“In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”

In order to tell a story about how things changed, I have to speak first about the way things were. It was a very different time, and there isn’t much I can point to and say, this was consistent from era to era. Much less can be pointed to today. So you may have to read this as you would an epic fantasy novel with its own maps and languages and stories.

We start with the Mediterranean Sea — Europe above, Africa below, and Asia to the East — around five thousand years ago. Let’s call it 3000BCE. At this time, there is extensive land trade between Egypt, Assyria, and places as far east as India. The Mediterranean is also covered in trade routes that connect places as far west as the Italian peninsula with Egypt and points east. This is the Bronze Age in Mesopotamia, and the earliest empires began here.

And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning.”

A grand empire in the sea itself existed that we have scant knowledge of, and have called “Minoan” after Greek myth. From what we can tell, they controlled all trade throughout the Mediterranean and made quite a mint doing it. Calamity ended this empire, in the form of earthquakes and volcanic activity that shattered their primary trading hubs and scattered refugees.

During their heyday, the Minoans traded goods to Egypt, Assyria, and Hittites from the resource-rich tribes of southern Europe and north Africa, having set up colony posts in disparate areas throughout the Med. After they were gone, the vacuum they created was rapidly filled by Greeks and Carthaginians, who adopted older trading colonies and then created many more of their own.

“And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat.”

One of the Minoan trading partners that became a Greek client was the Etruscan empire on the northwest corner of the Italian peninsula. Theirs was a relatively ancient culture, with complex theologies, dynamic art, and political control over the various Celtic and Italic peoples around them. The Etruscans had royalty — the Etruscans had a King. They had temples and a priesthood that glorified the Great Father, and the heavenly hierarchy of the Great Father was reflected both in their Imperial government, which was authoritarian, to their tribes and families, who obeyed the male head of tribe or house as local tyrants. The heads of houses formed into a social hierarchy, through which policy was enacted and taxes collected.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God made.

The Etruscans were delighted to share their culture with their neighbors. Through a mixture of trade and sharp weapons, they brought law and art to the Latin tribes to their south. The Etruscans taught the Italics about courts and hierarchies and social organization, and then charitably founded the city of Rome, for which they gave them a King from one of their own royal families to guide and judge them, and lead the civic rituals.

Which isn’t to say that the Latins were fools. They had their own language, a stone-age level of toolmaking, and the domestication of sheep and dogs. They traded with the Greeks, and with their Italic neighbors, with whom they shared more linguistic and cultural connections that with the Etruscans. Yet they were smart enough to adopt the technologies and practices of their Etruscan neighbors. Crucially, they did not adopt Etruscan culture, but retained a sense of identity around their new city.

A thousand years later, they will tell themselves that the city was founded by sons of Aneas who suckled on a she-wolf before founding the City on the seven hills. For this is the nature of historical narrative, such that a ludicrous tale like this was considered superior to the truth of Etruscan origins.

“And the eyes of them both were opened

After a few generations under the Etruscan thumb, the Latins organized the other Italic tribes to revolt against their Etruscan masters. Etruria had been in decline for some time, and by this time, the Latins knew how they fought and would attempt to defend themselves. They also had developed a novel political theory in an attempt to transform obstacles into conveyances.

As they had with the Latins, the Etruscans had culturally enmeshed themselves with the various tribes, indicating that the heads of each tribe had a special relationship with Etruria. In fact, they were playing the tribes against each other in order to reduce the pressure on themselves. The Latins would never have been able to overwhelm the Etruscan state on their own, even in its weakened condition, and the political situation warranted against any inter-tribal cooperation.

” Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil

The Italic tribes sent their Etruscan kings packing, but no tribe could hold sway over the rest, So they convened a committee meeting of the heads of the Italic tribes, and in so doing created a novel form of government — the Senate. As a collective, they were able to band together under a single general and pick off Etruscan cities one at a time until all of Etruria was under the grip of the new collective: Rome.

“And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken.


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