December 20, 2006

5000 Years of Middle Eastern History in 90 Seconds

Here is quite a fun website where you can download a map which shows how the fortunes of Middle Eastern Empires over the last five thousand years changed and who was the predominate empire in the region in various periods. Its too simplistic- there were Sumerians around alongside the first Egyptian Empire, the Parthians contested the region with the Romans, the Byzantines held on to Anatolia, despite Chosroes II reaching Constantinople in the early seventh century, right up until 1453. As Byzantine diplomats continuously proved the Middle East was the region in reality where great power politics such as Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon would have understood began thousands of years before say it began in Europe, as states like the Greek city states proved there is also the danger of assuming that all states down the history of the region were states as we understand them today- this map neccessarily makes light of 5,000 years of Middle Eastern History, not seeing how much these empires differed from our states today. I'd for example dispute quite how in most ancient empires there was an actual border and not an area where the authority of the ancient empire ebbed out into influence and then into ignorance. The Sahara was never the Egyptian frontier- it was more, in my understanding, of a zone into which Egyptian influence extended a long way. Having said all that- its definitely fun, and its great to see with your own eyes the extent of something like the Mongol empire.

Their map of the history of religion is also interesting, (again not sure about their strict boundaries- the boundaries of ideologies are always more fuzzy than lines on maps can show- there were Christians left in the heart of Islam and Jews lived throughout Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages, renaissance, enlightenment and right up until now) if only to remind one of how unusual monotheistic religion was right up until the age of colonisation throughout the world. Most of the world outside Eurasia until that point was polytheistic and beleived in various kinds of spirits or pagan gods- monotheism's dominance in the American continent or in Africa, not to mention in Australasia is a recent phenomenon- it is always worth remembering how recent most of our ideas about the shape of the world and the way it is organised are.

2 comments:

james higham said...

Still, it's a useful tool for bringing history to life for the kiddies, for all that.

Gracchi said...

Yeah I'm just a sucker for historical animations and maps like this its a guilty pleasure I'm afraid