11 March 2015

The destruction of Hatra

After smashing ancient statues and carvings in the Mosul Museum and destroying the Assyrian site of Nimrud, the barbarians of ISIS set their sights on the ruins of another ancient city:  Hatra.  Based on this report, it seems that at least part of Hatra has now been blown up, and other structures bulldozed.

Hatra was not as old as Nimrud or some other cities of the primordial land of Mesopotamia.  It was of the Classical period, specifically what is called the "Hellenistic" age.  After the premature death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the lands he had conquered (basically the original Persian Empire plus Greece) fragmented into kingdoms ruled by his generals and their descendants.  Alexander had dreamed of bringing together the Greeks, Persians, and other advanced peoples of the Classical world in a shared civilization under a unified state, and the Hellenistic successor kingdoms offer some hints of what the world he was trying to build might have looked like.  Hatra was founded in the third or second century BC under one of the Hellenistic dynasties, the Seleucids, and the main structures that survived into modern times show an interesting mix of Greek and Middle Eastern influences:

ISIS is destroying pre-Islamic relics and non-Islamic sites throughout the territory it controls because it wants to purge the memory, and thus the identity, of that territory's people of anything other than Islam.  In the case of Hatra the destruction is especially symbolic because the society that built Hatra was explicitly eclectic.  The reason why the buildings shown above probably no longer exist is that they challenged the world-view of people whose minds are too simple and barren to feel comfortable in anything but an absolute monoculture.

After the Classical civilization was destroyed, the vultures of Christianity and Islam cut its corpse into halves, making the Mediterranean Sea -- the center of the Classical world -- into a militarized frontier dividing the Middle East and North Africa from Europe.  Each of the two conquering Abrahamic religions set out to become the sole legitimate identity of its half of the territory, purging (rather sporadically and incompletely, thank goodness) people and ideas representing the greatness that had been before.  ISIS merely represents this destructive puritanism taken to an extreme.  Not only people and ideas must be eradicated, but even the buildings and art of the past, which potentially remind today's Islamized populations of what their ancestors really were.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christianity has evolved into being tolerant of all religions. It just so happened the crusades were in defense of life and limb not Christianity.
Maybe one day Islam will catch up with the modern world but it may another thousand years I'm afraid.

11 March, 2015 09:02  
Blogger Ahab said...

ISIS' cultural atrocities are horrific, but they reveal just how weak their belief system is. If your belief system can't cope with the mere existence of civilizations that were different from yours, it's fragile. What good is a fragile worldview?

11 March, 2015 09:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

John: I don't think Christianity has evolved. It's just that most self-professed Christians hardly believe in it any more, and so they have become more tolerant. The hard-core believers like the Dominionists are as intolerant as ever and might well be acting like ISIS is they had the power, based on their own statements.

There are a lot more fervent Muslims, and thus a lot more violence, but even there, remember that most Muslims are horrified by ISIS. Even for Islam, they're an outlier.

Ahab: That's pretty much Ibn Warraq's conclusion -- that Islam's grip on the minds of its adherents is much more fragile than it seems. Hence the extreme belligerence of the hard-core believers -- deep down they know that any challenge at all is an existential threat.

11 March, 2015 16:50  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PS to John: Check out Ahab's blog. It has a great abundance of posts documenting just how evil and dangerous modern fundamentalist Christianity still is.

11 March, 2015 17:51  

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