Posted by: Ashfaq Ahmad
Economization of Homo sapiens
Societies have thrived on three main systems religious, economic and political. When the Sapiens started settling permanently quitting roaming around, they needed a religious system for mutual co-operation and when small societies were established with permanent settlements, the need of an economic system for its better operation was felt. And when they adopted both these systems, then the need of political system was realised for running mass societies collectively.
Small societies shaped the state system and by combining these systems an empire was formed. An empire is a political system which means acceptable governance over many societies which have separate identity, culture and independent jurisdiction.
But the side effects of this system later proved to be dangerous for thousands of smaller cultures which were taken over by the big empires. For the last two and a half thousand years, every citizen of the world has been ruled by some form of empire.
The Roman Empire took over hundreds of societies such as the Numantians, Avarians, Helvetian, Samnites, Lucentians, Umbrians, Istrakanians whose people identified themselves as citizens of those societies, spoke their languages, worshipped their Gods, narrated their legends. Their descendants, under the rule of Romans, started thinking, speaking and worshipping like them. The same thing was done by the Islamic empire between the seventh and the tenth century, which took over the cultures of the entire gulf region.
Origin of first code
Now when the empires started to be formed, the need of that system which we know as legal manuals was realized that is, the determination of crimes by a state system and the punishment to be given in that proportion. The first such code recorded in history is known as the code of Hammurabi which came into existence in 1776 BC in Babylon. Babylon was the biggest city in Mesopotamia and the largest empire at the time which extended to most of Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, Syria and parts of Iran. Hammurabi was immortal as a king because of that legal code.
You will find many Muslims saying that they had introduced the legal system in society as shara but this is not true. Shara was the refined form of the Code of Hammurabi which was also adopted by later Jewish and Christian societies with some amendments in the same way. Although thousands of kilometres away from those societies of Europe and West Asia, the Law Code in the form of Manusmriti existed even in India, since there is no fixed era, such credit is not given to it on the world stage, but it is certain that it also dates before shara.
However, if we now focus on empires, the first such empire was the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the Great beginning in 2250 BC from the city of Kish in Mesopotamia. Sargon not only managed to conquer Mesopotamian cities/states but also expanded his empire from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf and was the first ruler in history to claim that he had conquered the whole world.
Origin of empires
Sargon established such a concept of imperialism, that for the next 1700 years, the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite kings continued to adopt that as a role model of Sargon, also claiming to be world conquerors. In 550 BC Cyrus the Great carried this tradition even more effectively stating that we are winning you for your benefit.
The idea of ruling the whole world for the sake of the inhabitants of the whole world was shocking, but from the time of Cyrus, this imperialist stream became even more inclusive and widespread. Later from Alexander the Great, Hellenistic kings, Roman emperors, Muslim caliphs, Hindustani dynasties, it reached Soviet princes and American presidents.
Along with this, other kingdoms which were democratic or at least republican, for example the English empire, which was the biggest empire in history, or the Dutch, French, Belgian, and former American kingdoms as well as Novgorod, Rome, Carthage, the pre-modern kingdom of Athens also remained for a long time.
The imperialist ideology along the lines of Cyrus developed independently in Central America, Adean and China apart from its Persian model. According to China’s traditional political theory, heaven is the source of all legitimate entities on earth, the authority of heaven selects the person or family most eligible for governance and gives them the mandate of heaven. The first emperor of the United Chinese Empire, Qin Shi Huang claimed that everything in all the six directions of the world belongs to the emperor.
While the empires consolidated many small and big cultures, the process of imposing their own culture continued at the same time. We can understand this by applying it to our country and ourselves. Today’s India is the result of imperial Britain where the British committed all kinds of atrocities on the inhabitants of this subcontinent, killed them but they also united the princely states, empires fighting with each other and despite such tribal diversity, played an important role in building a shared political consciousness.
They laid the foundation of the judiciary, created the administrative structure, set up a network of railways having decisive importance in terms of economic integration. After independence, India also adopted the British model of western democracy. English is still the only contact language of the entire subcontinent. Every Indian is crazy about cricket and tea, given by the British. How many Indians will be able to reject these legacies imposed by the British empire in the name of their own culture? Have we not now accepted them or the legacy as our own culture, left behind by the Muslim kings called as foreigners?
Originally published on WordSmith August 22, 2019.