It’s just ancient history

Note: this began life as a comment, but it just grew too long.

I realise that this was something of a rant, but really it is so full of inaccuracies and non-sequiturs I can’t let it pass.

3,500 years ago, the strength of the Hittites (the people of Hatti, now Turkey, roughly… well, Anatolia) lay in their possession of iron-ore and trees. The Ancient Egyptians lacked both, the primary cause of their eventual decline, but they had gold, and the Hittites wanted it.

Prodicus is mistaken that Egypt lacked trees. It did not. Particularly since at the time of the wars with the Hittites, Egypt controlled what is now Israel and Lebanon. It is true that the Hittites do seem to have been early adopters of iron-working, but so what? They engaged in trade with the Egyptians (Egypt having access to abundant gold supplies from Nubia and the eastern desert).

Hatti and Egypt, like almost the entire ancient Middle East, worshipped analogues of the powerful deity Seth, also known as Teshub and Baal, the god of – among other things – war and chaos. The Egyptians honoured him fearfully, placating him so that war could be avoided as far as possible. The Hittites thought he wanted his followers to honour him by making war, so they did, constantly.

The Egyptians may have identified Seth with Teshub, but the two are not connected in origin and there are significant differences – Seth, for example, is not symbolised by a bull; he isn’t depicted as a man with a beard; and he isn’t the father of the sun god. Teshub didn’t kill his brother; didn’t have his balls ripped off; and he isn’t the embodiment of evil. The characterisation of the Egyptians as ‘placating [Seth] so that war could be avoided as far as possible’ is just … wrong. For goodness sake, the conflicts, such as they were, between Egypt and the Hittite empire took place in Israel / Lebanon / Syria – that is in areas subjugated by the Egyptians or the Hittites. How did the Egyptians acquired their empire? It is after all notable that one of the commonest depictions of an Egyptian king shows him smashing in the head of a (bound) foreign prisoner. The Egyptians were by no means averse to war and conquest. It is also not accurate to characterise the Hittites as ‘making war constantly’.

They broke treaty after treaty with the Egyptians. Treaties were for cissies, and against Seth’s will. (Remind you of anything?) After centuries of fighting, the Hittites after Egypt’s (Nubian) gold and the Egyptians because the bloody Hittites wouldn’t go away, the two reached an uneasy stand-off.

I don’t understand where he got the idea that the Hittites ‘broke treaty after treaty with the Egyptians’? As far as I am aware there exists only one treaty from that time which records the end of a war in the time of Ramses II (we have both the Egyptian and the Hittite copy). But while there was fighting over the course of a couple of centuries, that is not the same as ‘centuries of fighting’. And the Hittites did ‘go away’ as their empire disintegrated into civil war and split apart.

That ended with the subjugation of both by the vast, murderous hordes of the ‘religion of peace’ who terrified them into, er, submission, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Finally, it is just plain wrong to say that this conflict ‘ended with the subjugation of both of them by the vast, murderous hordes of the “religion of peace”‘, unless he is talking about the Assyrians, which I’m fairly certain he isn’t. The Hittites had disappeared from history more than 1500 years before the Arab invasion.

He is smiliarly mistaken in what he says here. ‘Turkey’ has not ‘been a threat to its neighbours for 3,500 years – at least no more than any ancient state was a threat to adjoining states. After all, ‘Turkey’, of course, didn’t exist for 3,000 of those 3,500 years. You simply can’t conflate the Hittites (a mere two centuries of expansion then collapse and extinction) – who were Indo-European speakers, with the Arabs and the Turks. Three different peoples, I’m afraid. Perhaps he believes in some form of geographical determinism? I want to know where the Lydians, Phrygians, Luwians, Hurrians, and, yes, Greeks fit into this thesis.

He is also mistaken in the assumption that classical learning only passed to the west from Byzantium, seeming to have completely forgotten Spain, but also to underestimate the Ottoman Empire in its glory days (you know, when we were burning witches and heretics).

This is not to say that modern Turkey should be waved on into the EU – it shouldn’t. It’s just that it’s nonsense to adduce evidence from ancient history to back up a case, and even worse when that evidence is utterly wrong.

“The corrupt influence of the crown, by having all places in its disposal, hath so effectually swallowed up the power, and eaten out the virtue of the house of commons.”
Tom Paine Common Sense

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