In this excerpt from an article in The Atlantic Monthly (July 1919), the British Zionist Harry Sacher (1882–1971) explains to an American audience why the issue of a Jewish homeland is such a necessary part of the then-ongoing Paris Peace Talks, at the end of World War I.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
From The Atlantic Monthly, July 1919
Born on the Golden Horn and raised in the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul, Çelebi traveled throughout Ottoman domains between 1640 and 1680. He published an account of his travels and experiences as the Seyahatname, or Book of Travels. In the first of his ten books in the document, Çelebi provides a lengthy description of Istanbul around the year 1638, including a panoramic view of 1,100 artisan and craft guilds. The numbers and diversity of trades represented underscore the extent of Ottoman commerce—as well as the pride of place each of the city’s working people claimed as their due.
Robert Dankoff, An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Çelebi, 2nd ed. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 86–89.
The Papyrus Lansing is a letter of instruction from the royal scribe (and “chief overseer of the cattle of Amun-Re, King of Gods”) Nebmare-nakht to his apprentice Wenemdiamun. It seems to date from the reign of the pharaoh Senusret III (Sesostris III). The letter conveys a great deal of practical advice to an up-and-coming scribe—as well as warnings about what temptations he must avoid to be successful. While Nebmare-nakht is clearly proud of the status his work has earned him, he also illuminates the specific duties and responsibilities of a royal official in this period.
Translated by A. M. Blackman and T. E. Peet, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 11 (1925): 284–298, as quoted by Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol. 2, 171–172.
Abd al-Hamid, al-Ghazali
Born in 1058 to a family of spinners and sellers of wool in a small village in eastern Iran, Ghazali became one of the most prominent expounders of Islamic theology of his day. Traveling widely, from Persia to Baghdad to Damascus, he mastered a wide range of disciplines, and he energetically engaged in arguments with those he considered extremists. When he died in 1111, he left behind a series of treatises, many of them incorporating autobiographical material, particularly the discoveries he had himself made and was fully capable of defending.
Abū Hāmid Muhammad al-Ghazzālī, The Alchemy of Happiness, trans. Claud Field (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1991), 6–7 and 11–13.
In the aftermath of the Great War, the Allied nations compiled both regimental and general histories of the conflict. In these narratives, the experiences of the soldiers and their commanders are filtered through the ultimate outcomes—and attendant sufferings—inflicted by the war. The errors of judgment and planning made by commanders are preserved in these records, and are particularly significant to our understanding today of battles whose brutality and massive death tolls are still shocking. The contribution of ANZAC (the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops to the campaigns at Gallipoli and the Dardanelles (April 1915–January 1916) against the Ottoman Turks is marked in the ANZAC countries as a solemn day of remembrance. In this excerpt from a multivolume narrative of the campaigns compiled by C. E. W. Bean, the casualty figures, and Bean’s reactions to the deployment of soldiers and the possible waste of war, are striking.
C. E. W. Bean, The Story of ANZAC from 4 May, 1915, to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, 11th ed. (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1941), 743–745, 761–762, available online at http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/first_world_war/AWMOHWW1/AIF/Vol2/.
Ibn Wahab was an Arab merchant from Basra (Iraq) who sailed to China via the Indian Ocean around 872 CE. His travel account includes a description of his interview with the Chinese emperor. Wahab's visit at the height of the T'ang dynasty (618-907 CE), with its flourishing trade and efficient civil service, provides a first-hand account of China when its influence extended throughout all of Eurasia.
Fitzgerald, C.P. China: A Short Cultural History (London: Cresse Press, 1930), pp. 339-340.
Abba Eban (1915–2002) was an Israeli diplomat who served as Minister of Education and Culture (1960–1963), Deputy Prime Minister (1963–1966), and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1966–1974). From 1949 to 1959 he served as the first ambassador to the United Nations for the newly established State of Israel. The speech from which this selection is excerpted provided the Israeli view of the question of the Palestinian refugees.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
Composed in Akkadian and consisting of 480 lines distributed over four tablets, this poem is a protest against one man’s undeserved suffering. The author is tormented but cannot determine the cause, and he feels that the god Marduk is not responding adequately to his lamentation. Because he has always been faithful to his god and assiduous in his worship, the Sufferer begins to speculate that the gods are not concerned with human pain at all. Even more, they may engage in this sort of torment for their own benefit. The figure of the “Righteous Sufferer” is frequently compared to the Biblical figure Job. While this “Babylonian Job” is eventually delivered from his sufferings, perhaps his complaints linger on.
Nels M. Bailkey and Richard Lim, eds., Readings in Ancient History: Thought and Experience from Gilgamesh to St. Augustine, 6th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2002), 20–22.
A few months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in the spring of 2001, Taliban officials oversaw a series of explosions in the Bamiyan Valley, which deliberately detonated priceless elements of world heritage. Among the victims of this depredation were a set of enormous Buddha statues that had symbolized the unity of peoples in the region across religious lines. The two statues of Buddha (at 35 and 53 meters in height, one was the tallest Buddha in the world until its destruction) were rendered in a blended Hellenistic and South Asian style. Even after the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, little has been done to restore the objects. (Left: an 1880 drawing showing how they originally appeared; right, what remained of the statues after their destruction.)
©SuperStock (drawing); ©Graciela Gonzalez Brigas (landscape)
Herodotus (c. 484-c.425 B.C.E.) is generally recognized as the “Father of History.” Following the tradition of the Homeric epics, Herodotus sets out to chronicle the great and heroic deeds of men. Unlike Homer, however, Herodotus writes of the historic past in an attempt to understand the causes and origins of the war between the Greeks and Persians that culminated in the early years of his life. In this selection, Herodotus chronicles the desperate stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae, as the Greeks struggled with an overwhelmingly large Persian invasion force.
G. Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1910)
Darius I, the Great (522 – 486 B.C.E.) personified the Achaemenid title of “shahinshah,” or “king of kings.” To defend his status as shahinshah, Darius had a list of his accomplishments inscribed on a cliff side in Behistan in Iran. The inscription, written in three different forms of cuneiform, was accompanied by a massive relief carving that depicted Darius leading a line of the captives. The list details Darius’s victory over Gaumata, a magician (or Magian) who had usurped the throne of Persia from Cambyses. Gaumata pretended to be Bardiya, the son of Cyrus and brother to Cambyses, the emperor Gaumata challenged. Darius worshipped Ahuramazda, the main god of Zoroastrianism.
“Achievements of Darius,” from the Behistan Inscription of King Darius, from A Sourcebook of Ancient History, ed. George Willis Botsford and Lillie Shaw Botsford. (New York: Macmillan Company, 1927), 57-59.
Composed in Arabic and translated into Persian in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Chachnama details the Arab conquest of the Sind (a province corresponding to northwest India and Pakistan) in the eighth century. The work details the most successful of the many attempts by Muslims to conquer the region, which was led by Muhammad Ibn Qasim, a cousin of the governor of Iraq. In this history of the campaign, Ibn Qasim is both a conquering hero and a defender of Islam, subduing non-Muslims and imposing new religious values in his wake.
The Chachnamah: An Ancient History of Sind, trans. Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg, available online at http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main?url=pf%3Ffile%3D12701030%26ct%3D0.
Samuel Huntington (1927–2008) was an influential political scientist who taught for most of his career at Harvard University. He was the author of numerous books and articles on politics and government, including the Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil–Military Relations (1957) and The Political Order in Changing Societies (1968). The latter provided a critique of modernization theory, which had driven much of U.S. policy in the developing world in the prior decade. In Clash of Civilizations, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs, Huntington argues that the main drivers of history in this century will not be political or ideological, as they have been in the past, but civilizational. Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world.
From Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pp. 209–18.
Ibn al-Athir was a Muslim scholar whose most important work was al-Kamil fi at-tarikh (“The Complete History”), a history of the world. Born in Jazirat in 1160, he lived most of his life in Mosul but traveled widely in the Muslim lands of southwest Asia, including several trips to Baghdad, and later lived in Aleppo and Damascus. As a young man he spent time with Saladin’s army in Syria as Saladin fought the Crusader states. He died in 1233 in Mosul. Here he tells the story of the origin of the Crusades as he had it and then describes the Frankish conquest of Jerusalem in 1099.
From Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades. University of California Press (1957): 3–4, 7–9, 10–12. Copyright © 1957 The Regents of the University of California.
Abd al-Hamid al-Ghazali
Originally from Persia (Iran), Abd al-Hamid al- Ghazali (1058-1111 CE) was an educated scholar living and working in Baghdad, the cosmopolitan center of the Muslim world at that time. Midway through his career, however, Ghazali changed course and took up the Sufi mystic path of contemplation and writing. His scholarly background helped him reconcile orthodox Islam with the individualism of Sufism.
Abd al-Hamid al-Ghazali, Confessions (1100), trans. by Claude Field (E. P. Dutton, 1909).
This remarkable account of a merchant’s travels throughout Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India resulted from the singular obsession of a monk in retirement. Determined to prove that a proper understanding of earth’s geography would confirm God’s creation—and that the earth was a flat, oblong table surrounded by the ocean—the monk Cosmas reflected back on his extensive voyages, which had probably been undertaken to further a spice-import business. Cosmas commented on the trading practices of the Aksumites and on their wealthy culture, providing one of the few outsider glimpses of Aksum that are now available.
Cosmas Indicopleustes, Christianike Topographia, Book 3, trans. and ed. Christopher Haas, Villanova University; available online: http://www29.homepage.villanova.edu/christopher.haas/cosmas_indicopleustes.htm<
John A. Hobson
John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) grew up during an economic depression in England that ultimately shifted his intellectual interests from literature to economics. One of his major contributions is the theory of under-consumption, which argues that low consumer demand and high supply of goods will lead to a sluggish economy. Hobson also held that imperialism could be stripped down to economic interests by the mother country: it was no more than a search for new capitalist markets. This selection explores Hobson’s observed relationships among economy, international struggle, imperialism, and nationalism.
From John A. Hobson, Imperialism and the Lower Races. New York: James Pott and Co., 1902, part II, chapter IV.
Cyrus the Great
Founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Cyrus (Kurosh) the Great rose to the throne of a small kingdom in 559 BCE; by the time of his death in 529, he had brought virtually the entire Near East under his control. In 539, he conquered Babylon and drove out Nabonidus, the last of the Neo-Babylonian kings. However, he was hailed as a liberator by the priests of the Babylonian god Marduk, and he issued a remarkable document, guaranteeing freedom of religion to the subjects whom he had added to his empire. The text was publicized in Akkadian, an ancient Mesopotamian language, and it is preserved today on a clay cylinder, today called the Cyrus Cylinder and housed in the British Museum.
Cyrus Cylinder, trans. R. W. Rogers, http://www.kchanson.com/ANCDOCS/meso/cyrus.html.
The Byzantine Empire was racked by a series of religious disputes that pulled in emperors as well as priests. One of the most significant of these was an ongoing difference of opinion concerning “graven images” of Jesus and other prominent figures in Christian narratives. Was it proper to create and display images of God, and, if so, should existing “icons” be destroyed in order to protect the faithful? These documents represent the two major perspectives on this debate, between the poles of the “iconodule” (pro-icon) position and the “iconoclastic” (anti-icon) position.
Anthony Bryer and Judith Herrin, eds., Iconoclasm: Papers Given at the Ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975 (Birmingham, UK: Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, 1977), available online at http://www.tulane.edu/~august/H303/readings/Iconoclasm.htm.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the greatest literary work from ancient Mesopotamia. Its roots extend back to the earliest literary traditions at the end of the third millennium BCE (writing in cuneiform itself is attested since around 3000 BCE). Gilgamesh was in fact the name of one of the early kings of Sumerian Uruk, as attested in king lists. As often happens with mythical traditions, a semi-legendary king becomes a hero around whom fantastic stories grow, including ones imbued with epic motifs: the transformation of the hero into a noble king, battles with monstrous creatures, the value of friendship held up and extolled, the harsh consequences of divine punishment, and the inevitability of death.
The stories about Gilgamesh became enormously popular throughout the ancient Near East; they even reached the Greek world. The textual history of what we call The Epic of Gilgamesh,” therefore, is complex, as copies and translations of it circulated throughout the Near East. The texts we have do not form a single version but come from different times and places, often from fragmentary texts. The oldest fragments are written in Sumerian and probably go back to traditions from the Ur III period (Third Dynasty of Ur) at the very end of the third millennium BCE (2094-2047 BCE). These were independent shorter stories about Gilgamesh, and were preserved mostly by later Babylonian writers in the eighteenth century BCE, whose language was Akkadian, but who preserved Sumerian texts because of their prestige and cultural importance for the Babylonians. New versions in Akkadian, in turn, were created during the second half of the second millennium BCE (late Bronze Age), including one known as “Surpassing all other kings.” During this period, the epic was broadly copied, not only as great literature, but even for use in school and sometimes for ritual use. Fragments in Akkadian and in some cases translations in other languages have been found in the Levant and Anatolia. Finally, an even newer version, creatively expanding on the previous ones, appeared in the libraries of Assyria and Babylonia in the early to mid-first millennium BCE. Also written in Akkadian, this text is fairly standardized throughout and thus is known as the “Standard Babylonian Version.” This version forms the basis for most modern translations, with some of its gaps filled by other extant versions.
From Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1989): 50–56, 88–89, 95–116, 118–19, 150–51.