Sunday 23 November 2014

I crossed the Euphrates and didn't know it

The friend I stayed with in Iraq just told me that I crossed the Euphrates, the day we went to Lalish, the Yazidi shrine. Why didn't he tell me at the time? Because it was a brook or dried up river bed where we crossed it, he said, but even so he should have spoken. But four years later, I feel a sense of glory. What other river except the Tigris is as impressive as the Euphrates?

It is one of the rivers of Babylon, by which the psalmist lay down and wept.

I did know that I was on the plain of Nineveh though regrettably most of it was outside the Kurdish region and therefore slightly too dangerous.

I wrote about this journey here

Rereading my account, I like the quotation from Bernard Lewis

The Roman Empire and the medieval Islamic Empire were not conquered by more civilized peoples, they were conquered by less civilized but more vigorous peoples. But in both cases what made the conquest, with the Barbarians in Rome and the Mongols in Iraq, what made it possible was things were going badly wrong within the society so that it was no longer able to offer effective resistance.

I should say, as a gloss on this, that I do not see the Islamists conquering the West in battle, though they are wreaking much damage in Kurdish Iraq. I think if Western civilisation ceases to exist it will be because Western women do not have enough children. But I am a bachelor, so I do not have locus standi in that debate.


  1. Sorry that Europe is too ecumenical, multireligious and open for your taste. Much prefer it to the 100 percent Muslim violence-fest that has bloomed in Iraq in the last year or so. I wonder if the Christian friends you met not long ago have fled the country.

  2. re: vigorous peoples, that's a point made centuries back by ibn khaldun and can be traced back to tacitus. henry hopwood

  3. Western men don't want to get married and have children (especially not a lot of them) early either.