One of the most beautiful city in the post-ancient world, was attacked and burned in 1258. Baghdad was the center of the civilization. It has the biggest library at that time. It was a center of astronomy, mathematics, biology, and also medical. Baghdad was demolished by the Mongols led by Hulagu Khan. The Mongols were not only destroying the main city, but also killed the children and raped the woman, burned the library and threw away its books to the Tigris river, killed the Sultan and his entire family. The Battle of Baghdad is considered as the greatest massacre in the post-ancient world.
It was a big loss for civilization. Baghdad had never been recovered ever since. The world lost one of its most sophisticated city, the Muslim lost their literature and cultural reference. There were almost nothing left to be saved back then. Even the Abassid dynasty were extinct. After the attack, Baghdad try to crawl back again into the light, but it just too late. The damage was too great for them to recover.
743 years later in Afghanistan, in the Bamyan cliff, Taliban were destroying the biggest statue of Buddha in the world. The statue of Buddha of Bamyan was considered as the culmination art of the ancient Ghandara kingdom that rule Afghanistan and part of Pakistan area in the 3th century. The Buddha statues were crafted inside the cliff. Some scientist explained that Bamyan used to be an important part of Silk Road back then. It was a caravan route linking from The Kingdom of China to The Roman Empire.
The world curses Taliban when they annihilated the Buddha statues of Bamyan. It must be devastating as well when we lived at the 13th century, and heard the news about Baghdad. Baghdad and its doctors, Baghdad and its poets and artists. Larry Gonick said in his books, that the Mongols killed almost all of Baghdad’s artists and doctors.
The action and brutality are… weird to me. Why is it with people and their act of destruction? The Mongols are taking almost nothing when they attacked Baghdad. They just destroyed it. Simply burn almost all of the building to the ground. The idea seems to be weirder to me when I keep thinking about it. But it might be understandable if we see the Mongols as a nomads. Nomads tend to destroy their enemy without knowing why do they have to preserve – or at least try not to destroy the building or burn the book – any cultural thing they find. It was natural for them to destroy anything alive, or anything interesting.
The Buddha statues of Bamyan is on the restoration process right now, thanks to God. Since the Taliban left, the Afghanistan government with UNESCO are trying hard to put the Buddha on his place. Hard work is needed, of course, but it is a fantastic news for all of us in the world.
I’m against a destruction on a cultural heritage (just like all of you I believe). But sometimes it came across my mind: Is the destruction is actually part of civilization itself? We tend to think about how culture and civilization is something that build. But is it possible that civilization is not only about how it build, but also about how it destroyed?
Quoting from the great Indians : everything that build must be destroyed, when something starts it will meet its end. I’m not saying that every destructive activity is acceptable. I’m saying that it’s only a matter of time that Baghdad would meet its end. It’s only the matter of time that the brightest light in the post-ancient world will die. I’m lucky for not seeing that happened.