Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Blogging Will Durant’s History of Civilization

Assyria did a lot of cool things. It conquered Babylon, Judea, and Egypt. It left advancements in the arts and the culture. But it is mainly known in history for the cruelty and terror of its rule. With his coverage of Assyria, we see the first unfortunate tendency in Durant’s outlook and treatment of evil. He continually makes seems to make excuses for evil deeds or otherwise to provide cover for them. Nobody seems do evil in Durant’s series. For example, after a paragraph describing severed heads adorning banquets, flaying people alive, bleeding them like sheep, cutting up bodies and handing the parts out as souvenirs, he says,

It never occurred to Ashurbanipal that he and his men were brutal; these clean-cut penalties were surgical necessities in his attempt to remove rebellions and establish discipline among the heterogeneous and turbulent peoples, from Ethiopia to Armenia, and from Syria to Media, whom his predecessors had subjected to Assyrian rule; it was his obligation to maintain this legacy intact.
So, okay. If the end justifies the means reason is to be used, then how did that end work out? Egypt, Judea, and Babylon all reestablished themselves after only about a century of domination. Nineveh is utterly destroyed. So much for that.

Durant's Brief Outline
  1. Chronicles
  2. Government
  3. Life
  4. Art
  5. Assyria Passes
- From Book One, The Near East, Chapter X. Assyria.
I believe that this series is one of the great works of modern history literature. Its material is essential knowledge.

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