The Crossroads of History

Almost four years ago I wrote about how the monuments and artifacts of ancient Egypt were possibly in peril from militant Islam – those grim and sternly bearded fanatics devoted to the principal that nothing rightfully exists before or outside of Islam. It was being suggested then that the Pyramids be covered up – certainly a considerable chore, but their fellow coreligionists energetically set about destroying the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas based on the same argument. So, one might have had good cause four years ago to worry about the relics of pre-Islamic Egypt – temples, monuments, ruined cities and tombs. How many thousands of years’ worth of relics, ornaments and paintings might be at risk? Fortunately for Egypt, it seems that soberer heads have prevailed for now: after all, someday they might want the tourists to come back again.

It is written in Psalms, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” We die, kingdoms and empires pass in time, but the earth endures as well as those monuments and ruins left behind. Fragments of the past, of our mutual human history usually aren’t as thick on the ground as they are in Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Italy; if not the cradle of Western civilization, then at the very least the kindergarten playground. So the rest of us have always felt a rather proprietary interest in those relics and places. These were places written of in the Bible, in the Greek and Roman classics, in a thousand epics, poems and legends – Jerusalem, Babylon, Ur of the Chaldees, Ninevah and Tyre, Athens and Sparta … and in travel accounts like Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, and for me – Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels.

I don’t think many people over a certain age know of syndicated travel writer, adventurer and all-round eccentric Richard Halliburton, whose brilliant heyday was in the mad-and-booming 1920s and the escape-and adventure-starved 1930s. He vanished in mid-Pacific in 1939 in a calculated attempt – in the interests of another series of columns and a book – to cross that ocean in a replica Chinese junk. One of the relics of his evanescent popularity was a copy of the complete Book of Marvels, which belonged to Mom as a teenager, and which I read … or rather, ate up, omnivorously. The original copy (no dusk-jacket, worn green cloth covers, with Mom’s bookplate glued into the front endsheet) might be on my shelves somewhere; if not, it was one of those burned in the 2003 fire which pretty well cleansed this family of all but a few especially precious and portable relics. I am pretty certain that this is where I first read of legendary Palmyra, and Zenobia – the beautiful warrior queen of a desert kingdom, who led a heroic rebellion against Rome with all the usual dramatic success of rebellions against Rome when it was at its imperial height.

A beautiful city, by all accounts – adorned with all the art and architecture that a wealthy small kingdom at the trading crossroads of the known world, later added onto with whatever Imperial Rome could add and which enthusiasts of the last two centuries could excavate, restore and reconstruct – a wondrous ancient city by all accounts. Reviewing the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, to pre-Islamic relics all across the Middle East and most recently at the site of ancient Hatra and Nimrud, one simply can’t avoid knowing what is in store for Palmyra. And this hurts on such a deep level – that these marvelous buildings, frescoes, statues and all could have endured for so many years will be smashed by barbarians in a few hours or days – and furthermore, barbarians who could not, on the best day they ever had, build something as beautiful and enduring. But then, destruction is always easier than creation.

Likely it won’t end with Palmyra, either. In a recently released publication intended as a sort of Rough Guide to the brand-new caliphate, the author ended with this bit of chest-beating bravado (emphasis added by bolding) : “When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington the taste will be far bitterer, because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”
How will Italians handle such a threat to their Coliseum in Rome, or Greeks to the Athenian Acropolis, and English to say – the Tower of London? I’d like to think they would not be entirely supine when it happens locally, especially since Greeks still bitterly despise Turks for the Muslim Turkish occupation. Interesting times, indeed; discuss.

(Crossposted at

16 thoughts on “The Crossroads of History”

  1. “convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”

    You mean the children of the former West will call their ancestors, their ancestors works, and their ancestors culture racist, sexist, and homophobic and need dire warnings about its offensive content before reading it?

    Who knew?

  2. “I’d like to think they would not be entirely supine when it happens locally,”

    After Rotherham, you have to believe they already are entirely supine.

  3. Alas, I once had hoped … but that the Rotherham rapes went on for more than a decade, and the authorities looked the other way. It sure as hell looks like they have a governing class which despise their own people and won’t lift a finger for them.

  4. Well, the Italians are bombing ships in Libya so they can’t be used to bring refugees to the Italian boot.

    I was once going to take my daughter to Egypt but they had an earthquake and then the massacre of tourists so it got crossed off my list,

    In September, I am going back to Greece and plan to visit Philip II’s tomb and Crete where we will spend a week looking at Minos’ palace and the museum there. I would like to see Mycenae and Tiryns but it is just too much for us oldsters. They are more than a day trip from Athens.We are going to Delphi and to see the The Lion of Chaeronea which once again stands guard over the common grave of The Sacred Band of Thebes who all died at the battle. The lion was erected on their grave and it has been restored. It has been there 2300 years.

    It is on the road to Delphi and we have already engaged a taxi company that does tours and is well regarded. The biggest problem is making plans at our age. It’s not quite George Burns who said he no longer bought green bananas.

    At least we’ll see that before the barbarians get to it. My wife, with whom I am together again after 25 years, is pretty frail. No climbing but museums should be OK.

  5. Ohh … I drove past Tiryns on one of my holidays – we had been staying at a little coastal village for the weekend, and I don’t think I had time to stop. But I did get to tour Mycenae – and even managed to get a picture of the Lion Gate without any tourist heads in the way. Delphi is absolutely marvelous – it’s almost like a balcony plastered to the mountainside. You can see for miles from there.
    I honestly don’t think that Islamists will be able raise much heck in Greece, especially not with the monuments. The Greeks are still pretty pissed at the Turks. I was pretty astounded at how visceral and automatic the detestation was, when I was stationed there – and ISIL/ISIS declaring themselves as the incarnation of the Caliphate … that will just reignite and refresh all those historical resentments about Moslems.
    One of the big churches in the old district in Athens still has a tiny version on the edge of the square around it. It was, so I was told, the original church, and the only one they were allowed to build during the Turkish domination. They kept it as a reminder. Talk about nourishing your grudges…

  6. The Serbs hate the Greeks for some reason. Hatreds are what makes the world go round in that part of it. A Serbian physician was looking for a job 30 some years ago when a friend of mine offered to help him get one with a guy doing research at USC. He saw the Serb doc a couple of weeks later and asked how it had gone. The Serb answered that he didn’t even go to the interview after he found out the research was “a Grik !” trilling the R.

    Bismarck was right about the Balkans.

  7. Back in 2007 I was still on facebook, and I remember someone leaving posts to the effect that “It’s all over for Europe, we’re coming” etc. So much stuff on the web, who knows what is pure B.S., tin-foil theory, deliberate disinfo or the real deal. In the ensuing years it does seem as though the poster may have been on to something. We’ve all seen cities and towns emptied out over the past fifty years, and perhaps this is another phase of the program.

    Speaking of Turks and fellow travelers, I recently was directed towards this film by another site. Set in the Rhodopes of Bulgaria, supposedly based on witness accounts. Just finished it up. This is the first part, about four hours in total. Subtitles. I would recommend viewing it, just not before bed.

  8. More news about the refugee flows. The question is whiter Europe has the national will to resist.

    At the same time, one must also remember that the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers form part of a vast transfer of Muslim populations to Europe, and that Christians in their midst have been thrown overboard. Equally distressing is the likelihood that as many as one million “would-be migrants [are] gathering on the Med’s southern shores” to make the crossing. At this rate it will not take long before Europe, already burdened by large, clamorous and disruptive Muslim enclaves, becomes the island of Lampedusa writ majuscule.

    The Muslims, just to avoid competition, threw Christians overboard before being rescued by those Christian nations.

    Nothing good will come of this.

  9. Social if not religious suicide by an overabundance of compassion and mercy seems the fate of Europe. The ‘refugee invasion’ is just as effective as one equipped with more military features. The result is just the same.
    Surreptitious displacement of residents with Muslim invaders is not a ‘good thing’ for the preservation of Western Civilization.
    I can see the Louvre on fire, or being attacked by mortar and rocket. Why not? Notre Dame, soon to be a Mosque? I would not be surprised. Disappointed? Yes, but surprised? No.
    I am afraid things will require the will or devotion of a new ‘Crusade’ if things are to be swayed from their current path.

  10. anonymous directly previous is me.

    Sorry for the ‘downer’, but it does not take a lot of deep thought to perceive the trajectory.

  11. An explanation of much that has happened the past 40 years with Islam and us.

    Interesting short statement from a retired admiral. He is a very controversial former CincPAC.

    “You know in the Navy in the late nineteen hundreds, homosexuality was rampant in the United States Navy. It was so bad that mothers would not let their sons enlist in the Navy until the Navy cleaned its act up

    And this…

    ” Mr. Gates should consider eliminating the LCS program as a failed experiment, and the Navy should join with the Coast Guard in a common hull. The money saved ($3-plus billion) should be reinvested in providing an anti-ship ballistic-missile defense for the Zumwalt-class destroyer at an estimated cost of $500 million per ship. The Zumwalt was built from the keel up to be stealthy, have sufficient power and cooling, and have space to accommodate the latest dual-band radars and current and future weapon systems. An anti-ballistic-missile-equipped Zumwalt would be capable of pre-empting the Chinese and Iranian ASBM threat, thereby ensuring our capability to operate in any contested area and carry out our strategic objectives

    And, of course, this…

    On 14 November 2012, Lyons speculated that the death of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi was the result of a bungled attempt to have Stevens kidnapped by Ansar al-Sharia to facilitate a prisoner exchange resulting in the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman.[

    My kind of guy.

  12. Hey, ISIS is no problem because they are our guys !

    A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

    The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, despite anticipating that doing so could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

    So, no sweat !

  13. The Serbs hate the Greeks for some reason.

    On the contrary Serbs and Greeks do like each other. During last year’s World Cup Serbs adopted the Greek team. During the wars in 1990s Greece was one of the few places where public sentiment was on the side of the Serbs. There’s also the shared animosity towards Turkey.

  14. Australia is making it by zero tolerance for immigrants or their nonsense.

    Then again Progress hasn’t advanced enough in Australia for them to elect leaders that hate them, or allow a ruling class that has deep racial animus towards the majority.

    Go Italy with the bombing. Rally.

    The hideouts here won’t make it, and are irrelevant to the rest.

    Fighters will make it, this is basic to life. Anywhere. Eternally.

    We fight or we die, and if we go down without fighting we deserve death.

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