¶ … Olmec
Although scientists found artifacts and art objects of the Olmecs; until this century they did not know about the existence of the Olmecs. Most of the objects which were made by this community were associated with other civilizations, such as Mayan, Toltec or Chichimecan. The Olmec lived between 1600 B.C. And 1400 B.C. In South Mexico. The name of this tribe comes from an Aztec word "ollin" which means "land of rubber."
At first they ate fish and they later start to farm, and that made it possible for them to "develop the first major civilization in Mesoamerica." (The Olmec Civilization) Thanks to the steady food supplies the Olmec population grew and some came to have other occupations. "Some became potters or weavers. Others became priests or teachers." (Ibidem) Once the population grew, so did their farming villages which developed into cities. The present-day city of San Lorenzo was built by the Olmecs in 1150 B.C. In 900 B.C. another city which is now called La Venta was built by the Olmecs. Similar to San Lorenzo, was a religious and trade center.
The term "Olmec" rather refers at an art style and an archaeological society than to a specific group of people. "Olmec artwork is characterized by a focus on the human figure, the conjoining of human and animal elements into composite, supernatural beings, and the symbolic association of secular power and sacred authority" (Olmec -- Masterworks of Ancient Mexico) The huge stone heads present in Olmec cities were made from a volcanic rock, basalt. Although the purpose of these monuments is unknown, scientists believe that may personalize some Olmec rulers. They did not use just basalt, but also jade, from which they made small sculptures. Although the Olmecs were a well organized civilization and they did not have any difficulties in obtaining food, around 500 B.C. they started to leave from cities, and by 400 B.C. they disappeared. However they were an influence for the next civilizations that arrived. Scientists are saying that the Olmec representsa mother culture for "the Zapotec, the people of Teotihuacan, the Aztec and the Maya." (The Olmec Civilization)
2. The Chou Dynasty
The Chou Dynasty is known in Chinese history as the Zhou Dynasty. Although scientist debate on the beginning of this period, the Zhou Dynasty was the longest dynasty in Chinese history. The king, who ended the Shang dynasty and started a new one, was named Zhou Wu. Until the Zhou conquered the Shang dynasty, they were a tributary state. Zhou rulers believed they were the successors of the Shang dynasty. The historian Sima Qian claims that "the Zhou king was able to overthrow the Shang because he had obtained the Mandate of Heaven." (Valerie Hansen, Kenneth Curtis, Kenneth R. Curtis, page 95) The Mandate of Heaven represented for the Chinese people "the generalized forces of the cosmos." (Ibidem) Only these forces were able to choose the next ruler, but it was often used to end a dynasty by force.
The Zhou dynasty is often divided into two periods, although the period from 481 and until 221 B.C. can be considered to be a third period. The first two periods are named Western Zhou (1045-771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou (771-256 B.C.), and the third period is known as the Warring States Period (481-221 B.C.). The Western Zhou capital was placed in the Wei River Valley. They continued the Shang's "production of "ritual art" (ligi) in bronze and jade" (Shang/Zhou dynasty ca. 1600-256 B.C.) While the Zhou dynasty ruled, human sacrifice for the deceased was almost eliminated. They replace this practice with one that implied placing wooden objects and ceramic replicas in the tomb. Zhou rulers tried to extend the border of their territory and elaborated a new system of governance which gave power to local leaders. "In 770 B.C. The Zhou sovereign was killed by an alliance of his vassals and enemies." (Ibidem) This marked the end of the first period and the beginning of the Eastern Zhou period. In this period there were made some technological advances in the military domain. Compared with the first two periods, the Warring States Period was a peaceful one. This period was marked by an evolution in the philosophy domain. Philosophical schools such as Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism were built in this period.
3. Confucius and his teachings
Confucius (551-479) was China's most important teacher. His hometown is Shandong province. The Chinese called him Kongzi (Kong Fuzi) or Master Kong; Confucius being the name that English gave him. He lived in a period of politic instability. However he was a professional teacher. His students wrote "a series of conversations...
Curtis, page 96)
Confucianism represents the principal beliefs of his thought. Confucius taught his students in an optimistic tone about the chaotic period in China's history. The ritual is the main idea in Confucianism, "because it allows the gentleman, the frequent recipient of Confucius's teachings, to express his inner humanity." (Ibidem) He did not give a clear explanation in what concerns the rituals, but he did mention animal sacrifices, the performance of dances and the playing music.
His teachings do not refer to religion but to an ethical system. His main beliefs were about the respect one should have toward his or her parents. "If children obey their parents and the ruler follows Confucian teachings, the country will right itself because an inspiring example will lead people toward the good." (Ibidem)
He also gained popularity due to refusal to talk about the afterlife or the supernatural. Confucianism does not refer to religion "as the belief in the supernatural" (Ibidem), but "as the offering of rituals at different turning points in one's life." (Ibidem) In this last case, Confucianism can be referred to as a religion. Those who believed in Confucianism as a religion "made offerings to their ancestors and other gods." (Ibidem) Confucianism built a new political system which "emphasized the proper relationships between different members of society." (Shang/Zhou dynasty ca. 1600-256 B.C.) Later on, Confucianism became an ethical code in East Asia and it is even applied nowadays.
4. The Punic Wars
The Punic Wars represented three battles between Romans and Carthaginians. The name for these wars derives from the Roman word for the Carthage's people "punici." Carthage started as a small town in the mid-eight-century B.C., in North Africa. The Punic Wars happened due to the Romans beliefs regarding how Carthage represented a threat for the Empire.
The First Punic war (264 B.C.-241 B.C.) took place in Sicily. A crowd of rebellious Sicilian soldiers, Mamertines, held custody of Messina. At first, the Mamertines asked help from Carthage, but after they found that Carthaginians had different interests they went to Rome and asked for help. Carthage saw in the Mamertines's request for their help an opportunity to conquer all of Sicily. For the Romans, the request constituted a motive to stop Carthage's expansion. Although Carthage had warships, and provided supplies to the army, they were defeated by the Romans, as they had stronger men and better war strategies.
At the end of the first war, both Rome and Carthage continue to expand their territories. "Hamilcar believed that if he created a strong Carthaginian colony in Spain, he would have a place from which to attack Rome and avenge the humiliating defeat his country had suffered during the First Punic War." (Information about the Punic Wars) In 218 B.C. Hannibal won Saguntum and Rome sent an army to conquer back the city. These actions marked the beginning of the Punic wars. Hannibal tried to conquer Rome through attacking Italy. Although he did not have support from the Carthagenians he successfully won battles against the Romans. However, Rome sent Scipio to attack Carthage after he won a battle in Spain. Carthaginians ordered Hannibal to come back with the army and defend the city, but Hewas defeated by Scipio at Zama.
After the two defeats Carthage cautiously honored the pact between it and Rome. However, some Roman leaders thought that Carthaginians were not provided with sufficient punishment. They still looked at Carthage as a threat. The Third Punic War started due to the violation of the pact by the Romans. When Numidians attacked Carthage, Romans did not allow the Carthaginians to fight back, and, in addition, they even encouraged the Numidians to continue the attacks. Carthaginians finally fought back, and due to this action Rome declared war to Carthage, finally defeating it in 146 B.C.
5. The Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century known also as "Military Anarchy" and "Imperial Crisis" took place between 235 and 284 A.D. In that period the Roman Empire dealt with civil war, invasions, economic depression and plague. The crisis began when Emperor Alexander Severus was assassinated by his own troops. In 258 the Empire split into three states: the Gallic Empire, the Plamyrene Empire and the Roman Empire, who stood between the first two regions. Aurelian later successfully reunited the three regions into one.
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