The ancient lowly
a history of the ancient working people from the earliest known period to the adoption of Christianity by Constantine
the book details :
Now, nearly twenty years after the first publication of the book, its publication has been taken over by a co-operative publishing house owned by sixteen hundred socialist clubs and individual socialists.
A systematic effort will now for the first time be made to give this author's works the wide circulation they deserve. Osborne Ward's contribution to the history of the working-class movement is unique, and its tremendous value is only beginning to be appreciated. In his chosen field, the period of ancient civilization covered by histories and inscriptions, he speaks with an authority based on a minute and comprehensive knowledge of his subject.
The case is different when he comments on another field of investigation, and it is only fair to warn the reader that the author's statements on page 38, which reappear in various forms elsewhere in the book, are now known to be erroneous.
The researches of Lewis H. Morgan in "Ancient Society," popularized by Frederick Engels in his "Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State," have stood the test of a generation of criticism, and they show conclusively that a communist form of society existed for ages before the beginning of the era described so graphically in the present work.
The great system of labour organization explained in these pages must likewise be regarded like a chapter of news. The portentous fact has lain in abeyance century after century, with the human family in profound ignorance of an organization of trades and other labour unions so powerful that for hundreds of years, they undertook and successfully conducted the business of manufacture, of distribution, of purveying provisions to armies, of feeding the inhabitants of the largest cities in the world, of inventing, supplying and working the huge engines of war, and of collecting customs and taxes — tasks confided to their care by the state.
Our civilization has a blushingly poor excuse for its profound ignorance of these facts; for the evidence have existed from much before the beginning of our era — indeed the fragments of the ravaged history were far less broken and the recorded annals much fresher more numerous and less mutilated than the relics which the author with arduous labour and pains-taking, has had at command in bringing them to the surface.
Besides the records that have come to us thus broken and distorted by the wreckers who feared the mora] blaze of literature, there were, in all probability, thousands of inscriptions then, where but dozens remain now to be consulted; and they are growing fewer and dimmer as their value rises higher in the estimation of a thinking, appreciative, gradually awakening world.
The author is keenly aware that certain critics will complain of his dragging religion bo prominently for-ward that the work is spoiled. The defence is, that though our charming histories from a point of view of brilliant events, such as daring deeds of heroes, battles and bloodshed, may be found among the ancients without encountering much of a religious nature, yet such is not the case in the lesser affairs of ancient social and political life. The state, city and family were themselves a part of the ancient religion and were a part of its property. Priests were public officers.
The homelife of the nobles was in constant conformity with the ritual. The organizations of labour were so closely watched by the jealous law that they were obliged to assume a religious attitude they did not feel in order to escape being suppressed.
A long list of what we in our time consider honourable, business-like doings, was rated as blasphemy against the gods and punished with death. Nearly all of the idolatry, with its attendant superstition and nympholepsy, its giants and prodigies, its notions oi Elysium and Tartarus, its quaking genuflexions, its bloody sacrifices and its gladiatorial wakes, had their real origin in the torture of the menials who delved, and in the rewards of the favoured ones who banqueted on the riches which flowed from unpaid labour; and nearly all the iconoclasm of the later sophists may perhaps be traced to an organized resistance of the working people of pre-Christian days.
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