Thanks for the addition information about the antiques. You are right that the People of the Sea destroyed the Egypto-Hittite world. Not Egypt and not the Levant will be the same after them. The Phoenician, the Hebrews, the Philistins, Phoenicians the Greeks and many other nation appeared as new nations after the People of the Sea invasion. Most of the new nations were Semitic, as contrary to the Egyptians and the Hittites, out of them the Assyrians came out as leading force, who subdued not only the Levant, Iraq and Persia, but also Egypt. The Assyrians, Babylonians where nations that survived the invasion, and after destruction of the Hittite empire their turn came to rule the region. The Persian empire was the direct continuation of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Interestingly Assyrians and the Babylonians were Semitic origin, while the Persians were not. In a way they developed as a ” Nation”, in the edges of the region close to the Caspian sea.
Anyway to judge the rules and their identity in today’s terms like French, English etc., is absurd. These early medieval kings looked on themselves as family or clan members, first in the rank due to heritage rules, who possess territories, on which live people, who are also their family possession. ( they even were not tribe leaders, like the Arab sheiks).
The fact, that they all spoke French, did not make them French in the modern terms.
The Vikings invaded northern France and England from the 9 century. England they took over very soon, and if not Alfred the Great, probably would not be Saxons in England at all. Then in beginning of eleventh century Harald and then Canute the Great (great is my addition) created a new Viking dynasty, after Canute adapted English manners and Christianity.

By the way, Vikings were ordinary pirates, who invaded foreign countries for robbery. Then they discovered that no one can militarily oppose them, then why not to rule a whole territory.
In France the Vikings occupied Normandy and established there their kingdom. Against the Franks they were not as successful as against the Saxons, and later culturally integrated with them. By the way, William the conqueror is a direct descended from Rollo, the establisher of the Duchy of Normandy.
The early middle age was more a Mafioso style territory under “protection” of common criminals, who decided to call themselves kings, barons, duchess, noble man, you call the rest, than a statehood.

Patrice Ayme Says:
August 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Reply

Got to run, just read an interview from a top mafioso who now studies philosophy and history. He reached the exact same conclusion… And that’s why I prefer to call them “PLUTOCRATS” rather than “nobles” or “aristocrats”, titles which are too good for them. Exactly as what the top mafioso is screaming as loudly as possible

Patrice Ayme Says:
August 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Reply

I agree with lots of your early historical analysis, except:
1) I did not know that Assyrians and Babylonians were “Semitic”
2) I don’t know what a “Semite” is. Arabs sure are. Yet I read the Jews may have been originally from the Kurdish area… OK, there are “Semitic” languages (Arab, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.)
3) The Achaemenid Persian empire was truly plutocratic multi-ethnic. The Pars/Iranians had their own fortress to live in, the giant Persian Plateau a sort of low elevation Tibet…

France as Francia existed and made sense. Then the Lingua Franca was actually degenerated Latin. Later the kingdom of France, stricto sensu, was a tiny fraction of both Francia, and today’s France. History has shown that Francia’s territory is natural, but any smaller entity is not, and is unstable. Hence the EU, and the Euro. Amen.

EugenR Says:
August 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Reply

You wrote
1) I did not know that were “Semitic”
2) I don’t know what a “Semite” is. Arabs sure are. Yet I read the Jews may have been originally from the Kurdish area… OK, there are “Semitic” languages (Arab, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.)

My answer is of course the Assyrians and Babylonians spoke Semitic languages as most of the people east of Egypt. Babylonians and the Assyrians spoke Aramaic and Akkad, as do the modern Assyrians. These are Semitic languages close to Hebrew and Arabic. The population of Mesopotamia and the Levant were originally Semitic, then the Hittite took over the region, Their origin was from modern Turkey or even north of it. They spoke Indo-European language as do the Persians. Semitic group of languages in the antics had many branches and dialects, even if not so much diversified as the Indo-European Languages. I am not a linguist, but to my judgment (i speak at least one language in each group), the similarity between Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic, is more like the similarity of the Slavic or German language group.

I don’t know from where you got the information, that the Hebrews originate from the Kurdish region. If to take the Bible as the source, it clearly points to two cities. One from where Abraham originate, Ur-Kasdim, where he was born, and it is close to the region of delta of Euphrates, Ur was uncovered, and is close to modern Al Basra. Then before moving to Kennan, Abraham’s family moved to Haran, which is in modern Turkey, in the Kurdish area. Yet, according to the modern scholars and archaeological studies, the Hebrews were not outsiders to Israel, but the original Canaan population, who revolted against the aristocracy in their cities, like Hazor, Megido, etc. Then they left the fertile low lands and moved to the mountains of Judea and Sumeria, where they adopted a new religion, faith in one God. The story of Abraham is a mythology. There is no scientific evidence, that anything of this kind ever happened.

The Phoenician Qart-ḥadasht meaning “New City”.
Aramaic: קרתא חדתא‎ Qarta Ḥdatha;
Hebrew: קרת חדשה‎ Qeret Ḥadashah) or in modern Hebrew New City is Qiria Hadasha.

The Romans completely twisted the name to Cartago.

Patrice Ayme Says:
August 15, 2015 at 8:10 pm | Reply

Another story I read is that Israel started as one of the fellow traveler tribes of the “People of the Sea”… Thus the enslavement by the Egyptians, and the plausible origin from the Kurdish area. But I am the first to admit that’s all on fumes. However, Egyptian monotheism, and the People of the Sea happened just prior to the apparition of Israel. And Egypt did not keep slaves which I know of, except after the People of the Sea capture.

I believe we will know more in the future… For example now we have a fair idea of the origin of Chinese characters with the Chang empire, 3,600 years ago… Thanks to archaeology. Also a writing from the builder of the pyramids was recently discovered, giving us important data.

EugenR Says:
August 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm | Reply

This theory of connecting the People of the Sea to the Bible sounds very unreliable. The only thing we know about them is that they came from the sea and destroyed the civilized regions. The Hebrews were definitely inland people. Their mythology speaks about shepherds, living in mountainous regions on the edge of the dessert. Except of it the sea people also attacked the Greek islands, and drew the local population to the mountains. Nothing of this kind exists in the Hebrew mythology. The most probable candidate for the people of the sea, seem to me the Greeks. In Iliad and Odyssey they definitely speak about invasion to Northern Turkey through the sea. Also the timing is perfect. And they also appeared in the region in the right time.

Patrice Ayme Says:
August 15, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Reply

The “People of the Sea” expression is an Egyptian artifact. Recent archaeology shows that the invasion involved many people, some extremely inland, all the way from the Kurdish area to… Greece. BTW, the Etruscans, one of the “Sea People” settled in Northern Syria, before shipping themselves to the iron area of northern Italy, and I doubt they were welcomed with open arms… Lots of Hollywood epics to be written…

EugenR Says:
August 16, 2015 at 4:48 am |Reply

Yes, you are right. The difficulty to point on certain nation as the People of the Sea, directed the historians to conclusion that the Sea People were rather people of very low rank, probably slaves, who rouse up against the ruling elites. These could be people of many nationalities and enough of one authentic leader as it happen in case of Spartacus, to create a huge turmoil and destruction. The Egyptians successfully opposed them, but were impoverished and the total destruction of Hittite empire damaged them economically. At the end of tenth century b.c. a new pharaoh Shishik tried to conquer the Levant, caused a lot of destruction to the Israeli cities like Hazor, which the early archeologists interpreted as the invasion of the Israelites lead by Joshua. Modern archeologists dated the event to end of tenth century b.c.
Maybe the revolt of suppressed people (called by the Egyptians “people of the Sea”) influenced also the Israelites, or the subordinated Keenan people, who rouse against their city elites, the kind of destruction found in archeological sites of the time points toward intentional destruction of this kind. Then, when the rebels were opposed by the army of the elites, they just moved to the mountain region on the edge of the desert sparsely populated, mainly by shepherds. Someone or somehow it became the epic story of exodus, that repeated itself several times. Exodus of Abraham from Haran, exodus of Jacob to Egypt and finally exodus of Moses from Egypt.

As I wrote in the past, I strongly believe, nations are creation of their epical stories. This is why Jews in spite of all the acts of annihilation they experienced in the past are still here, while the ancient Romans or Greeks are not after they have abandoned their unique epical stories and adopted instead Christianity. The Europeans in the last two centuries abandoned their epic, the Christianity, tried to adopt a new one, Communism and Nazism, with disastrous consequences, lately abandoned these also completely, and now are helpless against the Islamic people, who as contrary to them do have their epical story, that leads them in their acts and intentions. In the US tried from the fifties until the collapse of USSR, to introduce a new epical story, a modern scientifically based epic, (superman, All the science fiction moves and serials, etc.), not very successfully. I don’t know to much about movements like Scientology, etc. but seems to me, they are failed experiments to create this kind of new epic.
My question to you and anyone who my read me, can be created a rational epical story, that would supplement the old, not relevant anymore epical story of the Western Civilization?

Patrice AymeSays:
August 16, 2015 at 6:30 am

1) I believe that Athenians and Romans lost their own stories of direct democracy by plutocracy overall, yet, for proximally different mechanisms: Athens was defeated by the students of Aristotle (Alexander, Antipater, Craterus):

Rome imploded under its own plutocracy, MORE than FOUR centuries before emperor Constantine imposed Christianism, and actually more than FIVE CENTURIES before general/emperor/Spaniard Theodosius transformed Rome into a ferocious theocracy (381 CE).

So in my book, my epic, Christianism is more consequence than cause: I differ from Gibbons there.

2) The West has somewhat lost its epic, because of a clash between Enlightenment and Empire. Mercantilism (Britain) instead won. That’s an enormous subject, not even on the radar of common intellectuals. Voltaire played a nefarious role, unbeknownst to philosophical critics…. Sade may.

Sade may have been much more subtle (Voltaire was boyfriend so to speak of Louis XV, and advised him not to save Canada, or go all out to win the Seventh Year War… or maybe that was also because an oligarchic plutocracy (UK) is more democratic, hence stronger than a monarchical plutocracy (Ancient Regime France); Sade was perhaps the most important personage of the French Revolution, tactically and strategically, short of Louis XVI himself; normal history ignores him totally: too embarrassing, Sade as Saint…).

So yes, I agree with you, epics are important. Yet, the Franks’ epic, that of “EUROPE” (their concept) is alive and strong, see the UN Charter. And just defeated German hyper tribalism, on the question of the Euro… Greece has no intention of paying its debt (nor should it, because it’s not really “its” debt)

EugenR Says:
August 16, 2015 at 8:25 am | Reply

One more thing on the subject. I wrote ……..”Jews in spite of all the annihilation they experienced in the past are still here, while the ancient Romans or Greeks had disappeared, after they abandoned their unique epical stories and adopted instead Christianity”.

I must comment myself on this. The Greeks as a nation did not disappear, they are still here, but they are a different nation, even if they  continue to speak the Greek language. They may learn about the Greek mythology but Achilles is not anymore their hero, and they are not praying to classical Gods and Goddesses. They may study Plato as anybody else, but it is not theirs more than it is ours.

With the Jews it is very different. Even a secular Jew as me, feels and strongly connected to the Jewish epics, which has many layers and is still continuing to created new stories and heroes, or anti heroes. Just one example, the Holocaust. This became very strongly a dominant layer of the Jewish epical story and culture. The Jewish epics  is not only a well known, a well documented, and intellectually studied subject, but it is part of Jewish emotions and feelings, and by ceremonies and rituals, it became part of the everyday life.

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