In your original post, you are expected to make appropriate and accurate references to historical events or trends (actual events, places, dates, names). Doing this is an important part of the score. You may use any information at your disposal, from the textbook and the assigned source readings, or you may supplement your remarks with the knowledge you have from elsewhere.
2. Make at least Two Reply Posts to at least two of your peers (20% each for a total of 40% of the score). So you will make a minimum of three total posts; you may of course post more than three times if you wish.
Your reply comments are expected to include at least 75 words each. Please include a word count.
If you disagree, explain why, and provide historical detail to support your objections.
Or you could agree, and add more supplementary historical material to back up what the original poster is saying.
It is possible to neither fully agree nor disagree and to simply complicate the issue by raising more questions and points of view.
Simply repeating what you said in your original post is not good enough; I will look for some significant additional ideas from you. To encourage this variety, I require that each of your two reply posts must be on a different topic. So, for example, if your original post is on topic B, your two reply posts could be one on A and the second on D (see how they are two completely different topics?) You may post more than three times if you want to continue engaging on a topic you’ve posted on before. If you do that, I’ll score the best of your posts on a given topic.
3. Finally, remember that my hope is that you will enjoy thinking about these issues and posting. I neither require nor expect perfection, so there’s no need to stress. I’ve asked questions that I myself think would be fun to talk about with someone, and that you could actually relate to your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Hopefully, you think so, too.
HERE ARE YOUR CHOICES:
A. MY IMAGINARY LIFE. It takes a serious stretch of the imagination to picture yourself living 3,000 to 6,000 years (or longer) ago, in a completely different part of the world and environment. But maybe you were doing just that as you read about the ancient societies over the past two weeks. Whether or not you were, I invite you to use your imagination now: If you were doomed to be suddenly and mysteriously transported to live the rest of your life in one of the societies covered in these past two weeks, which would be your preferred destination? Explain the reasons for your preference in some detail, with reference to actual historical facts, places, and events. It’s always wise when playing this game to add an “It depends on whether I can choose my social status…,” and then specify what the more desirable versus what the less desirable circumstances might be. But maybe you won’t be lucky enough to have a choice! (Anyone watch “Outlander?” Although that show/book series was set in 1700s Scotland, that’s the general idea behind this question).
B. CIVILIZATION vs. FORAGING.
(This question is a variation on the previous topic A). Ever since Jean-Jacque Rousseau (in the 1700s) published his famous essay about how much better life is on a South Pacific island than infancy in France, people have toyed with the thought that “civilization” is not really all that desirable, after all. Let’s apply this question to the first civilizations. What do you think? Was life in the ancient agricultural-based urban civilizations you have read about these past two weeks really better than the kind of foraging and hunting-gathering lifestyle our ancestors practiced for most of humanity’s existence? If civilization was so good, why did so many neighboring people resist the lifestyle and technology for as long as they could? If you could, would you choose life in a small, tight-knit prehistoric foraging clan over life in one of those ancient “civilizations?” Explain your answer with good specific historical details you have learned about in this class.
B. HOLDING ON TO POWER.
Ruling people can be a tricky and dangerous job, and there are lots of ways to fail. So how did powerful people hold on to their power in the ancient world? What methods seemed to work, and what methods did not? It’s a very general question, with many possible answers (too many for a small discussion post), so you can focus on a few ideas. Just make sure you provide examples of at least one specific, real, previously-powerful dead person you have read about in the past two weeks to back up what you say in response.
One further limitation:
not Hammurabi, please (too easy, and I don’t want you to just recycle that one), and not Gilgamesh (we don’t know enough about the real Gilgamesh; he’s mostly myth). You have lots of other people to choose from.
The first 6 minutes of this fast-paced and (I think) fun video, “Rules for Rulers,” might help get your thought juices flowing. It seems to be about the modern world, but especially in the beginning, relates to any society ruled by a powerful king, emperor, dictator, or a small number of people.
C. THE PACKAGE DEAL.
The ancient Hebrew religion (the origins of Judaism) had some very compassionate features and showed concern for many kinds of social justice. That is clear. But it came at a cost: despite the strong community support and protections, what kind of people within that society could have felt on the “losing” side of the deal? Explain your answer. If you still have room to develop this thought, you might also weigh in on whether, in the balance, it was still a good deal for the price.
D. CULTURAL MEMES. Richard Dawkins has argued that some cultural ideas (like religions, his favorite topic) take on a life of their own, and just like DNA or viruses, some have the ability to survive and “reproduce” (to use a metaphor) through their host organisms—people! When faced with challenges or competing ideas, some religious ideas and practices lose followers, collapse, and disappear, while others have real staying power and last on, from generation to generation; part of the trick, Dawkins argues, is that these ideas are able to change (mutate) and adapt just enough when necessary while keeping other bits of religious DNA intact. He calls such persistent ideas “cultural memes” (I think he was the origin of the term that is now used about internet “memes” that go “viral”). SO…apply this insight about “cultural memes” to any of the religious traditions you have read about in the past couple of weeks. Give specific examples of ideas and religions that seem to have fallen out of favor, and/or bits of ideas that have survived and lived on. Why do you suppose they were dropped, or why do you suppose they have survived? You have lots of religions to choose from: Mesopotamian or Egyptian polytheism, Hebrew Religion (Judaism), or Persian Zoroastrianism are the best options for now (you don’t need to discuss them all; you could focus on one).
E. THE PHOENICIANS.
It sometimes seems like the Phoenicians don’t get enough attention for their huge impact on the history of the world. What arguments could you make in defense of the importance of the Phoenicians?
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