[ExI] Carl Sagan once conjectured that, if things had gone

Tom Nowell nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Aug 3 14:22:20 UTC 2010

Regarding whether or not the ancient greeks questioned the wisdom of slavery, a quick google reveals the following page http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Live/Writer/ZenoCitium.htm
which claims Zeno, founder of Stoicism, had at one point been a slave and was the first philosopher to condemn slavery. Googling "zeno slavery quote" reveals several pages making the statement "Stoicism 
was the first philosophical school of thought to morally condemn slavery" which suggests there's probably a history or philosophy textbook somewhere which says it.

As for delays to learning and collapse of the mighty cities and libraries of Rome, Alexandria and the like - large cities bring a need for skilled and literate administrators and bring about opportunities for merchants to employ literate people. The specialist trades and wealth the cities generate pay for all the food that needs importing, and the excess wealth can support such things as schools and universities (as people want to educate their offspring for a better life). This whole system relies on being able to ensure food is taken from the countryside (maybe by force, as in Ancient Egypt, or paid for by trade in the Roman Empire), goods from the cities are traded and that this can all be done without fear of violent crime or invasion.

When the system works, stable and wealthy cities grow and many activities flourish - whether the centres of learning of the ancient world, or the sites of great religious and ceremonial buildings, or whether you end up with your modern cities full of trade, skyscrapers everywhere and a large public university or three. When it doesn't work, cities fall and everyone looks to where their next meal is coming from rather than on preserving the delicate fruits of civilisation. It happened at the end of many ancient empires, it happened to Islamic civilisation after the Mongol sack of Baghdad, it happened to the Byzantine civilisation, and in the twentieth century we've seen how civil wars or bad leadership can destroy functioning states and the damage to rule of law has knock-on effects to the economy, to healthcare, to agriculture and to cities.



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