Ancient Greece and ancient Rome summary




Ancient Greece and ancient Rome summary


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Ancient Greece and ancient Rome summary


History 50 -- Summary II


Ancient Greece was perhaps the most brilliant and surprising of all civilizations.  Here at the dawn of western civilization Greece brought astounding innovations in politics ("democratic" participation), philosophy (rational analysis) and art (classical aesthetics).

            The geography of Greece to some degree determined its civilization.  Greece is small, not characterized by large river valleys, mountainous and relatively barren, and surrounded by the sea.  It seemed fated to have small states separated by the mountains and to carry on trade exporting wine and olive oil and importing foodstuffs.

            Although politically divided, Greek had a certain unity based on culture, language (they all spoke and wrote Greek) and religion (all worshipped the Olympian gods and met at Delphi and Olympia; the Greek pantheon included Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite and Athena; traditional Greek religion was a fairly typical polytheism).  The oracle at Delphi and the Olympic Games at Olympia (begun c. 776 BCE) were important foci of Greek culture.

            The Minoans inhabited Crete in the 2nd millennium BCE: a wealthy, sophisticated, mercantile, good-living people with no walls around their cities.  Their art is characterized by pleasing, sensuous pictures done in bright colors.

            The Mycenaeans, on the other hand, were a warrior people living in beautiful fortified mountain palaces on the Greek mainland.  It was probably they who conducted the expedition against Troy in the 13th century BCE.  Homer, who lived probably 600 years later at the end of the Dark Age, wrote his two great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, based on memories of this historical war.  Homer was the basis of Greek education in the classical period.

            When the Mycenaeans collapsed, Greece entered the Dark Age until about 750 BCE.  The level of civilization collapsed throughout the area as the Dorians invaded from the north.  Many Greeks emigrated to Ionia, the western coast of Turkey; once the crisis was over and prosperity restored, many others left to found colonies in the Black Sea, and particularly along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  Greeks were particularly numerous in southern Italy and Sicily.  Most of the colony cities maintained ties with their mother cities in Greece.

The evolution of Greek politics and events in the historic period (700 BCE to about 300 BCE), and particularly in the Classical Age (500 BCE to 338 BCE).  The central institution of Greek politics was the polis, the small city-state of which there were many in Greece.  Politics were very important to the active political class (adult free males); ostracism was one of the worst punishments.  The armies of the Greek states were based on the hoplite (heavily armored) infantry, essentially a citizen army raised from farmers, artisans, shop owners, etc.  Their military important gave them extra leverage in politics.  The hiring of lower class Athenians to man the triremesin the Athenian navy gave political importance to common people.  Only a small percentage of the population of Athens were active citizens; they excluded women (restricted to domestic responsibilities), resident aliens and numerous slaves.

Athens was a wealthy commercial city, very sophisticated and open to foreign influences.  The 6th century saw much political conflict; the pattern was the formation of tyrannies that brought reforms edging the city toward increasing democracy.  The process culminated in the victory of the Athenian fleet (and the common rowers in the ships) in the Persian Wars.  The system them moved to democracy in the age of the famous Pericles.  Some of the institutions of Athens were rather extreme: all citizens (adult male freemen) could sit in the Assembly; polis officials were either elected by the Assembly or chosen by lot.  Sparta was quite different.  It was essentially a military camp where boys were separated from their families at the age of 7 and trained to be soldiers.  The city had a eugenics ideology to produce stronger soldiers (men were not supposed to have sex with their wives except when they were very "ardent!").  Women were childbearers and hometenders, but they actually had more freedom than Athenian women (they were allowed to exercise naked!).  Sparta was very provincial: the culture frowned on intellectual activities, precious metals, monumental buildings, travel abroad, etc.  Education was restricted to practical literacy.

The 5th century BCE was a time of great drama for the Greeks.  Herodotus was the historian of the Persian Wars.  The first Persian invasion came in 490 BCE; the Greek states (for once) formed a defensive confederation, and the Athenians defeated a Persian army at Marathon.  The second invasion came in 480 BCE.  The Persians fought through the Spartan/Greek defenses at the Battle of Thermopylae, but the invasion was defeated essentially by the Athenian naval victory at Salamis.  Thus began the gold age of Athens in which this city built an impressive empire of Greek states surrounding the Aegean Sea.  Athens rebuilt the Acropolis with tribute money collected from tributary states in their empires.  Other Greek states under the leadership of Sparta formed a counter-coalition.  War broke out in 431 BCE, beginning the Peloponnesian Wars; after the disastrous defeat of the Athenian invasion force in Sicily, Athens was finally defeated in 404 and subjected to a humiliating defeat.  The great Athenian historian Thucydides attributed the Athenian defeat to the hubris of Athens, which brought nemesis on their heads.  The Greeks however did not stop fighting among themselves, until their independence was taken away from them by Philip of Macedon in 338 BCE.

Greek sculpture owed much to Egyptian examples, but developed its own style: ideal naturalism that has had an enormous impact on art styles in Rome, Europe and elsewhere ever since.  Be sure to take a look at the bronze copy of Poseidon in front of the Sacramento Community Center.

Alexander the Great (d. 323 BCE), son of Philip, was one of the wonders of world history.  In a few years he confirmed his domination of Greece, invaded and subdued the entire Persian Empire (revenge for the Persian Wars and the burning of the Acropolis at Athens!); Alexander's armies even penetrated into Afghanistan and the Indus Valley in India.  His empire fell apart at his death, and was essentially divided into three parts by his top generals; the most famous were the Ptolemies in Egypt, of which Cleopatra was the last ruler.  The Hellenistic World (eastern Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East, c. 323 BCE - c. 100 BCE) had a certain unity despite its political instability.  The upper classes throughout this area tended to be Greeks, many of whom emigrated from Greece in this period; the international language was koine, a popular form of Greek.  The great majority of the local populations was not Greek and did not speak Greek.  There was a fruitful mixing of traditions that produced a dynamic culture.  They are famous for their scientists, particularly Aristarchus, who believed the earth was a sphere, and Eratosthenes, who measured the circumference with a simple but ingenious system bnased in Egypt; and Archimedes, a Sicilian Greek who discovered and developed many physical laws and the author of the California motto, "Eureka."  Perhaps the foremost philosophical school was the Stoics who: posited the existence of a single, more-or-less benevolent God; emphasized the importance of ethical behavior in order to achieve personal happiness; and who founded the idea of natural law that has had a major influence on western civilization and Christian philosophy.  The Hellenistic world was also the host for several mystery religions such as the Cult of Isis.  In a world where civic religions provided little emotional comfort, the mystery religions promised personal immortality achieved by some sort of communion with a savior figure (such as Isis or Mithras the Bull) followed by an ethically upright life.  There are obvious parallels between these mystery religions and Christianity that triumphed in the Roman Empire beginning in the 4th century.


Aeschylus' Oresteian Trilogy (458 BCE) tells us a great deal about Greek civilization.  Past events have a lot of influence on the action of Agamemnon.  The reader needs to know something about the forced cannibalism of Thyestes, the sense in which Helen caused the Trojan War, Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis, and the course of the war.  Agamemnon is by far the most dramatic of the plays, but the three make a coherent thematic and dramatic whole; action is merely suspended after the first play.  Clytemnestra is perhaps the most dramatic and commanding of all female characters in Greek tragedy.  The Greeks were undoubtedly horrified by her male-like boldness, but to the modern eye, her will, resoluteness and personal power are more attractive.  We are horrified by her crimes and rebellion, but mesmerized by her stature and relentless will.  The story of the three plays takes the viewer from the old dispensation of the Furies in which crime is met by retribution (and on to infinity) to the new dispensation of the Olympian gods where differences must be settled by reason, accommodation and the rule of law.   The trilogy leads us from darkness to light, from savagery to civilization, and from vengeance to justice.  In the Eumenides Athena intervenes (in behalf of her father, Zeus?) and persuades the Furies to submit to the new order.  Athena and the Athenian jury finds Orestes innocent, and the goddess inaugurates an era of good will, peace and prosperity with (one hopes) the cooperation of the Furies who have been turned into chthonic fertility goddesses.  Incidentally, "uppity" women such as Clytemnestra have been returned to their true place, the hearth; Elektra is the model of the good girl; the Furies have been handled severely; Athena, admittedly the paragon of harmony, discussion and compromise, emphasizes her masculine characteristics.


Ancient Rome as the second part of the origins of Western Civilization.  Rome was much influenced by the Greeks, although Rome was more practical and less aesthetic and intellectual.  It is influential for its practical achievements of functional architecture and trans-national empire.  It originated in central Italy in Latium.  The overthrow of the Etruscan monarchy was dramatized by the Roman historian Livy, writing in about 70 CE.  His story of the 'Rape of Lucretia' demonstrated the civic virtue of the Roman Republic, the domestic skills and chastity expected of Roman matrons, and the bad reputation of monarchy in Roman culture. 

            Afterwards, the Romans set up a republic which was largely aristocratic in nature.  The most powerful body was the Senate composed of patricians (nobles) and rich plebeians.  Many rich Romans, particularly the patrician families, derived their wealth from latifundia, large landed estates that often exploited slave labor for profit.  The tribunes, who were elected to defend the interests of the plebeians, were also very influential in the constitution.  The elected governing officials were primarily the two consuls, who were elected for one year and had the imperium (the power to command), the praetors, who were judicial officials, and the censors, who oversaw public morality and behavior.  Polished formal oratory was a famous Roman skill developed particularly by the immortal Cicero.  There was much political conflict but no political violence before the time of the Gracchi.

Roman expansion was rapid and efficient.  There was no preconceived plan, but the process seemed to build on its own momentum.  Roman success was due primarily to the excellence of the Roman army; look particularly at it supply organization and to the excellence of the Roman communications system (Roman roads).  Roman character and persistence also played a major role.  The stories of Horatio at the Bridge, Cincinnatus as temporary dictator, and the suicide of the noble Lucretia (all from the 2nd century CE Livy) illustrate Roman image of their republican virtue.  The Battle of Cannae (216 BCE in which an entire Roman army was destroyed by Hannibal) illustrates the point; rather than give up, Rome raised yet another army and then fought a guerilla war against the invincible Carthaginian.  The Romans also usually treated their conquered peoples well; e.g., they gave the Italians "allied" status and always the possibility of Roman citizenship; eventually all the free inhabitants of the empire were given citizenship (about 212 CE).  Expansion went in three stages: 1) absorption of the Italian peninsula, achieved by about 275 BCE; 2) absorption of the Carthaginian Empire, composed primarily of Sicily western North Africa and Spain, by the end of the Third Punic War (Cato - "Carthago delendum est!"); and 3) relatively painless annexation of the territories of the eastern Mediterranean including Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine and Egypt, by the end of the 2nd century BCE.

The Republic declined and disappeared in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE.  The basic problem was a social crisis in Italy arising out of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the contrast between the growing power of the Roman state and the inefficient executive of the republic.  The Gracchi brothers tried to reform the social constitution of Rome in the 2nd century, but they made little progress and were assassinated by political thugs.  The taboo on political violence was broken!  About the same time the Roman army became politicized.  Marius found that to recruit enough soldiers, he had to hire professional soldiers; they were more loyal to their general than to the Roman state, and if the civilian leadership (the Senate) refused to grant concessions, the general could use his army against them to force compliance.  Sulla marched on Rome and once in power he conducted a reign of terror against his political opponents; he then retired from politics!  The process culminated in the career of Julius Caesar who, after military success in Gaul, "crossed the Rubicon" and had himself made dictator in Rome.  He was assassinated in 44 BCE by republican conservatives such as Brutus.  Caesar's death, however, did not stop the process.  It culminated in a confrontation between Marc Antony and Octavian (Julius Caesar's nephew) in which the latter defeated the former.  By this time public opinions was heartily sick of conflict and welcomed a statesmanlike winner.

Octavian (known as Augustus) installed a "restored republic;" he was a moderate who built up his constitutional power while maintaining traditional institutions such as the Senate, and traditional values such as marriage and the family.  Augustus was careful to maintain his connection to republican traditions.  He was a great supporter of literature and the arts.  45 years of peace and prosperity made him extremely popular, and there were no calls for a return to the old constitution upon Augustus' death in 14 CE.

The Empire (with a capital 'E') was prosperous and stable for its first 200 years, despite the rule of corrupt emperors like Caligula and Nero in the first century.  The "Good" Emperors of the 2nd century (e.g., Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius) reigned over the golden era of Rome: the Roman Empire reached its greatest extension under Trajan; peace and prosperity everywhere; the Emperor built up his power at the expense of traditional bodies like the Senate; much of the strength of Rome was in the provinces such as Gaul and Spain.  The arts, while strong especially in literature (cf. Tacitus and Vergil), always took second place in Rome to practical accomplishments.The most impressive was perhaps architecture and engineering: Romans were able to build large, impressive and useful building by applying two engineering innovations -- the arch and concrete.  The skeleton of the Colosseum was constructed of aggregate (concrete) and it was covered with a skin of stone to make it "look Greek."

The Roman economy was highly dependent on slaves, and there was a widespread and justified fear in the empire of slave crime and revolt.  Spartacus' bloodily repressed slave revolt in 73 BCE was a case in point.  The Romans treated their slaves pretty cruelly.  There were a large number of poor in Rome, and the ruling classes and Emperor were concerned to keep them from getting politically active.  Partly as a result, Roman emperors always inaugurated their reigns with the construction of public works, most commonly baths, many of which are still standing in Roman cities.  The public baths were extremely elaborate and well equipped, and had facilities for all classes.  Juvenal talks about the usefulness of "bread and circuses."  As many as 200,000 Roman poor were on the dole, receiving free food from the state.  More famous were the circuses organized for the entertainment of the Roman populace.  The chariot races in the Circus Maximus would attract more than 100,000 spectators; and the slaughter of wild beasts and the gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum would attract as many as 60,000 spectators to watch gladiators battle to the death.  The policy appears to have worked, since the Roman mob never became involved in politics.

Meanwhile the Roman Empire after about 200 CE began to encounter problems including falling population (perhaps due to epidemic diseases?), falling production, inflation and declining efficiency from the Roman army.  The pressure on the frontiers increased in the 3rd century from incursions from various barbarian tribes including the Goths.  Diocletian and Constantine put through reforms that extended the life of the western half of the empire.  There were two main reforms: 1) divide the Empire into two distinct, though related, parts, the western, Latin empire ruled by an emperor in Rome and the eastern Greek empire ruled by an emperor in Constantinople, founded by Constantine. 2) increase the power of state regulation to save the economy: the state tried price and wage ceilings, and attempted to tie workers to their professions.  Although the latter reforms were generally not successful, the efforts of these two emperors extended the life of the western empire until the end of the 5th century.  Nb. This was also a momentous time for the Christians.  Diocletian launched a ferocious persecution against them that seemed for a while to be having success.  Constantine, however, reversed the policy, favored the Christian religion during his reign and converting on his deathbed.  Christianity became the official religion of state at the end of the 4th century.

The western, Latin half of the empire finally collapsed in the late 5th century (traditionally 476 CE), giving rise to numerous Germanic kingdoms in Western Europe that kept some of the Roman traditions such as language alive.  The eastern Roman Empire, however, continued to thrive as the Byzantine Empire ruled by the Emperor in Constantinople.  This empire had glorious days ahead, and did not disappear until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.


The Rise of Islam:  Reasons for studying Islam are so obvious that they don't bear repeating.  It was in any case one of the great late-emerging civilizations of the world.

Arabia before the time of Muhammad was a polytheistic, pastoral society with commercial cities such as Mecca and (later named) Medina.  There was much acquisitive commercial behavior in the cities, and since the society was organized on tribal lines, there was a lot of inter-clan political violence.  Muhammad (570-632) was born into a trading family in Mecca; he worked as a caravan manager before he became disillusioned with the secular values of his society.  He retired to caves outside the city where he received revelations from the Angel Gabriel; these revelations were later written down as the Qur'an.  In the hegira he fled to Medina, later overcoming his enemies by force and returning to Mecca where he died in 632.

The teachings of Muhammad are contained primarily in the sacred scriptures, the Qur'an, edited in the few years after his death, and the Hadiths, compilations of the prophet's sayings executed in the two centuries after his death.  Muhammad saw himself as bringing monotheism to the Arab peoples.  Muhammad considered Jews and Christians as privileged "people of the book," who would not be compelled to convert to Islam.  God had revealed himself to these two peoples, but they had distorted his message; in the post-Qur'anic tradition, Muhammad's revelation is the ultimate one, superseding the previous revelations.  Islam is first a religion of faith -- the believer must confess his faith daily: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."  It is also an ethical religion enjoining proper ritual and behavior in order to achieve salvation in Paradise (the disobedient will end up in Hell).  The Last Judgment is an indispensable part of Muhammad's teaching.  Students should learn the "Five Pillars of Islam."  Islam commands strict behavior in sexual ethics, honesty, charity, etc.  Men are allowed to have a maximum of four wives.  Women are enjoined to be modest in their dress and behavior, but seclusion and veiling of the face are not in the Qur'an.  Muslims had strict taboos against the consumption of pork and alcohol.  There is in Islam, as in Christianity, an important egalitarian element that tended to be diluted by the societies where the religion thrived.  In contrast to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, there are many parallels between Christianity and Islam that strike the eye -- monotheism, strict ethical behavior, the importance of prophets and of scripture.  Differences include the Christian belief in the Trinity, the heavy Christian reliance on the clergy, and the Christian belief in the sacraments.

The political expansion of the Arabs and Islam was remarkable in the few decades following the death of Muhammad.  Arab imperialism was probably motivated by a combination of secular factors (desire for power, wealth, status from a people used to making raids to make a living) and religious enthusiasm derived from Islam.  Although the term 'jihad' has several meanings focused on everyman's struggle against evil, Muslims were enjoined to support the defense of Islam against its infidel enemies and to support its expansion; if you died in such a just war, you would go to heaven.  References to war in the Qur'an are usually defensive.

The victorious Arabs set up remarkable states and societies all the way from Spain (Arab armies were not successful in conquering France; defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732) to Central Asia.  A fateful succession crisis occurred in 661 with the assassination of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali; this lay the foundation of the historic split between Shiia and orthodox (Sunni) Muslims.  The Arab empires were ruled by caliphs (emperors) who exercised theoretically religious powers (as imams) along with their secular authority.  The first dynasty were the Umayyads, who had their capital in Damascus.  "More political than pious," they were overthrown in the 8th century by the Abbasids, who moved the capital to Bagdad.  There Persian influence was great.  The caliph's prime minister was called the vizier. Their rule was also more political and secular than pious (the steps to the caliph's throne were paved in gold; the caliph and his concubines bathed in pools of wine, homosexuality was common, etc.).  The most renowned Abbasid caliph was Harun al-Rashid (789-809), who reigned in a period of stability and prosperity and sponsored learning and the arts.  The dominance of the Abbasids in the Mideast was ended by the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in about the 11th century; they were followed by incursions from the Christians (the Crusades) the Mongols, Tamerlane, and the Ottoman Turks who stabilized the area beginning in the 14th century.

The Arab states were generally tolerant.  Jews, Christians and Persians were allowed to practice their religion and maintain their culture upon payment of a tax (Qur'an -- "there is no compulsion in matters of religion").  Conversions to Islam -- which eventually dominated the area -- came more or less voluntarily over a period of time, up to 200 years.  The result of this was the creation of an international Muslim culture with Arabs eventually making up only a minority of Muslims across the world.  Persian culture and intellectuals generally prevailed in the later years of the Abbasids.

Islam developed a remarkable diverse religious profile in the Middle Ages.  The Shiites emerged as a sectarian movement already in the 7th century; they claimed that they had the correct descent from Muhammad through Ali.  They tended to be "stricter" in their interpretation of the sacred texts than many Muslims; they favored esoteric and secret interpretations.  They were often resistant to political authority and more inclined to look for guidance from their religious leaders, the imams.  Their importance in places like Mesopotamia and Persia led to their persecution in some places in this period, and to the formation of the Sunni movement that stressed a "sensible" and reasonably broad interpretation of Islam that could be adopted by most Muslims.  The popularity of the Shiites was diminished somewhat by the popularity of the mystical Sufis in the later part of this period.  Sufis withdrew in some way from society, and attempted to enter into direct communication with God.  The Persian mystic poet Rumi (13th century) is the best known of the Sufi leaders: known for his monasteries and the practice of ecstatic dancing and music ("whirling dervishes"), he is still popular today among a small number of Sufi brotherhoods.  In modern Islam (about one billion adherents) Sunnis make up a majority of 85%, Shiites most of the rest.

The secular culture of the Arab world has also enjoyed popularity in the modern West.  Arab scholars were responsible for preserving much classical learning in their universities; when western medieval scholars were searching for reliable texts of Aristotle's work in the 12th century, they found them in Muslim Spain.  Arab mathematicians were also responsible for many inventions in mathematics: Arabic numerals, algebra, and the concept of zero.  The skeptical, secular poetry ("eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die") of Omar Khayyam (The Rubaiyyat) appears to be influenced by Roman poetry; it also had an impact on modern western readers.  The famous "Arabian Nights", stories of romance and adventure (e.g., "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp") were first collected by Arab scholars around 1500 from oral sources; they were translated into French in the 18th century and then into English in the 19th century.  The "Arabian Nights" are secular adventure stories, where a desire for money and luxury play a big role.

Medieval Arab culture was brilliant, secular, diverse with intensely felt religious beliefs.  It was not afraid to borrow from other cultures.


India in the "medieval" period (c.350-c.1500) did not enjoy long-lived political unity, but excelled in religious developments and in its cultural dynamism.

            The main instance of political unity occurred under the Gupta Dynasty that ruled northern India from about 320 to about 550 CE.  Chandragupta and Samudragupta were two of the kings.  The empire stretched "from sea to sea" across northern India.  The kings, who normally played musical instruments, were known as patrons of the arts (they even founded a university devoted to the fine arts), and as tolerant promoters of religious establishments, both Hindu and Buddhist, although the kings were Hindus.  The economy was quite prosperous in this period, as evidenced by the comments of Chinese visitor, Fu Xian, and the existence of a widespread gold coinage done in a pleasing style. 

            The first main religious development was the rise of the popularity of Buddhism in the early period, and the split of the movement into two main wings.  The Theravada movement seems closer to the original inspiration of Gautama Siddhartha; it retained its ethical, philosophical orientation and stressed strict personal behavior and meditation, preferably in a monastery, as a means of escaping the wheel of life.  Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, developed the "religious", devotional, ritualist side of Buddhism.  They stressed that Buddha was a manifestation of God, and they recognized bodhissatvas, who were somewhat similar to Christian saints and who helped the common folk in their striving toward release.  The idea came originally from discussion of Siddhartha's life; the current bodhissatvas were preliminary incarnations of a second Buddha who would appear on earth at a future date.  Common people could aspire to become "arhants," or "worthies," who while not fully enlightened could attain nirvana.  Their nirvana resembled the Muslim/Christian idea more closely. 

            Soon, however, the popularity of Buddhism began to decline in India.  Theravada Buddhism became dominant in Sri Lanka and in many areas of Southeast Asia, whereas Mahayana Buddhism migrated to China over the Silk Road and then on to Korea and Japan.

Perhaps the main reason for Buddhism's decline in India was the arrival of Islam on the northwest frontier in roughly the 9th century.  The Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, whose power base was in Afghanistan, extended his power over Northwest India in about 1000 CE.  Eventually Muslim rulers established their authority over Hindu subjects in the Delhi Sultanate that extended over the north part of India; it was visited by Ibn Battuta in the 14th century.  Large portions of the population of west, east, and north India were converted to Islam over the years, thus establishing the population base for Pakistan and Bangladesh.  The impact on Indian society was somewhat modest compared to the religious change.  Instead of abolishing castes, Muslim Indians set up their own castes thus preserving the system.  Every indication is that the Hindu custom of sati was preserved, although its frequency does not seem to have been great.  Muslim Indians did adopt the purdah (secluding and veiling their women), although not to the extent of the Arab areas of Islam.  Overall, while religion changed significantly, culture and society changed only incrementally.

The Sikhs, founded at the beginning of the 16th century by the guru Nanak, originally intended to combine the best of the Indian religions into a new one that would supersede the old.  The Sikhs believed in a single personal God; they rejected castes, images and pilgrimages, but maintained the concepts of karma and reincarnation; their sacred Golden Temple is in Amritsar.  Sikh men were not supposed to cut their hair (thus wearing it in a turban) and they all took the name of "Singh" (lion), whereas the women were named "Princess."  Most of Sikh history has been devoted to defending their autonomy.  They were friendly with the British, and not enthusiastic about being part of India after 1946.  Most Sikhs currently live in India with significant émigré communities (e.g., in Yuba City); Sikh militants demand a separate Sikh state in North India.

Indian culture is diverse, brilliant and sensuous: compared to Christian and Islamic culture, there is in India little opposition between sensuality/sexuality and spirituality.  The Gupta and post-Gupta period gave rise to the classic secular period of Indian arts.  Indian painting and sculpture dwelled fondly on female nudity (take a look at examples in the text), and the famous "Kama Sutra," composed in the 3rd century BCE, focused explicitly on enhancing the pleasure of partner sex and on the spirituality of sexual relations.  Kalidasa was the most famous author in the Gupta period.  He is famous for his poem "Cloud Messenger," which with its sensual evocation of nature, speaks of the author's nostalgia for his homeland.  His most famous play was Shakuntalathat speaks of the birth of a strong erotic love bond between a king and a maiden that he encounters in an enchanted forest.  Many parallels are drawn between the harmony and fertility of the forest on the one hand and the feelings and bodies of the lovers on the other.



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