The Clash of the Ancients

mediterranean_550_bcI once read a textbook saying: “How would we know which is the east and which is the west when the world is spherical?”. Then I imagined seeing a map where Asia would be located in the left  side. Wouldn’t it be peculiar when we are used to see America and Europe on the left and Asia in the right?

History is a long series of factual important events arranged based on chronological order. History is divided in periods of time (Ancient, Feudal, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern) or sometimes it is based on the ruling power (Elizabethan era 1558AD–1603AD, Greek era 8B.C.E-600AD). In a broad sense, history is merely a series of stories in favor of the ruling power.

Through the development of civilization, we have seen prevalent similarities occur. It is observed that civilizations settled at areas near a body of water; Egyptians near the Nile, Persians near the Tigris and Euphrates Indians near the Ganges and Chinese near the Huang ho. Without knowing the existence of each other, it is marvelous that the civilizations followed a certain trend. Some of us may still doubt that and tell they were merely a series of coincidences  but suprisingly these civilizations continue to follow a trend: Settle near a body of water, use the water for agriculture, flourish agriculture, trade crops, then they elect public servants when the place continues to progress.

In the age of the empires, the Greek, Persian and Roman empires were known. The rise of these empires were well accounted in history but were we aware enough that equally strong and stable empires also developed in the east. The empires of the east and west also had the same trend of development, though the empires of the west were first to advance. The Greek/Hellenic empire started to fully flourish when the city-states of the mainland were unified by king PhilipII of Macedon. Before the unification, Greek city-states fought against themselves for power; there were many kings who wanted to expand their territory because every city-state had a king. Similarly, the Mongolian empire assumed power when Genghis Khan unified the nomadic tribes in northeast Asia.

We admired the military strategy of Alexander the great, the young man who conquered the Mediterranean peninsula, Egypt, Persia and India but did we read enough to know that Genghis Khan’s empire was larger than of Alexander’s? In fact, Genghis Khan’s empire was the largest land empire ever recorded in history. The great emperor Augustus Caesar of course, was written in every world history book. He was the first Roman Emperor. Hundreds of books about him were published, his victory against Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Actium were admired by military men and his reign of Pax Romana was the greatest achievement he obtained. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi of the Qin dynasty also did as great as Augustus Caesar but some of us finished high school without knowing who he is. Emperor Shi Huangdi, like Caesar in Rome, is the first Emperor of China. He built the Great Wall of China for defense and built the Terra Cota army. He put an end to China’s Warring States period just like Caesar in Pax Romana.

Our generation read fairy tales with princesses, princes, knights in shining armors, castles and grand carriages. These fairy tales were based on true medieval tales, though the images we see in books are pictures of Western-inspired medieval settings. We read that there were grand marriages between princes and princesses and they get to have a lavish lifestyle in the castle. This is also true in the kingdoms of East and West, they had grand marriages for the members of the royal family and all of the village folks would feast and wish a happy ever after for them.

The eastern side had also their own version of a medieval setting. Western knights had their chivalry code which contained laws they should follow as knights. The shoguns of the East had also their own code of Bushido. The chivalry code and code of Bushido had many similar laws: they would swear their whole life to protect the feudal king, they would give protection to peasants in times of war and they would help women and be a gentle man; and they were known riding horses. Western empires built castles to protect the king, they built churches to spread their faith similarly Eastern empires built fortresses and walls to surround their city to protect the king, and temples were built in order for the gods to bless them. Though these buildings have different styles of architecture, they had the same purpose which give us an idea of the medieval lifestyle.

The world is not really divided, the world is spherical. Only imaginary lines separate the east from the west, the north from the south. People perceive the West as great, actually it is great but not greater than any place or any division, it is just as great as the East. From the countless similarities occurring; from the way of life, agriculture, government, military, monarchy, art, education architecture and literature. We wonder to ourselves: can we really tell who’s greater and who’s less?