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Civilization of the Month

!PXhMv3keyc - Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:21:24 EST 7moSACzs No.57339
File: 1515532884456.jpg -(3228964B / 3.08MB, 3480x2656) Thumbnail displayed, click image for full size. Civilization of the Month
In preparation for going back to school (and to hopefully bolster some discussion on this nice but very slow board) I'm gonna try this thread format. Each month, assuming I don't get lazy and drop this, I'm gonna post a big thing about a civilization, culture, or political entity. I'm gonna try to avoid obvious topics like Egypt or Rome, and focus on stuff people may not have heard of as much. In an ideal world you guys will join in and discuss the peoples and cultures herein, suggest new topics, or correct me if and when I mess up.

That said, it seems fair to me to start with the beginning. This month's Civilization of the Month is Sumer.

"Sumer" as a name comes to us from their Akkadian neighbors/occasional rulers, who called them Shumer. The Sumerians called themselves "ùĝ saĝ gíg ga", meaning "The black-headed people", a name we learned from the cuneiform tablets they wrote on. Unfortunately, we do not actually know what "Shumer" means; when looking (or, more appropriately, glancing) into it, I pretty much just found academic flamewars.

The Sumerian people seem to have been in the area of modern day Iraq since at least 6500 BC, and continued to do their thing until the second millennium BC. Then they were conquered by the Amorites, who in turn were conquered by the Assyrians. However, their cultural impression was lasting, and Assyrian kings would continue to refer to themselves as "King of Sumer and Akkad" for centuries.

The earliest archaeological site we have for the area is called Tell el-'Oueli. A tell, from Arabic tal, meaning hill or mound, is a giant pile of trash from generations of people living on the same spot. This site consists of two thousand years of the Ubaid period (6500-4000 BC), and is characterized by the style of clay painted pottery, unwalled villages of mud brick houses, and tools (mainly sickles) made of clay usually, though occasionally stone or metal. During this time irrigated agriculture, use of the plow, and sailing were developed, and an egalitarian society became more stratified as a noble chieftain class developed as communities became much bigger than your standard village.

Eventually, pottery became produced more efficiently and trade flourished along the rivers of the Fertile Crescent, which led to the rise of the first cities. This period, named Uruk for the biggest one of the time, lasted from 4100 BC to 2900 BC. Uruk was created when two Ubaid villages grew into each other, and during this period became the most populated city in the world, surpassing 50k inhabitants. Cities during this period were centered around a large temple (two in Uruk's case, at the centers of the towns it grew from) and were ruled theocratically by priest-kings (called ensi). Slavery begins to see heavy use.

In 2900 BC we enter the early dynastic period (2900-2270 BC). Around the beginning of this time the wall around Uruk was built, spanning 9km. We see a split from the priest-king system to a relatively secular ruler (still claiming divine right to rule, as kings will), and a council of elder priests. In 2700 writing began to form out of pictographs, and things like clay tokens were used in accounting. At first, cities were separate entities that can't really project force terribly far. However, any towns around a big city were obviously going to have a hard time, and we actually see towns outright disappear as the cities absorb their populations. Around 2500 BC a king from the city of Lagash named Eannatum conquered the area we now think of as Sumer, creating one of the first empires. However, it fell apart after his death. Two centuries later a king named Lugal-zage-si did something similar, and reigned for fifteen years or so until the Akkadians conquered Sumer.

In 2270, the son of a cup-bearer for a Sumerian king (a social position of high standing and trust, I'll note) named Sargon rose to power, conquered Lugal-zage-di's realm, and led him to his hometown of Akkad in stocks. He went on to carve out an empire stretching nearly from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. His empire would last until 2147, when a nomadic tribe called the Guti overran the place to a degree that the infrastructure couldn't handle. The empire collapsed, and minor city-states made their return.

From Lagash again rose a Sumerian king, Gudea, who enjoyed a small renaissance of sorts after he reconquered Sumer in his sixth year and established healthy trade routes throughout Mesopotamia. Statues of Gudea abound, and we can note a change over the course of his reign from cheap limestone to expensive and foreign diorite, featuring inscriptions about trade, rule and religion. The arts flourished (sculptures of Gudea are numerous, and those are just the ones that survived), and contact with ancient India for trade and minor colonization is mentioned. The site of Goa followed field measurements of the Sumerian culture rather than those of the native Indian cultures surrounding them. He ruled for twenty years (2144-2124 BC).

Following this, the third dynasty of Ur rose to regional power and lasted about a century. The six kings in this time extended influence (not outright power, mind you) all the way to the Mediterranean, centralized agriculture and the textile industry, and produced the oldest known code of law: the Code of Ur-Nammu. Around the turn of the second millennium BC an invasion from neighboring Elam cast down the dynasty, paving the way for the rise of the Assyrian Empire.

It's worth noting that in the final era of Sumer's history, the salinity of the soil was affecting the region's economic capacity. In the time surrounding the Ur III dynasty, the population was estimated to have more than halved itself, despite a switch from wheat to barley, a more salt-resistant grain. I suspect this may also be what caused or allowed the Ur III dynasty to centralize as much as they apparently did (but that's my thought and not something you should go repeating as fact). This also lead to the spread of Akkadian as a common language, while Sumerian became one used for administrative and literary use, showing the weakening of cultural influence. Paul Kriwaczek posits in his book Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization that when faced with growing populations, the leaders of Sumerian cities may have attempted to circumvent the system of fallowing fields in an attempt to increase productivity, which would have only made the soil worse in the already hungry times following.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:24:05 EST 7moSACzs No.57340 Reply
The Sumerians were also fantastic innovators, not just in the creation of the city as we know it but in many other respects as well. The obvious accomplishments are the wheel and writing, but this also includes sexigesimal mathematics, i.e. math based around multiples of six. This we still use today for our basic units of time, as well as the 360 degree circle.
The invention of writing cannot be understated. This began initially as a way to record pragmatic things like the amount of grain or livestock one had, but it quickly became much more. The first known written narrative fictional story, the epic of Gilgamesh, comes to us from the Sumerians, a tale of adventure, loss and eventual acceptance of death. Beyond that, we have a vast array of written information from the Sumerians, from deeds to land, to recipes for food and beer to philosophical debates and even jokes ("Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap.").

The Sumerian mindset for much of their history seems to have been one of boundless experimentation with little regard for "the old ways". Unlike Egypt, which spent monumental resources attempting to make structures that would last forever, Sumer was constantly building up, tearing down and rebuilding everything in their environment as they found better ways to go about their lives. The image we have of their culture is an exceedingly open and frank one, compared to ours. In a time when the concept of hygiene was basic at best, living in a city had a high attrition rate. Cramming 50,000 people and their livestock into a small space was not conducive to good health. Thus, a heavy focus in Sumerian culture is put on booze and sex. One because it was literally the only safe thing to drink, and made you feel pretty good as well, and the other because keeping the birth rate up was a serious concern, and made you feel pretty good as well. In the epic of Gilgamesh, the feral demigod Enkidu is civilized by having sex with a sacred temple prostitute named Shamhat for a week straight. These were not a prudish people.

The typical structure of a Sumerian city seems to be thus: At the top, the priest-king, called an ensi or lugal (there's debate over whether this is a regional difference or if lugal denotes kingship over multiple cities), along with a council of religious elder priests. The religious authority of the kings seem to dwindle somewhat over time, but that's a relative dwindling; kings were very much considered to have a divine quality, and the basis of Sumerian religion held that the gods delivered kingship to the people to raise them out of chaos. So there's your typical state-mandated raison d'etre for the monarchy. Below this there was a noble class consisting of government officials, wealthy merchants and large-scale landowners, then farmers and producers of goods like pots and tools, and finally slaves and criminals.
Sumerian cities were often not unified, and indeed seem to have functioned similarly to the Hellenic city-states of Ancient Greece. They often squabbled with their neighbors, but would form empires or coalitions when threatened from outside, and were overall proud of their shared culture. Due to centuries of near-unending warring with each other, they made leaps and bounds in military technology along with their other pursuits. From the Sumerians we have use of chariots, spear block formations, and basic siege tactics. It's thought that they had professional soldiers in use, who were equipped with copper helmets.
Women's role in Sumerian society was as always something of a short stick, but not as bad as in later Mesopotamian societies. While the typical structures of familial marriage and procreation applied, Sumerian women could own property, take part in the justice system, become priestesses, run businesses, become scribes and even divorce their husbands (with good reason).

Have some music from a few thousand years ago:

This guy, Peter Pringle, seems to specialize in recreating ancient instruments. He's singing part of the Epic of Gilgamesh (which would indeed have been sung and performed), but the music he's playing seems to be out of his own head. Still worth a listen.

I kinda feel Sumer falls into the area of "obvious topics" as I put it in the beginning, but I think their place is warranted. Contenders for early civs are few. Besides Egypt, you have ancient China, which is quite the beast to tackle (and if I do China it will be by individual era, make no mistake), and the Indus Valley civilization, about which basically everything is murky and up for debate. The Sumerian influence on the world is far reaching. Cuneiform lasted up until the first century AD; we still use their system of time; Capricorn's basic imagery, the half goat, half fish chimera, comes to us from the Sumerian river god Enki. These guys set up the basic system for how our lives would work for the next five thousand years up until today. I figure the least I can do is start my dumb thread with 'em.
Molly Buvingspear - Fri, 12 Jan 2018 01:30:07 EST Io2ZBGXP No.57341 Reply
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I've always struggled with the early history of Mesopotamia. It's always been a melange of Babylon and the stuff that came before. The Assyrians are separate but only because everyone goes out of their way to note that they were the bad guys. In trying to add some framing to 6000 years of Mesopotamian history, I traced the religious evolution and the name Marduk jumped out at me. Suddenly I was back in high school watching this episode of Sealab 2021. Maybe you'll get a kick out of this.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Fri, 12 Jan 2018 22:12:27 EST 7moSACzs No.57342 Reply
What I've generally found is that the cultures are heavily intertwined. Urban life seems to have spread memetically from Uruk to the rest of Mesopotamia and with it, the general way of doing things followed. Akkad and Sumer are almost always spoken in the same breath by both academics and contemporary documents; it's just that Akkadian won out in the end due to being a Semitic language related to its neighbors, the decline of Sumerian populations and the simplification of cuneiform's structure. Sumerian cuneiform is this ridiculous mixture of phonetic signs, signs for specific words a la Chinese, determinatives put at the end of words to apply context and puns and homophones of all these mixed together. It's a bitch to learn, then and now. Other cultures took cuneiform as a concept and liked it, but said "fuck that" to the hodge-podge of Sumerian and massively simplified it for ease of use.

As for the Assyrians, it's pretty easy to make them out as the bad guys when that was their entire public image, and later cultures such as the Persians, who immediately followed them in the Mesopotamian sphere, took great efforts to show that they weren't as brutal as their predecessors. So between them, the Assyrians' own efforts and writings by contemporary people going "wow fuck those guys they slaughtered three cities last week", the stigma is pretty strong.

Finally, fuck yeah Sealab. This has been a bit of a rant, I blame the Citradelic.
Oliver Bardwell - Wed, 17 Jan 2018 08:36:52 EST dUHNnmI0 No.57345 Reply
good stuff OP i read it all. keep it coming
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:56:47 EST 7moSACzs No.57346 Reply
Thanks! Nice to hear I'm not shouting into the void. Have any suggestions for topics?
Alice Mundletug - Fri, 19 Jan 2018 22:00:38 EST OONS0as+ No.57347 Reply
I think Anatolia and East Africa are chronically overlooked.
Beatrice Wozzleridge - Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:33:34 EST dUHNnmI0 No.57348 Reply
id like to know more about eastern europe before the medieval times
Barnaby Clemmlepadge - Sat, 20 Jan 2018 23:03:31 EST rbK+gS1r No.57351 Reply
Well, they didn't know how to write and/or didn't leave behind pictogrammical records on lasting materials so no one knows. IIRC all written sources on the Slavic cultures were made by either invading Vikings or invading Christians.

Kind of ironic, even the Aboriginals left more traces of their cultures.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Wed, 24 Jan 2018 14:24:16 EST 7moSACzs No.57354 Reply
I may mess with East Africa if I can find a thread to follow. The Islamic kingdoms of West Africa could be a good one too. Anatolia could have something in the future, but I don't wanna hang out in the Near/Mid East two months in a row.

This could certainly be something, since it's a massive blind spot in my knowledge and I'm always looking to fill those in.

Phoenicia is good. Plus, I could sneak Carthage in...

This is all I know about medieval eastern europeans, but I think it's pretty cool:
scumfuc - Thu, 25 Jan 2018 23:12:28 EST zPMk1XQv No.57355 Reply
The Missisippian Culture would be fun, or maybe Kanem-Bornu.

Loved the thread, btw. Sumer is my jam.
Martha Trotford - Wed, 31 Jan 2018 08:11:28 EST kpuK6LbR No.57357 Reply
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Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:55:24 EST RBbEukYB No.57383 Reply
bruvs I'll get on this in a minute, I been movin

I ain't forgot a damn thing, I assure you
Edwin Worthingford - Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:31:36 EST 47c8tE2v No.57384 Reply
I kept the faith, Chuck. Looking forward to the Minoans or the Shang Dynasty or whatever.
Frederick Blobblewill - Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:32:43 EST vZXg7z/l No.57385 Reply
ah sumeria, the civilization that started it all
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Wed, 28 Feb 2018 12:48:42 EST RBbEukYB No.57392 Reply
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It's been a long month, and I didn't mean to sleep on this as much as I have been. February's Civilization of the Month is Phoenicia.

Phoenicia is, as it usually happens, not what the people actually called themselves. They were a Semitic culture who referred to themselves in writing as "kn'n", which ties to their roots as a spoke in the umbrella culture of the Canaanites. As a seafaring people, the Phoenicians colonized the Mediterranean coast extensively, and while kn'n eventually became a word referring to their ancestral homeland (in what is today largely Lebanon), we still have reference to the North African post-Carthaginians calling themselves "chanani" centuries later in Late Antiquity.
"Phoenicia", meanwhile, comes down to us to the Greeks, who gave us a lot of ancient names due to writing their mouthy little asses off about everyone, refers to the particular shade of purple dye that the Phoenicians made their riches from trading. The Romans, shameless Hellaboos that they were, took this in stride and called them "Poeni", which is where we get Punic in reference to the Carthaginian wars.
The story of the Phoenicians is one typically told by others. Though famed for their alphabet, which became the backbone of the Western literary tradition, their writings were almost entirely done on papyrus, which has sadly not withstood the test of time. Still, they were apparently so known for their use of papyrus that the Phoenician city of Byblos became the Greek word for paper, and then for books as a whole. But because of this lack of voice on their part, and because they were not a great imperialist land power like their neighbors, the Phoenicians often seem to sit on the sidelines of the typical view of ancient history.
The first mention of the Canaanite peoples is an inscribed statue from the 16th century BC of an Akkadian king named Idrimi, which describes a war in which he is forced to leave his land, makes a treaty in Canaan with a king of Umman-Manda (some form of steppe nomad, the Akkadian term literally translates to "the horde from who-knows-where")and returns with an army to claim his land from the Hittites. After that, the area falls under Egyptian hegemony for the rest of the Old Kingdom, which is great for us because they wrote quite a bit.
The timeline we have is such: Out of the murk of prehistory, the Sumerian idea of urbanization spread across Mesopotamia. This took root in Jericho, which had been a sizeable town since the Neolithic period, as well as in other coastal Canaanite settlements such as Byblos, Sidon and Tyre. It's difficult to put an exact number on the highly semantic difference between these things becoming cities out of large towns, but soon after the Akkadian Empire, and more importantly for Canaan, the Egyptian Old Kingdom collapsed in the 22nd century BC, the insane Rube Goldberg device that was the Early Bronze Age Collapse struck the entirety of Mesopotamia, and everyone went back to the fields for a while.
Eventually urban life resurfaced, and the Canaanite region in particular began to sprout city-states everywhere, strengthening in Egypt's decline, to the point that the Hyksos, who are now believed to belong to the Canaanite culture, actually ruled the Delta for long enough to be counted among the pharaonic dynasties (number fifteen, if you're curious) until they were given the boot a century later in the 16th century BC. At this point Egypt ceases languishing in its Intermediate Periods and Middle Kingdom dynasties, and the New Kingdom is established.
In 1460 BC, if Egyptian timekeeping records are to be believed, Thutmose III, the "Napoleon of Egypt", conquered essentially all of Canaan at the age of 21. This was a huge deal for Egypt, which was a river society and a Mediterranean superpower in a land without trees, and desperately needed the cedar from the lush Levantine forests. Canaan would remain so until the reign of Amenhotep (1386-1349 BC), during which time the Hittites in the north chipped away at the Canaanite territories, taking advantage of the strife caused by the emergence of transient Habiru populations (a barely understood nomadic social/cultural class that seems to have done little besides attack cities and make people angry. They're a complicated bunch, and a fun wikipedia article to look up). This landgrabbing was only exacerbated during the reign of Akhenaten, Amenhotep III's successor, who instigated radical religious and social reform within Egypt which resulted in great internal strife, giving the Hittites further incentive to continue pecking at Canaan. This conflict would be mitigated by the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire, which would expand throughout Mesopotamia throughout the next three centuries, including most of Canaan.
Faced with this new player in the geopolitical game, Egypt and the Hittites made peace, until the second great Rube Goldberg device, the fun one, with the Sea People, arrived in the form of the Bronze Age Collapse (c1200-1150BC). Empires splintered, cities burned, and the non-coastal parts of Canaan were seized by the Arameans, who then spread their language to their new subjects. I've been looking for a good place to make the narrative switch from the Canaanites to the name the Greeks would coin for them, and I think this is it. Canaan is dead, long live Phoinikos.
For the next four hundred years, in the absence of a large player to boss them around, the Phoenicians would do what they'd already been doing, but without a tithe on their backs: get rich using boats. From Tyre, purple dye made of an ointment painstakingly collected from local snails was made. This, along with cedar lumber, wine, glass, textiles, slaves and pottery made Phoenicia a potent mercantile entity along the Mediterranean. From Greece to Egypt, and all the stops in between, Phoenicia stuffed its pockets. This, combined with the adventurer's spirit that seems to naturally accompany a seaborne life, led the people to expand.
Soon, Phoenician colonies began to freckle the Mediterranean coast (moreso than they had before the collapse), leading to even more profit: silver from Sardinia and Iberia, more dye in Mogador in what's now Morocco. Carthage was established in 814BC as a trading outpost, but as a city on the tip of the clinching of the Med between Africa and Italy, became strategically essential, as did the colony on Sicily across the way. All of this was helped by their system of writing, first seen in the tenth century BC, which evolved at first from the hieratic script used in nonreligious Egyptian affairs. Stripped of archaic and culture-bound pictographic meanings, each symbol was assigned a unique sound. Why learn hundreds of unique characters when you could just learn 22 and then sound it out? This, along with their method of winemaking and the handled pots the Greeks would call "amphoras", proved immensely popular among the surrounding cultures, many of whom adopted it immediately, then added their own little flairs, like vowels and a left-to-right reading order in the Hellenic case.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Wed, 28 Feb 2018 12:49:37 EST RBbEukYB No.57393 Reply
This prosperity, however, was not to last. In the 6th century BC, far off in the east, a small-time king conquered the Median Empire and began a steamroll of conquest that stretched from India to modern Turkey. As of 539 BC, this included the allied cities of Phoenicia. The Persian Empire would sound the death knell for the Levantine city-states as independent powers, ruling the area for two centuries. In 336 BC, Alexander III of Macedon ascended to the throne, and two years later embarked upon an invasion of the Achaemenid Empire. In 332 BC he made his way to the island city of Tyre and resolved to take it. This was no easy matter when defended by a Phoenician navy, and a brutal siege commenced involving Alexander building a stone land bridge more than half a kilometer long despite being assailed every step of the way. When the city was finally breached, the ensuing sack was a massacre in which, according to numbers given by the Romans (which are always dubious, but it's what we've got), 8,000 citizens were killed and the remaining 30,000 were sold into slavery.
Alexander, upon subduing the Levantine region, continued conquering to Egypt, India and beyond, until he finally died at age 32 of a fever, or poisoning. Whichever. Left without a clear successor, his various relatives, advisors and military comrades immediately split the newly conquered territories amongst themselves. Phoenicia would swap the Persian yoke for the Seleucid until the arrival of a new, Roman yoke in 65 BC.
I was going to do Carthage but, frankly, it's the last day of the month and I still have the culture section ahead of me. You all suffer for my sloth.

As stated before, while the Phoenicians apparently had a great literary tradition to go with their system of writing, all of it apparently rotted away. That said, all we have left is their more lasting contributions: sculpture, pottery and metalwork. What we find is about what you'd expect from a trading culture surrounded by large powers; the Phoenician style was really more of an amalgam of all the surrounding styles. Their sarcophagi have a distinctly Egyptian flair, as does the posing of their statuary, and when it doesn't look Egyptian, it looks Greek. That said, while they may not have been terribly original, they did produce some fantastically beautiful works of art.
Beyond that, the skill in shipbuilding shown by the Phoenicians is exemplary. It's arguable that the Phoenicians more or less taught the rest of the Mediterranean how to operate on the water, and are believed to have pioneered the use of multiple rowing decks in the first biremes (an achievement outdone by their Carthaginian descendants, who boasted quinqueremes in the Punic Wars). A Pharoah, Assyrian king or Persian emperor who controlled Phoenicia was a happy one when he looked at the sea. In fact, Herodotus writes of the Emperor Xerxes holding a great sea race among his many coastal satrapies, and when the Sidonian vessel won, Xerxes made sure that whenever he stepped on a galley, it was a Phoenician one.

Unfortunately, I don't have any music for you this month.

I'll be honest, I kinda phoned it in at the end of this one. Besides the woes of moving, I didn't start this until maybe a week or two ago. I'll definitely be more proactive for March's COTM. You're all, as always, welcome to suggest topics, but I'm gonna try and pick on quickly one the grounds that putting work in throughout the month will create a better product than the cram this has been. Of course, just because your topic doesn't get picked one month, it doesn't mean it never will.

Here's a good link I found a bit too late: https://phoenicia.org/index.shtml
Shitting Savingshit - Thu, 01 Mar 2018 01:40:58 EST zPMk1XQv No.57394 Reply
No need to kick yourself, bro. It may not be comprehensive but it was a damn good read and has plenty of interesting information. I had never even heard of the Habiru before this, and I am now curious as to when the switch occured from snail-based purple dye to the oyster blood-based purple dye mentioned by Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations.

It's a post on the weed imageboard, not a doctoral thesis. You're fine :)
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Thu, 01 Mar 2018 10:29:48 EST SDfSRyX/ No.57395 Reply
They're probably the same mollusc; I didn't look into that bit particularly hard.

The Habiru are fascinating to me because everyone had a word for them and basically every large power has a few surviving writings bitching about them stealing horses or something.
There's also a good amount of academic conjecture regarding whether they're actually Hebrews, but I think that view has fallen by the wayside.
William Nanderham - Fri, 02 Mar 2018 07:43:40 EST BrfXiFVX No.57396 Reply
This is a nice thread.

We need more of these things on the inactive boards
Walter Brookford - Fri, 02 Mar 2018 21:53:25 EST wY8hsOs0 No.57397 Reply
First off- this IS a brilliant fucking thread I commend OP. PLEASE keep going!

To this persons point- I strongly recommend Karen Armstrongs History of God- I only say so because you mention Marduk. The cultural evolution of religion, having it's very foundations in Sumeria, brilliantly portrayed in that text.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Sat, 03 Mar 2018 13:39:45 EST SDfSRyX/ No.57398 Reply
Ancient Iraq by George Roux seems to be the standard text on the subject. It was written in like the 60's though so it may be getting a bit dated.
Polly Gippertodge - Mon, 05 Mar 2018 22:53:04 EST yKb3KU3b No.57399 Reply
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that was a very educational read. i know little of history. RIP Phoenicia. thank you OP for this excellent thread and please continue in your work i will remain a reader for sure
Fucking Buzzville - Sat, 31 Mar 2018 23:14:33 EST H9z/rL/N No.57418 Reply
It's okay Chuck. I know how much work goes into this. nb.
Wesley Fozzlesutch - Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:52:55 EST /mZfItc6 No.57444 Reply
bump, hoping april has a civilization
Sophie Mushkut - Wed, 25 Apr 2018 01:06:58 EST qQ6l2aqC No.57446 Reply
I'd be glad to help OP if he needs help researching
George Pollydock - Thu, 26 Apr 2018 00:37:34 EST GI2SdNpw No.57447 Reply
is OP okay? We didnt get a civilization of the month for March or April yet
Martin Shittingson - Sat, 28 Apr 2018 23:12:58 EST /mZfItc6 No.57448 Reply

maybe you need to take up the mantle yourself. some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
Graham Callerfure - Thu, 07 Jun 2018 01:33:32 EST ynMD0T+l No.57460 Reply
ancient civilization of the month:
he was good, then he ded
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Sun, 01 Jul 2018 17:45:47 EST RBbEukYB No.57465 Reply
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Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:53:58 EST RBbEukYB No.57470 Reply
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I did tell y'all from the start that I was lazy. That said, the Civilization for this month, such as it is, is Cambodia.
The etymology of Cambodia is a fun one, and is fairly typical of English exonyms when it comes to Asian cultures. English "Cambodia" comes from French "Cambodge", which comes from the Khmer "kampuchiə". Kampuchea comes from, and here we'll see how nicely the chan wants to play with non-Roman characters, the Sanskrit कम्बोजदेश kambojadeśa, which means "Land of Kamboja", an Iron Age Indian tribe which became one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, or great kingdoms, of ancient India, as chronicled by the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya. Right about here I'm gonna mention that South Asian cultures are definitely outside my admittedly Eurocentric comfort zone, so if I fuck something up don't be afraid to call me on it.
I'm not gonna spend too much time in prehistory. The long and short of it is, people seem to have been living in the area since about 6000 BC, adopted rice farming from their northern neighbors beginning around 3000 BC, and started making circular earthworks in the second millenium, theorized to have been temporary village sites with earthen walls and ditches to contain livestock, abandoned when the soil was depleted from use in rice farming. Iron was in use by 500 BC, trade with India was established by the 4th century BC, and evidence arises from burials and such of social structure, organization of labor and different trade routes.
The relationship of the Cambodian region with India would prove to be a defining one. The Cambodian states of Funan, Chenla, and Khmer are all considered part of Greater India, or states which adopted the religion, social structure and overall culture of India as a whole in much the same way states surrounding China did as well. This is rather different than the cultural assimilation of say, the Romans, which was almost entirely accomplished through conquest, while Sino/Indianization tended to be more of a cultural seeping through trade and general contact. People just saw what they were doing and liked it enough to do it themselves. This is not to say that assimilation through conquest did not happen, just that it was not the default mode of cultural permeation.
I can tell you that if I'd known this prior to picking Cambodia I probably would have just picked India, but we've gotten this far, so you're getting Cambodia. Besides, I have a big book on India I haven't cracked open yet and I'd want some time with that before trying to type one of these out.
Literally every source I'm finding seems to skip from basic prehistoric observations as written above straight to the state--or network of smaller states--known as Funan, which lasted from the first century BCE to the sixth. This becomes somewhat less surprising when you realize that we only really know of Funan through Chinese records, and that we don't even know if "Funan" is a Chinese term or a transliteration of a local term. In any case, while ancient Chinese writings treat Funan as one solid block of state, this is likely a convenience on their part, and Funan almost certainly subscribed to the mandala system of governance. In this system, large cities have a radius of influence surrounding them from which they extract tribute from the lesser settlements around them in a sort of vassal-suzerain relationship, with a bit of a protection racket thrown in for good measure. In this system there is essentially no thought paid to borders, simply the anchor city and who is sending them tribute. It is still debated if there was in fact a single mandala that outgrew the rest, or if there were multiple powerful states that coexisted together. In any case, Funan seems to have been a middle man for the larger world around it, facilitating trade between India and China and anyone else who came along, which apparently included the Persians, Greeks and Romans. As an Indianized state, they practiced variants of Hinduism and Buddhism (the latter only after the fourth century) and used Sanskrit as their administrative language. Archeology has found brick walls, precious metals and an extensive canal system that implies an agricultural system capable of supporting a large population. The Chinese describe a society of rice faming, stilt houses, slavery and musicians renowned enough for the Chinese to establish a Funanese musical institute in Nanking.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:58:23 EST RBbEukYB No.57471 Reply
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According to Chinese annals, in the sixth century CE one of the Funanese vassal states, known as Chenla, gained its independence from Funan and promptly conquered it. However, this is currently hotly contested as the references in said annals are passing at best. Simple fact of the matter is, China was and is huge and generally didn't give too much of a damn about their neighbors provided they still got tribute and no armies appeared on their borders. When recording the annual doings of literally everything going on, some petty uprising over in the southwest gets, like, a sentence. Also suspect is the fact that these records tended to be put together at the beginning of a new dynasty as a traditional way of establishing credibility and legitimacy. So this isn't a record of a thing that happened last year, but of something that happened, in the case of the rise of Chenla, four centuries ago before being recorded in the New Book of Tang. Its credibility is shaky at best.
In any case, according to the New Book of Tang, Chenla ruled for about a century before being split into "Water Chenla" and "Mountain Chenla", before being conquered by Javanese pirates. Clearly the term "pirate" has a different connotation in the Asiatic realm than in the West; if I had to guess, we're looking at a typical gang structure writ large into seagoing organized tribes and confederacies*.
So, that's the Chinese take on it, which was undisputed until about the 1970's, when someone actually started looking around for themselves. What was found was a rise in epigraphy, or stone inscriptions, during the seventh century. It was pointed out that these were generally unique and widespread, indicating that there were multiple independent territories rather than one centralized elite power. Said inscriptions drop off a century later, and the going theory is that the entire region was simply a decentralized squabbling anarchy from the fall of the Funanese mandala until the rise of the Khmer Empire.
The Khmer, or Angkor Enpire was founded in 802 CE by Jayavarman II, who according to inscribed stone records, had been a prince or high noble under the Javanese Shailendras in the southwest (who at the time controlled Java, Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and parts of modern Cambodia.). It is unknown if he fought for his independence or simply amassed a following and left, but he conquered a diagonal swathe of territory across the region to the northwest, then declared himself God-King (Devaraja), a Javanese concept, on Mount Mahendraparvata/Phnom Kulen, a sacred site. There is some conjecture regarding whether he originated from the Shailendras, or the Chams to the east, which is only muddied by the fact that contemporary temples in the area have architectural influences of both. Establishing his capital at Hariharalaya nine miles from the future site of Angkor Wat, Jayavarman died in 835 CE. His son ruled for forty two years during which little is known other than that he probably died hunting an elephant in 877. His successor, Indravarman I, expanded the imperial territory without conquering it, built a public irrigation system involving constructing a reservoir to collect water to be released into canals during the dry season. He constructed a series of shrines and temples, including Bakong, the first temple-mountain of the Khmer Empire, thought to be connected to the very similar Borobudur in Java. His son, Yasovarman I, established a capital named after himself and built an even larger reservoir than his father. This kicked off a tradition of topping one's predecessors in the dynasty. The kingdom was split for about thirty years during a succession dispute between Jayavarman IV, grandson of Indravarman I, and the sons of Yasovarman I. After this was a period of peace, prosperity and temple-building until a nasty three way succession war broke out after the death of Jayavarman V in 1001 CE. Eventually Suryavarman I took the throne and immediately had to defend it from invaders both from the Malay kingdom of Tambralinga and the Sumatran Srivijaya Empire. Suryavarman allied with the Indian Chola Empire and defeated the invaders.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Mon, 02 Jul 2018 17:01:12 EST RBbEukYB No.57472 Reply
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During the reign of Suryavarman II, the temple of Angkor Wat was built to honor Vishnu, and the emperor conducted campaigns against the Chams and Viets in the east, which likely lead to his death in the 1140s. A succession crisis kept the empire in chaos until Angkor Wat was sacked by the Chams during a naval battle in 1177. A prince named Jayavarman VII amassed an army, retook the capital and campaigned against Champa for 22 years, gaining large amounts of territory in the process. Jayavarman became notable for not being a huge dick like his successors, who I would guess followed the general short-term-king pattern of usurp, oppress, get usurped on one typically sees in periods of instability. He established a new capital called Angkor Thom, built hella temples to commemmorate himself, boddhisattvas, his parents, and the world at large. He also built another damn reservoir, along with a road system with rest stops and over a hundred hospitals.
After his death, his son Indravarman II gained the throne, and immediately faced troubles from inside and out. He was forced to cede eastern territory to an alliance of the Dai Viet and Champa in 1220, and
western territory to his Thai subjects, who formed their own kingdom. In 1243 he was succeeded by Jayavarman VIII, an avid Hindu who set forth on a campaign of iconoclasm against Buddhist imagery, destroying statues and converting temples to Hinduism. Forty years into his rule, the Khans, now in control of China, began extracting tribute from the Khmers, and upon his deposition in 1295, his son-in-law reconverted the empire to Buddhism.
At this point, the empire began to decline for a number of reasons. Civil wars became the status quo, plague rampaged throughout the area, and it's theorized the authority of the king declined when the adoption of pure Buddhism became state fact: If the king is not a god, he doesn't need temples, and if he doesn't need temples, he isn't using the infrastructure that commanded largescale public labor. As such, a number of the reservoirs were not maintained, and so flood and famine became commonplace. Meanwhile, the Thai kingdom of Sukhothai, who had split off from Khmer in the reign of Indravarman II, was conquered by a more powerful Thai kingdom, who then proceeded to invade Khmer in 1352. The country would flip back and forth between Thai and native rule for centuries until Angkor Wat lay abandoned, and from 1618 on Khmer rulers became little more than vassals to their Thai and Vietnamese neighbors. In the ninteenth century Vietnam attempted to solidify control of Khmer by forcing assimilation of the citizens to Vietnamese customs, sparking the Siamese-Vietnamese war from 1841-45, when the country came under French protection, eventually annexed into French Indochina until 1953.
At this point the country became a constitutional monarchy under Norodom Sihanouk. The newly independent nation was in a sticky place, on a local level feuding over the Mekong Delta with Vietnam, and on a global level with the Cold War now in full swing. Sihanouk navigated these waters shakily; claiming neutrality during the Vietnam War while allowing the Vietnamese communists to traffic arms through the country, and permitting the US to bomb the nation provided Cambodians were not killed. When the US did, and Cambodians were, he protested to the nation and international media at large, but the bombings continued nonetheless.
In 1970 the king visited Beijing, and a military coup took over the country in his absence. The new regime may or may not have been some CIA bullshit, but was immediately supported by the US and immediately demanded the Vietnamese communists get out of the country. A civil war between the new government and the communist Vietnamese-backed Khmer Rouge raged for five years, at which point the latter group took control. Now lead by Pol Pot, the new government took inspiration from Maoist China, attempting to reform agriculture with forced labor while simulaneously rejecting anything considered Western, including medicines. The regime, as paranoid upstarts will do, massively cracked down on the population, purging citizens for acting too intellectual, western, foreign or religious. During this time 1-3 million people were killed, a quarter of the population. 95% of the country's Buddhist temples were destroyed as well.
Charlemagne !PXhMv3keyc - Mon, 02 Jul 2018 17:06:04 EST RBbEukYB No.57473 Reply
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While all this was going on, Pol Pot was also attempting to regain the Mekong Delta, given to Vietnam by the French during the liberation of French Indochina. Thoroughly fed up with his shit, Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and established a government run by a pro-Soviet group, the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party, a splinter group of the early Khmer Rouge who had fled Pot's purges. This government was essentially a Vietnamese puppet state. In response, the Khmer Rouge, a faction headed by Sihanouk, and a group called the Khmer People's Liberation Front (are you tired of generic communist group names yet?) formed an opposition force called the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in 1981. Peace efforts were enacted in Paris in 1989, eventually leading to the restoration of Norodom Sihanouk as the king of Cambodia in 1993. Another coup was led by the then co-Prime Minister in 1997, however the country has mostly stabilized now. Pol Pot died of heart failure in house arrest in 1998, the day he learned he would be turned over to an international tribunal.

As an Indianized region, the Khmer people reflect similar interests and ideals of their western neighbors. During the Khmer Empire, a caste system was in effect that differentiated rice farmers and fishermen from kshatriyas (nobles and soldiers) and brahmin priests, as well as a separate artisan class and, of course, slaves. The religion was typically a blend of Hinduism with a growing subset of Buddhism over time, along with the god-king motif of the Devaraja cult.
The people placed great importance in the sacrity of mountains and hills, to the point that their temples were often stepped pyramids referred to as temple-mountains, attempts to construct mountains of their own. These temples were highly ornately decorated, with the temple of Bayon reportedly coated in gold when completed. Said temples have an extremely nuanced number of styles used throughout the ages, and were often built of brick, sandstone and laterite, a type of clay. These temples are absolutely plastered with bas relief sculpture and decoration of all kinds.
The Khmer people engaged in rigorous terraforming of their land, constructing complex reservoirs and canal systems that allowed their rice-based agriculture to flourish far beyond the needs of their people, leading to wealth and population booms to the point that a standing army was affordable. They engaged in trade with everyone around them, allying with the Cholas in India and maintaining heavy contact with China.
Unfortunately, due to the contentious history and tropical climate of the region, we have literally no written records of historical Khmer other than what they inscribed on stone, and what others wrote about them. We're told they had a highly complex literary society, but much like the Phoenicians we can only dream of what they wrote about.

*better than that, it was an expansionist Javanese thalassocracy that induced a cultural renaissance in their time and oversaw the construction of the largest Buddhist structure in the world, Borobudur. Pretty metal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shailendra_dynasty
Hugh Tillingfoot - Mon, 20 Aug 2018 04:48:39 EST RuJIH9Wv No.57509 Reply
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Praise OP, thankyou
Priscilla Clandlenun - Sat, 25 Aug 2018 19:21:55 EST iTUH5a8Q No.57512 Reply
>In trying to add some framing to 6000 years of Mesopotamian history, I traced the religious evolution

More than a few do not realize the extent to which Mesopotamia is distinct in religious demographics until now. Two whole religions, the Yezidis and Mandeans, have a large majority located in Mesopotamia. The Church of the East, or Nestorian Christians, have been based there since the 5th century and had churches from Cyprus to China in the Middle Ages. There are 'Jewish Kurds' who, along with the neighboring Christians, speak (or spoke) the language of Assyria from the time of Ashurbanipal. Three of these have had some presence in Iran/Persia, but not the Yezidis whose traditional areas seem to all be in Mesopotamia. I've read that the original pagans were still in existence during the Arab empires. And there are particularly unorthodox Muslim "Alevis" in the northern periphery.
Martin Dashmotch - Wed, 05 Sep 2018 16:11:59 EST stKj2uKJ No.57518 Reply
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Seriously the greatest posts this board will ever know.
Shitting Fosslepedge - Sun, 30 Sep 2018 18:00:03 EST /JUDCgXP No.57535 Reply
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Very cool OP. Fellow History Major here too.
Sidney Sacklehin - Wed, 25 Nov 2020 23:15:06 EST 0VyvtAkR No.58067 Reply
Sumer seems cool and all but I’d probably get tired from the sun being black all the time and everyone being insane and all from not eating food n stuff. Babylon would be the shit if I was in space n shit
Jimwich Buttmonger - Sun, 20 Dec 2020 13:43:02 EST TNxrolKM No.58074 Reply
Outstanding thread, OP.
Ian Goffingridge - Fri, 09 Apr 2021 06:06:47 EST TNopvyeZ No.58115 Reply
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The sun isn't black anon lol. This isn't the manga trinity seven
Hedda Worthingbury - Sat, 01 Jan 2022 12:28:54 EST 2n2vRbCp No.58202 Reply
You know the black sun also has ties to egyptian civilization right?

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