is one of South Asia's oldest epic poems. The work--transmitted
and transformed orally for centuries before being written down and
attributed to the poet Valmiki in the fourth century--is a mix of
politics, history, myth, religion and adventure that tells the story of
Rama and Sita. The poem also very much resembles Homer's The Odyssey and Iliad in its structure and form;
but unlike Homer's work, the Ramayana
has continued to undergo transformation and further development since
its origin. The version used in this course is by R. K. Narayan
and based on an eleventh-century Tamil edition of the epic.
(K'ung fu-tzu, 551-479 bce) was one of the world's most important philosophers.
His teaching provided an ethical system that formed the background
of Chinese government and society for centuries. Ousted from government
service at an earl y age, Confucius turned to teaching and reflections.
The Analects (Lun Yü) contain some of his sayings and
conversations as recorded by his disciples.
The Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
written by Bartolomé De Las Casas (1484-1576) in 1542 and
published in 1552 is a clear and stunning indictment of Spanish
policies in the New World in the sixteenth century. De Las Casas,
"the defender and apostle to the Indians," was appalled at what he saw
first hand of Spanish treatment of the Indians, and he vehemently
argued for a more "Christian" policy towards these peoples. His
account is one of the most important surviving sources about the early
history of the New World.
The Popol Vuh
is the Mayan account of the creation of the earth and man. A long oral epic, probably
first written in Mayan pictographs centuries ago, the epic
disappeared during the Spanish conquest of Central America. The
Spanish, as Christians, burned all Mayan books that they could
find. In the late sixteenth century, an unknown Mayan transcribed
the Popol Vuh into the Quiché language. Then, about two centuries
later, a local priest, Father Francisco
Ximenez, found that transcription in his church in Chichicastenango,
Guatemala. Again, there was a time lapse as the translation done
by Father Ximenez into Spanish was lost--it is now in the Newberry
Library in Chicago.
were a group of nomadic tribes occupying roughly what is now
Mongolia. In the thirteenth century these tribes that united
under the leadership of Genghis Khan (1162-1227). Mongol armies
quickly swept south into China and west into Russia and the Near East,
smashing anyone who dared to resist. By about 1300, the Mongols
had erected a huge empire, divided into several smaller "pieces."
Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn 'Abdallah ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim
al-Lawati ibn Battuta, or "ibn Battuta" for short, (1304-1368) was a Muslim legal scholar and traveler of the
fourteenth century. His Rihla, or book of travels, which Ross Dunn has loosely translated and adapted as The Adventures of Ibn Battuta,
was his version of those journeys from North Africa to China and from
the south Russian steppe to sub-Saharan Africa. His book remains
one of the most important historical sources about the nature and scope
of Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) in the fourteenth century.