Monday, September 10, 2012

Arab Travelers: Ibn Khaldun on Adventurers

Ibn Khaldun was the author of the Muqaddimah, a text discussing historiography and sociology. Along with coming up with the Laffer Curve and busting out some vaguely Robert E. Howard-esque lines on civilization*, he had some thoughts on adventurers and fortune-hunters:

"Many weak-minded persons in cities hope to discover property under the surface of the earth and to make some profit from it. They believe that all the property of the nations of the past was stored underground and sealed with magic talismans. These seals, they believe, can be broken only by those who may chance upon the (necessary) knowledge and can offer the proper incense, prayers, and sacrifices to break them...

"In addition to a weak mind, a motive that leads people to hunt for treasure is their inability to make a living in one of the natural ways that earn a profit, such as commerce, agriculture, or the crafts. Therefore, they try to make a living in devious ways, such as (treasure hunting) and the like."

Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. Trans. Franz Rosenthal, Ed. N.J. Dawood. Princeton Classic Edition, 2005, p. 301-303

I'm going to take a look at the Muqaddimah's chapters on magic and see if there's something gameable in there. This Arab Travelers series has seriously been slowed by the fact that my copy of Ibn Munqidh is MIA.

Damn sneaky Ibn Munqidh.

*"It shows that the goal of civilization is sedentary culture and luxury. When civilization reaches that goal, it turns toward corruption and starts being senile, as happens in the natural life of living beings. Indeed, we may say that the qualities of character resulting from sedentary culture and luxury are identical with corruption." Muqaddimah 288