In the first chapter of Genocide: A World History by Norman Naimark, the author touched on very important ideas about the occurrences of genocide in ancient history. There was a potential bias that I noticed while reading, which affected the truthful nature of the book. The author noted that the Old Testament could not be used as a reliable account of genocide. The author discredited the Bible as a truthful source, yet continued to discuss the genocides that it describes in order to prove a point. However, regardless of this bias, I agreed with the author’s claim that genocide within the Bible is important because it has inspired others to act with violence and to mass murder groups of people in the name of religion.
The author made a good point that no genocide that occurred before written history can be regarded as true, regardless of archaeological signs of a mass murder. Without recorded eye witness accounts, there is no way to be sure if a genocide occurred. One fact about the Romans that I found interesting, yet disturbing at the same time, was that they waited for a viable reason to arise that would allow them to justify attacking the Carthaginians. A major theme that I noticed throughout Naimark’s discussion of ancient genocides was that many civilizations put the blame onto their victims in any way possible. Even though this book mostly explains the history of genocide, I did get a lot out of the author’s analysis of events beyond the historical descriptions. This book is well-written, concise, and thoroughly explains the history of genocide using an outsider perspective.
Before reading this chapter, I had never considered why a civilization or country could wipe out another group of people without knowing anything about it. I agreed with Naimark’s explanation for this, which stated that many ancient civilizations were never challenged by other groups for perpetrating a mass killing. I thought that this was an important point that needed to be raised in order to understand the difference between genocides that occurred during ancient history and more modern genocides. Although the reasons for mass murder used by many of the cultures discussed in this chapter are different than those used in more modern times, Naimark’s comment that genocide is constant throughout history, despite the reasonings behind it, was, for me, the most important point of this chapter.
1. Why were genocides committed by ancient civilizations more externally-driven instead of internally-driven?
2. Are genocides that took place in ancient history viewed differently than genocides from modern times?
3. The author noted that Sparta’s victims of mass killing were “alien” in nature. How important of a factor was that to the Spartans in attacking another group of people?