Posted by: ken98 | June 29, 2011

Somewhat Controversial Turks, Persian Kings and Persian Heretics, Fables, and Frantic Hand-Waving

Day 656 – Ken here (W)(6-29-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.700-710)(pages read: 1760)

An interesting day – it was sunny, but we are now officially mired in the marine layer – not interesting in and of itself, but interesting if you add 10 pages of Gibbon to it and shake thoroughly – as I’ve just been attempting to do – to myself. I’d better just get started and stop babbling…

It is the day of Proud Khusrau I (Chosroes I), and the Gokturks over in the Altai (Celestial Turks), Indian Fables, and ancient Iranian Heretics.

Today we also look at Turco-Roman Foreign Policy (from both sides – Turk and Roman), and Perso-Roman policies (again from both sides – Persian and Roman). Little do we know, we are about to embark, from what looks like the beginning of a promising century of Roman reconquest and progress, over the apex, and down a dizzying slide into total ruin in a century or so, bringing to an end the ancient Roman/Persian worlds as they knew it.

But no one realizes that now – everyone’s complaining currently about how inconvenient success can be to a person sometimes…

On to Gibbon…

The Story
Turks and Romans (post-Justinian) (569-582)
  • Gibbon relates brief history of Rome’s dealings with Turks – the 1st,2nd Khaganate Gokturk empire (Celestial Turk)(500’s-700’s) – to see how political that is even today 1500 years later check out the Talk page of the Wikipedia article – history is never neutral – almost as much fun as looking at the Revision History page of Existentialism in Wikipedia – defining the consciously undefined, an endlessly fun game any number can play
  • Turks pursue Avars, go to Const. to convince Just. to ally with them, not their rebellious subjects (Avars) – Just accepts alliance with Gokturks
  • An interesting account of Roman ambassadors to Disabul – the Khagan back in his tents in the meadow under Mt Balukhan thousands of miles away in far off Central Asia/Mongolia/Russia/China/Kazakhstan – what an assignment for a Roman ambassador – they must have had to do a lot of these “barbarian” assignments – all this from Menander thru Gibbon
  • All this diplomacy is 40 years after our period – in the reigns of the Eastern Emperors Tiberius and Maurice, in the brief interval before the Gotterdammerung between Persia and Rome in the early 600’s
  • Khosrau I and his incred damaging and effective pillaging of the Roman East drove Rome to ally with the Turks – for all the good it did them – either Turk or Roman

    Khusrau of Chosroes I – the Great Shah of Iran called Anurshivan – the Immortal Soul
  • The beginning of the story of the Great Khosrau or Chosroes I called by Gibbon Chosroes or Nushirvan – he and his grandson Khosrau II were Persia’s Golden Age
  • Just prior to Khusrau I, Kavadh I, the Persian Shah of Justinian’s youth and middle age, was ruler of a Persia rife with civil and religious troubles
  • <a href=";>Mazdak, a Zoroasterian “heretic” who preached a kind of proto-socialism, and a sort of bahai’i/
    -like gentleness and mania for peace (im sure I’ll get in trouble for linking those 3 spiritual beliefs in one sentence) – AND according to Gibbon SCANDALOUSLY proposed COMMUNITY PROPERTY,and COMMUNITY WIVES – the wife part is probably the result of all our records of Mazdak coming from his rabidly antagonistic and successful opponents – a fascinating man – I’d never heard of him before
  • Gibbon relates the famous story of Rome ALMOST ADOPTING Khosrau I, the favorite (but 3rd) son of Kavadh I – Kavadh wanted to assure Khosrau’s asc. to the throne by having Rome adopt him – at the last minute, Just. balked (Proc. has him fearing that Khosrau could “inherit” the Roman empire if he was the ward/stepson of Justinian) – supp – per Proc – Khosrau never forgave Rome AND THATS WHY HE ATTACKED SO MUCH – more anti-Just. Proc. propaganda I fear
  • Reign of Khusrau I (532-579) – per Gibbon and Persian history – the paragon of Justice
  • Khusrau IS persian – ie shah is absolute so he kills all his bros and their families, and is ruthless with disobedience – probly a good thing because the 1st thing an elder bro of a Persian shah would do is rebel – best for the state
  • He abolished Mazdak’s reforms – socialism, much-reduced clergy, rolling the state back to priest-ridden Zoro. – Gibbon esp approves of the ending of COMMUNITY PROPERTY
  • Khusrau encouraged education and agriculture – required people to learn trade, gave instr, cattle, grain to indigent farmers
  • Khusrau I love of learning – Gibbon says Kh. studies were “ostentatious and superficial” – typ. Gibbon
  • Founded schools, ex. Susa Gondi Sapor, encouraged medicine, translated Greek, Indian classics to Persian

    Khusrau’s War with Rome
  • Khusrau negotiates the “Endless Peace” for a payment by Justinian to Khusrau of 11,000 lbs gold – about 500 million dollars – not actually much for Endless Peace
  • However, Just.’s not having to worry about the East leaves him free to look at the West, After N. Africa, Sicily, Italy fall, the Persians are (probably justifiably) worried
  • A Vietnam-like Domino-Effect war starts with 2 Arab tribes (Hari, Gassan), each a client of either Rome or Persia, a dispute over a city, rolls up into a kind of World War
  • Proc. says it was Just.’s fault, Persia would probably say it was in their best interest
  • So, the 1st Great Persian War in generations starts – we’ll see more tomorrow


    The Domino Effect - the idea that one event inevitably leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to drastic global consequences.  In the U.S. we entered the Vietnam War to prevent South-East Asia from becoming Communist, for Justinian and Khusrau - well Khusrau the Persian mostly - it was to prevent the known world from BECOMING ROMAN

    The Domino Effect - the idea that one event inevitably leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to drastic global consequences. In the U.S. the task at hand in Vietnam was to prevent South-East Asia from becoming Communist, for Khusrau and the Persians - the task at hand was to prevent the known world from BECOMING ROMAN - the first hidden domino in the background is a Gassan Arab by the way - at least thats how Khusrau sees it...


    What Gibbon was doing (literar-ily)

    What Gibbon was doing (literar-ily and figuratively)

    Quotable Gibbon
    Can the Persian Language REALLY be used for Science?

    The Inadequacy of Persian to Convey Scientific/Philosophical Terms
    Gibbon makes the accustomed elaborate 18th cent. hand/handkerchief-wave at the venerable languages of Greek and Latin (well, mostly Greek here), when he asks the (very Muslim actually) question – Is Plato in Persian really Plato at all anymore? He wonders if Persian can actually convey the subtle inflections found in 5th cent. BCE Classical Greek (Muslims would similarly and resoundingly say No – to Koranic sentences presented in anything other than the original classical Arabic of the 7th cent.).

    The elegant wave is to his subscription-paying, noble English audience, and he also sends a knowing wink towards those who FLUENTLY READ (or at least tangentially in public school have browsed) ANCIENT GREEK and LATIN, and focuses a vaguely pro-European, anti-Everyone-Else standard frown at the deplorable state of the rest of the Non-Western-European world at the end of the 18th cent. – a world which was patently waiting for Western Europeans to tidy up.

    Well, to be fair, the Brits WERE controlling a significant piece of the globe at this point, and on the point of controlling even more in the next 120 years, and Western Europe WAS in the midst of bursting out of the EurAsian peninsula of Europe to dominate the entire world for centuries, after having been the whipping-boy/poor stepchild of Asia (and its constant nomadic invasions) for thousands of years. Europe had definitely paid her dues.

    So maybe the simpering wasn’t all that un-called for.

    It’s just fascinating to me to watch him DO ALL THAT WAVING, and watch who’s WATCHING HIM WAVE (or who Gibbon THINKS is watching him wave).

    Can I pour more Deconstruction into this than I already have? Have I mentioned my childhood yet?

    Anyways…all that, from this smidgeon of Gibbon:

    Note: he DOES reprimand Agathias (the ancient historian he’s using as a source) for calling Persian savage and unmusical – there’s hope for him yet…

    At his command, the most celebrated writers of Greece and India were translated into the Persian language; a smooth and elegant idiom, recommended by Mahomet to the use of paradise; though it is branded with the epithets of savage and unmusical, by the ignorance and presumption of Agathias.

    Yet the Greek historian might reasonably wonder that it should be found possible to execute an entire version of Plato and Aristotle in a foreign dialect, which had not been framed to express the spirit of freedom and the subtilties of philosophic disquisition. And, if the reason of the Stagyrite might be equally dark, or equally intelligible in every tongue, the dramatic art and verbal argumentation of the disciple of Socrates, appear to be indissolubly mingled with the grace and perfection of his Attic style.

    In the search of universal knowledge, Nushirvan was informed, that the moral and political fables of Pilpay, an ancient Brachman, were preserved with jealous reverence among the treasures of the kings of India. The physician Perozes was secretly despatched to the banks of the Ganges, with instructions to procure, at any price, the communication of this valuable work. His dexterity obtained a transcript, his learned diligence accomplished the translation; and the fables of Pilpay (55) were read and admired in the assembly of Nushirvan and his nobles.

    (DEF II, Vol.4, Ch.42, p.707)

    Here we see the Pilpay fables – the Panchatantra talked about below…

    English OBVIOUSLY is “framed to express the spririt of freedom and the subtleties of philosophic disquisition.” Obviously. No need to make the point. It must have some innate, spiritual, essential “Attic style” carried over to the island by Picts, Angles and Normans. I’ll stop now, I promise.


    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Arabic Version, the crows gather to listen to the King crow

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Arabic Version, the crows gather to listen to the King crow


    The Fables of Pilpay – The Panchatantra

    What Gibbon calls the stories of the Indian seer Pilpay which we now know as the Panchatantra, a Sanskrit collection of animal fables from the 200’s BCE, translated (as we know already) into Persian, but also into over 50 other languages in the last 2000 years. The Panchatantra is also the original source apparently for some of Aesop’s fables, the Arabian Nights, and other fable/story collections.

    An Aside: – – – just by the way – it’s really annoying to constantly have to TRANSLATE the Late 18th cent. random names of kings, towns, seers, and just about anything that’s not physically located on the island of Britain – and I bet Scottish names are mangled horribly – Persian, Chinese, Asian, African, MesoAmerican, Polynesian, all are hopelessly and haphazardly named – I couldn’t even FIND how the name Pilpay (or Bidpai) became associated with the Panchatantra – thank goodness for Wikipedia…)(yes, I know, I know, its the 19th, and 20th centuries when we became much more concerned with 1) standard naming conventions, and 2) naming conventions which bear SOME resemblance to what the original culture’s name was – and I’m just whining a little here – or maybe a lot – thanks for listening…).

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Syrian Version, the owls are all about to be burned to death

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Syrian Version, the owls are all about to be burned to death

    This from Wiki (here)

    The Panchatantra is an inter-woven series of colourful fables, many of which involve animals exhibiting animal stereotypes. According to its own narrative, it illustrates, for the benefit of three ignorant princes, the central Hindu principles of nīti. While nīti is hard to translate, it roughly means prudent worldly conduct, or “the wise conduct of life”.

    Apart from a short introduction — in which the author, Vishnu Sarma, is introduced as narrating the rest of the work to the princes — it consists of five parts. Each part contains a main story, called the frame story, which in turn contains several stories “emboxed” in it, as one character narrates a story to another. Often these stories contain further emboxed stories. The stories thus operate like a succession of Russian dolls, one narrative opening within another, sometimes three or four deep. Besides the stories, the characters also quote various epigrammatic verses to make their point.

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Persian Version - the bull is unjustly killed

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Persian Version - the bull is unjustly killed

    The five books are called:
    Mitra-bheda: The Separation of Friends (The Lion and the Bull)
    Mitra-lābha or Mitra-samprāpti: The Gaining of Friends (The Dove, Crow, Mouse, Tortoise and Deer)
    Kākolūkīyam: Of Crows and Owls (War and Peace)
    Labdhapraṇāśam: Loss Of Gains (The Monkey and the Crocodile)
    Aparīkṣitakārakaṃ: Ill-Considered Action / Rash deeds (The Brahman and the Mongoose)

    Indian version

    Mitra-bheda, The Separation of Friends
    In the first book, a friendship arises between the lion Piṅgalaka, the king of the forest, and Sañjīvaka, a bull. Karataka (‘Horribly Howling’) and Damanaka (‘Victor’) are two jackals that are retainers to the lion king. Damanaka, against Karataka’s advice, breaks the friendship between the lion and the bull, out of jealousy. It contains around thirty stories, mostly told by the two jackals, and is the longest of the five books, making up roughly 45% of the work’s length.

    Mitra-samprāpti, The Gaining of Friends
    It tells of the story of the crow who upon seeing the favour the rat performed to free the dove (or pigeon) and her companions, decides to befriend the rat despite the rat’s initial objections. The storyline evolves as this friendship grows to include the turtle and the fawn. They collaborate to save the fawn when he is trapped, and later they work together to save the turtle, who herself, falls in the trap. This makes up about 22% of the total length.

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Persian Version taken from the Arabic - the Lion King is being convinced to go to war by the wily jackal-vizier

    Illustration from a manuscript of the Panchatantra - the Persian Version taken from the Arabic - the Lion King is being convinced to go to war by the wily jackal-vizier

    Kākolūkīyam, Of Crows and Owls
    It deals with a war between crows and owls. One of the crows pretends to be an outcast from his own group to gain entry into the rival owl group, and by doing so gains access to their secrets and learns of their vulnerabilities. He later summons his group of crows to set fire on all entrances to the cave where the owls live and suffocate them to death. This is about 26% of the total length.

    Labdhapraṇāśam, Loss Of Gains
    It deals with the artificially-constructed symbiotic relationship between the monkey and the crocodile. The crocodile risks the relationship by conspiring to acquire the heart of the monkey to heal his wife; the monkey finds out about this and avoids this grim fate.

    Aparīkṣitakārakaṃ, Hasty Action
    Main article: The Brahmin and the Mongoose
    A Brahman leaves his child with a mongoose friend of his, and upon returning and finding blood on the mongoose’s mouth, he kills it. He later finds out that the mongoose actually defended his child from a snake.

    Mazdak - the Persian Zoroasterian Heretic/Proto-Socialist of the late 400's, early 500's - he is still a major figure in Persian/Iranian culture - Mazdak is still a common boys name in Iran today

    Mazdak - the Persian Zoroasterian Heretic/Proto-Socialist of the late 400's, early 500's - he is still a major figure in Persian/Iranian culture - Mazdak is still a common boys name in Iran today


    Last Word…
    The Zorasterian Heretic, Mazdak

    This from Wiki (here)

    Mazdak (in Persian مزدک) (died c. 524 or 528) was a proto-socialist[1] Persian reformer and religious activist who gained influence under the reign of the Sassanian Shahanshah Kavadh I. He claimed to be a prophet of God, and instituted communal possessions and social welfare programs.


    Mazdak was the chief representative of a religious and philosophical teaching called Mazdakism, which he viewed as a reformed and purified version of Zoroastrianism, although his teaching has been argued to display influences from Manichaeism as well. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of Sassanid Persia, and Mazdak himself was a Zoroastrian priest, or mobed, but most of the Zoroastrian clergy regarded his teaching as a heresy.

    Information about it is scarce and little is known beyond what is listed below; some further details may be inferred from the later doctrine of Khurramism, which has been seen as a continuation of Mazdakism.

    Ethical and social principles

    Two distinguishing factors of Mazdak’s teaching were the reduction of the importance of religious formalities—the true religious person being the one who understood and related correctly to the principles of the universe—and a criticism of the strong position of mainstream Zoroastrian clergy, who, he believed, had oppressed the Persian population and caused much poverty.
    Mazdak emphasized good conduct, which involved a moral and ascetic life, no killing and not eating flesh (which contained substances solely from Darkness), being kind and friendly and living in peace with other people.

    In many ways Mazdak’s teaching can be understood as a call for social revolution, and has been referred to as early “communism”.
    According to Mazdak, God had originally placed the means of subsistence on earth so that people should divide them among themselves equally, but the strong had wronged the weak, seeking domination and causing the contemporary inequality. This in turn empowered the Five Demons that turned men from Righteousness – these were Envy, Wrath, Vengeance, Need and Greed.

    To prevail over these evils, justice had to be restored and everybody should share excess possessions with his fellow men. Mazdak allegedly planned to achieve this by making all wealth and women common or by re-distributing them, although it is unclear how he intended to organize that in terms of regulations and to what extent his position has been caricatured by hostile sources. The sources mostly dwell on the alleged “sharing” of women, the resulting sexual promiscuity and the confusion of the line of descent.

    Since the latter is a standard accusation against heretical sects, its veracity has been doubted by researchers; it is likely that Mazdak took measures against the widespread polygamy of the rich and lack of wives for the poor.

    Mazdak is still a controversial figure/topic today (example All of which would be expected given his adoption by socialists as a sort of proto-communists and his rebellion against and destruction by the Persian state of his time. Lost causes always attract, at least they do me. The state’s (well) established monotheistic (and somewhat intolerant, like Christianity) religion – Zoroasterianism – didn’t care for him much either in the end.

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