Andrew Marr's History Of The World (2012) s01e03 Episode Script

The Word and the Sword

March the 7th, 203 AD.
Carthage, North Africa.
A young woman called Perpetua was waiting to be killed in a Roman arena because she wouldn't reject her faith - a faith so extreme it was shaking the empire.
BABY WAILS Her family had begged her to renounce her beliefs and live.
Terrified, she refused.
CHEERING AND SHOUTING Perpetua was one of a growing number of spiritual rebels.
All around the world, these are centuries when we see mass movements of moral and religious revolt.
People who seem to want more - more than entertainment, more than safety, more than power.
On the world's stage, this is an age of struggle.
A fight between the sword and the word.
Allah! Old Indian writings tell a unique story, a moral revelation, whose details were virtually forgotten for 2,000 years.
One day, in 295 BC, a young prince called Ashoka was searching for his grandfather's sword.
His grandfather had built the Mauryan Empire, which stretched across northern India.
He'd warned the boy that swords were dangerous, but, as in all good legends, the boy ignored the old man.
BATTLE CRY Ashoka means "without sorrow".
GROANS IN PAIN And the Prince was true to his name.
When his father died, he slaughtered his brothers to capture the throne.
He then invaded the neighbouring state of Kalinga, killing 100,000 men, women and children.
Frankly, so far, so dull.
History is littered with corpses on battlefields and wild-eyed victors.
But this story is rather different.
Because when this victor wandered among the corpses, he didn't feel triumph.
When Ashoka contemplated the devastation that he had caused on the battlefield, something seems to have changed inside him.
What is this great victory? He said, when a country is invaded, it brings death, slaughter and deportation.
And it's not just the soldiers - you can break a whole society.
He said the innocent - the priests, the teachers, the families, the friends - also suffer from the violence and separation from their loved ones.
I can't think of any other example in history where a great conqueror is not remembered for his victories, but for his remorse.
Ashoka went through what's perhaps the most extreme spiritual and political conversion in history.
He turned to the peaceful Indian values of Buddhism.
Compassion, the alleviation of suffering, a striving to understand and improve life here on earth.
Ashoka began to transform his empire.
He outlawed slavery, established schools and hospitals .
he even had wells dug and trees planted for shade to help travellers.
Ashoka may have given up military expansion, but he certainly wanted to spread his ideas, and at his capital city, he created a sort of factory to produce huge stone pillars topped with his lion and to be inscribed with his laws and his views of the world and sent all over central India.
This early broadcasting system was completely forgotten, lost to history, until Ashoka's messages were decoded in the 1800s by a young Englishman who cracked the ancient script.
ASHOKA: "No living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice.
" "No criticising other religions.
"Show respect to elders, towards the poor and distressed," "servants and employees.
" You could almost call Ashoka's edicts a declaration of human rights, more than 2,000 years before the United Nations.
He also sent Buddhist missionaries as far as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, even the Mediterranean.
Today, Buddhists are found on every continent on Earth.
As Ashoka grew old, he gave up his earthly power and possessions.
When he died, it's said that only half a mango was left.
Later on, more aggressive religions and political leaders virtually pushed Buddhism out of India.
But Ashoka is a lot more than a footnote.
Because after his rediscovery, he became a great inspiration in modern India.
Ashoka may not be well known in the West, but to tens of millions of Indians, he is still a symbol of tolerance and pride.
He's been an inspiration for non-violent leaders like Gandhi .
standing for moral, not military, might.
I think Ashoka would have thought that was a proper monument.
But Ashoka was the exception.
1,000 miles north-east of the Mauryan Empire, another leader relied on the traditional route to power - violence.
In the third century BC, mainland Asia was a cauldron of warring states .
until one of the leaders finally crushed his rivals.
He did it with a deadly battle tactic known as the rain of arrows.
It took him 25 years and the deaths of a million enemy troops, but, by 221 BC, he'd conquered all the states.
His name was Ying Zheng, King of the Qin.
He named himself First Emperor.
In honour of his own people, the Qin, he named his vast new empire China.
Ying Zheng was determined to unite the 50 million people he'd conquered and he would build China as ruthlessly as he waged war.
All the old Chinese kingdoms, with their own capital cities and traditions and cultures, were wiped from the planet.
The First Emperor instituted a single system of currency and weights and measures, one government, and vast armies were used to begin the enormous project of defending the northern frontier, which we call the Great Wall of China.
But even more important than that, the great emperor created the first single system of writing for all of China.
A single nation could finally emerge - not the kind Ashoka's India would have admired.
But Ying Zheng was also interested in the spirit world.
He had a pretty simple idea of the afterlife.
"If I go, I'm going to take it all with me.
" Construction began on the greatest mausoleum known to man.
The ancient historian Sima Qian describes an underground world built by 700,000 slaves where a vast domed ceiling twinkled with stars above a bronze Imperial Palace.
Everything led to Ying Zheng's body, lying at the centre of a series of subterranean chambers.
A mannequin army would surround the Emperor's tomb.
The 100 rivers of China were said to run in miniature streams of pure glittering mercury.
A little not-so-little China for the Emperor to rule through all time.
This story sounded like over-the-top fantasy until, in 1974, some workers were digging water wells in Xi'an.
They broke into a vault containing 7,000 life-sized figures made of fired clay, now known all round the world as the Terracotta Army.
Archaeologists believe that the Terracotta Army is just a small part of the Emperor's massive underground burial complex covering 22 square miles.
Unless the archaeologists are wildly wrong, under this mound may lie the greatest secret the ancient world still has.
Ying Zheng kept China together by imposing a philosophy of law and order known as legalism.
But it wasn't unchallenged.
Like ancient people all around the world, the Chinese had huge numbers of what you might call local religions.
They respected nature spirits, they worshipped their ancestors, they practised shamanism.
But they also had a social philosophy which had been created by the thinker Confucius, which emphasised respect, family, order, but also had a message for local kings and rulers - be wise, be clear, be just, but also be kind.
Not a message followed by all of China's rulers.
Ying Zheng despised Confucius's humanity.
An infallible sign of a tyrant getting anxious is when he starts destroying books.
In 213 BC, the Emperor ordered the great burning of the books - Confucius's thoughts.
A year later, 460 scholars were found still in possession of the banned writings.
Ying Zheng had all of them buried alive.
But ideas are harder to kill.
Confucianism still survives in today's China.
Ying Zheng wanted to reign for as long as he could.
He wasn't too keen to reach his mausoleum, and he gobbled pills to try to cheat death.
An alchemist offered him an elixir of eternal life.
But you can never quite trust the doctor.
The active ingredient in his magic potion turned out to be the highly toxic mercury.
RANTS IN CHINESE Ying Zheng didn't die well.
So, just another deluded tyrant reaching the limits of earthly power.
Except that this was one of the truly pivotal figures in world history.
As the First Emperor, harsh and brutal, he nonetheless gave the Chinese a sense of themselves as a single people in a single country, under a single leader, and that's very much part of the world we still live in.
So to that extent, Ying Zheng remains a genuine earth-shaper.
At this time, half the world's population lived in one of two great empires China, and a Western rival it had barely heard of.
Each empire ruled roughly the same number of people - about 45 million at the height of the Roman Empire, and, according to the Han Chinese tax records, 57 million there.
They had roughly the same amount of territory and both thought that, in effect, they ruled the world.
The Romans talked about orbis terrarum, "the whole earth", and the Chinese about "all under heaven".
They were both great engineering cultures, and their armies looked pretty similar and were equally deadly.
And yet, separated by four and a half thousand miles, neither was really aware of the other's existence.
Rome was a civilisation based on militarism, consumerism and trade - the financial and political capital of the Mediterranean.
But earthly power wouldn't be enough for its most famous upwardly mobile soldier, about to apply for the position of living god.
In 48 BC, he arrived in Egypt.
He'd fought his way up through the rough world of Roman politics, slaughtering more than a million people in Gaul to win himself applause.
He was now the most powerful man in the Mediterranean, and his name Abi nunc.
Of course, was Julius Caesar.
Egypt had once been the glory of the world.
Now, under Greek rulers, it was still a storehouse of ancient learning and science.
It was weak, it was deep in debt.
But its capital city, Alexandria, was widely considered the greatest city on Earth.
Its library had 700,000 volumes, virtually the entire collection of human wisdom so far in the classical world.
It was a centre for the study of everything, from engineering to medicine, mathematics to history.
Egyptians saw their pharaohs as living gods.
Cleopatra embraced the tradition, but to think of her as a saucy vamp is to grotesquely misunderstand her.
She spoke nine languages, she was an author, she was trained in philosophy and the sciences.
SPEAKS IN EGYPTIAN But she was a ruthless survivor in a power struggle with her little brother Ptolemy.
She needed muscle.
She needed Caesar.
Her brother had put guards round Caesar.
But Cleopatra was not a woman easily stopped.
The stage was set for one of the most dramatic entrances in history.
DOOR OPENS THEY SPEAK IN EGYPTIAN Cleopatra had just one night to win Caesar over.
The Roman historian Plutarch dryly notes that Caesar was much impressed by her intelligence, charm andcharisma.
I'll bet he was! Plutarch also says that Cleopatra proved herself a bold coquette.
By the time morning came, when her younger brother broke in, there they were, Caesar and Cleopatra.
Too late, little Ptolemy.
Cleopatra was back on the throne.
Caesar and Cleopatra sealed their alliance with a procession up the Nile.
Being seen was vital to ancient rulers.
At 21, Cleopatra was now sole ruler of Egypt.
And she was pregnant with Caesar's son, Caesarion a potential leader of both the Egyptian and the Roman worlds.
And a middle-aged Caesar? Fired by his conquest of this living god, Caesar decided to become one himself.
He had his face painted red, like the god Jupiter, for his triumphal return to Rome.
A new religious cult was instituted - Jupiter Julius.
Outside his house, a special shrine was raised to the living god and, of course, they named a month after him.
We call it July.
If Caesar had been a modern politician, we'd have had no doubt about the trouble.
We'd have said he'd lost it.
Rome was a stroppy, political city that had rejected the rule of kings nearly 500 years before.
Caesar's bid to be a god would be his undoing.
When Caesar was declared dictator in perpetuity, some of the senators decided to act.
WHISPERED CONVERSATION On March the 15th, 44 BC, Caesar entered the Theatre of Pompey where the Senate was meeting that day.
He was presented with a petition as a distraction.
CAESAR GROANS IN PAIN Caesar's one-time friend Brutus is said to have dealt the last of 23 dagger thrusts.
It's a rough old trade, politics.
The empire was torn apart by civil war, as would-be successors to Caesar fought for supremacy for 14 years.
Cleopatra found herself on the losing side.
She was too dangerous to be allowed to survive.
BREATHES DEEPLY HISSING Cleopatra refused to give herself up.
She was, after all, a god, and not about to let some common mortal take her life.
HISSING GASPS As she died, so died Egypt.
The world's oldest kingdom became just another Roman province.
But it was Caesar's megalomania that won out in the end.
Every one of his successors was worshipped as a divine emperor.
Rome was becoming dominated by the super-rich, by corruption and by emperors playing at being god.
Divinity had become corrupted by political power.
Rome was ripe for spiritual revolution.
And it started on the very edge of the empire .
when an ordinary man had an extraordinary change of heart.
Jerusalem in the year 36 AD.
Saul was doing well for himself supplying tents to the Roman army.
He was a local contractor, a Roman citizen and a devout Jew.
CLAMOURING VOICES On this particular day, there was a man called Stephen who'd been causing trouble here in the market in Jerusalem.
He was saying that the son of a carpenter, who'd been crucified just a few years earlier, was the son of God.
Among those watching, nobody was more hardline than Saul.
He said himself that he was known among the Jews of his generation for his enthusiasm for the traditions of his ancestors.
And to say that Christ was the Messiah was blasphemy, intolerable.
And for blasphemy, there was only one punishment.
YELLING CRUNCHING THUD Saul watched as Stephen was killed.
YELLING AND JEERING Stoning is still used as a punishment for blasphemy in some parts of the world today.
Stephen had just become the first Christian martyr.
Did his horrible death make Saul think again or feel squeamish? Certainly not.
It encouraged him to join the persecution.
He was seen breathing threats and murder towards the followers of Jesus.
SPEAKS IN HEBREW And with the permission of the high priest, he now set off to hunt some more of them down in Damascus.
But his manhunt was stopped dead in its tracks.
WIND HOWLS According to the Bible, Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus.
PANTING He heard the voice of Jesus telling him to stop his persecution of Christians.
He came to blind.
In Damascus, he went for three days without food or drink.
A Christian called Ananias laid his hands on him and it's said, "the scales fell from Saul's eyes.
" What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus sounds a bit like a desert hallucination.
But the voice he heard changed his life.
The persecutor got himself baptised in the faith of the people he'd been persecuting.
He got rid of his old Jewish name, Saul, and he became Paul.
And he gave himself an almost crazily ambitious job, which was to carry news of the new faith not simply to Jews, but to Greeks, to Romans, to Egyptians, to anyone who would listen.
Because for him, this was one god and one set of rules for everybody on the Earth.
Paul started by heading south into the Arabian Desert.
He was still a travelling salesman, but now he was selling a message which would change the history of religion.
Up until Paul, the followers of Jesus Christ had all been Jewish.
The story of the man from Galilee had been a local event but Paul's burning need to convert convinced thousands of non-Jews that Jesus had come to save everyone - Jew or pagan, slave or free man.
SPEAKS IN HEBREW Today, there are perhaps 15 million Jews in the world, but because of the evangelising tradition begun by Paul, the number of Christians is 2 billion - the largest religion ever known.
Paul went on the road endlessly.
He was arrested and thrown into prison.
He was whipped, he was shipwrecked, he suffered thirst and starvation.
He said he was beset by pagans, Jews, brigands and wild beasts.
This was the power of the word carried around the world at the pace of one man's tramp.
Paul's journey came to an end at the centre of the empire, Rome.
He was arrested for starting a riot by preaching about Jesus in a Jewish temple.
Now he was prepared to use his own death as a spiritual weapon that would shake the whole empire.
It's said that, in Rome, Paul was beheaded.
He'd normally have faced the far more agonising death of crucifixion, but Paul was a Roman citizen, and the Romans didn't crucify their own.
Except, of course, that Paul was no longer their own.
All around the Mediterranean world, little groups of his mysterious new sect, the Christians, were appearing and beginning to spread.
The execution of Christians was turned into mass entertainment all across the empire, from the Colosseum in Rome to provincial theatres in north Africa.
CHEERING On the morning of March 7th, 203, a small group of prisoners was led into the arena at Carthage.
Among them was a young woman called Vibia Perpetua.
As a Christian, she'd been condemned to death for the amusement of the crowd.
Perpetua's is one of the few female voices that have come down to us from the ancient world.
It was preserved from an account she wrote in the filth and darkness of a Roman jail.
BABY WAILS PERPETUA: "We were put into prison.
I was terrified.
" "I'd never been in such a dark hole.
"It was crowded, the heat was stifling," "and I was tortured with worry for my baby.
" These don't seem to be the words of a historian or a priest telling us about Perpetua.
We think these are the young woman's words from her own mouth at a very tough time indeed, because her father had driven himself almost insane, pleading with her to recant and save her life.
Her husband had cleared off and, in prison, she was left with her baby son.
BABY WAILS "My baby was faint from hunger.
" DOORS CLANG "In my anxiety, I spoke to my mother and brother about the child.
" Huc veni.
Absiste ab eis.
"And I gave the child in their charge.
" SPEAKS IN LATIN BABY WAILS "I was in pain because I saw them suffering out of pity for me.
" PANICKED, SOBBING BREATHS The night before her execution, Perpetua had an extraordinary vision of what would happen to her.
"I gazed upon an immense crowd who watched in amazement.
" "Then, a horrible-looking Egyptian came at me "with his backers to fight with me.
" "And there came to me as my helpers handsome young men.
" "I was stripped and became a man.
"Then my helpers began to rub me with oil," "and I saw that Egyptian rolling in the dust.
" BABY WAILS "And we began to fight.
" "He tried to grab hold of my feet "while I struck at his face with my heels.
" "And I was lifted up in the air "and began to thrust at him as if spurning the earth.
" "I joined my hands and I took hold upon his head "and he fell on his face.
"And I trod upon his head.
" "The people began to shout and my supporters to exult.
" "Then I awoke.
" "And realised that I was not to fight with beasts," "but against the Devil.
" Dreams like this carry a revolutionary Christian message - ordinary people matter.
They are the arena of a cosmic struggle between good and evil.
This is a rare glimpse inside the mind of an early Christian martyr.
Perpetua's extraordinary dream is the last thing we have in her own words.
But her final confrontation with Rome came the following day, when she was led into the arena with another young woman called Felicitas.
Watching was a fellow Christian, and we have that eyewitness account of what followed.
CHEERING MAN: "The people demanded they be brought forward.
" "They rose and went towards the place they would be martyred.
" CLAMOURING VOICES AND CHEERING "They remained still and were put to the sword in silence.
" "Then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator" "and guided it to her throat.
" GRUNTS MUTED APPLAUSE For the Christians, this was less about death than victory over death.
The Romans found this cult of martyrdom strange and confusing.
But they did see something they valued, which was that to suffer bravely was to win great honour.
And so Perpetua had taken a humiliating public death and turned it into a kind of victory for faith.
The promise of Heaven attracted more converts than Rome could possibly kill.
Within 100 years of Perpetua's death, Christianity had spread right across the Roman world.
Shopkeepers, administrators, merchants and then finally, in 337, the Emperor Constantine - a man who'd come to power by military coup, and was an enthusiastic political assassin, announced his conversion.
Christianity would never be the same again.
Constantine was the first person to make Christianity a fighting religion.
Before, Christians hadn't even been supposed to join the military.
They were, like Perpetua, pacifists.
Now, the cross became a sword.
The Roman response to spiritual revolt was, in the end, just so Roman - pragmatic, shrewd.
They reached out and they assimilated even this revolutionary cult and they made it Roman.
It's hard to know whether to admire this or despise it.
The merger between Christianity and worldly power would long survive the Roman Empire.
It's a basic foundation of the Western world.
But not all empires leave a legacy when they collapse.
Around the rest of the world, other cultures were still trying to appease nature.
535 to 536 was known around the world as the year without sunshine.
From Irish monks to historians in Byzantium and Antarctic ice cores, the same story emerges of a catastrophic year of dark skies and crop failures.
WIND HOWLS All the mass spiritual movements in China, India and the Roman world could only shiver and endure.
But it proved catastrophic to the Nazca culture on the Pacific coast of South America.
The Nazca were great engineers and artists.
But they also provide the ultimate reply to the lazy idea that native peoples are bound to have a wise and harmonious relationship with nature.
The Nazca left behind these immense lines and pictures, created between 200 and 600 AD.
The drawing range from hundreds to thousands of metres in length.
Many can only be understood from the air, as if they were drawn for gods to see.
The Nazca left us a lot more than their lines.
Those little hills you can see behind me were once pyramids surrounded by great plazas and dominated by one huge, central pyramid 30 metres high.
Because this was the Nazcas' holy city of Cahuachi.
It must have been quite a sight.
And not just the buildings.
Nazca priests were selected as infants and their skulls were shaped with boards and tightened bandages until they became bizarrely long and pointed.
Their job was to buy off angry gods - a form of social insurance paid in severed heads.
The victims were their own people.
And here is one.
This is a young man.
And this is not a model.
Out here in the desert, very little rots.
But all round the world, it seemed a good idea to kill people and offer them to the gods, and by doing that, try to control the rains or the earthquakes or whatever the trouble was.
But there seems to have been a sudden increase in human sacrifice here.
And it seems to have happened because the Nazca were making a terrible mistake.
The key plant in the desert here was the huarango tree.
Its roots plunge as much as 15 metres into the earth to find water - the key to life.
Aqueducts, lined with boulders, brought water from the mountains to these reservoirs, called puquios.
The water irrigated the crops and kept Cahuachi alive.
As the population grew, they needed more food.
Huarango trees were torn down to make way for crops.
Big mistake.
The Nazca didn't realise that the huarango tree was also the key to the desert ecosystem.
Its deep roots kept the soil and their world together.
For hundreds of years, the Nazca kept offering up heads to the gods, cutting down the huarango trees and maintaining their extraordinary, underground water system.
And the water kept flowing and life was good.
And then came bad news from the sky.
That fateful year without sunshine, in 535, covered the world in a shroud.
THUNDERCLAPS The Nazca then experienced an apocalyptic 30 years of rain.
Without the roots of the huarango trees, the soil was washed away.
Then the rains were followed by 30 years of drought.
The earth was left hard and lifeless.
It's been suggested that as the Nazca became more desperate, they sacrificed more and more of their people and created more and more of their lines.
But none of it worked.
The Nazca spent all that time thinking about severed heads when all along, it was the severed trees that really mattered.
The Nazca vanished into the Andes Mountains, taking their gods with them.
History is littered with gods, ideas and civilisations which didn't last.
But at just this time, another desert people arose whose beliefs would stand the test of time.
They'd achieve this by taking the merger between spirituality and politics that Roman Christianity had started and pushing it much further.
Mecca, 620 AD.
According to Islamic tradition, Bilal Ibn Rabah was an African slave from Ethiopia.
Allahu Akbar.
He was a secret follower of a radical new faith called Islam.
Like Judaism and Christianity, it believed in one god and many of the same prophets.
Allahu Akbar.
Bilal's owner was Umayyah Ibn Kaliff, a tribal chief.
Umayyah's latest enemies were followers of a new preacher called Muhammad - a tough guy known to his disciples as The Prophet.
And his creed he called Islam, which means "submission to the will of God".
And like the Christians, Muhammad preached equality in the eyes of God to all people - rich and poor, slave and free alike.
Quite rightly, Umayyah saw this as a challenge to his own tribal authority and now one of his own slaves, Bilal, was secretly following Muhammad.
Bilal! BIRD CRIES Ummayah's men dragged the young slave into the desert and they laid him out on the burning hot sand.
YELLS He was pinned down and ordered to reject Muhammad's revolutionary message.
Like Perpetua in her prison, Bilal refuse to submit.
Allahu Akbar.
Allahu Akbar! He simply repeated, "God is great.
" Allahu Akbar.
Allahu Akbar! Violence couldn't stop the passion of spiritual rebellion.
It failed to in Rome, and it would fail to in Arabia.
But news of Bilal's suffering and faith soon spread.
One of Muhammad's companions bought his freedom.
(Allahu Akbar.
) (Allahu Akbar.
) As Muhammad's followers grew more defiant, the tribal chiefs drove them out of Mecca.
The Muslims then fled to Medina and took Bilal with them.
Bilal helped to build a simple place for Muslims to come together and to pray - the first mosque.
And it's said that Bilal's was the very first voice to make that distinctive Muslim call to prayer - the Adhan.
HE CHANTS Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar.
Wa asyhadu anna Muhammadar rasulullah.
Allahu Akbar.
Bilal joined Muhammad's armies as they won one victory after another across the Arabian Peninsula.
The Muslims took spiritual struggle and military struggle and they bound them together.
So, in the end, they almost seemed to be the same thing.
SHOUTING Muhammad's armies made invasion a religious duty.
With one language and one God, Islam expanded far faster than Christianity or Buddhism.
Except that Islam didn't really expand.
It exploded.
Within 120 yeas of Muhammad's death, his followers had converted and taken control of societies from Central Asia to Spain, an area even larger than the Roman Empire.
Some of the most creative and powerful civilisations in world history would be built in the name of Islam.
5 billion people around the world obey the call to prayer - the tradition begun by Bilal.
MUEZZIN'S CALL TO PRAYER RESOUNDS In these 1,000 years, the most densely populated parts of the planet were transformed by new beliefs and new religions.
And the shocking, swift impact of Islam really does provide the correct climax to this period.
The power of the sword is strong.
Old fact.
The power of faith is strong.
New fact.
You take the power of the sword and of faith, and put them together and you have the most fearsome human force on the planet.
In the next programme - the golden age of Islam .
the Vikings - nation-shapers .
Genghis Khan rewrites the story .
and Europe emerges as the surprising winner.
If you'd like to know a little bit more about how the past is revealed, you can order a free booklet called How Do They Know That? Just call 08453660255 or go to bbc.
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