Toynbee at UCLA

January 24 2015

Example of the dozens of speeches and scores of articles about the necessity of World Unity in the Atomic Age given or written after his retirement from Chatham House in 1955.

The Balance Sheet of History, with young audience at UCLA. April 1 1963, while visiting professor at Grinnell College, Iowa for the second time. Unidentified first introducer hands over to Vice Chancellor, Foster H Sherwood, who introduces Toynbee.

The range of allusion one gets in his books is absent. There is nothing that he doesn’t say in other places. The tendency to repeat himself disappointed some of the US institutions which paid to have him as their guest. So did his habit (as, apparently, here) of making side trips in order to give further identical talks to other institutions.

Still, there’s a shape and theme to this. These productions came from a lifelong reaction against the nationalism which had produced the First World War, and were at the same time a response to the Cold War.

What he has to say seems quaint to a generation that has forgotten that it lives in the shadow of the Bomb, and is in the power of new currents which are bringing societies together anyway – and tearing them apart.

He blurs homo sapiens and hominids (a confusion not evident in Mankind and Mother Earth). He says that more than half of the world’s population in 2000 will be citizens of China. His Malthusianism is simplistic. The opening-up of the grasslands of the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia had postponed the food crisis (for the West, so how were others coping?), but the reckoning was now imminent. He shows no awareness of the Green Revolution.

World government would be needed to regulate the supply and distribution of food.

Population growth can be curtailed only by a revolution in human behaviour, not by administrative action. Yet it was controlled by administrative action in China in the one-child policy initiated in 1979.

Religion belongs to a deeper level of human life than politics. There’s a confused passage about different religions appealing to the different psychological types which can be found in every population. In future, he hopes that people will choose their religions, rather than being born into them.

But the identities, iconographies, traditions of religions were developed in geographically-defined communities. So how did they appeal to distinct psychological types? And what is their soil in a cosmopolitan world?

Local loyalties and larger ones. Federal systems. Paul’s loyalty to Tarsus and to the Empire. He makes some comparatively kind remarks about the Pax Romana, but returns to his basic idea about Rome.

The real life of the Roman Empire was in the growth of, and competition between, new religions.

The eastern end of the Old World has tended to be more unified than the western end.

There have been periodic breakdowns of the unity of [China]. The latest of them began in 1911 when the Manchu regime crumbled in China, and lasted till about 1929, when the Kuomintang reunited China. Since 1929, first under the Kuomintang regime and later under the Communist regime, China has been united, which is its normal condition through the ages, a very great contrast to the western end of the Old World, which has never succeeded in uniting itself since the Roman Empire went to pieces there in the 5th century of the Christian Era.

World government will be needed for the regulation of nuclear weapons. Even if nuclear energy is exploited only for peaceful purposes, a world authority will have to deal with atomic waste.

In a unified world, he wants ethical unity, but cultural variety.

Human beings’ relations with their fellow human beings are

the slum area of human life.

He believes in human interaction as the basis for world peace. He sees the value of students travelling, of tourism, of professional conferences, of the Peace Corps (established by Kennedy in 1961), of networks of personal friendships. But he never visited a Communist country unless you count a crossing of Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1930. He could presumably have visited the USSR under Krushchev. Old post.

He mentions Ashoka.

The reference at 17:21 to Professor Pegram may be to GB Pegram, a physicist involved in the Manhattan Project.

The first introducer thanks, summarises the Toynbees’ schedule in LA, and wraps up.

The points in this summary don’t necessarily follow the order in the talk.

Via UCLA Department of Communication Studies archive.

Links to other posts containing film or audio of Toynbee are here.


Dyed goatees

January 23 2015

Abdulaziz had at least 45 sons.

Nine died before manhood or perhaps are for some other reason not in the main list. The oldest was born in 1900 and died in the flu epidemic of 1919. The youngest surviving is now the king-in-waiting, Muqrin.

  1. Prince Turki of Najd
  2. King Saud (115 children)
  3. King Faisal
  4. Prince Muhammad
  5. King Khalid
  6. Prince Nasser
  7. Prince Saad
  8. Prince Mansour
  9. King Fahd
  10. Prince Bandar
  11. Prince Musaʿid
  12. King Abdullah
  13. Prince Abdul Muhsin
  14. Prince Mishaal
  15. Prince Sultan
  16. Prince Abdul Rahman
  17. Prince Mutaib
  18. Prince Talal
  19. Prince Mishari
  20. Prince Badr
  21. Prince Turki the Sudairi
  22. Prince Nawwaf
  23. Prince Nayef
  24. Prince Fawwaz
  25. King Salman
  26. Prince Majid
  27. Prince Thamir
  28. Prince Abdul Illah
  29. Prince Mamdouh
  30. Prince Sattam
  31. Prince Ahmed
  32. Prince Abdul Majeed
  33. Prince Hazloul
  34. Prince Mashhur
  35. Crown Prince Muqrin
  36. Prince Hamoud

___

Selection of the daughters:

Princess Al Bandari

Princess Sultana

Princess Luluwah

Princess Al Jawhara

Princess Haya

Princess Seeta

Princess Latif.


The top 25 events

January 23 2015

BBC.


Third Saudi State

January 23 2015

Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud) 1932-53

Saud 1953-64 (son of Abdulaziz, deposed in a power struggle)

Faisal 1964-75 (son of Abdulaziz, assassinated by his nephew)

Khalid 1975-82 (son of Abdulaziz)

Fahd 1982-2005 (son of Abdulaziz)

Abdullah 2005-15 (son of Abdulaziz)

Salman 2015- (son of Abdulaziz)


~~~

January 22 2015

Back tomorrow.


WEF: Davos history

January 21 2015

I’ve been writing about Davos over the years. I haven’t been there since 2006.

Some posts displayed or linked to the programmes. These ones talked about the history and ethos of the Annual Meeting:

Davos man. About the Annual Meeting up to 2006.

Davos 1971-2010. About the first forty years. But there is also a 22-minute piece of film here, with commentary by me, about Davos in 1983.

Spirit of Davos

Davos 2012.

Short posts:

Magic mountain

LGBT issues and Davos

Taki on Davos.

A session on water in 2009:

Owning water.

Portrait of Menuhin:

Menuhin at Davos.

Forgettable vignettes of individual participants:

Lee Kuan Yew

Nelson Mandela

Nadine Gordimer.


WEF: Other meetings

January 21 2015

Forgettable vignettes of non-Davos meetings:

New York 2002. Davos in exile.

Sharm El-Sheikh 2008. “Many of the participants reminded one why the Forum is still the non-pareil organiser of such meetings. One or two had one thinking viscerally, with EM Forster’s Maurice, ‘how unfit they were to set standards or control the future’.”

Istanbul 2008.


Davos: village and cantonal history

January 21 2015

Nineteenth century:

Landquart-Davos. Sanatoria, hotels, a railway, electricity, the telephone and skiing arrive in Davos.

Bacchus Alpinus. About Valtelline wine and more.

Twentieth century and after:

Assassinations in Davos and Paris

Thousands of civilisations. Second of two.

Urbs in montibus.


Davos: music

January 21 2015

Tchaikovsky at Davos:

Davos 1884

The music Tchaikovsky wrote in Davos

Tchaikovsky en route to Davos.

Menuhin:

Song of the bride. Short.

Menuhin at Davos.

Others:

Flecker and Davos. Delius.

Christmas Eve. Kirchner (and Bax).

A Davos Lied von der Erde. The Haefligers.


Davos 2015

January 20 2015

Here is the programme (without participants).


A Davos Lied von der Erde

January 20 2015

Well, the Swiss tenor Ernst Haefliger was born in Davos in 1919 and died there in 2007.

Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic. Perhaps I should have posted his Winterreise. At times (not here so much) he sounds like a Swiss Peter Pears. His CD of Alte deutsche Weihnachtslieder is worth hearing. His son Andreas is a pianist. Another son, Michael, directs the Lucerne Festival and has been a WEF participant. Mildred Miller is the mezzo soprano.

Chinese whispers (old post). Click on the Category link for more Davos/WEF posts.


Mongols of the sea

January 19 2015

Rambling piece by Paul Krugman on the “gunpowder empires” and the Atlantic seaboard. And what European sailors had in common with Asian nomads. The New York Times, January 18.


Greece and Japan

January 18 2015

I can’t exactly explain what I mean by Japanese culture being classical, but you feel it very strongly indeed when you go into the temples. They feel like Greek temples, retranslated into wood.

Perhaps it was a matter of ritual being pristine, not yet turned to metaphor or acting or symbol.

Greek temple architecture in stone had evolved out of wooden structures.

Noh, with its masks, choruses, music and strongly ritualistic elements is often compared with Greek drama.

When I lived in Tokyo in 1990-91, a lonely water-seller (he must have been the last in the city) used to walk through the Kamiyacho area where my office was. His strange cry seemed to come from a remote world and to have nothing at all to do with the modern life around him.

Japanese premodern culture is a survival, not a bogus revival.

Judging by the sound and atmosphere of his Sinfonía de Antígona (1933), which uses Greek modes, the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez felt a connection between classical Greece and the pre-Spanish civilisations of Mexico. YouTube.

Japanese and Greek music both used the pentatonic scale.

Letter to Gilbert Murray, probably from Nagoya, November 10 1929


The Harmonious Blacksmith

January 17 2015

This sane if unpolitical Air and Variations, a favourite of the Victorians – like The Cuckoo and the Nightingale and Rage over a Lost Penny, not that these works are similar – is the final movement, in E major, of the fifth of the eight harpsichord suites Handel published in 1720. Wilhelm Kempff, piano.

The origin of the nickname is not clear. It is not recorded until the nineteenth century and does not come from Handel.

Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations gives his friend Pip the nickname Handel, because “We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith”.

Percy Grainger based his Handel in the Strand on the tune (piano and various arrangements, the name an allusion to Molly on the Shore).

Kempff takes it rather slowly. The faster it is played, the more Grainger-like it becomes.

Picture: Poussin, or attributed?, Hercule au jardin des Hespérides, Louvre?


Etherialization

January 16 2015

An etherialization of our modern Western Art which took place in the course of the eighteenth century, when the sceptre passed from the art of Architecture to the art of Music and when the élan of the Western artistic impulse was thus, as it were, translated from the grosser medium of stone into the subtler medium of sound, has been traced out by Oswald Spengler in one of the most interesting passages of his magnum opus.

“About the year 1740, when Euler was beginning to establish the definitive formulation of Functional Analysis, there arose the Sonata, which is the maturest and the highest form of the instrumental style … . Therewith begins the reign of Music over all the other arts. In the field of the plastic arts Music banishes statuary and tolerates nothing but the completely musical and finikinly un-Hellenic and counter-Renaissance Kleinkunst of porcelain, which was invented at a time when chamber music was winning its way to a position of decisive importance. Whereas the plastic art of the Gothic age is architectonic ornament – rows of human figures – through and through, the plastic art of the Rococo period is a significant example of an art which is only plastic superficially, while in reality it is under the domination of Music – which is its opposite in the circle of the arts – and is speaking in the language of musical form. This reveals the degree to which it is possible for the technique that governs the foreground of artistic life to be in contradiction with the spirit of the world of forms which this technique creates (pace the usual aesthetic theory which assumes that spirit and technique stand to each other in the relation of a cause and an effect). Compare the crouching Venus of Coyzevox (A.D. 1686) in the Louvre with her Hellenic forerunner in the Vatican, and you will see the difference between plastic art treated as music and plastic art working in its own right. In Coyzevox’s work, the sense of movement, the flow of the lines, and the fluidity that has been imparted to the very essence of the stone – which, like porcelain, has somehow lost its solidity and mass – can be described most aptly in musical terms: staccato, accelerando, andante, allegro. Hence the feeling that somehow the close-grained marble is here out of place. Hence, too, the altogether un-Hellenic reliance on effects of light and shade: a device which corresponds to what has been the leading principle of oil-painting since Titian. The quality which the Eighteenth Century called colour – whether in an engraving or in a drawing or in a group of statuary – really means music. This quality governs the painting of Watteau and Fragonard and the art of the Gobelins and pastels. Do we not talk, from that day to this, of ‘colour-tones’ and ‘tone-colours’? And is this not a recognition of an equivalence finally attained between two arts that are superficially so different? And are not all such designations meaningless in reference to all Hellenic Art? Music even succeeded in recasting, in its own spirit, the Baroque architecture of Bernini. It re-cast it into Rococo; and the transcendental Rococo ornamentation is ‘played’ over by lights which are virtually musical tones, and which perform the function of resolving roofs, walls, arches and everything that is constructive and concrete into polyphony and harmony: an architectural music whose trills, cadences and passaggios carry to the point of identity the assimilation of the architectural semantic of these halls and galleries to the music which was conceived for them. Dresden and Vienna are the homes of this late and shortlived wonderland of chamber music and billowy furniture and mirror-rooms and pastoral poetry and porcelain-groups. This is the last expression of the Western soul: an expression of autumnal ripeness with a touch of autumn sunshine. The Vienna of the Vienna Congress saw it die and disappear.” [Footnote: Spengler, Oswald: Der Untergang des Abendlandes, vol. i (Munich 1930, Beck), pp. 318-20. […] The same theme is developed by Heard, G., in The Ascent of Humanity (London 1938, Cape), pp. 226-8.]

Translation presumably by Toynbee. Charles Francis Atkinson’s translation of this passage is here. His closing sentences seem preferable. “It is the final brilliant autumn with which the Western soul completes the expression of its high style. And in the Vienna of the Congress-time it faded and died.” Spengler has: “Sie ist der letzte, herbsthaft sonnige, vollkommene Ausdruck großen Stils der abendländischen Seele. Im Wien der Kongreßzeit starb er dahin.”

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


Tender-hearted Muhammad

January 15 2015

Tender-hearted Muhammad, who art also one of the weaker vessels of God’s grace, pray that His grace may inspire us, like thee, to rise above our infirmity in our zeal for His service.

From the prayer that concludes the main part of the Study.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The failure of the League

January 14 2015

An international political order was offered, ready-made, to the Greek city-states of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. by the Lydian and Persian and Carthaginian Empires. The Persian Empire systematically imposed orderly political relations upon the Greek city-states which it subjugated; and Xerxes attempted to complete this work by proceeding to subjugate the still independent remnant of the Greek world. These still unconquered Greek city-states resisted Xerxes desperately – and successfully – because they rightly believed that a Persian conquest would take the life out of their civilization. They not only saved their own independence but they also liberated the previously subjugated city-states of the Archipelago and the Asiatic mainland. But, having rejected the Persian solution to a Greek political problem, the Greek victors were confronted with the task of finding some other solution. And it was here that they failed. Having defeated Xerxes in the years 480 and 479 B.C, they were defeated between 478 and 431 B.C. by themselves.

The Greeks’ attempt at an international political order was the so-called Delian League founded in 478 B.C. by Athens and her allies under Athenian leadership. And it is worth noticing, in passing, that the Delian League was modelled on a Persian pattern. One sees this if one compares the accounts of the system which the Athenian statesman Aristeides induced the liberated cities to accept in 478 B.C. with the account – in Herodotus Book vi, chapter 42 – of the system which had been imposed upon these self-same cities by the Persian authorities after the suppression of the so-called “Ionian Revolt” some fifteen years before. But the Delian League failed to achieve its purpose. And the old political anarchy in the relations between the sovereign independent Greek city-states broke out again under new economic conditions which made this anarchy not merely harmful but deadly.

The destruction of the Graeco-Roman civilization through the failure to replace an international anarchy by some kind of international law and order occupies the history of the four hundred years from 431 to 31 B.C. [outbreak of Peloponnesian War to Battle of Actium]. After these four centuries of failure and misery there came, in the generation of Augustus, a partial and temporary rally. The Roman Empire – which was really an international league of Greek and other, culturally related, city-states – may be regarded as a tardy solution of the problem which the Delian League had failed to solve. But the epitaph of the Roman Empire is “too late.” The Graeco-Roman society did not repent until it had inflicted mortal wounds on itself with its own hands. The Pax Romana was a peace of exhaustion, a peace which was not creative and therefore not permanent. It was a peace and an order that came four centuries after its due time. One has to study the history of those four melancholy intervening centuries in order to understand what the Roman Empire was and why it failed.

Toynbee could not help seeing Rome in this way. Did the Pax Romana not last longer than most?

The League had its headquarters on the island of Delos until 454 BC, when Pericles moved it to Athens. It was dissolved on the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War in 404.

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948


Achaemenid mnemonic

January 13 2015

Early (559-424) Achaemenids: Costly campaigns divide xenophobic Americans.

Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I.


Hellenism abandoned

January 12 2015

In the field of architecture the attractiveness of the new Byzantine style in the eyes of a Justinian and an Anthemius was probably due to the very fact that this Byzantine style presented the greatest contrast to the Hellenic style that was well conceivable. The Hellenic architecture was a structure of straight lines and flat surfaces meeting at right-angles; the Byzantine architecture was a structure of curves and cupolas. The Hellenic temple looked outwards towards an assembly in the open air; the Byzantine church looked inwards towards a congregation in the interior. The Haghia Sophia was the monumental protest of a generation which could no longer find inspiration in the Parthenon or in any of those things for which the Parthenon stood. In building an Haghia Sophia instead of a Parthenon, Anthemius was doing, in essence, what a Synesius or a Sidonius Apollinaris was doing when he became a bishop instead of remaining just a cultivated country gentleman, or an Augustine when he became a bishop instead of remaining just a professor of rhetoric, or an Ambrose or a Gregory the Great when he became a bishop instead of remaining just an Imperial official. In each of these cases a creative personality was breaking his way out of his hereditary social framework, in which his creative powers had been baulked, and was setting himself into a new framework in which these powers were offered an outlet.

Reluctant churchmen in late antiquity (old post).

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939


Celestial light

January 11 2015

Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

No footnote. Milton, Paradise Lost, Book III.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Paris

January 10 2015

Sarcelles

Sarcelles 2

Sarcelles. Via agingmodernism.wordpress.com.


~~~

January 1 2015

Back January 10.


Michael Kennedy

December 31 2014

Michael Kennedy is a great loss.

Telegraph obituary.

Telegraph appreciation by Michael Henderson.

Interview by Ivan Hewett of the Telegraph in early 2014.

If you took any interest in Barbirolli, Boult, Britten, Elgar, the Hallé, Mahler, Manchester, Strauss, Vaughan Williams or Walton, Michael Kennedy was part of your life.

“I could never understand,” Henderson quotes him as saying on Elgar, “how people could not hear the unhappiness that was always there for me in his music. I never read about that Elgar, so I thought I’d better write a book myself.” Kennedy’s marvellous Portrait of Elgar was an advance on everything previously written. He needed to write the book. I needed to read it.

I recognise what the Telegraph tells us about, including even his waspishness. But the sting was mild. What does it take to be an artist’s friend? Whatever it is, Kennedy had it. He was a close friend of Vaughan Williams during VW’s last years. He knew Barbirolli equally well. He had the measure of them and was the appointed biographer of both. He was not only a critic, he was a full journalist, editor of the Manchester edition of the Daily Telegraph from 1960 until it closed in 1986. His strength as a friend may have been a weakness as a critic. “My biggest failing as a critic is that I like music too much.”

I seem to remember that he stopped reviewing for Gramophone circa 1990 because at the height of the CD era he was given one perfectly acceptable recording of Don Juan after another, about which there was nothing much more to say.

There was a steeliness and stature in Kennedy, despite the unassumingness. It wasn’t reflected glory. I don’t think people felt it because he had known great men.

I had the privilege of meeting him and his wife, Joyce, at a semi-private commemoration of Susana Walton in 2011. He made a point of introducing her. She was from Hull. He married her after his invalid first wife Eslyn died, just as RVW had married Ursula after his invalid wife Adeline died.

He expressed some doubts, in our short conversation, about Tippett’s music, and, to my surprise, hadn’t been aware that there was a CD of Karajan playing Walton’s first symphony live with the Orchestra della radiotelevisione Italiana, Rome (it isn’t a revelatory performance). He must have known from Richard Osborne’s Conversations with Karajan that Karajan had a certain regard for Walton. I bought another copy of the CD afterwards, intending to send it to him, but I never did. I have it still as a spare.

Telegraph obituary: “He would rail against critics of musical elitism, accusing them of failing to aspire to high standards. ‘I want things to be elitist,’ he told Michael Henderson in 2001. ‘These days it seems that people don’t want to put any effort into understanding something.’”

I have delivered a more waspish version of that occasionally. All people who love music want to share it, but to those who say “You mustn’t be intimidated”, I have snapped “But you should be intimidated. You should be scared out of your wits.”

I will quote Michael Kennedy in future posts. He died on the last day of the Strauss anniversary.

Telegraph, op cit: “He heard [the Hallé] for the last time in November, at a concert conducted by Elder. He was frail, effectively lame, but music always restored his spirits. A programme of Butterworth, Bax and (of course) Elgar was capped by a marvellous performance of Sibelius’s fifth symphony. ‘What a work!’ he said as he was helped to his feet afterwards. And with that simple expression of gratitude, a lifetime’s dedication to music reached its end.”

Michael Kennedy by Cecile Elstein

Bronze by Cecile Elstein


Antony Hopkins

December 31 2014

A reminder of how lucid he was. Antony (sic) Hopkins (obiit May 6 2014), one of the great educators, was a writer and broadcaster about Western classical music, and a composer of operas, at least one ballet, and film scores. What most people remember him for was the radio programme Talking about Music, on the BBC Third Programme and later Radio 3 and later Radio 4, from 1954 to ’92. It was syndicated, apparently, to 44 countries. There is somebody in Iran today who remembers him.

Beulah have released six talks as downloads at Beulah and iTunes: on Franck’s Symphonic Variations, Beethoven’s 5th, Elgar’s Enigma, Mozart’s Jupiter, Beethoven’s violin concerto, Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto. Here’s the Rachmaninov (whose middle movement was used in Brief Encounter):

On Beethoven’s 5th, from an old LP:

On Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, via Radio 5, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation:

Date of the Beethoven symphony 1959, of other two not stated.

Telegraph obituary.


William Dalrymple

December 31 2014

One of Dalrymple’s heroes is Leigh Fermor. WD’s a fine historian, but not PLF’s literary equal. Books:

In Xanadu (1989), following the path taken by Marco Polo from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the site of Shangdu, Xanadu, in Inner Mongolia, the summer seat of Kublai Khan. Posts here: Xanadu and JeholThe Silk Road and Summer capitals, summer palaces.

City of Djinns (1994), about Delhi, where he lives.

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1997), about eastern Christianity. Posts here: Indian churches, Christians and Yazidi, and work back from links in latter.

The Age of Kali (1998), about trouble in modern India. Kali Yuga is the fourth age in Hindu cosmology.

Editor, Lonely Planet Sacred India (1999).

White Mughals (2002), about a love affair in early-nineteenth-century Hyderabad between James Achilles Kirkpatrick and a Muslim noblewoman, Khair-un-Nissa Begum.

Begums, Thugs and White Mughals – The Journals of Fanny Parkes (2002), an edition of the travel journals of Fanny Parkes, who travelled in India from 1822 to ’46 and wrote Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque.

The Last Mughal, The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 (2006).

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (2009).

Return of a King – The Battle for Afghanistan (2012), about the first Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-42.

Editor, with Yuthika Sharma, Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857 (2012). After Aurangzeb.

TV, radio, journalism.

___

Links to podcasts this year in the BBC Radio 4 Point of View series, with my comments:

A Lenten reflection, April 4. About the discovery, by a British hunting party in 1819, of the painted caves at Ajanta, in the western Ghats in central Maharashtra. “Along with the frescoes of Pompeii, […] the greatest picture gallery to survive from the ancient world.” The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks, but show the sensual life of the court in which the Buddha grew up, not the austerities of the religious life. They were probably painted in the 2nd century BC, with a later group from the 5th century CE. There was no conflict between the sacred and the sensual in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, says Dalrymple; he does not dwell on Hindu traditions of mortifying the flesh.

Later: Buddhist, Jain and Hindu carvings and fragments of paintings in caves at Ellora in Maharashtra. Buddhist and Hindu carvings in caves on Elephanta Island in Mumbai harbour. Erotic Jain and Hindu carvings at temples in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

The puritanical break in India, he suggests, came not with Islam, but with the British, with effects still felt today in a false reinterpretation of their history by Hindus. Africans and Muslims are doing the same thing with theirs. What is rejected as unMuslim and unAfrican is often nineteenth-century unWestern.

The locus classicus in modern Western art of wild eroticism united with religious sensibility is Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. Its original inspiration wasn’t Indian, but its title is a composite of two Sanskrit words, turanga and lîla, which, apparently, roughly mean “love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life, and death”. (How odd that Bernstein, who conducted the Boston premiere, never returned to it or recorded it.)

A tale of two elections, April 11. About the 2014 elections in India and Afghanistan.

Travel-writing giants, April 18. About Peter Matthieson, who had just died, and Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Last year in the same series, we had Islamo-Christian heritage, December 20 2013, about the old sharing of sacred space in Egpyt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, India by Christians, Muslims and Jews. I quoted from it here.

Islam did not tolerate Christianity: it showed great tenderness towards it. Dalrymple quotes examples from Akbar’s abortive capital at Fatehpur Sikri. Mary is mentioned more often in the Quran than in the Gospels. Many apocryphal sayings of Jesus were and are current in Islam.

Contested sites and the failure to share: Jerusalem and Ayodhya, the Temple Mount and Ram Janmabhoomi. Though the Israeli occupiers of the Temple Mount do enforce a ban on prayer by non-Muslims at its Umayyad structures, a ban which some orthodox Zionists would like to defy and nearly all Muslims demand.

Dalrymple on Akbar and Christianity, New Statesman, December 19 2005. Post here mentioning Akbar’s attempt to start a new syncretic religion, the Dīn IIāhī.


Todenhöfer on ISIS

December 30 2014

Seven thoughts from Jürgen Todenhöfer, whom I mentioned in the last post.

Some German commentary on world affairs seems worthy and provincial to Brits, but much of it is more serious and responsible than ours. This is only a short note, but it does not show the defects. But his reports are not deep, or wholly clear or consistent. There is an understandably hasty air to them. The full account, one assumes, will come.

Do German history and over-sensitivity to certain matters make a German analyst a more or a less reliable interpreter of events such as are unfolding in Iraq and Syria? On the whole, I think more.

Todenhöfer was brave to enter ISIS territory, and he has returned to tell the tale.

Whoever it was that said that the Bush-Blair invasion would produce a thousand Bin Ladens was right.


Damascus and Mosul

December 30 2014

Eddie Mair’s moving 36-minute interview, for any who missed it, with David Nott, a British doctor who has worked in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. And in other countries at war. PM Programme, BBC Radio 4, December 23. Nott’s political forecast for Syria was bleak in the extreme.

So was that of Jürgen Todenhöfer for Iraq and Syria. In 2014 he became the first Western journalist to travel extensively in ISIS-controlled territories and to return safely.


Sir Aurel’s frostbite

December 29 2014

The writer could still [in A.D. 1952] recapture the excitement to which he had been moved at the time by a lantern-lecture that Sir Aurel Stein had given at Oxford, in the great hall of the Examination Schools, at some date while the writer was an undergraduate (studia exercebat A.D. 1907-11). The panoramas of huge snow-covered mountain ranges would flash up in his visual memory, and he could recall how, when the lecturer had mentioned, in passing, that he had lost some toes there through frost-bite, the eager listener had recognized that he was in the presence of a discoverer who was indeed in earnest about his intellectual mission.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


The crucible of the Mahayana

December 28 2014

I  Alexander

Gautama Buddha and the founder of Jainism, Mahavira, both lived in a period of wars between local states in northern India in the 6th century BC. Gautama was born in what is now Nepal, Mahavira in Bihar.

What was the extent of Buddhism’s early influence in the Afghan or other domains of Achaemenid Persia?

In 326 BC Alexander the Great crossed the Indus (which the Persians had never done) and then the Jhelum or Hydaspes, the most western of the five rivers of the Punjab. At the Hydaspes Alexander defeated King Porus of Pauravas, an ancient country that soon afterwards fell to the Mauryans.

Another ruler, King Ambhi of Taxila, surrendered his city, already a Buddhist centre.

Alexander’s troops refused to advance further than the Beas, a tributary of the Sutlej, the easternmost of the five rivers.

II  Chandragupta

A Buddhist great power, the Mauryan Empire, emerged in India as the Achaemenid Empire fell.

After Alexander’s death in 323, Chandragupta Maurya (ruled 322-298) conquered Alexander’s briefly-held east-of-Indus satrapies with the help of a largely Persian army. Bactria, between the Hindu Kush and the Oxus, and Transoxiana, remained Greek. Both had belonged to the Achaemenids.

Chandragupta’s capital: Pataliputra (Patna).

III  Seleucus

Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian satrap of Alexander, established his authority as far as Bactria and the Indus and in 305 BC he fought Chandragupta. Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, ceding large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta: Arachosia (Kandahar), Gedrosia (Baluchistan), the Paropamisadae (Hindu Kush), but not Bactria or Transoxiana. Post here on the Paropamisadae.

Chandragupta then sold Seleucus 500 war-elephants (who used them to fight Antigonus I) and married Seleucus’s daughter to formalise an alliance. Seleucus sent an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta’s court. Relations continued between their successors.

Chandragupta was Jain. His successor Bindusara belonged to the Ajivika sect.

IV  Ashoka

Bindusara’s successor, Ashoka (reigned 269-32), embraced Buddhism and became a proselytiser of the traditional Theravada Pali canon.

His edicts, carved on pillars and rocks in various places in his empire, in the Kharoshti, Greek, Aramaic (Achaemenid) and Brahmi scripts, record the missions which he sent to Greeks and others.

V  Greek Bactrians

Meanwhile, the Seleucids were losing control of Bactria. It became the centre of an independent Greco-Bactrian kingdom c 256 BC, which extended into Transoxiana.

Capitals: Bactra (Balkh), Alexandria-on-the-Oxus (possibly Ai-Khanoum).

After the Brahmanical Sunga dynasty overthrew the Mauryans in 185 BC, the Greco-Bactrians invaded and conquered northwestern India with an army led by Demetrius.

VI  Indo-Greeks

The resulting Indo-Greek Kingdom lasted until AD 10 and was opposed in the east for its first century by the Sunga. Buddhism prospered, and it has been suggested that the Greek invasion of India was intended to protect the Buddhist faith from the persecutions of the Sunga.

Capitals: Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus (Kapisa or Bagram, Hindu Kush, north of Kabul), Sirkap (Taxila, Punjab), Sagala (Sialkot, Punjab), Pushkalavati (Charsadda, NWFP).

King Menander (reigned c 160-130 BC) became a student and patron of Buddhism. Were any Greco-Bactrian or Indo-Greek kings before him personally sympathetic to Buddhism?

VII  Greeks and Buddhism

The philosophers Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus are said to have accompanied Alexander. During the eighteen months they were in India, they were able to interact with Indian ascetics, described as Gymnosophists, naked philosophers.

At Sirkap, Buddhist stupas stand side-by-side with Hindu and Greek temples, suggesting religious tolerance and syncretism.

Early Mahayana theories of reality and knowledge may be related to Greek philosophical schools of thought.

The Milinda Panha is a Buddhist discourse in the platonic style, held between Menander and the Buddhist sage Nagasena.

The Mahavamsa records that during Menander’s reign, a Greek Buddhist abbot named Mahadharmaraksita led 30,000 monks from Alexandria (possibly in-the-Caucasus) to Sri Lanka for the dedication of a stupa.

There are Buddhist inscriptions by Greeks in India, such as that of the provincial governor Theodorus, describing in the Kharoshti script (and Pali language?) how he enshrined relics of the Buddha.

Coins of Menander and some of his successors show Buddhist symbols.

Buddhist tradition recognises Menander as one of the benefactors of the faith, together with Ashoka and Kanishka (below).

The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are often considered a result of Greco-Buddhist interaction. The earliest Buddhist art was aniconic: the Buddha was only represented through his symbols (an empty throne, the Bodhi tree, his footprints, the Dharma wheel, the triratna).

It was natural for the Greeks also to create a single common divinity by combining the image of a Greek God-King (Apollo, or possibly the deified founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius) with the attributes of the Buddha.

Stylistic elements in these representations point to Greek influence: the Greco-Roman toga-like wavy robe covering both shoulders (more exactly, its lighter version, the Greek himation), the contrapposto stance of the upright figures, the stylised curly hair and topknot (ushnisha) apparently derived from the Apollo of the Belvedere (c 335 BC), the measured quality of the faces.

During the following centuries, this anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha evolved to incorporate more Indian and Asian elements.

Several Buddhist deities may have been influenced by Greek gods. There are links between Greco-Persian and Buddhist cosmology.

The Buddha was known to the Church fathers. Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have been found in Alexandria in Egypt, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel. The presence of Buddhists in Alexandria at this time is important, since it was to be an intellectual centre of Christianity.

VIII  Successors of the Indo-Greeks

Greek rule in Bactria was extinguished c 125 BC by southward-migrating Sakas or Scythians and Yuezhi, both Indo-European speaking. The Yuezhi are later called Kushan.

At the beginning of the first century, the Yuezhi invaded the northern parts of Pakistan and India and founded the Kushan Empire, a contemporary of the Roman Empire.

The Kushan rulers (30-375) displaced the Indo-Greek kings, but their culture was Greek-influenced. They used the Greek script to write their Indo-European language. Their absorption of Greek historical and mythological culture is suggested by Kushan sculptures representing Dionysiac scenes and even the story of the Trojan horse and it is likely that Greek communities remained in India under Kushan rule. Capitals: Purushpura (Peshawar, main capital), Bagram, Taxila, Mathura.

The Greek-influenced Indo-European-speaking successors of the Indo-Greeks:

Indo-Scythian/Saka kingdoms, 110 BC-400 (final extinction)

Indo-Parthian Kingdom, 12 BC-before 100

Yuezhi/Kushan Empire, 30-375

Indo-Sasanians, 3rd century-410

Ephthalite or White Hun Empire, 5th-7th century; they belonged to the Central Asian Xionite hordes and were enemies of the Gupta and of the Sasanians

The Ephthalites controlled present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and territories to the north and are probably the ancestors of modern Pashtuns. Their power was broken by the Sasanians (Khosrau I) in and after 557 and by the Turkic steppe-dwellers.

The full religious mix before Islam has to take account of Buddhism, Greek paganism, Hinduism, Jainism, Manichaeism, Shamanism, Zoroastrianism. Even Judaism and Nestorianism.

IX  The Mahayana

The Kushan king Kanishka was famous for his religious syncretism and honoured Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha. He convened the Fourth Buddhist Council c AD 100 in Kashmir. His reign sees the earliest representations of the Buddha on a coin (c AD 120), and in a Hellenistic style. Kanishka also had the earliest Gandhari vernacular, or Prakrit, Mahayana Buddhist texts translated into the literary language of Sanskrit.

The sacred texts of Theravada Buddhism are written in Pali, a Prakrit or vernacular which is closely related to Sanskrit and to the language the Buddha spoke. The sacred texts of the Mahayana were translated from Sanskrit into local languages.

Buddhism expanded into East Asia soon after this. The Kushan monk Lokaksema visited the Han Chinese court at Luoyang in AD 178, and worked there for ten years to make the first known translations of Mahayana texts into Chinese. This was also the great age of Gandharan art (area around Taxila, northern Pakistan): subjects Buddhist, motifs Hellenistic. (Gandhara was originally the name of an ancient Vedic kingdom.)

Buddhism probably reached China from the Kushan Empire in the first century CE: from north India via the Punjab, Gandhara, the Hindu Kush, Bactria, Transoxiana/Sogdiana, and the Fergana valley (Kokand, Anijan). Then across the Tien Shan and into the Tarim basin (Kashgar, Khotan, Turfan). In other words, by linking to the Silk Road. A minority view is that it came to China by sea, entering by the Yellow and Huai rivers.

It entered by land via a region which had been partly hellenised. The interaction of Greek culture with Buddhism may have helped to determine the forms which Buddhism took in China. The Mahayana was eventually adopted in China, Siberia, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Mahayana goes beyond (or does it retreat from?) the ideal of the release from suffering, and the Nirvaṇa of the arhats, to elevate the Buddha to a God-like status and to create a pantheon of quasi-divine bodhisattvas devoting themselves to the salvation of their fellow human beings.

X  Decline of Buddhism

The interaction of Greek and Buddhist cultures operated over several centuries until it ended in the 5th century with the invasions of the anti-Buddhist Ephthalite or White Huns and later the expansion of Islam. In the Ephthalite empire Buddhism and Hinduism were still widespread, over a layer of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism.

In India proper, the decline of Buddhism is usually attributed to a steady Brahmanical reaction, which gathered pace late in the Gupta era. Invasions by Ephthalites and later by Muslims must have hastened it.

Has the Greek influence been exaggerated by western historians? Have they shown undue interest in it because it is easier for them to understand than complicated autochthonous Buddhist movements and schools?

XI  Arrival of Islam

The Arabs completed their conquest of Persia in 651. In Persia and up to the Indus, the Caliphs’ power was gradually lost to local rulers, mainly Sunni, who distantly acknowledged the Caliphate until the fall of Baghdad.

In 661-71 the Arab armies conquered Bactria (by now called Tokharistan), which had passed from the Greeks to the Scythians, Yuezhi (Kushans), Sasanians, Ephthalite Huns and Sasanians again (or had the post-Ephthalite settlement there been Turkish rather than Persian?). 

Transoxiana, where the post-Ephthalite settlement had been Turkish, followed in 706-15; here they suffered a setback, but in 739-41 they conquered Transoxiana definitively.

This put the Islamic state astride the overland route between India and China via the Oxus-Jaxartes basin.

The Arabs conquered, further

Baluchistan after Persia

Sindh and the Indus valley in 711 (Muhammad bin Qasim); capital: Mansura; Sindh later came under local dynasties (Habbari, then Soomro)

Southern Punjab from a base in Sindh, occupying Multan in 712.

They failed to occupy the Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul route to the Khyber Pass. Two small Hindu states in southern Afghanistan, mentioned below, stubbornly defended the approach to the Hindu Kush.

Their foothold even in the Punjab was precarious. A number of Hindu powers resisted them there. The area was eventually controlled by the Turkic Mamluk Ghaznavids and Persian Ghorids.

They tried to invade India, but were defeated by a coalition of post-Gupta Rajput dynasties in 738.

At the Talas River in 751 the newly-installed Abbasids came head to head with the Tang Chinese. If the Chinese had won the battle, they might have captured the Oxus-Jaxartes basin and reclaimed it from Islam or Zoroastrianism for Buddhism. But they lost, and their influence this far west subsided. They did not return to the Tarim basin until the Qing or Manchu; not even the Yuan governed it.

Before the Islamic conquest, Afghanistan was a religious mixture of Zoroastrianism, paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism (near Kabul) and others. There is no reliable information on when Hinduism began in Afghanistan, but the territory south of the Hindu Kush was probably culturally connected with the Indus Valley civilisation in ancient times.

Herat province, near Persia, was Islamised early on, but the Arabs dealt with a number of post-Sasanian, post-Ephthalite rulers who resisted them. South of the Hindu Kush were the Hindu Zunbil and Buddhist (later Hindu) Kabul Shahi dynasties.

We don’t know how much of the Afghan population accepted Islam immediately, but the Shahi rulers remained non-Muslim until they lost Kabul in 870 to the Persianate (old post) Saffarid Muslims of Sistan, capital: Zaranj. Later, the Persian Samanids (old post) from Bukhara in Transoxiana extended their Islamic influence into Afghanistan. Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the arrival of Ghaznavids from Ghazni in the late 10th century.

The Persian Samanids (819-999) presided over a revival of Persian civilisation in Samarkand and later Bukhara. They sponsored the first complete translation of the Quran into Persian.

The Persian Saffarids ruled in Persia and Afghanistan from 891 to 1003. Capital: Zaranj in Sistan, Persia/Afghanistan. They were eventually reduced to vassals of the Samanids.

By the 11th century, the entire population of Afghanistan was Muslim, except in Kafiristan, or Nuristan, in the east, whose inhabitants continued to practise an ancient form of Hinduism until Nuristan was conquered by the Emirate of Afghanistan in 1895.

The Turkic Ghaznavids controlled large parts of Persia, much of Transoxania, and the northern parts of India from 977 to 1186. Capitals: Ghazni in Afghanistan, Lahore in Pakistan. Their most famous ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni (reigned 998-1002), invaded and plundered India east of the Indus seventeen times. Capitals: Ghazni in Afghanistan, then Lahore.

The Tajik Ghorids (before 879-1215), originally central Afghanistan pagan, Sunni from 1011, were later the first Muslim power in Delhi and further east as far as Bengal: Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic plain in 1194, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, Delhi. Ghorid capitals: Firozkoh, Herat, Ghazni, those three now in Afghanistan, Lahore as winter capital.

In 1206 a former slave of Muhammad established the Sultanate of Delhi. His Mamluk (slave) dynasty was the first there. The Sultanate ended with the accession of the Timurid Babur, the first Mughal, in 1526. When the Mughals first arrived in India, they spoke a Turkic language. In adopting Persian, they inherited the language of the Perso-Turkic Delhi Sultanate.

Genghis Khan invaded Transoxiana and Bactria in 1219-20. Before his death in 1227, he assigned the lands of western central Asia to his second son Chagatai, and this region became known as the Chagatai Khanate. In 1369 Timur, of the Barlas tribe, became the effective ruler while continuing the ceremonial authority of Chagatai Khan’s dynasty, and made Samarkand the capital of his empire (1370-1507).

The first independent Islamic Kingdom in South India was the Bahmanid Sultanate (1347-1527). It broke up into five states known as the Deccan Sultanates.

The Arab conquests brought the demise of Buddhism in eastern Persia and greater Afghanistan, but in some places in Afghanistan, such as Bamiyan (Bamiyan province) and Hadda (site near Jalalabad), it survived until the 8th or 9th century. The Taliban dynamited two monumental Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan valley (6th and 7th centuries) in March 2001.

XII  Old posts:

Persian capitals before Islam

Transoxiana and Bactria

Indic and Hindu

Buddhism and Persia

Persia, 651-present

Toynbee and Ikeda 3

The Old World’s eastern roundabout

The Silk Road

NWFP, 1901-2010

Category:

Maps of Central Asia

Near Jalalabad

Picture credit: AfghaniDan; near Jalalabad

Silk Road

Picture credit: Luciana Di Floriano; Silk Road, probably Tien Shan mountains


Osmanli, Safavi, Timurid

December 27 2014

In 1555 [conclusion of the Ottoman-Safavid war] the Islamic World was larger than it had been in 1291 [siege of Acre and expulsion by the Mamluks of the last Crusaders from the Levant], and the greater part of it was now embraced politically in three large empires: the Osmanli (Ottoman) Turkish Empire in the Levant, the Safavi Empire in Iran, and the Timurid (mis-named Mughal) Empire in India. This was a remarkable sequel to the tribulations that the Islamic World had suffered between the year 1220 (the date of Genghis Khan’s invasion of Transoxania) and 1405 (the date of Timur Lenk’s death).

Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous


~~~

December 14 2014

Back December 27.


The four khanates

December 13 2014

Four Mongol khanates

The four khanates into which the Mongol Empire split after the death of Genghis Khan. Karakorum is the original Mongol capital. Shangdu is Xanadu. Dadu or Khanbaliq is Beijing. The Khanate of Persia is the Ilkhanate.


Buddhism in Persia

December 13 2014

Buddhism may have reached Balkh, now in Afghanistan, then under the Achaemenids, during or soon after the lifetime of the Buddha.

From the 2nd century Parthians such as An Shigao, were active in spreading Buddhism in China. Some of the earliest translators of Buddhist literature into Chinese were from Parthia.

The Sasanids persecuted the Buddhists when they came to power in AD 224 and promoted Zoroastrianism.

Surviving Buddhist sites were raided by the Ephthalites or White Huns, the nomadic confederation which at the height of its power (first half of 6th century) controlled territories in Transoxiana, Bactria, India, China.

Nevertheless, at the time of the Arab conquests, much of the eastern Iranian world was mainly Buddhist.

The Arab conquests brought the demise of Buddhism in eastern Persia and Afghanistan, but in some places, such as Bamiyan and Hadda (both Afghanistan), it survived until the 8th or 9th century.

In 1295 the Mongol ruler in Persia, Ghazan, was converted from Buddhism to Islam and made it the state religion of the Ilkhanate. He prohibited the practice of Buddhism, but allowed monks to go into exile in neighbouring Buddhist regions.


Persia, 651-present

December 13 2014

The Arabs complete their conquest of Persia in 651. Umayyad, Abbasid.

Abbasid power there is lost, except in name, to local kingdoms, some of Persian, some of non-Persian origin. Persianisation a reaction to Arabisation. “Persianate” rulers may or may not have been ethnically Persian.

Samarkand and later Bukhara played a role in a revival of Persian civilisation under the native Persian Samanid dynasty (Sunni, ruled Persia 819-999). The Samanids sponsored the first complete translation of the Quran into Persian.

Mongol invasion. The Mongol House of Hulagu sets up the Ilkhanate. Tabriz is one of its capitals.

Ilkhans are followed by the Turco-Mongol Timurids from Transoxiana (Tamerlane). Capital Samarkand, now in Uzbekistan. (It is a Timurid prince, Babur, who, pursued by a west-Siberian section of the Golden Horde, the Uzbeks, founds the Mughal dynasty in India.)

Then a Persian renaissance. The Ilkhans and Timurids had been Sunni. The Safavis are Twelver Shiite.

For four years (1511-14) the founder of the Safavi Empire, Shah Ismaʿil, threatened the Ottoman Empire with a repetition of the disaster that had been inflicted on it by Timur in 1402.

In 1598, the fifth Safavi, Shah Abbas I, moves his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan.

Afsharid, Zand, Qajar, Pahlavi dynasties follow. Allegiance to the Shia continues, but the Afshar make compromises with Sunni Islam.

The Afshar capital is Mashhad, Zand capitals Shiraz and Tehran. Tehran becomes sole capital in 1796 under Mohammad Khan Qajar. Persia is bled dry by Britain and Russia, but not officially colonised.

Then the revolution, violently Islamic: but Islam has never owned the whole of the Persian soul. Persia is a continuum under successive waves of Greek, Buddhist, Arab, Islamic (Arab and Islamic are not always the same thing), Turkic, Mongol and western culture.

Persia was also connected with China via the Silk Road. The Parthian and Sasanian empires had been in touch with the Han and Tang dynasties.

Iran

Credit: worldofmaps.net

Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous


Persian capitals before Islam

December 13 2014

Elamites. Susa.

Medes. Ecbatana.

Achaemenids. Their real capital was Susa, their ceremonial capital Persepolis, their summer capital Ecbatana (the old Median capital).

Seleucids. The first Seleucid Greek capital was Seleucia-on-Tigris. It was superseded by Antioch.

Parthians. The joint capitals were Ctesiphon-on-Tigris and Susa. Seleucia and Ctesiphon are now in Iraq, south of Baghdad on opposite sides of the Tigris. Susa was briefly taken by Trajan and was the easternmost point reached by the Romans.

Sasanians. Ctesiphon was also the Sasanian capital. It fell to the Arabs.

The ruins of Ctesiphon were the site of a major battle in 1915 between the British and Ottoman empires. The ruins of Persepolis were the site of the monstrous celebration of 2,500 years of Iran’s monarchy staged by the Shah in 1971.

The five cities are all on this map of the Parthian Empire (Encyclopaedia Britannica, low resolution):

Parthia map

Ctesiphon ruin, 1864

Remains of the Sasanian White Palace, Ctesiphon, 1864

Post on Dura-Europos on the Euphrates.


Translator of the Quran

December 13 2014

Telegraph obituary of NJ Dawood, the translator of the Quran for EV Rieu’s Penguin Classics in 1956. “When [the volume] appeared in the bookshops, few people in the English-speaking world had even heard of The Koran.” It is still in print.

Also of two selections from the Arabian Nights for Penguin in 1954 and 1957. And of the Muqaddimah for Princeton in 1967.

He was an Iraqi Jew, born in Baghdad, who came to England in 1945.

An old post about English translations (interpretations, many Muslims would prefer to say) of the Quran is here. It contains a link to a New Statesman article which criticises Dawood and praises MAS Abdel Haleem (Oxford World’s Classics, 2004). It also has a link to a piece by Robin Yassin-Kassab, whose judgment I trust, which praises Muhammad Asad (Dar al-Andalus, 1980) without mentioning Dawood.


The Cretan villa 4

December 12 2014

At the east end of the Island of Crete on the 19th March, 1912, as he rounded the shoulder of the last mountain on his path from Khandrà to Palaíkastro, the […] twentieth-century Western student of History suddenly sighted the ruins of a baroque villa – built, by the look of it, for one of the last of the Venetian governors of Candia – which, had it been erected on English and not on Cretan soil, would probably then still have been inhabited by the descendants of its original occupant, but which in Crete in A.D. 1912 was already a relic of “Ancient History” on a par with the ruins of the Minoan imperial palace at Cnossos which the twentieth-century English wayfarer had been visiting a week since. As he stood staring at this Jacobean country house, where the Modern Western Civilization in which he himself lived and moved and had his being had suffered the pangs of death on Cretan soil a quarter of a millennium ago, the spectator had an experience which was the counterpart, on the psychic plane, of an aeroplane’s sudden deep drop when it falls into an air-pocket. On that spot on which Time had stood still since the eviction of the Venetians by the ʿOsmanlis in the War of Candia (gerebatur A.D. 1645-69), the spectator was suddenly carried down in a “Time-pocket” from a day in the year A.D. 1912 to a day in the fifth decade of the seventeenth century on which History, in that house, had come abruptly to an end in an evacuation without any sequel except solitude and decay.

The Cretan villa

The Cretan villa 2

The Cretan villa 3

Another Time-pocket: Ephesus.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Like to the damask rose

December 11 2014

Elgar, 1892, from Seven Lieder, published 1907. Poem by Francis Quarles (1592-1644) called Hos ego versiculos; also attributed to Simon Wastell (1560-1635) with the name The flesh profiteth nothing. August 4 2013, Dutch Music Barn, (dutchmusicbarn.com), Jacobine van Laar soprano, Marisa Thornton-Wood piano.

The piano clangs rather at the start (David Owen Norris is also manic here), but nicely enough sung.


Summer capitals, summer palaces

December 10 2014

The Sarawat mountains run down the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. Sarat al-Hejaz, Sarat Asir, Sarat al-Yemen.

Taʿif is in the Hejaz section, 100 km southeast of Mecca. The ruling family and much of the government are said to go there during the summer to escape the heat of Riyad. Taʿif is cool. Coastal Jeddah, on nearly the same latitude, hot and humid. Inland Riyad is hot and dry.

Taʿif is known for grapes, pomegranates, figs, roses, honey. The family of Hani Hanjour, the 9/11 hijacker-pilot who crashed into the Pentagon, ran a lemon and date farm there.

There are more grapes at Hofuf in the Eastern Province.

Taʿif, like Mecca and like Al-Qullays, was a religious centre which attracted pilgrims before the Prophet: it housed the idol of Allat, the lady of Taʿif, who was also one of the trinity of goddesses worshipped in Mecca.

It was near the site of Muhammad’s victory at the battle of Hunayn in 630. The Sharif of Mecca capitulated to Selim I at Taʿif in 1517, a surrender undone by the British four hundred years later.

___

Ecbatana. The Achaemenids had the old Median capital as their summer capital. Their real capital was Susa, their ceremonial capital Persepolis. (Seleucia-on-Tigris was the first capital of the Seleucid Empire, though it was officially superseded by Antioch. Ctesiphon-on-Tigris, opposite Seleucia, and Susa were the joint capitals of Parthia. Susa was briefly taken by Trajan and was the easternmost point reached by the Romans. Ctesiphon was also the Sasanian capital, and fell to the Arabs.)

Xanadu. The summer capital (1271-94) of Kublai Khan, the Mongol founder of the Yuan dynasty in China, after he moved his permanent capital from Xanadu (Shangdu) to Khanbaliq (Dadu), present Beijing. Destroyed by the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming, in 1369. Old posts: Xanadu and Jehol and Foreigners in Cathay.

Simla. The summer capital (1864-1939), in the Himalayan foothills, of the British in India. Over a thousand miles away from Calcutta. (Much nearer to Delhi.) Old post. Wikipedia says that before 1864 the summer capital was even further away, at Murree, a pleasant, often snowy, spot in the Margalla Hills, near Rawalpindi, and now in Pakistan. But wasn’t it the regional government of the Punjab province that moved there in the summer? A cool retreat much closer to Calcutta would have been Darjeeling. Was that too inaccessible?

In the middle of the 19th century, San Sebastián, near Biarritz, became a summer capital for the Spanish monarchy. Franco spent his summers there.

The hill station of Baguio in the northern mountains of Luzon was the summer capital of the Philippines during the American occupation (1898-1946).

Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley is still the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The winter capital is Jammu.

Sochi, on the Black Sea, is described as the summer capital of Russia. Before 1991, resorts in the Crimea could play that role. Now they can presumably play it again.

___

Murree beer was made in Murree when the Murree Brewery was founded in 1860. In (I believe) 1910, the plant was moved to Rawalpindi. There is also one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP), which I thought was too strict nowadays to allow this kind of thing. It was Bhutto, in 1977, not Zia, who made Pakistan dry. The Christian, Hindu, and Parsi communities were not large enough to support the Murree enterprise, and production had to be cut back.

But the laws are not very strictly enforced. The last few times I was in Pakistan (2004-06), I had to sign a declaration in hotels that I required the beer (or the local whisky, also made by Murree Brewery) for medicinal purposes. It was then handed over in a black bag. I don’t recall the form requiring me to state that I was a non-Muslim. The medical ruse, I suppose, allowed it to be sold to anyone, irrespective of religion.

Of course, part of the moneyed middle class, especially in Karachi, and of the military class and the “feudal” class, drinks quite a lot and gets its hands on foreign liquor. Musharraf’s two loves, it has been said, are dogs and whisky.

I am convinced that Murree is how beer used to taste. At least the Murree that I remember (there has been some product diversification). It’s the subaltern’s beer, still being made. But one bottle could (it must be said) taste and look disconcertingly different from another.

It isn’t exported, which doesn’t stop them from producing an Export Pils, but in 2013, Murree Brewery opened a franchise, run by a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, which allows its brewing, bottling and marketing in India.

___

A family and a few courtiers might go to a summer palace. A large part of a civil service might migrate to a summer capital. This is what I understand happened with Simla and Baguio and happens with Srinagar. What about Sochi? Does it really still happen with Taʿif? Why migrate when there is air conditioning?

Roman and Byzantine emperors had summer palaces. The pope has Castel Gandolfo.

Peter the Great built one in St Petersburg, and Elizabeth of Russia another – and the Winter Palace.

There were two summer palaces at Tsarskoye Selo. Catherine I built the Catherine Palace, Catherine the Great the Alexander Palace.

Frederick the Great built Sanssouci in Potsdam. Maria Theresa was given Schönbrunn.

___

Construction of the complex of gardens and palaces in Beijing known as the Old Summer Palace began in 1707 under the Kangxi Emperor (Qing). He intended it as a gift for his fourth son, the future Yongzheng Emperor, who would expand it in 1725. The Qianlong Emperor (same generation as Elizabeth and Frederick) did further work.

The Old Summer Palace, with its many ancient books and works of art, was destroyed by the British and French in the Second Opium War, causing the Imperial Court to relocate to the Forbidden City.

The vast nearby Summer Palace, also in Beijing, had its origin in a palace built by the Jurchen (Jin dynasty) emperor Wanyan Liang in the 12th century. It remained in use under the Yuan. (What did the Ming do with it?) The Qianlong Emperor built much of what we see now. The Old Summer Palace had been built by his grandfather the Kangxi Emperor (hence, I suppose, “Old”). The Summer Palace was badly damaged by the British and French, but not completely destroyed.

Both of these were outside the walls of the Inner City. Did Summer Palace connote “without the walls”? The Forbidden City was within the walls.

On the history of Peking, its walls, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, see posts here and here.

___

Essences from damask roses grown in Taʿif can cost thousands of pounds a bottle. I was with a friend in a perfumery in Jeddah in summer 2009. I couldn’t understand the Arabic courtesies and chatter exchanged between him and the owner, his friend, and not since childhood have I felt so trapped in a conversation that I could neither follow, nor contribute to, nor end. The light turned rosy as the evening approached, and a few miles away my friend’s plane waited for us on the tarmac at the airport like a patient camel.

A perfect Taʿif rose (image).


Margaret Aston

December 9 2014

Telegraph obit.

Author of The Fifteenth Century: The Prospect of Europe in the distinguished Thames & Hudson series of the ’60s and ’70s (among several: I miss series), the Library of European Civilization.

And of much else.

Hunter’s Rulers of India.


GM Trevelyan on film

December 8 2014

In his study in Cambridge, appearing at two or three moments in this Pathé newsreel about the year 1945. Contains disturbing images. Narration: Bob Danvers-Walker.


The high meadows of Hunza

December 8 2014

Guardian and Telegraph obituaries of Raleigh Trevelyan.

Born in the Andaman Islands, grew up under the Raj, descendant of Walter Raleigh, of whom he wrote a biography, and of Macaulay. And of Macaulay’s nephew George Otto Trevelyan of The Competition Wallah, and many other Trevelyans, and related to GM Trevelyan.

Guardian, by a relative, James Trevelyan:

“Raleigh’s yearning to revisit his childhood home at Gilgit, in Pakistan took him back to the country in the last years of his life, following his father’s footsteps to the high polo meadows of Hunza, a trek considered too dangerous for him when he was there as a boy.”

A few weeks ago, I was given his The Golden Oriole, which looks like a very rich social history of the Raj, not only based on family papers. I’ll be reading it at Christmas.

He also wrote two books about his experiences in Italy during the war, The Fortress: A Diary of Anzio and After and Rome ’44.

An immersion in clear, cool and still waters (old post).