Primitive War

Scott Holmes (sholmes@NETCOM.COM)
Mon, 10 Oct 1994 19:10:06 -0700

germane to a discussion of "primitive warfare". I interjected it because
of the reference to nomads. I did mean to point out that I recognized the
distinction but it failed to make it into my post. As far as their inability
or lack of desire to build "empires"; it seems to me that their motivations
may have been more along the lines of a pack of predators laying claim to
territory but not desiring to control all of it at all time. I think we
can recognize "primitive" motivations supported by sophisticated means.

My mention of pre-Sumerian cities came from my image of the process of
development of city-states: ie that originally there existed small isolated
communities that as they grew came into contact with other communities.
This contact would as easily result in conflict as cooperation. I won't
hazard a guess as to which would be more likely but the idea of conflict
("warfare") in this particular case, is mentioned by C. Leonard Wooley
in _The Sumerians_. He states (pp 17-19):

"... As the gradual drying of the land did away with the marsh barriers,
the separate communities were brought not only into touch but into
competition with each other; all were afflicted with land-hunger,...

...cattle-lifting was easier and quicker than cattle-breeding; disputes over
land, water, and flocks must have been common and forced men to band
themselves together for protection against enemies around them. Experience
had taught that buildings made of mud or sun-dried brick had to be raised
above water-level, on an artificial platform, if needs be, and that an
earthen rampart was the best thing to keep out recurrent floods; common
sense remarked that a rampart more sheerly built would keep out an enemy
also, and so the village developed into a walled town.

... recognition of ... the town's peculiar patron gave religious sanction
to the principle of local autonomy; the patesi or chief priest of the
temple, as god's direct representative on earth, naturally, in a theocratic
state, assumed the position and powers of civil governor: from a very
early date Mesopotomia became a land of small city-states. "

He concludes this section with the statement that: "Civil was the rule
rather than the exception."

Please forgive my rather liberal use of ellipses, I've tried not to take
anything out of context. I also recognize that this is all theorizing but
it fits my impression that mankind is neither inherently peaceful nor
necessarily violent but is constantly trying to find a balance between the
two. I am reminded again of Anthony Burgess' remarkable book _A Clockwork

I, too, was uncomfortable with the phrase "squabbling over semantics".
I offer the observation that perhaps the use of the word "war" is so wide
spread and is used in so many contexts that attempting to refine it's
definition is counter productive, it would not lead to enhanced
communication. I suggest that perhaps it is best to define "war" as
ratified social violence. Fine tuning may best be left to modifiers such
as "Civil War", "World War", "Nuclear War" etc. This would allow phrases
such as "a war of words" or "the war of the sexes" to remain valid.
(But then how do we define violence?).

One final point on motivation (and I hope I'm not trying anyone's
patience): A recent program aired on The Learning Channel on Hannibal
and Rome held that his major and perhaps only motivation was vengence.

----------- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, ----------------
Scott Holmes <> Informix 4GL Applications
---------------- Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ------------------------