Indo-Europeans the Nomads of the Steppes By Brian Simpson
In his paper “Indo-Europeans were the Most Historically Significant Nomads of the steppes,” Cliodynamics, vol. 4, 2013, pp. 30-43, Ricardo Duchesne gives us a fascinating glimpse at European pre-history. The Indo-Europeans were a pastoral people who originated from the Pontic Caspian steppes, and in the fourth millennium BC, culturally colonised Europe through their use of what at the time was advanced technology, such as the domestication of horses, the use of wheeled vehicles and the invention of chariots.
His paper compares and contrasts, the Indo-Europeans to the non-Indo-European nomads, such as the Scythians, Sogdians, Turks, and Huns. These nomads did not engage in cultural colonisation, but settled for trade and perhaps a spot of conquest. The Indo-Europeans, “organized as war bands bound together by oaths of aristocratic loyalty and fraternity, they thoroughly colonized Europe with their original pastoral package of wheel vehicles, horse-riding, and chariots, combined with the ‘secondary-products revolution.’” What is even more interesting is the social structure of these war bounds, which was probably the secret ingredient leading to their success:
“Indo-Europeans were uniquely ruled by a class of free aristocrats grouped into war-bands that were egalitarian within rather than ruled by autocrats. These bands were contractual associations of peers operating outside strictly kin ties, initiated by any powerful individual on the merits of his martial abilities. The relation between the chief and his followers was personal and based on mutual agreement: the followers would volunteer to be bound to the leader by oaths of loyalty wherein they would promise to assist him while the leader would promise to reward them from successful raids. Indo-Europeans prized heroic warriors striving for individual fame and recognition, often with a ‘berserker’ style of warfare. This aristocratic culture was the primordial source sustaining the unparalleled cultural creativity and territorial expansionism of Western civilization. The Iliad, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, including such Irish, Icelandic and Germanic Sagas as Lebor na hUidre, Njals Saga, Gisla Saga Sursonnar, The Nibelungenlied recount the heroic deeds and fame of aristocrats. These are the earliest voices from the dawn of Western civilization.
Duchesne goes on to argue that this was also the raw germ leading to the rise of the West:
“In my book, I argue that the West has always been in a state of divergence from the rest of the world’s cultures, characterized by persistent creativity from ancient to modern times across all fields of human thought and action. Within every generation one finds individuals searching for new worlds, new religious visions, and new styles of painting, architecture, music, science, philosophy, and literature—in comparative contrast to the non-Western world where cultural outlooks tended to persist for long periods with only slight variations and revisions. Using Charles Murray’s, Human Accomplishment, Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 BC to 1950,1 I point out, for example, that ninety-seven percent of accomplishment in the sciences occurred in Europe and North America from 800 BC to 1950. In a subsequent publication, I note that around ninety-five percent of all explorers in history were European (2012). It is my claim that the ultimate roots of this creativity should be traced back to the aristocratic warlike culture of the Indo-Europeans.
“Starting from their homelands in present-day Ukraine, the IEs successfully colonized the entire
European continent retaining while civilizing their elemental aristocratic ways. During the course of their migratory movements they exhibited a variety of cultural and linguistic forms, including the Yamnaya culture (3400-2300), which spread across the Caspian region and moved into the Danube region; followed by the Corded Ware or Battle Axe culture, which extended itself across northern Europe from the Ukraine to Belgium after 3000BC; followed by the Bell-Beaker culture, which grew within Europe and spread further westwards into Spain and northwards into England and Ireland between 2800-1800BC.5 The Indo-Europeans also spread eastwards across the steppes as far as the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China. While these groups did have important influences on Chinese ancient culture, they were eventually absorbed by other non-IE cultures. The ones who migrated into the Greek mainland went on to create the first Indo-European ‘civilization’: Mycenae. The Mycenaean warriors comprised the background to archaic and classical Greece. The Macedonians rejuvenated the martial virtues of Greece after the debilitating Peloponnesian War, and went on to conquer Persia and create the basis for the intellectual harvest of Alexandrian Greece. The third barbarian Indo-Europeans who developed a civilization were the early Romans who founded an aristocratic republic, preserved the legacy of Greece, and cultivated their own Latin tradition. The fourth were the Celtic-Germanic peoples who interacted for some centuries with the Romans, and then continued the Western legacy. Despite the eventual decline of classical Greece, the stagnation and break-up of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (out of the Western cultural orbit), and the aging despotism of Imperial Rome, the dynamic spirit of the West was sustained several times over thanks to the infusion of new sources of aristocratic peoples brought on by fresh waves of barbarians.”
Reading this fascinating history, I wondered where this will lead to now. Has the genetic racial vitality of the West been totally destroyed and we are just in motion because of the momentum of the past, or is their still a vital Faustian spirit there, that will grow into a new civilisation, once this one collapses, as it will inevitably do?