DATE: 6:30:00 AM
What If History was Written Fairly?
I was browsing in a bookstore when I saw this book called "What If?", subtitled "The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been". I had seen the volume two of it before, and found at least one of the what ifs (What if Pontus Pilate Spared Jesus?) rather fascinating!
One of the articles, written by this sole named Victor Hanson who is a professor of Classics in California State University, Fresno (which would not make him one of "the World's Foremost MILITARY historians"). His article was named "No Glory that Was Greece: The Persians Win at Salamis; 480 BC". In it, he proceeds to guess what if that had happened, which is a legitimate and very interesting question too. This is not the place to point out again that the Greco-Persian wars were naturally much more important for Greeks than for Persians, who probably considered it a local conflict in one corner of their empire. The problem is, our dear professor takes a good three pages to thoroughly insult and degrade 4000 years of Near Eastern history in the process of his prediction. I should add here that if I was Greek, I would have been furious about the fact that a professor in California thinks my whole civilisation depended on one single battle!
There are interesting passages when he expresses his horror and says that if Persians had won, there would not have been anything such as "freedom" or "citizen" in the vocabulary of the world (certainly! Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians and Elamites had NO idea about city-states). Instead of free thinking and real science, we would have only had "subsidized sciences" such as astronomy (take that Khayyam and Copernicus). That women would have been under a vail all around the world (I just heard Azermeydokht having a heart attack).
He also completes his guess by getting excited about the Athenians sending Themistocles (the victor of Salamis) to exile and predicting that if that ever happened in Iran to a ruler, they would have just disembowel the rebels who dared do such things to the king (apparently our esteemed author could not be bothered to read the history of Khosrow II Aparviz). Other than the fact that Themistocles' unabashed betrayal of his own people is rather a cause of grief than jubilation, the amazing thing is that the author seems to be living in a bubble world where the Greeks are perfect angels, apparently never engaged in anything remotely like the Peloponesian Wars or massacre of their own Ionian kin. In the process of claiming all analytical and logical sciences for the "exceptional civilisation" of Europe and its saviour, the Greeks, he also manages to dismiss people like Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes who were the inspiration for St. Thomas of Aquinas or Espinoza (funny enough, Aquinas and Espinoza and Erasmus and such never had any problems admitting this! It is their "modern" offspring who finds it hard to look beyond Europe!).
In short, his article reads like a piece of 19th century self-serving and highly prejudiced colonialist historiography, the kind that called Islam "Mohammedanism", such as the ones written by Sir John Malcolm or Rawlinson, and it is amazing that it gets to be published in a book that hits the bookstores in the 21st century. Apparently publishers have a hard time cutting through the status quo of social sciences and provide some real information to the people.
Anyway, I wrote the following email to our foremost military historians and am waiting for some kind of reply. Let's see if any would be coming!
Dear Prof. Hanson:
My name is Khodadad Rezakhani, and I read your article in the "What If?" book about the Battle of Salamis with interest. I enjoyed the article immensely, and I wonder if it is complete.
I am sorry that the Greeks did not invade Persia and rid us of the shame of having to deal with the legacy of people like Zarathushtra, Artabazan, Adharburzinmehr, Borzoi, Azarfaranbay, Surena, Mehran, Avicenna, Farabi, Biruni,Khayyam, Ibn Athir, Jaber, Razi, Ibn Khaldun, Averroes and such!
I guess you never thought that the children of those "zealots" with their "subsidized sciences" would be able to read English and wonder about modern open-mindedness and cultural prejudice! I wonder if you considered St. Thomas of Aquinas and Erasmus and Espinoza when writing that article and noticed the numerous references they make to Averroes and Avicenna and other unreasonable pseudo-scientists with no ability to analyze philosophy who had no originality and for a thousand years just translated the masterpieces of Greek philosophers for no reason apparently (they had no ability to analyze and understand them themselves anyway).
The originality of Greek mind is unprecedented and Greeks of ancient times managed to come up with their wonderful ideas entirely on their own and without a consideration of their Indo-European background and their contacts with the savage zealots of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Everyone in the ancient world just made pseudo-science and all waited for Athenians to take a break from conspiring against the Spartans and Corinthians and find enough time to create civilisation and then go back into killing each other!
May I suggest you have a look at Eric Wolf's "Europe and the People Without History" and James Blaut's "The Colonizers' Model of the World"?