Thursday, October 2, 2008

From Studying History To Making History

When I was in college at the University of Washington 1973- 76, I changed my major from Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin) to Near Eastern Languages and Literature. It seemed interesting to study these languages and there were many related languages to study. Hebrew was related to Aramaic, Ugaritic, akkadian, phoenician (Sumerian - was an unrelated language but gave a lot of loan words) and Arabic-Arabic was thought to be useful especially after the Oil Embargo after the 73 Yom Kippur War. I studied the history and saw things like the Ishtar Gate in Babylon and the Ziggurat of Ur. When I joined the Army, people asked me what I studied and they said, "You will never use that" So here I was, Apr 2003, going in to Iraq having all this historical knowledge and background.I remember waiting in a convoy for 2 officers who had run-off (there intention was get us to stay in Talil so they were talking to people to arrange a tour of the Ziggurat of Ur) and I was talking to a COL about Xenophon's Anabasis (the march up country). Centuries ago, Xenophon had assumed command of some Greek mercenaries and they were traveling up the river (the land between the 2 rivers Tigris and Euphrates) just as we were. We got to visit the Ziggurat of Ur (we were lucky because it had temporarily been closed when some soldier had defaced some of the area) It certainly was a thrill for me to see the Ziggurat and then to walk in the area of excavation. The Iraqi curator who was the grandson and son of previous curators assured us that they had found Abraham's house. (Abraham was supposed to have left Ur for the promised land). Later I got to take a day trip to Babylon. I saw the Ishtar gate, I saw the ancient cuneiform writing, and we saw reconstructions of what Daniel's lions den would have looked like.

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