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Tag Archives: Asia Minor

The Ionian Greeks

ionian greeks

The Ionian Greeks, who lived on the coast of Asia Minor and the adjoining islands, had produced some of the leading poets and thinkers of the Greek world. Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.) predicted an eclipse of the sun and introduced geometry to the Greeks. Pythagoras of Samos (c. 500) won fame as a philosopher and mathematician, although it is not now thought that he discovered the geometrical truth which bears his name (i.e. that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides). Thales was interested in politics as well as mathematics and tried to unite the cities of Ionia into a federation. Each city-state would have renamed independent but would have sent representatives to a council to discuss affairs of common interest. This scheme did not succeed. The Ionian cities of the mainland (except for the largest, Miletus) became subject to Lydia and later, when Cyrus conquered Croesus (p. 21), they all became subject to Persia. Even some of the islands succumbed. Polycrates, the fabulously wealthy tyrant of Samos, whose position was such that he could enter into a treaty with the king of Egypt, was enticed by the Persians onto the mainland and killed (522). In the year 522 a pretender had seized the throne of Persia and some nobles, of whom Darius was one, joined in assassinating him. They then decided that they would ride out early in the morning and that the one whose horse neighed first after the sun rose should be King. Darius’s groom saw to it that his master’s horse neighed first and Darius became King of Persia. Neither fate nor the other nobles punished him for cheating in this way. He ruled Persia until 485, by no means …

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Athenian Democracy

The heroism of Harmodius and Aristogeiton was a myth, but Athenian democracy was not. In the two great wars of the fifth century — the Persian and the Peloponnesian — the Athenians clearly felt they had what would now be called a “way of life” which was worth fighting for. Cleisthenes, although he was of nobler blood than Solon, gave more power to the poor than Solon had done. Nearly all Athenian citizens now had a vote in the Assembly, a body which approved laws discussed in the Council of Five Hundred. The Five Hundred were elected by the citizens and anyone over thirty could be a member. As well as taking his share in lawmaking and government a citizen also played his part as a juryman in seeing that justice was done. Even the archons could be brought to trial when their year of office was over, if they were thought to have misused their power. There was a kind of police force consisting of Scythian archers which Peisistratus had set up. But they were the citizens’ servants, not his masters. There is often a good deal of argument about what is meant by a “free” country. A useful test is to ask: Can police knock on the door in the middle of the night and take people away to death or imprisonment without a public trial? If this “knock on the door” question is asked about fifth-century Athens the answer to it would be: No. There were no secret police and there were no mysterious disappearances in the middle of the night. These privileges of citizenship, however, were not shared by everyone living in Attica. “An Athenian citizen” does not mean the same as “a resident in Athens”. Neither women nor slaves might vote and immigrants from other …

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Early Civilization Spreads by Land and Sea

Civilization

Now Hiram, King of Tyre, sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him King. . . And Solomon sent word to Hiram, “ . . . I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God. . . Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and . . . I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians [people of the city of Sidon].” . . . And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “. . . I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon; and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct and I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it; and you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired. while Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors [measures] of wheat as food for his household and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil. . . And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two of them made a treaty. And King Solomon built a fleet of ships. . . And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea. . . These words adapted from the Bible tell the story of trade agreements between two kings who ruled about 1000 B.C. You have probably heard of Solomon. He had the reputation of being the wisest king of ancient times. But …

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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920

league

DURING THE war, three great empires — the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German –had vanished forever. Then, by the Treaty of Sévres, a fourth empire, the Ottoman, was quietly put to death. Turkey was confined to Asia Minor and became a republic. Of its former possessions, the League of Nations assigned Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Iraq to Great Britain. Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had fought the Turks under an adventurous British colonel named T. E. Lawrence, became independent kingdoms. In Europe, there were seven new states: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first six, with Rumania, formed a zone that blocked Russian communism from spreading westward. Rumania had grown larger at the expense of Hungary, Russia and Greece at the expense of Turkey. Hungary and Austria were made small independent states, with no link between their governments. The South Slavs, who had triggered the crisis that brought on the war, saw their dream come true in a free, united Yugoslavia, but some Yugoslavs were still dissatisfied, for the Allies, in line with their secret treaty of 1915, had given Italy the port of Trieste and some islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Italy also received the Trentino and South Tyrol, former Austro-Hungarian lands. AMERICA AND THE LEAGUE Although the five treaties of the Peace of Paris changed the map of the world, it left more than one nation resentful and discontented. The Italians felt that the Allies had betrayed them by not giving them any of the German colonies. The Japanese felt cheated of their rightful gains in the Pacific and the Germans were particularly bitter, for they felt they had been unjustly treated in almost every way. When the peace conference began, they had expected that the Allies …

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Venice, City in the Sea 1350 – 1590

venice

The houses of Venice are “like sea-birds half on sea and half on land,” said Cassiodorus. An officer of a king of the Goths, Cassiodorus saw Venice in 537. It was a little settlement of huts built on the mud-flats in an out-of-the-way lagoon. Its people were refugees‚ Italians who had been driven from their homes by a horde of barbaric invaders. They were safe in the lagoon, for no stranger could navigate the treacherous channels. For the sake of safety, they were content with comforts that were simple at best. “In this place,” Cassiodorus said, “rich and poor are alike — they all fill up on fish.” A thousand years later, when Venice had become the richest and most powerful city in Italy, it was still a place of refuge from the wars and turmoil of the mainland. The lagoon was still an unbeatable defense. Instead of streets, there were canals and the city’s mansions, marble palaces and gold-peaked churches still hovered above the water like sea-birds, perched on 117 islands linked by nearly 400 bridges. In every way, Venice belonged to the sea and for many years the sea belonged to Venice. The descendants of the settlers commanded mighty warships that ruled the eastern Mediterranean. With their great merchant galleys, they were the lords of the trade-routes of the Adriatic and Aegean Seas and they sailed the Atlantic to England and Flanders. In the Middle Ages, the Venetians built and manned the hundreds of ships that took the Crusaders to the Holy Land — and they saw to it that the knights captured a few colonies for Venice along the way. Through the years, these colonies multiplied into an ocean empire until even Constantinople, the capital of the old Roman Empire of the East, paid homage to the …

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The Crusades 1096-1260

crusade

ON A COLD NOVEMBER DAY IN 1096, a great crowd of people gathered in a field at the town of Clermont in France. They had come from miles around and near them were pitched the tents they had put up for shelter. For some days, Pope Urban II had been holding a great council of cardinals, bishops and princes. Today he was to speak to the people and so many wanted to hear that no building was large enough to hold them all. A platform had been built in the center of the field and as Pope Urban stepped up on it a hush fell over the crowd. Pope Urban was a Frenchman and he spoke to the people around him as fellow Frenchmen. “Oh, race of Franks,” he said, “race beloved and chosen by God . . . set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honour which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed. . . .” “From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. . .” The people knew what he meant. He was speaking of the Holy Land, that lay on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Here were the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and Damascus. Here Jesus Christ had lived and preached and had been crucified; here Christianity had begun. Here were many sacred shrines and during the Middle Ages thousands of Europeans …

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Feudal Germany 936 -1250

germany

THE WINTER of 1077 was one of the coldest on record in Italy. Ice and snow choked the mountain passages in the north and snowdrifts were piled high well into the south — as far south as the castle of Canossa, which was southeast of Parma. The fortified castle belonged to the countess of Tuscany and here Pope Gregory VII had taken refuge, fearing an attack by his enemies. On January 25, a man stood outside the Castle gate, barefoot in spite of the snow and cold. He was no ordinary penitent come to ask forgiveness of the pope. He was Henry IV of Germany, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He had made a long and perilous journey with his wife, his young son and a few followers. For three days the emperor waited for the pope to pardon him and lift the ban of excommunication. Excommunication was banishment from the Church and was the most terrible punishment that could be given to a believer of the Middle Ages. Excommunication meant that he was deprived of all the privileges of a Christian. He could not attend church services, he was denied the sacraments, he could not be buried in consecrated ground. In excommunicating Henry, Pope Gregory hoped to force him to acknowledge the pope’s authority to appoint his own bishops. Henry knew that until the ban of excommunication was lifted his nobles would not accept him as king; he had little choice but to humiliate himself. Pope Gregory, for his part, knew that Henry would be a dangerous opponent once he was restored to the throne, but Gregory, too, had little choice; it was his Christian duty to take back into the Church anyone who begged so humbly for forgiveness. As Gregory later wrote, Henry “came in person to …

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The End and the Beginning 378- 752

martel

THE FIRST SIGN of the approaching Roman army was a thin column of dust. It rose like smoke from behind the jagged Thracian hills of Northern Greece, which sheltered the Visigoths’ encampment. Moments later, the Visigoths, or German barbarians, as the Romans called them, could feel the ground tremble with the tread of the imperial legions. The Romans were advancing, forty thousand strong, under the personal command of the Emperor Valens. Within the Visigoths’ barricade of wagons, all was confusion. Chieftains bellowed, calling their clans together. Sturdy Visigothic warriors dragged the wagons closer together in a protective circle. Horses neighed and whinnied as their riders leaped astride them; swords were unsheathed and lances brandished. A courier spurred away from camp to summon the main body of Visigothic cavalry, foraging at some distance. It was A.D. 378 and the battle of Adrianople was about to begin. Trumpets blared and the close-packed Romans marched straight toward the barbarian enemy. Suddenly, there was a thunder of hooves on the left. A great swarm of Visigothic horsemen, summoned from their foraging expedition, galloped over the hillside. They swooped down on the Romans, as an eyewitness described it, “like a thunderbolt which strikes on a mountain top and dashes away all that stands in its path.” More horsemen poured in from the right and the front, pressing the tightly massed Romans into a death trap. The men of the legions could scarcely raise their arms to strike a blow. Again and again the horsemen charged, brandishing lance and sword. When night fell, forty thousand Roman soldiers lay dead upon the field, together with the grand master of the infantry and cavalry, the count of the palace, thirty-five commanders of horse and foot corps and the Emperor Valens himself. This great defeat was to mark the …

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The Ottomans, the Last Great Islamic Power A.D. 1299-1922

ottoman

ACCORDING to their tradition, the Ottoman Turks once belonged to the same Central Asian tribe as the Seljuk Turks. Their ancestors came to Asia Minor with the Seljuks. In time, they began to challenge the authority of their fellow Turks. The Ottomans took their name from a chieftain called Othman, who in 1299 became the emir of Seljuk lands bordering on the Byzantine Empire. Othman declared holy war on his Christian neighbours. His son Orkhan captured the city of Brusa and in 1362 Orkhan’s son Murad took Adrianople, beyond the strait and sea that separated Asia Minor from Europe. Thereafter, Murad and his son Bayezid pressed forward on two fronts–against Serbs, Bulgars and other Balkan peoples in southeast Europe and against Byzantines and Seljuks in Asia Minor. By 1400, the Ottomans had conquered Macedonia and Bulgaria, pushed the Byzantines out of Asia Minor and swept the Seljuk emirs from their thrones. In that year, however, Timur attacked the eastern Bank of their kingdom. After devastating Syria, he came back and crushed the Ottoman army near Ankara, taking Sultan Bayezid captive. He restored the Seljuk emirs to their posts. When Bayezid died in 1405, his three sons immediately began to fight over their inheritance. Their struggle raged for ten years. At last Sultan Mohammed came out the winner, with both of his brothers dead. These civil wars, coming so soon after the Mongol invasion, left the land and the people exhausted. The Ottomans’ fighting spirit soon revived. Under Mohammed and his son Murad II, Turkish armies again advanced across southeast Europe. In 1443, a huge army made up of Rumanians, Hungarians, Poles, Germans and Frenchmen defeated them. Five years later, however, they beat back another massive Christian attack in Serbia. Murad’s son Mohammed II, became sultan in Adrianople in 1451. He …

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Seljuks and Mamelukes A.D. 950-1517

mamelukes

LIKE THEIR relatives the Mongols, the Turks began as wandering herdsmen in Central Asia. Their first contact with Islam was as victims rather than victors. When Arab armies overran the southern part of their homeland in the eighth century, many Turks were captured and enslaved. Recognizing their talent for fighting, their new masters enrolled them in their armies. In time, many of them reached high positions in the lands of their adopted religion. About the middle of the tenth century, tribesmen from Turkistan, led by a chief named Seljuk, settled near the city of Bokhara. There they became converted to the Sunnite creed of Islam. From Bokhara, Seljuk set out on a career of conquest. His sons carried on, fighting their way slowly across Western Asia. At last, in 1055, Seljuk’s grandson Tughril took Baghdad. Tughril left the city in charge of his officers and went away. When he came back the next year, the Abbasid capital greeted him with elaborate ceremony. The caliph, wearing Mohammed’s own cloak and carrying his cane, named Tughril “King of the East and of the West.” Officially, Tughril became al-sultan, “he with authority.” From then on, Turkish sultans of the Seljuk family were to control the caliphate for a century and a half, using the Abbasid caliphs as pawns. THE SELJUK TURKS As Turkish tribesmen rushed to enlist in their armies, the Seljuks pushed their conquests outward in all directions. Soon western Asia was again united — as in the days of al-Mansur, Harun and al Mamun — in a mighty Moslem kingdom. Tughril’s successor, Alp Arslan, whose odd-sounding name meant “hero-lion” in Turkish, seized the capital of Christian Armenia. In 1071 he defeated the main army of the Byzantines, taking the emperor captive. Heading west, Seljuk soldiers penetrated the valleys of Asia Minor. …

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