1992-12-25: A History of the Ancient World

A History of the Ancient World (1991)

by Chester G. Starr (1914-1999)

Starr has been writing and revising his history since the 1960’s; this fourth edition was published in 1991.

He has a fairly good pre-history section, which describes the nature of human life on the verge of civilization.  Following this, he treats the earliest Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Mediterranean, and more briefly, Indian and Chinese civilizations. Most of the remainder is devoted to the influences on “Western” civilization.

His work provides abundant material for use in reconstructing memetic history, though of course not in these terms. He describes many of the people on the periphery of the early civilizations, who constrained them and were influenced by them: the Semites of the arabian peninsula, the Indo-Europeans of central asia, the Celtic (or pre-Celtic) people who sold grain to the Athenians.

The bulk of the work describes the mainstream cultures that formed the foundation for the development and spread of Christianity, whose rise coincided with the disruption of the stability of the Roman Empire.  Throughout, Starr provides a culture-oriented approach, concentrating on the political, social, economic and religious threads which combined and separated, waxing and waning in a complex sequence.  In addition, his bibliographies are oriented in the same way, providing sources and further reading.  This work is invaluable to a detailed memetic history of the Western tradition.  Its side-lights to Persia, India and China should be useful for pursuing the parallel developments in those traditions.

I became frustrated (again) with the conventional use of BC dates, and the mental contortions I require to keep things in order. This time I resolved to recast significant extracts from the history into a new calendar, based on the Julian day.  Julian days are used by astronomers to correlate ancient records and astronomical events (e.g., eclipses, comets), and start with January 1, 4713 BC as Julian Day 1 (assuming that no useful records will be found ealier than that). For my purposes, I define a zero-based, or Z, calendar, by which that day is January 1, 0 Z (a leap year according to the Julian method of calculation).  To convert between BC years and Z years,

Z = 4713 – BC   or  BC = 4713 – Z; to convert between AD years and Z years,

Z = 4712 + AD  or AD = Z – 4712 .

This gives a culture-neutral calendar (for years of 365.25 days only, months are culture-specific), suitable for relating events in any culture, avoiding the absurdity of referring to dates in, e.g., ancient China in terms of BC/AD.  In this scheme some significant years suitably remote from the small numbers are (I have rounded all years to the same number of significant digits; the BC dates are Starr’s):

c.1600c.3100Union of Egypt
c.1700c.3000Mesopotamian Early Dynastic era
c.2000c.2700Old Kingdom (Egypt)
c.2200c.2500Indus Civilization
c.2400c.2300Sargonid epoch
c.2500c.2205Hsia Dynasty (China)
c.2560c.2150Sumerian revival, Third Dynasty of Ur
26612052Middle Kingdom (Egypt)
c.2947c.1766Shang Dynasty (China)
31381575New Kingdom (Egypt)
c.3500c.1200Hebrew Exodus from Egypt under Moses
35911122Chou Dynasty (China)
c.3660c.1050Kingdom of David & Solomon
c.3900c.800Early prophets of Israel
c.4000c.700Early Greek polis
4116597Babylonian Exile (Ezekial, second Isaiah)
c.4225c.485Death of Gautama Siddharta (Buddha)
4234479Death of Kung Fu-tze (Confucius)
4314399Death of Socrates
11 Jan 466411 Jan 49Julius Caesar crosses Rubicon
31 Dec 471231 Dec 1 BCLast BC date
1 Jan 47131 Jan 1 ADFirst AD date
19 Aug 472619 Aug 14Death of Augustus
4892180Death of Marcus Aurelius
5188476End of Western Roman Empire
4 Oct 62944 Oct 1582Day before Gregorian calendar started
5 Oct 629415 Oct 1582First day of Gregorian calendar
67041992I wrote this


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