Home » Humanity » The emergence of agriculture, cattle breeding and handicrafts. General features of the first period of the history of the ancient world

The emergence of agriculture, cattle breeding and handicrafts. General features of the first period of the history of the ancient world

Prerequisites for the formation of the first class society

The genus” Man “(Homo) was separated from the animal kingdom over two million years ago, since the end of the Ancient Stone Age-forty thousand years-there is a species of “Intelligent Man” (Homo sapiens sapiens). From his ancestors, who belonged to the older human species, Intelligent Man inherited the ability to work and produce the simplest tools for this purpose. But from the end of the old Stone age-thirty thousand years of its history-it still, like these ancestors, only extracted for itself the gifts of nature with the tools it produced, but did not reproduce its fruits again. His methods of obtaining food — gathering wild plants, hunting and fishing-were, of course, labor; moreover, in order to maintain his existence, man already needed not only production, but also reproduction of tools; but he could not reproduce the products of nature himself. Therefore, the life of human collectives (communities, usually united by kinship) to a great extent depended on external natural, even climatic conditions, on the abundance or scarcity of prey, on random luck; good luck was followed by periods of famine, and mortality was very high, especially among children and the elderly. In the vast expanses of the globe, there were very few people, and their numbers hardly increased or increased very slowly.

The emergence of a producing economy

The situation changed when 10-12 thousand years ago, in ecologically favorable regions, some of the human communities learned to sow bread, which provided them with food all year round, and raise livestock, which allowed them to regularly eat meat, as well as milk and cheese (cottage cheese); cattle provided them with skins and leather better than hunting prey, and, in addition, also gave wool, which people learned to spin and weave. Soon after, people were able to replace the cave dwelling, huts made of branches and dugouts with permanent houses made of clay or clay-coated stone, and then of mud bricks. Sedentary life is believed to have contributed to an increase in the birth rate. The life of the community became more secure, the mortality rate decreased somewhat, the population growth from generation to generation became noticeable, and the first farmers-pastoralists began to settle more widely on the surface of the Earth.

For the first time, people achieved these successes in the warm zone of the Eastern Hemisphere. This was an era when the traces of the Great Glaciation had not yet completely disappeared in the north of Europe and Asia. A large part of Europe and Asia was occupied by the taiga, separated from the ice zone by a strip of tundra. The peninsulas of Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Southern China, and Indochina were covered with vast deciduous forests, while the expanses of North Africa, Arabia, and other areas of the Near and Middle East up to Northern China — where the dry steppe or scorched desert is now — were occupied by forest-steppe. To the south, in Africa, there were dense rainforests.

Chatal Huyuk is an open-air museum. Turkey.

Chatal Huyuk is an open-air museum. Turkey.

The forest-steppes were the most favorable for the life of mankind, but even here the conditions were not always suitable enough for the transition to agriculture and cattle breeding. It was necessary that wild cereals grow in that area, suitable for food and for sowing, and wild animals live, suitable for domestication. The first grain that people began to first harvest in the wild (using wooden or bone sickles with flint teeth inserted), and then sow, was barley, which grew in the highlands of Asia Minor, Palestine, Iran and Southern Turkmenistan, as well as in North Africa. Later, other cereals were cultivated. Where this happened first, it is difficult to say, in any case, in Palestine, Asia Minor and on the western slopes of the Iranian highlands, bread was sown already between the X and VIII thousand BC, and in Egypt, on the Danube and the Balkans and in Southern Turkmenistan it began to be sown no later than the VI thousand BC. ” where’s the pig?” From VIII-VI thousand. When people learned to make better polished stone tools, wicker baskets, fabrics, and fire-baked earthenware, which made it possible to better cook and store food, the standard of living of people increased somewhat.

The climate in the warm zone of the Northern Hemisphere became drier with the disappearance of glaciers; foothill agriculture was increasingly based not on rain irrigation, but on damming streams and diverting ditches to the fields. The people of the northern and southern forest zones, still few in number, could not for a long time adopt the achievements of the people of the forest-steppe and steppe highlands: it was impossible to reduce the forests with the tools of that time to cultivate the land.

Archaeologists trace significant technological progress from the late stage of the Ancient Stone Age, when Homo sapiens sapiens first began to dominate, through the intermediate period of the Mesolithic, which in the warm zone falls, among other things, the invention of agriculture and cattle breeding, to the New Stone Age (Neolithic) — the time of polished stone tools and the invention of fabrics and pottery. But even the most advanced Neolithic communities in North Africa and the Near and Middle East could not reach the level of civilization. The purpose of their production and reproduction was still simply to maintain the existence of the community and its members, while reserves could be accumulated only for the most extreme cases — to save from unexpected natural disasters, etc.

The cultivation of the land with horn and stone hoes, even on the softest soils, was a most arduous labor, which provided, though reliable, but very meagre sustenance. Tamed wild goats and sheep still produced very little wool, little milk; dairy products and meat had to be consumed quickly, because they did not know how to store them for a long time. Only in Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine already in the VIII-VI thousand BC. there were developed and rich settlements, sometimes even surrounded by a wall (so there was something to kidnap and protect!), but these were exceptions, and these ancient cultures (Jericho in Palestine, Chatal Huyuk in Asia Minor) did not develop in civilization.

Separation of cattle breeding from agriculture

With the growth of the agricultural population in the foothills, part of it began to go further and further into the steppes. As such tribal groups moved away from areas of more or less secure rain or stream irrigation, grazing became increasingly important in their economy, and the sowing of barley and spelt, as economically less reliable, played an increasingly subsidiary role. However, without domesticating either the horse or the camel, the pastoralists could not make the long seasonal migrations necessary to restore the grass cover on the pastures, and in general they could not yet move too far from the water. And they usually did not completely abandon agriculture. When, as a result of predatory feeding of the poor southern steppe pastures to sheep and goats, or after a period of catastrophic droughts, grazing in this area became impossible, the herders moved in droves to other places. So during the VI-III thousand BC. Afrasian tribes were settled in North Africa, as well as in the steppe regions of the Middle East (Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, where the Semitic-speaking part of the tribes of the Afrasian language family settled). It is worth noting here that the question of the ancestral home of the Afrasian languages remains debatable. And since the fourth millennium BC, from their ancestral home (which we tend to place between the Balkans and the Danube, although other localizations have been proposed), the tribes of the Indo-European language family settled in the southeast, south, east and west.

It should be remembered that the population of the Earth was then very rare, and the movement of tribes led, according to historical linguistics, not so much to the destruction or displacement of indigenous tribes, but to the assimilation of the alien population with the indigenous one, so that in ethnic (but not in linguistic) terms, the wave of further movement could be completely different from the original one. People who brought in the VI—V millennium BC Afrasian (Semitic-Hamitic) languages in the depths of Africa, and people with whom in the II-I millennium BC. Indo-European languages came to the shores of the Bay of Bengal (modern Bangladesh), did not resemble in appearance and culture those that gave the first impetus to the spread of agricultural and pastoral tribes — and at the same time their languages — in Africa and Western Asia (probably in the VII—VI thousand BC) and in Europe (probably in the IV—III thousand BC). Although these relatively mobile pastoral-agricultural tribes were not yet true nomads, we can still speak of the separation of the farmers who sat on the irrigated lands from the pastoralists-semi-farmers of the steppes as the first great division of labor.

An exchange was already established between farmers and herders; however, it was necessary even earlier — after all, already in the late Stone Age, no group of people could provide themselves with everything they needed without an exchange, the object of which was, for example, stone suitable for making tools (flint, obsidian). Such a stone is relatively rare on earth.

With the discovery of the first metals (gold, copper, silver), the exchange of metals for various handicrafts, such as fabrics, also began, and the exchange went from hand to hand over insignificant distances.

The first way of development of early ancient societies

In the process of the settlement of communities from the original centers of agriculture in the foothills of the Near and Middle East, other events occurred imperceptibly, which were perhaps even more important for the history of all mankind. Between the sixth and third millennia BC, pastoralists developed the valleys of the three great rivers of Africa and Asia: the Nile, the Lower Euphrates, and the Indus, as well as the Karun and Kerkhe Rivers east of present-day Iraq. As part of the population of the agricultural communities in the foothills was displaced or moved further into the steppe, some groups were forced to withdraw to the plains, periodically flooded by the waters of these three rivers. Here they met with very unfavorable conditions. All three rivers flow through a zone of desert or very hot dry steppes, where grain cannot grow without artificial irrigation; at the same time, all three rivers periodically flood heavily, flooding and swamping large areas for a long time. Therefore, the crops were either flooded at the wrong time by the flood, or burned by the sun when the water subsided. As a result, agriculture here for a long time was much worse than in the foothills, food was less reliably provided. In addition, for example, in the valley of the lower Euphrates, there was no construction wood (but only a giant reed), nor such a stone that would be suitable for making tools.

There were no metals here, so the inhabitants of this valley had to make do with reed and clay tools or exchange stone from nearby tribes, while their neighbors had long since mastered copper. Of course, copper was still known to these tribes, but it was much more difficult for them to exchange it. Many dozens of generations passed before the inhabitants of the great river valleys coped with the task of rational use of spills for agricultural purposes. It was the first victory in the history of mankind over the natural element, its submission to man.

Creation of great river irrigation systems

This was achieved in different ways. In the Nile Valley, the flood begins in June and lasts until October. People learned to divide the flooded fields with earthen ramparts; settling between them, the Nile water deposited fertile silt, then the water was drained, and the silt between the ramparts retained such an amount of moisture that it was enough not only for the period of sowing, but also for the period of growing cereals; besides, the silt was an excellent fertilizer. In the lower Euphrates valley, the river flowed quite irregularly in the spring; its waters were diverted to special reservoirs, from where they could be fed to the fields several times during the growing season. Own methods of taming rivers were found for the Kerkhe, Karun and Indus (for the latter-later, only in the middle of the III millennium BC).

It should not be assumed that a system of irrigation and reclamation was created for the entire river: in fact, only local systems were created, such as were possible for the unification of a few communities, but this was also a huge achievement, which the inhabitants of the valleys owed to their organization and cooperation. The application on a large scale of the organized labor of many workers working according to a single plan is one of the most important achievements that were presented to humanity by the first civilizations. Exactly how the work was organized, we do not know, because at that time there was no written language and no records have come down to us. But it has been observed that where the co-operation of communities was required to create productive agriculture, even in the earliest periods of civilization temples and cult leaders were distinguished by their power and wealth, to a much greater extent than where agriculture was based on rain or stream irrigation and large general works were not required. Therefore, it is assumed that the organization of land reclamation and irrigation works was entrusted to the priests. It is no accident that on the most ancient pictorial monuments of Egypt and Sumer, the leader-priest-the predecessor of the king-was often depicted performing an agricultural rite.

The development of river irrigation at the level of development of productive forces (Copper-Stone Age) was possible only where the soil was soft enough, the river banks are not too steep and rocky, the current is not too fast. Therefore, even within the subtropical, desert-steppe, steppe and forest-steppe zones, many rivers, including the Tigris, Arake and Kura, Syr Darya and Amu Darya, and others, were not yet suitable for creating irrigation civilizations on their basis; their waters were used by man much later.

But where organized river irrigation was possible and where the soil was formed from fertile alluvial silt, crops began to grow rapidly, which was also facilitated by the introduction of plough plowing, along with hoe plowing (first on donkeys, and then on oxen), and the general improvement of land cultivation techniques. This technique was then preserved almost unchanged for thousands of years. In Egypt and in Sumer, by the end of the IV millennium BC, crops easily yielded, apparently, tenfold, twenty-fold and large yields. And this means that each person began to produce much more than was necessary for his own food.

The growth of the surplus product and the stratification of society

The growth of harvests was extremely favorable for the development of cattle breeding, and the developed cattle breeding contributes to an even greater increase in the standard of living of people. The community was able not only to feed the disabled, i.e. children and the elderly, in addition to the workers, not only to create a reliable food reserve, but also to free some of its able-bodied people from agricultural labor. This contributed to the rapid growth of the specialized craft:

  • pottery,
  • weaving,
  • weaving,
  • shipbuilding, s
  • tone-cutting,
  • coppersmith, etc.

Of particular importance was the development of copper, which was first used simply as a type of stone, but soon became used for forging, and then for casting. Many tools and weapons could be made of copper, which could not be made of stone, wood, or bone, and which, even if broken, could be melted down and reused.

The separation of handicraft from agriculture was the second great division of labor. The further growth of the surplus agricultural and cattle-breeding product made it possible to free some of the members of the community from all productive labor. Who were those who could free themselves from such labor and support themselves at the expense of the labor of others? The formation of the ruling class was undoubtedly a complex, far from straightforward process.

Even in the depths of primitive society, the structure of the collective of people was not homogeneous. Of course, there were no antagonistic socio-economic classes, that is, historically formed groups of people who opposed each other in the process of production and differed from each other in their attitude to ownership of the means of production and in their opposite public interests. But the community could include different age groups, unions — male and cult; military leaders could have groups of their personal armed adherents among the mass of the community members; probably, in some cases, they left the life of prisoners captured in skirmishes with neighbors — such prisoners were sometimes adopted, included in the domestic community on a general basis, sometimes they were kept in the community in a slave state.

The domestic community consisted of its male head, the patriarch, and his sons with their wives and children; while the patriarch was alive, all the members of the community and their dependents were subject to his full, almost unlimited authority. If the domestic community was not divided after the death of the patriarch, it could gradually include an entire gens together with the wives of its male members (marriages within the gens were most often forbidden to avoid internal strife, and wives, as a rule, belonged to other gens).

In primitive society, the gens was usually a part of a tribe, that is, a large association of people connected with each other by real or assumed kinship in the male or female line. But in the conditions of an agricultural society and with the increasing role of exchange between communities, it became difficult to maintain the close organizational and economic unity of very large groups solely on the basis of their kinship, and tribal ties began to give way to purely neighborly ties. Neighbors could be relatives and fellow tribesmen, but they could not be. At the time of the formation of the first class society, the place of the tribal association was taken by a territorial (rural or urban) community, i.e., a group of dominating and more or less jointly disposing of land and water “houses” (household communities). The territorial community decided its affairs at a general meeting of equal warriors. But such a large assembly could not be included in the detailed consideration of everyday affairs, which was therefore entrusted to the council of elders — the most experienced representatives of individual “houses”, in principle considered equal among themselves (although there could be different communities” senior “and” junior”, etc.). The people’s assembly for the most part only approved the decision taken by the council. It — and more often the council-chose a leader (or two leaders) to command the war and to represent the community before the unknown forces of the world, personified as gods. Such a system of public administration is called military democracy.

Naturally, when the surplus product was created, its size was not sufficient to be distributed to everyone; at the same time, not everyone in the territorial community had the same opportunities to provide for themselves at the expense of others. In the most favorable position were, on the one hand, the military leader and his entourage, and on the other — the chief priest (he is also supposed to have been in the countries of river irrigation and the organizer of irrigation). A war chief and a priest could be the same person. Of course, the members of the council of elders were not on an equal footing compared to the mass of community members, and different house communities could have different authority and power.

The process of forming a class society is subject to strictly logical laws. For the best and greatest development of the productive forces and the cultural and ideological growth of society, it is necessary to have persons who are exempt from productive labor. This does not mean that society consciously frees the best organizers, the most profound thinkers, the most remarkable artists from productive labor — far from it; the surplus product that frees them from productive labor is captured not by those who are able to use it in the most rational way, but by those who were able to. Those who have a fist, armed or ideological force in their hands also take on organizational tasks. Most of them exploit the work of others without benefit to society; but a certain percentage of those who have advanced are people who can really contribute to society in its technical and cultural progress.

It is this accelerated progress that allows us to call the very first class society a civilization (from the Latin cives — “citizen”, civilis — “civil”, civitas — “civil community, city”). The accelerated progress of early class society differs from the barbarism, at the level of which even the most developed primitive society remains.

The emergence of the state and the bureaucratic apparatus

When only a certain part of society benefits from the surplus product, economic and social inequality inevitably arises. However, without such inequality, without the development of those opportunities for the growth of productive forces, which are inherent in the exploitation of the labor of some for the benefit of others, at the then level of development of production, progress was impossible at all. But no one will willingly agree to cede an extra share of the public product to someone else. As a result, an apparatus of violence was needed to compel the exploited class and society as a whole to observe the established new order. This apparatus is the state that arises simultaneously with class society, with its administrative staff, the territorial (instead of tribal) principle of division of the administered area, special armed forces separated from the people as a whole (even from its militia), and with taxes collected from the population for the maintenance of the state apparatus and the armed forces. Taxes could have a different form, sometimes completely different from modern ones.

In Sumer (we are less aware of other “river civilizations”), the provision of the communal elite in the third millennium BC was still not so much by levying any levies on the mass of the population (although there were levies), but by allocating large areas of land from the communal territory in favor of temples and important officials (and the area of irrigated land was relatively limited). A considerable number of people worked on these lands. They formed the bulk of the emerging exploited class. Temples were particularly important for the community because the product created in their farms was originally a public insurance fund, and participation in temple sacrifices provided the population with almost the only opportunity to receive meat food. At the same time, it was easier to use advanced agricultural equipment (plows, etc.) on large areas of the temple lands, and here the main share of the surplus product was created. For the mass of the free population, which was not part of the newly formed state apparatus (to which we must include the priesthood ), the allocation of a large part of the most fertile communal land in favor of this apparatus was a form of tax. In addition, the forms of the tax were irrigation and construction duties and the duty of the military militia. Here it should be said that the temple lands were originally allocated, presumably, to serve the cult of the gods, and not to provide for the priests. In general, the concept of “priesthood”, at least in Mesopotamia, belongs to a later time: the ancients did not immediately begin to distinguish the ritual, magical service of the gods, which the priests themselves were engaged in, from other state and public services.

The emergence of the nome system

It is important to note that if at a late stage of the development of the primitive system, extensive tribal associations (unions of tribes, confederations) are sometimes created, then the first states are always and everywhere small, covering one territorial community or several closely related communities. Such a state, in order to be stable, should, if possible, have some natural boundaries: mountains bordering a valley, a sea washing an island or peninsula, a desert surrounding an area irrigated by a single main canal, etc. Such a clearly distinguishable area of the formation of statehood, we will conditionally call the nome. The Nome usually had a center in the form of a temple of the main local deity; the administration settled around it, food and material warehouses, weapons depots were built; the most important workshops of artisans were concentrated here; all this was surrounded by a wall for security, and the city was formed as the center of a small primary state. The purpose of this center, its main function (as well as the city in general in class society) is the concentration, redistribution and realization of the surplus product. All other functions of the city (military, political, cultural, etc.) are derived from the main one. Naturally, the process of formation of cities chronologically more or less coincides with the emergence of class society and the state, as a result of which in Western science the moment of transition from the primitive communal system to the class system is often called the “urban revolution”. This term is unacceptable, since it is based only on the sign of the development of craft and industrial centers and does not note the most important thing that distinguishes the last stage of primitive society (barbarism) from civilization, i.e., the society of citizens. It provides the key to understanding the further history of the ancient society.

Class stratification of society for the first time in the world occurred in Egypt and in the south of Mesopotamia, i.e. in Sumer. In both regions, this process had its own characteristics that determined the entire subsequent history of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations — their specific ways of development within the same mode of production. The first of the various ways of development of ancient society in its early stages is best studied on the material of Sumer. Economically, the Sumerian society was divided into sectors. One included large farms owned by the temples and the top officials of the nascent state; these farms gradually fell out of the control of the communal self-government bodies during the first centuries of written history. The other sector included the lands whose free population participated in the bodies of communal self-government; these lands within the territorial communities were owned by domestic large-family communities headed by their patriarchs. In the third or fourth generation, the home community was usually divided, but the newly emerging home communities continued to be considered related, could have a common ancestral cult, customs of mutual assistance, etc.

In the future, the farms of the first sector became the property of the state, while the farms of the second sector remained in the supreme ownership of the territorial communities and in the possession of the heads of families; in practice, the ownership of the latter differed from full ownership only in that only members of the territorial communities under the control of these communities could use and dispose of the land. Communists, i.e. free members of the economy of the second (community-private) sector, as a rule, worked on the land themselves and with the help of only their family members. However, within household communities, and especially between related household communities, there was a wealth disparity. It depended on the social status of the heads of individual families (for example, some community members were priests, elders, etc.), on random luck or failure, on the ability of individual members to manage their funds, since movable property, unlike a house, field or date plantation, belonged to each family member individually. Some communal families — on the basis of the customs of mutual assistance or by lending food to less fortunate members of the same community-could also use other people’s labor; sometimes there were also slaves, which will be discussed below.

People settled on the lands that later formed the state sector owned land conditionally — it was given to them for food and as payment for service or work for the temple or the leader-ruler, etc.; at the same time, the land was given out for service or work individually, for a small, and not for a large family, i.e., sons and grandchildren served separately and were provided with land plots separately from their fathers and grandfathers. The size of the surplus product was probably approximately equal to the rent from a given plot of land. The land could be taken from each of them or replaced with another one at the discretion of the administration. Many public sector workers received no land at all, but only rations. However, even among the people employed in the public sector, there were wealthy people at that time, who used other people’s labor and had slaves and slaves. They were officials, top warriors, skilled artisans. They were also allocated a certain part of the product created by the agricultural workers of the temple or government economy. They could sometimes rise very high in the service ladder, it was from their number that the administrative apparatus was mainly replenished; some of them, although they did not have state land in formal ownership, but actually managed the economy of the public sector. But among the people of the public sector, there were actually slaves, and especially female slaves, who could be bought and sold.

The estate system of ancient states

Thus, the society that developed in the third millennium BC in the territory along the lower Euphrates River was divided into classes.

  • The members of free communities who participated in the communal ownership of land and had the rights of communal self-government, and initially the right to elect a leader-ruler, belonged to the highest.
  • To the lower class belonged the members of the staff of the temple or government farm, who owned land only on the condition of serving and working, or who did not own it at all, but received only rations. In addition, there were slaves who stood as if outside the estates, since they could in principle be treated like cattle. But, in essence, they also formed a special, disenfranchised class.

This division of society was quite obvious and was realized by the ancients themselves. However, there was another, deeper, objective socio-economic division of society — into social classes that differed in their place in the process of production and in relation to ownership of the means of production, in relation to exploitation. This division did not coincide with the class division.

The upper class was the class of people who did not engage in productive labor and exploited other people’s labor. In our science, this class is designated as slaveholders, although they exploited not only slaves in the proper sense of the word. Members of this class either participated in the ownership of the means of production (if they were community members), or owned them on the condition of service, and in fact managed the farms of the public sector in the interests of the ruling class as a whole.

The middle class was a class of peasants and artisans engaged in productive labor, but, as a rule, did not exploit other people’s labor or use it as a subsidiary. This class included primarily less well-off community owners, but it could also be joined by conditional land owners — members of the staff of public sector farms, as well as tenants and employees (as a rule, who also had their own or leased land). The latter categories were most often exploited, so it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between the middle and lower classes in the public sector.

The lower class consisted of servile people of the slave type, deprived of ownership of the means of production in the economy, where they were subjected to non-economic exploitation. Non-economic exploitation is exploitation carried out by direct physical or ideological violence, in contrast to economic exploitation, which occurs where the worker, due to the historically established economic structure of society, cannot feed himself except by making a deal with the owner of the means of production to sell him his labor force. Economic exploitation was the exception in ancient times, not the rule.

Exploitation of dependent populations and slaves

This exploited class also included slaves, who were not only deprived of ownership of the means of production, but were themselves the property of the exploiters, who were, as it were, living tools of labor. The productivity of slave labor under constant supervision and with the then extremely primitive tools of labor did not differ significantly from the productivity of the peasant-community worker, but the slave could not have a family, and those members of the non-economically exploited class who were not actually slaves had to support the family on their own rations or on the harvest from the allotment. The coexistence of various forms of dependence led to the fact that, on the one hand, the forms of slavery were softened, and on the other hand, other forms of dependence were increasingly closer to slavery.

However, in early antiquity, the maximum “classical” exploitation of slaves was generally impracticable for a number of reasons. It was impossible to turn a member of one’s community into a complete slave, because he was connected by family and religious ties with other community members and they came to his aid. The communists periodically sought the release of all their accomplices who were enslaved for debts, as well as the ransom of the captured accomplices. Foreign slaves were initially in the position of the younger (minor) members of the family. But in the IV-III thousand BC. usually the captured warriors were killed immediately, and the women and children who were able to survive the hijacking were taken as slaves; the rest were also killed. If the men were taken away, they were put only on state land as forced laborers on rations or on allotments and gave them the opportunity to have their own housing and family.

In the private farms of the communes, it was not possible to allocate a special farm to the prisoners, nor was it possible to keep the captive slaves under guard at field work. Therefore, only patriarchal slavery could exist here. This means that either girls and young women (with whom the slaveholders adopted children) or boys who were at such an age that they could get used to the house and feel like they belonged to it were taken into the house from the driven polon. Slaves and slaves were assigned mainly heavy work in the house itself (making pots, tending cattle, spinning and weaving, cooking food, grinding grain between two stones-this was especially hard work – etc.). In the field, slave boys were assigned auxiliary work together with family members-driving oxen, weeding, reaping, knitting sheaves, but they were not trusted with plowing and sowing. The labor of the slaves in the house was disputed not only because they were under the constant supervision of the masters, but also because they participated with the masters in the general production process; also important was the actual kinship of many slaves with their masters, as well as the lack of a big difference in living conditions between the masters (except, of course, the top of society) and the slaves: the masters themselves also ate sparingly, dressed more than modestly. The same is true of individual farms on allotment land in the public sector; small farms did not require many slaves.

We have already mentioned that the situation was different in the public sector itself, for example, in the temple land. There were a lot of workers needed here; it was impossible to keep groups of slaves on field work — there would not be enough overseers, and there was no master family that could plow and sow itself. Therefore, only women were usually kept in the slave position here, and men-prisoners and children of slaves were equated with the rest of the working personnel of large farms; They may have come from among the younger brothers in impoverished home communities, from fugitives who sought refuge under the protection of the temple or a neighboring leader-either in the defeat of their hometown, or in the event of a catastrophic drought or flood in their homeland, etc.It is possible that once the community, allocating land to temples and leaders, at the same time obliged some of its members to work in temple and state farms. Thus, whether the public sector workers received only rations or also a land allotment, they (although they were exploited through non-economic coercion and were deprived of ownership of the means of production) were still not completely in a slave position.

They did not necessarily come from captives, even more often from local residents. They were allowed to have movable property, and often their own home and family, and even livestock. Since they were not allowed to leave the estate where they worked, they are often referred to as serfs. But since they had no ownership of the means of production, they were different from the medieval dependent peasants, since they were actually subjected to slave exploitation; therefore, in order to avoid confusion, we will continue to refer to them here by the term used in Greece for state slaves who were planted on the land and fed members of the ruling class by their labor, but who owned farms: helots. Helots are the equivalent of patriarchal slaves within the public sector.

A brief conclusion about the first way of development of societies

Relying on the personnel of the powerful state farms gradually taken over by them, the rulers of the nomes, or city-states, created numerous squads independent of the council, the people’s assembly, and other communal self-government bodies. This allowed the rulers, supported by a grouping of bureaucracy created from their personal adherents, to rise above the individual nomes and create a single royal authority within the entire irrigation network of Lower Mesopotamia-the country between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

It is significant, however, that by that time a single tsarist slave-owning economy was being created in the state sector. Private farms within the communal sector are still preserved in the described path of development of the slave-owning society.

In the course of further history, it became clear that the maintenance of the state at the expense of its own economy with the help of large masses of slave-type exploited people ultimately turns out to be unprofitable: it requires too much unproductive costs for supervision and management. The state is switching to a system of collecting direct taxes and tributes from the entire population. The distinction between the state and the private-community sector nevertheless remains, although private slave farms are maintained on both state and community land; the difference lies in the nature of ownership and ownership, namely: ownership of state land is not related to ownership of it.

At an early stage of the oldest class society, this was its first path of development, characterized by the coexistence of two economic sectors — the state and the community-private, with the predominance of the first. This path of development was typical for the lower Euphrates Valley, as well as for the valleys of the Karun and Kerkhe rivers (Middle Elam).

The second way of development of societies of early antiquity (Upper Egypt)

Another variant of the development of the early slave-owning society can be considered the one that developed in the Nile Valley — in Egypt. Unfortunately, the early economic and legal documents from Egypt are very few, and much is unclear to us.

If Sumer is crossed by numerous branches of the Euphrates, from which numerous independent main channels could be diverted, and here small “nome” states were not only created, but were preserved for a long time and after short — term associations were revived again, then the entire Upper Egypt is stretched out in a narrow ribbon along a single water main — the Nile; only in Lower Egypt the Nile diverges in a fan of channels-the Delta. Apparently, due to the fact that the nomes of Upper Egypt joined each other along the Nile, squeezed on both sides by the desert, political groupings that would make it possible, using the multilateral struggle and rivalry of neighbors, to provide the individual nomes with their self-government with sufficient independence, were impossible here. Clashes between the nomes inevitably led to their unification, of course under the rule of the strongest, and even to the complete destruction of the obstinate neighbor. Therefore, even in the earliest era in Upper Egypt, there are single kings who rule over individual nomes and the entire country, who later conquer Lower Egypt.

And although, in all likelihood, in early Egypt, too, there was a parallel public sector (temple and royal, perhaps also noble “houses”) and a communal-private sector, later, it seems, the communal-private sector was completely absorbed by the state; at least, Egyptologists cannot, on the basis of the material currently available to them for the era from 2000 BC and later, find clear evidence of the existence of communities of free and full citizens, administratively independent of state farms. But even within the public sector, there are economically autonomous farms and even “secondary” communities of tsarist people with some rudiments of self-government.

All this, however, does not create a fundamental difference between the societies of Egypt and Lower Mesopotamia. Both here and there, the direct management of huge slave farms by the tsarist government eventually turns out to be unprofitable, with the difference that in Egypt the development of private slave farms takes place on formally state land and these private farms draw labor from state funds, in addition to the fact that they have their own slaves. Employees were required to perform a certain lesson on the farm to which they were subordinate; what was produced in excess of the lesson could be received in their favor with the right to dispose of this share of the product.

The third way of development of early ancient societies

On lands that did not possess the fertile alluvial silt of the great river valleys, class society is formed according to exactly the same laws that we have described above for the first way of development of river irrigation societies. But,

  1. First, it took much longer to reach the higher technological level at which the surplus product became possible here in agriculture, on such lands. At the same time, along with the development of grain crops, other factors usually played a role here: for example, cattle breeding, the culture of grapes, olives, and metal mining made it possible to participate in the extraction of surplus product in the agricultural countries themselves through exchange.
  2. Secondly, there was no need to create and maintain labor-intensive and extensive irrigation and reclamation systems. Accordingly, the temples and the chief-priest played an incomparably smaller role, and the community-private sector was much more important than the state. However, due to the fact that these societies reached the level of class society and civilization later, Egypt and Lower Mesopotamia managed to exert a powerful cultural influence on them, aimed, among other things, just to strengthen the authority of the temples and the royal power.

Therefore, the oldest societies of the third way of development give a diverse picture of the relationship between the public and community-private sectors: where one is stronger, and where the other is stronger. The local “powers” (Achaean, Hittite, Mitanni, Middle Assyrian, Egyptian “empire” in Syria during the New Kingdom) were rather military alliances, in which the weaker urban or” nome ” states owed tribute and military assistance to the stronger, central state. The third way of development of the oldest class society was in the third and mainly in the second millennium BC. All societies of Asia Minor and Anterior Asia (with the exception of Lower Mesopotamia and the valleys of Kerkhe and Karun), as well as societies around the Aegean Sea in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the beginning of the first millennium BC, various societies of the Near-Asian and Little-Asian highlands, Greece, and possibly Italy (Etruria?) still belonged to the same type.

In the first millennium BC, this path of development is divided into two sharply different options, mainly due to the level of development of the commodity-money economy and international exchange. One of the options turns into a special, ancient way of development; here there is a special kind of community-private economic sector-polis property and the economy, while the public sector fades into the background for a long time. So it was in Greece, Italy. But in the vast majority of other countries, the community-private sector is preserved only in the cities, and almost all the settled population ends up as a result of the conquests within the royal land fund. This completely changes the whole nature of the economy of most countries in Asia and partly in Africa.

Special ways of development of ancient societies

However, all this already belongs to the later periods of the development of ancient society. The three or four listed above may not be the only valid list of the various paths of development of the oldest class societies. Thus, in the Indian Subcontinent in the first millennium BC, a special path of development appears, characterized by a slightly different and more rigid class system than in the first, second and third paths of development; it is not entirely clear how to characterize the path of development of China.

On a global scale, the first stage of antiquity (within the circle of class societies) covers the third and second millennia B.C.; we do not yet know enough about the societies of India and China at this epoch to characterize them from the point of view of the historical ways of their development at such an early stage. Therefore, at the present level of knowledge, we can consider the early period of ancient society as the period of the rule of the first, second and third ways.

Understanding of the world on the edge of primitive and ancient societies

The events of the era of early antiquity are difficult to understand, if you do not at least approximately imagine how the ancients thought and felt, what they thought about the world and about themselves.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to penetrate into the spiritual world of this deep antiquity. Very slowly, the monuments of ancient literature and art become known to us; the excavated temples are mute; the images are unclear. But even if the ancient literature and art were fully understood, then their monuments are only what the literate and skilled artists of that time accidentally preserved to us; this is not all that people of that time thought and felt. Oral myths, fairy tales, songs, and sayings are also monuments of great antiquity. But they have come down to us through the millennia, perhaps greatly distorted by later alterations. In any case, modern storytellers, with whom ethnographers deal, do not themselves know and cannot tell us what exactly the ancient people wanted to express with their creativity. The hypotheses put together on this occasion by scientists, as a rule, are rejected by the carriers of still living ancient myths — people of the tribes of Africa, Australia, Polynesia, etc.

There is, perhaps, one objective means by which one can penetrate into the mechanism of thinking of primitive people in early antiquity — this is the study of language. Language expresses categories of thinking, and by examining how the most archaic languages are constructed, what techniques they use to express a person’s relationship to the world and its phenomena, one can discover some of the mechanisms of the thinking of that time itself.

Based on the comparison of the structure of the oldest layers of extant languages with the structure of the oldest myths, the following hypothesis about the thinking and worldview of primitive people seems most plausible.

Ancient man’s perception of the essence of natural phenomena and events

The most difficult thing for them was to perceive and express abstract concepts. But since no judgment is possible without a certain generalization, this generalization was achieved by creating sensory-visual associations (comparisons). For example, in order to express the idea that the sky is a vault or roof resting on the four points of the horizon, and at the same time it is something that every day gives birth to the sun, as well as the stars and the moon, and at the same time something on which the sun moves daily from end to end, it could be said that the sky is a cow on four legs; the woman who gives birth to the sun, and the river on which the sun floats. This sufficiently expressed the idea that had to be conveyed, and no one asked how the sky could be both a cow, a woman, and a river, for everyone clearly felt that this was an allegory, and in fact the sky was not a cow, a woman, or a river. But due to the same lack of development of abstract concepts, there were also no concepts of “comparison”, “metaphor”, “allegory” and everything necessary to express that the sky is not a cow, not a woman, and not a river. A comparison, an allegory, the very name of an object or phenomenon was perceived as something real, for example, a name-as a real part of the named. Therefore, it is not surprising that, even without identifying the sky with a real cow or a real woman, ancient man could offer sacrifices to the sky both as a divine cow and as a woman (goddess).

For all natural and purposeful (or ostensibly purposeful) phenomena of the world concerning man, all phenomena having an unknown and indubitable cause, were thought and felt as caused by a rational will. In fact, man could observe the connection between cause and effect almost exclusively within the limits of his own activity, and therefore he sensually imagined the cause as an act of will. Thus, behind every phenomenon of the world, an intelligent being was thought to be moving it, which should be propitiated in its favor. This being, or deity, was not thought of as spiritual (for the immaterial spirit is also an abstraction, for the verbal expression of which, and consequently for the imagination of which, there were no means), but as material. It could differ from a person in power, malice — anything, but not in spirituality.

Nor did the deity differ from man in immortality, because man had no means of imagining death sensually or verbally as non-existence. For him, the dead person was the one who had passed from life here to life somewhere else; in the same way, the one who was born was the one who had passed from life somewhere else to life here. Another transition from one existence to another was the transition from childhood: boys – to full-fledged warriors, girls – to girls of marriageable age; such a transition was often accompanied by a rite of initiation (initiation), which included tests of the resistance of a young man or girl against pain (for example, by circumcision of the foreskin, inflicting wounds or burns), against fear, etc., as well as the transfer to a new generation of the experience of their ancestors, imprinted not only in the methods of work of various kinds, but also in myths as a sensory-figurative comprehension of the alleged causes and connections of phenomena.

Ritual as an integral part of the worldview

The myth cannot be separated from the rite (ritual). Primitive man interprets his actions as sensually-associatively, and not abstractly-logically, as the phenomena of the world. Some practical actions (for example, technical labor techniques) at the same time, he understands quite correctly, since the action here obviously depends on the visibly manifested human will. Other, ritual actions of a person were caused by the supposed causes of the phenomena of the world, consisting in the will of the deities; deities and their actions were recreated in myths (as we have already seen) by associations that do not have a strictly logical character, associations that are figurative and emotional. It is not surprising that the impact on (divine!) the causes of the phenomena were also associative-emotional, and not logical.

For example, if the name is a material part of the deity, then does not the one who calls this name take possession of God himself to some extent? Does not promote sexual intercourse with a woman who embodies (as an ” actress») the goddess, the fertilization of the goddess herself, as well as the fertility of the earth, which this goddess not only knows, but which she herself is? The rite is all the more effective because for primitive man, as it were, there is no abstract physical time.

Modern people, of course, know that physical time unfolds evenly, always in the same direction; but in sensation we do not perceive time, but only the events that fill it or their expectation. If there is a lot of both, it seems that a lot of time has passed; if nothing happens, time seems to have passed quickly. Primitive man felt time in the same way, to the extent that he could relate it to the events of his own life. Because in ancient times there was no permanent era for counting years, nor permanent divisions of the day; The daytime was simply divided into morning, noon, and evening, and the night was divided into several “guards” (guard duty), depending on the garrison customs. It was difficult to determine a point in time that did not relate to his life, or even to the lives of his close ancestors, of whom he was still aware.

And mythological events, such as the birth of the sun by a goddess or the birth of another goddess of bread on earth, do not have a definite point in time to which they can be tied, because the sun rises every day and the bread rises every year; therefore, the rite performed today may well be considered to affect the mythological events that took place once, at least contributing to their regular repetition. In this mythological worldview, which cannot yet be called philosophy and it is not known whether it can be called religion, there is also its own protoethics: from the plot of the myth, it is clear what is good and what is bad. However, this protoethics is somewhat automatic: it is not built in the form of a logical system; just what is useful for your community, colleagues, children, is good, and since all people outside their community are enemies, then outsmarting or killing them is certainly good. And what is bad is mostly magically enchanted, tabooed; if you do something forbidden — you will die, not even because you will be killed for it, but out of fear of the taboo itself. Here ethics is inseparable from primitive magic. Thus, the shedding of blood (in addition to the battlefield) defiles by virtue of the magical properties of blood, regardless of whether murder is good or evil; and to eat forbidden food, or to be present at a forbidden ritual, or to cohabit with a woman of a forbidden degree of kinship can be a much greater sin than the sin of murder, which can be removed — with the help of a ransom and a cleansing rite.

The complexity of the mechanism of the addition of civilizations

This is the ideological legacy with which humanity has come to the brink of civilization. If you add to this the unreliability of crops, the vulnerability to disease and natural disasters, the imperfection of housing, clothing and utensils, the lack of hygienic ideas, it becomes clear how difficult it was to live in the world of that time. At the same time, it is not necessary to think that some lone genius was able to explain to people the fallacy of certain views and carry them away: in an era of development that, from our point of view, was unusually gradual and slow, only the collective experience of the ancestors, just embodied in myths and rituals, had weight. The success of a loner who did not follow the teachings of his ancestors would seem accidental or due to some unaccounted-for magic, and therefore, perhaps, ominous.

However, it is hardly necessary to look down on the ancient people with their myth-making: in the life of today’s humanity, there are also many tenacious, not based on any logic, misconceptions, prejudices, for example, in the assessment of foreign nations, in omens, etc., which are the most real myths, also formed not in a logical, but emotionally associative way. Many erroneous scientific hypotheses also differ little from myths. In addition, the mythological nature of primitive man’s thinking as a whole allowed for the possibility of quite sound generalizations where his collective experience was sufficient to discern the actual causes of phenomena and verify the truth of conclusions.

Considering the main features of the early period of ancient history, we stopped at the peculiar type of thinking of the people of that time, because otherwise it would be difficult to explain why religion, the temple, the rite, the myth, and the priesthood played such a huge role in this era of human development. Why did the priesthood get the lion’s share of the surplus product created for the first time?

Of course, the explanation of the rationalists of the XVIII century, and many anti-religious people of the XX century, who saw the reason primarily in the deliberate deception of the people by the priests, is naive. There is no doubt that the priests never forgot their own interests, and for the most part put them ahead of the interests of other believers. But it should be borne in mind that the believers in those days were all without the slightest exception, and, of course, the priests as well. The particularly important social role that professional performers of religious rites began to play from the very beginning is primarily due to the fact that these rites themselves were considered by the entire population as the most important means of ensuring the well-being of the community. The riches of the temples were originally the insurance fund of the community: “the majority of the agricultural population ate meat only during the sacrifice to the gods.

Let us also recall that the emerging class society was then a progressive phenomenon, contributing to the accelerated development of the productive forces and to the improvement of the standard of living of the greatest possible number of people at that time, while primitive society, despite the equality of people prevailing in it, was turning into a backward system. Meanwhile, it was precisely the return of the primitive past that oppressed humanity dreamed of at that time. The masses of the people still lived by myths and rituals inherited from primitiveness. The collective experience of the ancestors, expressed in these myths and rituals, still largely determined the worldview and social psychology of people. This worldview, regardless of the political structure of each individual society, had an authoritarian character. It was only in the second period of antiquity — in Greece and in some of the advanced societies of the East – that authoritarian thinking began to lose its hold on the minds; nothing was taken for granted, every proposition had to be proved. But even when, at the end of 2,500 years of the history of ancient class society, a scientific worldview and philosophy began to appear along with a religious worldview, this philosophy was the ideology of the ruling class; it remained alien to the broad masses of the people.

Tell your friends:


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No ratings yet)