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There comes a time in a man's life when he must throw all caution to the wind and resolve himself to set to sea, for life on shore no longer holds for him promise of coin nor the tender arms of a cherished lady female of the fairer sex. He must then to put his fate before the mast, trusting that that which Demeter could not provide to him, that Poseidon shall. He must rig the mizzen topsail and haul on the taffrail log and swab the deck, holding only the salty sea in his heart as he flies before the wind. He must look to the compass for guidance as he catches the ocean currents and navigate by the stars. He must launch his harpoon true and follow his white whale wherever it may lead. In fair Verona, we lay our scene-

A much needed invocation of the Muses

Sing, O Muses, of the dawn of Civilization
Whose mighty men did great deeds of valor
Whose great works are known to the ages
Who did so work woe to those who failed to rise
And we ask thy favor on as this epic unwinds
Fully clad this bard in armor made of bronze
Send him out to slaughter all who would keep
him from the task you set before him, to salt
the earth upon which the unrighteous draw
succor, and put to flight their women and do
great iniquities to the beasts of their field.
For verily it shall be said, that your humble
servant and disciple, spun the words given
As Penelope spun wool, waiting for her beloved
Odysseus to return to his divinely denied Ithaca
Guidest thou my hand! Give me the strength to
Endure all dangers, fight all manner of monsters,
To bring death to the innocent and destruction
to those who flee in terror and know not why.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter this tome.

1. Setting the Scene.

According to geneticists that study these things, all people have a recent african ancestry. Down South, we're much too polite to just say that. They actually mean recent as in a hundred thousand years ago. This only really works if you were around for the dinosaurs, or if your mind works like a female mind does1. There are competing theories and there is some evidence to suggest that some races had archaic alternate hominid admixture to genes, but it's rude to bring that up too. How would you like it if you were at a social gathering and someone brought up that you had non african ancestry and that pretty much all of you non africans include genomes that are of Neanderthal origin, likely due to interbreeding that occurred in Northern Africa or the Middle East prior to large scale migration to other parts of the world? Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals getting their freak on is not the kind of subject that you're allowed to just bring up in mixed company.

If you would like a visual aid for the preceding sentence, it's likely that these Neanderthals were men and these Early Modern Humans were women. It's possible that there were other sleeping arrangements made, but given that no modern populations contain Mitochondrial DNA, no living person's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother was a Neanderthal.

Taking that into account, I guess a Neanderthal woman could sleep with a Early Modern Human man, then they only produced sons and those sons ran off and joined the Early Modern Human gene pool. That seems unlikely though. Mothers usually end up taking the kids when things don't work out between the parents, and Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans had a strictly sexual relationship. This means that Early Modern Human Man has a wild night of sweaty sex with Neanderthal Woman, they wake up the next morning really regretting it, Early Modern Human Man runs off and invents agriculture and cities and killing other Early Modern Human Men with clubs and Neanderthal Woman runs off back to her wandering hunter gatherer Neanderthal tribe, bears a son and that son probably doesn't survive to adulthood because he's hanging out with a bunch of strong Neanderthals that play pretty darned rough, whereas he's got a slightly smarter brain and a shoulder that can pivot more freely to show for it on his end. In other words, those Neanderthals probably ganged up and wiped the nerd out.

So it makes more sense for Early Modern Human Woman to get it on with Neanderthal Man. They make the hominid with two backs together, Neanderthal Man runs off back to his life of hunter gathering sexing up whatever wanders into his path and seems reasonably female, and Early Modern Human Woman wanders back and raises her half Neanderthal Child in the Cradle of Civilization. This Child can be either a boy or a girl, because if it's a girl that girl can only pass on her mother's mtDNA anyway. Either way, somewhere in the range of 1-4%(possibly up to 8% in some cases) of non african people's dna usually has Neanderthal DNA in it. Either that's one half Neanderthal child doing a lot of sex and a lot of quarter neanderthal children doing a lot of sex and a lot of one eighth neanderthal children doing a lot of sex and a lot of one 16th neanderthal children doing a lot of sex and a lot of one thirty-secondth neanderthal children doing a lot of sex and keeping it in about that range so that p. much everyone has a little neanderthal in them(quite literally), or this happened a couple times and these half neanderthal children shared the workload around.

At this point in the narrative, it's important to emphasize that throughout recorded history, and as much as we've been able to surmise about unrecorded history, people have been having sex and producing other people. It never seems to end. In addition to the Neanderthals, there's another hominid that likely contributed DNA to early modern humans that exists in humans today - the Denisovans. The Denisovans are famous for being scrupulously unfamous and not as cool as Neanderthals. Some of their genes are still bouncing around in people from Melanesia and a few other places in australia and southeast asia.

So, what it comes down to is this. People start out in Africa. They begin the long journey out of Africa as soon as they know how. Hominids had been doing this since before the time of Early Modern Humans. Homo Erectus had figured it out, and the Neanderthals, and apparently the Denisovans. On their way out of Africa, there is a period of time when they had just exited and were willing to try new things. They carried on torrid affairs with Neanderthals, but pretty soon the Neanderthals got scairt clean off and ran off to europe.

An interesting side note about the Neanderthals - they HAAAAAAAATED change, and they pretty much refused to do it. One of the hallmarks of the Neanderthals is that their stone tools show no technological development over the hundreds of thousands of years that they were making them. They figured out one way to make them, and they stuck to it. They also never developed societies. They made buildings for themselves out of mammoth bones and such, but their bands were always p. small. It's thought that this may have been because their brains just couldn't handle there being a lot of other Neanderthals to be around. Naturally, this put them at a disadvantage when confronting Early Modern Humans. They didn't really like just hanging out with other hominids, and they just made the same stone tools over and over again while Early Modern Human had begun the long process of developing their killing each other technology to the peak efficiency levels we experience today.

As Humans moved into places previously inhabited by Neanderthal hunter gatherers, the Neanderthals were driven off. Pretty soon, Early Modern Humans had taken all the rly good quarries and agricultural areas and hunting grounds. It's hypothesized that this may've been an armed invasion, driving the Neanderthals out through force of arms. From what I know about people, this tracks. I like to think though that the Neanderthals had lived their little hunter gatherer groups way of life forever, and when Early Modern Humans showed up with their complex societies, they retreated in disgust. The Neanderthals didn't want to change, they didn't want to live in a society that would one day invent the wheel and hereditary monarchy and lateen sails and lolcats. They had figured out how to be happy, and it included none of those things. They went awandering out places that they could just be with their traditional little bands of Neanderthals.

Now, the Neanderthals had no way of knowing that this was a terrible strategy. It had worked for thousands of years, just like their stone tool designs. As the ice ages drew to a close, the Neanderthals went out to live in the new lands that were being freed up from under the ice packs every day. Unfortunately for Neanderthals, people had gotten the same idea. This forced the Neanderthals to move even farther afield, but Early Modern Humans kept going until they filled everything up. As the Neanderthals fled, soon the only lands the Neanderthals could have to themselves ended up being lands that just didn't make very much food. You can't live like that forever. Of course we know this now, but the Neanderthals weren't that smart.

The last place we see Neanderthals is in a sea cave in Gibraltar. They'd holed up there near the beach. I don't know if they did it for the reason people go to Gibraltar these days, but probably not. The Neanderthals probably never thought to invent flipping the bird at Spaniards. At any rate, for hundreds of thousands of years, Neanderthals had stayed true to themselves, never changing under all the pressure the world had to offer. This was a terrible survival strategy. Early Modern Humans knew that. They had changed whenever it suited them.

The very last Neanderthal sat in his cave, looking out over the water for no reason at all. He probably had no idea where he was sitting was going to be hella famous one day. He had all the same tools his ancestors had used forever, and searched for food the very same way his ancestors did forever. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much food around as when his ancestors had gone looking. He probably starved to death. And that was the end of that. People now ruled the world all for themselves.

1 - seriously, honey? that was /literally/ fifty thousand years ago.


I) How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

II) Given the European alliance system prior to the outbreak of World War 1, was there any possibility for the tense conditions following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to be defused?

III) Using only the information given in the first section, explain what effect the discovery of the New World had on the Economy of Europe in the 11th century.

2. Civilization takes root.

If you notice one thing about people, it's that they're always up to something. But if you really think about it, they're pretty heavily into bipedal motion. This gave Early Modern Humans a huge advantage over animals that move quadrupedally. It takes half the effort and left their hands free for carrying stuff as they moved about. This pretty much enables all sorts of great migrations, and pretty soon there were early modern humans walking all over the world, following herds of big game and wiping them out for food as they went. It was a great system and enabled the habitable continents to become chock full of people quite early in human history.

But the thing that really took Early Modern Humans to the next level was the invention of standing still. This is because while you can have all sorts of rich and wonderful cultures on the go, a Civilization requires a large portion of your population to be reasonably sedentary; but also not starve to death. Not starving to death is pretty key here. You're allowed to die of all sorts of other causes and still have a functioning civilization, but it's hard to keep up your member base if everyone's going hungry. The occasional famine is allowed, long term starvation is not.

This necessitated the development of agriculture. There's some question as to whether cities came first or agriculture came first, but I feel like cities probably came first. Just try planting a patch of watermelons without a fence around them and see where that gets you. I'm thinking Early Modern Humans didn't have a firm sense of property rights and agriculture wouldn't've worked very well if there weren't large groups of Early Modern Humans waiting to beat them with Early Modern Human weapons if they stole their food.

This led to a paradox though. Early hunter gatherers likely required about four hours a day to find all the food they needed in a day. That's not too bad and left all sorts of time for doing other things. Early agriculture, however, requires the agriculturalist to work all day long for his food. The benefit is that he can store up more than he can eat in a day and not go hungry in the winter, but the point stands that it requires a lot of work. It's really only worth doing if you're absolutely attached to your surroundings. Fortunately for Early Modern Humans, they were really great at inventing reasons to become attached to their surroundings.

Holy Places hardly ever move and it's inconvenient to even try. This means that for Early Modern Humans entering Northern Africa and the Middle East, they encountered all sorts of Holy Places that no one had claimed yet.(There's a pretty good rule of thumb to remember about this - a civilization has holy places, a Great Civilization took their Holy Places away from someone else.) Once you find one you like, you have to build a city, once you build a city you have to find a way to feed it. This pretty much means agriculture. This pretty much means agriculture. There was also Pastoralism, but those people tended towards the nomadic still. Early civilizations likely did require trade between pastoral nomads and agriculturalists though.

There's a great example early in the Bible of this. The story of Cain and Abel. Cain was an agriculturalist and built the first city ever. Abel was a pastoral nomad and God liked his sacrifices better. This is mirrored in the history of Mesopotamia to a degree - The Sumerians were agriculturalists that built tons of Great Cities and had the first Civilization in working order pretty quickly. The Akkadians were originally pastoralists and built the first civilization capable of conquering the Sumerians, which they did nearly as soon as it was an option.

It's important to note that agriculture is not the only thing you need to run a proper civilization worth the name. It also needs to be near a river valley, preferably not in Subsaharan Africa, and it really needs a system of government, a system of taxation, religion(s), and weapons. The weapons don't need to be metal necessarily, but it helps if you're planning to fight high neolithic civilizations to have better weapons than them. The Aztecs and the Incas are both decent examples of civilizations that found effective ways to conquer nearby civilizations without the use of metal weaponry though, so I'm not saying it can't be done definitively. It's just easier for us all later on in school to learn about the Stone Age, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. That's a nice, simple progression and the modern education system loves its nice simple progressions with as little nuance as possible.

Early systems of government were pretty easy, and followed from the point about weapons and religion quite nicely. You had a King that was also at least partly a god whose godlike strength enabled him to rule over your civilization and beat up anyone else that tried to be King or conquer your civilization. Taxation was even easier to figure out. Once you figure out how to steal from other Early Modern Humans, it doesn't take you long to invent bull !@#$ reasons why it's ok to take their things. Especially if you're a God-King with access to metal weaponry and aren't too stingy with the violence. That's usually pretty convincing and not very many early peoples resorted to the libertarian argument in the face of it. Tax evasion back then wasn't like tax evasion now. If you didn't pay your taxes in some way, you were likely to end up missing body parts.

The first taxes came in the form of forced labor or a tithe. Tithes were really easy in early agricultural societies - as soon as you harvest all your crops, you need a place to store them that will keep them safe from thieves and foreigners. In Early Egypt, this meant that you took them to the granaries under the protection of Pharoah, where he deducted a portion of your harvest for his use. He could use that grain to support building new cities and pyramids and to support big armies to keep order in his kingdom or wreak havoc in other people's kingdoms. It seems like a really great system if you're the one benefitting from it. It's good to bear in mind that in early civilizations, it didn't really matter what the common people wanted long as the God-King was happy. Unless there happened to be other folks thinking they could be God-King. Early Civilization was prone to having all kinds of wars, and civil wars weren't off the table, so to speak.

But that's another matter altogether. To review, the key, defining characteristics of a good civilization are: staying in at least one place, not starving to death too much, taxes, oppression, and a method of dealing with foreigners that either sees their labor put to menial tasks for the greater civilization or being used as target practice for that civilization's military.


I) Gobekli Tepe: fun to say or a groundbreaking archeological find?

II) Aren't all Archeological finds groundbreaking on some level?

III) y'know, because they involve the actual breaking of ground?

IV) GET IT?????

3. Warfare

It's important to note the role that warfare played in early civilizations. The main difference to remember between civilized and uncivilized warfare was that in uncivilized warfare, dozens and scores of men would die violent deaths every year, whereas in civilized warfare, hundreds and thousands of men, women, and children would die violent deaths every year. It is because of civilization that we as a race were able to invent tools for killing each other that were greater than the pointy stick. But that took a while - the pointy stick in its various forms dominated civilized warfare for thousands of years.

Warfare had a very important role in early civilizations because it was one of the easiest ways to make a tribal society become a civilized society. The tribal society would go awandering, come upon a well built civilization, and pretty soon decide that they wanted it for themselves. This happened a lot in early civilizations. It seems as though the more complex and historical your civilization is, the easier it is for horsemen to show up and completely dominate it. Civilization never really invented a good way of dealing with this problem until the advent of our own age, in which we have machine guns and barbed wire. Even now, it's hard to know if it would really work if the central asian hordes broke loose again.

On the subject of pointy sticks, it's hard to overemphasize how many times this invention revolutionized warfare over and over again. Examples include the greek phalanx, the roman legion, medieval pikemen, horse archers of various tribes, the english longbowmen, and the list goes on. It's a devilishly simple answer to the question "what's a relatively low tech way I can kill my enemies" and in many ways we're very fortunate that civilizations never ran out of ways to make more. The spear, the arrow, the pike, the lance, the javelin, the dart, the pilum, and all their many variations ensured that even cultures without the benefit of civilization could give warfare a try. If you could find a stick and you could figure out a way to make at least one end of it sharp, you just got yourself a fighting chance.

One of the great things about early civilized warfare is that was a good method of obtaining slaves. Slavery was a bona fide pillar of early civilization; nearly every culture kept them and a few even treated them well. Going off on a raid and capturing yourself a couple hundred slaves or so ensured that you were able to afford nice new pointy sticks and could afford to go on even more raids for slaves. The early vikings are a great example - they used to sail out, capture a bunch of christian slaves, find themselves a christian slave market and sell them for a nice profit. It was a great system because they hadn't invented the Emancipation Proclamation yet. It still works in some parts of the world, but is considered not as great a system these days. Social mores are prone to change rapidly. Slavery and rapine are out, back sassing your elders and taking hundreds of selfies is in. Civilization will never quite be what it once was.

For many civilizations, this was also a great way to obtain human sacrifices. Early on, practically every civilization engaged in this in some form or another, then accused other civilizations of engaging in it by way of asserting their superiority over the other. Ancient slurs tended to gather around the kinds of human sacrifices your civilization took part in. So, a civilization that sacrifices captives to their gods could consider themselves superior to a civilization that sacrifices young children to their gods. A civilization that merely sacrifices their captives and doesn't drink their blood, too, could think they'd achieved another level of advancement. It was a great system for gauging how advanced your society was - in our own age, we've reached a point where we'll very nearly have human sacrifice phased out(or at least very rare) altogether by 2030. This is a triumph of Western Civilization.

The thing that warfare was great at was wiping out civilizations that didn't have what it took to hack it. This might sound brutal at first, but it also sounds brutal at second. Once your civilization runs out of steam, it's going to be deleted and the barbarians are going to have a chance to start over. They won't maintain your aqueducts, they'll let your cities fall to ruin, they'll let your trade routes be forgotten, and they'll immediately start fighting each other over the leftover pieces of your once great empire. Just ask any of the royal families in Europe. Their ancestors did it better than just about anyone.

Now that our civilizations have slaughter, ruin, slavery, human sacrifice, taxes, farming, and a lot of oppression, we're ready for technological advancement. We'll need domesticated animals, the wheel, the lateen sail, metallurgy, and industrial revolutions if we're really going to kick up civilization to a whole new level.


I) Would you rather fight a horse sized duck, or a hundred duck sized horses?

II) Would you rather have a dozen Elite Longbowmen fully upgraded, or a half dozen fully upgraded Elite Cataphracts? Feel free to expound on how AoE2 has changed your life.

III) Are you up to date on your shots?

IV) Have you traveled abroad in the last 90 days?

4. Technological Revolutions.

Technological progress gives a civilization a nice advantage. Domesticating animals is a good example. Civilizations with a lot of domesticated animals build more immunities up, because of the diseases they get from those animals. This is particularly stark when a civilization with a lot of large order mammalian domesticates comes in contact with a civilization that has none of them and has never been exposed to them before. They all die of smallpox and measles and mumps and ruebella and influenza and only give you syphillis for your trouble.

Early domestications were likely by pure accident. Dogs probably came first. Eariy dogs followed Early Modern Humans around, feeding off their scraps. Early Modern Humans were busy knocking out a lot of the large order mammals they found, so left plenty of things for dogs to eat. Dogs got more nutrition, learned to behave certain ways to get more food, and pretty soon were properly domesticated. It really helps if the animals volunteer to be domesticated for you. Chickens and pigs do a pretty good job of this. Horses and cows are more difficult, but once humans set their mind to it, they had fantastic draft animals. This made agriculture much easier; yoke a couple oxen up and plough a field and you're able to plant a lot more than if you did it all by hand.

This made it much easier for civilizations that had these domesticated animals to overpower civilizations that didn't. Another invention that completely remade the world was the Wheel. When you have a wheel, you can attach that wheel to a cart and carry things overland much easier. If you get really good at the wheel, you can make a chariot. The chariot pretty quickly dominated warfare because the horses that had been bred at the time were not big enough to ride just yet. Get them pulling your chariot and deck it out with archers and scythes and the like and you've just invented one of the most intimidating, least practical tools of warfare ever. It only works on flat ground and you can't turn it very well. You had better hope that your enemies want to line up right in front of you, which fortunately many Bronze Age armies did.

Which brings us to Bronze and Iron. Bronze is the one you're 'sposda discover first, because it's fairly easy to melt and cast. You just need Copper and Tin and you can make it pretty easily. The trick is to make sure to put tin in it. If by some happenstance, you should put zinc in it and not tin, you've got brass and that's no good. You can use arsenic instead and it'll still be bronze, but that's not as popular if you have tin and tin has the advantage of not being toxic. Not poisoning yourself to death with your own metal tools was highly prized by ancient civilizations. Or, at the very least, the ones that got poisoned to death by their metal tools didn't last long enough to leave a lot of artifacts. If you don't leave artifacts or literature, you're not a very good civilization and you'll probably be forgotten, and not in a romantic way like Atlantis was forgotten.

The problem with bronze is that even though it's easy to make, it's hard to find all the ingredients for. You need huge trade networks and all kinds of contact with other civilizations to keep your bronze making culture going. Iron is much easier to find because the Earth is practically made of the stuff. Nearly a third of the earth is made of Iron. It's everywhere you look, but more difficult to work than Bronze. Once you move your civilization from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age though, big bad things happen. Your old trade networks collapse, you get invaded by Horse Peoples, Sea Peoples, Warrior Peoples, and Whatever Other Kind of Peoples That Happen to Be Migrating About Peoples and your civilization suffers a Bronze Age Collapse.

Cast Iron isn't as strong as cast bronze. You get to learn these things later on when you're making cannon and bells and the like. Bronze never actually died out, Iron was just so much more convenient because there's iron ore practically anywhere you want to build a civilization. Bear in mind, Iron's a much better deal when you forge it and add carbon. The major societal shift away from Bronze as a primary metal for tool making messed everyone up. The folks that mined the tin ore had had it pretty sweet for a long time, and it ended just like that. This is the great thing about technology and civilization. When you have a really good new technology, it puts everyone whose livelihood depended on old technology out of business. Just ask fletchers, or newspaper writers, or x rated video stores how the last five hundred years of technological advancement has improved their business prospects.

Which brings us to the lateen sail. For those of yall who don't sail and have read up to here and have seen that term brought up before, here's your chance to find out what it is and why it changes everything. The lateen sail allows a ship to sail against the wind. This is very convenient because the wind doesn't generally blow exactly where you want to go, unless it does because you have a wandering soul. This completely remade trade routes, because instead of having to row somewhere if it wasn't downwind, you could just tack back and forth until you got there. This technology sounded the death knell for being uncivilized. Before, if you wanted to be uncivilized, you could hide upwind on some corner of the earth civilization couldn't find you at. Now, not only could civilization come find you, it could take all your gold and all your trade goods from you at gunpoint and sail back home. This is a Triumph for Civilization.


I) In what what way would you say has social media effected positive change in the Middle East, following the Crusades? Feel free to be verbose.

II) If you could invent the wheel or the cell phone but not both, which would you choose and why?

III) If you could uninvent the wheel or the cell phone but not both, which would you choose and why?
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5. On Astronomy and Very Large Buildings.

Astronomy is very easy to do if you are an ancient person. There's no tv on and it happens every day. I don't know if yall've noticed this, but there's a very large celestial object that lights up the sky during periods often commonly referred to as "Day". This is called the "Sun" - don't panic if it's happening to you: it's normal. Do not make direct eye contact and it will be gone by the end of the day.

When the Sun is gone, look up again. You'll either see clouds, in which case you've just failed at Astronomy, but are doing very well at Meteorology. But, if it's a clear night, you will very likely see stars, planets, the moon, airplanes, artificial satellites, meteors, or the ceiling if you are doing this wrong. If you see the last thing, go outside. If there are bears outside waiting to eat you, omit this step and continue to the next section. Astronomy may be too hard for you and you might want to take up other fields of research.

There are six planets that are visible to the naked eye. Mercury and Venus are inner planets and you can only see them when it is near dusk or dawn, because otherwise they're closer to the Sun than we are and the light of the Sun would make them difficult to observe when looking at them during broad daylight. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn are often easily visible at night. Just look up along the ecliptic, find a bright point of light and it's probably one of them. Jupiter and Mars are usually brightest and Saturn less so because it's so far away. Uranus is the final planet that is sometimes visible, but it's so far away that it's rarely more than a dim point of light. In ancient times, it was often mistaken for a star because being so far away renders its movements less detectable than the other planets.

It's very important to know how to find the ecliptic if you are going to do astronomy right. Take your finger and point it to where the sun rises, and then trace its path through the sky to where it sets. That's probably the ecliptic. It's a very real imaginary line. Nearly all of your solar system objects have the good sense to stick to it. There are some comets that like to wobble in and out, but by and large the planets and such are all good solar citizens and stay along that plane. Of course, you could be doing it wrong, and the line you just drew with your finger is not the ecliptic, but in ancient times this would have been much easier because they actually paid attention. This is a very important imaginary line, and if you can't wrap your head around it, you're bad at astronomy and may want to just give up because you'll never get it.

The ecliptic is important because it's also where all the constellations of the zodiac are. If you are an ancient philosopher and are considering the heavens, this is very important to you. Astrologists were in high demand at the time, which is surprising because they didn't have newspapers or magazines for a very long time in the ancient world. They just had to figure their astrologies out for themselves, and for many a charlatan this made for a cushy job in the court of ancient God-Kings looking for guidance from the heavens. Many civilizations came up with their own interpretations of what the constellations in the zodiac were, but they very nearly all agreed there were either twelve or thirteen of them. This works out nicely because every year there are about twelve or thirteen moon cycles, depending on who is making the calendar and why they don't think the thirteenth one counts. This is really a matter between a calendar maker and his Civilization.

Another celestial feature that is very helpful is that there is a star located almost directly over Earth's North Pole. This has made navigating in the northern hemisphere much easier for thousands of years. If one were to orient oneself to the North Star, and walk towards it such that it was eventually directly overhead, one would still be some miles from the actual North Pole, but still much closer than anyone in their right mind should oughta be without a lot of support staff. I don't recommend trying it for our Non-Inuit audience. Naturally, our North Star is not the same as the North Star of the Ancients. The Earth has a rotational wobble that changes the orientation of its axis over time, such that a completely different star would have been in Polaris's position in Ancient times. So there's that. If you haven't given up on astronomy yet, you should probably get out and take a gander at the North Star while it's still the North Star. You have about a thousand years, the clock is ticking.

Naturally, there are hundreds of constellations in the night sky, with many variations according to which culture is looking at them. The Chinese had an affinity for constellations of the zodiac they can put on placemats at restaurants. The Ancient Greeks had it pretty firm in their heads that they were characters from Greek Mythology. The Mayans were pretty sure that it meant the world was ending and promptly disbanded their Civilization once they figured it out. The salient point is that a hundred different civilizations can look into the sky and see a hundred different things, but at most, 2-3 are going to be memorable and at most a half dozen others will rise to the level of Useless Knowledge. I mean, fine. You like your Babylonian Zodiac. I suppose you drive a Prius and eat sushi on the weekends, too. La-di-da.

Naturally, as an ancient guy looking at the heavens, the first thing you thought of was how can I use this to achieve great feats of architecture. I want to build big honking buildings that utilize the motion of celestial objects to tell me the time of day and are oriented by them. How exactly would you propose to build a Parthenon without aligning it to the Hyades? If you have a notion on how to, I for one think your Parthenon is subpar and will not be patronizing it. Similarly, you wouldn't consider building a Pyramid without the sides as perfectly aligned to north-south and east-west as I can get them. I can do these things because I have celestial objects to guide me, and as an ancient architect, I'd be very cognizant of that.

So, you're an Average Ancient Architect with a small civilization and you want to build something that will last forever. One of the simpler designs is a Stonehenge - All you need are pillars and capstones, none of this foolishness with a foundation or roof or walls. How are you going to go about this? The first thing is: relax, you have a couple thousand years to get it right. Next, it's good to remember when building a Stonehenge, it's best to use Stone. Wood has been done before and it's not as good. You tend to just leave postholes everywhere and become less memorable. So, get your act together.

The very best stones naturally come from very far away. This means you are going to need to structure your society around hauling big stones all the way there. This was a big stumbling block for many civilizations that didn't build large monuments. If you're not willing to spend a lot of time moving big hunks of stone from one place to another and you're not going to build your civilization into a mountainside, then you should probably just content yourself with building a civilization that will destroy its buildings every 40-60 years and build new ones. You can make do with that I guess, but modernity sucks.

So, you haul a good hundred stones or so to your pre-existing stone age site. Naturally, you aren't going to just build this thing nowhere. You're not a goofball. You're going to build it right at your same old holy place that you've had holy for hundreds of years. You're probably going to orient it to the winter solstice, because your society only really likes hanging out at that particular holy place around that time every year. Or one of the equinoxes. Or the summer solstice. Those are your choices really. I mean, you're building a stonehenge. You don't have time for something fancy like an Egyptian Temple the sunlight shows exactly against a certain statue on a certain day or something. It's probably going to be oriented to the one your special holy day for that site is on, and being an ancient person, you'll generally stick to a solstice or an equinox.

So now you might be thinking great. What's a Solstice and what's an Equinox. Well, if you had just asked, I'd've told you. It's actually quite simple. The Earth rotates on an axis that is tilted relative to the Sun. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, it orients one Hemisphere such that it gets more sunlight than the other. The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere takes place when that side of the Earth gets the most sunlight. The Winter Solstice takes place when it gets the least sunlight. The Equinoxes occur when it gets equal amounts of sunlight and darkness, this occurs twice a year in the Vernal and Autumnal seasons. So now you know. To give you some idea, the Winter Solstice occurs in December and there's a whole cluster of traditional holidays that got their start as a celebration of it. The Summer Solstice also has some holidays around it, but is less popular. It's in June and it's just a really long, hot day. These all occur on the opposite days on the southern hemisphere, but you're not going to build your Stonehenge there, so it doesn't matter as much.

By the time you are done your Stonehenge, you'll be just in time for Merlin to come around thousands of years later and take credit for it. So congratulations on that, you earned it! Now you can move on to building a civilization that won't leave that many other indications it existed and pretty much no other recognizable great works.


I) Which of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is greatest, and why?

II) Can you even prove that the Colossus of Rhodes existed?

III) No really, Im curious at this point.

6. But why?

But why did some civilizations develop more rapidly than others? Why did ones that had a headstart end up being conquered and technologically outstripped by others? Why did European nations have such an advantage in the colonial period, even when China had more advanced technology than they did for centuries? Are these questions racist? In truth, no one knows exactly. There are theories as to why, but they're all either really hard to understand or consist of the words "because because because because".

Geographic determinism is a good example of this. It is posited that continents that are on an East-West axis have a natural advantage over continents that are on a North-South axis. This is because a continent on an East-West axis can expect to have a relatively similar climate all along the middle of it. This allows you to plant similar crop packages along the length of the continent, which means you don't have to spend thousands of years developing special varieties of grains that will grow in your exact climate. This gives the Eurasian landmass a distinct advantage over the other continents. Not only is it on an east-west axis, it's the biggest landmass there is. This also accounts, in part, for why subsaharan Africa has such a hard time. It's on a North-South axis.

So now you're thinking wait. The Mediterranean and China lie along a similar latitude. Doesn't this mean they have the exact same advantage? This is where you need to get a map out. Take a look at China, then take a look at Europe. What do you notice? China's geography is all around the edges of it, whereas Europe's geography splits the whole thing up in segments. This means that if you're trying to unify China, you don't have to cross a ton of rivers and mountain ranges to get to every little part of it. This made unifying China much easier to do in the ancient period. Europe, on the other hand, had only really been unified under the Romans and even the Romans gave up trying it. It worked alright when they stuck to the parts that surround the Mediterranean Sea, and they were able to conquer those all quite quickly. But when they began to expand into central Europe and encountered the german tribes, it didn't work nearly as well. Europe is permanently divided by its mountain ranges and rivers and intense hatred for one another from the last two thousand years of warfare.

So now you're thinking huh? China's this big honking, unified nation and Europe is divided into pieces. Shouldn't this work in China's favor? Their armies are larger, they have way more people, and their main competition is mostly just nomadic horsemen from the north. But consider this - Europe is naturally divided into about 10-15 countries. These countries spent a thousand years and more perfecting ways of killing each other. The intense competition this created forced them to look outside Europe for more resources to keep fighting their wars with. China didn't have this problem - they had all the resources right there they could possibly want and no real reason to compete with themselves. China believed it was the center of the world - it had all the best technology for a time and was the largest nation there was with the most people. Meanwhile, the Europeans were conquering the New World and Africa and India and Australia and Southeast Asia and the Middle East and exploiting all their resources for larger and larger worldwide wars against each other. It was a glorious time for worldwide technological development. There's almost nothing that beats Europeans killing other Europeans as a drive to create new technology. The Chinese may have invented gunpowder, but Europe was able to turn it into an invention that changed the entire world.

This isn't to say that having a lot of geography works in your favor. Subsaharan Africa has a lot of geography, which made it very hard for large empires to expand in. There are some that gave it the old college try, but they never really got their act together. Africa also has a distinct disadvantage because it's where people started out, and diseases from animals have had millions of years to figure out how to affect people. This is why you see things like HIV and Ebola coming out of Africa. Horrible diseases have a natural head start there because they've had a long time and a lot of population density to work with. It's hard to build up a great empire under that kind of pressure. Kudos to those who tried, but yall really went about it the hard way.

Another theory sometimes used is more based in the environment. Civilization first started in Mesopotamia, the theory goes. Why isn't the nation that controls Mesopotamia today the most important nation in the world? Aside from getting invaded and taken over practically every century, Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent in general have stopped being nearly as Fertile. The intense farming in the area and all the forests being cut away has led to a situation where the earth can no longer sustain the crop yields it did. Ancient peoples didn't really understand sustainable farming practices like we do today. They just used the soil all up, and when it stopped working their civilizations collapsed and other civilizations rose to prominence. It's an interesting theory, but kind of boring. I never was much of a tree hugger.

As for myself, I figure any major advantages civilizations have tend to be spread globally given enough time. If you start using muskets, your rivals start using muskets. If you start using rifles, your rivals get rifles too. Some nations still have distinct advantages over others still, but we've quit the cycle of major global wars. We've seen a shift away from nation level competition and a shift towards economic competition between large business interests. This means we could very nearly have no more history left. History has always been pretty dependent on great empires being dismantled by other great empires and the like.


I) With the benefit of hindsight, how much would you say the development of antigravity lifts in the 2130s has changed modern society?

II) Sorry, a time traveler wrote question A.

III) But, if you happen to be reading this and its 2153, hi!

7. Conclusion

Civilization isn't something barbarians lack, it's a thing barbarians are particularly skilled at obtaining. The Romans and the Chinese were particularly secure in their civilizations, but the Vandals and the Goths and the Franks and the Mongols and the Huns and the even the Gauls earlier on were just as happy to get them some of it. Civilization is not corrupted by barbarians; Civilization corrupts the barbarians.

Ask yourself: when was the last time there was a great viking fleet? 1066. The scandinavians all became christians after that and stopped invading people oversea and started invading people overland like ordinary christians do. When was the last time the Mongol Hordes still ruled over the steppe? I guess that pretty much ended in 1783. The point is that a successful barbarian quickly becomes an average civilized nation. No one is barricading their monastaries up to defend against the vikings anymore; instead, they're all admiring the nice little social democracies the scandinavians all have. It's a pretty boring system and if this keeps up, we'll have no more history left.

And the tragedy is, History is one of Civilization's greatest achievements.

Appendix A: On Butterflies and their effects.

Butterflies are insects. Go ahead, confirm it. You're probably thinking to yourself right now, "but wait! caterpillars got tons of legs and insects only have six!" But, to be an insect, all you have to do is have six legs in your final form. This is what lets flies be insects even tho they're maggots to begin with, and so ha, butterflies are insects and I won't continue to debate the matter. If all you have time to think about is ways for butterflies to not be insects, I just feel sorry for you.

If you're wondering, moths are insects too. The difference between a butterfly is that a butterfly is whimsical, and a moth is creepy. No one likes moths. They eat stored up clothes and are very dusty. Their only positive contribution to this world is that certain speices of moth have been known to make silk. Silk used to be a much bigger deal. You could build trade routes to carry it and it gave Civilizations along the Mediterranean a good reason to communicate with Civilizations in the Far East. The Great Silk Road should not be confused with the Northwest Passage. They're not even close to one another.

The life cycle of a butterfly is well known. They start out as eggs, hatch and turn into caterpillars, the caterpillars go out and eat up children's books and get big and fat. After they've eaten enough, they create a cocoon where they transform into butterflies. The butterflies then flit about whimsically, until they attract a sexual partner and they make eggs together. And then they die. If at any point, some little kid pulls their wings off or stomps on a caterpillar or boils their chrysalis to get silk, the process is interrupted and the cycle of life ends. Butterflies are actually incredibly vulnerable at every stage of their life cycle. It's a testament to the survival of the fittest that somehow, they have found a biological niche.

Which brings us to the Butterfly Effect. The Butterfly Effect postulates that if anyone manages to travel back in time, he'll immediately be attacked by a horde of angry butterflies and devoured. The corollary to this is the Grandfather Paradox, in which a the time traveler's grandfather is also eaten by a horde of angry butterflies and the time traveler ceases to exist. This is only part of the problem with time travel, but explains why time travel wasn't very common before the 1950's. Effective insecticides on an industrial scale weren't available before the 1930's and WW2 ate a lot of time up in the 1940's. What intrepidity there was to spare was needed fighting Rommel.

Appendix B: An Incomplete Compendium of Sharp Sticks With Which It Would Be Reasonable To Menace Foreigners.

Angon, Arrow, Assegai, Axe, Ballam, Barcha, Bayonet, Bisento, Bothati, Bolt, Boomerang, Dangpa, Dart, Dory, Fasces, Flechette, Francisca, Glaive, Guandao, Gungnir, Halberd, Harpoon, Hasta, Hoko yari, Javelin, Iklwa, Kamayari, Kontos, Lance, Makrigga, Missile, Naginata, Partizan, Pike, Pilum, Plumbata, Poleaxe, Pololu, Quarrel, Ram, Ranseur, Sagaris, Sang, Sarissa, Sasumata, Sibat, Sodegarami, Soliferrum, Spear, Spetum, Spontoon, Tepoztopilli, Tomahawk, Torimono sandōgu, Trident, Tsukubō, Verutum, Woldo, Xyston, Yari.

Appendix C: A story this reminds me of with no particular relevance to the matter at hand.

Once upon a time in the land of Ancient Egypt, a Great Pharoah fell ill with a horrible plague. He cried out to the gods to be healed, but his pleas were ignored. Desperate, he called together all the magicians and seers in the land of the Nile and convened a grand council. They spoke with one another for three days and three nights, finally all coming to a unanimous decision. The elected a magician to speak for them and he sought an audience with the Great Pharoah.

The Great Pharoah asks, "What must I do to be healed?". The Magician says, "Your highness, I bring to you sad tidings. The gods have rejected you for your manifold wickedness and demand that you repent and sacrifice a virgin to them. If you do not sacrifice a virgin to the gods before the moon is full and is gone three times, you will surely die." The Great Pharoah repents immediately, and sends his bodyguard out to find virgin. They search all of of Memphis and were able to return none. Pharoah sent for all his chariots and send them to all the four corners of Egypt to find a virgin, and after a cycle of the moon, they still returned with none. Frantic, he sends his armies out to foreign lands, and in two months of campaigning, they still find no virgins. The Great Pharoah died.


CubaQuerida - Angel of Death
Tayloj - Bunny King
TBRaiders - Wingman of Allarchon
Artigo - Powerlifting Champion of DBDC
Timmehhh - Minister of Wealth Redistribution

Signed for Sengoku

hartfw, Emperor
Autosave96, Shogun
Schad, Daimyo of Foreign Affairs
Auctor, Daimyo of War
President S O, Daimyo of Internal Affairs
Petro, Daimyo of Finance
Rogal Dorn, Roju
dockingscheduled, Roju
bcortell, Roju


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So this is what happens when I say "TB you can oversee the text for this treaty"...


Kids these days, I swear.



o/ Sengoku

o/ roqcoq

o/ #thestruggle

o/ infra

Edited by CubaQuerida
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