Final word

Farmers empire’s original colonisers


Colonialism has played a dominant role throughout the development of known history, lasting to this day, and it was all started by farmers.

It started off millenniums ago with the occupation of land by communities to grow some crops and keep some animals to slaughter for their dinner tables and to sacrifice to the gods you believed were the overlords of all that exist.

Over time this occupation would form the foundations on which political power, the creation of states and the building of empires would develop and massive wars would be fought.

Today the definition of colonialism is generally given as: “the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas" – the Collins English Dictionary; "the system or policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories” – the Webster Encyclopaedic Dictionary; and the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy uses the term 'colonialism' to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including the Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia.

Over time it also spawned terms like cultural colonialism and neo-colonialism (from Africa soil in the late 20th century) to largely economic domination by not only some states over others, but also international business corporation.

Roots of it all

As so often happen, when one look as the etymology op words and expressions it captures not only the roots of the word but also encapsulates something about human history and the development of our civilization.

In the case of colony, the root word of colonialism, colonialist, etc. the word was first recorded in 1625 and goes back to ancient Roman times.

The word colony comes from the Latin colōnia, which in turn derives from the word colōnus, which means colonist. It, however, originally in Latin referred to what we will today translate to farmer. In the original mix of the word there is also the Latin word colō, which could mean “till, cultivate or worship,” and colere, meaning inhabit.

The Romans also used the word cola to translate the Greek word apoikia, meaning "people from home."

 In ancient times people would form a settlement on an area to farm, just to be later conquered by the Romans as part of their empire and called a colōnia. One such an area is the modern city of Cologne, with the etymology of its original status living on in its name.

Although the word colonialism was only coined in 1625 in English, the root word colony arrived in Late Middle English to denote a settlement formed mainly of retired soldiers, acting as a garrison in newly conquered territory in the Roman Empire.

Final word

Although the Romans gave us the modern word, the phenomenon pre-dates them and seems to be an integral part or human society. Before the Romans dominations of other territories than which was originally their own in what can be described as empires were established by the Egyptians, Phoenicians and Greeks.

And, today we see the development of business and even technological empires, which in some respects are a threat to the sovereignty of even developed and powerful modern national states.

by Piet Coetzer

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