World Without West

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Concavenator, Jul 9, 2016.

  1. Concavenator Well-Known Member

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    [Edit to clarify: ITTL, the functional destruction of Greece and Rome prevents Western Civilization from ever appearing. Persia and Carthage grow and collapse, the unification of China is disrupted, the history of India is transformed and something very important happens in West Africa; and things keep changing]


    Hey, everyone! First time poster here. I hail from the Speculative Evolution forum, where I'm known as Dromaeosaurus.
    A while ago, I happened to read The Years of Rice and Salt, an AH novel in which a magnified Black Plague completely depopulates Europe, leading to a global joint hegemony of Islamic and Chinese culture in the following centuries. So I've been thinking about an ATL with no Western Civilization - by which I mean no latin script, no Romance/Germanic/Slavic languages, no Christianity, no European nation states, no classical or classical-derived art, and such things. Unlike Years, which destroyed the West before it could spread worldwide, I chose to have it nipped in the bud.

    « The King of Kings, Darius I, had sworn vengeance upon Athens for supporting the rebels in Ionia, years before. He sent his army sailing for Attica in the summer of 490 BCE, landing in the bay of Marathon. In that parched plain, the Persian cavalry would easily crush their enemies. In another world, maybe, general Miltiades could have devised a plan to deny the enemy their greatest strength; but not in this one.
    A creeping disease, a punishment by Apollo for some unknown transgression, had already taken away the wise general, and worn out many of the Greek soldiers. The shields and the spears of the hoplites were powerful; the arms holding them less so. Messengers were sent to Sparta, but they would not break the sacred period of peace of the Carneia. After many hours of grueling fight, the Greek lines finally broke. The Persian army had free passage into the heart of Greece. The Athenian army was lost. Athens would burn.
    The disheartening news elicited mixed reactions. Many called for restraint; they would survive and preserve their culture and traditions, even under barbarian rule. But as the panic grew, and people believed they could hear the Persian hooves thunder across the plains, a more radical faction won out, terrifying each other with tales of the Asian cruelty, deciding to deny everything to the invaders. As the barbarians rode into Thessalia and Peloponnesus, rooting out the smaller armies one by one, they found farmers burning their crops and slaughtering their livestock. When Sparta fell, they found the women and children lying in blood-soaked beds with their throat cut, and the men lying besides them, impaled on their own swords.
    Thebes had quickly pledged allegiance to the King of Kings; general Mardonius chose to settle there, as first Satrap of Outer Ionia. The new subjects would have a place in the Achaemenid Empire; their culture would be respected. The instigators of the rebellion had been punished; no more blood should flow.
    And yet, as hunger swept the land, as frantic refugees fled from city to city, the disease that had taken Miltiades spread even more. Many of the survivors left Greece forever; some took the sea and tried to reach the colonies; other went deeper into the Empire, learning to speak Aramaic, and scattered.
    The Greek lands west of the Adriatic were still far outside the reach of Persia. Massilia and Syracusa found themselves swamped with refugees and cut from the usual trade routes. They were easy prey for Carthage, hegemon of the shores of the Western Mediterranean, that would now control entirely the crops of Sicily. As the Carthaginian army could grow larger and stronger, the Latin League was made into a tributary of the african empire. At that time, Rome was just a city slighly larger than most - and it wouldn't ever be anything else.
    The last free Greeks, cut off from what was once their world, survived in the cold Tauris, trading sea products with the Scythian nomads of the northern steppe. They could mine silver - but they wondered how long would pass before the barbarians decided to come down and take it all.
    In another world, maybe, Greece and Rome could have become the forefathers of a powerful civilization that would take over the western lands, and then spread in all the world, leaving its languages and its customs and its religions in every continent; but not in this one. »

    In brief, the Persian army wins at Marathon, the Greek society and culture is functionally destroyed by a combination of warfare, scorched earth and disease, and Carthage takes over the western colonies. Some consequences:
    1. As a consequence of the Greek diaspora, Greek customs/language/religion could still survive and spread in the Near East, except they are subordinate to the Persian culture. Maybe the Greeks could survive in small scattered communities, like the Jews in OTL Europe. Could we see, say, a sort of Platonist/Buddhist hybrid religion take over the Near East?
    2. The prolonged survival of Carthage could mean more links between Western Europe and Africa, maybe allowing West African customs to reach the Celtic tribes, and vice versa. With the Mediterranean clearly split between Carthage in the west and Persia in the east, there's no unified concept of Europe like that arising from the Roman Empire.
    3. Obviously the Achaemenid Empire cannot be taken down by Alexander the Great. How long could it last? In OTL there was a rebellion in Egypt soon after Marathon, so I could see it collapsing from rebellion a century or two after the PoD, especially if disease or external attacks (say, raids from the Scythians) contribute.
    4. At this point China is in the Spring and Autumn period. I thought it would be interesting if it gets unified by a state other than Qin - for example, Chu. We could have "Miltiades' plague" following the Greek diaspora and weakening Qin, though that feels a bit arbitrary. Without Qin Shi Huang, a different political philosophy could take over (more detail in a future post).
    5. I'm kinda stuck on India: like China, at this point is divided in fighting kingdoms. The Maurya Empire develops from Magadha after Alexander's invasion of the west, so it might not exist ITTL. Maybe a different kingdom takes over, like Kashi (but that seems too similar to what happens in China)? Or do the Indian kingdoms simply remain divided? Maybe a Kushan-like nomad empire?
    6. I'm even less sure about the Tauris Greeks. Could they be integrated in a Scythian state, sedentarizing in the Pontic steppe?
    7. I'm going to leave the Americas and Oceania unchanged from OTL until the Old World civilizations actually interact with them.
    Any thoughts?


    EDIT:
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
  2. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

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    Welcome to the board! Good post and interesting thoughts, however this is not my area of expertise, thus I differ to those with knowledge on this topic. I will contribute more if this devolves into a discussion on Arab influences or such.
     
  3. Concavenator Well-Known Member

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    Thanks! To tell the truth, I haven't yet thought of anything to do with Arab peoples (at this point of time, they should be still polytheistic nomads, aren't they?), but I'm always open to suggestions.
     
  4. WhoMadeWho Literally US President Barack Obama Banned

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    I think it would be fair to ask how much the development of the west is really dependent upon Greek victory in the Greco-Persian conflicts. Does a Persian victory really mean no West? Does a destroyed and depopulated Greece mean no West? I don't think it's necessarily the case.
     
  5. Concavenator Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps not, but I'd say many of the things that make Western culture recognizable, like those I listed in the OP, do result from Greece and Rome in a way or the other (even Christianity arose in a Roman-dominated society). Admittedly, maybe Rome could have resulted in something much like our Europe even without Greek culture, so just to be on the safe side I removed early Rome as well (as a vassal of Carthage, it won't be allowed to expand anytime soon).
     
  6. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

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    Not necessarily nomads, but pagan yes. In this period the Arab population is steadily growing in and around the interior and Yemen. It will eventually hit its zenith later down the line, however their time isn't then. For instance the more advanced modes of Arab warfare seen in the 600s have not been thought of nor invented yet.
     
  7. Alligator Never go full Dandolo

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    The Greeks were sort of "Eastern", and the Carthaginians and Persians sort of "Western" already. The West-East continuum in the ancient world, and the medieval world was totally different, such that an Achaemenid POD may not really change the relation between West and East in the way intended.

    Greek script came from the Phoenician script, which came from the Egyptian script. Greek traders and mercenaries were found all across the eastern Mediterranean, especially in Egypt. The Carthaginians were huge influences for the Greeks (and influenced by the Greeks in turn). Carthage was also an oligarchic republic, more like the Greeks or Latins in the "West" than like the kingdoms in the Near "East". But of course, they had been colonized by Tyre in the east.

    Later, the Hellenistic kingdoms, despite being Greek-ruled, abandoned their previous oligarchic governmental systems in favor of Persia-influenced monarchies with a hereditary absolute ruler. Similarly, the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, and followed this Hellenistic system especially during the Dominate. This system in turn, had been borrowed by the Greeks from the Persians, who borrowed it from the ancient Mesopotamian empires.

    Medieval European kingdoms inherited this (originally Mesopotamian) monarchical system rather than the Greek or Phoenician oligarchy. By being successors of Rome, they were successors of an empire that was both western and eastern. The ancient Romans themselves had always believed Greeks to be "Eastern", and the eastern half of the Roman Empire was always the richest and most influential half.

    Of course feudalism in the Middle Ages was somewhat new, but similar systems arose in Mesoamerica and Japan with no Western influence.

    Christianity of course originally came from the Middle East, replacing the various polytheistic pantheons to the west, north, and south. It only became Greek and Latin when they adopted it, and Armenia and Ethiopia converted to Christianity first.

    If Greece is conquered by the Persians it doesn't necessarily prevent the "west" existing as a concept. In fact, the west may actually be more "western" than OTL, because the Gauls, Celtiberians, and Etruscans would survive, and the Carthaginians would be spreading a city-state oligarchic system across the west, instead of the Romans borrowing the Hellenistic system borrowed from the Persians. The Achaemenids were also pretty tolerant for an empire, and Greeks would retain their own culture as Armenia, Syria, Parthia, Phrygia, and Egypt did.
     
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  8. Omar20 Cuban Universalist

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    Hi, also a First-timer in the Forum, I agree with Alligator: Persians were very tolerant as a society, actually more tolerant than Greeks or Romans...so Greek culture would'nt disapear...However I would like to see the Achaemendis evolve and adapt themselves in order to survive rebellions and eventually interact and fight Cartaginians and Celts...Also, India was always a Dream of Darius and Xerxes
     
  9. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

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    I wouldn't say more so than Rome and all honesty and be sure to be precise, the Achaemenids were tolerant, whereas later Iranian states such as the Sassanids, Safavids, etc... where the exact opposite.

    Welcome to the board none the less!
     
  10. Omar20 Cuban Universalist

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    Thank you! And you are right....so I correct myself: when I said Persians I meant the Achaemenids and when I said Romans, I meant the Republic at it's prime -after Punic Wars and before Civil Wars-
     
  11. Concavenator Well-Known Member

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    Hmm, that's a good point. So the dominant political organization in ATL-Europe would be city-states with some sort of elected kings? I can see similar Celtic and Etruscan states forming in western Europe, while the rest of the continent is more influenced by Persia. I guess there would still something that could be called a "west", but it wouldn't resemble much what we understand as "west" in OTL in terms of religion, art, language, and so on, so in a sense I still fulfill my goal. It's a World Without Our West, if not a World Without West altogether.

    I agree that the Persian wouldn't actively try to erase Greek culture, but with Greek surviving in tiny dispersed groups, and Greece mostly resettled from elsewhere, it would survive as a minority at best. Again, I would compare them to Jewish communities after the diaspora: enjoying more tolerance, certainly, but still minoritarian. There would be no major civilization regarding them as forefathers, just as one of the many ancient cultures that fell apart.
    If both Carthage and Persia keep growing stronger, this could result in a war for the control of Mediterranean (but was Persia interested in that? It always struck me as a very land-based empire) or even a sort of cold war, with both empires propping up minor states as buffer (Etruria, Illyria?) Otherwise, I guess Persia could try expanding into India, if it has the resources to control it. Or at least to control the western Mahajanapadas, which would give Magadha another occasion to develop into an empire of its own. That way there would be a continuous string of empires crossing Eurasia: Carthage - Persia - pseudo-Maurya - Chu.
     
  12. Practical Lobster scuttling across the floors of silent seas

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    The Arsacids were also quite tolerant, as I recall. It was really mostly the Sassanians, and even some of the later Sassanians were rather tolerant (or at least as tolerant as you need to be when your richest provinces have little in common with you.)

    Alligator has some good points, OP.
     
  13. ElectricSheepNo54 Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the Board! Very good start so far, and a lot of ideas are clearly thought through. I look forward to more updates!
     
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  14. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

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    They were more so than the Sassanids, perhaps. However they never had a chance to be tolerant vs intolerant. They, unlike the Achaemenids ruled mostly populaces just like themselves. Thus their 'tolerance' while relevant, still cannot be compared to the Achaemenid who I would say was exceptionally tolerant considering the states they inherited (Assyria & Babylon) and the vastly different cultures that they lorded over.

    As well, to leave the Safavids out of any Iranian discussion, is some what lacking. Safavids constituted a continuation of old Iranian rule for the first time in a stable fashion since the Sassanids and mimicked their ancestors in many ways and also revered them in their court life, whereas previous Arab rulers cursed them.
     
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  15. Practical Lobster scuttling across the floors of silent seas

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    I'm not sure it's accurate that the Arsacids never had a chance to be tolerant or intolerant. Their rulers called themselves Philhellenes, and they ruled many different peoples, and had an Empire roughly as large as the Sassanid one.

    The Safavids were undoubtedly Iranian. I wasn't leaving them out, just noting that the big shift in Iranian identity really occurs after the Sassanids.
     
  16. John7755 يوحنا Historical Inquiries

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    Well by this I mean, they did not rule over the same situation as the Sassanids, a Syriac population that was quickly becoming an intellectually subversive entity. Nor did the Parthians rule over vast tracts of land, who at the time where even further from Iranian culture then later, as the Achaemenids did.

    I would say, that the Parthians were in that almost you could say sweet spot, where tolerance of all religions was popular amongst the various states of the Mediterranean and that tolerance would begin to subside later into the periods of the 300s and so forth.
     
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  17. Omar20 Cuban Universalist

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    Back to the PoD, Persian victory at the First Medic War, I think even if they win at Marathon, it wouldn't be that easy...specially with the Spartans: Most Greek city-states competed for trade routes and domination and wished to see their neighbours doomed, wich was used by the Great Kings to some advantage, but once invaded things wouldn't be the same. I think Persians would have to keep most of the cities as vassals and allow them to continue to trade -and to pay tribute, of course-...and then, there is Sparta...they didn't sent troops not because of the Carneia, but because they wanted to see Athens on it's knees and then take advantage...so, after the fall of Athens, the would have moved to fight Persians for many reasons:
    1-They wanted to rule most of Greece
    2-Their home-city, Sparta had no walls -they never needed them- so it would be crazy to allow the enemy to come too close
    3-An exiled Spartan King, Demaratus, was coming with the Persians to reclaim his throne and was one of the main instigators of the war and a prospective satrap for Greece or the Peloponessus
    In conclussion, I think the subjugation of Greece, while possible, wouldn't be as swift as proposed and would need some compromise with the cities allied with the invaders
     
  18. Concavenator Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough, but the defeat at Marathon is not the only factor - there's also the disease that caused it in the first place, as well as the scorched earth tactics, and the flight towards Italy and Tauris. A few years after Marathon, Greece has lost a large portion of its population, meaning that the Persians have a lot less difficulty submitting what remains. I'm not saying it was all over in a week, but there sure was much less resistence than there'd have been otherwise. Of course they would support the less rebellious surviving cities - Thebes comes to mind - and encourage them to put down their enemies. After the depopulation, I'd expect a movement of settlers from other parts of the empire into Greece (empty cities don't pay tributes), with the result that Greeks would be a minority not only in Persia, but even in their own land. And once Greek cities are filled with Persian citizens, I suppose the empire would rather rule them directly than as vassals.
    Sure, Demaratus sounds like a good choice for a satrap of Greece - thanks for the information!

    ***

    Meanwhile, here's my plans for China (this is a reworked version of something I had posted on the Spec Evolution forum):

    In a first time, I considered having China reunified by the Yue. This would lead to a more southern-oriented China, with a closer kinship with the Viet people ("Yue" and "Viet" are cognates). The region of OTL Vietnam would be considered an integral part of future China, and there could be a greater involvement with SE Asia and their islands. Then I realized that Yue wasn't one of the main Warring States and thus wasn't a very likely contender. So I chose Chu.
    In OTL, the Chu kingdom annexes Yue in the 4th century BCE. If China is remade as a Chu Empire, maybe its "southernization" could still happen. With its capital at Ying, the Chu Empire reaches at least as south as Hainan. The north, however, remains out of its reach: let's say the Yellow River marks its northern border. The northern bank will be seen as a land of barbarians, and could be occupied by expanding Gojoseon (a much larger Korea, why not?), by settling Xiongnu, or by a surviving Yan kingdom (from what I read, the Yan were described as extremely conservative and specialized in defense).
    If this situation holds, in the future there will be two very distinct Chinas.
    Now, philosophy. As far as I understand it, Qin Shi Huang had an important role in imposing Confucianism/Legalism on China, and the later role of the emperor owes much to the Confucian concept of filial piety. The Chu Empire could see a larger role of Taoism, and maybe Mozi's Mohism. His philosophy was strictly utilitarian, regarding the demographic and economic growth of the state as good. Like Confucianism, it valued order, conformity and meritocracy, but it explicitely rejected filial piety, preferring a concept of "impartial caring", in which one should be equally compassionate to all humans. Maybe a Mohist Chu Empire would be less centralized than a Confucian Han one? The bureaucracy could still be in power, though.
    Mohism also spawned a "School of Forms and Names" that studied logics and mathematics. If science and democracy appear in this world, I suppose a Mohist China would be a decent starting point. I imagined a late group of the Greek diaspora, maybe including Pythagoras' disciples, reaching China in the 4th century BCE and meeting this School; a user on the other forum mentioned the possibility of a Greek-derived alphabet being eventually employed as an auxiliary system analogous to OTL zhuyin, wihout of course displacing the hanzi for other uses.
    During the Warrior State period, Mohists were prized as engineers, especially in siege warfare, and this role could continue if China is never completely unified - especially if the Yan do specialize in fortress-building. Mohism rejects aesthetics, so Chu art would still be inspired by Taoism and shamanism; tension between a Taoist population and a Mohist elite could be an interesting source of conflict.
    Does any of this make sense?
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
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  19. Omar20 Cuban Universalist

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    Of course it does!!! No expert in Chine, though, but I like where it's going
     
  20. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the board!
    Yay for Mohism over Confucianism!
    Carthaginian culture DID come into contact with Celtic groups IOTL - in the Iberian peninsula. That´s where one should probably look if they want to find out about a possible Puno-Celtic culture. Which isn`t to say that it can`t also develop in utterly different ways.
    No Alexander is a big game changer, but with the Achaemenid Empire around, the idea of empire still is upon Europe. Someone could adapt it and become alt-Alexander... regardless if he has an Etruscan, Carthaginian, Celtiberian, Gaulish, Dacian or whatever background...
     
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