by Martin Cothran

Most people think of National Geographic as a fairly objective source. But what can you say about a publication that publishes an article about the most influential figures of ancient history and, well, leaves out many of the most influential figures of ancient history?


The cover of the most recent National Geographic magazine.

Here is Joseph Pearce at Intellectual Takeout, commenting on National Geographic‘s very significant blind spots when it comes to history:

Divided into four chapters spanning from the kingdom of Mesopotamia to the reign of the Emperor Constantine, the issue gives preeminence to secular rulers who spread their “influence” through brute force and manipulation, i.e. military conquest and Machiavellian realpolitik. History is seen, therefore, as being nothing but the use and abuse of political power with “the most influential figures of ancient history” reading like a litany of Nietzschean Supermen, whose hubris lords it over a powerless and anonymous humanity: History as a triumphal succession of Ubermenschen exerting their will to power over nameless because meaningless Untermenschen. As for the names of the Supermen, the full list would prove tedious to repeat but it includes Cyrus the Great, Darius I, Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Pericles, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Trajan and Constantine. The only philosophers to make the list are Confucius and Socrates. Plato and Aristotle are passed over as footnotes. The influence of western philosophy is therefore ignored or dismissed, even though this was the very prism through which Europe saw itself for centuries upon centuries. Long after the influence of long dead rulers had faded into dust and ashes, the ideas of Plato and Aristotle were shaping the way that a whole civilization saw itself and the cosmos. Can anyone really claim that the influence of King Sargon of Akkad or Hammurabi, king of Babylon, has been as great as that of the great Greek philosophers?

And not only that, but two figures who are arguably the most influential figures in Western history are missing as well:

Others who failed to make the list include Moses and any of the Hebrew prophets, without whom none of the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) would have been possible. Regardless of how one might feel about religion, its influence is far greater than that of Queen Hatshepsut who makes the list of Supermen as an honorary Superwoman. Can we really take seriously a list that excludes Moses but includes Thutmose III?

Oh, and Jesus also fails to make the list. He’s mentioned as a passing footnote, warranting fewer words than Prince Khaemwaset and Sima Qian.

Read the rest here.

Categories: Exordium


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