Wednesday 2 October 2013

A brief history of philosophy and theology in the Levantine world

The schools of thought within Western philosophy which appear in the land of the Canaan are mostly Atomism, Neoplatonism, Neopythagoreanism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism. 

Atomism is interesting because it actually predates the Hellenistic period.  As early as the time of Moses, a prophet called Mosheh the Sidonian was writing a creation myth which gives an early Atomist cosmology, contrasting matter with void.  He also starts the introduce the theory of time as found in Canaanite theology for the first time in recorded history.  This all was later picked up from the Greeks, and philosophers like Democritus and Pythagoras are said to have learned from either his own writings or from those of his descendents.  Still, his 'philosophy' is in a way mixed in with mythology, as philosophy as a specific intellectual discipline has not yet really emerged properly in the Bronze Age.

Philosophy proper in itself develops among the Greeks.  They were the first to come up with the ideas, though the first philosopher Thales based many of his ideas on Canaanite, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian ideas.  This happens in the Iron Age, during the Persian period.  At this time, the great Persian Empire rules over most of the known world.  Within this empire, ideas begin to develop and spread among the people.

Among the Babylonians, astronomy begins to develop.  The Babylonians by the Persian period have mapped the constellations of the heaven and can accurately predict eclipses and weather phenomenon.  This knowledge spreads throughout the empire.

Babylonian astrologers mapped the heavens, stars and planets
Among the Egyptians, medicine begins to develop.  The Egyptians perfect medical science and use it to treat their patients.  Hospitals are set up.  Again, this knowledge is very valuable and so spreads throughout the entire Persian Empire, of which Egypt is a part.

Egyptian doctors use their healing methods in medicine
The Canaanites meanwhile develop the alphabet and perfect mathematics for use in trade and commerce.  Canaanite scribes pass knowledge of the alphabet throughout the empire, and this knowledge is quickly picked up by others.

Canaanite scribes and traders use the alphabet and mathematics
It's at this time- while the Babylonians develop astronomy, the Egyptians medicine, and the Canaanites letters and numbers- that the Greeks first develop philosophy.  This begins with Thales and with the pre-Socratics, and then passes down through to the famous Socrates, Platon, and Aristotles.

Greek philosophers set up academies to teach their students
This is mostly happening among the intellectuals in Athens, though it also occurs in the colony of Ionia as well. 

So what brings philosophy from the Greeks to the rest of the world?

Firstly, Pythagoras went abroad to study the mysteries from other people.  He studied among Mosheh's descendents in Sidon, and in the mystery schools of the Canaanites in Tyre.  He ascended the holy mountain, Mount Carmel, and spent much time there.  He also went to Egypt and to Babylon where he encountered the Babylonians and the Zoroastrian priests called the Magi. 

Then Alexander's conquests happen.  Alexander, himself a student of the philosopher Aristotles, travels east and conquers the old Persian Empire.  When this happens, the Hellenistic period begins, and the whole world changes.  Koine Greek becomes the main language of all people.  Philosophical academies are set up in major cities such as the cities of Sidon and Tyre, the Decapolis cities like Rabbath-Ammon, and in Babylon and Egyptian Alexandria. 

The founder of the Stoic school, Zenon, was not a Greek but a Canaanite from Tyre who lived during the time of Alexander's invasion.  He left his mother city and his family moved to the city of Kittim on Cyprus, which was also a Canaanite city.  His family are merchants, and his travels take him to Athens in Greece, where he learns the teachings of Socrates from a book and begins to study philosophy.  He then goes on and founds the Stoic school of thought.

Zenon of Kittim
Stoicism spreads to Mesopotamia, where it becomes very popular.  Meanwhile, Epicureanism is flourishing under the Hellenistic empires which succeed Alexander in the Near East.  Several kings adhere to this school of thought, and so it finds a lot of supporters and a strong intellectual tradition among the Canaanite elite.

By the late Hellenistic period, Platonism and Aristotleanism are largely harmonized together and taught in schools throughout Canaan and in colonies such as Qart-Hadasht in the west.  Philosophers like Hasdrubaal emerge.  Other Platonic philosophers develop among the Jews, who develop their own ideas and traditions.  Platonism and Pythagoreanism are largely harmonized together, and by Roman times have become extremely popular.  Neopythagoreanism finds support in the east and in the western states like Maktar.  Neoplatonism develops in Egypt in this time, and it spreads to Canaan.  Th most famous philosophers of this tradition who are Canaanites are Melek of Tyre and his student Ya-milku of Qinnashrin.  They become famous throughout the Mediterranean world in late antiquity.  Their teachings are a blend of Neoplatonism with Neopythagoreanism.

In late antiquity, Neoplatonism becomes very popular among the Christians, and spreads throughout Canaan with them.  Later the Muslims would also adopt it to a large extent.

This concludes a very brief history of philosophy and theology and their role in the Levantine world.

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