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This document contains Chapters 1 to 10 Chapter 1 Before History CHAPTER OVERVIEW The history of the earth itself stretches back around four and a half billion years. However, the human chapter of this long story is a relatively short one; the first humanlike apes appeared roughly four million years ago. Relatively recently, the first of our species made their appearance about two hundred thousand years ago. This chapter examines that early period up through the increasing sophistication of the paleolithic and neolithic ages, when humans reached the dawn of the establishment of complex societies. THEMES The evolution of the human species. Research over the past hundred years has shown that while humans share some remarkable similarities with the large apes, they also clearly stand out as the most distinctive of the primate species. Humans, unlike other animal species, altered the natural environment to suit their own needs and desires. The paleolithic era. This was by far the longest portion of the human experience, also called the “old stone age.” During this period, humans foraged for their food, but about 12,000 years ago groups of Homo sapiens began to rely on cultivated crops. Agriculture as an agent of change. Adoption of agricultural techniques transformed human economics, particularly in foodstuffs, from subsistence to surplus, profoundly changing the size and geographical reach of humans. LECTURE STRATEGIES “Civilizations” or “Complex Societies”? Defining civilization can be a tough task—and one that is fraught with some danger. If a society doesn’t meet all the criteria of an overly stringent definition, does that mean that they are “uncivilized”? Bentley and Ziegler use the term complex societies, and it’s easy to see why they might prefer that designation to the word civilization. Nevertheless, maybe the single most important thing that you can do at the beginning of the class is to define civilization. The course is designed to give the student an appreciation for a certain section of world civilization, but what exactly does that mean? As historians we always tend, with some variations, to define civilization as the presence of some manner of economic specialization, the rise of social classes, the conscious development of the arts and intellectual pursuits, and the rise of some level of political institutions and geographic boundaries. While we may argue among ourselves about our own specific definitions, and for that matter, the ramifications of creating definitions, we nevertheless understand what we mean by the term civilization. What is easy to forget is that the distinction is often lost on students. If students don’t understand the nature and complexity of the question of civilization from the beginning of the class, then they are going to miss both the terrible struggles and significant accomplishments of early humans. It is also important at the beginning for the students to realize that although civilization may be the foundation of their world, not every aspect of it is positive. The differentiation of society into different social classes left the majority of the population under the control of an exalted few. It is essential for the students to understand from the first day in class that in history, as in life, there is a price to be paid for every advancement. Early Humans’ Lives and Experiences The changing and expanding worldview of early humans is a fascinating topic. Students all too often view the ancient world as a very dusty and boring place. The Venus figurines and cave paintings of the paleolithic age help to show how humans have always struggled with the question of their place in a greater world. What can humans do to somehow make sense of and control a seemingly chaotic world? Expanding neolithic villages such as Çatal Hüyük offer an urban hustle and bustle that is, in many ways, very modern. From the very beginning of the class it is important to express the “humanness” of early humans. Connecting the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages It is essential for the students to understand both the foundations of the paleolithic and neolithic ages and the reasons for the enormous differences between the two worlds. This understanding allows you to discuss the significance of something as seemingly commonplace (at least to the students) as the discovery of agriculture. The more that students understand the relationship between these two ages, the more they will understand the meaning of complex societies and how they developed. Students will be able to comprehend that humans during the paleolithic and neolithic ages were in many ways very sophisticated. Consequently, the eventual rise of civilization in Mesopotamia and elsewhere seems the conclusion of a logical, if precarious, process. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Approaching the Topic of Evolution Every instructor who has ever taught a world civilization class has had both wonderful and horrible experiences in discussing the question of the evolution of humankind. This issue is dependent, of course, on the religious beliefs of the instructor and the students. There is no graceful way around the topic. At the same time, this subject provides a tremendous opportunity to introduce a key notion at the very beginning of the course. In a world civilization class, arguably more than in any other class, it is essential for the students to keep an open mind. By the very nature of the class, there will be topics discussed on a daily basis that are totally alien to the students’ worldview. At the same time, the world out there is very big, and students will have to have some understanding of it to succeed in an increasingly global environment. The question of evolution only adds to the adventure of prehistory and history as humans become who they are. Encourage students to explore current scientific debates concerning human evolution, and then critically analyze the arguments proposed by both paleoanthropologists and their critics. Defining Civilization The most important topic in this section, and for that matter in this entire work, will be the question of the rise of civilization. Consequently, one of the best topics for discussion in this early stage is to simply ask the students to define civilization. Because this discussion will probably take place on the first day of class, there is no telling what kind of answers the students may provide for the question of civilization. Consequently, you need to be both flexible and skillful in leading the discussion around to a workable, shared definition. The advantage of this question is that it actively brings the students into the class from the very beginning. The students, even if they have been carefully guided along by you, will feel that they have helped define one of the core concepts of the class and thus established the parameters of the course. The course can then become a shared mission to both understand and trace the rise of civilization. It would also be useful to ask the students if there are dangers in using the term civilization. Ask them why Bentley and Ziegler use the term complex society instead. It can be useful here to bring up the old Daoist admonition that as soon as you call something beautiful, you create ugliness. By identifying some societies as civilized, are we creating uncivilized societies? Are “uncivilized” societies truly uncivilized? Also, ask the students to think of disadvantages to civilization. Human Mastery of Agriculture A discussion centering on the significance of the discovery of agriculture can be enlightening, mainly because for today’s students food supply is a given. Students, especially modern, American ones, have very little concept of the fact that one of the great common denominators of people throughout time is the lack of enough food. The enormity of the accomplishment of human mastery of agriculture, and the resulting transformation from food gatherer to food producer, is the foundation for the rise of civilization. Plus, students might have trouble with the distinction between the concept of an agricultural revolution and the agricultural transition discussed by the authors. It’s important for the students to understand how precariously and desperately paleolithic humans clung to survival and thus how profoundly their lives were influenced by agriculture. The Agricultural Transition Make lists of the advantages and disadvantages of living in the types of hunting/gathering societies described in the text. Then make lists of the advantages and disadvantages of living in early agricultural societies. What was gained and what was lost by the agricultural transition that took place twelve thousand to five thousand years ago? Chapter 2 Early Societies in Southwest Asia
and the Indo-European Migrations CHAPTER OVERVIEW Few historical events rival the significance of the rise of the first complex societies in southwest Asia, particularly in Mesopotamia. Although these early Mesopotamian societies relied on an agricultural foundation, they also developed true cities and lived a thoroughly urban existence. Mesopotamia developed sophisticated political, religious, and social structures that influenced their neighbors and have survived the millennia since. Some Indo-European peoples had direct contact with the Mesopotamians while others probably never heard of them. Even those peoples, however, were influenced by Mesopotamian inventions such as metallurgy and wheels. The simple fact that even in these early times peoples of different societies interacted is a crucial one. THEMES Urbanization and the quest for order. As neolithic villages increased in size and specialization, conflicts between residents led to the creation of city-states and governments. These institutions administered social and political life not only in urban areas but also in surrounding agricultural regions. Over time, complex legal codes combined with military conquest to encourage cultural unity throughout Mesopotamia. Trade and growth development of a multi-directional trade network between Mesopotamia, Asia, Africa and Europe encouraged considerable accumulation of land, wealth, and eventually social stratification. Patriarchy as social norm. Concerns over wealth protection and paternity led to increasing restrictions on women’s social and sexual freedom by the second millennium B.C.E., creating a set of social and cultural norms that spread throughout southwest Asia and the Mediterranean. Written cultural traditions appear. Commercial and tax records became writing systems, that evolved further into cuneiform, a system of written communication that led to huge expansions in philosophical and scientific knowledge. Mesopotamian influence. Developments in Mesopotamia were soon adopted by border cultures such as Hebrews and Phoenicians, and were also rapidly adopted by Indo-European migrants from the Eurasian steppes, leading to the development of a Eurasian culture invigorated by cross-cultural interaction. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Mesopotamians and the Epic of Gilgamesh Arguably the single best approach for understanding the Mesopotamian world is to make use
of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Few works in all history have more completely expressed the worldview of a society in the way that Gilgamesh does for the Mesopotamians. It is a remarkably mature and expressive literary representation of the glory and tragedy of the Mesopotamians’ fight for survival. The nature of the struggles and the eventual failure of Gilgamesh display a sophisticated and heroic, yet understandably somber, view of life and the inevitability of death. The appearance of Utnapishtim allows for an introduction of the subject of mythological motifs such as the flood story, while the differences in these stories tell the students much about the nature of the various societies of the ancient world. (You can access the full text of a 1920s translation through Project Gutenberg at, or you may choose to have students purchase a paperback copy. There are several recent translations available in paperback for less than ten dollars.) Hammurabi’s Code Most students have likely heard of Hammurabi’s laws in an earlier history course, but it is equally likely that they have never read an extensive selection of the laws. A brief selection is included in this chapter of the text, and the PSI includes a translation of the full text. (Note that the translations are different; that in itself could be the basis of an interesting discussion of the variations in historical sources.) There are several different ways to instigate an interesting dialogue here. You could focus on the laws that address women and list the transgressions that would result in death, as well as those which had lesser punishments, and compare them to those for which men could be put to death. Or you could focus upon the sheer range of punishments described in the laws (such as being “thrown into the water”). What were the worst offenses in this society? Another suggestion is to focus on the laws that address marriage, divorce, dowries, and inheritance. What can we discern about this society based upon an examination of those laws? TEACHING SUGGESTIONS The Complexities of Hebrew Monotheism The monotheism of the Hebrews is obviously a topic for discussion. Polytheism was the norm in the ancient world and, with the brief exception of Akhenaten in Egypt, the Hebrews produced the only monotheistic religion. There are several ways to approach the topic. You could focus on the complexity of the subject. In some ways polytheistic religions are more logical: something bad happened to you because one of the gods took a dislike to you. If there is only one God, then the perplexing question of why bad things happen to good people becomes an issue. Certainly the Jews struggled with the question of Yahweh’s nature. The Book of Job is a great source here, especially when it is compared to the Mesopotamian Righteous Sufferer. The Old Testament provides many other great examples to show the evolution of thought in regard to the nature of God. Early passages stress the importance of the Hebrews’ having no other gods before Yahweh. By accepting Yahweh’s elevated status, were the Hebrews accepting polytheism? Later sections spell out much more clearly the Hebrews’ belief that Yahweh was the only God. The complex personality of Yahweh is also an interesting topic. Yahweh was at once powerful and personal, jealous and just. It’s also useful to ask the students if there is a disadvantage to monotheism. If there is only one God, then the possessor of that God has a monopoly on the divine. What does that leave everyone else? You can also ask the students to compare Judaism to Christianity and Islam. Chapter 3 Early African Societies and the Bantu Migrations CHAPTER OVERVIEW It could be argued that no society in the ancient world possesses the mystique of Egypt. The image of the pyramids is indelibly etched in our collective imagination. However, Egypt’s relation to its African neighbors, most notably Nubia, is often overlooked. Both societies developed an agricultural foundation and later large cities. Both areas developed sophisticated political, religious, and social structures. To the south, in sub-Saharan Africa, Bantu speakers began migrating throughout the center and southern regions of the continent. Eventually the Bantu migrations would transform most of Africa. THEMES Agriculture and climatic change. Rising temperatures in northern Africa led to changes in human behavior that encouraged agricultural development. Many human communities concentrated along river valleys, such as the Nile valley. Cross-cultural interaction. Egypt and Nubia developed close economic and commercial ties, a process that encouraged a vast exchange of ideas, people, and commodities. The growth of centralized government. Centralized political authority was embodied in the absolute ruler, the pharaoh in Egypt and the person of the king in the region of Kush (Nubia). Elsewhere in Africa, Bantu speakers constructed communities around agricultural traditions that emphasized age groupings rather than social status. Development of organized religion. Organized religious traditions appeared in Egypt and Nubia, including worship of Amon and Re, sun gods, the cult of Osiris, pyramid building, and in Egypt, mummification of the dead. Monotheism predominated among Bantu speakers and other African peoples. Skills and iron. Emergence of complex city-states allowed Nile valley peoples to expand skill-sets and construct extensive trade networks. In both northern and sub-Saharan Africa, iron work provided a catalyst for migration and territorial expansion. LECTURE STRATEGIES Egyptian and Nubian Religious Beliefs Instructors can always make use of stories and concepts from religion and mythology for this period. Peoples of the ancient world, and especially the Egyptians and Nubians, were profoundly influenced by their religious beliefs. Examples drawn from the Book of the Dead are a great fit here. The students can mistakenly assume that the Egyptians were morbid because of their fascination with mummification and the next world. Instead, their sense of certainty and love of life was simply transferred to the afterlife. The development of the first systematic view of the afterworld was a profound moment in human history. The Great Hymn to Aten is another great source. Akhenaten’s monotheism, although short-lived, is arguably the world’s first form of monotheism. This gives the instructor an early opportunity to bring up the complexity of monotheism. Ask the students to consider why Akhenaten’s faith didn’t survive past the end
of his own life. Egypt and Nubia The relationship between Egypt and Nubia would be a great lecture topic, especially since the Nubians have lived in the historical shadow of Egypt for so long. Bentley and Ziegler do a nice job discussing Egypt in a broader African context. Ask the students to compare and contrast the two societies and propose their own theories on how the two peoples might have influenced each other. This also gives the instructor the opportunity to examine how trade can bring societies together (or sometimes push them into war) and also acts as a conduit for cultural transmission. The Legend of Osiris and the Egyptian View of the Afterlife The legend of Osiris is a great story to tell students. Primarily, it’s just a great story and never fails to grab their attention—something that is an important precedent to establish early in the semester. Secondly, it is representative of so many crucial Egyptian concepts. Horus’ role in the story explains why the Egyptians considered the pharaoh to be divine. The restorative power of the Nile is demonstrated, so the story works as a useful nature myth—the battle between nature (Osiris) and the desert (Set). Most importantly, the students gain an appreciation of the Egyptian view of the afterlife. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Comparing Mesopotamia and Egypt A good method to facilitate discussion is to ask the students to explain in what ways the Mesopotamians and Egyptians were similar and in what ways they were different. This allows the students to understand there might be a commonality to the human experience. It also forces them to recognize how something like geography can influence not only their lives on earth, but also their worldview and their view of the gods and an afterworld. A good place to start is to ask them how geographical conditions might have influenced the development of their own country. In what ways has the isolation and agricultural bounty of the United States left Americans optimistic? Once the students understand a little about the very different geographies of Mesopotamia and Egypt, it is relatively simple for them to draw conclusions about how these early societies might have viewed themselves. Since this is a recurring theme, especially in the ancient world, it invaluable for the students to understand this concept from the very beginning of the class. What’s So Special about Egypt? Ancient Egypt has long captured the imaginations of ordinary people, not just historians. As
a group, discuss this fascination with Egypt (as opposed to the other cultures you have studied
so far). Come up with five reasons why Egypt has continued to intrigue people. Hint: Think beyond what the culture was like at the time to include intervening and modern events. Ancient Egypt in Modern Media Portrayals of ancient Egypt abound in film, television, and other modern media. Divide the students into groups and assist them in selecting a film or television episode that incorporates either direct or indirect references to ancient Egyptian civilization. Then, in a subsequent class, allow the students to critically analyze these portrayals in presentations to their peers. These presentations should encourage the students to recognize and engage in the process of understanding and reworking the past through more recent and contemporary cultural contexts. Chapter 4 Early Societies in South Asia CHAPTER OVERVIEW India is a country with an extraordinarily brilliant, in some ways almost unmatched, cultural and religious tradition. At the same time, the Indian political world, marred by fragmentation and invasion, has been chaotic. India is also one of the oldest societies, with the unique Harappan civilization—also known as the Indus Valley civilization—stretching back to at least 2500 B.C.E. The arrival of the Indo-European Aryans by 1500 B.C.E. brought profound political, religious, and cultural change. Eventually the combination of native Dravidian and Aryan concepts gave rise to a rich and varied intellectual world. Hinduism, the dominant religion in India, is the best example of this evolving process. THEMES Migration and cultural exchange. South Asia experienced recurring waves of migration, a process that helped create new, unique forms of cultural and social development. The rise of regional kingdoms. Communal and local political organization gave way to regional kingdoms in India, although little is known about early Harappan political systems. Religion as social foundation. Organized religious traditions based on ancestor veneration and mythology were standardized and used as vehicles for the creation of complex social hierarchies in India; an example is the caste system. These religious ideas also deeply embedded themselves in society, serving as cultural norms for millennia. Patriarchy and social order. India employed patriarchy as the preferred form of gender relations, both within family groups and throughout society as a whole. As with religious beliefs, patriarchy continues to significantly influence human relationships. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Elusive Harappans The brilliance of Harappan society is a great place to start. Cities such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were unique and remarkably advanced for that far back in time. In what ways were the Harappans different from other ancient societies? In what ways were they similar? Were their fertility deities unique (as far as we can tell), or were they similar to other gods? In what ways did these concepts survive during the evolution of Hinduism? What does the evidence of centralized planning in Harappa and Mohenjo-daro say about the sophistication of early Indian society? You could also bring up the question of how different societies influence each other. If the Harappans were influenced by the Mesopotamians through trading contact, then why was their world so different? The fact that so much of the Harappan world is frustratingly just out of reach (i.e. the fact that the earliest archeological remains are underwater, and our inability to translate the written language) is a good example for both the mystery of history as well as the potential for ground-breaking new work. Understanding the Caste System The complexity of the caste system is an important topic to tackle. This is a concept that can be so alien to American students who have grown up with at least the ideal of limitless social advancement. Play off differences. Ask the students to consider what an American concern over the perceived lack of potential for social or material progress says about their own culture. Should Indians be more materialistic or should Americans be less materialistic? The incredibly pervasive social system of Hinduism, while obviously not a unique phenomenon in the world, is one that many Americans view with trepidation. Instead of simply viewing the rest of the world as strange, U.S. students have to come to understand how Americans have compartmentalized religion. This topic also helps to set up the revolutionary nature of Gandhi and Nehru attempting to eliminate or at least reduce the importance of the caste system in the twentieth century. The failure of Nehru and others to eliminate the caste system speaks volumes about the power of religion and of historical tradition. The fact that lower-caste Indians are showing up at twenty-first century racism conferences is a great example of how events in the ancient world continue to resonate today. The Rig Veda on the origin of the castes is a good asset to accompany this lecture strategy. Understanding Hinduism One of the subjects in world history that students initially find the most puzzling, but also fascinating, is Hinduism. Here the instructor is fortunate to have some good primary sources to bring into class. The best example would be the Upanishads, which include many beautiful passages. It is essential for students to grasp concepts such as karma, dharma, samsara, and moksha. Although written a little later, a good supplemental reading choice is the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is short enough for the students to read the entire work. The Bhagavad Gita includes classic passages that the student can use to understand the basic foundations of Hinduism. For example, Krishna’s urging of Arjuna to fight because as a kshatriya it is his dharma to fight a battle of sacred duty is a key tenet of Hinduism. This also serves as a good introduction to the Mahabharata, which the instructor can make reference to later in the course. Finally, the fact that many American thinkers such as Thoreau were influenced by the Bhagavad Gita creates a sense of connection for the students with a culture that can seem very distant. The later influence of Thoreau on Gandhi helps to bring the topic full circle. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Interpreting History without a Written Language A discussion based on the significance of spoken and written languages is a natural topic for India. The current inability to translate the written language of the Harappan society provides the students with a sense of both the frustrations of history as well as the important work left to be done. It also introduces the concept that our interpretation of the Harappans might change dramatically in the future (this is also a topic that can be revisited when later examining the ongoing translation of the Maya written languages and the concomitant re-evaluation of the Maya themselves). The arrival of the Aryans introduces the linguistic influence of the Indo-Europeans. The work of linguists attempting to trace the travels and influences of the Indo-Europeans reads like a mystery story to the students. This can also lead to a discussion of the influence of the mass migration of people on history. There will be several examples of these types of migration during the course. Comparing Religions As with the other societies of the ancient world, the topic of religion is a valuable area for discussion. By pulling out passages from the Upanishads or from the Bhagavad Gita, it is easy
to set up a discussion based on the similarities and differences between Hinduism and other religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This also works in setting up a later discussion
of Buddhism. Concepts such as karma, dharma, and samsara are vividly expressed in the Upanishads. Examples from the Rig Veda would also be useful. The section in the Rig Veda dealing with the creation of the world is fascinating and can facilitate an examination of other creation stories. Using the Rig Veda and the Upanishads together allows the students to trace the evolution of Indian religious beliefs. Chapter 5 Early Society in Mainland East Asia CHAPTER OVERVIEW Human beings have inhabited east Asia since at least two hundred thousand years ago.
The domestication of rice began around 7000 B.C.E., and neolithic societies such as the Yangshao rose in the valley of the Yellow River by approximately 5000 B.C.E. Early
dynasties such as the Xia, Shang, and Zhou saw the rise of a distinctive and in many ways uniquely secular society. Politically, none of the early dynasties achieved centralization
until the Qin unification in 221 B.C.E. Nevertheless, despite centuries of unstable political decentralization and at times outright warfare, the Chinese moved inexorably toward the establishment of a remarkably sophisticated political and social structure. Works such as
the Zhou classics, and especially the Book of Songs, remained the foundations of Chinese thought for centuries. THEMES Geography and the emergence of complex society. Like Mesopotamia and Egypt, complex societies emerged in east Asia along river valleys, such as those of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Alluvial soil created the potential for agricultural surplus which increased populations and facilitated civilization and urban complexity. Migration and cultural exchange. Despite geographic obstacles, such as deserts, mountains, and large bodies of water, the ancient Chinese did trade and communicate with members of other societies, resulting in the spread of wheat cultivation, bronze and iron metallurgy, horse-drawn chariots, and wheeled vehicles. The distinctiveness of Chinese society. Chinese language, writing, and beliefs were very different than those of other societies. Religion as social foundation. Organized religious traditions based on ancestor veneration and mythology were standardized and used as vehicles for the creation of complex social hierarchies in ancient China. Patriarchy and social order. Both China and India employed patriarchy as the preferred form of gender relations, both within family groups and throughout society as a whole. As with religious beliefs, patriarchy continues to significantly influence human relationships in these regions. LECTURE STRATEGIES Unraveling Chinese Mythology Mythology is a topic that always has to be handled carefully, but it can also provide examples that are both fascinating as well as informative. Stories centering around efforts by the Lord of Man and the Yellow Emperor to structure the world and prepare it for human habitation say a lot about the Chinese concern with order and structure. There is also an old Chinese legend that states that the world was not even created until after a battle between primordial forces in which order defeated chaos. The Five Principles of Chinese society explores concepts that later thinkers such as Confucius echoed. It also reinforces Confucius’s humble assertion that his thought was less a new philosophical approach than a refinement of traditional Chinese concepts. Technological Innovations in Early China An examination of the influence of technological innovations in early Chinese history is a useful topic. A convergence of technological, political, economic, and social factors can be seen in the Shang monopolization of bronze metallurgy. The importance of this influence is reinforced by the weakness of the Zhou, partially caused by their inability to control iron metallurgy. The students can be asked to bring in earlier examples of technological innovation and domination, such as the Assyrian use of iron weapons. Another example would be the changes brought
about by the Hyksos’ compound bows and wheeled chariots in Egypt at the end of the Middle Kingdom and beginning of the New Kingdom. How does a society gain a monopoly on a
certain segment of technology, and how do they keep it? Are such monopolies still a factor in international diplomacy today? The textbook image of late Zhou iron swords could be especially useful here. China’s Secular Society The essentially secular nature of Chinese society at this point in time is also an interesting lecture topic or subject for discussion. As you discuss topics such as the mandate of heaven, you can make clear that in other ways the Chinese paid little attention to specific questions of the gods and never developed a powerful priestly class. Although Confucius hasn’t been fully introduced in the text yet, it might be useful to bring in his admonition that a wise person honors the gods but keeps a distance from them. This secular nature of society also helps to explain why Buddhism would later sweep through China with so little opposition. You can come back to this theme later during the discussion of the Roman period. It is interesting that the religious views of two of the longest-lasting and most impressive states in history, the Chinese and Romans, were more a matter of pious prudence than passionate belief. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Understanding the Mandate of Heaven A subject that students are often both confused and fascinated by is the mandate of heaven.
This notion cuts right to the heart of the Chinese respect for political and social order. It is also important for students to understand at this point in the class that this notion is different from later concepts such as the European divine right monarchy. The reciprocity at the core of the mandate of heaven is a unique concept that students might not readily understand. At the same time, it is essential for the students to comprehend the limitations of the mandate of heaven (i.e., how it can become a justification for power). Once again, although Confucius is not covered in this chapter, it might still be a good idea to bring in a couple of examples from the Analects to back up these ideas. Read passages to the students and ask them to consider the implications, both positive and negative, of the mandate of heaven. What We Can Learn from the Book of Songs One of the best approaches for dealing with this period in Chinese history is to take advantage
of the rich cultural legacy of the Zhou dynasty. The Book of Songs is a wonderful collection of poetry, which, because of its makeup, allows you and your students to get an unusually clear view of life in China during that age. Because the collection includes poems believed to be written by commoners and women, it provides a view of life outside the aristocratic or courtly circles.
It is worthwhile to compare the Book of Songs to early Indian poetry that is, while brilliant, constrained by the position of the courtly poets in the caste system. Poems in the Book of Songs by soldiers complaining about endless military campaigning designed solely to enhance the prince’s reputation express a frustration that borders on social criticism. Around a third of the poems deal with the central role that agriculture played in Chinese life. Even the love poems often display a bittersweet nature that fits in perfectly with the chaotic world of the Zhou dynasty. Examining the Veneration of Ancestors from a Contemporary Viewpoint How would the structure of our lives differ today if we were all believers in the veneration of ancestors, as the early east Asians were? How would modern American rituals and ceremonies change? How would societal roles be different? How would values change? Oracle Bones in the World of the Shang Shang oracle bones are a wonderful source for discussion. On the surface students always find the oracle bones to be interesting but a little silly—that is, until they realize that there are far stranger ways to foretell the future (such as the Greeks examining the entrails of animals). What always eventually impresses the students, however, is the role that the bones played for the Chinese in making sense of the world. It implies that the world is a logical place that can be understood. In an age before the scientific revolution, the use of vehicles such as oracle bones to foretell the future seemed a perfectly legitimate approach. This topic can also play up the fleeting nature of historical evidence, since so many of the bones were ground up to make aphrodisiacs. The Role of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in Early China Another good topic for discussion, and one that would allow the students to bring in examples from earlier sections, would be the role that the Yellow and Yangtze rivers played in the rise of early Chinese society. If the Yellow River was truly “China’s Sorrow,” then what did it bring to China? By this time the students have witnessed the influence of rivers such as the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, and Indus in the evolution of their respective societies. Why did the earliest societies always begin in river valleys? This may be a constant, but did differences in the nature of the rivers lead to differences in the societies themselves? This discussion will also serve as a refresher for the students on earlier topics. Ecological Degradation in the Ancient World The topic of ecological degradation is a very important one in this context. Students tend to think of ecological problems and collapse as a twentieth-century phenomenon. This is a good chance to introduce the topic (because it will reappear later in the course) and show that this is a long-standing human problem. In this case, it might be a good idea to set up a separate day to discuss the issue of ecological degradation—and especially the human role in the process—in a broader context. Comparing Societies Compare and contrast early east Asian societies with early south Asian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian societies. Find at least one important similarity and one important difference (if possible) in religion, government, social structure, economy, arts, and literature. Chapter 6 Early Societies in the Americas and Oceania CHAPTER OVERVIEW Seldom in history have societies been as influenced by changing climatic conditions as the early cultures of the Americas and Oceania. The lowering of water levels allowed for the initial exploration and settlement of these areas, whereas the melting of the glaciers around twenty thousand years ago worked to leave these societies isolated. The result was the rise of totally unique and fascinating societies. It would be centuries before a downside to this unmatched isolation—increased susceptibility to disease—would manifest itself with the appearance of invaders. THEMES Limits of knowledge concerning early America and Oceania. As little writing survives from the early eras of human civilizations in these regions, many conclusions remain at least partly speculative. Nevertheless, archaeological and anthropological scholarship has identified several clear themes based on the use of agriculture, regional trade, and cultural development that connect early American and Oceanic communities. Geography as an obstacle to cross-cultural exchange. Although they appeared contemporaneously, difficult geographical obstacles prevented significant contact and meant each civilization developed independently. Mixed lifestyles characterize both regions. America’s and Oceania’s multiple climatic variations encouraged a range of human settlement and subsistence patterns, ranging from complex and intense sedentary agriculture in Mesoamerica, New Guinea, and the central Andean region to traditional hunting-and-gathering patterns in North America and Australia. As in other parts of the world, regions with consistent access to water and rich soil generated the most complex urban societies. The importance of tradition. Mesoamerica’s earliest known culture, the Olmecs, profoundly influenced subsequent civilizations throughout the region. Similarly, the Lapita peoples laid the foundations for the civilizations of Polynesia. Long-distance trade. Unlike the relatively isolated regions of the Old World, the Americas and Oceania established long-distance trade networks over both land and water very early. These trade networks allowed for the transfer of agricultural, technical, and traditional knowledge over thousands of miles. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Importance of Evaluating Sources: Maya Creation Stories One of the difficulties in this section is that these societies, with the obvious exception of the Maya, never produced a complete written language. Most of the Maya’s written work was destroyed. It is therefore essential that instructors take advantage of what they have. The Popol Vuh provides a fascinating account of the Maya concept of the creation of their world. It contains many wonderful passages, including the creation of the first humans. It can be used for an examination of the different stories of creation and why they might be different (for example, in the Popol Vuh humans are eventually, after a few false steps, created out of maize instead of clay). One of the problems with using the Popol Vuh is that the first written account of it comes from the Spanish Jesuits who transcribed it from tales told by the Maya. This origin opens up the issues of linguistic and cultural misinterpretations and can also lead into discussions of the later period. The question of cultural misinterpretation actually provides the opportunity to discuss problems relating to the interaction between different peoples. The question of discussing a later time period becomes less of an issue if you use this chapter as an introduction to the Aztecs and Incas and the later arrival of the conquistadores. You can also discuss the hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque and compare them to other mythic heroes. What do their adventures explain? What can they reveal about the Maya themselves? Isolation and Influence: Mesoamerican and South American Societies One of the biggest themes for this section should be the distinct nature of the Mesoamerican and South American societies caused by their early and lasting isolation. In early world civilization studies, historians spend a lot of time talking about how different states and societies influence each other. Only a few societies began almost completely independently from the rest of the world, and this chapter showcases two of them. Thousands of years of isolation left these societies with only the most tenuous connection to their lands of origin. Consequently, students have a golden opportunity to try to understand how these two societies are different from the older societies of the eastern hemisphere. How do they relate to each other? At the same time, in what ways are their answers to the basic questions of survival similar? Another obvious theme in this section is how the societies of Mesoamerica influenced each other. The Olmecs left their calendar for the Maya and the subsequent societies to build on. The Maya made improvements to the calendar and advancements in math and astronomy. The Toltecs left the myth of Quetzalcóatl (which is similar to the Maya Kukulkan) that proved so profoundly important to the history of the later Aztecs. The Role of Myth in Understanding Societies without Written Records Oceania is even more of a problem because historians have no written records at all, which happens all too often in the ancient world. Here, you can use the group’s mythology to express certain basic tenets of their worldview. There are many examples of fascinating stories from Polynesian mythology that can be brought into the lecture. The Maoris of New Zealand, for example, have many wonderful stories. Understanding Indigenous Australian Societies through Art and Dreamtime Stories Indigenous Australian societies have been widely studied over the last thirty years, and we now know a great deal about indigenous Australian culture. For example, anthropologists and linguists have now identified over one thousand unique tribal groupings and sub-groupings, each with their own language. Although no formal writing system exists for most of these languages and dialects, many aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities share similar patterns of artistic expression and representation that take the place of written script, particularly for the transmission of culturally important information including origin myths, lineage, and epic stories. Students can learn a great deal from analysis of either oral stories or indigenous Australian art, which performed a variety of decorative and ceremonial functions. Dreamtime stories are an excellent place to start, and many good sources are available online. Compare the notions of creation and human origin of the Dreamtime with those within the Popol Vuh and the Aryan doctrine of moksha. Ask students to consider how similar ideas and themes might appear in societies so distant from each other. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS The Brilliance of Maya Culture The brilliance of Maya culture can be used as a starting point for a discussion comparing and contrasting the level and nature of societies during this time period. The Maya are perfect for this discussion because of the isolation and originality of their culture. Although they owed a debt to the earlier Olmecs, the Maya were certainly not influenced by any of the western hemisphere societies. The collapse of the Greeks, Romans, Guptas, and Han may have left the Maya as the most sophisticated society in the world during that brief window of opportunity. Once the accomplishments of the Maya are established, then it is possible to delve into their still rather mysterious decline and collapse. Ask the students to consider factors that might explain the Maya decline. Exploration and Migration Oceania, and to a lesser extent the Americas, can also be used as inspiration for a discussion of human exploration and migration. All too often students think of the Europeans as the only people who have ever explored. The aboriginal peoples of Australia and New Guinea and especially the Austronesians embarked on breathtaking journeys across thousands of miles of open ocean in pursuit of new lands. You can use maps to trace the journeys and easily lead a discussion of the possible inspirations for human exploration and migration and the possible ramifications. This discussion will help set up later examinations of European, as well as Chinese and Islamic, explorations. Isolation and Independent Development One obvious avenue for discussion, for the Americas as well as Oceania, is the way in which these societies developed independently from the other societies that have been studied. Any discussion based on ways in which these societies were distinct, and for that matter how they are similar to other societies, would be natural, especially in relation to Mesoamerica and South America because they were isolated for so long. The Mesoamericans were even isolated from the South Americans. The vast distances between Pacific island groups made the situation even more pressing. This independent development serves as a nice precursor to the later examination of the interaction between societies when the time comes to discuss the arrival of the Europeans. This topic can also lead to an interesting discussion of how nature and climatic change can shape a society. Ask the students to think of potential downsides to being this isolated. Chapter 7 The Empires of Persia CHAPTER OVERVIEW Classical Persian society has its origins in the sixth century B.C.E. with the rise of the dynasty of the Achaemenids (558-330 B.C.E.) under Cyrus the Great. Later rulers such as Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes created the largest, most stable, and in many ways most tolerant empire of its age. The Persian political, social, and religious influences transcended the centuries. Eventually the Achaemenids were followed by the Seleucids (323-83 B.C.E.), the Parthians (247 B.C.E.-224 C.E.), and finally the Sasanids (224-651 C.E.).When the Sasanids were defeated by Islamic invaders in 651, a new age in Persian history dawned. THEMES Central Asian origins. Warrior nomads from central Asia moved into Iran and established a vast empire stretching across southwest Asia, an empire that influenced subsequent civilizations in the region for over one thousand years afterward. Complex imperial structures. The empire’s size encouraged a series of innovative responses, including an imperial transportation network, large public works projects, and complex administrative hierarchies, including an educated bureaucratic class. High agricultural productivity allowed and encouraged vocational specialization and the emergence of long-distance trade. Complex stratified society emerges. Increased social complexity exposed greater divisions between rich and poor, and even led to organized slavery. These developments also occurred in China, India, and the Mediterranean basin. Cross-cultural influences. Persia became a conduit for ideas and products that passed between the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, and India. In time, distinctive Persian religious beliefs emerged, in particular Zoroastrianism, whose traditions exerted profound influence on the three monotheistic world religions that followed: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Individual in History: Specific Studies All too often in a class as expansive as world history the individual runs the danger of being overshadowed. Consequently, it is always nice to take the opportunity to bring characters such as Cyrus, Darius, or Xerxes into the lecture. Herodotus, although Greek, does a fairly good job of giving a balanced account of the Persians and their accomplishments. The authors of the text make good use of Herodotus at the beginning of the textbook chapter to recount the story of Croesus and Cyrus. This story is just one of many that can be drawn from Herodotus. Since the authors have already made use of Herodotus, this discussion can serve as an effective introduction to his work. The story of the Median king, Astyages, and his prophetic dreams about his daughter Mandane and her son Cyrus is a student favorite. Certainly the scene of Xerxes sitting on his throne and watching the disaster at Salamis is one of the great images of the ancient world. Such examples serve to make this period in history more real to the students. Even if the stories of Herodotus are not exactly accurate, you can discuss the role of the historian not only in recording history but also in shaping it. Comparing Toleration within Societies: The Persians and the Greeks A great approach to understanding the significance of the Persians is to discuss the notion of toleration that is so much a part of the ruling philosophy of kings such as Cyrus and Darius. For far too long historians struggled with a negative view of the Persians left over from the European and American fascination with the Greeks. In this light, events such as the Persian Wars took on the form of epic battles between the “good” Greeks and the “evil” Persians without any sense that in many ways the Persians were far more tolerant and enlightened rulers than the Greeks. The Greeks’ habit of equating foreigners with barbarians stands in stark contrast to the cosmopolitan nature of the Persians. This is not to say, of course, that the world would be a better place if the Persians had won the Persian Wars (far too much of later history is dependent on Greek contributions), but it’s important to create and maintain a more balanced view of world history. The Complexity and Longevity of the Persian Empire It is important for students to understand the size and astonishing diversity of the Persian empire. The Persians were doing something that had never been done before. Even the Assyrian empire paled in comparison to the Persian empire’s size and longevity and historical importance. Many of the techniques of the Achaemenids would be repeated countless times over the centuries. Few empires, including the later Roman state, have been as multicultural as that of the Persians. The key in any discussion should center on what the Persians did to maintain an empire this large for as many years as they did. Zoroastrianism It is important for the students to understand Zarathustra’s philosophy and the basic tenets
of Zoroastrianism. One of the greatest contributions of the Persians was the thought of Zarathustra. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were definitely influenced by Zoroastrian traditions. Zoroastrianism is one of the few religions from the ancient world still practiced in the modern age. Even considering this connection, however, students often struggle with religious concepts different from their own. Consequently, it is essential to lay a solid foundation for this section. Finally, the fact that the Persian royal families allowed the religion to spread throughout the empire on its own merit speaks to the basic toleration that was so much a part of the Persian tradition. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS The Building of Persepolis One of the best approaches to facilitate discussion would be to ask the students to consider the different strategies of rule that they have seen up to this point in the class. This discussion is useful in comparing the Persians to the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, but especially so in regard to the Assyrians. While the Persians may have copied some of the Assyrian ruling techniques, their emphasis on toleration compared to the Assyrians’ ruthless use of terror helps explain why the Persian empire lasted so long. Depending on how you have arranged the class, you could conduct similar comparisons between India, with the reigns of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka, and China, with the approaches of Shihuangdi and the later Han. Living within the Persian Empire Divide your students into groups of five and have them complete the following activity. Imagine that one of you is a bureaucrat, one a free peasant, one a merchant trader, one a priest, and one a slave. Recreate an argument supporting the position that you are the most indispensable to the success and prosperity of the Persian empire. The Origins and Nature of Zoroastrianism Because of its influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the origins and nature of Zoroastrianism would be a good subject for discussion. You can start with examples from the Avesta or Gathas or with the section in the textbook on good and evil. Questions about the duality of good and evil and about each individual’s role in determining his or her salvation should ring familiar to the students. At the same time, the students should be able to see that Zarathustra’s view of the material world as a gift from Ahura Mazda is obviously different from the more ascetic approach of other religions, such as Hinduism. Chapter 8 The Unification of China CHAPTER OVERVIEW The four centuries from 221 B.C.E. to 220 C.E. brought extensive political, social, and intellectual change to China. Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism were philosophies that grew out of the confusing final days of the Zhou dynasty and profoundly influenced this age. In 221 B.C.E. the emperor Qin Shihuangdi brought unification to China for the first time. Although the Qin empire lasted barely two decades, it laid the foundation for lasting political success and cultural brilliance under the Han dynasty. The Han, through the efforts of Liu Bang and Han Wudi, carried on the centralizing policies of Qin Shihuangdi while replacing harsh Legalism with a more traditional Confucian approach. Despite the political and cultural success of the Han dynasty, terrible economic times and a dramatic widening of the gap between rich and poor led to the collapse of the dynasty. THEMES During the Period of the Warring States, three schools of thought emerged in reaction to political and social turmoil. Each offered different solutions designed to restore peace and social stability to China, and all three exerted enormous influence on subsequent Chinese civilization. Confucianism stressed a practical approach, while Daoism encouraged spiritual, inner reflection. Legalists emphasized a state-based, authoritarian perspective. Elements of all three approaches solidified and encouraged the emergence of centralized political authority. The western state of Qin proved most successful in using Legalist frameworks as a basis for establishing central authority. Although short-lived, the Qin dynasty, and its successor the Han, laid the foundations for nearly two millennia of centralized imperial administration led by highly educated bureaucrats. Standardization of law, currencies, weights and measures, and script followed, and together with construction of a regional transportation and communication network, led to the emergence of unified Chinese society. Patriarchal structures solidified under the Qin and Han, setting a pattern for later Chinese societies, which, like imperial Rome, perceived the patriarchal family as the foundation of a stable society. Technological advances made during the Qin and Han dynasties, particularly in iron metallurgy, silk production, and the use of paper, combined with increased agricultural productivity to generate both economic and population growth. Chinese prosperity and success led to the extension of Chinese political, economic, and cultural influence across east, central, and southeast Asia. LECTURE STRATEGIES Case Study: The Complexity of Historical Figures There are many fascinating characters in this chapter. Qin Shihuangdi is a classic example. Not only is he crucial in the creation of a lasting unified Chinese political structure, but he is also just interesting. His fear of death and his striving for immortality certainly provide another side to the harsh Legalist general. He also helps to teach the students about the complexity of historical figures. This recognition is essential if students are going to understand that these historical figures are actually human. While Qin Shihuangdi may have unified China, he also is said to have executed many scholars and burned mountains of books. Maybe it is a miracle that Confucian thought even survived. Consequently, the Chinese have always had a conflicting view of the First Emperor. You could bring in pictures from the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi. The images are ghostly and speak of another type of immortality. Leaders such as Liu Bang, Han Wudi, and Wang Mang can be used to flesh out this section. Sima Qian is a good source for stories. The Role of Philosophy in China It is impossible to understand the significance of this period in history without undertaking an examination of Chinese philosophy. Your role here is essential because all too often students view philosophy as a boring and useless field. Students have to understand that at its heart philosophy is the very human desire to make sense of the world. If students appreciate the anarchy of the later Zhou period, then they will stand a better chance of comprehending these important Chinese philosophical schools, especially the thought of Confucius. How could anyone hope to understand this period, or any period for that matter, of Chinese history without studying Confucianism? Ideas such as the reverence for education or the reciprocal nature of societal relationships are core Confucian notions that have endured. So much of Confucianism helps explain the political brilliance and societal stability of Chinese history. At the same time, this reliance on ancient knowledge will eventually come back to haunt the Chinese. Mao Zedong’s decision in the twentieth century to move away from Confucianism is indicative of the long-lasting power of Confucius’s ideas. Finally, you can use these differing philosophical views as a springboard to discuss political techniques from the Qin and Han periods. The Chaos of the Later Zhou The chaos of the later Zhou period is a great introduction to many of the themes from this chapter. Remind the students of the melancholy nature of so much of the poetry from the Book of Songs. If the students understand the confusion of this period, then ideas such as the Confucian call for order, or the Legalist oppression, or even the Daoist retreat into inactivity, will make more sense. Case Study: The Art of War Although slightly removed chronologically from the period of imperial consolidation, arguably one of the most influential works of intellectual thought emerging from this era is The Art of War by Sunzi, or Sun Tzu. Given the work’s enormous global influence, particularly in military and corporate management circles, a lecture that focuses on the main arguments and context surrounding Sun Tzu’s ideas would provide students with an appreciation of the variety of intellectual responses generated by the Period of the Warring States. The Art of War is also seen as the foundation of the school of thought known as political realism, and it remains one of the most read pieces of classical Chinese literature. Encourage students to grasp its significance by examining the cultural references. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Confucianism Sections from Confucius’s Analects can be used to spark interesting conversations. Confucius’s admonition that a “man is wise who reveres the gods while keeping his distance from them” is classic Confucianism. It clearly expresses the secular Chinese view of the world. At the same time, you may need to give a hands-on introduction to the Analects because its structure can be confusing to first-time readers. Since the Analects is a loose collection of anecdotal tales, students can sometimes miss the essential message. Once the students understand the basic approach of Confucius they can appreciate and understand his philosophy. Confucius’s emphasis on structure can lead into a discussion of why that concept was so important to him and to China during the turbulent years of the Zhou period. The Role of Government in China The simple question of government, both what it is and how it is supposed to rule, is certainly a pertinent discussion in regard to Chinese thought. From the beginning, Chinese philosophy was marked by a secular view of the societal and political worlds. Is the Confucian or Legalist approach best? Is the Legalist approach necessary in the early stages of political development? Once again, you can bring in comparisons to Assyria and Persia or early Indian history. Daoism Daoism also makes for an interesting topic, especially considering the pop status it has achieved; seemingly a million self-help books mention “Dao” in the title. You could even read passages to the students from these works to show how ancient concepts don’t disappear, and to show how the majority of these works miss the point so egregiously. More importantly, you could use the topic of action versus inaction as a starting point for a discussion about the nature of Daoism. You could also carry the discussion over into Indian thought and examine how Hinduism is actually a call for passive action. For that matter, the varying definitions of what the Dao means, from the more political Confucian use to the more ethereal Daoist interpretation, can lead into a general discussion of Chinese thought. Comparing Chinese Ideals for Government Divide students into three groups. Ask each group to outline the structure of the ideal government from the point of view of a Confucian, a Daoist, or a Legalist. Then come back together and present your outlines, arguing for your positions. Can you imagine a government where all three of these philosophies are represented? Sima Qian and the Role of the Individual in History The chapter opening on Sima Qian provides an excellent opportunity to understand both the history of the Han and the intimate life of one individual. Use this story to expand into a more general discussion of the times in history during which the individual stands up for higher principles: Socrates choosing truth over lie, Martin Luther risking his life because of his own religious convictions, or Sima Qian accepting mutilations and shame because his historical work was more important. Quite simply, Sima Qian chose knowledge over honor and avoidance of pain. Sima Qian wrote to a friend, “A man has only one death. That death may be as weighty as Mount T’ai, or it may be as light as a goose feather. It all depends upon the way he uses it...the reason I have not refused to bear these ills and have continued to live, dwelling in vileness and disgrace without taking my leave, is that I grieve that I have things in my heart which I have not been able to express fully, and I am shamed to think that after I am gone my writing will not be known to posterity...If it may be handed down to men who will appreciate it, and penetrate to the villages and great cities, then though I should suffer a thousand mutilations, what regret would I have?” (Burton Watson, tr., Records of the Grand Historian of China [New York, 1961], p. 2.) Such passages bring history home to the students as something human and personal. Chapter 9 State, Society, and the Quest for Salvation in India CHAPTER OVERVIEW Beginning around 500 B.C.E. India developed a classical society with political, religious, and social features that continued to influence the subcontinent for centuries. The creation of two new religions, Buddhism and Jainism, and the continuing evolution of a third, the older Hinduism, left India with an astonishingly complex religious landscape. The caste system ensured a well-defined social structure, but even in this area developments in trade and industry threatened the traditional hierarchy. India unified for the first time, but centralized government proved fleeting and the Indians were unable to leave a political legacy to match the religious one. Nevertheless, the Mauryas, under Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka Maurya, and the Guptas, under Chandra Gupta II, created powerful and influential states. Works such as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavad Gita are representative of one of the great cultural flowerings in world history. THEMES Outsiders as agents of change. The Aryans, then later the Persians and Alexander of Macedon, intruded into India during the classical era, creating a power vacuum that allowed for the emergence of the Mauryan and Gupta empires that briefly unified much of northern India. Regional kingdoms rather than centralized empires. Although the Mauryas and Guptas succeeded in uniting much of India for short periods of time, the dominant political structure consisted of regional kingdoms that competed with each other for resources and communities throughout north and central India. Increased economic complexity. Agricultural productivity, supported by iron metallurgy, led to the development of towns, the growth of trade, increased wealth, and the social stratification of Indian society. India soon became the pivot of a Eurasian trade network linking classical civilizations across Eurasia. Caste as reflection of social, cultural development. As Indian society became more complex,
a caste hierarchy emerged, based on both older Aryan beliefs and contemporary social circumstances, that still persists today. Closely related to caste hierarchies was a system of patriarchy reinforced by both religious and social convention that confined women to domestic roles and placed them under the control of older men. Religious diversity. As Indian society expanded, religions and philosophies emerged that challenged traditional beliefs and appealed to new social classes. Some of these religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, emphasized intense spirituality rather than formalized ritual. Both these religions would play major roles in later Indian and world civilization. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Complexity of Indian Religions Perhaps your greatest contribution and most daunting task in this chapter is explaining this turbulent religious age. The students should be familiar with some of the basic tenets of Hinduism from reading the earlier chapter on India, but even Hinduism is undergoing a subtle transformation that might not be apparent at first glance. Obviously, Buddhism provides another set of challenges with its new concepts such as nirvana, bodhisattva, Mahayana, and Hinayana. At the same time, you have the opportunity to show how religious change comes about. The obvious lesson is that the essential human desire to understand one’s place in the universe and one’s relation to the divine (however one defines it) is never-ending. Sometimes the change is relatively minor and works within the framework of the old religion, as in alterations inside Hinduism. At other times the break is so profound that a new religion is formed. This concept
is one that the students will obviously revisit in the future. Most students have at least heard of Buddhism so one has something to work with. Jainism is a little more obscure, although the students always seem to be fascinated by it. The question of how to live in the world without harming others is not unique to Jainism, although it can be argued that no one ever took it to the level that the Jains did. Finally, the different religious concepts covered in this chapter make it easy for you to initiate a discussion based on comparing and contrasting these ideas. You could even bring in other philosophical concepts and examine how Jainism might relate to, say, Daoism. Case Studies: The Role of the Individual in History There are several interesting characters in this chapter. Chandragupta Maurya and his harsh philosophy of rule, as expressed in the Arthashastra, are fascinating. Ashoka is even more intriguing because he starts off being as ruthless and bloodthirsty as his grandfather and ends up being arguably the most important individual in the establishment of Buddhism as a world religion. That essential (and if you believe some of the stories, instantaneous) transformation of Ashoka shows the students that, for all the great movements that shape history, the individual can play a profound role. This approach provides a human face to a field that students all too often see as dominated by dry “isms.” An examination of the life of Siddhartha Gautama is useful because it brings up the difficulty of separating fact from legend. Siddhartha Gautama’s reaction to the sight of sickness, old age, death, and a wandering ascetic monk is a powerful image, whether the gods provided it or not. Plus, you can compare the Buddha’s life to that of Vardhamana Mahavira to show how they both abandoned their lives of leisure in an attempt to find profound spiritual truths—and how they came up with differing answers. Often, students are fascinated by the many similarities between the lives of Jesus and the Buddha. Indian Literature This period in Indian history witnessed one of the true cultural golden ages of world history. It would be a crime not to bring in examples from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, or the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is a great work to use as a supplementary text. It is short and expresses most of the main tenets of Hinduism. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are much too long to use as supplements, but passages from these books work wonderfully well in class because they are both exciting and give an insight into the Indian epic past, especially the Ramayana. There may not be a literary work more important to a people than the Ramayana is to Indians. Hanuman is an uproariously funny character who is always rushing headfirst into danger. Rama’s confrontation with Ravana is exciting and speaks to the essential struggle between dharma and adharma. The conduct of Sita in the face of constant trials has established the paradigm (many would say unfairly) for the expected behavior of Indian women. This is also
the age of Kalidasa, usually referred to as the Indian Shakespeare. While The Ring may be arguably his most famous creation, The Cloud Messenger is probably more accessible to students. The tragic story of the epic hero who is banished by the gods and separated from his great love is wonderful. The work of the poet Bhartrihari is also good. Both poets, and especially Bhartrihari, illustrate the pursuit of pleasure as expressed in the classic Indian notion of kama. The erotic nature of much of the poetry gives you an opportunity to discuss why poetry of this nature would be produced in a country as spiritual as India. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Ruling Philosophies and the Difficulty of Unification A good way to initiate a conversation, as well as bring in examples from earlier sections, is to discuss the topic of ruling philosophies and the difficulty of unification. The students should be able to bring in examples from the Assyrian and Qin efforts at unification studied earlier. This topic then sets up the discussion about these individuals who, although violent, paved the way for more tolerant states (just as Chandragupta Maurya gave way to Ashoka, the Assyrians gave way to the Persians, and the Qin gave way to the Han). Drawing out examples from the Arthashastra is a great place to start, since its harsh nature perfectly reflects the approach of Chandragupta Maurya and his advisor Kautalya. For example, the Arthashastra’s view that any two states that share a common border are destined to fight, and consequently it is better just to go ahead and attack, may seem harsh, but it mirrored the political chaos of the age. The ancient Indians recognized three types of war: (1) the war of righteous duty, (2) the war for conquest, and (3) the war for destruction. The Mahabharata and Ramayana recognized only the first type as valid, whereas the Arthashastra essentially accepted all three. You might also bring in examples from The Prince or The Art of War, two later and more famous treatises, for comparison’s sake. The students should find it ironic that a society that could produce the Arthashastra could also produce the Bhagavad Gita. This finding, in turn, can lead to a discussion of the desire for spiritual perfection as compared to the demands of the state. The Evolution of Hinduism The Bhagavad Gita can be used to facilitate discussion about the evolution of Hinduism. When Krishna tells Arjuna “Never have I not existed, nor you, nor these kings,” he is perfectly expressing the Hindu notion of samsara, or rebirth. Dharma is expressed in the line “Do not tremble before your duty, nothing is better for a warrior than a battle of sacred duty.” What is important for the students to understand in this chapter is that Hinduism, as with all religions from time to time, is undergoing a transformation. The interesting factor is that changing economic and social conditions are helping to drive this change. As Bentley and Ziegler point out, “trade and industry brought prosperity to many vaishyas and even shudras, who sometimes became wealthier and more influential in society than their brahmin and kshatriya contemporaries.” Students are often surprised by the ways in which the political, social, economic, and religious worlds influence each other. Ask the students if they can think of other examples of this type of situation. The Buddha’s first sermon is also a great place from which to draw material. Comparing Classical Indian Religious Beliefs Divide students into smaller groups. Assign to each group a classical Indian religion mentioned in the chapter. Then assign a short list of topics to consider based on those beliefs, such as reincarnation, the existence of the soul, ethical approaches to violence and warfare, acceptable social and moral behavior, or others you may deem appropriate. Two or three will work best depending on class size and time constraints. In a subsequent class, ask each group to debate and summarize each topic based on their assigned beliefs, and when each has finished ask the class to consider which approach was most attractive or convincing. Allowing the students to consider a range of religious responses and choices gives them the ability to understand the reasons, both contingent and otherwise, that motivate individuals to accept or reject different belief systems. Chapter 10 Mediterranean Society: The Greek Phase CHAPTER OVERVIEW Arguably no society has cast a longer shadow over the Mediterranean, European, and American worlds than that of the ancient Greeks. The influences of Greek democracy, tragedy, and philosophy continue to shape minds today. At the core of the Greek mind was an inquiring spirit and refusal to accept anything less than the truth. After escaping near disaster in the Persian Wars, the Greeks went on to create one of the world’s most glorious cultural epochs. In the end, unfortunately, the Greeks’ own arrogance and warlike manner led to their destruction in the Peloponnesian War. The conquests of Alexander of Macedon created the Hellenistic age and a perpetuation of Greek brilliance. THEMES The sea as cultural influence. Geographical circumstances encouraged the Greeks to establish a maritime network that extended across the eastern Mediterranean basin. This economic and cultural network, later expanded by the Romans, ultimately created an integrated yet cosmopolitan and diverse world that stretched from western and northern Europe to Mesopotamia. City-states as foundations of imperial success. Both Greek and Roman civilization began with the emergence of complex urban environments based on cities, known to the Greeks as poleis. Although Greek civilization would remain fragmented until the rise of Alexander of Macedon, the Romans used their city as the foundation of a vast land empire that would last for several centuries. Patriarchy dominant in both cultures. Both the Greeks and Romans, like their counterparts in India, established strict patriarchal structures that limited women’s political and economic options. Both civilizations also relied heavily on slaves for domestic, agricultural, and other forms of labor. Religious diversity. Although Greece and later Rome, who borrowed heavily from Greek examples, developed a formal pantheon and series of religious rituals, as in India many people turned to salvation religions during the classical period. One of these, Christianity, would grow to become the dominant religion throughout the Mediterranean basin. Social conflict and imperial authority. In Greece, a series of struggles between Athens and Sparta weakened Greece and encouraged the Macedonian invasion, which led to the formation of Alexander of Macedon’s enormous empire and its Hellenistic descendants. The Hellenistic rulers and the Romans, like their classical contemporaries in India, China, and Persia, integrated their empires by building transportation and communications networks. LECTURE STRATEGIES The Influence of Greek Philosophy When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he essentially spoke for a core of brilliant Greek thinkers. The Greeks, for all their faults, profoundly and eternally shaped the intellectual and cultural world. Where would the world be without the contributions of the Greek mind? An understanding of Greek philosophy, including the pre-Socratics, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic schools, is essential. These thinkers achieved something revolutionary: to explain the world in purely rational and natural terms. The tragedy of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides is equally brilliant. Even the comedy of Aristophanes speaks to the Greek emphasis on a free and open society. Not only does the work of Herodotus and Thucydides provide wonderful anecdotes for instruction, but it also shaped the nature of historical inquiry. The Relationship between the Greeks and the Persians The relationship between the Greeks and Persians is an interesting theme for this section. You have probably already dealt with the Persians so this topic is a natural. The history of the Greeks and Persians is so interrelated that it is seemingly impossible to separate the two. Plus, as was discussed in an earlier chapter, the Persians always tend to come off worse because of the European fascination with the Greeks. Nevertheless, the students are always intrigued by how profoundly one event can shape thousands of years of history. Herodotus, despite some obvious flaws, is a great source of information for this subject. Understanding Greek Duality It is probably impossible to make sense of the ebb and flow of Greek history without understanding the basic duality of the Greeks themselves. On the one hand, the different city-states simply did not trust each other and were all too often at war. On the other hand, there is that undeniable sense of Hellas. Being Greek meant something. The most obvious example for students would be the fact that the Olympic Games were designed for Greeks and Greeks alone. Plus, the fact that the Greeks would stop at nothing to win in the Olympic Games also says something about that society (and makes modern attempts to cheat in the games not seem so strange). This duality places events such as the Persian and Peloponnesian wars in their proper context. You can also easily tie this concept into a discussion of the differing natures of the Spartans and Athenians. It is easy to see the Athenians as being more truly representative of Greece in the Golden Age, but then why did some Athenian philosophers have such great admiration for the Spartan character? The hubris of the Athenians as expressed in the Peloponnesian War turns all of Greek history into a tragedy in the classic sense. Alexander of Macedon Is there a figure in the entire ancient world who casts a longer shadow than Alexander of Macedon? Obviously, there are many wonderful anecdotes about him. The story is told that Alexander always slept with two items under his pillow every night. The two objects, a copy of the Iliad and a dagger, express both his admiration for Greek culture and his more violent nature. He captures the popular imagination more completely than anyone in all of world history (which makes him a very easy lecture topic). More importantly, however, Alexander profoundly influenced the world during his brief time. You can tie Alexander to events in Greek, Persian, Egyptian, and Indian history as well as to the creation of the Hellenistic world. Alexander is also a topic ready-made to show students how a great leader and a great movement can flow together to change history. TEACHING SUGGESTIONS Understanding Greek Democracy The issue of the meaning, potential, and limitations of democracy is a classic discussion topic. You could start off with passages from the Funeral Oration of Pericles to open up the question of the unique Athenian governmental form. This subject should be especially relevant to American students because of the admiration of people like Jefferson and Madison for the ancient Greek and Roman republics. At the same time, it is essential for the students to understand both the benefits and flaws of Greek democracy, for example the difference between the Greek direct, albeit limited, democracy and the present-day United States’ representational democracy. You could also ask the students what lessons the founding fathers might have learned from the Greeks and how this information might have influenced their thinking in the formation of the American republic. This discussion also gives the students an opportunity to bring in information that they learned in U.S. history. The Unique Qualities of the Greeks In many ways the Greeks were profoundly different from other societies of the ancient world studied so far. Obviously it is important for the students to recognize this fact if they are also to understand the significance of the Greeks. Ask the students to explain in what ways the Greeks were different, and in other ways similar, to the other societies of the ancient world. The students should be able to bring up the different view of the nature of the gods, or the relationship between humans and the gods, or the concept of human worth and potential and destiny. This difference is why Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are so valuable. The Homeric poems, besides being great stories, express clearly the Greek intellectual framework. It is no wonder that the works are often referred to as the Greek Bible. You will not have to spend much time setting up the Iliad or the Odyssey because most students will have had at least marginal exposure to the works in high school or early college. The Role of Women in Greek Society The role of women in Greek society should make for a lively discussion. The ancient Greeks are almost synonymous in the popular imagination with the concept of freedom. It is important for students to understand that there were obvious and glaring limitations to that freedom. Although not many examples of Sappho’s poetry are left, this might still be a good place to start. With Sappho’s work students witness both the intellectual cravings and physical cravings of a creative mind, but at the same time the students are reminded of the limitations that women faced. Students are always surprised to learn that Spartan women probably enjoyed the most freedom, mainly because the Spartans at times seem almost anti-Greek in their intellectual conservatism. Case Study: Socrates Passages from Plato’s Apology give the students a chance to see how Socrates’ mind worked (and a glimpse at the Socratic method), but they will also see by Socrates’ vigorous defense that “apology” meant something different to the Greeks. Socrates’ decision to choose the truth over life cuts to the heart of what made the Greeks so special. One can point out that this event is one of those moments where the individual stands up to society and simply refuses to back down. Ask your students to think of other similar confrontations in history. This discussion should allow the students to cross historical and cultural boundaries and bring in examples ranging from Sima Qian to Martin Luther. Instructor Manual for Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past Jerry Bentley, Herbert Ziegler, Heather Streets Salter 9780073407029, 9780076700691

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