The Search for the Just Society
Edward J. Dodson
INSTRUCTOR'S MANUAL -- LESSON 2
Begin with an overview of the important points raised in Lesson
One. Ask questions of the students to determine what they retained.
Make the following key points:
- Groups were initially almost wholly cooperative because of
kinship relationships and small size.
- With increased population comes division of labor and the
appearance of hierarchies.
- With settlement and the domestication of animals and
foodcrops, the hunter-protectors maintain their status by becoming
a warrior subgroup and eventually sharing domination over
producers with the knowledge-bearers (priests, etc.).
- INSIGHT: Many warrior-dominated societies are matriarcal,
meaning that children become member's of the family of the mother.
The reason for this is the loss of so many young men in battle.
THE FIRST EMPIRE-BUILDERS
Introduce the first era of empire-building. This discussion need
not be detailed. Mention the Egyptians and Phoenicians and that the
early empires emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean. Several key
points to raise include:
- Egypt and other early empires were still very tribal in
nature, yet functioned under strict hierarchies with the kings
viewed as both leader of the State and the accepted religion.
- Stress the continuity between the actions of these empires and
smaller tribal societies toward other groups (i.e., the shifting
balance between cooperation and conflict within and between
- The empire-builders were also monument builders, which
required a large labor pool, provided by a combination of slaves
and landless peasants.
- Introduce Greece as the first Western empire, which
arose out of an alliance of the Greek city-states in the 7th
century B.C. The Greeks united to fight off invasions by the
numerically superior Persians. Sparta was organized as a
militaristic state under an extremely autocratic regime. Athens,
its wealth and power coming out of commerce and trade with other
Mediterranean peoples, had a more open society and its
socio-political institutions evolved based on the principle of a
hierarchy of talent. However, only 10% of the population of Athens
had full rights of citizenship. A landed aristocracy gradually
arose that acquired large tracts of land formerly owned by peasant
farmers who lost their land because of mortgage debt. Many peasant
farmers then fell into virtual slavery.
- The Greek empire fell into decline as the landed aristocracy
and military drained the population of much of the wealth
- Macedonia (north of Greece) defeated the Greeks and under
Alexander the Great the Greek city-states were brought into
Alexander's empire. Alexander also conquered Egypt and much of the
Mediterranean. The City of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile was
built because of his desire to create a new center of Greek
culture in Egypt.
- Discuss the rise of Rome, first as a coalition of several
tribes of the Italian peninsula who defeated the Etruscans and
absorbed them into a larger alliance.
- In its early stage, Rome was governed by two kings with veto
power over one another.
- Under the Roman republic, members of the Senate were chosen
from the Patrician (aristocratic) class; eventually a separate
representative body was created composed of merchants and
soldiers, who were called Plebeians.
- Soldiers were rewarded with grants of landed estates in
conquered territories, and Romans were encourged to establish Roman
centers wherever the empire spread
- Decline came as Roman citizens stopped producing for
themselves and depended on the goods produced by their colonial
subjects to support an increasingly corrupt society.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE STATE
As the Roman emperors were converted to Christianity, the powers
of the Roman state were used to enforce adoption of the new state
religion -- Christianity.
The Church hierarchy became extremely dogmatic and intolerant,
captured by and became a tool of the Roman state. In effect, the
Church in Rome discarded the teachings of Christ and became little
more than a mechanism to maintain control over the population,
substituting doctrines attributed to one god rather than many.
THE GERMANIC TRIBES
As the Roman empire aged, fewer and fewer Roman citizens led the
armies. Most of the soldiers were German mercenaries and the Caesars
The first sacking of Rome, then, was not an overthrow of the Roman
empire but an effort on the part of Germanic Romans to consolidate
The eastern provinces, centered in Constantinople, remained more
Roman than Rome and more Orthodox in relgion than the Roman Church.
When Rome was sacked, the center of the empire shifted to the east.
Justinian attempted to reunite the empire and managed to push the
Germanic tribes out of Rome. However, his army was not strong enough
to hold the western territories. The Germanic tribes were weakened,
which opened the door for other tribes to continue the invasion.
The result was a long series of tribal wars that eventually
brought Charlemagne to power in the 8th century, who forged his
conquered territories into the new Holy Roman empire, but without
the administrative and legal structure that had made Rome such a
powerful empire at its zenith.
THE DARK AGES
The eastern empire continued on until the 11th century when it was
eventually overrun by Moslem Turks. Warfare in Europe gradually
weakened the Frankish and Germanic princes. Another powerful group
-- the Mongols -- emerged out of the steppes of Central Asia,
pushing other tribes westward into Europe and renewing the tribal
wars over territory.
Fortified castles were built by minor lords to protect the
agricultural settlements from the semi-nomadic tribes. This became
the basis for the manor system and feudalism.
Feudalism revolved around fixed relationships between the manor
lord and the peasant producers. The lord administered justice and
housed whatever surplus was accumulated -- in trust for the whole
community should there be crop failure, etc.
The Moslems captured and occupied Jerusalem in the 10th century.
Thus, a call came from Rome and Constantinople for Christian nobles
to raise armies and free the Holy Land.
Between the 10th and 12th centuries a series of armies under
English, French and Germanic princes fought the Moslems, without
What the Crusades did do was introduce the European princes to the
luxuries of the Moslem world, stimulating trade and the conversion
of land held in common under feudalism to systems of private titles.
In this way, the lords could lease or sell land for hard currency
and buy goods from the East.
The Crusades also stimulated the growth of Venice, Genoa and other
Italian ports, whose merchants initally supplied the European armies
and later expanded trade with the Moslem world.
Explain that the semi-nomadic and most warlike tribes lived off
the land (and their conquests). The need to be mobile meant a
lifestyle that gave little importance to the accumulation of
END OF LESSON TWO. SPEND
WHATEVER TIME REMAINS IN A REINFORCEMENT OF ESSENTIAL POINTS.
STRESS THE "CONTINUUM" THAT IS EVIDENCED BY HISTORY
AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIERARCHIES AS TRIBAL SOCIETIES BECOME
SETTLED AND/OR WARLIKE.