Sample:   Page 1 of a 48-page book.   ( The book pages measure 7.5 x 14 inches )
    P A R T     I

Man's earliest civilized communities developed in the valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris in the Middle East and along the Nile in Egypt. Irrigation farming in these areas had made it possible to support the first urban centers. The organization of irrigation works was probably begun under the direction of priests whose social leadership rested on their ability to predict the seasons. Early on the priests had acquired the knowledge necessary to create and maintain a calendar, they watched the stars for seed-time, and they began to direct daily life according to immemorial rules. Sumerian kingdoms in the Middle East evolved between about 3500 and 3000 BC. The Indus valley followed soon afterwards, and at some later date a farming population emerged along the Yellow River in China. The long history of those early civilizations reaches too far back to be covered by the present History Chart.

The beginning of the Chart coincides with the emergence of new and successful styles of civilizations as a result of the interaction between northern barbarian invaders and the pre-existing agricultural peoples in Europe,  the Middle East,  India and  China.    Between 1000 and 500 BC a distinctive European type of civilization began to take shape in  Greece; an equally distinctive  Indian style of life appeared in the Ganges River valley; and along the Yellow River a  Chinese style of civilization asserted itself. In the Middle East a long and complicated history of fierce competition preceded the beginning of our time frame. Three civilized empires, based in Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Egypt, had struggled for supremacy during a thousand year period of warfare. This period came to an abrupt end shortly before the present History Chart unfolds.

Soon after 1200 BC a crisis of major proportions disrupted the way of life in the Middle East. That crisis was brought on by the Iron-Age Invasions, launched by nomadic tribesmen from the North. The great powers of the Middle East had been empires of the Bronze Age. The weaker bronze weapons of the imperial soldiers were no match for the superior iron weapons of the northern invaders. The invaders were Indo-European speaking barbarians, who were the first peoples to use the superior metal effectively. From the Balkan in the West, to the Caspian Sea in the East, they stormed down to attack and plunder the rich cities in the South.

In the West, Hellenic tribes advanced through the Balkan peninsula and subsequently overrun the native Aegean population in Greece. From the Black Sea region, similar barbarians, called the Persians and the Medes, invaded the Middle East. The old great powers, Assyria, Babylonia and Egypt, crumbled before the assault of those northern barbarians. The temporary relapse of the great powers provided an opportunity for smaller kingdoms like Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine to assert their local independence. The seafaring Phoenicians - who were the first to use the alphabet - set up trading colonies around the Mediterranean, the largest of which was the famous city of Carthage in North Africa.



In Palestine the religion of Yahweh became the rallying point for certain tribes in Judah and Israel who had migrated there from Egypt a few centuries before. These Hebrew tribes united under the leadership of king David in order to defend themselves against their newly independent neighbours. David's successor, king Solomon, was a skilled diplomat who entered into close trade relations with the city of Tyre in Phoenicia. Great building projects were carried out in Jerusalem (the palace, the Temple of Jehova) financed by the wealth obtained in trade with Arabia in cooperation with Phoenicia. But the courtly luxury displayed by Solomon provoked a series of prophets to denounce, in Yahweh's name, the corruption and social injustice in Palestine. Inspired by an intense awareness of God's power, the Hebrew Prophets reshaped the religion of Yahweh, elevating him from a tribal deity to an almighty universal god. Since rival god's were rejected early on the Hebrew Prophets had little difficulty to develop the worship of Yahweh into an uncompromising monotheism. This set the Hebrews apart from all other peoples in the Middle East since they all had inherited polytheistic pantheons.

The increasing influence of prophets was not confined to the Jewish people: far to the east, on the other flank of Mesopotamia, another religious movement was initiated by an Iranian prophet by the name of Zoroaster. Zoroaster denounced the traditions of his people, preaching instead his message of cosmic strife between Ahura Mazda, the God of Light, and Ahriman, the principle of evil. According to the prophet, man had been given the power to choose between good and evil. Zoroaster believed that the end of the world would come when the forces of light would triumph and the saved souls would rejoice in its victory. This dualism was part of an evolution towards monotheism.

As armies moved across Persia, Syria and Palestine people became aware of many different religious cults, and it became impossible to believe that the will of every divine ruler was everywhere and always paramount among men. Everyday experience cast doubts about universal power of local deities and monotheism became the only satisfactory explanation of a world in which distant and foreign monarchies influenced local affairs.
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