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MECHANICS OF HISTORY  -  laws to understand the histtory

The World History Rewritten section of this site is a short voyage thorough the human history. It should not be treated as a complete compendium of our history but rather as an illustration of practical use of tools presented in this work. The whole lecture goes in more or less chronological order.

Ancient civilizations

1. Origins of first civilizations
3. Minoan civilization
2. Links to ancient civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotamia)
4. Simplified chronology

Cream frames on every page of this lecture present useful historical links. Here are some links about general history:
A short course of World History plus some maps (very schematic).
For more precise maps go to UT Library Online or to Maps of Ancient World.
Short information about persons, states, events, etc. you can find in Wikipedia (ex. Sumerian mythology) or in wiki.tatet.com (ex. Mesopotamia) - both use the same database.


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Origins of first civilizations

It is hard to describe the very beginning of first civilizations (and first states), because there are no written documents that could help us. Of course we could find some clues analyzing the most advanced cultures North American Indian, early African states (which were described by European voyagers and traders) or history of Medieval Ireland, but you should remember that many “facts” from ancient history are really reasonable guesses made by historians. So, I am not going to describe the exact reasons for uprising of early countries.

According to models presented here, the very first states appear with the invention of the trade. When ancient communities accumulated enough technologies (generally pottery, mining, agriculture and domestication of animals) to create the surplus of goods that could be traded, the first states and governments appeared. We can discover the choice of very first traded goods analyzing the system of clay tokens from Syria and Mesopotamia region. These tokens were sealed in clay envelopes and were (probably) used as a kind of money or credit - an owner of goods could go to another city and after presenting the envelope, could get these goods from local “banker”. Generally, the very first civilizations emerged in regions that had large agricultural surplus and easy ways to trade them. The best places were river valleys.

About clay tokens from which evolved Sumerian cuneiform writing.
Ancient systems of writing.
Art history timelines (useful in archeology).

First governments could emerge in many ways:

  • A village could be conquered or dominated by some military group which will collect non-voluntary tax from merchants, craftsmen and peasants as a charge for “protection”. The leader of such group sooner or later becomes a king. It is the mob-like (or mafia-like) scenario.
  • A family, or the group of families could buy or collect large share of land this way taking control of the majority of the land owned by the village community. In consequence they can dominate poorer peasants, and turn them into clients or dependent peasants. The head of the strongest clan (family) sooner or later becomes a king.
  • A village community could nominate a group of people to build some constructions important for the community (like irrigation system or temples). These administrators could become a privileged group of “administration aristocracy”, and eventually the most influential of them (like the great priest) could become a king.
  • A group of the richest merchants could constitute a council and government to administrate the village, and to promote the trade and production.

Sometimes the village turns into feudal country and sometimes immediately becomes a populistic country. When the location of the village offers possibilities to easy expansion, the village usually becomes a feudal state. When the village is located in a place that is the nexus of important trade routes and the village have limited space to expand (because of natural borders or other strong villages in the close vicinity), it usually becomes the populistic state - good example here were Sumerian city-states. Sometimes a group of neighbouring villages form a tribal federation which eventually evolves into a feudal state.


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Links to ancient civilizations


Ancient Sumer
Here is the short and black introduction to Ancient Sumeria (broken) see http://history-world.org/sumeria.htm about Sumer.
Or Wikipedia article about Sumer.
And comprehensive archive of cuneiform texts.
See also books of Samuel Noah Kramer.

So, somewhere in the fourth millennia BC (4000-3000 BC) the civilization of Sumer emerged in a swamp region close to the sea coast of Arabian Gulf in Mesopotamia. Our knowledge about the history of these city-states is not complete, but remained writings give us enough proves to be sure that Sumeria was the civilization of populistic, merchant city-states (here we can find for example the very first parliament consisted of two-chambers) fighting with each other - more or less the same as in Ancient Greece. Trade and inventions of Sumerians accelerated development of Mesopotamia and probably India (maybe also Egypt).

At the end of 4th millennia trade backbone of river Nile was united and the kingdom of Egypt emerged - probably the first large feudal state. Somewhere in the 3rd millennia emerged the civilization Harappa & Mohenjo Daro (maybe populistic) in the Indus Valley in India and Minoan civilization on the islands of Aegean Sea (for sure populistic). We cannot be sure when the first feudal state in China appeared (in a the Valley of Yellow River - today’s Shaanxi, Henan and Shanxi provinces) but probably also more or less the same time.

Ancient Egypt links
Here is the complete site about Ancient Egypt (I wish all sites I quote here were like this one).
Or short and little more complete summaries of the history of Ancient Egypt, for those who want only a brief introduction.

Populistic cultures made some important technology advances that enables great colonization and trade expansion of these civilizations. After some time (about 2400 B.C.) populistic cultures of Sumer city-states goes to the limits of their expansion and was conquered by barbarian tribes - since then the history of Mesopotamia is the story of successive feudal empires (Akkad, Babylonia, Assyria periodically invaded by barbarians. Somewhere in the middle of 3rd millennia a Minoan civilization (see below) started expansion in Mediterranean basin.

Mesopotamia links
Short chronological history of Mesopotamia
Quick review of Ancient Middle East.
Useful link-site for Mesopotamia.

Ancient Civilizations of the Old World (3000-1500 BC), map
Map added - October 2006 (based on http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/images/riv-vall.gif)

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Minoan civilization

Minoan civilization evolved on Crete and other islands of Aegean Sea in the Bronze Age. Military expansion across the sea is more expensive that land expansion, so Minoan Empire expansion was probably mostly the trade expansion and thus could last longer and spread over the larger area. A few hundred year before the final fall, economy of the Minoan Empire probably started to decline. This crisis forced Minoans to start military expansion (mentioned in Greek myths) and launched the migrations of Indo-European barbarian tribes. Minoan state finally fell about 1500 BC because of eruption of volcano on Thira (or Thera) island and the invasion of Greek tribes.

Why Minoan civilization was populistic?
First, why I believe that Minoan civilization was populistic:

  • In Egyptian writings Minoans (called Keftiu) were always mentioned as a traders, and the lists of traded goods shows that Minoans had to trade with many distant countries.
  • There are no evidences of intensive military expansion in close vicinity of Crete (except the last decades before the final fall of Minoan civilization). There are no great monuments to glorify great kings and conquerors.
  • Minoans had large fleet and ruled over the seas. This is typical for merchant countries that have to protect large sea trade. 
  • The scale of migrations launched by the fall of Minoan civilization is too large for a feudal country. When a feudal country falls, the fall is relatively shallow and barbarian tribes which conquers the country are usually absorbed by the higher culture.
  • Minoan art is typical for populistic countries (i.e. very distributed), where the money for art comes from large number of quite rich people, not only from the monarch’s court.

Minoan and Ancient Aegean links
Short summary of Minoan Civilization.
Minoan Crete archeological sites.
Maps of Ancient Crete.
Academic lectures about Aegean Region in Bronze Age.

Why I believe that Minoan trade spanned the whole Mediterranean region?
Well, let’s compare Crete with Netherlands in XVIth and XVIIth century. Netherlands, a relatively small country, had colonies in such a distant places as Indonesia or South Africa, and almost no colonies (only trade outposts) on the coasts of large feudal countries or in places where trade was less profitable (like Africa or Northern America).

The same was probably true for Minoans. Crete was too small island to conquer feudal states and strong barbarian tribes, so Minoans probably had only a trade outposts and maybe small colonies in places that could offer goods for profitable sea trade (such as: ivory, gold, copper, tin, slaves, pottery, etc.). So its perfectly legal for Minoans to have trade outposts in Georgia (Kolchida or Kolkhida), Romania, Northern Turkey, Tunisia, Spain or Italy (maybe also in Etruria).

Of course there are only weak evidences here:

  • Trade with Black Sea region have to be important, because of the wealth city of Troia (Troy).
  • There are numerous archeological evidences of rapid economic development of different communities which lived on Mediterranean coast more or less 2000 BC.
  • Probably Phoenicians took over some of Minoan colonies. This could explain, how they could start such a distant trade (with Northern Africa and Spain), very soon after the fall of Minoan civilization (actually its Myceanean successors ca. 1200 BC).
  • Directions of migrations of Indo-European tribes suggest some locations of Minoan trade outposts (ex. Black Sea region, Italy). 
  • And most important, Minoan artifacts were found by archaeologists in different places around the west coasts of Mediterranean Sea.

Why the eruption of Thira volcano was so destructive?
It was probably the strongest eruption of volcano in historic times (a few times stronger than eruption of Krakatau volcano in 1883). The Isle of Thira (Thera) exploded and disappeared - today here are few small isles around an undersea volcano.

  • Great Tsunami waves probably destroyed all ports and ships on northern coasts of Crete and in all colonies in close vicinity (Greek cities of Athens and Argos were built a few miles from coast because of the fear of Poseidon’s anger - i.e. probably tsunami).
  • Volcanic ashes probably destroyed most of the farms on Crete causing hunger.
  • Floating pumice probably blocked ports and coasts for many months, making sailing across the Aegean Sea very difficult.

So, the eruption destroyed the trade of Minoan Empire launching the economic crisis and the final collapse of Minoan state came sooner.

Greek tribes (Achaians) that conquered Crete, formed here and in Greece some feudal states (Mycenian civilization). Around 1200 B.C. they probably destroyed the state of Troia, and shortly after that they were conquered by another Greek tribes (these times Dorians).

A word about migration of Indo-European tribes
Migrations of Indo-European tribes had a few stages:

  • It was started probably around 2000 B.C, when Indo-Europeans (probably) came to Greece and Asia Minor.
  • Then, there was a migration launched by the fall of Minoan Empire (more or less 1500 B.C.).
  • And the migration after the fall of Troy and Mycenian civilization (more or less 1200 B.C., the same time as the invasion of “sea nations” into Egypt).

To be honest, I don’t know reasons for the first wave of Indo-European migrations (except that it was launched by some economic changes in the Black Sea basin). Of course it is possible that the Minoan civilization before 2000 B.C. traded with Black Sea region, then started to trade with West Mediterranean Sea region, and that shift of trade launched the first migrations of Indo-Europeans. It is possible, and very likely (according to mechanisms which drives great barbarian migrations), but you have to remember that there is no material proof for this hypothesis. 

Invasion of Sea Nations (and Dorians) was the beginning of the dark period in the history of Aegean Sea region. It is important to note (and this will be true for the fall of the Roman Empire and early centuries of Medieval Ages too) that when the general level of technologies declined, the most basics technologies did not. Technologies that were used in a day-to-day human existence - in agriculture, sea sailing or war - remain on more or less the same level as before the fall, and there was even some advances (for example use of iron weapons). Only the high-level technologies: like a writing or advanced construction technologies used in Minoan palaces, completely disappeared. Common, everyday technologies are very important, even if are less spectacular than “great discoveries”, because these technologies create the economical basement for building more advanced communities and cultures.

And a final note:
You have to remember that generally all “facts” from the ancient history (i.e. before 500 B.C.)  bases  in a great part on guesses made by historians. So the same is true for my constructs. Using my laws I am quite sure that Sumer and Minoan civilizations were populistic, but everything I am writing here about the migrations of Indo-European tribes and the political system of ancient India civilization is no more than guessing.

Warsaw, 19 November 2003
Last revision: April-May 2006


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Simplified chronology 


Below is the general timeline of ancient civilizations for your reference.

Again Ancient Art timelines
Major events by centuries
And simple chronological graph of ancient civilizations

Generally, all ancient chronologies are unclear. Before the first Olympic Games (776 BC) people were counting time in relative manner (example: third year of king X rule), chronicles are incomplete, and some cities and artifacts are dated only roughly (using archaeological methods). Therefore you may find (many) other chronologies of ancient history before the first millennium BC.

As an example of problems historians have with Ancient History see controversial David Rohl’s “New Chronology. And graphical timeline based on New Chronology.
The same problems we have with the chronology of Mesopotamia.
As you can see, there are a few hundred years „mistake margin” in ancient chronologies.

ca. 10000 BC End of the last Ice Age.
ca. 9000 BC First “cities” in Middle East. One of the oldest was Jericho in Palestine.
9000-4000 BC Neolithic revolution. Humans, especially in Middle East made many discoveries that for the first civilizations. Especially discoveries in agriculture and domestication of animals allowed the rapid growth of population, and created the food surplus that allowed the emergence of civilizations. First discoveries of this technological “revolution” were agriculture and pottery, and last were writing, bronze working and wheel.

Why the Fertile Crescent of Middle East? Probably there was two reasons:
  • Thanks to the climate region was very fertile, therefore new discoveries in agriculture were very effective. Population density increased and the number of inventors too.
  • Middle East was a kind of “crossroads” of trade routes. Therefore the diffusion of new technologies between human communities was faster.
In other regions Neolithic Revolution started later (although it is not the rule, for example the oldest pottery come from Japan and Korea). And finally Middle East buildings of stone and clay last longer than wooden structures of Europe, India or China. Therefore much more archaeological evidences of early cultures survived here
8000-3000 BC Clay tokens in Mesopotamia and Syria. Probably were used as a kind of “currency” guaranteed by temples.
6200-4000 BC Ubaid period in Mesopotamia
6000 BC Many Neolithic “cities” in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, India, Egypt and China. Rather shelters against nomads than true cities.
ca. 5600 BC

Rising waters of Mediterranean Sea (after the Ice Age) overflowed the Bosphorus straight turning a freshwater lake of Black Sea into a salt sea and slowly flooding a plain between Romania and Crymea peninsula. 
Note: I use blue background for hypothesis that are not proved yet but you may find interesting.
5000 - 3200 BC
Sahara was turning from steppe to desert. Some of the nomadic tribes migrate into Egypt. Predynastic Egypt
4000 BC Number of traded goods in Mesopotamia increases, therefore system of clay tokens complicate. Some villages of Mesopotamia became “true” cities.
4000-3100 BC Important city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia (Sumeria), maybe populistic.
4th millennium BC Early Sumer (or pre-Sumer) civilization. Mesopotamian reed ships coated with tar (probably) sailed along Arabian Peninsula to Red Sea and Egypt and along Iranian coast to India. Early villages in Arabia.
4th millennium BC A few cultures in Europe thanks to flint stone mining. Stonehenge.
3300 BC
+ few centuries
Great Flood in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia (the same as China) was periodically affected by floods. One of them was especially disastrous starting a myth of Deluge (known from Bible and other Mesopotamian texts). Archaeologists found a thick layer of mud in cities of Sumeria suggesting a several week long flood, but there are no evidences if was one or a few floods.
3300-3100 BC Amount of tradable goods increases making clay token system too complicate, so it evolves in early writing system - a Cuneiform script.
ca. 3200-3100 BC The Unification of Egypt. First Pharaoh Menes-Naramer ruler of the Southern (Upper) Egypt conquered the Northern (Lower) Egypt. First large feudal state.

According to David Rohl’s hypothesis Egypt was united by the tribe of sailboat people from the coast of Red Sea (more or less like Russia was united by Vikings), who had some connections with Sumer civilization.
ca. 3000 BC Early beginnings of Indus Valley civilization (India).
ca. 3000 BC Early beginnings of Minoan civilization (island of Crete)
ca. 3000 BC Early city of Troy (close to straights between Aegean Sea and Black Sea).
ca. 3000 BC Beginning of Bronze Age (first in Mesopotamia) - axes, knifes, nails, sickles.
3100-2400 BC Sumer civilization. Several populistic city-states close to Persian Gulf: Ur, Eridu, Uruk, Umma, Lagash, Nippur, Kish, Isin, Girsu, etc. Trade expansion to “emerging markests” of Northern Mesopotamia (ex. Babylon was originally a Sumerian colony), Elam and India. Map
3100-2200 BC 
Early Dynastic period and the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Construction of Pyramids - Egypt was extremely rich these times because of coordinated agriculture and large deposits of gold. Pyramids as great government investments, had Keynesian effect on Egyptian economy.
3rd millennium BC
Indus Valley civilization. Cities of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Lothal.
3rd millennium BC
Kingdom of Elam in southern Iran.
3rd millennium BC
Pre-palace period of Minoan civilization.
2600-2400 BC Quite well documented history and every day life of Sumer. Wars between city-states. Decline of populistic civilization of Sumer.
after 2600 BC Migration of Akkadians (from Arabia) to Sumer.
ca. 2400 BC Amorites (from Syria) invade North Mesopotamia.
ca. 2350-2150 BC Akkadians united Mesopotamia creating first large feudal kingdom here. Sargon I.
ca. 2150
Guti tribes (from Zagros mountains in west Iran) destroyed Akkadian empire. Mesopotamia - opposite than relatively isolated Egypt - had open borders, so its history was much more chaotic.
2200-2100 BC First Intermediate (chaos) Period in Egypt.
After 2200 BC Populistic civilization on Minoan Crete. It is my guess based on two premises: 1. average cycle of rise and fall of populistic civilization is about 700 years (compare Greece, Phoenicia, Etruscans, Medieval-Renaissance Italy) 2. Because of economic connections there was probably some correlation between Minoan an Egyptian history (Intermediate Periods).
ca. 2150-2000 BC Feudal Sumer kingdom in Mesopotamia destroyed by Elamites.
ca. 2100 BC
First (legendary) Xia dynasty in China.
2100-1650 BC Middle Kingdom in Egypt.
around 2000 BC Few cultures in Mediterranean: Island of Malta, Island of Sardinia, Cities of El-Argar culture in Spain, Polada culture in Italy. Maybe a side effect of Minoan trade.
ca. 2000 BC First wave of migrations of Indo-European tribes (from northern coasts of Black Sea): Greeks to Greece, Hitties to Asia minor, Aryans move east (maybe to Iran).
2nd millennium BC Early cultures in America: Olmecs in Mexico, Chavin in Peru.
2000-1700 BC Many small kingdoms in Mesopotamia. Economic prosperity of early Assyria.
ca. 1900 BC Amorities conquered central Mesopotamia - capital of Babylon.
ca. 1750 BC
Babylonian Empire of Amorite king Hammurabi famous from his law code.
ca. 1700 BC
Hurrian tribes from mountains north invaded Northern Mesopotamia.
ca. 1600-1500 BC Old Hittie Kingdom in Asia Minor.
ca. 1600-1400 BC Hurrian and Indo-European Mitanni Kingdom in northern Mesopotamia.
ca. 1700-1500 BC Decline of Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro civilization.
ca. 1700-1500 BC Aryans invaded Indus Valley from north.
ca. 1650-1550 BC Second Intermediate (chaos) period in Egypt. Northern Egypt under the rule of Hyksos tribes (from Asia)
1700-1200 BC Mycenaean civilization of Achaeans in Greece
ca. 1500 BC
+70 years
Eruption of Thira volcano. Achaians (Achaeans) conquered Crete. End of Minoan civilization. Age of chaos in the Mediterranean started (see Ipuwer papyrus, section III).
ca. 1447 BC Exodus - Jews ran away from Egypt (according to “New Chronology, traditional chronology places Exodus in XIIIth century BC! - see arguments).

There is a hypothesis that Egyptian Plagues were a side-effect of Thira eruption and crossing the Sea of Reeds (hebrew Jam Suf) was possible thanks to a tsunami wave. Warning: There is absolutely no proof for this hypothesis (the same as for other Daniken-like hypotheses).
ca. 1600-1000 BC Shang dynasty in China
ca. 1500 BC Iron Age. But for a few centuries (until ca. 1200 BC) Hitties had monopoly on iron working. Age of war chariots invented by Indo-Europeans.
ca. 1600 BC Kassites (from Zargos mountains in western Iran) conquered Babylonia.
1600-1150 BC Dynasty of the Kassites in Babilonia. Cultural decline.
1400-1200 BC
New Hittie Empire.
1550-1050 BC New Kingdom in Egypt.
1500-1300 BC Military expansion of Egypt to Palestine and Syria during the XVIIIth dynasty (Thutmose III) and the XIXth dynasty (Ramses II). Wars with Mittani and Hittie (Hatti) Empire.
1500-1200 BC Achaeans (Greek) states in Greece, on Crete, and in Southern Italy (late Mycenaean civilization).
ca. 1200 BC Achaeans destroyed city of Troy.
ca. 1200-1100 BC Dorians (Greek tribes from central Greece) invasion destroyed Achaean kingdoms of Mycenaean civilization.
ca. 1200 BC Frygians (Indo-Europeans from Balkans) invaded Asia Minor and destroyed Hittie Empire.
ca. 1200 BC Probably the migration of Latin (Indo-European) tribes to Italy.
ca. 1200 BC Raids of iron-armed Sea People (Sea Nations) against Egypt and other countries in West Mediterranean.
after 1350 BC Assyria defeated the Mitanni Kingdom and became the major power in Northern Mesopotamia.
after 1200 BC Sea expansion of Phoenician city-states (from Lebanon). First Phoenician colonies: Utica (in Tunisia), Lixus (in Morocco), Gades (in Southern Spain).
after 1200 BC Culture of Tartessos in Southern Spain.
ca. 1200 BC Chaldeans (from Arabia) migrated to Mesopotamia.
ca. 1150 BC Invasion from Elam destroyed Kassities kingdom in Babylonia.
ca. 1100 BC Expansion of Assyrian under the rule of Tiglathpileser I (First Assyrian Empire).
ca. 1100-1000 BC Urartu kingdom in Armenia.
ca. 1000 BC King Solomon in Palestine.
ca. 1000 BC Beginning of Zhou dynasty in China.
ca. 1050-700 BC Third Intermediate Period in Egypt. Political decline.
1500-600 BC Aryan expansion in northern India (Ganges Valley). Many feudal states.
since 1100 BC Villanova culture in Italy - rise of populistic Etruscan city-states..
900-700 BC Second Assyrian Empire. Example of expansion of middle-income country. Assyrian conquests were very brute. First large armies equipped with iron weaponry. Late Assyrian kings (Assurbanipal) created large libraries of old Babylonian and Sumerian texts. Map.
ca. 850-800 BC Reforms of Lycurgus in Sparta - first populistic city-state in Greece.
ca 800-500 BC Greek colonization in Mediterranean
ca. 800 BC Phoenician city of Carthage (in Tunisia) founded (traditionally 814 BC).
776 BC First Olympic Games in Greece.
ca. 750 BC Rome founded (traditionally 753 BC).
770-475 BC “Springs and Autumns” period in China. Feudal decomposition of late Zhou dynasty.
712 BC Fall of the Assyrian Empire defeated by Medes (from Iran) and Babylonians (general Nabopolassar).
700-600 BC
Invasions from northern coasts of Black Sea. Cimmerians raided Assyria and Asia Minor. Then Scyths (Scythians) made some raids to Central Europe and Middle East.
712-538 BC Neo-Babylonian Empire (Chaldean Empire) of  king Nebuchadnezzar II known from the Bible. Map.
ca. 650 BC Persians subordinate Medes in Iran.
After 700 BC After 700 BC   Late Period in Egypt.
ca. 600 BC According to Herodotus Phoenician expedition launched by pharaoh Necho sailed around Africa.
593 BC 593 BC   Solon’s reforms in Athens.
ca. 550 BC
Gautama Buddha in India.
538 BC Persians leaded by king Cyrus II conquered Babylonia - Persian Empire. Map.
509 BC Banishment of Etruscan kings - populistic republic in Rome.

Dates above are rounded, simplified for reader convenience (for example 1700-1600 BC means in XVIIth century BC) and grouped to illustrate sequences of events - for example how a collapse of empire or civilization launched barbarian invasions. Here is a quick summary:

4th millennium BC Uruk Period in Mesopotamia, invention of writing, early Sumer Civilization.
3100-2300 BC Populistic Sumer city-states in Mesopotamia, Old Kingdom in Egypt. Bronze age starts.
2300-1650 BC Feudal kingdoms in Mesopotamia, Middle Kingdom in Egypt, populistic Minoan Civilization, Indus Valley Civilization.
1650-1150 BC Age of political chaos and barbarian migrations after the fall of Hammurabi Empire, Minoan Civilization and Indus Valley Civilization. A kind of ancient “dark ages”. New Kingdom in Egypt.
Since 1200 BC Sea expansion of populistic Phoenician city-states. Successive feudal empires in Mesopotamia. Iron Age starts.
Since 800 BC Sea expansion of Greek city-states. Etruscans and Rome in Italy. First reliable historical dates.

Warsaw, April-May-June 2006
Slawomir Dzieniszewski
 

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MECHANICS OF HISTORY  -  laws to understand the histtory

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