03 December 2016

Civilization and inequality

Sphinx and pyramid at Giza
In Egypt’s palmy days, industry, foreign commerce, and successful wars poured untold wealth into the coffers of the pharaohs and the nobles. Their magnificent palaces and houses, of sun-dried brick or stone, were sumptuously equipped with richly inlaid furniture, beautiful tapestries, and the handiwork of accomplished sculptors, painters, goldsmiths, jewellers and glaziers.

Ancient Egypt is like a bright pupil who walks off with a whole batch of first and second prizes. By 3800 BC, her people were working copper mines [...] Their sailing ships and their use of stone in building are the earliest on record. They may be the creators, before 1500 BC, of the first known alphabet, in which each sign represents a single letter. They made the first materials for true writing – at all events in the Western world [...]

The great pyramid of Cheops at Giza stands 450 feet high and, it is said, employed the labour of 100,000 men for twenty years. *

Civilization arises from, and is maintained by, inequality.
In ancient Egypt, people fulfilling different functions had very different lifestyles.

* The Living World of History, London: Collins, 1963, p.11

Update: My colleague Fabian has posted about the meaning of the word “liberal”.