Download Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 4: Barbarians, Savages and by J. G. A. Pocock PDF
By J. G. A. Pocock
Pocock is without doubt one of the nice writers of historical past. In his background of histories he unlocks riddles and quandaries of the various Enlightenments that underlie Gibbon.
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Extra resources for Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 4: Barbarians, Savages and Empires
Gibbon’s account of Zoroaster and his sacred books forms one of his few ventures into remote antiquity and 21 Womersley, 1994, i , pp. 228–9; the close of chapter 8. 22 Ibid. i , ch. 8 nn. 56–8. 26 The history and theory of barbarism the history of the ‘Axial Age’; only when he comes to deal with Plato will we find him going there again, and his treatment of these figures must be considered as part of his general understanding of the history of both philosophy and religion. To that we shall return at a later point, but there are some features of his account of Zoroaster which should be emphasised now.
When a man from his private cell sets up a tribunal and claims to govern the human race, reform its opinions and regulate its choices, I do not hesitate to call him an enthusiast. There are two kinds. One begins in imposture and ends in sincerity. The prospect of fortune, boundless ambition, the will to rise above some birth base and obscure, drive one to efforts crowned with success. This triumph, upheld by bewitching praise from his supporters, sometimes dazzles and persuades a man exhausted by his labours of the truth of something he would have found ridiculous a few years earlier.
14 But east of the Tigris river lay a region of highlands and plateaux, inhabited not by city-dwellers who might be considered the natural subjects of despotism, but by Iranians and more distantly by Scythians who did not fit the paradigm so easily. The mounted nobility of Persia were formidable people, and the Macedonian invaders had spent much time seeking their alliance and wondering at the same time why these proud and independent men prostrated themselves before kings in the proskynesis. Only life in the polis, it seemed to Aristotle, could save even the strongest of warriors from servility; but the problem confronting Herodotus had been that of depicting the empire of Xerxes as at once a palace-centred despotism herding its slaves into battle, and the focus of loyalties for a nobility taught to ride, shoot and tell the truth.