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  • Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course: World History, and today were going to

  • do some legitimate comp. civ., for those of you into that kind of thing. Stan, I can’t

  • help but feel that we have perhaps too many globes.

  • That’s better. Today were going to learn about the horrible totalitarian Persians and

  • the saintly democracy-loving Greeks.

  • But of course we already know this story: There were some wars in which no one wore

  • any shirts and everyone was reasonably fit; the Persians were bad; the Greeks were good;

  • Socrates and Plato were awesome; the Persians didn’t even philosophize; The West is the

  • Best Go Team.

  • Yeah, well, no.

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  • Let’s start with the Persian empire, which became the model for pretty much all land-based

  • empires throughout the world. Except forwait for itthe Mongols.

  • Much of what we know about the Persians and their empire come from an outsider writing

  • about them which is something we now call history, and one of the first true historians

  • was Herodotus, whose famous book The Persian Wars talks about the Persians quite a bit.

  • Now the fact that Herodotus was a Greek is important because it introduces us to the

  • idea of historical bias. But more on that in a second.

  • So the Persian Achaemenid dynasty- Achaemenid? Hold on...

  • [audible computer pronunciation] AkEEmenid or AkEHmenid

  • So theyre both right? I was right twice!

  • Right, so the Persian AkEEmenid or AkEHmenid dynasty was founded in 539 BCE by King Cyrus

  • the Great.

  • Cyrus took his nomadic warriors and conquered most of Mesopotamia, including the Babylonians,

  • which ended a sad period in Jewish history called The Babylonian Exile, thus ensuring

  • that Cyrus got great press in the Bible.

  • But his son, Darius the First, was even greater: He extended Persian control east to our old

  • friend the Indus Valley, west to our new friend Egypt, and north to Crash Course newcomer

  • Anatolia.

  • By the way, there were Greeks in Anatolia called Ionian Greeks who will become relevant

  • shortly.

  • So even if you weren’t Persian, the Persian Empire was pretty dreamy.

  • For one thing, the Persians ruled with a light touch: Like conquered kingdoms were allowed

  • to keep their kings and their elites as long as they pledged allegiance to the Persian

  • King and paid taxes, which is why the Persian king was known as The King of Kings.

  • Plus taxes weren’t too high and the Persians improved infrastructure with better roads

  • and they had this pony express-like mail service of which Herodotus said:

  • “… they are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing

  • their appointed course with all speed.”

  • And the Persians embraced freedom of religion. Like they were Zoroastrian, which has a claim

  • to being the world’s first monotheistic religion. It was really Zoroastrianism that

  • introduced to the good/evil dualism we all know so well. You know: god and satan or harry

  • and voldemort...

  • But the Persians weren’t very concerned about converting people of the empire to their

  • faith. Plus, Zoroastrianism forbid slavery, and so slavery was almost unheard of in the

  • Persian Empire.

  • All in all, if you had to live in the 5th century BCE, the Persian Empire was probably

  • the best place to do it. Unless, that is, you believe Herodotus and the Greeks.

  • We all know about the Greeks: Architecture. Philosophy Literature. The very word music

  • comes from Greek, as does so much else in contemporary culture.

  • Greek poets and mathematicians playwrights and architects and philosophers founded a

  • culture we still identify with. And they introduced us to many ideas, from democracy to fart jokes.

  • And the Greeks gave the west our first dedicated history, they gave us our vocabulary for talking

  • about politics.

  • Plus they gifted us our idealization of democracy, which comes from the government they had in

  • Athens.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green, Mr. Green, Mr Greendid you say fart jokes?

  • Uhhh. You don’t ask about Doric, Ionian, or Corinthian columns. You don’t ask about

  • Plato’s allegory of the cave. It’s all scatological humor with youit’s time

  • for the open letter? Really? Already? Alright.

  • [rolls in] An open letter [the whoopee cushion sounds]- Stan! To Aristophanes.

  • Dear Aristophanes, --Oh right, I have to check the secret compartment.

  • Stan, what... oh. Thank you, Stan. It’s fake dog poo. How thoughtful.

  • So, good news and bad news, Aristophanes. 2,300 years after your death, this is the

  • good news,youre still a reasonably famous. Only 11 of your 40 plays survived, but even

  • so, youre called the Father of Comedy, there are scholars devoted to your work.

  • Now, the bad news: Even though your plays are well-translated and absolutely hilarious,

  • students don’t like to read them in schools. There always like, why do we gotta read this

  • boring crap?

  • And this must be particularly galling to you because so much of what you did in your career

  • was make fun of boring crap, specifically in the form of theatrical tragedies. Plus,

  • you frequently used actual crap to make jokes.

  • Such as when you had the chorus in The Acharnians imagining a character in your play throwing

  • crap at a real poet you didn’t like.

  • You, Aristophanes, who wrote that under every stone lurks a politician, who called wealth

  • the most excellent of all the gods..

  • You, who are responsible for the following conversation:

  • Praxagora: I all to have a share of everything and everything to be in common; there will

  • no longer be either rich or poor; [...] I shall begin by making land, money, everything

  • that is private property, common to all. [...]

  • Blepyrus: But who will till the soil?

  • Praxagora: The slaves.

  • Blepyrus: Oh.

  • And yet youre seen as homework! Drudgery! That, my friend, is a true tragedy. On the

  • upside, we did take care of slavery. It only took 2,000 years.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • When we think about the high point of Greek culture, exemplified by the Parthenon and

  • the plays of Aeschylus, what were really thinking about is Athens

  • in the 4th century BCE, right after the Persian Wars.

  • But Greece was way more than Athens. Greeks lived in city-states which consisted of a

  • city and its surrounding area.

  • Most of these city-states featured at least some form of slavery and in all of them citizenship

  • was limited to males.

  • Sorry ladies...

  • Also, Each of the city-states had its own form of government, ranging from very democraticunless

  • you were a women or a slaveto completely dictatorial.

  • And the people who lived in these cities considered themselves citizens of that city, not of anything

  • that might ever be called Greece. At least until the Persian wars.

  • So between 490 and 480 BCE, the Persians made war on the Greek City states. This was the

  • war that featured the battle of Thermopylae where 300 brave Spartans battled--if you believe

  • Herodotus--five million Persians.

  • And also the battle of Marathon, which is a plain about 26.2 miles away from Athens.

  • The whole war started because Athens supported those aforementioned Ionian Greeks when they

  • were rebelling in Anatolia against the Persians.

  • That made the Persian king Xerxes mad so he led two major campaigns against the Athenians,

  • and the Athenians enlisted the help of all the other Greek city states.

  • And in the wake of that shared Greek victory, the Greeks began to see themselves as Greeks

  • rather than as Spartans or Athenians or whatever.

  • And then Athens emerged as the de facto capital of Greece and then got to experience a Golden

  • Age, which is something that historians make up.

  • But a lot of great things did happen during the Golden Age, including the Parthenon, a

  • temple that became a church and then a mosque and then an armory until finally settling

  • into its current gig as a ruin.

  • You also had statesmen like Pericles, whose famous funeral oration brags about the golden

  • democracy of Athens with rhetoric that wouldn’t sound out of place today.

  • If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences

  • if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.”

  • When you combine that high minded rhetoric with the undeniable power and beauty of the

  • art and philosophy that was created in ancient Athens, it’s not hard to see it as the foundation

  • of Western civilization.

  • And if you buy into this, you have to be glad that the Greeks won the Persian Wars.

  • But even if you put aside the slavery and other injustices in Greek society, there’s

  • still trouble.

  • Do I have to say it, seriously? FINE. TROUBLE RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY WITH A CAPITAL T

  • WHICH RHYMES WITH P AND THAT STANDS FOR THE PELOPONNESE.

  • Pericles’s funeral oration comes from a later war, The Peloponnesian War, a 30-year

  • conflict between the Athens and the Spartans.

  • The Spartans did not embrace democracy but instead embraced a kingship that functioned

  • only because of a huge class of brutally mistreated slaves.

  • But to be clear, the war was not about Athens trying to get Sparta to embrace democratic

  • reform; wars rarely are.

  • It was about resources and power. And the Athenians were hardly saintly in all of this,

  • as evidenced by the famous Melian Dialogue.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • So in one of the most famous passages of Thucydideshistory of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians

  • sailed to the island of Melos, a Spartan colony, and demanded that the Melians submit to Athenian

  • Rule.

  • The Melians pointed out they’d never actually fought with the Spartans and were like, “Listen,

  • if it’s all the same to you, we’d like to go Switzerland on this one,” except of

  • course they didn’t say that because there was no Switzerland, to which the Athenians

  • responded, and here I am quoting directly, “The strong do what they can and the weak

  • suffer what they must.”

  • Needless to say, this is not a terribly democratic or enlightened position to take. This statement,

  • in fact, is sometimes seen as the first explicit endorsement of the so-called theory of Realism

  • in international relations.

  • For realists, interaction between nations (or peoples or cultures) is all about who

  • has the power. Whoever has it can compel whoever doesn’t have it to do pretty much anything.

  • So what did the meritocratic and democratic Athenians do when the Melians politely asked

  • not to participate in the fight?

  • They killed all the Melian men, and enslaved all the women and children.

  • So, yes, Socrates gave us his interrogative Method; Sophocles gave us Oedipus; but the

  • legacy of Ancient Greece is profoundly ambiguous, all the more so because the final winner of

  • the Peloponnesian War were the dictatorial Spartans.

  • Thanks for the incredible bummer, ThoughtBubble.

  • So here’s a non-rhetorical question: Did the right side win the Persian wars?

  • Most classicists and defenders of the Western Tradition will tell you that of course we

  • should be glad the Greeks won.

  • After all, winning the Persian war set off the cultural flourishing that gave us the

  • classical age. And plus, if the Persians had won with their monarchy that might have strangled

  • democracy in its crib and gave us more one -man rule.

  • And that’s possible, but as a counter that argument, lets consider three things:

  • First, it’s worth remembering that life under the Persians was pretty good and if

  • you look at the last five thousand years of human history, youll find a lot more successful

  • and stable empires than you will democracies.

  • Second, life under the Athenians wasn’t so awesome, particularly if you were a woman

  • or a slave and their government was notoriously corrupt.

  • And ultimately the Athenian government derived its power not from its citizens but from the

  • imperialist belief that Might Makes Right.

  • It’s true that Athens gave us Socrates, but let me remind you, they also killed him.

  • Well, I mean they forced him to commit suicide. Whatever, Herodotus, youre not the only

  • one here who can engage in historical bias.

  • And lastly, under Persian rule the Greeks might have avoided the Peloponnesian War,

  • which ended up weakening the Greek city states so much that AlexanderComing Soonthe

  • Great’s father was able to conquer all of them and then there were a bunch of bloody

  • wars with the Persians and all kinds of horrible things and Greece wouldn’t glimpse democracy

  • again for two millennia. All of which might have been avoided if they’d

  • just let themselves get beaten by the Persians.

  • All of which forces us to return to the core question of human history: What’s the point

  • of being alive?

  • I’ve got good news for you, guy. Youre only going to have to worry about it for about

  • 8 more seconds.

  • Should we try to ensure the longest, healthiest, and most productive lives for humans? If so,

  • it’s easy to argue that Greece should have lost the Persian Wars.

  • But perhaps lives are to be lived in pursuit of some great ideal worth sacrificing endlessly

  • for. And if so, maybe the glory of Athens still

  • shines, however dimly.

  • Those are the real questions of history: What’s the point of being alive? How should we organize

  • ourselves, what should we seek from this life? Those aren’t easy questions, but well

  • take another crack at them next week when we talk about the Buddha.

  • I’ll see you then.

  • Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Danica Johnson.

  • The graphics team is ThoughtBubble and the show is written by my high school history

  • teacher Raoul Meyer and me.

  • Our phrase of the week last week was "Un Mot De Francais". If you’d like to guess this

  • week’s phrase of the week you can do so in comments. You can also ask questions about

  • today’s video in comments where our team of historians will attempt to answer them.

  • Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to be awesome.

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course: World History, and today were going to

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The Persians & Greeks: Crash Course World History #5

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    Chi-feng Liu   に公開 2013 年 04 月 17 日
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