Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Civilisation Judas - Slavery Central

*** An audio version of this book is available on YouTube.

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Civilisation Judas - Chapter 6 - Slavery Central

The economic shift spoken of in the last chapter brings me to another neat little detour on our journey. Something that is perhaps purely coincidental, but something nevertheless worthy of pointing out. Namely that the map of the economic heartland of the world, pre the Portuguese kibosh, is pretty much identical to the map of the Islamic world at its height.

(The Islamic Empire, mirroring the world economic
heartland prior to the Age of Discovery) [1]

The Islamic Empire covered much of the Mediterranean coastline, including what is now Spain and Portugal. It included all of North Africa, large parts of Eastern Africa, the whole of the Middle East, and stretched right the way through to as far east as India and China. It even included many of the much prized (and later much fought over) islands of Indonesia. In short, wherever valuable trade was to be had, Islam was to be found - and its centre was found at the very heart of that great network of trade, namely the Middle East.

This similarity of the two maps is quite a curious concurrence, and something I wasn't expecting to find when I first started thinking about the world before and after the Age of Discovery. It now leads me to speculate that perhaps the Islamic Empire was more a project in controlling trade than an empire driven by religious ebullience. Was Islam used, or conceivably even created, to facilitate the control of this important locus of world trade? Alternately, could the religion have even "evolved" over time to meet the needs of the various rulers and groups holding sway in the region?

One thing worth noting is that Islam seems a very useful tool in regard keeping social order. Likewise it seems especially good in regard managing a soldier class. The prohibition of alcohol in particular would obviously be very useful when it comes to keeping order amongst soldiers. What with drunkenness making it difficult to maintain discipline. The prospect of multiple wives is also something that would perhaps be a boon to the managing of young military men or warriors. If you attack and defeat the enemy you can take your pick of the women ..even if you already have one ..or two ..or whatever the case may be. [2]

This freedom to have multiple wives is something that would also be appealing to the ruling elites themselves of course. It would no doubt be quite useful in winning over other rich traders and leaders to the faith too. Who with the money and/or power to openly have an entire harem of women would not at least be tempted?

The strictness of Islamic law is another thing which would potentially be useful in establishing top down control over society. Strict punishments, such as the amputation of the hands of thieves for example would no doubt help keep the population firmly in line. [3] Likewise laws decreeing strict punishments for adultery and other such behaviour would also keep the social parameters strictly defined. [4] As a system of social control it's hard not to imagine some kind of Middle Eastern, trade-based New World Order. Which in turn leads me nicely, or perhaps unnicely, to one very noticeable function of this Middle Eastern trading empire - namely the trade in people.

The slavery within this Islamic world was by all accounts pretty brutal. The types of slave used can be set into three categories if we look at things in a very general way. Slave soldiers, female sex slaves and household slaves. The Mamluk slave soldiers common to the Islamic world (mamluk meaning owned or property) were often drawn from Eastern Europe. It's speculated that this is where we get the term Slav from - i.e. slave. They were often taken from their families as children and raised with this specific purpose in mind.

The household slaves were treated even more brutally. Generally drawn from the African continent, they were usually castrated in transit. The process of which often resulted in death. The purpose and benefits of castration are fairly obvious. At least for the slave holder, if not the slave. The removal of the genitals meant that male slaves could be kept in-house without the danger that they would liaise with the female house members. It also meant that they wouldn't be able to produce offspring, meaning a lack of investment in the future - and hence less reason to fight and rebel.

The added benefit of castration was that it also reduced testosterone, meaning that slaves would have less physical strength and aggression. Again, making them more suitable for the employments they were put to, and likewise less likely to start a revolt. Though these slaves were generally drawn from Africa they also often came from numerous other parts of the world. Even as far as Northern Europe. In fact, there are stories on record of people being snatched from European villages and coastal towns by pirates and then sold into slavery in the Middle East. Again, with castration often being an added horror.

It's been suggested that during the period from the 16th to the 19th century between one and one and a quarter million European Christians were captured and sold into slavery by Barbary pirates. [5] Slaves were even taken from as far afield as places such as Iceland and North America. For example, in 1690 a Virginian resident by the name of Daniell Tyler was said to have been "taken by the Turkes & carryed to Algeir & hath not for at least 7 years past been heard of soe that he is esteemed dead". [6]

The female sex or household slavery needs even less explanation. The stereotypical vision of the Middle Eastern harem being enough to serve the story. In fact, in the 19th century the writer T.P. Hughes wrote;

"there is absolutely no limit to the number of slave-girls with whom a Muhammadan may cohabit, and it is the consecration of this illimitable indulgence which so popularizes the Muhammadan religion amongst uncivilized nations, and so popularizes slavery in the Muslim religion." [7]

Again these slaves were drawn from as far as the empire could reach, with fair haired Europeans said to be especially prized. Many women sold into this life were treated with severe brutality, but others through their wit or beauty could climb their way into senior female positions within families. Becoming favoured wives, concubines or mothers.

It's difficult to imagine how such a horrific and sophisticated trade in human beings could arise alongside the development of "civilised" living. It seems that often our morals lag behind the other, more practical developments we make though. A good example can perhaps be seen today. The cold factory slaughter of animals that takes place in modern civilised countries is much more brutal than the savage, yet more natural and isolated animal killings carried out by "backwards" tribesmen. However, we often fail to see the horrors we live amidst ..or perhaps see them and choose to turn a blind eye.

Returning to the idea of castration (which in many ways equates to treating humans like animals) there's another very interesting avenue worth exploring. Notably the links between castration and debt. The idea being that in former times, if someone couldn't pay their debts they were sold into slavery. It also provides a novel way of looking at the concept of the "pound of flesh". Famous from Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice. Though the idea, like many of the themes in Shakespeare's plays, has precedents in other earlier tales and stories. [8]

In The Merchant of Venice, where the moneylender Shylock demands a "pound of flesh" in return for his unpaid loan, the pound of flesh isn't specifically said to be the castrated genitals. It appears to be more a symbolic demand for bloody restitution. [9] However, the link seems a reasonable one to suggest. What other portion of flesh could so easily be taken? Plus what would be the literal benefit to an unpaid moneylender if say, an arm or leg belonging to the defaulter was taken off? Other than that it would act as a deterrent to any future borrower of money with a blasé attitude to repayment of course.

Equating it to castration though suddenly makes much more sense of things. You've failed to repay your loan, so now the person you borrowed the money from takes all you have left - your person. You then take the mark of a slave - castration - and then continue your life as the property of another. It's also quite interesting in this regard that the term mortgage literally translates as "death pledge". Something I'll be returning to later in the book which ties in quite nicely with all this. Or scarily as the case may be.

The act of circumcision is something that seems to have parallels with this. Though not quite on the same level as castration, it's still nevertheless in a similar area of the body ..and likewise requires the removal of flesh. It's also often seen as a pledge. In the Jewish tradition a covenant with God. [10] In biblical times, agreements or pledges were often sealed by the sacrifice of an animal. Supposedly the idea being that whoever broke the agreement would then suffer the same fate as the animal. So it's been speculated that circumcision carries a similar sentiment.

In the Islamic world, and in African tribal cultures, circumcision is often viewed as a ceremony that marks a boy's transition into adulthood. In fact, it's often the case that males aren't allowed to get married until they've been circumcised. In this regard it's almost like a token of citizenship, where a man can't fully take part in adult society unless he's been through this ordeal.

Returning to the Old Testament we also see circumcision being required in a similar sense. In the story of Dinah and the Shechemites (Genesis 34) it's demanded that Shechem and all his fellow male townsfolk be circumcised if he's to take Dinah, the women he's unlawfully slept with, as his wife. Similarly the Romano-Jewish scholar Josephus wrote that when the Idumeans were subdued by force, they were only permitted to remain in their country "if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews". [11] Again, suggesting circumcision was a pre-condition of social involvement, and a visible, sincere showing that one was prepared to submit to the law.

Circumcision was also common in ancient Egypt, where wall reliefs depict the procedure being carried out. In one written account, said to be from the 23rd century BC, an Egyptian named Uha tells of being circumcised on mass with "one hundred and twenty" other men. [12] The Jews were said to have come from Egypt. With the added theme being that they were escaping slavery. So it all ties in quite neatly.

Egypt, of course, is also right bang in the middle of the very Islamic or Middle Eastern empire we've been discussing in this chapter. In the conventional historic timeline the world of ancient Egypt is quite far removed from the much later Islamic empire. However, as discussed in Chapter Four, there are valid reasons for considering the possibility that the accepted timeline may not be entirely correct. So perhaps the very distant world of "ancient" Egypt overlaps more heavily with later Middle Eastern history than is commonly thought. Either way the themes of slavery and circumcision are quite consistent throughout.

In a similar regard it's also worth considering the timeline of Islamic history. Is it something of a misnomer to refer to this trading empire, centred on the Middle East, as an Islamic empire? Perhaps the empire came first and Islam then spread through it later. Again, even within the constraints of the accepted conventional timeline, we have no way of truly knowing how and when things such as slavery and circumcision began. Nor if they were helped or hindered by the advent of Islam, Judaism, or any other concurrent religion.

Some writers have speculated that Islam helped fuel the rise in slavery, others that it did the exact opposite, mitigating against its effects. One idea commonly put forth is that the rise of Islam prohibited the enslavement of fellow Muslims. Which in turn then led to the further enslavement of non-Muslims, creating an expansion of the slave market. The scale of slavery in the Islamic world is hard to ignore, though it's perhaps unfair to specifically link the two. In eighteenth century Mecca many eunuchs worked in the service of mosques. [13] However, by the same token castration is generally considered haraam (forbidden) in Islam. Likewise the Qur'an states that it is righteous;

"to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves [my emphasis]" [14]

Suggesting an antipathy to slavery itself. The Qur'an also states that it is "forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness". [15] Again, suggesting that Islam would be averse to the forcing of women into sex slavery. However, conversely there are numerous references in the Qur'an to those whom "your right hands possess". Generally taken to mean slaves. So it's difficult to know if Islamic culture was a driving force behind slavery, or a victim of it, subservient to the wider socio-economic trends it existed amongst.

As mentioned earlier I tend to favour the idea that economics tends to be the primary driving force. However, this then begs the question did Islam evolve to serve this driving force? Or did it come into being as an antidote to the problems caused by it? Anyone reading the Qur'an who is already familiar with the New Testament will notice the many similarities Islam has with Christianity. Particularly with the Christianity as expressed by the apostles later on in the New Testament. In fact, the Qur'an, with its various apostle-like "messengers" spreading the word of Islam is notably similar in this regard. The focus on ideas such as hell and final judgement, and the distinction between believer and non-believer are likewise noticeably similar.

The official timeline places a gap of approximately six centuries between the rise of Christianity and the rise of Islam. However, again, as mentioned before it's tempting to reappraise this commonly accepted timeline and place all these events much closer together. If this was the case it could be that Christianity rose in opposition to this Middle Eastern empire, and that the rise of Islam which followed was a continuation of this trend. With Islam spreading these ideas throughout this Middle Eastern trading empire, only in a way much more acceptable to the pre-existing culture. With Islam essentially attempting to manage the mass slavery which already existed. Though again this is speculative. Either way the overlap between the map of Islam and the map of world trade prior to the Age of Discovery is pretty striking.

Returning to the economic aspect, it's interesting to note that circumcision is also common amongst Australian Aborigines, and likewise it seems to carry the same connotations. For instance, in the Walbiri society if a male doesn't pass through the rite of circumcision he cannot obtain a wife, enter his father's lodge, or participate in further religious ceremonies. In essence he remains socially excluded. [16] This is similar to what we see in Africa and the Middle East and leads one to wonder if perhaps this Middle Eastern empire stretched as far as Australia at some point in the past. It's also tempting to wonder if these links explain the similarity, both in appearance and in custom, of Africans and Aborigines. Perhaps both are more closely related than the current scientific model of human migration allows for.

It should also be noted however that the practice of circumcision was said to be found in the New World too. In fact, it's reported that when Columbus reached the New World he found that the Native Americans practised the custom. So this perhaps puts paid to my idea that circumcision was in some way a token of this larger Middle Eastern empire. Unless the official history is really messed up that is, and there was some degree of traffic to the New World before the advent of Columbus. [17]

The evidence that Native Americans practiced circumcision does seem a little tenuous though. There are some written accounts attesting that the practice took place, but there are also others that are much more sceptical. Most of the textual sources attesting to it seem to be quite speculative, and oftentimes it seems that other ritual practices are being mistaken for circumcision. One 19th century publication relates the following anecdotal account from a person by the name of Doctor Beaty;

"an old Indian informed him that an old uncle of his, who died about the year 1728, related to him several customs of former times among the Indians, and among the rest, that circumcision was long ago practised among them, but that their young men made a mock of it, and it fell into disrepute and was discontinued." [18]

Another states;

"There are no traces of the rites of circumcision ..Circumcision was reported as existing among the Sitkas, on the Missouri; but a strict examination proved it to be a mistake" [19]

There's also the following account, which sounds a little apocryphal;

Las Casas and Mendieta state that the Aztecs and Totonacs practiced it [circumcision], and Brasseur de Bourbourg had discovered traces of it among the Mijes. Las Casas affirms that the child was carried to the temple on the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth day after birth; there the high-priest and his assistant placed it upon a stone, and cut of the prepuce at the root; the part amputated they afterward burned to ashes. [20]

However, in the footnotes to this vivid account the author also relates several other authorities which cast doubt on the prevalence of the custom. Expressing the belief that most accounts were mistaking other rituals, such as blood letting rites for the act. On top of this Brasseur de Bourbourg in a later work acknowledged that his claim to have found "traces" of circumcision had been mistaken.

All in all it seems difficult to know with any degree of certainty whether the custom was or wasn't practiced by the natives of the Americas. So without further research it remains an intriguing maybe. Regarding the supposed account of native circumcision by Columbus that we began with, I actually have some doubts about that entire story as a whole. In the previous chapter I mentioned the various discoveries made by the Portuguese during the Age of Discovery. However, I only briefly mentioned the important, epochal discovery of the New World made by the Spanish.

The first thing worth nothing is the name Christopher Columbus itself. It's quite curious as the word columba means dove, and the given name Christopher comes with obvious connotations of the name Christ. Given that the Spanish were bringing Christianity to the New World it's therefore possible that the name could simply translate as "dove of Christ", or something to that effect. [21]

Interestingly, the Portuguese were also said to have discovered the Americas too. Though in their case it was an accidental discovery, as opposed to the more deliberate voyage said to have been taken by Columbus. The Portuguese were gradually exploring the western coast of Africa and the various islands of the Atlantic Ocean, so it would perhaps make sense that through a stray voyage they would alight upon the east coast of Brazil. The most easterly part of the Americas, and the very part colonised by the Portuguese. This all leads me to wonder if perhaps it was only the Portuguese that made the discovery, and that the Spanish version was simply something of a retelling. Maybe a retelling contrived for political or religious reasons. Whatever the truth, given that the New World was a destination for African slaves, the very mention of circumcision in this part of the world is worthy of note. So it remains an interesting avenue of investigation.

Another point to consider in regard circumcision is the possibility that it perhaps was something that was changed from a negative to a positive marker by the peoples that were subjected to it. As mentioned earlier the Jews were said by some to have originally been slaves in Egypt. In leaving Egypt did they carry the act of circumcision with them, and in doing so turn a negative act into a badge of religious forbearance? Perhaps in a similar way to how in modern times members of the black community have reclaimed the "N-word" from its original use.

According to the Book of Joshua the Jews that fled Egypt were all circumcised. However, those that were born in the wilderness were not. It was Joshua himself who was commanded by God to circumcise them once again;

At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. - Joshua 5:2, King James Version

Once again, reading this we get the sense that circumcision is a prerequisite for joining "civilisation" and that to be in a state of uncircumcision is to be in the wilderness, outside of the fold. It's often speculated that Moses, the predecessor of Joshua, forbade circumcision whilst he was leader of the Israelites. There's even a strange passage in the Book of Exodus where God threatens to kill Moses, but then spares his life after his wife circumcises their son;

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. - Exodus 4:24–26, King James Version.

It's hard not to read this as the story of a man leading his enslaved people to freedom, only to see them dragged back towards the very civilisation they were leaving. With circumcision being the totemic mark of belonging to it. Though again this is highly speculative.

As suggested earlier, perhaps in these religious traditions we see a negative act enforced upon a people being rebranded as a mark of religious devotion. Today circumcision is generally viewed positively by the cultures who practice it. However, throughout history it's often been used in a more adverse way. For instance, in the 7th century, in Visigothic Spain, it's recorded that King Wamba, following a period of warfare, ordered the circumcision of everyone who had committed atrocities against civilians. [22] Showing that at that time, in that part of the world at least, it was viewed as a mark of defilement. A punishment for a crime.

Also, in the Old Testament it's said that the future King David slew two hundred Philistine men and collected their foreskins to give to King Saul as a dowry for his daughter Michal. So even within the biblical tradition it seems there was at times a sense that the removal of the foreskin could be viewed as a display of power over an enemy. In this particular example it's not too dissimilar to an Indian scalp following an act of warfare.

Another interesting element to add to all this is the Pondus Judaeus. [23] This was a device used in the ancient world to restore the foreskin. Essentially a weight that was attached to what was left of the foreskin with the aim of stretching it to once again cover the glans. The term pondus is also perhaps suggestive of the "pound of flesh" mentioned earlier. It's generally thought that the main cultural factor leading to the use of such devices was the desire on the part of Jewish men to fit into Greek culture.

For Greeks it was common to display the naked body publicly during athletic contests and at public baths. However, it was considered unseemly to show the uncovered head of the penis, which makes sense as normally this would only be on display during sexual arousal. In fact, it's said that the Greeks only considered someone to be truly naked when this was on display. Consequently it became desirable for circumcised people who wanted to fully take part in Hellenistic culture to try to reverse or hide the procedure of circumcision.

Interestingly, the original act in Jewish custom only involved cutting a part of the foreskin off. A procedure called the milah. However, because of the frequent attempts made by circumcised men to restore their foreskin, Rabbis decided to introduce a more radical version of the act which removed the whole of the foreskin. Making it almost impossible to reverse the procedure. This type of circumcision is referred to as the periah. [24]

The fact that many Jewish men in the ancient world were eager to reverse their circumcision would suggest that the act was far from voluntary in many cases. That those doing the circumcising were also eager to make it irreversible likewise lends weight to this argument. In many ways it brings to mind the idea of branding. As in cattle branding or the branding of criminals. The idea being to mark a person in such a way that it would be impossible for them to then hide their denoted status. It's hard not to wonder if perhaps circumcision in many cases was deliberately intended to be a visible marker. Denoting belonging or ownership - maybe to a tribe, caste or religious grouping. Or again, as some kind of token of "citizenship".

In the biblical story where God makes his covenant with Abraham slaves are specifically mentioned. Illustrating that slavery was common at that time, but likewise illustrating that both slaves and non-slaves in Jewish culture were expected to be circumcised. Suggesting that if circumcision was originally a marker of slavedom or serfhood it wasn't thought of as such by the Jewish people retelling these religious stories. In Genesis 17 God states to Abraham; "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." The fact that God seems a tad blasé about people owning other people doesn't quite sit well with my own tastes, but then again these are allegorical stories that aren't necessarily meant to be taken as hard factual history. Nor the verbatim word of God almighty.

Just how linked or otherwise the concepts of circumcision and castration were in the past, the ubiquitous nature of slavery in the Middle East is nevertheless highly apparent. With the above Bible passage highlighting that. This leads me to the final section of this chapter.

We often have the view that it was Europeans that went out, built empires, and enslaved the rest of the world. However, if we look at European history as taking its lead from the Middle Eastern empire it usurped, we can see that this is only half true. Many European countries actually began by defending themselves from the threat of slavery, and in a sense only inherited the trade in flesh when they overturned the previous dominance of the Middle East, following the discoveries made by the Portuguese.

This doesn't excuse the European involvement in the slave trade of course, nor does it excuse the brutal exploitation of it. However, it is worth mentioning how unnaturally the trade in people often sat with some Europeans, and with some aspects of European culture.

Firstly the doctrine of Christianity, with its emphasis on charity and forbearance, made the hypocrisy of the slave trade a little too obvious to ignore. Leading to many Christians being at the forefront of movements to end the trade. Then on top of this there is the tradition of individual liberty that is often found in Europe, particularly in Northern Europe. Which can be seen in both the strong legal traditions found in places such as Britain, and also in the wild drunken disorderliness common to Northern European cultures. Think the Wildlings in Game of Thrones with their free, but rowdy style of living.

For example, in 1569, after a slave was brought to England from Russia an English court ruled that English Law couldn't recognise slavery. Sadly this didn't stop England's subsequent involvement in the shipping of slaves with its rise to empire status. However, it did at least act as a precedent, and by as early as 1701 the Lord Chief Justice had ruled that a slave became free the minute he stepped foot on English soil. Not much use for slaves elsewhere in the empire, but nevertheless a sign that slavery troubled the conscience and tastes in Britain perhaps more than it did in other slave-owning cultures.

This attitude probably also owes something to the fact that Britons were sometimes in fear of being dragged into slavery themselves, as mentioned earlier. For instance, John Rawlins, an English sailor, described how he and his crew were kidnapped by Barbary pirates in 1621. He stated that two younger men were "by force and torment" made to "turn Turks" - i.e. they were circumcised. Continuing the theme from above. [25] In fact, a similar example of forced circumcision comes in regard the 1780 Battle of Pollilur (in present day India). After which many British soldiers were taken captive, several hundred of whom were circumcised against their will. One victim lamented "I lost with the foreskin of my yard all those benefits of a Christian and Englishman which were and ever shall be my greatest glory." [26] So Britons were never truly free from such threats themselves in these earlier times.

Indeed, the famous song Rule, Britannia with its famous refrain "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves" was in fact just that. [27] A cry against slavery. Stating that never again would Britons be under the rule of tyrants, or victims to slavery. [28] Historians often deem the song's lyrics to be simply in reference to the threat of European tyranny. However, at the time the threat of actual slavery was very much a real thing, and there was a very blurred line between the Middle East and the European continent from a British perspective. Though this sense is now lost and forgotten these days. Now when people hear Rule, Britannia they tend to see it as an imperial anthem - with the feeling being that Britain was intent on enslaving everyone else, but in many ways the British Empire began precisely in opposition to slavery.

Now this is a little bit of a rose-tinted view of Britain's history of course. However, all this did help to set the tone for the political reforms that would eventually lead Britain to abolish slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. Following which Britain then went on to use her Royal Navy to help enforce the abolition of slavery around the world. So, once again, though there's no excuse for Britain's involvement in the trade, nevertheless she did abolish the practice whilst at the height of her powers. A practice that had long preceded Britain's involvement in it, and that at one time had plagued the people of Britain itself. So the general perception of the British Empire as the leading culprit is a tad unfair. Then again though, I'm British, so perhaps I'm a little biased :)


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Notes/references.

[1] This map just gives a vague approximation of the Islamic Empire at its height and is only designed to provide a visual reference for readers. In reality the influence of Islam ebbed and flowed over the centuries. At one time even including Sicily and parts of mainland Italy under its sway. It likewise spread deeper into Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe than the map depicts.

[2] Sūrah 4 - An-Nisā' - The Women. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

"If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess."

[3] Sūrah 5 - al-Māʼida - The Table Spread. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

"As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands"

[4] Sūrah 24 - An-Nūr. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

"The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication - flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case"

[5] According to the writer Robert Davis, in the period from the 16th to the 19th century, between 1 and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery.

Robert Davis. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500–1800.

[6] Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Religion and American Politics edited by Matthew Avery Sutton, Darren Dochuk. Who in turn referenced the source; York County Court Records [Virginia], vol. VIII, fol. 441-442, May 26, 1690, "Daniell Tyler Taken by ye Turkes."

[7] Hughes, T.P., Dictionary of Islam.

[8] The "Pound of Flesh" theme can be found in earlier works such as the 14th century Italian novela Il Pecorone by Giovanni Fiorentino and the 16th century work The Orator by Alexandre Sylvane. The concept of the flesh-bond is also found in numerous folk tales.

[9] It's perhaps worth noting that in The Merchant of Venice Shylock makes mention of slavery when decrying the hypocrisy of the Christians he's living amongst;

SHYLOCK: What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?
You have among you many a purchased slave,
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
Be season'd with such viands? You will answer
'The slaves are ours:' so do I answer you:
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice.
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?

As a further note here, whilst on the topic of Venice, we mentioned in the notes to the last chapter the impact Portuguese discoveries had on the economy of the eastward facing Venetians. The name Venetian is very similar in sound to the name Phoenician, and both groups were Mediterranean powers noted for their trade and seafaring exploits. So maybe we see here another example of ancient history overlapping very heavily with medieval history.

[10] In Chapter Two we talked of the apparent links between druidic tradition and Jewishness. The word covenant is another case in point. The term is commonly used in Protestantism, especially with regard to Scotland. For instance, the National Covenant of 1638. This was where Scottish nobles and ministers, along with thousands of ordinary Scots, signed a covenant (essentially a pledge) to defend their "true", reformed Christianity from outside innovation and interference. The word also shares its root with the word coven. Meaning a close knit gathering, or a meeting of witches. Again suggestive of some kind of compact or confederacy. Very druidic.

[11] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. Book XIII. chapter 9.

[12] The Offering of Uha, c. 2400 BCE. Source: D. Dunham, Naga-ed-Der Stelae of the First Intermediate Period, (London, 1917), pp. 102-104.


[13] Encyclopedia of Islam. E. J. Brill. Leiden.

[14] Sūrah 2 - Al-Baqarah - The Heifer. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

[15] Sūrah 4 - An-Nisā' - The Women. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

"Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them - except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good."

[16] Circumcision of Male Infants Research Paper. Queensland Law Reform Commission. Brisbane, 1993. Who in turn cited; Meggitt MJ. Initiation among the Waibiri in Religion in Aboriginal Australia: An Anthology (1986).


[17] The idea that there may have been such a traffic before the advent of Columbus will be a familiar concept to anyone well versed in alternative history. Plenty of possible links between Old and New World have been noted by various writers and theorists. Suggesting traffic both across the Pacific and across the Atlantic Ocean. In regard possible links between the Americas and the Middle East the most famous example is perhaps the claim that traces of coca and nicotine have been found in Egyptian mummies, suggestive of trade links between Egypt and the American continent. The fact that the Aztecs and Mayans also built pyramids, similar in style to those of Egypt, is also often noted as further evidence of this.

[18] Light and Truth: Collected from the Bible and Ancient and Modern History, Containing the Universal History of the Colored and the Indian Race, from the Creation of the World to the Present Time - Robert Benjamin Lewis, 1844.

[19] The native races of the Pacific states of North America, Volume 5 - Hubert Howe Bancroft, 1876.

[20] Civilized Nations, Volume 2 - 1875, Hubert Howe Bancroft.

[21] I was first made aware of this possible interpretation of the Columbus name on the Applied Epistemology Library web forum. On the thread A Dove Tale. Where the poster Ishmael noted;

"Columbus might be a kind of generic name for a mariner: Someone who sends forth the dove to find new land, as did Noah. Stretching the concept further: Christopher literally means Christ-bearer. So Christopher Columbus is a sea-explorer who bears Christ to a new world."


[22] Julian of Toledo (642 - 690). Historia rebellionis Paulli adversus Wambam Gothorum Regem.

[23] Sometimes written as Judeum pondum.

[24] Given that circumcision appears to be a social marker of sorts it's perhaps worth noting the similarity of the word pariah. The words periah and pariah are said to be unrelated. Pariah coming from a Tamil word meaning drummer, and denoting a member of an indigenous caste in southern India - it being said that this lower caste originally functioned as ceremonial drummers. They're also both pronounced slightly differently. With periah generally being pronounced to sound more like priah (also incidentally how it's sometimes written as well).

However, taking into account this "caste" sense of the word pariah, and the fact that it's used to denote an outcast in common English, it seems worth making mention of.

The word caste itself is also of interest. It brings to mind the similar theme of castration. No doubt sharing in its roots connotations of cutting, or to cut off. As in terms like cast away. The official etymology gives its root as the Latin castus, meaning clean or pure. Which gives a similar sense of being cut off or separated. This Latin castus is said to be the root of the English/French word chaste.

So it seems being cut off comes with a double meaning. To be cut off as in being excluded or exiled from a wider group for negative reasons. Or conversely to be cut off as a marker or purity or special standing.

[25] The Famous and Wonderful Recovery of a Ship of Bristol, Called the Exchange, from the Turkish Pirates of Argier. John Rawlins. (London, 1622).


[26] Diary of Col. Cromwell Massy, Late of Hon'ble East India Company's Service Kept While a Prisoner at Seringapatam Bangalore. Mysore Government Press, 1876.


[27] There was just one "never" in the original version. "Britons never will be slaves" morphing into the more recognisable and easier to sing "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves".

[28] "The nations, not so blest as thee, 
Must, in their turn, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all"

A verse referencing tyrants from Rule, Britannia. Lyrics by James Thomson (1700 -1748). Set to music in 1740 by Thomas Arne (1710 - 1778).


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