An increasing number of people are realizing that joining the historical past is not only acquaintance with the masterpieces of world civilization, unique monuments of ancient art and literature, not only a school of moral and artistic education, but also an integral part of modern life, to some extent an assessment of the present and even “Discovery” of the future through the prism of historical experience.
New studies have largely changed previous ideas about the early stages of the history of mankind and its culture. Archaeological and linguistic research, the modern methodology of scientific research, have significantly delayed, in the depths of millennia, the time of transition to agriculture and metal processing, the emergence of writing, the formation of urban civilizations. But here is the paradox: time distances are increasing, the chronological framework is noticeably moving apart, and the ancient civilizations themselves are getting closer to us. Closer because it is more necessary.
Without the achievements of ancient civilizations, our world is not conceivable in any of its links. This at the same time connects us with ancient civilizations with a solid thread of continuity, and separates it from antiquity, for it did not have much of what it procured for its descendants, only preparing for further progress. It is precisely because of their fruitfulness that ancient civilizations seem to us, albeit a logical, but unique, unique stage of world-historical development.
Many extremely important discoveries in material and spiritual culture go back to ancient civilizations. Humanity today gratefully draws from this rich source. Creating a new one, it involuntarily and necessarily refers to the legacy of previous civilizations. And this appeal is a search for essential knowledge and experience, a desire to understand the wisdom of our distant ancestors, the reasons for their successes and insights, mistakes and errors, the motives of noble and immoral acts.
Despite all the dissimilarities and contrasts, ancient civilizations are united by a combination of the most important signs that give them fundamental differences from both primitive cultures and civilizations that have come to replace it.
Firstly, ancient civilizations are civilizations, a kind of unity that opposes the fact that civilization is not yet – pre-class and pre-state, pre-town and pre-civil, and finally, what is very important, the preliterate state of society and culture. More recently, primitive society was called prehistoric. Now that science has achieved important results in the study of the period of development that preceded civilization, this definition had to be abandoned. And this is fair. However, this approach had its own foundations, especially if we understand history in the initial, Herodotian sense of the word: as an interrogation of oral tradition.
We admire the wonders of preliterate culture – from cave and cave paintings to megaliths of Stonehenge (in the UK), study them, comprehending the secrets hidden in them, and at the same time we realize that the people who created these masterpieces will never “talk” to us and will not they will tell you what words they called the events that marked the time of their life, what they bequeathed to contemporaries and future generations.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Sargon the Ancient is known to us from written documents as a drama with a plot, with an “intrigue,” we have an idea of the personality of Ashurbanipal and Qin Shihuandi , we understand the true motives of the declarations of Darius I , we hear the lively voices of Akhenaten and Ashoka, not to mention the heroes and events of the history of the Greco-Roman world, about ancient characters whose intonations are guessed almost unmistakably. And the point is not simply that the historical knowledge of the societies that left the tradition fixed in writing becomes more complete. It is important that it acquires a fundamentally different meaning. The object of knowledge itself is incomparably richer. Compared to primitive society, the transition to civil society marked a qualitatively new stage in the development of culture and other aspects of human activity. The world of classes and class struggle, cities and urban civilizations, the world of written traditions creates such a meaningful fullness of the process of historical time that it did not exist before.
And on this basis, the most archaic civilization is closer to Athens of Pericles and to Rome of Augustus , than to, it would seem, “yesterday” and so still near primitiveness. This is the lower limit of unity. But at the same time, we must not forget: the upper limit is determined by the fact that ancient civilizations are ancient not so much in terms of time, but in their very essence. They inherited from the primitive cultures the mythological models of thinking, speech and action, characteristic of the latter, much more directly than later civilizations.
No less impressive are the geographical boundaries – the “expanses” of ancient civilizations. These are not only the classical civilizations of the East and the ancient West , but also the cultures of Africa , Central Asia , the Far East , and the civilization of the New World . They are strikingly not similar to each other and at the same time surprisingly organically soldered. The more familiar stereotypes of ancient societies, the well-known events of their political history, myths and legends familiar from childhood, as it were, overshadowed other civilizations that have not yet been studied in such detail, but unraveling the secrets of which will certainly bring science surprises. These surprises will not concede in significance and sensationalism to the discovery of Troy or Pompey.
Let us turn, for example, to the early cultures of Africa – Northern and Tropical. Their appearance is unusually different, not only time is diverse, but also the rate of formation and development of civilizations here – along with Nok and Meroe, Axum and Ife, a brilliant Swahili civilization. Every year, African sources in the culture of Ancient Egypt are more and more clearly highlighted . Similarities of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures of Egypt and the Arabian Desert, the culture of Upper Egypt and Northern Nubia from the Badari era , the oldest drawings on the rocks of the Sahara (Karruba, Bu-Alem, Jebel-Seba, Zenaga, Tassili, etc.) and the Arabian Desert ( Wadi Hammamat) with images of sacred animals, cult boats and hunting scenes reminiscent of murals of pre-dynastic Egyptian ceramics – all this is related to ancient Egyptian culture with the North African world. Egypt was associated with him by especially close ties, and he had a great influence on him at the time of his prime. On the other hand, the ease and depth of perception of the elements of Egyptian civilization by neighboring African peoples is a clear evidence of the initial inclusion of Egypt in a single world of the ancient cultures of Africa.
The top of the standard. Alacha Hyuk. 2300 BC
Completely different events took place in the New World. When the legions of Caesar subjugated the power of the rebellious Gauls by the Romans , and from the boundless Asian steppes moving west, to the Danube, hordes of nomadic Sarmatians , the first Native American civilizations arose on the other half of the globe . They were born on their own, on local soil, without experiencing significant influences from the ancient peoples of the Old World, and even before the arrival of European conquerors in the XVI century. managed to go a long and difficult path of evolution.
The “meeting” of two worlds and two cultures, so unlike each other, of course, can be attributed to the number of amazing historical paradoxes: if the most developed civilizations of American Aborigines corresponded in their general level to the most archaic forms of statehood of the ancient East, then Europe has already passed the Renaissance and stood on the threshold of antifeudal revolutions.
Of course, it is far from easy to reveal the essence of differences, the main reasons, moments of similarity, rapprochement of ancient civilizations – scientists from different humanitarian and even natural disciplines are working on this task. Any attempt to ignore the laws of human development, the general and the special in the historical process, reveals its failure. The path traversed by ancient civilizations, united by the bonds of continuity and cultural exchange, is unusually long and diverse.
This is the path from the most archaic mythological representations to the logic of Aristotle and Dignagi , to the morality of Confucius and Zoroaster , to the metaphysics of the Upanishads , to the universal world religious systems of Buddhism and Christianity, to the purest abstractions – “Tao” and “Logos” , “Brahman” and “Nus” , “Atman” and “psyche” .
This is the path from the oldest forms of verbal and artistic creation, still inextricably linked with the general ritual, to developed poetry, rhetoric, refined art, which involves individual authorship, and the exactingness of the connoisseur, to the theory of poetics, to the psychology of fine art.
This is the path from doubts about the truth of traditional ideas to the search for independent concepts of the universe and the “structure” of the Universe, to the philosophical teachings of Socrates and Plato , Nagarjuna and Van Chun , the atomism of Democritus and Vaisheshikov .
The same qualitative changes have occurred in other areas of human activity. Gradually, the main components of culture acquired the meaning that is already familiar to us.
At their later stage, ancient civilizations came to yet another great achievement: they put forward the principle of scientific, the principle of rationalism. The most clear, familiar and recognizable features for our view are ancient rationalism – the rationalism of the Sophists and the Athenian school (Socrates, Plato, and especially Aristotle), the scientific nature of Euclid and Archimedes ; with the very essence of early rationalism is the presence of an epistemological problem in the main schools of ancient Indian thought and the first experiments of ancient China.
In order to more fully appreciate the grandiose scale and unique specifics of the contribution of ancient civilizations to the cultural treasury of mankind, it is important to more clearly distinguish between rationalism that was born then, on the one hand, from pre-scientific knowledge, and on the other, from new European rationalism, which arose on the new foundations in the era of Galileo and Descartes .
Not only the birth of such world religions as Buddhism and Christianity is connected with the era of antiquity , but also the emergence of the Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics, to the level of which European philosophy did not go up to Francis Bacon, and the Confucian code of conduct that prevailed in China until the recent past. A world emerging from the bosom of ancient civilizations, where people are divided not only according to ethnic, geographical and cultural, but according to confessional grounds – into Orthodox and Catholics, into Shiites and Sunnis, etc .; where the new category of denominational affiliation makes sense; where Platonic models of thought enter widely through the scholasticism and mysticism of Christianity and Islam into the life of the masses, who did not read Plato and did not even hear about it, and the Confucian tradition freezes in the Suna neo-Confucianism; where the spirit of metaphysical constructions can materialize in the very concrete professional practice of visual arts, for example, in the Byzantine-Russian icon or Chinese landscape painting of the Song era (960-1279),
These are just some of the most general contours of the problems, plots, and phenomena considered on the site. One can hardly doubt the constant growth of interest in this topic – fascinating, necessary, grateful. Each era in its own way perceived ancient cultures; in a different way, obviously, the generations that are replacing us will come to their assessment, but the wealth of material and spiritual culture that is inherited from ancient civilizations will forever be imprinted in the memory of peoples.