Aryan: “As we left our family home in the Western Steppes and spread across the Eurasian continent in all directions as conquerors, we too were transformed. My father’s Kurgan warrior culture was relatively egalitarian. This was because there weren’t that many people in Kurgan’s nomadic tribes. They normally numbered less than 100. While his kings were certainly the most important, everyone in the tribe played a vital role. No one was dispensable. They all spoke the same language, ate the same food, had the same customs and had been through similar experiences.
However after my Kurgan ancestors left the Steppes and settled down as the ruling conquerors of indigenous agri-cultures, a class structure naturally developed. After all we spoke a different language - Indo-European, and had a different culture, with different food, customs and gods from the cultures that we enslaved. The agri-cultures that we conquered normally worshipped the Fertility of the Earth, while we worshipped the Power of Heaven. They normally personified their divinities as women - fertility goddesses with big breasts. On the other hand, we personified our deities as men - a warrior with a thunderbolt in his hand.
We were normally fairly tolerant of their religion, unless it led to a slave revolt. If this case, we were forced to ban their earth worship and force them to worship the power of the sky god instead. After all our sky god led us to victory in battle against their earth goddess. How powerful could she really be, if she allowed this to happen?
Besides fertility was out of date. While applicable to the rough times of the Paleolithic and Neolithic Eras, it had lost its relevance during the Bronze Age. In ancient times, when populations were small and resources were plentiful, fertility was of paramount importance to ensure the survival of the species. As populations increased, we humans began battling for scarce resources. Military prowess was now in ascendancy. And if anyone doubted this, we would simply slay or enslave them, proving our point.
We were now ruling large numbers of indigenous farming communities from other traditions. They were different in innumerable ways. We naturally became the upper class and they the lower class.
Our upper class was divided into warriors, to conquer and provide protection, and priests, who justified our aggressive behavior by glorifying the values of a militaristic sky god. The lower class, consisting of the conquered culture of course, was divided into craftsman and farmers. There was a third ‘slave’ class, which merged at times with the farmers. The ‘slave’ class normally consisted of people of other kingdoms who were captured in war.
Women were in a separate category altogether. We considered them our property, rather than belonging to another class of humans. Their primary purpose was to bear and raise children. The destiny of these children was to replace their father’s or mother’s role in our society. Our leaders had many wives to ensure that they had many children.
Note that the lower classes - the farmers, craftsmen and slaves, were all from different cultures than our own. Like our women we considered them our possessions, just like our herds. We protected them, just like we did our animals. But these lower class humans were more dispensable than our horses, in particular. We especially revered those horses that accompanied us into battle.
This political situation was very different from Father’s tribal society when everyone was from the same culture. At this point we were not Kurgans of the Steppes anymore. We were now the ruling Aryans of the Bronze Age.
During the Great Dispersal, those of us who spoke languages in the Indo-European language group departed the Steppes forever. Other nomadic tribes with similar values and traditions to our Kurgan ancestors took our place. Although my father’s Kurgan culture was gone, the Steppe cultures that replaced us continued to be of utmost importance in the development of Eurasian civilization.
They provided a fresh crop of warriors every few generations. They spoke languages in the Altaic family, which included Mongolian, Turkish, Manchu, Finnish and Hungarian. However, with the exception of language, my Kurgan father had more in common with these nomadic societies than he did with us, the Aryans, his descendants. After all, we had settled down to become rulers of the great civilizations of Eurasia, while the new Steppe cultures were still nomadic warriors. They continued to raid our sedentary civilizations, just as Kurgan had done.
However there were some big differences. When my Kurgan ancestors came invading with first Battle Axes, then with horses, and finally on chariots, they met no effective resistance from the indigenous fertility cultures. Unfortunately for them they had specialized in arts, crafts, and music and had neglected their military side. In contrast, we Aryans as the conquering military culture continued to cultivate our martial skills. Hence, we were able to put up a formidable resistance to the new crop of barbarian invaders. While not always victorious, we fought hard as we were simultaneously protecting our ruling culture and our possessions, which included our serfs, our women, and our herds - not necessarily in that order.
Another big difference was that our Aryan customs and language infiltrated the agrarian societies that we dominated. All the peoples that we conquered eventually spoke a language from the Indo-European family. This included the Indians, the Persians, the Mediterranean populations, the Slavs, and the Europeans.
Further each of these diverse cultures, which spread across the Eurasian continent, had adopted our form of agriculture. This meant that they raised herds of cattle and sheep and drank milk and ate milk products just like we did. This included both cheese and yogurt. We had been so dominant that our captive cultures had evolved to have the same enzymes that we did. These enzymes were necessary for the digestion of milk products. So any culture that drinks milk and eats cheese has my Aryan roots, with Kurgan ancestors.
Just as our possessions evolved to have similar genetics to allow the digestion of milk, they also evolved socially to have the same culture. This meant that they forgot all about their fertility goddesses and began to worship my sky gods. They just assumed that this was the way things were. Our class and caste system taught them that this was the divine way of our sky god. It was the Tao of Heaven.
The subsequent Steppe cultures continued to worship a military sky god like we did. They also consumed milk products and ate an abundance of meat. However, whenever our cultures interacted, or collided, their peoples were quickly assimilated into our existing Aryan culture rather than supplanting it with their language and traditions. In contrast when we arrived the indigenous people adopted our language and traditions.
Despite language differences, the Steppe cultures had similar belief systems and customs. In like fashion, the Bronze Age civilizations also had many features in common. The Aryan culture encompassed the western and southern sections of the Eurasian continent and the Chinese dominated the east. The Bronze Age culture of China didn’t speak a language in the Indo-European family. They also didn’t drink milk, eat milk products, or raise herds of sheep and cattle. However, the Chinese and Aryan Bronze Age cultures shared many similarities, both political and religious.
This is not surprising. Invaders from the Steppes had also conquered the indigenous farming cultures of China. They just happened to be a Chinese speaking culture from the Eastern Steppes, rather than Indo-European speakers from the Western Steppes. But they were a militaristic nomadic culture of herders from the Steppes, just like our Kurgan ancestors had been.
The leaders of the Aryan and Chinese civilizations shared a common heritage. Their ancestors were militaristic herders from the Central Asian Steppes. Accordingly, they participated a common Bronze Age culture, which overlaid individual cultural differences. We will discuss more of these commonalities in a bit.
Here is a picture of our family of cultures. The Steppe cultures, East and West, were war-like nomadic herders. The cultures they invaded were sedentary farmers, who specialized in food production, crafts and trade. Once conquered these peaceful cultures were incorporated into the class-based Bronze Age model – with the warrior on top as leader and the workers on the bottom.”
All Bronze Age civilizations - including the Chinese, Japanese, Europeans, Persians and Russians, were warrior cultures. This meant the leaders were trained to fight from childhood. Due to this training, they naturally wanted to test their skills on the field of battle. This is one reason why wars were endemic on this part of the planet. They acquired the taste for military conflict in ancient times, when their Kurgan ancestors fought to obtain the scarce natural resources of the Steppes.
The best warriors had the most prestige. This prestige was reflected in their burial practices, which honored the warrior king above everyone else. This veneration was presumably because the leader repeatedly led the nation to success in battle. Women and artists were not accorded the same respect.
Due to the raw militarism of this historical period, the rulers had to be a military leaders, not craftsmen, farmers, statesmen, or women - certainly not peaceful people. They would just get walked over. There was really no choice. The Bronze Age nations and empires had to have warrior-kings as rulers in order to survive. A common belief of the time was that a conquering country was vital, while a peaceful country was dying.
The Bronze Age cultures had a tendency to worship their supreme leader as a demi-god - not because he was a spiritual master leading them into self-realization and personal transformation - but because he was successful politically, which normally meant militarily. This veneration of military leaders came directly from their nomadic ancestors of the Steppes. Things haven’t really changed that much in modern times. The majority of the populace still tends to venerate and glorify the leader who conquers another country rather than the leader who negotiates a peace settlement. Old habits die hard - or not at all.
The Bronze Age cultures also included a hierarchical class system with male warrior-kings on top of the ladder. For example, the Germanic class system of Northern Europe and Scandinavia included Warriors, Freemen, and Serfs. The Warriors fought and took what they wanted. The Free Men were farmers, craftsmen and businessmen – anyone who had to work for a living. The Serfs were akin to Slaves in that they had no travel rights and were confined to the land.
The caste system in India was similar except that it also included a priestly class. The Slavic culture of Russia had the same four class divisions. The Germanic class system evolved into the feudal political system of Europe during the Middle Ages. This social structure eventually added a priestly class. These 4 classes were the four estates frequently referred to in French literature of the 18th century - the aristocracy, the bourgeois, the proletariat, and the priestly class.
Of course there were many intricate subdivisions in these four major classes. For instance, the Saxon culture of England had a multi-leveled aristocracy, from baron to king. There were also many levels of freemen, from middle manager to independent farmer and craftsman, each with clearly defined responsibilities and freedoms. Indeed the bottom of the class of freemen was nearly indistinguishable from the top of the serf class. Each was bound by distinct but different duties to the land. The Hindus of India and the Slavs of Russia had equally elaborate subdivisions and rules for each class. As time went along the differentiation of the classes became more complex.
The class system did not emerge from the culture of the indigenous populations, but was instead imposed them by the conquering cultures, who originated in the Central Asian Steppes. This military hierarchy was ingrained in the substrata of Eurasian culture from prehistoric times. Early European historians assumed that the class system was a natural result of the differentiation of society. They reasoned that superior humans became the aristocracy, while inferior humans became serfs. Through intermarriage, the ruling class became more superior, while the serf class became more inferior.
The ruling class might have based these assumptions upon their experience with breeding animals. The best horses come from the best stock. According to this line of thinking, the conquering warrior class obviously must come from the best stock. As leaders, the warrior class is obviously superior to the working class. Warriors are meant to rule and the agricultural peasantry is meant to serve. All humans are not created equal.
As an example, the warrior rulers of the Germanic tribes that eventually conquered all of Europe, including Scandinavia, even had a different heaven than the lower classes. It is evident that they wanted to ensure that this separation of classes remained permanent. Their priests even created an elaborate theology that supported these beliefs.
The ruling class believed that they were handsome and strong like their gods, and felt that the lower classes resembled beasts of burden. According to their religious beliefs, serfs were closer to animals in appearance and behavior - more like sub-humans. Further, the culture that is the strongest militarily is obviously superior. The divine order justified their domination of these inferior cultures.
While they didn’t speak an Indo-European language, the Eastern Asian Bronze Age kingdom/empires did speak the same military language. Just like the Kurgans, the cultures of the Eastern Steppes raided, then invaded and conquered the indigenous populations of China, Japan, and Korea. They then established themselves as overlords of the indigenous agri-cultures. Over time their political system, like the Aryan cultures, developed into a hereditary military aristocracy. Their common steppe cultures were based on the domestication and breeding of animals. They viewed the conquered cultures as a type of livestock with themselves as the superior breeder.
This type of view was inherent to their collective lifestyle. If the gods intended them to rule, they must be superior. This philosophy eventually morphed into the Mandate of Heaven in China and the Manifest Destiny in America. Whoever is endowed with military might is obviously the superior culture.
As an indication of how widespread the Bronze Age political dominator model is and was in the world, European scholars initially assumed that the same model applied to Southeast Asia prior to their arrival. Because the Indian/Hindu influence permeated Southeast Asia’s first millennium cultures, they immediately made the assumption that Indian princes had conquered and enslaved the indigenous population – both on the mainland and the islands. Rather than a cultural interaction and blending, as probably occurred, they assumed that the Hindu influence was due instead to military domination. It took decades of scholarship to dispel this ethnocentric notion. Indeed, one of the motivations behind this book is to reveal that an alternate political model exists: one that is based upon cooperation rather than military force.
The social structure of the Southeast Asian kingdoms was quite different from the Eurasian military hierarchies. The extreme militaristic class system of Eurasia was unknown in the region. The craftsmen were always free, as were the peasantry. It was only with the arrival of the Europeans, whose culture was an Aryan derivative, that the indigenous population was enslaved.
There were multiple possible factors behind the differences. The aggressive cultures from the Steppes never invaded this part of the world. Isolated from the perpetual militarism of the north, a more peaceful culture emerged. Southeast Asian cultures were based in trade, crafts, art and music rather than weaponry or domination. Instead of crafting weapons, they used bronze to create beautiful and useful objects, initially at least.
Natural geographical barriers, i.e. tall mountain ranges, water and thousands of islands, certainly contributed to the political character of the region. They prevented Southeast Asian kingdoms from centralizing into huge Empires. These obstacles also served to prevent absorption by the surrounding super powers – India and China. The Chinese Empire spread over the entire landmass adjacent to them, including Vietnam. However, they came only as traders to the remainder of Southeast Asia. Perhaps the trade winds, which blew in alternate direction each half of the year, prevented them from launching a sustained invasion. Imperial China expected tribute from the local kingdoms, but only to become a trading partner. Due to the ensuing wealth, the nations vied to become part of the Chinese business network.
At one point, the Chola Empire of Southern India did establish military control of the important entrepôts of the islands. However, they did not treat the native population as if they were livestock. Their primary intent was to control the maritime trade routes. They were even friends with the Khmer Empire on the mainland and exerted a significant cultural influence upon them.
Other factors contributed to the pacific nature of the region. Southeast Asians had an abundance of food sources and fertile land. They were not forced to fight over limited resources. Their kingdoms had wars, but they were of an entirely different nature than the rest of the super continent. Instead of attempting to conquer and enslave indigenous populations, the Southeast Asian kingdoms went to war – army to army – in the attempt to expand their sphere of influence. However, the only constant is change.