Theseus Comes Home

The annual festival of the Great Dionysia, in March of the year 468, was not only remarkable for the victory of twenty-seven year old Sophocles over the honoured and battle-scarred Aeschylus, who was now approaching sixty. There was something else. Owing to the excitement which the competition between youth and age had aroused, the official whose duty it was to appoint the judges had not yet dared to do so. He was about to solve the problem in the way Athens solved many problems — by drawing lots — when Cimon, an aristocrat, politician and admiral, entered the great open-air theatre with nine of his senior officers. They had just returned from a naval expedition, during which they had subdued the island of Scyros, the supposed burial place of Theseus. An oracle had said that the body of Theseus should be brought back to Athens and Cimon had brought it (or someone else’s; there were no archaeologists to put awkward questions). Cimon was therefore the hero of the hour.  The official in charge stood by the altar. (These drama festivals, were religious ceremonies, the god on this occasion being Dionysus.) With relief the official saw Cimon and his officers come in. Certain that his choice would be popular he led them to the altar and administered the judges’ oath. It was their decision which sent Aeschylus off to Sicily in a rage.  For our present purpose the point of interest in this story is the huge coffin, alleged to contain the body of the mighty Theseus, which the Athenians had greeted with such rejoicing. That sort of demonstration over a legendary hero takes place either when a people is in great danger, or when they become ambitious. Now although Athens was still at war with Persia, the Persians had left …

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Postwar World Looks for Ways to Live at Peace

The postwar stirring of nationalism among peoples in Asia and Africa, was one important outcome of World War 2, but World War 2 created another great yearning that was world-wide, the desire for a firm and lasting peace. This greatest of all conflicts had uprooted millions from their homes, destroying their means of livelihood. It had brought death, sorrow and a great war-weariness. News of the Allied victory in 1945 was received in a spirit of quiet relief and hope for the future.  Following World War 2 a split developed between the free world (designated by the NATO flag) and the Communist world. The hope for peace met disappointing setbacks in the years that followed. Instead of working together, nations split into three camps — the free world, the Communist world, and the neutralist countries. As a result of Soviet policies, a “cold war” of words and threats developed. This “cold war” turned into armed conflict when United Nations forces came to the defense of the Republic of Korea. Communist-inspired crises also broke out in many other parts of the world.  Problems plagued the world in recent years and the United States played a key part in the strengthening of the free world and in the search for peace. We get a glimpse of the awe-inspiring challenges of tomorrow’s world. These matters will be taken up under the following topics: How did the postwar world become divided? What steps did the free world take to meet the threat of postwar communism? What did the postwar future hold?  1945 A.D. – 1970 A.D 1. How Did the Postwar World Become Divided?  Victory in World War 2 would not have been possible without close teamwork among the nations fighting the Axis powers. Then, in 1945, while the combined armed forces were crushing Germany and Japan, the United …

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Nationalist Beliefs in Asia and Africa after WW 2

Nationalist beliefs in Asia and Africa swept over changes in many lands. In the spring of 1955, the city of Bandung, Indonesia, was tense with excitement. Crowds lined the streets to catch glimpses of delegates attending an international conference. The citizens of Bandung saw Arab diplomats arrive, dressed in the flowing robes and headdress of the desert. They saw prime ministers and foreign ministers wearing the jaunty caps and spotless white clothing popular in tropical South Asia. The rest of the world watched too, for the Bandung Conference was the first of its kind ever to be held. Only Asian and African statesmen were present, yet they spoke for half of the world’s people. Many of the 29 nations they represented had become independent since World War II. In short, the Bandung Conference was a symbol of the tremendous changes that swept across Asia and Africa after 1945.  New nationalist feelings emerge in Asia and Africa as peoples once under colonial control strive for freedom. We read about the recent nationalistic efforts of Asian and African peoples to gain freedom from colonial control, to run their own affairs and to achieve a better standard of living. This nationalist awakening made India a free nation. It brought important nationalistic changes in Southeast Asia. It set the Moslem Middle East aflame with nationalist feeling and swept over Africa. The Communist drive to gain power round the world, but nationalist events in Asia and Africa are important to free people everywhere. 1939 A.D. – Modern Day What nationalist changes took place in China and Japan since world war 2?How has nationalist beliefs affected India and Southeast Asia?How did nationalists changed the Moslem world?How has the desire for freedom transformed nationalistic Africa? 1. What Nationalist changes have taken place in Japan and China since World …

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aggressor nations

Aggressor Nations Fail to Achieve World Conquest

It was summer in 1939, vacation time for lots of people. No one knows how many Americans heard the voice of the British statesman Winston Churchill coming over the air on August 8, less than a month before World War 2 began. His words were grim, prophetic and weighted with bitter humour. “Holiday time, ladies and gentlemen! Holiday time, my friends across the Atlantic! Holiday time, when the summer calls the toilers of all countries for an all too brief spell from the offices and mills and stiff routine of daily life and bread-winning and sends them to seek, if not rest, at least change in new surroundings, to return refreshed and keep the myriad wheels of civilized society on the move.” Thus began the stockily built Englishman with the round face and the big cigar. As he talked, his light mood changed. He spoke of the “hush” which he said was “hanging over Europe.”  Aggressions by the aggressor nations (Axis powers) plunged the world into the greatest of all wars. “What kind of a hush is it?” Churchill asked his radio audience. “Alas! It is the hush of suspense and in many lands it is the hush of fear. . . . Listen carefully; I think I hear something — yes, there it is, quite clear. Don’t you hear it? It is the tramp of armies crunching the gravel of the parade grounds, splashing through rain-soaked fields, the tramp of 2 million German soldiers and more than a million Italians going on maneuvers –yes, only on maneuvers! Of course, it’s only maneuvers -just like last year. After all, the dictators must train their soldiers. They could scarcely do less in common prudence, when the Danes, the Dutch, the Swiss, the Albanians and of course the Jews, may leap out at any moment and …

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Dictators in Germany and Italy Challenge Democracies

Dictators came to power in many European countries during the twenty years following World War I. About 9:20 P.M. on February 27, 1933, the rumble and clang of fire engines echoed through the heart of Berlin, capital city of Germany. Down the broad avenue called Unter den Linden the trucks roared toward the Reichstag building where the German legislature met, but the firemen were too late; they could not check the flames which licked savagely from the windows. Within a few hours the big building was no more than a smoke-stained skeleton. The Reichstag fire was a grim prophecy of what lay ahead for Germany. Investigation proved that the fire had been started at many points in the building at the same moment; but by whom? Police claimed they had the answer when they arrested a dull-witted fellow found poking about the fire-gutted building that night. He had been arrested before for setting fires; besides, they said, he was a Communist. It is quite possible, however, that the person mainly responsible for the fire was a man with unruly hair, burning eyes and a toothbrush mustache. The dictator of all dictators, his name was Adolf Hitler. The confusion and hard times which Germany had suffered since its defeat in World War I provided an excellent opportunity for power-hungry dictators like Hitler. A few months before the Reichstag fire he had been named Germany’s Chancellor, or Prime Minister. Neither dictators like Hitler nor the Nazi Party which backed him had a firm grip on the government. (The name Nazi consists of the first four letters of the German word for “National,” in the name of the National Socialist Party.) A troubled Europe saw the rise of dictators in Italy and Germany and violent civil war in Spain. A new election was set for March 5. Something had to be done to …

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Russia Becomes a Communist Dictatorship

When the United States entered World War 1, President Wilson had stated that America’s aim in taking up arms was “to make the world safe for democracy.” The first results of the war seemed to show that this attempt had succeeded. Old empires had crumbled and new republics had risen from their ruins. Democratic constitutions were adopted in most of the countries which the war had created or remodeled, but this apparent victory for democracy did not last, even though kings did not return to power as they had in 1815 after Napoleon’s defeat. What happened was that the kings were replaced in many countries by military adventurers or by ambitious political party leaders. This change occurred chiefly in those countries where the people had had little or no experience in self-government. Much of the world’s history from 1918 to 1939 was made by these dictators. Modern Russia overthrew czarist rule but came under the dictatorship of the Communist Party. Russia was the first major country to go through profound changes. Even before Germany was defeated, you will remember, Russia had overthrown its all-powerful Czar. The Communists, who soon seized power, set up what they called the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” or rule of the workingmen. Actually, power in Russia was centred in the hands of a few top leaders. The Communists established a system in which Western ideas of personal liberty, democracy and private ownership had no place. What is more, they tried to force Communist ideas on other countries. By their ruthless control over Russia’s millions they changed Russia from a defeated and disorganized country in 1918 to the greatest threat to the free world by the late 1940’s. 1815 A.D. – 1939 A.D. How did all this come about? Just as we found that the causes of …

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World War I and the Peace that Failed

The soldier stood on the muddy “fire step” that reached, shelflike, the length of the deep trench. It was too dark to see his tired, mud-smirched face or to judge how old he was. He wore a steel helmet or “tin hat” and the khaki coloured blouse, pants and spiral leggings of the British Expeditionary Force. The barrel of his Enfield rifle rested on the top of a sodden sandbag. Tensely he crouched, his head thrust forward and turned slightly to the right, the better to hear with. His squinting eyes bored into the foggy gray of pre-dawn light. If he only knew what was out there in the hundred yards of shell-pocked “no mans land” between the British and the German trenches! Had he heard the rasping sound that a man’s leather boots make as he crawls along the ground? Had he heard the dull plunk which meant another strand had been cut in the barbed-wire entanglement that zigzagged in front of the trenches? Was a German wiring party out there cutting a path for German troops to use to launch an attack on the British? Nervously his hand gripped tighter the stock of his rifle. Why didn’t the fog lift and the daylight come? He shook, partly from the cold and partly from nervousness. He was hungry and tired, too, but he had his job to do. Nations throughout the world lined up on opposing sides in World War I. This was the kind of fighting that took place in World War I, when Allied and German forces pinned each other down in deeply dug trenches. There was little of the open-held charging of earlier wars or of the rapid, slashing sweep of tanks that was to take place in World War II. Instead, World War I was …

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Play-acting had been developing at Athens since Peisistratus had introduced the Dionysia and the Panathenaea festivals; but to call it play-acting in the early stages gives a false impression. It was more like open air opera and ballet with a strong religious flavour. Originally there was a “chorus” of fifty men who chanted and danced in a dignified way. In the intervals an actor recited. Aeschylus added a second actor and the two actors, as well as conversing with each other, conversed with the chorus or its leader. All wore masks and impressive robes. Several plays were performed one after the other and the performance lasted all day. Later there were three actors, each of whom could play more than one part and a chorus of only fifteen. There were plenty of female parts, but they were always played by men. The little we know of the music makes it certain that we would have found it monotonous. It was usually provided by a man playing a kind of flute. Aeschylus grew up to the sound of poetry, but none of it was Athenian. Homer was Ionian; Hesiod was a Boeotian; so was Pindar (c. 522-442), who wrote odes in honour of victors in the Olympic games. Sappho, the woman lyric poet (c. 600 B.c.), was a native of Lesbos. Simonides, was from Ceos. There were many others, from the islands, from the mainland and even from Sparta. Aeschylus, however, is the first great Athenian poet of whom we know. The Persians was exceptional among tragedies in dealing with recent history. The characters in most tragedies were drawn from legend or the distant past, but Aeschylus was interested in the sin of getting above oneself, of getting too big for one’s boots and the conduct of Xerxes was an excellent …

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Imperialism Affects the Moslem World

Slowly the train had puffed over the heights of the Lebanon Mountains. Now, at last, it was coasting down the eastern slope. Hasan Ali, an Arab trader, gazed ahead down onto the broad Syrian plains far below. Already in the growing light of early morning he could make out some of the tall minarets of the 300 mosques in Damascus. Hasan Ali had first looked on the ancient city many years before when he was a boy. He and his father had joined the great caravan which yearly wound its way from Damascus across the Arabian Desert to Mecca, the holy city of Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah. Hasan Ali smiled as he thought of the changes that had occurred in his lifetime. This jolting train was one and so was the telegraph line. Both were good for trade. The hospital and the school for girls in Beirut, the city he had just left, seemed to him fine things, although many of his countrymen were less pleased with such changes in their way of life. The same could be said for the modern guns and the clever machines which sewed cloth. The spread of Western imperialism helped to bring about the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. We have read about widely separated parts of the globe — Africa, the Far East, the Pacific and Latin America. All these areas were brought into contact with Western industrialized nations during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Contacts with the West and Western ways likewise took place, as the opening paragraphs indicate, in the area which extended from southeastern Europe to what is now western Pakistan. Most of the people of this region, along with those of North Africa, shared a common bond — they were followers of the great religious leader, …

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The British Empire Becomes the Commonwealth of Nations

On a January evening in 1896, a famous British statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, attended a banquet in honour of an Englishman about to go to Australia as a colonial governor. Chamberlain was called upon to make an after dinner speech. What he said that wintry evening years ago explains what people at that time meant by the “British Empire” and points to the changes which he hoped would take place in the future. Here is part of what Chamberlain said: I have heard it said that we [English] never had a colonial policy, that we have simply blundered into all the best places in the earth. I admit that we have made mistakes . . . but, after all is said, this remains –that we alone among the nations of the earth have been able to establish and maintain colonies under different conditions in all parts of the world, that we have maintained them to their own advantage and to ours, that we have secured not only the loyal attachment of all British subjects, but the general good will of the races, whether they be natives or whether they be Europeans that have thus come under the British flag. . . . Let us do all in our power by improving our communications, by developing our commercial relations, by co-operating in mutual defense and none of us will then even feel isolated; no part of the Empire will stand alone, so long as it can count upon the common interest of all in its welfare and in its security. . . . In the words of Tennyson, let Britain’s myriad voices call, “Sons, be welded each and all, Into one Imperial whole, One with Britain, heart and soul! One life, one flag, one fleet, one Throne!” In time to come, the …

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