The Ancient Civilization’s Contribution to Modern World
February 5, 2013 2 Comments
I get miffed when a Western historian credits Europe for bringing the world out of dark ages with their Renaissance. I get miffed not because Europe is the savior, but because, there were no dark ages for most of the known world. Middle East, India, Persia and China were enjoying a period of great discovery, inventions, free thinking and open communications among distant lands.
Whenever you read classical Western history, it is usually summed up with “civilized” culture and literacy taking roots with Greeks, polished during Roman times and then after a long and bleak dark ages resurrected by the Europeans during Renaissance. Well, that could be the historical roots of Europe but certainly a wrong representation of the world.
The fact is that Science, literature, language, learning and culture is far older than any Romans or Greeks civilizations. And there were no dark ages sans Europe. The rest of the world led by the Arabs, Chinese and Indians were developing new engineering methods, laying the roots for mathematics, developing financial models of business including the first banks and cheques and building huge trade routes (Silk road) that span the whole of the then known world.
And of course the written language was already well in place and used in the Middle East, Egypt, Mesopotamia (present day Iraq, Iran Syria, Lebanon) India (The Indus Civilization spanning present day Pakistan and India) and China. They were writing the first texts of the world thousands of years before Greeks and others began their own discovery.
And if we go back 5000 years BC, we see Egypt building huge Pyramids, beautiful temples and perfecting the art of writing (hieroglyphs), founding the principles of agriculture and putting together the first manuscripts on medicine. At the same time thousands of miles away, in present day Pakistan, ancients were building proto-cities on a grid with paved roads, running water and citywide sewerage system. They had even developed writing for communications and were trading with empires as far away as Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Fast forward to the “European” dark ages and we see the world moving ahead at brisk pace with technological advancement. The truth of the matter is that Baghdad in 800AD and Muslim Spain in 1,000AD were probably centuries ahead of any other civilization.
While Europe was still living mostly in village based societies, China, India and Middle East were building cities that housed hundreds of thousands of people. They had book stores that sold books of every subject (not just religion) in multitude of thousands. There were paved roads with street lighting, running water and gardens for past time. There were hundreds of public baths for hygiene of the common man. And universities that promoted open thinking and reason. The very model that the earliest European Universities adopted.
But times have forgotten their accomplishments and modern historians tend to belittle or completely ignore their contribution.
If you lived in India today they never experienced dark ages, except for when the British invaded the land some two hundred years ago. But before that, the sub-continent was one of the richest in the world and had a tradition of Engineering (Taj Mahal anyone?) advanced mathematics (Invention of zero as a digit), understanding of the skies (astronomy and sometimes intermixed with Astrology), navigation techniques for the oceans, sophisticated textile industry, exquisite pottery, advanced agriculture and literature including a strong tradition of poetry.
The Europe centric view of the world is no longer the best view. Maybe we should give credit to others as well when we think of the past and their contribution to what we are today.