Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 10: Collective "cultural heritage" and individual cultural evolution (ii).

"Pyrgi" gold tablets with bilingual inscription in
Etruscan and Phoenician
The extinction of a culture, in this part refers to both archaeological cultures and to cultural frames (see part seven). It does not refer to a modern nation which consists (mostly) of different cultures and (always) many cultural frames. One of the best known cultures that became extinct during the classical period is the Etruscans and with that went its language. We still have not been able to translate most of it. The "Pyrgi" tablets, far from being another Rosetta stone, allowed only one Etruscan word to be recovered: the word for "three". Everyone knows that it was the Romans who brought about the end of the Etruscan culture but the details given are not exactly accurate: It is said that Celtic invasions in northern Italy diminished Etruscan power and made it an easier target for Rome to finish off completely. Although the Celts had, much earlier, taken land from the Etruscans in order to build military bases in northern Italy, Etruria was still very wealthy and warfare was not just one culture fighting another but was carried out through the additional hire of various auxiliary regiments of outside cultures. This was why the Celts needed bases in the first place (about 400 BC). The real end is obliquely described by Livy (Book 10, 10.10). Livy is the ancient historian most quoted about the Celts in northern Italy. He is also a historical fabricator who might even rival Geoffrey of Monmouth in Wales. Livy's account of the Roman hero Camillus saving Rome from the Celts is pure fiction (Daniele Vitali, The Celts in Italy, in: Venceslas Kruta et al, (eds.), The Celts, 1999, New York, p. 232.) and with it might well go Juno Moneta's geese warning the Romans and the oft quoted "Woe to the vanquished". Nevertheless, embedded in Livy's imaginative and popular accounts is a shred of the truth. You just have to know how to read between the lines and look at other evidence. He says:
“The Etruscans also chose this year [299 B.C.] to prepare for war in contravention of the truce, but were diverted from their purpose for a little while by a huge army of Gauls which crossed their borders when they were busy with other things. They then tried to convert the Gauls from enemies to allies, relying on the money which gave them power, in order to fight the Romans with the two combined armies. The barbarian Gauls did not refuse an alliance; it was only a question of the price. This was agreed on and the money changed hands, but when the Etruscans had finished all the rest of their preparations for war and ordered the Gauls to follow them, the Gauls denied that the agreed payment was for making war on the Romans; anything they had received had been in return for not destroying Etruscan land and interrupting its cultivation by armed raids. However, they were willing to take up arms if the Etruscans really wanted them, but only on condition that they were admitted to a share in Etruscan land where they could at last settle in some definite home. Many councils of the people of Etruria were held to consider this request without reaching any decision, not so much out of reluctance to allow any reduction of territory but because everyone dreaded having men of so savage a race as his neighbour. The Gauls were accordingly dismissed, and went off with an enormous amount of money which they had acquired without effort or risk. At Rome the rumour of a Gallic rising in addition to an Etruscan war caused much alarm, and speeded up the conclusion of a treaty with the people of Picenum”
"but only on condition that they were admitted to a share in Etruscan land where they could at last settle in some definite home. ..." is more fiction. The Celts in question already had homes on the other side of the Alps and individual Celts had moved to northern Italy much earlier, some even marrying Etruscans. They did demand money, however, and perhaps by way of a "protection racket". It seems unlikely, though, that the Etruscans thought that they were buying troops with that money: the Celts, at that time would have thought that more generals would have need of their paid service and such a story of treachery going around would have been bad for future business. Celtic troops did not come cheap (probably due to Dionysius I of Syracuse's original generosity in hiring them): Rome's earlier ransom was paid by Massalian businessmen probably because they wanted Roman allies against the Etruscan and/or Carthaginian trade. Livy had invented the story about Camillus: Polybius had stated only that the ransom was paid, but gave no details. It was Pompeius Trogus who revealed the Massalian connection.

I believe that the Celts fees equated to about half of the Etruscan treasury or a little less. I base this on the existence of some Etruscan gold coins of about the same weight as each other but bearing both "5" and "10" as a unit of account. In other words, it created a 50% devaluation of Etruscan money. When this sort of thing happened before (as with the debasement of the coinage of Lesbos), only local troops would fight as foreign troops were paid by units of account. Much later, the British Durotriges tribe were in a similar position when Rome finally cut off Coriosolite billon (base silver) exports during the early part of Tiberius rule: after that, the Durotriges coinage became completely bronze but had the same unit of account. So the Etruscan economy became so weakened  that they were severely restricted in their hiring of auxiliaries and their fate was thus sealed.

Causality is a minefield as, while I could say that the Celts were thus responsible for the end of the Etruscans, the price-setting of Dionysius I and his very rise to power was instrumental. We could go even further back than that and what is really happening in these situations is the evolution of multiple cultural frames, each influencing the others. In physics terms it is strongly related to what David Bohm called the Implicate Order and which lead him (into another cultural frame) to suggest a new sort of grammar, the Rheomode. David Bohm (and, later, String Theorists) broke with the established quantum physics ideas of quantum leaps in seeking direct causal links. Both are, however, by their very natures, untestable. Even within quantum physics, Paul Dirac, who was an aetheist, had problems with some of its ideas and tried to reconcile it with Einsteinian relativity. One of Pauli's most famous quotes (after hearing Dirac talk about his atheism) was: "Well, our friend Dirac has got a religion and its guiding principle is 'There is no God and Paul Dirac is His prophet.'"

This brings us back again to Jung and Pauli's Unus Mundus and Synchronicity  and I have already paved the way for this understanding in previous parts of this series. In recent years, a number of people have been examining the Unus Mundus and dominating the research are Harald Atmanspacher and Remo F. Roth. Another development from quantum physics and which is especially related to to what I have been speaking of with regard to cultural evolution is transdisciplinarity with its leading proponent Basarab Nicolescu .

There are multiple cultural frames connecting every discipline and both quantum leaps and transdisciplinarity can reveal them. Preventing this holistic approach, certain aspects of any discipline can hit "dead ends", often posing as simplistic "solutions". In other words, the extinction of evolutionary cultural frames. In a conversation I had with Raimund Karl last year, he summed up the problem very well:
"...that, in many ways, is what makes our subject so exciting. The better you get to know the details, the more questions open up. The more you seem to understand something, the more you realise that you really don't understand tiddly squat about it. And that's how it should be: there is nothing more boring than an answer that doesn't create a bunch of new questions, an answer that stops us from feeling we need to progress even further but instead lets us think we have come to an end. Because ends almost invariably are dead ends." (one typo confirmed and corrected)

More tomorrow.

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