Monday, May 13, 2013

Opening paragraphs............................

     The Axial Age was over.  It had lasted three hundred years - from the late seventh century B.C. to the late fourth - a very long time.  In Confucian China, it had seen the burgeoning of reasonableness and courtly moderation, as well as the mystical depths uncovered by the Tao of Lao-Tsu.  In India, the great age had produced the ineffable example of Gautama Buddha, reforming the chaos of more ancient systems and revealing the steps to personal peace.  In Iran, the priest Zarathustra had spoken to the Persians, who carried the fire ceremony and the Zoroastrian vision of the cosmic battle between good and evil beyond the borders of Mesopotamia, situated between the legendary Tigris and Euphrates in the fertile delta where civilization had first shown itself.  Just west of Mesopotamia, in the tiny, unstable kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the Hebrew prophets rose, giving to the bizarre monotheism of their singular people and ethical foundation so profound that the Jews could never entirely forsake it.  In the isles and peninsulas of Greece, the Axial Age saw the flowering of what would come to be called "philosophy" - love of wisdom for its own sake - and of a noble "politics" (another Greek term) that took the name "democracy."  This same time and place saw the invention of drama and its division into "tragedy" and "comedy" in a theater that has never been equaled, as well as the first attempts to write what the Greeks called "history."
-Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills:  The World Before and After Jesus

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