20 December 2012

Mayan Apocalypse Nothing. We've Already Had the Battle of Armageddon. Seriously

Given all the attention the Mayan Apocalypse is getting, it’s likely that most people have forgotten about the actual Battle of Armageddon.

The Ottoman Empire was ruled by Turkish sultans for hundreds of years. These Turks claimed the Caliphate, which essentially made them protectors of the holy lands of Islam. It was a position roughly akin to that of the pope during the Dark Ages. But during the First World War, the Turks aligned with the Germans. It would prove to be a huge mistake for the Arab world.

In late September of 1918, the British General Allenby led an odd coalition of troops against the Turks at Megiddo. His troops included soldiers from around the world, as befits the last, decisive battle of this First World War.  The mix of Indians, Australians, American Jews and Brits would have itself been remarkable. Allenby had already conquered Jerusalem, the first head of a Christian army to take the city in 700 years. That, too, was notable in its own right.  Also, in a conflict between two great religions, it seemed curiously appropriate that Allenby was a descendant of Oliver Cromwell’s, the man who led a successful revolt against a king to return Britain to religious purity.  And as if all that was not epic enough, Lawrence of Arabia rode with him into battle.

Allenby may have been the last general to use a mix of cavalry and airplanes in battle. It worked. He routed the Turks and the consequences were sweeping.

The British had come to realize that the Middle East had oil and after the end of the war they divided the region with the French.  The British added Iraq and Palestine to their sphere of influence that already included Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They expressed their support for the Zionist movement, setting in motion the return of Jews to Israel. The caliphate collapsed, taking with it Islam’s dominant authority and leaving in its place conflict over the true definition of, and authority over, Islam ever since.

Thus, one of the last battles of World War One became one of its most defining. Contemporaries and historians refer to Allenby’s battle against the Turks as the Battle of Megiddo. We more often refer to Megiddo, however, by a name that had taken on apocalyptic tones even before Allenby’s time: we call it by its more ancient name of Armageddon.

So the Mayan Apocalypse will be no big deal. Apparently, we're already living in post-Apocalyptic times.

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