Language and thoughts are intimately interwoven.  They help to define the way we behave.  Since we are effected by the confines of our own language, we always think within the confines of our own vocabulary. 

This series is about the lexical terms of institutions that define our culture, how they originated, and how they developed. In short, their stories are a mirror of our ourselves and how we think. 

One would be surprised to discover that linguistically speaking, many of our present institutions in Egypt in particular and the East in general, are a reflection of a bygone era when "Horse Culture" was paramount. 

These include present institutions such as the body of Politics "Siyasah", court "Mahkamah", system of government "Hukuwmah", Management "Idarah", our learning institutions "Madaris", wisdom "Hikmah", sports "Riyadah",  morals and  manners (chivalry) "Firuwsiyah," and much more. 

One way to investigate the "Horse Culture" of our distant  past is to explore the origins of the linguistic terms which our institutions are known by. 

Unfortunately, through usage and time, these "lexical definitions" have steadily worn off and the true meaning of these terms have systematically faded away. 

Might this linguistic deterioration be a contributing factor to our constant failure to grasp the simplest concept of governing, which leads to cultural inertia? 

Perhaps, by revisiting the dark recessions our collective linguistic subconscious, the true meaning of these terms could be resuscitated.  Perhaps in doing so, we could recapture their essence and better our understanding of them. 

Consider our first example: Our political institution known as al-Siyasah was born out of the "Horse Culture" era: 

In our part of the world, the counterpart term for politics is "Siyasah"

Theoretically, "Siyasah" is the way our government, headed by a ruler, makes policy and organizes its administration. 

Our story began thousands of years ago when horses were first introduced into Egypt by the Hyksos during the Second Intermediate Period (about 1700-1550 BC). 

The Hyksos, or "shepherd kings," came from Syria and were probably a wandering nomadic tribe. They were admitted into Lower Egypt, perhaps peacefully, and gradually acquired an ascendancy there.  They stormed Memphis, the ancient capital, and by conquest won control of Thebes and part of  Upper Egypt. 

One theory is that they defeated the Egyptians by the use of horses and war-chariots in battle.  The horse was unknown in Egypt before that time, but had been in common use in Asiatic warfare. 

The Egyptian historian Manetho commented on this event: 

"I  know not wherefore, the gods caused to blow on us an evil  wind, and in the face of all probability bands from the East  ignoble people, came upon us unawares, attacked the country  and subdued it easily, without fighting." 

As a consequent, the Hyksos obtained control of the land and held it in subjection for over four hundred years.  Although perhaps they never wholly subdued the princes farthest up the Nile, who led a long and sustained resistance which extended across many generations. 

Finally, Ancient Egyptians redressed the balance of power with the help of desert nomads from Arabia  ("Ta Ntr"; the land of the God, also known as Aribi)  when they were introduced to horses, which they bred in areas of Upper Nubia where the grazing grounds were suitable and out of reach of the Hyksos.

As a result, special attention was given to breeding horses secretly.  This secrecy intended to chariot technology as well. As a result, these new improvements increased considerably the mobility of the Egyptian armies. Soon the effect began to be felt on the battlefield, much to the detriment and surprise of the Hyksos occupier. 

The wars between the Theban 17th Dynasty and the Hyksos saw the use of horses on both sides, and with it the steady erosion of the Hyksos supremacy. 

Finally, Ahmos's armies supplied with the newly formed divisions of charioteers pulled by Egyptian bred horses marched into Avaris in the eastern part of the Delta. There, they decisively defeated the Hyksos.  At last , the Hyksos had met their match. 

Ahmos was now pharaoh of a united Egypt stretching from the borders of Nubian to the Mediterranean, pushing Egypt’s borders beyond the Sinai desert.  It is clear that Egypt only restored its strength and past glory once it had successfully adapted to, and embraced, the "Horse Culture."

By the New Kingdom, Egyptians had engaged in horse breeding and horses were owned by the military elite, as well as to the ruling class. 

Initially, the novelty and rarity of horses meant that they were a status symbol, owned only by wealthy and influential  people. They were well looked after, and were given individual names.  Splendid stables were built for them and they were fed the best fodder. 

In general, Ancient Egyptians did not ride on horses but rather used them to pull chariots. Two horses were the rule. Horseshoes were not used. Egyptian horses, which were most likely identical  to those in the Near East, were rather small by comparison to modern horses. They were called "ses" and survived in our Arabic language as "siysiy" a term referring to a small sized horse. 

The term "Siyasah" was born out of the concept of handling and grooming horses by the sayis (horse attendant, sayis is also the source of the English term "syce" with the same exact meaning).  Who often used cajoling techniques to tame the horse and in the end was able to imposes his will upon the beast.  One can see how the art of tending and managing horses  inspired the rule of good governance, or simply Siyasah.

It is no wonder that the "Siyasah" concept, in our present day culture, personifies the delicate and refined art of diplomacy "al-silk al-Siyasiy".  An art which is heartily promoted by any civilized government in lieu of  brutal force and violent confrontation. This is best illustrated in individual social intercourse, as well as in international affairs. 

If today's rulers are more prone to the unnecessary use of violence, it is due to their lack of "chivalry" education, excuse my pun.  Perhaps, a course in stable management, might be a good idea as a prerequisite for future aspiring politicians.  Riding, grooming, and tending a horse, as well as cleaning his stall, could go a long way in instilling principles of good governance and perhaps help in avoiding the pitfalls of horseshit nonsense that often politicians fall into. 

And this is "Siyasah" for you. 


Next the art of "MANÈGE" and the science of modern  management.

© Ishinan 2005




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