June 7th, 2005

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Sands of time

Это может быть интересно только любителям истории. Недавно в NY Times была статья колумниста Николаса Кристофа насчёт бренности существования и песков времени, а конкретно - в ней упоминалось какие по его мнению города были самыми важными в мире в разные моменты времени:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/05/22/opinion/edkristof.php

Соответствующий пассаж довольно короткий:
My vote for most important city in the world in the period leading up to 2000 B.C. would be Ur, Iraq. In 1500 B.C., perhaps Thebes, Egypt. There was no dominant player in 1000 B.C., though one could make a case for Sidon, Lebanon. In 500 B.C., it would be Persepolis, Persia; in the year 1, Rome; around A.D. 500, maybe Changan, China; in 1000, Kaifeng, China; in 1500, probably Florence, Italy; in 2000, New York; and in 2500, probably none of the above.

Меня подзудило написать свою версию (ответа я не получил, но впрочем Кристоф сейчас в Судане занят противодействием геноциду или чего-то там такое): 

Dear Nicholas,

 I think your column “China, the World Capital”, with its sweeping historical perspective, was one of the most memorable of all recent NYT Op-Eds. However, even if this sounds as nitpicking, I would propose some corrections to the list of the most important cities through ages which you offered.

2000 BC – Ur: the third (and the last) dynasty of Ur was in severe decline in late 21-st century BC, and Ur was eventually destroyed by an Elamite invasion. Many scholars put the exact date of the destruction in 2004 BC, so that in 2000 BC very little was left.

I believe Thebes would be a better candidate for the City of 2000 BC. The Middle Kingdom period just began with a Theban dynasty, around 2050 BC, and was still very young and dynamic. Alternatively, one of the cities of the Indus Valley civilization (Harappa or Mohenjo-Daro) could be selected. They disappeared without a trace around 1700 BC, but in 2000 BC were at the top of the humanity’s achievement of the time.

 1500 BC – there is indeed very little alternative to Thebes (perhaps Minoan Knossos?), where the founding dynasty of the New Kingdom was presiding. The transition from 2000 BC to 1500 BC wasn’t continuous, though. It was interrupted by an almost total disintegration during the Second Intermediate Period and the Hyksos invasion.

1000 BC – most of the Mediterranean and the Near East world was shattered by an enormous catastrophe at the end of the Bronze Age. Very little of the city life remained anywhere. The one which still hung on was Tyre, not Sidon. Strength of Sidon is mostly attested by biblical sources, most of which were composed during the seventh and six centuries BC, when Sidon (and not Tyre) was the preeminent Phonecian city. Archeology shows almost nothing of Sidon in tenth century BC.

500 BC – Persepolis was still very young and rapidly expanding capital of the new magnificent empire, as well a new civilization, a Zoroastrian one, persisting for more than a millennium until the advent of Islam. Babylon was still probably more important in economic and cultural sense, but within a few decades dominance of Persepolis was established. Alternatively, Athens of Greece, though much smaller than the great Near Eastern cities, was only half a century from the dazzling peak of its power and achievement.

 1 AD – there is no alternative to Augustan’s Rome.

500 AD – Changan, China was in such a long decline that it lost any significance altogether. Much better candidates are either Constantinople or Ctesiphon of the Sassanid Empire.

1000 BC  - Kaifeng is a very solid choice. Possible alternatives could be Constantinople, Baghdad or Cordoba.

 1500 – Florence dominated the early Italian Renaissance, but after big turmoil of Savonarola, Medici restoration in the 1490’s was in severely weakened state. Venice, though, was at the peak of its power. And yet, within a few decades the most important city became Madrid, still a small dusty village in the late 15th century.

Best regards, Kirill Pankratov, Ph.D., pkirill88@hotmail.com

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