Historical Mis-Characterizations?

Discussion in 'History & Past Politicians' started by upside-down cake, Jan 13, 2019.

  1. upside-down cake

    upside-down cake Well-Known Member

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    Is it me or do we have the wrong opinion of what cultures were in history?

    For instance, we always tend to think of Europeans as Europeans- a generic block of culture that's roughly the same. Or we tend to think of Africa as a generic block of culture.

    But take Egypt and Rome. Egypt is on the African continent and Rome is on the European continent. However Egypt and Rome probably have far more in common with each other than Rome would Britain or Egypt would Mali. I would actually classify Rome and Egypt as Mediterranean cultures. That does not mean they are the same. There are obvious distinctions, but they share more cultural nodes and history that is distorted by the geo-political labels given to them.

    Not only that...but we tend to think of European culture as being based around western Europe, but history shows that western European culture was shaped more by the Mediterranean cultures- mostly Rome, Carthage, and the Islamic conquerors of the time. Consider that many of the most common names of western Europe- David, John, Michael, Adam...- they are Semetic in nature. The main religion of Europe is Semetic in nature. Europe claims ideological ancestry from the Greeks and the Egyptians. We derive or political templates from the Romans and the Venetians. Today, the dominance of western Europe has realigned perception of the identity of Europe with the northwest, but it's actually a Mediterranean hybrid that leans toward the Med and away from it's historical tradition- a pattern that is witnessed repetitively in many conquered societies.

    (* these are opinions, I don't offer them as scholarly truths. If I seem assertive, it is to assert my own opinion)
     
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  2. Talon

    Talon Well-Known Member Donor

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    Interesting can of worms you've opened there, but I'll start by agreeing with you that we do have a tendency to mischaracterize cultures, largely because we aren't fully aware of their complex history and development.

    Relevant to this subject, I'm currently finishing a book called Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop, which explores the evolution of Western European (and American) thought, law and culture from Ancient Greece to Modernity, and in it he describes how much of that evolution was driven by Christianity and its institutions (the Catholic Church, etc.). Given how Christianity was arguably the sole unifying element in Western Europe, it's not difficult to see how Christian institutions, philosophy, canon law & lawyers, etc., building on their Jewish and Classical Greek and Roman predecessors, would shape Western thought and culture. After laying the ideological foundations of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, the rulers and philosophers of those periods would build on those Jewish, Classical and Christian foundations and further develop what we recognize today as Western thought and culture.

    Of course, I'm only talking about part of what qualifies as European thought and culture. What about Eastern European thought and culture? We could also further subdivide European culture into Southern (Mediterranean) European culture and Northern European culture, all of which have their own unique attributes. When we start doing this it obviously becomes increasingly difficult to define what European culture is.

    Clearly, I'm drawing a very incomplete and imprecise picture of European thought and culture here, but again I think it speaks to your points about the difficulties we face when we try to simplify something that defies simplification.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  3. ARDY

    ARDY Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    It is interesting to consider the question: what is western/European culture?

    Certainly its dominance originated in the mediterranean But ultimately i think the “European” term has more reference to a cluster of “modern” influences that emerged and flourished in western europe: the renaissance, capitalism, the magna carte, the scientific method, universities, free speech, banking, publishing, medicine, and yes,christianity.
     
  4. Mr_Truth

    Mr_Truth Well-Known Member

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    Interesting bit of phrasing with Islam being singled out as conquerors even though the two other cultures were far more violent.
     
  5. perotista

    perotista Well-Known Member Donor

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    I agree. Most of Europe's culture was a result of the Roman Empire which borrowed from the Greeks. The Roman Empire was a Mediterranean culture as was Greece. Egypt far exceeded the Romans with their dynasties in pre-Roman times. After Alexander the Great, Egypt lost a lot of it influence although the Ptolemies were still a force to be reckon with.

    You could say Rome civilized Europe with its conquest of France, Gaul as they called it, Spain and Britain. Although a lot happened after the Roman Empire fell. But yes, I would say the European Culture of today grew out of the Mediterranean Culture of 2,000 years ago.

    You're also correct that the African countries around the Mediterranean today more resemble the old Romans than the rest of Africa in people and culture. Then Europe took that culture to the America's. It's safe to say the Americas have or are based on European culture which was based on the Romans and the Greeks.

    Asia has its own culture, so in a way with differences between Chinese, Indians, India type, one could say there are basically two cultures left in the world. European and Asian. The Polynesians probably would classify as a minor culture or sub culture off of the Asian culture. Something like that anyway.
     
  6. ThirdTerm

    ThirdTerm Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    The ancient Siberian contribution to Northern Europe cannot be ignored. The frequencies of Haplogroup N generally correspond with Finnish ancestry in Scandinavia (7% in Sweden; 2.5% in Norway.) The carriers of Haplogroup N originally arrived from Siveria 4,000 years ago. The study found that people genetically similar to present-day Saami people inhabited areas in much more southern parts of Finland than the Saami today.

     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019 at 7:39 PM

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