Whether it’s a greeting card or a beauty pageant, peace on earth is everyone’s wish. What does it mean to be peaceful?
The Australian nonprofit group Vision of Humanity tries to do just that. Every year, it produces a list called the global Peace Index, which ranks 144 nations according to how the stand on 23 different indicators of peace. These include neighboring country relations, number of homicides, number of deaths from organized conflicts, level of disrespect for human rights, and number of heavy weapons per 100 thousand people.
In 2009, New Zealand was crowned the most peaceful country in the world, followed by Denmark Norway, Iceland and Austria. The US came in at number 83. While the US scored well in areas such as United Nations Financial support and civil conflict, the country falls short in several areas including number of jailed inmates per 100 thousand, military capability and sophistication, ease of access to weapons of minor destruction and potential terrorist attacks.
The country with the lowest score of the 2009 rankings is Iraq, with Afganistan, Somalia, Israel and Sudan rounding out the bottom five. What are some of the most famous peaceful times in history? You might be surprised.
Peace: Another Roman Innovation?
27 BC is the setting of Mr. Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Caesar Augustus (otherwise known as Octavian, great-nephew and heir of Julius C Augustus) set in motion a new brand of foreign policy for Rome. Instead of pushing an agenda of expansionism, Augustus advocated a shift toward prosperity and pacification within the borders of the empire. Several symbolic sculptures and monuments were built at the time such as the Ara Pacis, or “Alter of Peace” and the Gates of Janus. Around the year 180 AD, when Marcus Aurelius died and passed the throne to his son Commodus whose reign did not include the emphasis on peace. This period wasn’t all good, however, because there were rebellions in Spain, England was invaded and annexed, and the German border was contested.
The Mongols: Fearsome Hordes, or Bringers of Peace?
An economically and technologically advanced society in the Eurasian continent emerged one thousand years after the Pax Romana, that of the Mongols. Thousands of miles of trade routes were protected by the Mongols. They enabled Marco Polo to travel by land from his home in Italy to China. Genghis Khan, one of the most fearsome names in History actually established the largest and most peaceful kingdoms in history.
Though feared, his tactics of using archers on horseback to defeat the enemy was groundbreaking. He took control of the Mongol tribes, expanding his territory into an empire millions of square miles in area and managed the Silk Road trading route that linked Europe and Asia. One of the Mongols major innovations was the postal service which actually connected the east and the west. This system also made peace possible by helping enforce strict laws regarding civilian property and travel
Peace in our Time
The world that we are currently living in is another point. Strife, economic and otherwise, the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker believes that violence has declined sharply since the birth of the human race. Pinker measures violence not only by murder rate but also by things such as death as punishment for crimes.
Compared to our hunter/gatherer days, or the Middle Ages, our chances of dying by violent crime or as the result of war are miniscule. Pinker believes there are different reasons for this, all of which contribute to a peaceful existence.
- Stable governments provide mediation.
- Technological innovations enable us to establish symbiotic relations.
- Advancements in health care.
- Our awareness of the rest of the world, greater now than ever before.
Donna Lee is a history buff who hot her history arts decree at UCLA. Not she writes pithy articles for Edictive in Sydney, Australia.
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