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In school we never learned about African History. What were some of the most impressive African civilizations and why are they always glossed over? (self.AskHistorians)
submitted 1 year ago by perfectmachine
Except for Egypt, of course.
[–]Azons 103 points104 points105 points 1 year ago
The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy and Ethiopia from 1895 to 1896. Ethiopia's military victory over Italy secured it the distinction of being the only African nation to successfully resist European colonialism.
[–]jamez042 62 points63 points64 points 1 year ago
Ethiopia was also considered a nation of "white blacks" by Europeans; being that they were Christians, there were all sorts of crazy theories as to how Ethiopians moved to live in Ethiopia so that they weren't the same as other Africans
[–]insaneHoshi 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Well that was kinda true for these guys
[–]farangiyeparsi 9 points10 points11 points 1 year ago
Ironic because Ethiopia is the birthplace of the human race.
[–]Ghost29 41 points42 points43 points 1 year ago*
Not sure who told you that. The cradle of mankind is typically assigned to southern Africa. There is much debate as to the origins of humans but there has been an increasing shift from an east African hypothesis to a southern African one. That said, there is still much debate and it is far from the matter-of-fact way in which you stated it.
[–]get2thenextscreen 55 points56 points57 points 1 year ago*
Not sure who told you that.
Not sure who told you that.
Probably their professor as well as their text books. While some very early fossils have been found in southern Africa and are included in most lessons, Ethiopia is still being taught as key to the story of human evolution. What with A. afarensis and all.
I know it's more complicated than all that, and it's actually pretty silly to pick a single place on a map and claim it to be the site of our origin. I just want people to stop picking on farangiyeparsi. My anthropology professors wouldn't have downvoted them and neither should we (although the internet has made me skeptical of all uses of the word "ironic").
Edit: added links with additional information (and one joke).
[–]wtfffs 20 points21 points22 points 1 year ago
I'm pretty sure Brentford in England was the birthplace of the human race.
[–]get2thenextscreen 13 points14 points15 points 1 year ago
If this is a reference, I'm not getting it. My knowledge of the UK is limited.
[–]goodbyeart 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
So is the human birthplace.
[–][deleted] 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
A afarensis isn't a proper human. Until you even define what genus/species/subspecies is considered human, the argument is completely pointless. If you count all ancestors might as well say the ocean is our birthplace, no?
[–]get2thenextscreen 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
Well, some of the earliest archaic Homo sapiens have been found in Ethiopia , but really I agree with you. Your ocean comment ties in with what I said about it all being silly.
[–]Fastegio 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Weren't the early human populations in Africa long distance nomadic tribes? Wouldn't this essentially make the whole debate a giant gray area? Is the debate being driven by archaeological evidence or is there something else at play?
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 7 points8 points9 points 1 year ago
The entire story of the human race (and ancestors) is wandering hunter-gatherers (actual distance traveled may vary). Every species needs a home area though, and areas of Ethiopia have yielded an extensive and continuous human ancestor fossil record, including some scientifically notable and famous finds. Really though, the "home range" of humanity could probably encompass most of East Africa.
As for "something else at play," I'm not sure what you mean. All we have is the archaeology; Australopithecines weren't known for their record keeping.
[–]kenlubin 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Southern Africa? Do you mean Olduvai Gorge, or somewhere else?
Anyway, Ethiopia is the origin of the Semitic languages (iirc).
[–]Ghost29 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
Well there's Maropeng in South Africa as well. Recent studies of the ice sheets during the most recent ice age suggests that humankind was confined to the southern African coast for a large period of their existence so that could also be implicated as a potential birth place. All of this really depends on how far one goes back. My main gripe was just the way in which the OP said it. We are nowhere near as certain as the OP's statement made it sound.
[–][deleted] 1 year ago
[–]type973 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Physically Ethipians and Somalies look quite distinct from other Africans and sorta look white in some ways. They don't have flattened noses for instance.
So I don't think this belief was just based on their military victory.
[–]LeafySalad 22 points23 points24 points 1 year ago
Further to that, have a read of Haille Selassi I, the last Ethiopian Emperor.
You may already know him as Ras Tafari, the second coming of Jesus for Rastafarians. But he is by far one of my favourite statesmen of the 20th century.
[–]sadscience 18 points19 points20 points 1 year ago
he is by far one of my favourite statesmen of the 20th century.
he is by far one of my favourite statesmen of the 20th century.
Just want to reiterate this really. He's very interesting. His 1936 Appeal to the League of Nations ("It is us today, it will be you tomorrow") is a very powerful speech, if ultimately futile.
[–][deleted] 13 points14 points15 points 1 year ago
'Today you, tomorrow me.'
[–]velvetplayground 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
[–]Nethal -18 points-17 points-16 points 1 year ago
I do not know of a country that is a big a failure as italy. They have literally failed everything that is possible to fail. Except pasta. They are really good at that.
[–]Azons 14 points15 points16 points 1 year ago
[–]Nethal 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
The italian identity started around 12th century, so no. The romans were more in the spirit of the greeks
[–]kittycathatClassical Art | General 17 points18 points19 points 1 year ago
[–]watermark0n 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
That's revisionism. The Romans were influenced by Hellenism, but they were obviously the direct predecessors to modern Italians. I mean, Italian basically is Latin + a millenia of evolution.
[–]croc_lobster 11 points12 points13 points 1 year ago
Sports cars. Driving of said sports cars. Occasionally soccer. Criminal underworlds. Still have the prettiest language in the world.
Also worth noting that although they got swept up in fascism, they had the good sense to string up their dictator instead of having to have other people do it for them.
[–]PervaricatorGeneral 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Say what you want about Hitler, but at least he killed Hitler. Mussolini can't say the same.
[–]croc_lobster 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
Say what you want about Brad Pitt...
[–]veritate_valeo 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Wine? Renaissance? I guess that's about it.
[–]Nethal -10 points-9 points-8 points 1 year ago
Yes, yes, culturally they were great, hence my pasta-remark. But in all other regards they were complete and utter shameful in the face of europe
[–]dudleymooresbooze 11 points12 points13 points 1 year ago
I'm really surprised and confused by your comments. You disregard Roman history as separate from Italian history, yet it is an integral part. That's like writing off pre-21st century U.S. as part of its development and identity. It seems like carving out a sample size to prove your point. Perhaps modern Italy is what it is precisely because of the time period when it developed.
I'm also wondering how you eliminate culture from your definition of a nation's success. It seems to me that culture is arguably the most significant indicator of a nation's success, not a footnote to economic or military might.
I'm truly not trying to be pedantic with you. I just wonder what characteristics you mean so override culture in determining a nation's relative value, and why we should exclude the nation's zenith from evaluating its historical success. If you're saying that the Roman Empire fell and Italy has been at best stagnant for the last 1600 years, that might be a reasonable interpretation. I would just like some clarification - because this whole thread is stimulating as Hell already.
[–][deleted] -1 points0 points1 point 1 year ago
Here's my theory about Italy:
Empire is a developmental phase of society, sort of like the "terrible twos" many of us go through as children.
Later on societies focus on more important things, like living large and drinking red wine while appreciating great art and cuisine. discuss.
[–]jamez042 56 points57 points58 points 1 year ago*
The Sokoto Caliphate, Bornu Empire and its predecessor the Kanem Empire are conspicuous in their absence from Western cultural consciousness.
Also I hope by Egypt you don't just mean ancient Egypt; there are a good number of Islamic empires founded in Egypt that are worth studying, notably the Fatimids and the Mamluks.
Morocco was also a great seat of economic power for Africa; it was primarily a set of trading cities that eventually formed a cohesive state.
You'll probably find that the more you look into this, it is the Islamic states that you never knew much about, simply because colonial officials didn't really like them, and so Western Europe never really got to hear about them. The colonial state worked with Islamic leaders all the time, but it didn't look good back home I suppose.
[–]whatarrives 17 points18 points19 points 1 year ago
Upvotes for the Sokoto Caliphate!
In a similar area, the Mali Empire and particularly, the oral history of the Epic of Sundiata, which recounts (allegedly) the founding of that empire is worth a read.
[–]Krastain 12 points13 points14 points 1 year ago
The Islamic states in northern and eastern Africa are absolutely fascinating. Nowadays the focus is so much on the middle east that we forget that Africa and India were so important in the ummah.
[–]TiakoRoman Archaeology 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
Don't forget the Nubian kingdom, which was closely tied with Egypt. It is very interesting because its material culture seems to have been completely replaced by Egypt's, leading to some interesting questions as to the relation between the two.
As a side note, I know one of the dig directors working in Nubia. Really nice guy.
[–]fwaht 44 points45 points46 points 1 year ago
The BBC's "Lost Kingdoms of Africa" might interest you.
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 12 points13 points14 points 1 year ago
It's an absolutely fantastic series, I was glad to watch it a couple of years ago.
[–]fwaht 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
You're in luck then because a second series came out this February.
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 23 points24 points25 points 1 year ago
Because I needed another reason to avoid finishing this thesis...
[–]ZootKoomie 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
How does it compare with the PBS series "Wonders of the African World"?
[–]fwaht 10 points11 points12 points 1 year ago
I haven't seen it and I'm not qualified to judge, but the BBC series is conducted by a historian and it specifically answers the question "What were some of the most impressive African civilizations?" You can find it on youtube.
[–]Vuguroth 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I think this is the best answer. Video format, starts out by bringing up Nubia...
additionally the original question in the thread is too unspecific. An impressive civilization is not just about ruins or what kind of threats and conflicts they had including other nations. It's a lot about culture and their internal systems. The question should specify that it's about massiveness and not high grade culture etc. Otherwise it will be hard to put things in perspective, especially considering the tribal based civs.
[–]HenkieVVMedieval Ideas 166 points167 points168 points 1 year ago
and why are they always glossed over?
and why are they always glossed over?
Because they don't fit the narrative. History is not an unconnected series of interesting trivia; history is the story of a past. This story, like any story, needs a narrative drive. We, as listeners need to have the idea that these events are leading to some kind of conclusion.
Most schools tend to resort to a national narrative: how whatever country the school is located in, ended up becoming the country it is right now. For better or for worse, this is the story we keep telling our children. How we tell the story changes, what events compromise the story changes too, but fundamentally, there is no narrative in which the creation or accomplishments of the Zulu kingdom is going feature, when trying to talk about how the US became the country it is today, or .
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 108 points109 points110 points 1 year ago
This is why Greek communities in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, Bactria and India are never encountered outside of specialist areas in ancient history and classics, they don't fit with the image of the Greeks as the European civilization that the Romans then built upon to bring civilization to the rest of Europe. Grey areas and ambiguities don't fit into easy narratives.
In defense of the narrative approach, it is nearly always the easiest way to get people to understand causal historical relationships. The articulacy of presentation does affect how easily people can understand something. But don't take this as my saying 'we should totally do this all the time', just that there was a reason it developed (that and history being a genre in origin very close to that of Epic poetry ala the Iliad and Odyssey).
[–]DownpoursForAll 30 points31 points32 points 1 year ago*
Now I want to know about Greek communities in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, Bactria and India.
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 119 points120 points121 points 1 year ago*
However you regard the 'morality' of Empire, there is no disguising that in the states that succeeded Alexander the Great's Empire Greeks and Macedonians were on top. Not only were the Kings (and often Queens) of the Hellenistic States Macedonian or Greek, not only were the military backbone of these states landed Macedonian soldiers either settled by Alexander or brought over from Macedon, but even the urban control of many places were dominated by Greeks. When Alexander created the cities he personally created, he settled them with either Macedonian veterans, or a combination of Macedonians and locals. He only used Greeks once, as a last resort, as he didn't trust Greeks (there were political reasons not to, but I won't go into that here). But when the Seleucid Empire took control of the Asian portion of Alexander's Empire, it embarked upon a massive urbanisation program. Dozens of towns and cities were founded across the Empire, and many of these cities were planted with Greek settlers, and not just Macedonians. Also, unlike Alexander who exclusively founded cities on previously occupied sites, many of the Seleucid-founded cities were on completely new territory.
With that background out of the way, you can see how Greek-speaking populations were introduced to areas like India, Bactria, Mesopotamia and Afghanistan. It was not a case of ethnic cleansing or forced evictions, because the Seleucids were a Greek speaking elite now cut off from Greece and Macedon (Macedon had remained independent in the wake of the Wars of Succession after Alexander's death, and Greece had been in rebellion while Alexander was still alive) and actually required the co-operation of the local populations in order to actually function as a state.
There is actually a theory that Greeks were in Bactria before Alexander, as apparently Greek criminals were sent to Bactria by the Achaemenid Persians. Whatever the truth of the matter, in 250 BC Bactria was rich, powerful, and densely settled. In fact, it was already rich and densely settled, it had a canal-based irrigation system from the Bronze Age onwards and in the 1st Century BCE Zhang Qian estimated the area (known as Daxia to them) as having a million inhabitants. It was so rich and potent that around 250 BC it broke away from the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucids did attempt to take the area back, but gave up, and Bactria prospered. Greeks remained the ruling class of the Kingdom, but it is clear that local co-operation between Greeks and Bactrians (and the other cultures the Kingdom began to absorb) was fairly high, particularly when domestic industries still seem to have been dominated by the Bactrians. It is probably fair to say that by 180 BC, the Greeks of Bactria were probably all at least a quarter Bactrian themselves, and had adopted some interesting new practices such as Buddhism, but they still strongly asserted their Greekness. I will return to Bactria in a bit, but I need to move onto India and Afghanistan to make sense of the next part.
The Indian territories of the Seleucid Empire had very quickly been attacked by an emerging figure in India, the young Chandragupta Maurya. Overrunning this territory, he then signed a treaty with Seleukos essentially giving him the whole eastern half of Arachosia in return for a lot of war elephants (and possibly a dynastic marriage). This meant that the Greek communities in India and Arachosia were now themselves under foreign occupation, but they continued to thrive; Ashoka's Edicts were in some areas translated to Greek and Aramaic. The Greeks were certainly known in India by this point, they were reputed as being unusual as only having masters and slaves, and no further caste distinctions (this is clearly not entirely true but is interesting nonetheless), and also for not really having a tradition of asceticism. Ashoka the Great was incredibly aware of the political situation of the Greek world outside his borders, correctly identifying Antiochos II of the Seleucid Empire, Alexander II of Epirus (all the way in Epirus!), Magas of Cyrene, Antigonos Gonatas of Macedon, and Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (all of these were transliterated, but the names are very recognisable.) The Greek communities responded to Buddhist missionary activity, and became a vibrant part of the Buddhist communities in Arachosia and India. It is believed that they were possibly responsible for human representations of the Buddha, as previously he was represented in abstract. The Buddha was known as 'Boddo' in Greek, which always sounds a little similar to me. The Greeks had their own spin on Buddhism of course, that incorporated the regular Greek pantheon. This was something of a crazy religion!
To go back to Bactria, it had expanded fairly rapidly. By 180 BC, it had conquered Margiana (which contains the modern city of Merv), Sodgiana (which contains Samarkhand), large chunks of Arachosia in the wake of the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, and was now quite a large entity. So in 180 BC, the Mauryan Empire having mostly collapsed, King Demetrios of course decided to invade India, and succeeded, conquering large swathes of northern India. And now the Hellenic communities of India and Arachosia were again under the rule of a Greek-ruled state.
Things seemed to be going fine for this state until a combination of nasty things; a civil war between the Bactrian royal family and some Indo-Greek rivals was fairly brutal, and this was in 170 BC. This was followed by quite a few defeats by the Parthians, who had begun to esatablish themselves, but a bigger issue was to come; in 140 BC, much of Bactria itself was overrun and destroyed, probably by Saka/Scythians. Twenty years later, Bactria's shattered remains were absorbed by the Yuezhi/Yuechi/Kushans/Tokharoi (an Indo-European people from the Tarim Basin), where they remained for the next century.
The Indo-Greek Kingdom, as it is referred to from about 170 BC onwards, continued fairly happily for the next two centuries, until around the turn of the millenium; the Kushans expanded into India, and absorbed the last independent Greek realms in the east. However, this is not the end of the story; from this point onwards, the Kushans are known as the Kushan Empire; they had already been partly Hellenised themselves in their time in Bactria, and they were using a modified form of the Greek script for their own purposes; Greek cultural artifacts continued to be produced, Greek coins were used, Greek was spoken, and so the Greek communities appear to have continued to thrive in their own way. The Kushan Empire then continued to exist until around 375 AD, when the Indian sections were conquered by the rising Gupta state. In the case of Bactria itself, and Arachosia, that became the territory of the Sassanid Persian state. The last vestiges of Greek material culture and Greek speakers only really vanish around 500 AD, and it's probably that whatever was left of the Greco-Buddhist community in Afghanistan and India was destroyed by the Islamic conquest of those areas (as was the Buddhist community in North-Western India in general). Traces of Greek influence remained for longer afterwards, if you accept that they had an influence on Indian art and culture.
As for Hellenistic Mesopotamia, there were less Greek communities there because the area was already so densely settled. Babylon and many other cities like Uruk remained important in this period, the idea that Seleucia on the Tigris (a city founded on the Tigris river by Seleukos, funnily enough) destroyed the economic and political power of Babylon is incorrect. It was no longer top dog in Mesopotamia, but that's not the same as destroying it. The Seleucid Kings often rewarded people in the region with 'Greek names', which is in interesting insight into a 'deliberate' practice of trying to 'Greekify' people rather than having it happen accidentally. Greek interest in Mesopotamian astronomy was very high, and large chunks of Sumerian/Akkadian mathematics and astrology became adopted by the Greeks. It's around this time that some kind of single, coherent, astrological system appears in the Near East, which is something we still don't fully understand. The Greeks were not responsible for the destruction of native Mesopotamian culture, which was already a mishmash of dozens of cultures by this point anyway, cuneiform continued to be written, temples continued to be founded/rebuilt, foundation cylinders were still placed in buildings by the Seleucid monarchs. I would say more about Hellenic Mesopotamia but my focus really is further east, and I don't want to go beyond the limits of what I actually know. The main historical debate is whether or not the Mesopotamians actively resisted Hellenic culture because they didn't like Greeks, and I don't have an answer for that.
One thing that unifies all of the places settled/controlled by the Greeks is Greek-style buildings that turn up; places like Ai Khanoum and the other Alexandrian/Seleucid founded cities are very much fully formed Greek cities in the middle of non-Greek areas (spectacularly so with Ai Khanoum which has some of the largest Greek architecture of any Greek city in world history yet discovered. The main road in that city was twenty metres across, the palace was 200 metres by 170 metres wide, everything was fairly enormous). But even Babylon ended up with a Greek theatre, nearly every major city ended up with some kind of Greek footprint from Anatolia to India. If you want a really interesting account of experiencing 'Hellenisation', read the Old Testament. Specifically those sections dealing with the Jews under the Greek states, like Maccabees. It is the rare glimpse of a culture expressing its views about the Greeks doing their thing.
[–]flavioxavier 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Thanks for the great read.
[–]DownpoursForAll 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Thank you so much for writing this. I can't begin to express my appreciation for such a thorough account.
[–]Hapaxes 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago*
Have you written a book? I sure hope so.
ETA: Here, have a Cavafy poem about Greek-speaking Bactria for your trouble!
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 7 points8 points9 points 1 year ago
I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure how to respond to the people who have asked me about book-writing; I love to write, and I value the compliment very highly, but I'm not even out of university and so I haven't really considered writing a book in the very near future.
[–]Hapaxes 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
If I were you I would simply take it as a compliment. You write fluently about obscure, ancient, complex events. When that's true of historians they usually write books. Though I'm still in university myself, I know I would like to eventually read a long account of the sort of history you've posted about, e.g. barbarians in the Roman Empire or characteristics of Seleucid history. I'm curious: do you enjoy lecturing as much as you enjoy typing out thoughts on Reddit?
[–]GaRFyelD 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
this was really interesting, got goosebumps from reading something, had not happened for a while! Thanks man :)
[–]TravisTehTroll 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Logged in to upvote, thanks mate.
[–]Mr_Fortune 0 points1 point2 points 8 months ago
As a Greek, thank you very much for the interesting read, and for your time..
[–]eggo 34 points35 points36 points 1 year ago
Turn that frown upside down.
[–]Elshar 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Thank you for those links, I guess I know what I'm going to 'be working on' this afternoon. :)
[–]DeceitfulCake 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Do you happen to have any other sources other than Wikipedia? I have nothing against it, just wondering if there's some easier reading (most wiki writers tend to assume that their reader has as much knowledge and enthusiasm in their field as they do, which makes reading their articles fatiguing and fairly boring).
[–]Federal_Panda 8 points9 points10 points 1 year ago
The source list on this article alone is 197 items long.
Wikipedia articles tend to also be easy reads in my opinion. The least you could do is try it.
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
When I have a spare moment I'll probably try to post a redacted bibliography here, the advantage of having someone who knows the field is that they can recommend places to start.
[–]thatwasntababyruth 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
I always found the greek bit very weird. They tell you in elementary/high school about the 'hellenistic age', and how alexander the great was a cool guy, but they never actually mention a single of those greek cultures by name, so I was always left wanting more about them.
[–]vade101 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
The bit between the death of Alexander and the Romans and Parthians showing up; the Diadochi and the subsequent Hellenistic period (you have to make a distinction between Hellenic and Classical Greece) is utterly fascinating, but certinally not all that accessible, and doesn't especially fit with the narrative - well worth catching up on though.
[–]drgradus 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
[–]engchlbw704Early Medieval English and Scandinavian Archaeology 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago*
I dunno, I heard about Greeks spreading out to Asia in high school, and what I heard was about the only time they were worth. There is only so much history that can be covered in high school, and with only about 2-4 years of a single subject covered (1hour a day); How much are you expecting for such a realistically insignificant event as the petty settlements which the Greeks founded in Asia? Same with the civilizations of Africa. You have about 3-4 years of 180 school days and 1 hour a day to talk about history for most peoples education. The time should be spent explaining the most important events of each time period and how they impact the modern day. It should not be spent covering silly pet projects that people like you and me care about.
These topics really do not deserve more then a mention and their "grey areas" are avoided because of a lack of importance, not because they in any way change the perceptions of the past. Greeks are seen in the elementary/middle school version as spreading out their ideas on "western civilization" from Greece to Europe Asia etc, and unless your a specialist this version is not that inaccurate and describes how Ancient Greece became as influential as it was in the least amount of time. Its not altering the past to fit a story, its proper editing of what knowledge your going to impart in the brief time you have to.
The historical narrative is used because it is the best way to summarize what happened into what is "useful' to know today. Like a story important events are explained in a way which makes sense for the audience and helped then to understand their world. Also as you said it makes a story that people actually want to care about. To the average person the civilizations of Africa could just as well never have existed, so why spend the limited time you have in which education is compulsory to teach things which do not matter.
This is why you learn Columbus and not Eriksson discovered America in elementary/middle school. They could spend an hour explaining how a Viking jumped islands because he killed the wrong guy in Greenland, landed in NA, and proceeded to have people hang out for a few years before ditching, or just skip it because your not going to remember about him unless you like history anyway, and if he never came to NA the world would not be any different.
[–]thelittlebig 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Well we got two months just about those greek communities in my (German) history class. Inbetween the Nazis are bad stuff that we do every other year. Not arguing against your point here, just pointing out that the narrative can and has been adjusted on occasion to fit the new multipolar world of 21st century.
[–]anarchoal 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Yeah, I saw a talk by David Graeber a few years ago on the concept of "the West", one of his points was that the last Hellenic pottery to be made in Pakistan was 6th century... so how can someone in Britain claim more right to Plato than an Afghani?
Sure thing, I would have responded earlier but I ran out of time.
For all of these communities in general, the book From Samarkhand to Sardis by Amelie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin White is a seminal work. I would recommend finding it in a library but I think that Google Books removes very little of the actual content of the book. That can be found here.
I must give a disclaimer, which is that this was written in 1994, and studies have advanced in a number of areas relating to both Asia and Hellenistic culture, but it's still relevant and an excellent introduction to the field.
For Hellenistic Afghanistan, things are a little tricky. Modern Afghanistan does not conform to the territory of anyone single ancient satrapy of the Persian or Seleucid Empires, and would contain at the very least the south parts of Bactria, Arachosia, Drangiana, Gedrosia, and parts of Aria (which overlap with the eastern parts of Iran). Since Bactria is really its own entity, the main satrapy that represents Afghanistan in this period is Arachosia, which was occasionally used as a term for a larger area than the actual satrapy.
Studying Hellenic culture in Arachosia is fascinating but difficult; after 300 BCE or so, Eastern Arachosia became part of the Indian Mauryan Empire, and at some point over the next sixty years Western Arachosia did also. This essentially meant that Greek communities foreign to the area were now also a subject people to an actual foreign ruling class. The general rule of thumb has often been that people lose interest in a Greek community whenever it is no longer in control of its own affairs.
But, there are things to piece some sense out of. The starting point are the Edicts of Ashoka, specifically those found in Afghanistan which are written in both Greek and Aramaic. The wikipedia page on the Edicts of Ashoka has a relatively up to date translation. The fascinating thing is that the Greek in the inscription is better than it needs to be. It is probably the product of someone deeply familiar with Greek language, and Greek philosophy, and one theory from that has been that there was a non-Greek city somewhere in Asia that was actually partially responsible for the mixture of Hellenic culture with Asian ones. This remains to be absolutely confirmed, but it's an interesting hypothesis.
Arachosia was also seemingly the heartland of Greco-Buddhists, and I really do mean Greeks practicing Buddhism, not just Buddhists thinking 'that Greek stuff is rather cool, let's copy some of it.' One of the sites that illustrated the scale of this practice is that of Hadda; unfortunately the site itself has been destroyed, but many artifacts were actually preserved. The wikipedia page is barely sufficient, and really you need to read the archaeological report from the 1930s on the site (which now has an English translation called The Hadda Excavations, by Jules Barthoux, published in 2001) and then that of the 1970s excavation by Zemaryalai Tarzi (which I can't find for love nor money presently). The issue with Hellenistic Arachosia is we have an awful lot of material goods and very little context. Also, several of the images I have access to I can't actually share, I've got hold of some quite rare and cutting edge resources for the purposes of thesis research.
Hellenistic India is a fascinating enterprise; strictly speaking it should be linked to Hellenistic Arachosia because both communities end up being under the control of the Mauryan Empire, but there are differences between the two. This is also a problem for Hellenistic Arachosia to a lesser degree, but studying Indo-Greeks means going out of discipline boundaries; neither classics nor Indian history claims this culture for their own. What the subject lacks is a coherent overview. The closest you can get is India and the Hellenistic World by Klaus Karttunen, which you really do need a good library to find. He's one of the few people to have actually looked at the field as a whole and tried to make sense of it. I can't really recommend much else as introductory reading because the field is so confusing to navigate, but following Karttunen's own bibliography is a good start.
Now, finally to Hellenistic Bactria, my current focus. Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria by Frank L. Holt is a great introduction and a good book as well. The first big breakthrough for the field was in the discovery of Ai Khanoum, almost certainly Alexandria on the Oxus, and the archaeological reports on the site are incredibly detailed and beautifully mapped. However, there are 10 volumes, they're large, they're rare, and they are untranslated from French. The Volumes are called Fouilles D'Ai Khanoum, if anyone is interesting in finding them. The field is a little more coherent than that of Hellenistic India, but the same issue applies that without already knowing what you're looking for you will easily get lost in most of the sources available.
A wonderful new resource on many of the more interesting and obscure aspects of Hellenistic culture in the East is the catalogue of the 2009-2010 Alexander exhibition at the Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim; it's packed from cover to cover with gorgeous colour photos, it has several essays by leading authorities, and it has some information rarely reproduced elsewhere. In fact, several of the photographs can only be found here, you can't find them by googling for the object. The catalogue is called Alexander der Grosse und die offnung der welt, asiens kulturen im wandel. Yes, as you can tell it's in German :P. But it is well worth a look if you can get hold of it.
As for Hellenistic Mesopotamia, we have a wealth more information because it remained in the direct control of the Seleucid Empire for much longer. Most of the sources illuminating on Hellenistic Mesopotamia specifically are very specific indeed; a paper might be on 'Hellenisation as seen through the priestly practices of the city of Mari' for example, or on agricultural practices, or the use of one particular word in Aramaic. There are a number of debates still raging about the nature of Hellenisation and the relationship between the ancient Mesopotamian cultures and Greeks in this period, but unlike the other three areas it's easy to get at least an attempt at a general overview, which Amelie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin-White manage fairly well in their book that I already mentioned. I personally think he comes to the wrong conclusions at times, but worth a look is van der Spek's work; he has a contribution to the Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, which is The Hellenistic Near-East. Aspects of Hellenistic Kingship edited by P.Bilde is a good introduction to the Hellenistic period as well (though it is more focused on the politics of the eastern Mediterranean), and within that book there is an essay by Amelie Kuhrt from 1996 called The Seleucid Kings and Babylonia.
I've only recommended initial reading here, because a lot of the specific and really interesting information about specific places and cities are a little esoteric if you don't already know what you're dealing with. But hopefully some of these resources will be helpful, I'm sorry many of them are not direct links but I'm at the point where many of the things I have access to I can't directly share because they require membership of a university or to be registered in specific courses, so the best I can do is giving the information to seek out the actual books. If your ancient history library is focused on classics, you will not have luck with many of the books in this field because they're often classed as being part of Near Eastern Studies or Central Asian studies (in the case of Bactria), so you want a library with a diverse ancient history section and a good archaeology section.
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 14 points15 points16 points 1 year ago
I feel like I'm carpet bombing this thread, but I'd like to refine your point about choosing a narrative to teach. I agree with your point that history is most assuredly "not an unconnected series of interesting trivia," but I also think it's important to clarify that it is a multiplicity of stories about the past.
One thing that gets lost in the narrow narratives in most history classes is the external sources and pressures that propelled and constrained the main actors in the chosen storyline. Early Portuguese exploration is so often told as rush to round the Cape of Good Hope to get to the riches of India and Southeast Asia. The story could just as easily focus on how Portuguese mercantile contact with West African coastal polities changed the whole dynamic of the area. European trading undercut the monopoly of the Muslim North African countries on Sub-Saharan goods, brought in firearms, and moved the whole locus of political, cultural, and economic power from the Islamic Sahelian kingdoms to the Christianizing Coast.
It was time of massively important changes, not only because it set the stage for the slave trade and colonialism, but also because it shifted the historical dynamic of a huge region. Yet, it seems to get elided over because West Africa doesn't fit the canonical narrative until the slave trade kicks into high gear, even though including it would not only help explain why and how the slave trade worked, but also the roots of modern inter-ethnic and religious strife in the region.
Choosing a narrative to teach in the constrained time limits of a history class or an overview text is screamingly difficult. It's a task made more difficult when there is no objective agreement on what historical happenings are the most important and to whom they are most vital. History doesn't lend itself easily to definitive boundaries, so I really like that the OP asked this question. It seems like it's exploring around the edges of history, but it's really like landing on the shores of a whole new continent.
[–]fwaht 7 points8 points9 points 1 year ago
Also known as the narrative fallacy(1, 2).
[–]HenkieVVMedieval Ideas 28 points29 points30 points 1 year ago
I'm not so sure I'd call it a fallacy. Fundamentally, you can't convey all information in a history class. For example, no kid should have to memorize what I had for breakfast two weeks ago; as both my existence and my breakfast choices are entirely unimportant to the world in general (that sounds more depressed than I mean it, but you get the point, right?). As such, you have to make a value judgement on what you do and do not pick to tell. This is unavoidable. The resulting selection will inevitably be in some form of narrative. Possibly a weak one, maybe even a false one, but it will be a narrative. Given this cold hard reality, it's more important to be aware and to be critical of the narrative you're using. Maybe it's worth pondering whether you're narrative is promoting a purely white, or male dominated view of history. Is that bad? What are the consequences? What are the alternatives? These are questions to ask, but if you start trying to avoid narratives, you'll just end up doing it badly.
Yeah, I would prefer to call it narrative bias, but that's the name it was given (I think) by historian Hayden White. In one of the lesswrong threads, someone said the following:
You can't not think in terms of stories, that is simply how our minds work. All you can do is to try to keep that (in the form of "intuition") from preventing the adequate weighing of statistics, probabilities, and explicit evidence that can't easily be fit into narratives.
You can't not think in terms of stories, that is simply how our minds work. All you can do is to try to keep that (in the form of "intuition") from preventing the adequate weighing of statistics, probabilities, and explicit evidence that can't easily be fit into narratives.
Which I think encapsulates your point; it doesn't necessarily invalidate something, but it's an unavoidable bias and it's important to be aware of it.
[–]0alexander 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
Man, I could never be a historian. I like history, but I what I really like is the narrative bits of history. When something really sticks out as feeling storybook, love it.
I guess the point where I started caring less about the hard facts about history as long as a good story was being told should have really tipped me off to that.
[–]toxicbrew 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Very good reasoning, never thought much about that. It's probably why European History is a major class in most High Schools, and why you can take an AP test for it.African or Asian history doesn't feature much in the building of America.
[–]DRpinky 37 points38 points39 points 1 year ago
The African king Mansa Kankan Musa of the Mali empire took over a large part of Africa in the early 1300s. To show his prowess, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. This pilgrimage is famous because of the amount of gold that he took with him and gave away on his trip. He gave away so much gold that it devalued the precious metal for 20 years!
But this history is quite disconnected from ours, so we leave it out.
[–]orko1995 25 points26 points27 points 1 year ago
Another fun fact:
Mansa Musa is hated in Mali today for this exact reason. Why? Because he took all the gold that the Malinese people have laboured decades to mine, and took it away to foreign lands.
[–]suspiciously_helpful 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Ouch. I knew the Mansa Musa story already, but I'd never thought about that. It's kind of a surprise that he got away with it.
[–]DRpinky 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
Becoming the emperor of a large part of Africa will allow lots of things.
[–]perfectmachine[S] 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
That's really fascinating. And I agree, I think that one aspect of why African history isn't covered in Western schools is because African nations never really had much of a cultural impact on us aside from the consequences of colonialism. However, it's kinda funny/sad that most of Africa can't say the same thing. Their history was so culturally affected by us and we don't know the first thing about their history.
[–]suspiciously_helpful 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
If you're in the United States:
Loads of African American culture (blues, R&B, food, AAVE, religion) derives not from slave-initiated things but African traditions that the first generations of captured slaves carried over the Atlantic - some less obvious, like blues, some very much more obvious, like Gullah language. The African influence on the US interests me and it's really something that I wish I could say I'm an expert in other than having grown up in the washed-out 20th century remnants.
I can think of another major relation: many early abolitionists and black leaders post-emancipation wanted to repatriate back to Africa. Liberia, in fact, was founded by freed slaves who were sent back across the ocean, and I don't think they were the only large group who went back.
One more, although they're North Africa: Morocco was the first country to recognize the independent United States, and one of the US's first military actions was to battle the Barbary States for pirate-safe passage through the Mediterranean. Hence, the Marine Hymn's line "...to the shores of Tripoli."
[–]baconautics 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I am hijacking this thread to tell everyone about the Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume III, which contains a lot of this history (including the Mansa Musa tale), as well as the histories of Sijilmasa, the almoravids, songhay, etc.
[–]hungrymutherfucker 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
He had hundreds and hundreds of pounds of gold carried by slaves with him. Such a badass.
[–]thisisntnamman 62 points63 points64 points 1 year ago
Ethiopia and Axum are pretty cool, especially if you are studying early Christianity.
Ghana and the Songhay were two west African trading empires. Ancient Zimbabwe also left some impressive looking city ruins.
Mostly glossed over for two reasons: Historically, racism, where the Europeans thought all Africans came from small tribes and that they, the Europeans, where the first to introduce civilization to the continent.
Currently though it is a lack of evidence. The best records we have are from the colonial period, and most African cultures save for a select few, didn't have writing systems or even viewed history taking in the same light we have. Without a rich base of material to draw from, there isn't much to 'study' historically and precolonial Africa falls mostly to the anthropologists.
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 29 points30 points31 points 1 year ago
Currently though it is a lack of evidence.
Currently though it is a lack of evidence.
Many of the Sahel kingdoms (Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu) do actually have written accounts and chronologies, same with the Swahili Coast. It's just that these are typically not as widely translated and available as the more traditional historical canon focused on Greco-Roman sources.
[–]thisisntnamman 7 points8 points9 points 1 year ago
Excellent point. One could say the amount of material to study is proportional to the amount of people who can translate it.
Also most 'general' history classes taught to high schoolers is really just the old 'history of western civilization' minus the 'of western civilization' from its title and not content.
[–]xfootballer814Roman History/Late Antiquity to Early Middle Ages Italy 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
This. And this again. It's amazing how much of history is "lost" to us simply because we can't read it. I was doing a rather research project about the Ostrogothic Kingdom and even here I was constantly frustrated by my lack of ability to read the original sources. Want to find out what kind of laws were being used in that time period, well great theres the edictum theodoric. Except its never been translated into English and so i have to rely upon inferring what was in from other people analyzing it. Now add to this the problems of lost histories such Cassidorus's history of the Goths, conflicting accounts of events, authors biases (Procopius) and the tricky problem of miracles and exaggerations (Justinian is claimed to have killed over a trillion people in his reign) and you start to understand how little we really know about history. And these problems are coming from a time period that is relatively well documented and studied. I can't even imagine the difficulties facing a western scholar of African history, nor can I really imagine him overcoming these problems to be able to weave together an accurate narrative.
TLDR: Historians face a ton of problems when dealing with primary sources and history is far more maleable than you think.
[–]Kantei 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Songhai is pretty interesting in the fact that it has a rather few East Asian-like names. Songhai, Gao, Kanuri, Dikaru, etc.
[–]Pontdepierre 17 points18 points19 points 1 year ago*
Putting aside Ancient Egypt, some of the other impressive African kingdoms/empires were:
The Land of Punt: A major trading partner for the ancient Egyptians.
The Kingdom of Kush: They built the pyramids at Meroe and provided the Nubian Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt.
Carthage: Phoenician city-state in modern-day Tunisia, a long-standing republic which fell in the Third Punic War.
Ghana Empire: A major trading empire for gold and salt.
Mali: The empire of the great ruler Mansa Musa, builders of the original Mosque of Djenné.
Songhai: Under the reign of Askia Mohammad I, Timbuktu had its Golden Age.
This is a great resource as well:
[–]WildVariety 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Surprised i got this far down to the page before Carthage was mentioned...
[–]khosikuluSouthern Africa | European Expansion 1 point2 points3 points 10 months ago
Carthage has pretty good studies, though, doesn't it? The Kingdom of Kush, by the way, is several kingdoms in the way that Wagadu/Ghana-Mali-Songhai are; it's Kerma-Napata-Meroë, roughly. As we find out more, we're learning more about the successive relocations of capitals and successions of new political orders. The situation in Sudan has really put a damper on research (as has the situation in Egypt of late) but hopefully one of these days we'll actually be able to read Meroitic script...I can hope.
[–]eternalkerriModeratarrr | Piracy 16 points17 points18 points 1 year ago
Kingdom of Zimbabwe
[–]NordoisthebestU.S. Pre-WWI Labor Relations | Prehistoric Anthropology 11 points12 points13 points 1 year ago
Zimbabwe also traded a giraffe to China to open up trade. I love Zimbabwe history.
[–]polyonymy 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
And the Chinese thought it was a mythical flying unicorn-dragon from the sky.
I heard a while back some geneticists found genetic traces of Chinese ancestry in some Eastern Africans, left behind from that very expedition.
[–]KnuteVikingSpanish Conquest of America | Pre-Communist China 8 points9 points10 points 1 year ago
They thought no such thing regarding that giraffe, they definitely thought it was a novelty, but they weren't stupid, they knew it was just an animal.
[–]polyonymy 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
I was kidding. Joking about how they gave it the same name as the mythical Qilin. They even mention the giraffe Zhang He brought back in that article.
[–]helm 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Yup, "Kirin" in Japanese.
[–]cthulhufhtagn 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
I wonder how many straight-faced jokes are in the history books as fact.
[–]KnuteVikingSpanish Conquest of America | Pre-Communist China 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
It was more like tribute to the giant Chinese naval expedition, less for trade purposes. China did not officially engage in trade with "lesser" political entities until the west opened it up with cannons.
[–]thewabberjocky 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Led to the Rozwi Empire had a good run, fought off the Portuguese, mined some gold
[–]khosikuluSouthern Africa | European Expansion 0 points1 point2 points 10 months ago
The Rozwi were the usurpers of the actual successor kingdom (Butua), though, weren't they? I had always understood the Zimbabwe connection to be Butua, and then it was conquered in the 1660s by Changamire and they "became" the Rozwi.
To the north of Karanga was also Mutapa, whose king (the Mwene Mutapa) was prominent at the time the Portuguese arrived, which is why European maps so often call the entire southern part of the African continent "MONOMOTAPA" or "Kindgom of the Monomotapa." They actually defeated the Portuguese in a number of incursions, at one point forcing them to pay tribute in order to trade with the interior along the Zambesi valley.
Both of these could use more study. The Portuguese actually left a lot of textual sources on Mutapa, including a lot of oral accounts of the late period in Great Zimbabwe, and they haven't been farmed well at all. The National Library of Rhodesia and (I think) the Portuguese national archives together published a series of sources in book form, translated, back in the 1950s to the 1980s. It was a number of volumes.
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Metafilter had a great post on Great Zimbabwe with a wealth of additional resources not too long ago.
[–]CaptainCymru 14 points15 points16 points 1 year ago
Whilst quite contemporary, Thomas Sankara was president of Burkina Faso in the 1980's. Impressive because he led one of the few successful coup attempts on the continent, and even more remarkably because he didn't do it for self gain or prestige- he generally did right by his country. In particular he worked on improving the quality of life, health, soil, women's rights, wealth and food output of his nation. For example organising the plantation of millions of trees in order to stem desertification, and vaccinating millions of children against common African diseases. "He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers." He also outlawed female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
He has been glossed over because, firstly he was very left wing in the Cold War era and secondly because although he had good intentions- his policies were almost invariably a failure, and he was executed before he could complete his work.
[–]Isenki 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Yes, but he also banned unions and the free press.
[–][deleted] 45 points46 points47 points 1 year ago
The Zulu Kingdom was pretty impressive. Especially considering that they inflicted a defeat on the British army with technologically inferior weapons.
[–]Krastain 45 points46 points47 points 1 year ago
Yeah, the battle of Islandlwana. The Zulu's ran over a badly deployed force 10 times smaller than their own. They would have won if armed with spoons.
Not to say the Zulu kingdom is not very interesting (on the contrary), just that the victory isn't particulary impressive.
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 38 points39 points40 points 1 year ago
They could have catapulted the warriors onto the British force and suffocated them to death. Jussayin.
[–]lynchyeatspizza 10 points11 points12 points 1 year ago
Wow, glad to hear from a historian. Did any other civilisations use this tactic?
[–]SpeculumMiddle Ages Christianity 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
Yeah, the Clonks.
[–]FridayNext 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
It wasn't so much the numbers, IIRC, but the fact that the British were spread out to a ridiculous extent, and failure of the British command to listen to recon information. Also, general failure of the British command.
[–]Krastain 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
As I said, badly deployed. ;)
[–]FridayNext 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Ooops, I did not see that part of your comment until you pointed it out. Sorry.
[–]matts2 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
The only time the British Square was overrun. Yes, they took the British by surprise, but that is part of war.
[–]vade101 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
It wasn't a square. The british deployed in a extended line and were outmaneuvered and overwhelmed.
The Battle of Ulundi, now that was a square. With Gatling guns, worked a lot better for the British.
[–]matts2 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Actually IIRC they tried for the square but where overwhelmed before they could form up. And something about not letting different units have access to ammunition.
It's a bit more complicated than that - in contravention of own his standing orders Lord Chelmsford had failed to laager or entrench the camp when it was established, or order the officer he left in charge (Col. Pulleine) to do so.In order to try and protect the camp, and maximise the firepower available to him he deployed the troops in the line shown in the map above - this worked for quite some time, and the Zulu units in the 'Chest' of the attack were forced back - when it became clear they were being outflanked and encircled they tried to withdraw in good order toward the camp, but the Zulu had cut-off the line of retreat via Fugitives Drift and they were overwhelmed. There are some indications that elements were able to form 'Rally Squares' in the camp, but thats rather a different proposition from a Battalion square, that was never attempted.
The ammunition question is something of a myth, there were accounts that the 24th quartermasters wouldn't issue ammunition to other units, or without paperwork, or that they didn't have the right screwdrivers to get into the boxes. More recent archeology on the site, and better work with Zulu oral histories has confirmed that the British Regular infantry at least were firing up until the point they were scattered and overwhelmed (by which time there would be no way of getting supplies) Ian Knight is excellent on this one.
The ammunition question is something of a myth,
The ammunition question is something of a myth,
I kind of figured that. I read a book about the battle a few years ago, but it has the odor of myth. Your detail is way more than I retained.
[–]irjerry3 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
Maybe the variance in weapons is different now but hasn't the US itself one battles against those sort of numbers by just relying on superior technology and training?
[–]joelwilliamson 11 points12 points13 points 1 year ago
The British also regularly won battles with those odds. We don't remember Islandlwana as a typical battle of that period, but because it was so atypical.
[–]cc79 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago*
[–]irjerry3 7 points8 points9 points 1 year ago
Fuck, my bad. I don't really have an excuse other than I just got back from a run and it was the first hot day in a while, I beg for Reddit's forgiveness
[–]balgarath -1 points0 points1 point 1 year ago
damn you autocorrect
[–]whatarrives 21 points22 points23 points 1 year ago
Check out the Kingdom of Kongo. Prior to colonization, it was an independent Christian (Catholic) kingdom, officially recognized by the Pope.
In particular, I recommend The Congolese Saint Anthony, a book which recounts a fascinating historical event, wherein a young Kongo woman leads a half-Joan of Arc, half-Joeseph Smith type uprising against the crown under the aegis of divine inspiration.
I promise that you'll be fascinated by the complexity of the society, especially considering the unmitigated tragedy that Congo endured both during and after colonization.
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
Their contemporaries, the Luba and Lunda Kingdoms in what's now the Angola, Congo, Zambia region are worth a look as well. Although Queen Nzinga is probably the most colorful character from that time period of Central-Southwest Africa.
[–][deleted] 8 points9 points10 points 1 year ago
Why are they always glossed over
Why are they always glossed over
Lack of knowledge, mostly. The pre-colonial history of Africa is a relatively new discipline in history, and as such many high school teachers are fairly unfamiliar with it.
Believe it or not, it was a pretty widely accepted consensus among historians prior to the 1960s (or so) that Africa basically didn't have a 'history'. There was no way to construct a historial narrative using traditional methods because African languages were entirely oral (aside from those who had adopted arabic script). What do you use as sources, when there's nothing written down? That was especially problematic for people trained in European history, accustomed to using often impecable archives and national/university libraries.
The rise of cultural history, acceptance of the stability/veracity of oral tradition, and growth of multi-/interdisciplinary studies is what really opened up the study of pre-colonial African history.
[–]MMSTINGRAYModern History and Politics 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
The history of Benin is quite interesting, there is loads of information about it online and it's not my area of expertise, but google it and see if it catches your interest.
Also I find that pretty much all of North Africa is covered commonly in history, it's the rest of it that gets glossed over.
And the reason is because history, especially as taught in schools, is very euro-centric. If it didn't involve Europeans then a lot of people don't consider it important. Of course this makes some sense, people often to look at history as a way that we can learn from our mistakes, African society and civilization is so far removed from the live of the average European/American that it is much harder to draw useful parallels.
[–]vade101 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I'd second that - if you get a chance to see them, the Benin Bronzes are just staggering.
[–]Malizulu 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
Jenne Jeno: the oldest urban African culture, I believe
Excluding Egyptian sites, I think a few Ethiopian sites (e.g. Axum) may predate it as urbanized settlements. Tichitt is probably one of the oldest known settlements (~2000 BC), though it never rose to city level.
[–]shiiJapanese Nationalism 4 points5 points6 points 1 year ago
The Empire of Mali had writing.
[–]400-RabbitsModerator | Pre-Columbian Mexico | Aztecs 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Not to mention the Taureg had already had their own script based on the earlier exposure to the Phoenician alphabet.
[–]doodledeer 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
Also how about the University in Timbuktu? Pretty impressive!
[–]secretvictory 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
You want a good read? Check out Somalia.
Formerly a trade capital that was a jewel in the crown of Africa. Modern days have not kind.
[–]Tenzn 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
That was an amazing read. Ancient commerce with China even? Defeated the Portuguese?
Modern times have indeed not been kind.
[–]TheCatalystInMe 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
One of the reasons, is that prior to Ibn Batutas massive trips there isn't much written history of the African kingdoms.
[–]gte910h 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
http://dancarlin.com/dccart/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&cPath=3&products_id=182 is an excellent show on them and the Roman Republic's fights (as well as their other actions).
The Zulus as well, however much better links about them in here.
[–]intangible-tangerine 1 point2 points3 points 1 year ago
I did African history in school actually, sort of. In primary school we had to chose an independent project to research and write up and I chose pre-colonial Zimbabwe. I don't remember anything about it though, other than my Dad's lies that the Ian Smith who led the White-Rhodesian-Front was the same Ian Smith who was his boss at an engineering firm.
[–][deleted] 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I've heard that the reason these cultures aren't studied as well is that they passed down history orally instead of in writing. Is that true?
[–]DaeresModerator | Ancient Greece | Ancient Near East 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
It's not why they're not studied, it's why the number of people who study them is very small. It is possible to reconstruct things from oral traditions, myths, and stories, but it requires quite a distinct skillset and doesn't really leave from for the traditional role of the historian as 'interpreter of history by the medium of textual analysis'. You are right that the oral nature of the preservation makes an impact, but it's not that nobody studies it at all.
[–]run85Vichy France 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
The Kingdom of Benin is pretty interesting. If you're at all interested in art, they made these really great bronzes.
[–]piney 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago*
There are a couple of good reasons. One, as other people have said, the Greeks and Romans are considered the foundation of our Western civilization so we tend to teach the basics first. And two, there are fewer primary sources for many of the great historical African civilizations. They just didn't write much about themselves, or if they did, little has survived. In some cases all we have to go on is architectural remnants and/or stories written down by the Greeks, Romans, or Arabs, or later colonial powers. That doesn't mean they weren't impressive civilizations capable of great things, but we just don't have that much to teach about them.
[–]NeoSpartacusIndustrial Revolution 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
Ethiopia is a VERY old culture. They and the Zulu have been well covered in this thread though.
Here's a fun one, Mansa Musa was the wealthiest person in his time. Arguably the wealthiest to ever live. He was so generous in his Haj that the sheer amount of gold he spent devastated the Ummah's economy for the better part of a decade.
[–]enoerew 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_empires - Somewhere to start
[–]YoungJsn 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
Except for Egypt, of course.
You don't know how controversial that statement is.
Whenever an art museum decides to put on an "African" art show, and ancient Egyptian art is displayed, some people [exclusively white folks] lose their shit.
They want Egypt to be separate and apart from Africa, because in their minds the civilization that produced the pyramids of Giza can in no way be related to the "primitives" of Africa.
Source: conferences and talks attended with my museum studies/history studying girlfriend.
[–]perfectmachine[S] 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I'm well aware that Egypt is a part of Africa and I'm very conscious of some people's attempt to de-Africanize Ancient Egypt. However, I think it's a fair statement that Ancient Egypt is the only African civilization to have extensive coverage in American schools and I only excluded Egypt for that reason.
[–]voxpupil -3 points-2 points-1 points 1 year ago
Hmm, can't think of anything other than Egypt. Good question, OP.
[–]NeoSpartacusIndustrial Revolution 6 points7 points8 points 1 year ago
Wrong handle asshole
[–]CaptainCymru 2 points3 points4 points 1 year ago
legitimately posed but, "No name calling, no insults, no cursing at other users."
[–]m1k3L777 5 points6 points7 points 1 year ago
Unfortunately, no it wasn't.
[–]dudleymooresbooze 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
I like off color sarcasm. Your comment was just asinine and unfunny. Not offensive. Just forced, bad humor.
tldr you aren't funny you try too hard
[–]m1k3L777 0 points1 point2 points 1 year ago
My grandparents died fighting for our right to enjoy fruit-flavored sodas without knowing what the actual fruit tasted like. If you're going to make fun of people who fought to preserve racist stereotypes, I don't want to hear it.
[–]NeoSpartacusIndustrial Revolution 3 points4 points5 points 1 year ago
If you said Kingdom of Forging Children or made some other pun then it would be clever. If you said that child support is what brought down the taxation of an empire, and the watermelon famine is what destroyed the proud people of KFC THAT would have been racist, and clever. You are just racist, and not very funny.
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