History 104A, September 9: Who Wore the Pants in Mesopotamia?
What I would like to do, now that we've had three weeks full of school if not almost four now, I would like to start learning some of the names of the people in the class from time to time. I told you earlier that I was going to wait until after three weeks have begun because people drop out. Perhaps this is the sign, but the reality was, I didn't want to learn your names and clutter my hard drive earlier because I'd be sad when you left me; but now you're probably likely to stay, for whatever reason, which may or may not be insane but you're staying. So therefore, what I'll ask you to do is, if you have something to say, a question or a comment or whatever, or I call on you for some strange reason, to give me your name. If you forget, I'll ask for your name. For those of you who are extremely quiet and don't participate or don't want to participate, I'll get the know your names like my professor did when I see the A's on your exams or the 100s. Of course if you get F's on the exam, I'll probably get to know your name for at least a few days. And if you get a C and you therefore have an average grade, forget it, I'll never know you. I'm kidding. I think the weather passed onto your faces out there.
We left off last time with the Phoenicians and talked about some of their contributions. I really should develop a PowerPoint to put up with a various contributions from the ancient world.
The next group meeting is next week? Did anybody check it?
A Friday.
THE PROFESSOR: Next Friday? Just as a reminder, group meeting two, discuss what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of your living and dying in ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia. If you did not write a paper for Velikovsky, it should be due Monday at the latest. Just as a reminder, you don't want to lose those extra points that can be averaged in with your grades. Of course, subtract it if you don't do it. Please mark it in your books that you need to get those papers to me.
All right. We pointed out the Phoenicians were famous for the alphabet which most of us are aware of. They are also famous for the use of travel and mixing, getting all the way through to England and perhaps to the new world. There are some arguments that Phoenician ships traveled to the new world in sort of semi finishing up. It is also said that they kept all of their trade routes and travel techniques quite secret. If anybody spread rumors or spread information or tried to intervene in their specific realm of trade, they would filet them, skin them alive, and hang them from the trees and pour saltwater continuously on them until they died. It sounds like a nice punishment.
The Phoenicians were also credited with founding Carthage. Carthage, as some of you may know because some of you may have some background in history previously, is a city famous for having produced Hannibal lecture -- no? Hannibal -- those are old movies; right? Hannibal who crossed the Alps with his elephant sliding down the ice and invaded Italy, Rome. Carthage was here in the tip here of Tunisia and was a major trading city that controlled the Mediterranean until the expansion. And the first major wars fought for control of the Mediterranean was the Roman wars with Carthage. And we will obviously talk more about it. However, according to the history, according to what's been found, Carthage was not founded until 900 BCE. Now, if that's the case, it was far after the trading hour of the Phoenicians at around 1200.
We identify that somewhere around that same period of time along the coast of the Levant was a group of poem who the Palestinians often identify themselves with called the Philistines. I think it was after class somebody mentioned was the story true Biblically about Goliath and David and the answer is, who the hell knows. There is no reason why in ancient times there could not have been big people like we have today with gigantism such as the giants who are over eight foot tall in the sense of because of some disease and of course all the other freaks that wind up in basketball. In any case, the area here did have a group of settlements from a people known as the Hebrews. We of course know that somewhere after Joseph came to Egypt a man named Moses led the peoples of the book, the Hebrews, out of the land of Egypt, somewhere, sometimes dated at around 1200 BCE by historians. It could have been earlier, if it ever happened. And wandered for 40 years in the desert until a new generation could grow up and forget the polytheism, the multi God religion of ancient Egypt and would accept monotheism, the belief of course in one God. And of course with his going up to Mount Sinai and bringing down the 10 commandments, the law of Moses.
But the Jews were led into the area of the Levant which was known as Canaan, the land of milk and honey. Of course if you've been there at any point God knows how many hundreds of years, it doesn't look like the land of milk and honey. It is true that the Israelis with their irrigation and planting have at least produced some green in the region. There of course Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the Canaanites were defeated and the Israelis occupy that area. Basically they were tribes, 12 tribes, as most of you know as well. And basically a king finally, somewhere around 100, began to rule over them, a man named Saul who had, as his successor, a man named David. And without going into too much of the history, David of course was followed by Solomon who screwed around with the Queen of Sheba who may have been from Ethiopia. There are some beliefs that the mines of Solomon were in Ethiopia and she therefore would have been of African origin and therefore there were contacts. And under Solomon, the Israeli empire extended some believe to the Euphrates Tigress from the Jordan. I'm not sure how accurate all that is, into the lands of Nubia and Ethiopia.
It is argued by some Arabs that the Israeli flag with its blue star of David and its two blue stripes reflects the fact that Israel was refounded and that the people and government of Israel want to restore the ancient Biblical boundaries between the Jordan and the Tigress Euphrates and therefore want to occupy once again all this territory eliminating the Arab peoples or as most of them happen to also be Muslim. And in fact getting revenge for Ishmael the other son of -- getting rid of the people of Ishmael, the other son of Abraham -- rumors, stories, whatever. The Hebrews of course are still in existence today. The book of the old testament is certainly passed down to us, whoever wrote it and how it was written. And certainly that becomes a major contribution considering that a good portion of the world and the largest religion of the world is Christianity including it's various forms. And it stemmed from that region and Jesus himself was a Jew. So if impact of the Hebrew nation was quite or is quite massive today.
Somewhere at around 900, as the nation of Israel divided between the sons of Solomon creating 10 tribes, setting in Israel and two tribes as existing in a southern area here of Judea or Judah, a group same down from the Turkish area from the mountains here of Armenian region called Assyrians. The Assyrians are often identified as the Nazis of the ancient world. Not in the sense of developing concentration camps. They didn't bother hording people together. They just wiped them out. They used what was known in the Nazi terms in the German terms as a bit creek. When they went in, they moved rapidly. They had horse-drawn chariots. They had spoke wheels and they had massive iron blades attached to the spokes to cut down the enemy. They wiped out cities totally -- women, children, whatever. And when the Israelis refused to surrender, it is said that the Assyrians blinded every man, woman, and child in the nation, the numbers of course hundreds of thousands, and sent them out, led them into the deserts of Sinai and Arabia and possibly into Egypt and let them die, just left them out there blinded.
Now, for those of you who may be Mormon, you may have more input to me on this, but it is believed by the Mormons that these tribes of Israel wandered through India and across the ocean and actually settled in the new world. And there are many symbols and various documents that Mormons have to show this movement. And there they created the beginnings of the settlements. They were not necessarily all of the indigenous people of the American Indians, but they interacted with them. Is there anybody who's familiar with that in the class at all? Sort of close?
A Pretty much.
THE PROFESSOR: I just want the be sure I'm not way off base. What were they called?
A They were two different ones. The neophytes and layman fights. And they were primarily where Mexico is now, Central America, things like that. There were some up in North America on kind of where we would call the East Coast now. Of course they didn't refer to it that then.
THE PROFESSOR: Now, it is also true that we have found some symbols that have been identified with Judaism along the East Coast from ancient peoples there. Now, the question arises, were these Jews who moved from the Israeli extermination by the Assyrians or were they people who were escaping Spanish persecution when Spain ordered all Jews out in 1492? We don't know if there was a mixture. Lamanites?
A Lamanites.
A L-A-M-A-N-I-T-E-S.
THE PROFESSOR: See, one of the reason I went into teaching was to continue learning. If I ask questions -- I'm sorry, what's your name?
A Sara.
How many of you had heard something about this previous to coming to this class? This is all new to most of you then? Good. That's what we're doing here. Will I be testing on that? No.
In any case, basically as identified, the Assyrians conquered most of the Middle East with their terror tactics, controlled it through violence and did, similar to the Nazis as well, collected the knowledge of the region. The Nazis were great for looting the areas they conquered and bringing back art and books and culture into Berlin and into the families. The biggest library in the ancient world before Alexandria was the library at the capitol of the Assyrian empire and that was the library of Nineveh where many of the books, the cuneiform tablets, and scrolls even hieroglyphics were maintained and kept in this kingdom.
The Assyrians finally got a group of people to unit. They came together to get rid of the Assyrian oppression. And the groups that came together were the Babylonians. And we're going to talk about them as the new Babylonians or Chaldeans, the Persians, which of course is the area basically of Iran, and a group that is part or a little different ethic group at the time, the Medes. And they joined together to overthrow the Assyrian empire. However, the separation -- and that was about 612 is the date given BCE. They didn't hold too long. This is a Babylon of Biblical times. This is the Babylon with the tower of babble where Jews and others were brought to build a temple that would reach to heavens. And of course it fell down because of the inability of all the languages to work together. They did not have a babble fish to stick in the ear so that they could understand each other. Does anybody know what the hell I'm talking about there?
A It comes out Tuesday on video.
THE PROFESSOR: The movie? Okay. I've seen it, not in the theaters, but there are people in China, like my son, who pick these things up earlier. We're talking about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and where the language is understand by all because there's a little fish that you put in the ear and it goes into your brain and then it translates for you. I think it makes more sense those little robotic machines that hit you in the ankles so that you can understand. From Starscape? Thank you. Just as long as we have a few nerds besides me in the class. I didn't want to be the only one.
A Everybody else just doesn't want to admit that they know it.
THE PROFESSOR: You think so? Nobody else wants to admit they're nerds.
In any case, the Persians soon took control of the area. The Persian empire in a sense perhaps has lasted down to today. Many years ago the Shah of Iran before Khomeini and the Muslim theocracy that was established in Iran, the Shah of Iran, I think it was back in the late seventies created a major celebration and spent a fortune celebrating the 3,000 year anniversary of the nation of Persia.
The Persians, starting at around mid 500s BCE, created a powerful empire extending all the way through to Egypt, through the Mesopotamia, through India, and of course we're going to talk a little about the invasion of the Persians into western Europe and into Greece as well. The most famous of the Persian kings was a man named Darius D-A-R-I-U-S.
Q Wouldn't Xerxes be more famous for the entire thing?
THE PROFESSOR: No. Usually fame is not given to those that screw up. Fame is given to those that expand the empire. Besides, Darius is also known for having been extremely good looking, the handsomest. And nobody likes an ugly leader. Well, I don't know about that. The Palestinians did with Arafat. I'm sorry. I have to stand corrected on things and get people pissed at me.
The founding of the Persian empire was pretty much under a man called Cyrus. It was believed that Xerxes was the king in the Bible that is in the story of Esther. In the old testament, the Persians had an open society. They brought all cultures together and allowed a certain amount of self-rule. They set up what was known as satrapy or province they had what's called the ears and eyes of the king. And the ears and eyes were inspectors who came into the various areas unannounced, checking the books, checking that people were not ripping off the king. And that kept the bureaucracy in line. And of course giving some people some form of self-government also kept people somewhat happy with this Persian empire. In other words, they set up a very solid political system that did function for a large empire.
It is said that the advisor to the King of Persia, for some reason, hated the Jews and tried to eliminate any power and control that they had. However, the king married this woman as one of his brides, one of his wives called Esther. And loved her very much. And she finally convinced the king to execute Haman -- I think it was the name in the Bible. And so the Jews were saved. And so this was just one of the stories that are in the Bible itself. In any case we'll talk about Xerxes and Darius a bit later.
The Persians, as I say, were famous for their system of government, the workings of the government even though they had a very very strong hierarchy of power. It was very much an Oriental monarchy in the sense that the king had absolute power. It is often said that democracy was saved and western European individualism was saved, that the Greeks were finally defeated, the Persian empire. People had class rankings. They had to crawl up to people if they were above their level; in other words, the common people prostrated themselves, is that the world, by crawling to the nobles. Nobles are people who are equal could kiss each other on their cheeks to show their respect to each other. I've never read which cheeks they were kissing, but it was just identified, but whatever. And of course the king and the officials wore all kinds of wealthy jewelry, the royal purple. They were covered with jewelry.
But perhaps the greatest contribution of the Persians was something that most of us could not do without, including most of the women today in this class, I think all the women today in this class. The Persians invented pants. Before they were pants what does the Scotchman wear you are not his kilts? Obviously nobody wants to wear wool underwear. The pantaloons is that -- that's not their term, but the baggie pants actually were the uniform that the Persians developed. And to some extent, today our pants come from the Persians. Perhaps not the greatest invention ever, as I've said before in other classes. To me, the greatest invention was cotton underwear. Wool underwear just doesn't make. Of course Mel Brooks said the greatest invention was saran wrap. And I think it was because he saw Fried Green Tomatoes where the woman came out wearing saran wrap to entice her husband.
The Persians were also famous for their sense of beauty, for their desire to maintain health and perhaps because of the desert region, they took a lot of milk baths and used a lot of oil. And apparently the Persian skin is considered to be quite smooth and beautiful, at least in those days. I can't speak from any experience about Persian skin today. Maybe 40 years ago I could have -- but all right.
We do have another element I think of the Persian on our society and this is with Christianity. Many elements of Christianity stem from the Persian religion developed at around 600 BCE, somewhere in the 600 BCE period or for about 100 years thereafter, there was massive movements of some of the great religions developing. In Persia, the name was Zoroastrian, Zorro like the Mexican fighter Zorro; Confucius in Asia, Taoism developed in the same period, the ying and yang. All this at 600 to 500 BCE. And the expansion of a sense of faith and certainly as some people argue, the codification of the Bible and the real push for not only monotheism but the push in Isaiah and the sense of Isaiah for the coming of a Messiah.
It's interesting how there are movements that takes place throughout the world at certain periods of time even though there are not contacts. Why do these forces have similarities? Obviously we have no answer. Many years back I did read a book about how some of these changes that takes place 2,000 years ago or whatever are because humans do have a form of telepathy. And of course that's why we were able to develop those telepaths in Babylon five. Never mind. The reality is that -- I mean that the argument is that knowledge is not spread by people, but spread in people's minds so that they develop the wheel at the same time in different parts of the world. They develop forms of writing at about the same time without actual contact. How do you prove that right or wrong at this point in time? It's an interesting theory.
In any case, the religion in Persia -- let's deal with it as I like to deal with things by telling stories, personal ones. Many years ago I taught at a university in the south. And in the south it wasn't just the -- well, I wouldn't even say it wouldn't -- they didn't exist to speak of. Mormons didn't come to your door and Jehovah witnesses didn't come to your door. It was the Baptists who came to your door. They would come from different churches. There are more Baptist churches in Mobile than there are restaurants. Every block has at least two different churches. Has anybody ever been to Mobile, Alabama? In any case, I was living in Pensacola, Florida, 50 miles from Mobile. And as I told you, there are groups that come and they don't tell you who they are. With some Baptist churches, they come up and tell you. Other groups might try to quote/unquote deceive you, if you will. Well, my attitude is, if people come to my door and they tell me honestly who they are and I'm not interested; but if they're trying to play games on my head, I enjoy playing games back. So these people came to my door and they said they were taking a religious survey. And they asked me what religion I was. So I immediately responded Zoroastrianism.
How many of heard of Zoroastrian? It still exists today. And they looked at me and, how do you spell it? Okay. And they said we never heard of that. Could you tell us a little about it? And I said, yeah. We believe that there is a God of good and a force of evil in the universe. And that the God of good, if you believe in the God of good, you will be saved. And if you follow Ahriman, the God of evil rather than the God of good which is Ahura Mazda, like the car I think, Mazda. If you follow Ahura Mazda, you will have a salivation, a heaven. And if you do not, and follow Ahriman, you will burn in everlasting hell, into the fires of hell. And they looked a me and said, well, we were just about the tell you the same thing, about Jesus. And they said, when was your religion created? And I said, oh about 600 BCE or BC? Wow. And then they looked at me and, well, would you like to learn about our religion? No. Why would I? And they would say, do you have a Bible? Yeah, it's called Zebd Avesta.. It's in Persian. Where you born a Zoroastrian or did you convert when you were born. I was born an atheist. At that point, they gave me the little booklet about coming to their Baptist church on Sunday and sort of left very rapidly from this insane person's door. I later learned I lied, apparently. Today Zoroastrian about 400,000 people. The largest people tend to be in Pakistan and some in Persia left and a few in India. And cross the street from me when I first moved into Fremont were some Pakistanis who were Zoroastrians and wore the ... that the Zoroastrian's wear. And I started to learn a little more about their faith. Apparently in the strict Zoroastrian faith, they do not accept converts, which would explain in part the small numbers today. You have to be born into it. So if you're your mother or farther, one of them is Zoroastrian, you could be born into it. You could not, as a child or as an adult, be fully accepted through conversion. Again, the identity with the fires of hell was very much apparently coming out of that Persian Zoroastrian place.
The interesting part about it is that we found traces of that Zoroastrian faith in what was called Mithraism in the Roman legions. The Roman legions especially the Praetorian God who were the defenders of the empire were often identified with the Mithra element of the Zoroaster gene the fires and damnation. It also reappeared in the 1200s as a heresy among Christians, what became a duality of God, a God of good and a God of evil. And it created in a sense a crusade. It created the Albigensian crusade that fought against where the accepted Christian, which we call Catholic today, bought against this duality of God that among the people who fought against the Albigensians in southern France where St. Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic the Dominicans. And those groups came out of that area.
I may have mentioned earlier and I'm mentioning it again because I really do think if you have an opportunity -- it's difficult to read. I think I mentioned In the Name of the Rose, the book a while back about the eyeglass. Was it this class that I mentioned it? It's a novel written by an Italian literature professor. It's called the In the Name of the Rose. It deals with the whole issue of libraries and monasteries in the 1200 era and that remnants of that duality of Christ of the Albigensians. It's a murder mystery. It's one of those who done it things that really has sort of the Sherlock Holmes approach to it. And it also deals with many things of learning. It really does show what life was like in the monastery and how knowledge and those who control knowledge control power. I think the most amazing thing from the book to me was the all sense of eyeglass. One the 1200s there were no eyeglasses. And therefore, for monks especially, whose life it was to read and copy the so called illuminated manuscripts, their life was over once they turned 40 because most people have an inability the read after 40 without glasses. I was lucky in a sense that being nearsighted, I was able to continue to read without glasses. Actually, I still am, but just recently I'm getting a little blurry, which makes me feel like I finally reached 40. In any case, the fact is when we get to the middle ages -- and you'll have some time -- I think it would be one of those movies that when you have some time, you might want to view and get a feel for that particular era.
We're dealing again with that force of good and evil, that duality that came out at the Persian empire. We're going to stop with Persia because we're going to pick up what happened to it with the Greeks and Alexander the Great. At this point, what I wanted to do was spend about 20 minutes showing you some slides and pictures. And as long as I've loaded it in here, let's give you a little touch of the videos.