Thursday, April 26, 2018

War & Human History

 From 2001 A Space Odyssey
Humans have been making war since...for ever. Early on it was mainly a matter of raiding to obtain access to more of everything - plunder, pillage and rape, rather than any effort to change societies or cultures. Later, things changed - or did they?

In a piece from two years ago David Covucci wrote:
The Oldest Instance Ever Of Humans Doing War On Each Other Was Just Unearthed
When was the first war, though, the first time humans saw other humans and were like, chilling with those dudes would be cool, but bashing their heads in with sticks would be even chiller?

The answer is 8,000 BCE, according to scientists at Cambridge University. Skeletal remains of a group of foragers massacred around 10,000 years ago on the shores of a lagoon is unique evidence of a violent encounter between clashing groups of ancient hunter-gatherers, and suggests the “presence of warfare” in late Stone Age foraging societies.

The fossilised bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were massacred around 10,000 years ago have been unearthed 30 km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, at a place called Nataruk.
Good stuff, humans. Kill everybody. All the time. As hard as you can.
I'm not often given to writing about war, as a topic, but a question at Quora the other day had caught my eye.
What was the most important war ever fought in human history?

Predictably several answers to the question offered up World Wars 1 and 2. I was interested in some other ideas though, ideas about wars from further back in time, and the likely outcome for human history had victory gone the other way.

Matt Le Page suggested the undeclared Anglo-Spanish war of 1585–1604, specifically the English defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588.

If the English lost, the Spanish would have likely landed an invasion force and succeeded in overthrowing Elizabeth I, thus obliterating the Anglican church. Rather than becoming the most formidable sea power in Europe and, thus, being able to project that sea power, England would have become a Spanish vassal, making it much easier for Spain to “rub out” Protestantism in the rest of Europe. Furthermore, the notion of “Great Britain” would be strangled in its bassinet.

In alignment with this, England most certainly would never have been able to colonize areas in the New World, chiefly around what is now the United States’ east coast. Spain would have colonized the coast from St. Augustine northward, discovering and settling the eventual cash-cow of Virginia, as well as the strategic New York harbor/lower Hudson River region. There also most likely would never be a “New England” and subsequent “Great Migration” to British North America. It would also mean no “New Netherland” as the nominally Protestant United Provinces would be absorbed into the Spanish-Hapsburg network, their autonomy and naval forces neutered.
In essence, what we would see is Spanish empire from the Tierra del Fuego to Greenland. Let’s also not pretend the Spanish would let there be a “New France”, either. The massacre at Fort Caroline is evidence of this.

So, we’re talking about a world with no United States or Canada. Seems like this would have rewritten history completely.

Eric Zimmermann argued for the Battle of Thermopylae.
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece..................Had not the Spartans, Thespians, and Thebans held the pass and allowed the other Greek forces the ability to muster a defense against the invading Persians it is entirely likely that Alexander the Great would never have had Aristotle as his tutor, and never have spread Hellenization to the known world resulting in the rise of classical culture and the offshoots it created.

All of Western civilization depended on this one band of Greeks holding the pass to Thermopylae and they did it successfully.

Further back in time still, others suggested the 8th century Umayyad invasion of Gaul - had the Umayyads won this war, most of Europe would be eventually conquered, Islamified and would be speaking Arabic. Or, The Second Punic War (218–201 BCE), one of the deadliest wars in European history, led to the end of the small scale republic and formation of the Roman Empire whose cultural impact is still existing.

It's a fascinating thread of answers!

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