The Histories by Herodotus – Book II, “Euterpe”

Rather than summarizing every passage (all 182 of them!), I’ll just put a few interesting stories & facts Herodotus gives in the 2nd book of the Histories. If you want every damned detail, I suppose you can read the entire text yourself (go here!)

The Histories by Herodotus – Book II, “Euterpe”

  • Egyptian Geography
    • boundaries – Arabian hills to the east, Libyan hills to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the north & to the south, the Nile becomes impassable due to a series of cataracts as it approaches the Ethiopian hills
    • Arabian hills had quarries which supplied most of the stone used to build the pyramids
      • Arabian gulf separates Egypt from Arabian & goes out to the Erythaean Sea – now considered the Arabian Sea & Indian Ocean
    • Nile River – overflows every year, flooding the surrounding lands as far as 2 days of travel from the banks. The Egyptians never could explain it. Greek possible explanations:
      • Winds block water from flowing to the sea & it spills over the banks
      • Nile flows from ocean to ocean & delays cause backups which spill over
      • Melting snows in Ethiopia. Herodotus doesn’t believe this because Ethiopia’s too hot
        • MODERN EXPLANATION: Actually Ethiopian rain causes an immense amount of water that flows downhill, going North & floods over the banks once the river becomes level.
    • Egyptians have no concept of European style of rain
      • The only water comes from the Nile & its tributaries
        • They don’t know how long it is.
      • It goes south, bends a couple of times & goes to up to Ethiopia
        • Not many people have made the trip
        • Details on how far or high it goes are hazy

Phoenix

 

  • Egyptian Animals
    • not very many wild animals in Egypt
      • most are domesticated, often considered sacred
    • animals have designated guardsmen whose jobs run in the family from father to son – sacred jobs
    • Killing animals for food is quite an ordeal
      • people shave their kids’ heads, weigh the hair & take the same weight in silver to buy food from fishmonger, who cuts it up in a special manner
      • If you kill an animal in anger – punishment is death
      • If you kill an animal by accident – punishment is a decent fine
        • Killing hawks or ibises either on purpose or by accident – punishment is death
    • Cats are everywhere
      • When one dies, the family who tends to it shaves each member’s eyebrows
      • They are embalmed in Bubastis
    • Dog are popular too
      • When one dies, family shaves their heads
      • Dogs are buried in their own town in a special graveyard
    • Ibises are buried in Hermopolis
    • Hawks & shrews are buried in Buto
    • Crocodiles
      • Herodotus describes a crocodile – Most Greeks probably had never seen one or heard one described before
      • They can either be seen as holy or evil
      • They were kept as pets near Lake Moeris & often wore jewelry
      • They had special crocodile graveyards
      • Eaten in Elephantine
    • Hippopotamus
      • Herodotus describes a hippopotamus – Most Greeks probably had never seen one or heard one described before
    • Phoenix
      • Sacred & very rare bird – only known of in Heliopolis
        • Once every 500 years, old one dies
        • It had red feathers w/ gold edges & was about the size of an eagle
        • Its child flies to Arabia, takes the dead parent & covers it in myrrh, flies it back to Heliopolis to the Temple of the Sun & buries it there
    • Other sacred animals: snakes w/ horns, flying snakes, eels, otters & foxgeese

 

  • Egyptian customs
    • very different to the Greeks
    • Women went to the market while the men stayed at home & loomed
      • even the weave of the looms there are backwards compared to Europe
    • Women stand to pee while the men sit
    • They eat outside & only go inside to do private things
    • Very religious people
    • In many places, not allowed to eat fish.
      • Beans often frowned upon
      • No goats b/c they are symbolized in Pan – very high god
    • Pigs are seen as dirty
      • You must clean yourself even if you’ve gone near one
    • 3 days a month, they take enemas & emetics to clean themselves out
      • they bathe four times a day
    • Will eat just about anything so long as it isn’t sacred or unclean
    • Not open to foreign customs
      • But have similar poems/songs to the Greeks
        • There may have been some transfer of these from one to another
          • Probably from Egypt to Greece & not the other way around
    • Young men must prostrate themselves to older men walking by
    • They wear a linen tunic & woolen robe over it
      • But must take off woolen robe if going into a temple, as wool is not allowed inside
    • Doctors only treat one type of disorder or one part of the body, i.e. one doctor for the eyes, one doctor for the stomach, etc.
    • When a man dies, the women of the family cover their heads w/ mud or plaster & walk around outside with their tits out, beating them in unison
      • The men have to do the same but they do so separately from the women
      • The body is taken away to be embalmed…

 

  • Egyptian Embalming – The embalmer has 3 different methods
    • Expensive way
      • Take an iron hook up through the nose & remove the brain
      • Head is rinsed out
      • Cut out abdomen & remove organs
      • Rinse out the body w/ palm wine & aromatics
      • Dump mound of salt on the body & leave for 70 days
      • Wrap up the body in bandages held together w/ glue or tar
      • Put body in a wooden box & place it in a burial chamber up right
    • Cheaper way
      • take syringes w/ cedar tree oil & inject it into the abdomen
      • cover the body w/ salt for 70 days
      • organs dry up & only the flesh remains
      • body is returned to the family for burial
    • Cheapest way
      • give the body an enema
      • cover in salt for 70 days
      • return body to family for burial
    • Rich men usually are delayed in embalming for about 4 days after death
    • If you died from a crocodile attack, only Nile priests could embalm you & bury you

 

  • Egyptian Religion
    • Claim to be the first to discover the solar calendar
      • Gave it 12 months from observations from the stars
        • 30 days x 12 months w/ 5 extra days to round the year out completely
        • 12 months represented by 12 gods, similar to the Greeks’ gods
    • Priests shave their heads to avoid lce
      • the examine flocks for signs of uncleanliness
        • if unclean, marked accordingly
          • unclean animals may not be sacrificed
        • if clean, marked accordingly
      • Sacrifices – victim is marked, led to an altar
        • wood is burned & a libation poured over it
        • a god is invoked
        • the animal is killed, decapitated, chanted upon
        • the body & meat are sold
          • if not sold, it’s thrown into the river
      • Disemboweling
        • skinned the animal
        • abdomen removed
        • legs, shoulders cut off
        • body filled with bread & honey & cooked
          • during the cooking, people beat themselves, then eat
      • Only male bovine are used in sacrifices
        • cows are too holy/sacred
          • when they die, they are thrown into the river
    • Minor differences between Greek & Egyptian Gods
      • Names
        • Ammun = Zeus
        • Isis = Bacchus
      • Heracles was 1 of the 2nd set of 12 gods
        • First set gods had 8 gods, then 2nd had 12
        • Egyptian Heracles was older than the Greek Heracles
          • Temple in Tyre is proof of that
          • Greek one is a hero, not a god
            • The Greeks said that he went down to Egypt & the locals tried to sacrifice him to Zeus but instead he killed them all
            • Herodotus doesn’t believe that story
              • Egyptians don’t even sacrifice cows, never mind people
      • Estimated 17000 years between beginning of time to Herodotus’s time (5th century BC)
    • Greeks must have learned about Pan from Egyptian
      • Pigs sacrificed for Dionysius’s festival
        • no phalluses strapped on
        • only on 18 inch figures paraded around with the cocks as big as the body
    • Most Greek gods come from Egypt
      • Except Neptune, Juno, Vesta
      • Egyptians don’t worship heroes
    • The pre-cursors to the Greeks, Pelasgi, had similar rituals for the gods as the Egyptians but w/o names
      • They called the gods “Theoi” which means disposers
      • Oracles encouraged worship of the gods
      • Only by the time of Homer & Hesiod did the Greeks have names & powers for individual gods
    • Oracles may have actually been Egyptian women kidnapped & enslaved
      • One taken to Greece in Delphi
      • One taken to Libya in Cyrene
    • Egyptians may have started congregations, processions, litanies which the Greeks learned & used
      • Bubastis, Busiris, Sais, Buto – all had different rituals
        • Bubastis – the Festival of Diana
          • women & men sailed in boats up the Nile
          • some women played castanets & some men played pipes
            • others clapped & sang
          • Once ashore, they’d abused each other, dance around, eat & drink tons of wine
            • Est’d 700000 attendees

 

Interesting Stories from Egyptian History

  • Psammetichus’s Experiment
    • King Psammetichus wanted to know who the oldest race was & came up with an experiment
    • Took 2 newborn children to a shepherd who never spoke to them & rarely had contact with them
    • Listened to what the babies said & both said “becos”, the Phrygian word for “bread”
    • This made him believe that the Phrygians were the oldest race (from South Turkey)
  • Proteus’s role in the Trojan War
    • Alexander (aka Paris) took Helen from Menelaus & tried to go back to Troy
    • A storm brought them to Egypt
    • His servants heard that if they were able to reach the Temple of Hercules, they couldn’t be returned to their owner
      • They told the Egyptians that Alexander had raped Helen & wronged Menelaus
      • The priest/warden of the Nile sent a message to Proteus, the king about the situation
    • Proteus told him to bring them to Memphis to see what the whole story was
      • Alexander tried to lie but his slaves ratted him out
    • Proteus didn’t want to execute him but didn’t want to allow him to go free
      • Decided that he’d have to let Alexander go but w/o Helen or Menelaus’s money
    • Menelaus, after Helen had been kidnapped, took his army to Troy
      • The Argives besieged the city, demanding Helen back, along Menelaus’s money & some sort of penalty
      • Trojans didn’t have her b/c she was in Egypt
      • Menelaus didn’t believe them & took the city & burned it
      • Helen wasn’t there, so Menelaus went to see Proteus after getting word Helen might be in Egypt
    • He got to Egypt, got Helen & his money back
      • Couldn’t leave b/c of bad weather
      • He took 2 local children & sacrificed them to a god for better weather
      • The locals heard about this & chased them out to sea & the last anyone ever heard of them was around Libya
  • Rhampsinitus & the Thief
    • King Rhampsinitus ordered a treasury built for all his money & jewelry
      • One worker made one stone in the room moveable so he could come & go w/o ever getting caught
    • He told his sons about his secret on his deathbed
    • They went into the treasury a few times & helped themselves
      • The king eventually caught on to this & ordered traps to be set out in the treasury
    • The 2 sons went back in to get more money when one of them was caught in a trap
      • The brother caught in the trap told the other to kill him & cut off his head so he couldn’t be ID’d
    • The king had the body displayed outside with strict orders for it not to be buried or even mourned
      • The mother didn’t like that & told her son to get the body back or she’d rat him out
    • The song took a donkey w/ a few wine skins on its back & walked by the guards near the body
      • the skins conveniently leaked & the son bemoaned the fact
      • He decided that the wine would be gone before he could do anything about it & invited the guard to help themselves to as much as they wanted.
      • When the guards passed out, he took the body on the donkey back to his mother
    • The King found out & devised another plan
    • He enlisted his daughter to work at a brothel & asked her before doing any deed to ask each man what the worst thing he’d ever done was
      • Once she heard something she would call for the guard to arrest the thief
      • The thief suspected something & tucked a dead man’s arm under his cloak
      • He told her about the treasury, killing his brother & cutting off his head, as well as getting the guards drunk to steal the body back for his mother
      • The daughter yelled for the guards & tried to grab his arm but she grabbed the dead man’s arm & he got away
    • The king was furious but also really impressed by the thief’s cunning
      • He decided to offer him immunity if he turned himself in
      • The thief did & the king offered him his daughter in marriage

Lake Moeris w/ pyramids

  • The Labyrinth at Lake Moeris
    • Near the City of Crocodile (Crocodilopolis) by Lake Moeris, a giant labyrinth was built
      • Herodotus finds it more impressive than anything he’d ever seen in Greece
    • It had 12 roofed courts facing one another
      • 6 facing north & 6 facing south – all in a line
      • There was a wall enclosing all of them
    • There were double sets of rooms, 3000 total
      • 1500 above ground & 1500 below ground
      • Herdotus was only allowed to see the ones above ground
        • the ones below had sacred burial chambers for kings & others had crocodiles in them
      • The rooms had winding passages in & out of courts, very complicated pillared corridors from room to room, room to court, etc.
      • It was roofed by stone & the walls were engraved & pillars were made of white stone
      • At the end of the labyrinth was a pyramid 240 feet tall with animal engravings
    • Lake Moeris was beside the labyrinth
      • it had a perimeter of 420 miles
      • the deepest point was 300 feet
      • it was completely man-made
      • in the middle were 2 pyramids, 150 feet above water & 150 below water
    • The lake didn’t have any natural inflowing or outflowing channels as most of the country has no water apart from the Nile
      • The channels had to be built underground via an artificial channel connecting it to the Nile
      • 6 months of the year the water flowed in
      • 6 months of the year the water flowed out
    • Herodotus saw no trace of spoil (land/soil, etc. from the hole dug in the ground
      • Locals say they just let the first flow into the Nile which carried it away
      • Herodotus heard something similar happening in Nineveh w/ the Tigris River.

 

 

How Herodotus thinks the pyramids were built. Drawing taken from: http://www.hunkler.com/pyramids/r18_259.gif

“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent” by John Erskine

  • Ask: “What are modern virtues?”
    • You might answer things we like: meekness, humility, renunciation of world
    • Would you answer, “Intelligence”?
  • Old idea that intelligence is dangerous
    • Anglo-Saxons have derided the idea of intelligence being important
      • As if you have to choose between being good & intelligent
      • As if stupidity is a cousin to morality, and reason & God are not on good terms w/ each other
        • As if you mind is full, your heart is empty
  • Shakespeare often portrays intelligent men as villains or tragic victims
    • Iago, Prospero, Richard, Edmund, Hamlet
      • Best characters are moral but not intelligent
      • English portrayal of humility often accompanied by stupidity
  • Milon’s “Paradise Lost” puts high intelligence to the devil trying to trick God & Job
    • Liberty-loving Satan, always persistent
    • God’s angel cautions Adam not to wander the earth & eat from the Tree of Knowledge
    • Theologians & scientists like Satan
  • Fielding, Scott, Thackeray, Dickens
    • Hero is a well-meaning blunderer saved by the grace of god from his mess of a life
      • Often needs rescue
      • His wife is good but even simpler than he is
  • French authors, especially Balzac, would show us the tragedy of goodness being tied to stupidity
    • would also be incomprehensible to the Greeks
  • Some English writers, Shelley, Byron & Spencer believed in intelligence
    • Spencer may confuse readers because he demands the reader to have a mind & a heart in order to understand
    • English attitude may have come from Germany brought by Saxon invaders
    • No use for craft or strategy
      • just fighting & self-reliance
    • A man was only as good as his word & was ready to back it up with force
    • Germans didn’t enter into public or private business without a sword on them
      • Social emphasis on honor, integrity
        • word more important than deed
      • Words & deeds said something about the man behind them – not good & evil
      • Idea was that without thinking:
        • A good man does good things
        • A bad man does bad things
  • Moral obligation of an intelligent creature to learn if an action leads to a good end or a bad end
    • only a system that excuses him from that is a vicious one
  • Bad acts may be done by bad intentions or our of neglect
    • You must feel responsibility not to neglect learning the consequences of your actions
  • Matthew Arnold said:
    • The purpose of culture is to make reason & will of God prevail
    • Before we can make the will of God prevail, we must find out what it is
  • America has assimilated other cultures apart from English
    • Greek love of knowledge & idea that sin & misery come from ignorance & scientific spirit
  • Need courage & steadfastness
    • But need to recognize when old virtues leave us with something missing
    • Often social & economic problems are about intelligence
      • seems ignoble to admit this
    • Matters of faith
      • seek knowledge not for answers but b/c we think knowledge is life itself
        • not to make God prevail but to know the will of God
        • Love knowledge for its own sake – like virtue
      • If we don’t hand thieves anymore, it’s not because we don’t think any less of thieving
        • it’s because intelligence usually leads to virtue & enterprise
  • Religion
    • Intelligence is the master of virtue
      • decrease fear & increase opportunity
      • outward effect is to rob the altar of its sacrifices & the priest of his mysteries
        • Because we know so much more, the altar is abandoned & the religion becomes revised when it’s clear that sacrifices didn’t work & knowledge is power
        • Then one hypothesis supplants another
    • Religion reacted violently because Darwinism & the like inundated society with knowledge & changed our views so quickly & violently
  • Be patient with those who don’t agree with this idea
    • Dividing – We are rooted by languages, places & customs
    • Uniting – Intelligence unites us after roots of prejudice are pulled up
      • Jesus – he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me
    • Intelligence begins with a pang & turns into a vision to make a life of opportunity, make goodness articulated & make virtue a fact
      • Liberation of human spirit & uniting force

Thomas Babington Macaulay – Machiavelli

Lord Tommy Sideburns

 

Nicky, the Prince

Thomas Babington Macaulay – Machiavelli

  • Machiavelli is usually referred to as a
    • tempter
    • presenter of an evil principle
    • pushing ambition, revenge, perjury
      • Only got this reputation after The Prince
      • As if these things didn’t exist before the Prince
      • Gunpowder Plot blamed on him, as well as other plots
  • People are/were horrified by what they read by/about him
    • Scientifically writing how to back stab & overthrow nations
  • B/c he was Republican & his book scared people. he was thrown in jail
    • Maybe the book was intended to motivate de Medicis?
  • Other works quote Livy & don’t get such reactions
  • Many passages in the Prince have a more patriotic & public good tone
    • Strange mixture of cruelty, selfishness, heroism & enigma
    • This felling is only for outsiders – those who knew him weren’t shocked at all
  • Medici Pope Clement VII patronized books later condemned by the Council of Trent
    • Including the Prince
    • Condemned by English Catholics & French Protestants
  • Focus on city-states in Italy, unlike the rest of Europe
    • Cities survived by being undesirable to invaders
    • Later survived by strength but paid for by money earned in trade
    • Rest of Europe was weak
    • Church supported city-states (popes were from there)
      • Guelph & Ghibellines
  • In the rest of Europe, wealthy families stamped on the people in spite of the government
    • Either taken down by the people or dominated them
  • Lombards & Tuscans gov’ts survived by placating people of city w/ entertainment & food
    • Crusaders brought wealth back
    • Italians became merchants, manufacturers & bankers
    • Economy took, arts flourished
    • Classics returned to Italy & new works created too
    • Patrons bid for artists, writers
  • Military campaigns not feasible b/c army was mostly farmers
    • Need to stay home & farm
    • Handicapped rulers in military most of year able to fight in off-season but not in growing season
    • W/ commerce & industry growing, almost no army
  • From Ionian league era – too rich to fight
    • Hired mercenaries
    • Spartans had slaves to plant while the Spartans fought
  • Italian military was very antiquated
    • Knights were OK but the infantry was useless
    • Swiss had no problem with them
  • War needed a soldier class – standing army
    • Needed to encourage patriotism to get volunteers
    • Italian princes hired mercenaries from all over
    • No loyalty after end of contract
    • Mercenaries didn’t fight for home, only money
    • Had more in common with enemy than employer
  • Italy was vulnerable to France, Spain & Switzerland
    • These nations had valor as its highest virtue
    • Italy – peace & civility were the virtues
  • Successful rulers, Sforzas, used techniques praised by Machiavelli – underhanded
    • Francis – made himself but had no real friends – passing alliances
    • Maybe Shakespeare’s role of Iago based on him
  • Greeks & Romans differed in 2nd century BC
    • Roman conquerors – brave, resolute, faithful, religious, ignorant, arbitrary, cruel
    • Mirrored by Non-Italians in The Prince
    • Greek conquered – had art, science, literature, painting, architecture, polished manners, perceptive, tolerant, humane, sincere
  • Mirrored by Italians in the The Prince
    • Italian statesman
      • half demon (w/ ambitious goals in mind)
        • Impetuous, passionate, full of hatred, revenge
        • no outward courage, cowardly, unscrupulous, very perceptive, intelligence
        • dangerous enemy & accomplice
      • half angel (w/o goals in mind)
        • fair-minded, soft humane, graceful, sublime, patronizes freely
  • Machiavelli – far more virtuous than his intended audience
    • Other works very impressive
      • Mandragola – up there w/ Shakespeare & Molière
      • Clizia – based on a Plautus play
      • Belphegor – borrowed by Ben Jonson
  • Correspondence published in 1700s
    • Wrote that he wasn’t pleased w/ Italy’s circumstances
    • States weren’t independence
    • France, Spain interfering w/ Italy politics
  • Served as a diplomat
    • Ran into Cesare Borgia
    • Wrote about him – impressed
    • Hoped he’d lead for a return to Roman times – Patriotism
  • Proposed:
    • placate people – protection, arts, property rights
    • placate rulers – no interference w/ peasants
  • Saw Naples under foreign occupation
    • Florence extorted again & again
    • Hoped for Medici return in Florence
  • Wrote “Art of War”
    • dialogue talking about arms, military strategy, diplomacy
    • emphasizes Romans, infantry
  • “Discourses on Livy”
    • supported any form of gov’t to give Florence independence
    • Talks about this at end of Prince
  • Looked to Greeks
    • Patriotism was principle & not a passion
  • Compared to Montesquieu
    • Spirit of Laws (1748) was startling to hear a Frenchman arguing for gov’t checks
    • General think but very flowery language
    • The Prince was a specific call for help to save Italy – very honest approach
    • Based on enthusiasm, patriotism
  • At end of his life
    • Saw Medicis return but the foreign powers fought them all the way
  • Misrepresented, abused by people who sought to keep Italy down
    • Patriotism overall

David Hume – Of the Study of History

History will show that that hat was not the best idea.

David Hume – Of the Study of History

  • Hume advises women of the 1700s to study history
  • Women tended to eschew history & the like for fiction
    • Gives a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to a girl he likes
      • Tells her that it’s fiction
      • She likes it at first until she figures out that Alexander & Caesar were real people
      • Does this w/ lots of women to tease them about their aversion to history
  • Much get out of reading History
    • It’s fun
    • it improves your understanding of the world
    • it gives examples to improve your virtues & minimize your vices
  • It’s fun to go back in time & look at places that are completely foreign to us
    • look at early art & sciences
    • see how gov’ts worked & how/why they change over time
    • you see how human society & inventions perfect life
    • see how the times informed people’s vices & virtues
  • Improving our knowledge
    • Often called being erudite
      • really just knowing what happened
      • Might be a luxury to have the time to learn about the rest of the world
      • ought to know about your own country & Greece & Rome
    • history is the passing off of knowledge
      • leading to passing off of knowledge in sciences across time & across national borders
      • it is a way of living since the beginning of time
      • & learning for past experiences
  • Poets & Philosophers help improve our virtues
    • Poets by praising them
    • Philosophers by defining them & defending them
    • History shows how people have gone astray from virtue
  • Machiavelli
    • As a political man
      • Gives excuses for murder, assassination, perjury
    • As historian
      • says vice is bad & shows historical evidence on how going on the wrong path leads to bad results
    • Philosophers speak in abstract manners
    • Historians show how people & societies stray from or stick to virtues & the consequences of those actions

Of Youth & Age – Sir Francis Bacon

Of Youth & Age – Francis Bacon

  • Youth is a relative term
    • Your mind is the real key
  • But the youth tend to have a wilder imagination
    • But some people are a bit too crazy & passionate to do anything productive
  • Look at Caesar & Septimius Severus
    • Septimius was known to be a wild child
      • But was considered a very good emperor
  • Some rulers like Augustus, Cosimus of Florence and others
    • were pretty calm in their youths
  • Younger men are better to create than judge
    • Better to do than advise
    • Better for new things than tradition
  • Age gives us experience
  • Youth are usually impatient, passionate & careless
    • Bite off more than they can chew
    • More prone to extremes – makes more problems
      • unlikely to apologize for stepping on people’s feet
  • Old men say “no” to too much
    • delay too much, risk too little, give up too soon
  • Best is to use the both for their own good
    • The balance of both – one helps the other
  • Young men learn better
    • Old men teach and act better
  • The young haven’t had time to develop their intelligence & inner strength
    • They haven’t had time to appreciate the subtleties of life
  • The young have the opportunity to use their enthusiasm for speech & rhetoric
    • It looks silly on old people

 

Friedrich Hayek – The Use of Knowledge in Society

Friedrich Hayek – The Use of Knowledge in Society. The American Economic Review, Vol. 35, Issue 4 (September 1945), 519-530.

NOTES:

  • Using rational economic order has a problem:
    • We use all relevant info
    • We use a coherent system of preferences
    • We use complete knowledge of relevant means
      • Problem becomes just using logic to solve the mathematics
    • Question becomes what is the best use of available means
      • Answer is implicit in the assumptions
        • Marginal rate of substitution between commodities must be the same for all user
    • NOT IN THE REAL WORLD!!
      • Our tools give us no answers b/c our data is never “given” to one single person to work out the implications
      • Knowledge is dispersed in incomplete bits & often contradictory
  • Problem is really – How to secure best use of resources known to any individual
    • USE OF KNOWLEDGE – isn’t given to any 1 individual entirely
    • Problem is obscured by development of Economic Theory & Math
    • Leads to dispute between theory & policy due to misconception of Economics Problem
  • “PLANNING” = complex interrelated decisions about available resources
    • All economic activity is planning & need knowledge to plan but it must be given to the planner
    • Knowledge is dispersed – main stumbling black to designing efficient system
  • Q – Who is planning? A Central authority? Individuals?
    • “Planning” usually means Central Planning according to a unified plan
    • “Competition” usually means decentralized planning by individuals
    • Half-way is planning by organized industries (monopolies or cartels)
  • Q – Which is most efficient?
    • A – The one that can use fuller existing knowledge & have better success
  • The answer will vary based on what kind of knowledge will be available, to whom & relevant importance
    • We tend to think that Scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge – NOT SO
    • A body of experts may be the wisest about a subject
      • But who will choose the body?
  • Economic Problem of Knowledge – Particulars of time & place
    • Individual has an advantage b/c of his unique information which is beneficial to others
      • It’s only useful if his information & decision based on information are made with his cooperation
    • Our individual training in theory & practice is valuable in all walks of life
      • Use of machines, management decisions to be efficient requires use of individual’s unique knowledge
    • Somehow this view isn’t popular – seen as dishonest
      • We’re “supposed to share” all knowledge amongst everyone
      • But it is beneficial to society, often commercially b/c it is most efficient
  • If the economy can be centrally planned, why is it so hard to do?
    • New problems arise in the day-to-day running of a factory/business
    • Central planners are removed from this
    • Are economic decisions only necessary in the long-term planning?
      • Once a factory is built, is planning over?
    • Manager’s job includes constant need to minimize costs
      • An unknowledgeable manager does this inefficiently
  • Economists often forget about small changes b/c they’re preoccupied with aggregated statistic which appear more stable by the law of large numbers
    • Individuals don’t have robust data/orders like that
      • Flow of goods/services maintained by constant, deliberate adjustments
      • If 1 company fails, another will step in to fulfill demand
      • Factories need to be maintained & depreciation occurs randomly or unseen
        • Doesn’t show up in Central Planner’s stats
  • If the problem is how to adjust quickly to changes in particular circumstance of time & place
    • Decisions must be left to those familiar w/ circumstance & can directly meet them
    • Central planning requires 1000s of communications to central planner & him integrating all knowledge & then doing something about it
      • Easily solved by de-centralizing
        • Communication is easier w/ knowledge of circumstances of time & place
  • Q – How much knowledge is needed to fulfill demand?
    • All information & occurrences have some effect on supply & demand
      • But we don’t need to know why they’ve happened
      • Just need to know, time, place, quantity & PRICE
        • Not interested in more than that
  • Economic Calculus
    • Solved by the price system
      • Small adjustments in resource allocation is signaled by prices
      • Allows us to attach a value on scare resources to allow people/managers to adjust budgets, use of factors & resources
  • Prices coordinate separate actions of different people
    • If a new source of raw resources arises or an old one is eliminated
      • (Why is not very important)
      • All that users really need to know is if that resource is more abundant or scarcer
    • When prices rise high enough, new entrants arrive or if they drop low enough, some producers will leave market
    • 1 price for a commodity guides the market to a solution that would have been arrived at by a central planner w/o actually involving him
  • Price system is a mechanism for communicating information
    • System economizes knowledge w/ which is operates
    • Individuals need to know very little to take the efficient/right action
    • Price is a symbol – most essential information is passed on to those concerned
  • Adjustments are never perfect like economists imagine b/c they assume all knowledge is available to everyone
    • Amazing that 1 scarcity w/ only a few people knowing about it can be conveyed to so many & orders adjust w/o any central planning
    • Not out of deliberate design
    • Those who want conscious direction:
      • Think how best to use knowledge beyond capacity to collate, process & issue resource allocation with respect to scarcity as efficiently as possible
  • Major problem is w/ language
    • We are told to think about what we are doing in the big picture
    • But all advances in technology & production happen when we increase the number of activities where we don’t think very much
    • Price system represents a large system w/ use of knowledge w/o fully understanding what we are doing
    • Usually derided as expecting a miracle that the system arises spontaneously
      • Nobody’s been able to do any better
  • Economic critiques of Price system
    • Some believe that production can be efficient w/o price mechanism
      • Prices don’t only apply to end markets
        • Intermediary markets function to allocate resources efficiently between supply & demand
        • Information is never given completely to a single name
      • Practical problems’ solutions come from dispersed knowledge
        • Signs are in the price system!

 

The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio” X – Cyrus Meets His End Against the Messagetae [201-216]

Cyrus lost his blood head.

The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio”

X – Cyrus Meets His End Against the Messagetae [201-216]

  • After conquering Babylon made for the Massagetae eastward beyond the River Araxes.
  • The Araxes is about the size of the Danube with fairly large islands. Their inhabitants mostly ate roots and tree fruit. They burnt parts of a tree and sat around the fire. They’d act drunk, sing and dance. The river was divided into channels by Cyrus, creating bogs and swamps. The people mostly ate raw fish and wore seal skins. The River ended in the Caspian Sea (Herodotus was wrong about this).
  • That’s the only connection to the Caspian Sea, which takes 15 days to row across and 8 days up and down. The Caucus Mountains are at its shore and the largest mountain range on earth (to Herodotus’s time). Many different tribes live there. They have dyes from trees, which they used to dye clothes and paint pictures on their clothes that won’t fade. Cyrus wanted the Massagetae had a queen, Tomyris, who had inherited the throne after her husband died. Cyrus sent envoys, asking for her marriage. She was hip to his plan and sent them away. He marched there with an army, built a bridge across the river and made for the city.
  • While Cyrus was preparing, Tomyris sent a messenger to him, telling him to stop fighting and be happy with peace in his own kingdom. Since she knew he wouldn’t stop, she said “Meet us at the river in 3 days. Which side of the river you’ll be on will tell us your intentions.” Cyrus wanted to cross the river.
  • Croesus didn’t like the idea. “If you think you’re immortal and a king, remember that you won’t always have good luck. If you lose, you lose everything – your throne, your kingdom, your life. If you win, you don’t win very much. You’ll have to chase them around, catch them and beat them. You shouldn’t have to bow to a woman. Just cross the river, if they choose to interpret that as aggression, so be it. But we’ll set up a Persian feast, one like they’ve never seen before. We’ll get them drunk and full and then kill them.
  • Cyrus liked the idea and told her he’d cross the river. His son, Cambyses would go back to Persia with Croesus. He was told to treat him well if things ended badly. Then he crossed the river.
  • He spent the night on the other side of the river and had a dream about Hystaspes’s son with wings, 1 over Europe and 1 over Asia. He woke up, borthered that Hystaspes’s son, Darius, was plotting against him, the founder of the Persian Empire, giving them a great life. But Hystaspes should go back to Persia and they’ll discuss it later.
  • The dream wasn’t a plot by Darius but a vision that one day Darius would be king. Hystaspes couldn’t imagine any Persian plotting against Cyrus. But if he insisted, he’ll handover Darius.
  • Cyrus set up a camp with bad soldiers and set up the feast. Tomyris’s men saw this and joined. Once a sleep, the Persians killed most of them and imprisoned the rest. When Tomyris heard the news, she sent a messenger, “You took my son, Spargapises. Bring him back to me unharmed and I’ll give you land. If you don’t, I’ll kill you.”
  • Spargapises begged for freedom and when he was freed, he killed himself.
  • Tomyris head and sent the army into battle. They were much tougher than other opponents. Archers and warriors fought and fought, and the Massagetae won. Cyrus died and most of his army did with him. Tomyris found his body and dunked his head in blood, to give him more of the taste of blood he wanted.
  • The Massagetae were like the Scythians – fought on horseback and foot, used arrows, lances and battleaxes, all of either brass or gold.
  • The wines were held in common but each man has only one wife. Old people were sacrificed and eaten. If he died of disease, nobody ate him and he’d be buried sadly because he didn’t have the honor of sacrifice. They didn’t eat grains but fish, herds and milk. They worshiped the sun and sacrificed horses to it.

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