Did China spark the Italian Renaissance? (Part 1)

“In 1434 a sophisticated Chinese delegation visited Italy. After that date the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy was overturned, and Chinese knowledge ignited the work of geniuses such as da Vinci, Copernicus and Galileo. China’s influence sparked the Renaissance. The course of Western civilisation was changed forever.

Following on the bestselling 1421, Gavin Menzies’ controversial new book 1434 charts the final voyage of the Imperial Chinese fleet. His astonishing discoveries about China’s legacy in Europe rewrite the history of our modern world.”

The above are from the back cover of ‘1434: The year a magnificient Chinese fleet sailed to Italy and ignited the Renaissance.’

Credible? A Western historian is on record saying that he had difficulty suspending his misbeliefs about Menzies’ tentative conclusions. About what? The gifts of new knowledge to the then Pope from the Emperor of China delivered by Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He); and how the Renaissance arose from the spread if this high-value knowledge.

Anyone who had read the book will be impressed by the vast scope of Menzies’ investigations. His details about the principal players in this drama, what they did or contribute, and their relationships with one another are incredible. So much research!

Menzies is a former mariner, who “visited 120 countries, over 900 museums and libraries, and every major sea port of the later Middle Ages” in the course of researching his previous book ‘1421.’ Through the massive investigations by his research teams into the pathways the contribution by China seem to have led to the Renaissance in Italy, Menzies has again drawn upon the work of many earlier reputable researchers and relevant documents in major libraries.

Disbelief and probable Eurocentrism are one side of the coin. The other side requires demonstrating an alternative explanation for Italy’s sudden Renaissance in the realm of the technologies, maps, art, etc., etc. which Menzies refers to.

Is there any value in just asking “Where’s the evidence?” That allegedly happened when some historians in Australia examined ‘1421: The year China discovered the world.’ Most of the evidence is obviously in China. Go look!

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Yavanas in India

The following are pertinent extracts from ‘Early India: From the origins to AD 1300’ by Emeritus Prof. R. Thapar. They should put to rest any exaggerated claims about Hellenic Greek influence in ‘India.’ The author distinguishes between Greeks from the Mediterranean (Hellenic) and Hellenistic culture in West Asia. She also makes clear that the word ‘Yavana’ applied (until recently) to all Westerners in the Punjab to terrain further East.

“In 327 BC Alexander, continuing his march across the empire of Darius, entered the Indian provinces. The Greek campaign in north-western India lasted for about two years. It made little lasting impression historically or politically in India, and not even a mention of Alexander is to be found in any Indian source.”

“A significant outcome of Alexander’s campaign, that was neither political nor military, was that he had with him literate Greeks who recorded their impressions of India … They sometimes provide a corrective to the fantasies in other Greek accounts, even though in these the imagination of the authors is not always curbed.”

“One of the enduring images was that of Alexander in conversation with sophists … This image was seminal to the view that Indian ideas entered the Hellenistic and Mediterranean world subsequent to Alexander and contributed to various schools of thought that did not necessarily conform to established views in the European tradition.”

“Indians, on the other hand, did not say much about the Greeks, and what they did say varies. The term used for them was Yavana … Yavana became a generic term for people coming from the West and was used as recently as the last century. Some later brahmanical texts were bitterly uncomplimentary and hateful about the Yavanas, perhaps because of a lingering memory of Alexander’s hostility to the brahmans during his campaign …” (Note: allegedly, he had a large number of them put to death.)

“The mingling of Hellenistic Greeks and Indians in the second century BC came about through the Hellenistic kings, who ruled in the north-west as successors to those who had succeeded Alexander. Some differentiate between the Greco-Bactrians who ruled over Bactria and the Indo-Greeks who included India in their domain; others refer to them as Indo-Bactrian Greeks or use Indo-Greeks in a more general sense. Indian sources refer to them as Yavanas.

This term makes no distinction between what some would call the Hellenic Greeks, living on the mainland of the peninsula of Greece, and the Hellenistic Greeks. The latter were those of Greek descent or of mixed descent, but broadly conforming to Greek Culture and living in the eastern Mediterranean and West Asia. Hellenistic culture drew on Greco-Roman culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as Iranian sources and some Central Asian influence, and can be regarded initially as Greco-Roman colonial culture.”

“The Greek settlements in Bactria traced their origins to the Achaemenid period (c. fifth century BC) when the Persian kings settled Greek exiles in the region. These were reinforced by Greek artisans settling in the cities of Bactria.”

“The history of the Indo-Greeks has been reconstructed mainly on the evidence of their coins. … The coins are symbolic of an intermingling of Hellenistic with Indian or Iranian cultures.”

Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emus Black Seeds’

Here are the reviews contained in the book. White Australian supremacists, who seem to be thick on the ground, will not like what they say. What explains the derogatory views expressed publicly by white Aussies? A sense of collective guilt? No! One cannot feel guilty on behalf of one’s forebears. ‘Why can’t they be like us?’ is a better explanation.

Since the Irish Catholics were allowed to be a separate people, with their own systems of education and charity, should not the Australian Aborigines (who was here first) be a separate people within an integrated ethno-culturally diverse population?

Would that mean recognising them as First Nation People? Yes, but over the dead bodies of many a whitey. What about giving them a right to have a say in how they are now to be uplifted societally and integrated? Since terra nullius was proven false, could white-man superiority not be up to a requisite standard to ‘bridging the gap’ (a favourite mantra of politicians who prefer words to effective action)?

The reviews:
• “in 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he’s not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily bunked; his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complex civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority. As a teacher – I recommended it as essential reading for any educator.” Lisa Hill, blogger and educator.
• “This very readable, strongly argued study turns the accepted nation of the Aborigines as a hunter-gatherer people completely on its head” Steven Carroll, Sydney Morning Herald.
• “He has done a great service by bringing this material to students and general readers, and in such a lively and engaging fashion.” Richard Broome, Agora Magazine.
• “This is an important book that advances a powerful argument for re-evaluating the sophistication of Aboriginal peoples’ economic and socio-political livelihoods, and calls for Australia to embrace the complexity, sophistication and innovative skills of Indigenous people into its concept of itself as a nation … an important and well-argued book.” Dr. Michael Davis, Honorary Research Fellow at Sydney University.
• “A remarkable book.” Max Allen, The Australian.

The literary quality of Pascoe’s book about the settled lives of his ancestral people is demonstrated by being short-listed for the Queensland Literary Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, both in 2014; the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award as ‘Book of the Year’, and the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award as winner.

(Comment: The Bradshaw cave paintings show that the Chinese had visited the Kimberleys.

Regrettably, prejudice against the Aborigines by many of the movers and shakers of Australia is quite strong.) 

Extracts from Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“The main body of the book began with a description of the ways in which Classical, Hellenistic and later pagan Greeks from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD saw their distant past. I attempted to trace their own vision of their ancestors’ having been civilised by Egyptian and Phoenician colonisation and the later influence of Greek study in Egypt.”

“… up to the 18th century, Egypt was seen as the fount of all ‘Gentile’ philosophy and learning, including that of the Greeks.”

“I went on to show how at the beginning of the 18th century the threat of Egyptian philosophy to Christianity became acute. … it was in opposition to this 18th-century notion of ‘reason’ on the part of the Egyptophils that the Greek ideal of sentiment and artistic perfection was developed.

Further, the development of Europocentrism and racism, with the colonial expansion over the same period, led to the fallacy that only people who lived in temperate climates – that is, Europeans – could really think. Thus, the Ancient Egyptians, who – though their colour was uncertain – lived in Africa, lost their positions as philosophers.”

“In this way, by the turn of the 18th century, the Greeks were not only considered to have been more sensitive and artistic than the Egyptians but they were now seen as the better philosophers, and indeed as the founders of philosophy.”

“The same period also saw the Greek War of Independence, which united all Europeans against the traditional Islamic enemies from Asia and Africa. This war … completed the already powerful image of Greece as the epitome of Europe. The Ancient Greeks were now seen as perfect, and as having transcended the laws of history and language.”

“With the intensification of racism in the 19th century there was increasing dislike of the Egyptians, who were no longer seen as the cultural ancestors of Greece but as fundamentally alien.”

“The status of Egypt fell with the rise of racism in the 1820s; that of the Phoenicians declined with the rise of racial anti-Semitism in the 1880s … by the Second World War, it had been firmly established that Greece had not significantly borrowed culturally or linguistically from Egypt and Phoenicia and that the legends of colonisation were charming absurdities, as were the stories of the Greek wise men having studied in Egypt.”

(Comment: Historiography, being subject to politics, prejudice, and pride, results in history being a movable feast. Then, we have the staunch defenders of the prevailing paradigm, the status quo.

We also have modern regurgitators of historical pap. For example, there seem to be Indian writers who, like Eurocentric British writers, continue to refer to the Aryan invasion of their territory – a proven non-existent event.

Westernised Asians, whether former colonial subjects or not, and who are not aware of the writing of their own people, are likely to be misled by racist bias by white supremacists camouflaged as reporting or even learning. )

The fabrication of Ancient Greece

Over the years, I have read that:

• Greece was established as a nation only in the 1980s
• Its first king was a Dane
• Way back in time, Athens had been established by Egyptians
• At some point in time, half of the population of Athens had been Egyptians
• Many Greeks (Greek-speaking people) had studied in Egypt
• Pythagoras, in particular, had studied in Egypt for 8 years
• Egyptian gods had been worshipped by the Greeks in their Egyptian names
• The Phoenicians (who were Semites from the Levant) had also contributed to the development of Greek culture
• The rise of European colonialism then led to a claim that no ‘black’ people had contributed to the development of Western (including Greek) cultures
• The then leaders of Christianity also denigrated the role of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, all with durable cultures, in the civilisation of mankind in the Aegean and the Middle East; especially that Egyptian gods had been revered in Greece in their Egyptian names
• European colonialism, having proven its ability to conquer and damage (if not destroy) ‘native’ cultures all over the world, began to assert the genetic superiority of the ‘white race’ (whatever that is) over all other ‘races.’
• Confronted with the longevity of the advanced civilisations of India and China, certain European scholars dated the People of the Book (the followers of Judaism) as historically earlier than these Asian cultures.
• Greece then became the intellectual ancestor of Western colonial nations (presumably the Greeks were adequately white in colour).

The title of this post was borrowed by me from the book ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation’ by Prof. Martin Bernal, a multi-disciplinary scholar.

It seems to me that Greece’s rise in status was incidental to the power-grab by that terrible combination of authoritarian Christianity and the rapacity of half a dozen small nations in Western Europe.

Where lies the truth – of what had been done to whom, for whom, and by whom? Refer my posts ‘Reviews of Bernal’s Black Athena’ and ‘Extracts from Martin Bernal’s Black Athena.’

 

The Alexander mythos (2)

“Indian civilization is distinctive for its antiquity and continuity. Apart from its own vitality, the continuity of Indian civilization is largely due to its ability to adapt to alien ideas, harmonize contradictions and mould new thought patterns. Her constant contacts with the outside world also gave India the opportunity to contribute to other civilizations.

Whilst other ancient civilizations have long ceased to exist, Indian civilization has continued to grow despite revolutionary changes. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia have not survived. But in India today, Hindus seek inspiration from concepts similar to those originally advanced by their ancestors.

Jawaharlal Nehru says in his book The Discovery of IndiaTill recently many European thinkers imagined that everything that was worthwhile had its origins in Greece or Rome. Sir Henry Maine has said somewhere that except the blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which is not originally Greek.”
However, Indian contacts with the Western world date back to prehistoric times. Trade relations, preceded by the migration of peoples, inevitably developed into cultural relations. This view is not only amply supported by both philological and archaeological evidence, but by a vast body of corroborative literary evidence as well: Vedic literature and the Jatakas, Jewish chronicles, and the accounts of Greek historians all suggest contact between India and the West. Taxila was a great center of commerce and learning. “Crowds of eager scholars flowed to it for instruction in the three Vedas and in the eighteen branches of knowledge.” Tradition affirms that the great epic, the Mahabharata, was first recited in the city.” (An Advance History of India, R. C. Majumdar, H. C. Raychanduri p.64) Buddha is reputed to have studied in Taxila. Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy owe their origin to Indian thought and spirituality.

Alexander’s raid, which was so significant to Western historians, seemed to have entirely escaped the attention of Sanskrit authors. From the Indian point of view, there was nothing to distinguish his raid in Indian history. Jawaharlal Nehru says, ” From a military point of view his invasion, was a minor affair. It was more of a raid across the border, and not a very successful raid at that.”

“The Europeans are apt to imagine that before the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there was a crude confusion of thought, a sort of chaos without form and void. Such a view becomes almost a provincialism when we realize that systems of thought which influenced countless millions of human beings had been elaborated by people who never heard the names of the Greek thinkers.”
(source: Eastern Religions and Western Thought – By Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(Source: ‘Ancient rishis’ pathway to Hinduism)

 

Cultural diffusion – from East to West?

Stephen Oppenheimer in ‘Eden in the East: The drowned continent of Southeast Asia’ writes that the Universal Flood drowned the huge continental shelf of Southeast Asia’; and that this had caused a population dispersal which fertilised the Neolithic cultures of China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Eastern Mediterranean, thus creating the first civilisations.

Oppenheimer’s theory is that “ … the roots of the great flowering of civilisation in the fertile crescent of the Ancient Near East lay in the sinking shorelines of Southeast Asia. The Sumerians and Egyptians themselves wrote about the skilled wise men from the East, a fact often dismissed as the embellishment of a fertile imagination.”

Oppenheimer points out that the myths of the Sumerians, “with their religious connotations,” were “among the first written records in the third millennium BC;” and that “in the majority of cases the structure and content of the Mesopotamian myths show them to be derived from earlier Eastern sources;” and that “we may suppose that the direction of diffusion was East-to-West.” That claim must be equivalent to putting a cat into an aviary! If true, the dates of diffusion may be much earlier than 6,000 years ago.

He states as a ‘myth-type’ the parable of the ‘two warring brothers’ which had arisen in eastern Indonesia, and to have travelled with the Austronesian expansion along the north coast of New Guinea into the Southwest Pacific “at least 6,000 years ago.” As a most probable clash of cultures (eg. nomadism vs. agriculture), this parable (an example is that of Kulabob and Manup in eastern New Guinea) is reminiscent of Cain and Abel. Oppenheimer concludes “ … these myths antedate Genesis by several thousand years.

Other “shared Eurasian myths” include the Flood; the “watery creation and separation of Heaven and Earth;” the tree motif in the two-brother parable “derived from the Tree of Life;” and the Garden of Eden as a “fertile lost Paradise.” “The family of immortality myths may be the oldest of all, recalling the importance of ritual burial which goes back well before the end of the Ice Age.”

Significantly, Oppenheimer also says “My personal view is that although there was much technology transfer over a prolonged period, the most important new lessons from the East were … how to use hierarchy, politics, magic and religion to control other peoples’ labour.” What a claim! But he does remind us of “the stratified hierarchies still surviving in Austronesian traditional societies from Madagascar through Bali to Samoa;” and the retention of honorific titles in countries such as Bali and Samoa.

In the event, did European colonialism fail in teaching some of its ‘natives’ how to govern themselves in a democratic manner? Perhaps class-riven Britain and social rank-driven Europe were not then appropriate role models!