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CONTENTS

 

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INTERNATIONAL KNOWLEDGE UNLIMITED

 

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Sassanian dish

 

 

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Tomb of Firdowsi

 

 

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Bishapur

 

 

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Falconer

 

 

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Uigurs

 

 

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Uigur making "tortellini"

 

 

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Khotanese girl

 

 

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The Registan of Samarkand

 

 

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Uigur silk

 

 

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Towards the Shandur Pass in Pakistan

 

 

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Kirghiz dry fruit seller

 

 

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Kunlun Shan Mountains

 

 

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The Aornus river in India

 

 

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The Kopet Dag, Turan

 

 

 

 

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Chess pieces from Nishapur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the facts which I list above under the heading of "REFLECTIONS", were know to more people than a bunch of silent researchers, we might not have the distorted world view which prevails today, and which is causing the collapse of the civilization which started in Akkad 5.500 years ago and culminated in the English speaking world of today.

 

 

 

 

 

ARISTOTLE

 

 

 

AVICENNA OF BUKHARA

 

 

 

AL-FARABI OF BUKHARA

 

 

 

GO BACK

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THE MAKING OF THE WEST

REFLECTIONS ON THE CULTURAL ROOTS OF EUROPE

Foreword

I have been concerned with the study of the nature and “evolution” of human culture practically ever since I began to read, in 1944.  In 1965 I started a more systematic study of this subject, which I carried out both in the field and on books. In the summer of 1990 I went on an exploration of Central Asia, as a guest of the University of Urumqi, Xinjiang. During that journey I came to realise things that prompted a number of reflections especially on the origins and nature of European culture. This topic is usually tackled by most researchers and writers with a complete lack of understanding of a number of crucial facts which have occurred through the centuries in the easternmost part of the European cultural era. The European cultural area reaches, in fact, the borders of China and Mongolia. Studying the history of Europe while ignoring the crucial events that shaped it, simply because they occurred outside the conventional borders of Europe is, to put it gently, highly irrational and fruitless.

MY REFLECTIONS

Old World civilisations developed, grew up and regenerated thanks to continuous invasions of mounted nomads who, at intervals, took over to become the aristocracies of sedentary nations.

The invading minority gradually merged with indigenous population, to become subject to fresh invaders later:

The horse was domesticated in the European steppe –not in Asia- and (probably since Palaeolithic times) it served as a means of transport for tribes of pastoralists who reached as far as Eastern Siberia.

The horse also served as draught animal to Early farmers who from the Ukraine spread their culture, and sometimes also their genes, as far as Mongolia and the northern Pacific coast and islands.

The expansion of Early Farming cultures of Middle Eastern origins occurred eastwards as well as westwards. A fact which is generally overlooked in textbooks concerning the Neolithic period.

Neolithic cultures of the Pontic region (Moldova, Ukraine) gradually spread as far as China and the Altai region. The Loulan mummy, of a genetically Caucasian woman carrying western wheat and western material culture found on the edge of the Gobi Desert is a sign of such cultural spread.

Along side these farming Eurasian cultures, pastoral nomads developed their own culture and way of life, gradually becoming a self-reliant economy during the Bronze Age. Soon after, armies of mounted warriors and charioteers appear on the scene in the Middle East and central Europe.

At the dawn of history early Eurasian trade was in the hands of nomads. In Asia, as well as in Africa, nomad nations grew prosperous on arid lands for this precise reason.

Contrary to widespread common places, urban civilisation did not arise from the development of farming –many farming cultures never developed a civilization - but from the growth of trade. The “mobile nations” were instrumental in the growth of trade.

North Iranian cultures such as the Scythians, the Sakas, the Massagetae and the Sarmatians, who roamed inner Eurasia, controlled all communications and cultural exchange between the settled civilisation of China, India, Persia, Mesopotamia and Greece and Rome.

The Central Asian nations of Bactria, Sogd, Ghandara, the Kushan and Hephtalite Empires, grew rich on poor lands on the crossroad of Eurasian civilisations. Toynbee calls this area “The Roundabout of Civilisations”.

Sino-Tibetans, Turks and Mongols whose ancestors were hunters and gatherers, roaming to the north or of the Steppe zone, gradually became mixed with Scythian and Iranian peoples, until they become majorities. Perhaps “racial” or other conflicts arose between groups creating unrest in the heart of Asia and causing continual migration towards the south and West by hordes of Caucasians called Scythians, Sakas, Sauromatians etc.

Turmoil in Central Asia always had repercussions upon the settled civilisations around the rim of the continent.

The invasions of the Dorians in Greece, of the Italics in Italy, of the Celts in central-northern Europe, of the Hyksos in Egypt, together with the numerous invasions in the Near East, Iran, India, China and Japan, have as protagonists, mounted warriors who often succeeded in forming the leadership in the invaded countries.

It is a fact that from a very early age, the aristocracies in all these nations are formed by “knights” or by classes claiming knightly ascendancy. The Greek aristocracy as well as the Roman claimed knightly ascendancy.

The Celts of Danebury, in the south of England, practised horse sacrifices which are only understandable through the reading of the Rig Veda. Many aspects of Celtic civilisation suggest a common background with Zoroastrian cultures. Present-day cultural research proves that such link is strong.

Celtic images show men in a “tantric” pose, and the Druids –for Caesar’s accounts- seem one and the same with the Magi of Persia.

Bronze and Iron Age European Hill-forts show the same characteristics as earlier Central Asian Bronze Age hill-forts.

Starting from the first centuries of our era, predominantly Sino-Tibetan, Mongol and Turkic mounted nations begin the final push-out of the predominantly “Caucasians” or Indo-European speakers, from the heart of Eurasia.

Hordes of Eurasians began to move westwards, crossing the frozen river in winter, while in the summer, long-ships sailed to the north-west along the same rivers, reaching the Baltic sea.

Eurasian Indo-European speakers reached the Rhine, the North Sea and the lands of the extreme west. The Goths, the Alans, the Vandals from Central Asia reach the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, pursued by the Avars, the Huns, the Bulgars, the Magiars and finally the Turks and Mongols.

Particular breeds of sheep, horse, the water buffalo, mozzarella and….pasta, such as ravioli and tortellini, reach Italy with hordes of  Bulgars, Alans and Goths. Ravioli are still the national dish of Kashgaria.

The last Indo-European speakers to be pushed out of China were the Tocharians. They reached the Pamir and conquered  Sogdia and Bactria: the crossroad of civilisations.

Sometimes called “Kushans”, other times  “Indo-Scythians”, these people created a great trading empire in Sogd, Bactria and Ghandara. From the same areas also came the ancestors of the Khazars and Bulgars.

It was in the region between the Aral sea, the Pamir and Persia, that most of the fundamental traits of Central Asian cultures developed and synthesised  elements which were soon provide the stuff of Medieval European culture. This is the area where elements of Hellenism had survived since Alexander’s conquest.

Central Asian cultural traits reached Western Europe along a northern avenue: the Steppe belt, along a southern one, the desert belt and via Byzantium.

The Goths, the Sarmatians, the Alans, the Avars and others, carried Central Asian culture to the Atlantic West along the northern avenue,  reaching as far as Ireland.

Along the southern, or desert belt, the Arabs, having conquered the “Roundabout of Civilisations” and absorbed the Sassanian, Sogdian and Indo-Greek civilisation, carried it westwards, as far as Spain.

Chivalry, the castle, what we call “feudalism”, monasticism, medieval monarchy, falconry, ‘Indian’ numerals, the bill of exchange and the double  entry book, the game of chess, the chanson the geste, the madrigal, and the novel, hitherto unknown in the Classical West, make  their appearance, having carried west from their Eastern Iranian and Turanian homelands.

Sanskrit and Byzantine texts speak of relationships between Hellenic ascetics such as Apollonius of Thiana and Kushan ascetics.  A good source for such relationships is “De gentibus Indiae et bragmanibus” by Pseudo-Palladius. The oldest monastic rules appear to have been influenced by the earlier Buddhist rules of Sogdia and Bactria. St. Augustine had been a Manichaean before becoming a Catholic, his culture was “Oriental”.

Western monasticism derives ultimately from Buddhist and Zoroastrian monasticism. The monks of Ireland model themselves on Zoroastrian and Buddhist examples from the Oxus, the Upper Indus and Ganges area. Such tradition suited the way of life of the Druids. The earliest Christian monastic rules are modelled upon pre-Christian rules derived from earlier Buddhist rules.

The cities of the Roman Empire, not only in northern Europe, but also in Italy, nearly all destroyed during the Gothic Wars and systematically razed to the ground by the Langobards, were resettled and re populated by  Jews, Greeks, Syrians, Armenians, Copts and Iranian Christians from the Near East and North Africa, who were escaping from Islam. Traders and craftsmen from the Levant were to lay the foundations for the development of European economy.

Visigoths, and also Levantine financial organisations (Jews, Syrians, Armenians, Egyptians) who had long been settled in the Roman cities of  Gaul and Iberia, brought over to France and Spain architects and builders from the Hellenized, Armenian, Iranian and Aramaic-speaking world to erect the first stone buildings in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. The first churches built of stone on the Loire and in the North of Spain, were modelled on Armenian and Syrian examples, and probably were erected by Syrians and Armenian architects.

Later Romanesque art and architecture in Europe is the result of a mixture of misunderstood Classical, Persian and Hellenised Indo-Scythian art.

Nestorian missionaries had brought the Syrian alphabet and the Aramaic language of the Persian world beyond the Pamirs into China and Manchuria, making communications  easier, and providing the basis for the development of Central Asian literacy.

Syrian writing provides the basis for the alphabets of nations such as the Mongol, the Turkish and the Tibetan.

Runes appear first in Central Asia, probably as a result of contacts with Syrian scripts. Herules, Alans, Bulgars, Turks and Magiars  adopted runic scripts which show common roots with Norse and Gothic runic scripts. The latter being totally unrelated to Mediterranean scripts  such as the Etruscan or the Latin.

Clovis, the earliest monarch of Western Europe, like his Byzantine contemporaries, styled himself on the Sassanian monarch of the time. The “feudal” system of society, intended as a hierarchy of knights, developed among the mounted nomadic hordes of northern Eurasia, and a system of land tenure identical to that of Medieval Europe, existed in Sassanian Persia. It is exactly on these structures that European civilization styled itself later on.

In Samarkand and Bukhara  the bill of exchange and the double entry book were adopted by Sogdians centuries before they were introduced into Europe by Syrian and Jewish traders resident in Italy. European trading cities owe their prosperity to the privileged relationships they enjoyed with the east by virtue of the fact that resident traders were in the main of Middle Eastern origins. These came to form the main Italian bourgeois families of the Renaissance such as for example the Medici.

European chivalry was carbon copied on Sarmatian, Sogdian and Sassanian antecedents, reaching the British Isles with Sarmatian auxiliary troops and being transmitted to European Crusaders by Armenian mercenaries in the Middle East. Along with them came falconry, and medieval hunting in general.

Early European poetry and literature clearly show a derivation from northern Persian tradition. Persian texts translated into Greek in Syria were carried to Europe by immigrants and traders. Dante’s “Divina Commedia” is unquestionably modelled on an Avestan  text known as “Arda Viraf”, after this had been made available in the West by Arab translations from 1262 onwards.

Finally, how many Europeans of Yiddish descent know that they are likely to have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel, but are  instead the descendants of a Central Asian horde of “White Turks”, who converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages? The Khazars of Central Asia were the main trading partners of the Vikings, they were originally pagan and when they decided to  convert to one of the main religions they chose Judaism.

The Jewish Khazar Empire succumbed to the Arabs, and the population dispersed throughout Central Asia, the Ukraine, Russia, and Eastern Europe becoming the Yiddish Jews.

Many Jewish and Arab scholars active in Spain were Iranian natives or second and third generation immigrants from Sogdia, Bactria, Kohrasan. The Greek academies instituted by Alexander in Persia and Central Asia survived the 6th century closure of academies in the Byzantine world and it was from these surviving academies that Greek culture spread to Baghdad, to Syria, to Iranian centres of learning, to Alexandria and finally to Spain.

Wile sources become accessible to western scholars it appears more and more evident that post classical European culture owes as much to Iran and Central Asia as it does to the Classical West.

Giovanni Caselli                                       December 2000

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 Uigur women flattening the dough for "fettuccine"

 

FURTHER REFLECTIONS:

RECENT EVENTS CAUSED BY A CRIMINAL ATTACK ON NEW YORK BY SIMPLE AND BACKWARD MEN WHO, FALING TO JOIN GLOBAL CIVILIZATION AS THEY WISHED, DECIDED TO OBEY THE ORDERS OF AN EQUALLY FRUSTRATED ARAB PETROL TICOON AND OF A MAD EGYPTIAN DOCTOR, LEAD ME TO FURTHER REFLECTIONS, WHICH ARE THE FOLLOWING:

IF MOST PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD WERE NOT IGNORANT OF THE FACT THAT JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND  ISLAM ARE THE PRODUCTS OF ONE INDIVISIBLE CULTURE, THE ONE THAT CREATED THE GLOBAL CIVILIZATION AND WHICH HAS ITS APEX IN THE  ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD, WE WOULD NOT REGARD THE ABOVE CRIMINALS AS “THE REPRESENTATIVES OF AN ALTERNATIVE CULTURE",  BUT THE PRODUCTS OF A BACKWARD FRINGE OF SOCIETY.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE PALADINES OF THE ABOVE GLOBAL CIVILIZATION,  WHICH OWES TO MESOPOTAMIA, TO THE GREEKS, TO PERSIA, TO INDIA, TO CHINA AND TO ALL WORLD CULTURES, FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME THROUGH THE RENAISSANCE AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT, ARE OBTUSE BIGOTS OR SIMPLE MEN AND WOMEN WITH EXTREMELY LIMITED INTELLECTUAL ABILITIES, AND THUS RESORT TO WAR IN A HOPELESS ATTEMPT TO SETTLE INTERNATIONAL PROBLEMS.

THE ONLY WEAPON THAT CAN SUCCESSFULLY FIGHT IGNORANCE AND BACKWARDNESS IS WISDOM. 

WILL SUCH PEOPLE BE OUR FUTURE LEADERS ? 

THE COLLAPSE OF EDUCATIONAL AND AESTHETIC STANDARDS, AND THE GENERAL DECAY OF CULTURE, CAUSED CHIEFLY BY TELEVISION AND BY THE DISEASE OF CONSUMERISM.  HAS IRREPARABLY UNDERMINED ALL THAT HAD BEEN ACHIEVED BY MANKIND UP TO THE 20th CENTURY.

WE ALL TOO OFTEN HEAR AND READ THE STATEMENTS OF BIGOTS, RELIGIOUS LEADERS, MORALISTS, DICTATORS, BUSINESSMEN AND POLITICIANS, BUT WE SELDOM HEAR THE STATEMENTS OF ENLIGHTENED LAY MEN AND WOMEN OF INTELLECT.

WHERE ARE YOU, PHILOSOPHERS, HISTORIANS, ARTISTS AND SCIENTISTS OF TODAY'S WORLD? SPEAK UP !

LET US RAISE OUR VOICES AND TERRORIZE DECEIT, IGNORANCE AND BACKWARDNESS.