"The Parthenon in Athens" by Steve Swayne - File:O Partenon de Atenas.jpg, originally posted to Flickr as The Parthenon Athens. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Parthenon in Athens” by Steve Swayne – File:O Partenon de Atenas.jpg, originally posted to Flickr as The Parthenon Athens. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This piece was written for Campaign Nonviolence‘s email series, This Nonviolent Life. Sign up to receive these “inspirations in your inbox” here

Nonviolence is as old as the hills – well, at least as old as the Parthenon and older than some of the pyramids. It forms a lineage of human beings that stretches around the world and throughout all time. The Lineage of Nonviolence includes women, children, men, elders, people of all religions, world views, cultures, races, sexualities, and creeds. Nonviolence is the most remarkable achievement of humankind to date, and we’re only just getting started! This week, let’s look at the earliest known examples of nonviolent action . . .

Egyptian Workers Launch World’s First Labor Strike – 1170 BCE

The first known labor strike occurred in 1170 BCE. According the record set down on papyrus by Ammenakht, an artisan and scribe, artisans tasked with building the necropolis (burial chambers) of King Ramses III repeatedly struck, complaining of insufficient rations.

“One day, all the workers simply lay down their tools and marched out of the necropolis they were building. According to Ammenakht, their supervisors had no idea where they had gone – they had never seen anything like this before. They marched to their local government officials, and demanded that they be paid their food rations. Though the local elders agreed that they should be paid, they were unable to provide the rations. The next day, the workers marched towards the temple of Ramses II, and were able to speak with the Visier (Mayor), who was finally able to secure a ration payment for the workers (though it was not a full payment). Satisfied, the workers returned to their labor.” – Nonviolent Action Data Base

Plebeians of Rome Invent General Strike – 484 BC

The first recorded General Strike occurred in 484 BC, when the plebeians rose up against the Roman patricians. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) After a long series of noncooperation, parallel institutions, demonstrations, disruption tactics, and other actions, the plebeians quit Rome en masse, shut down farms, shops, and production centers, and climbed up the Sacred Mount, setting up camp until their demands of political power, and protection from debt and enslavement were met. The patricians, unable to live without the workforce of the plebeians, gave in after a few days.

Learn more about the First General Strike in Rome 484 BC here.

Learn more about the First Labor Strike in Egypt 1170 BCE here.


This article is from Rivera Sun’s book of nonviolent histories that have made our world. Click here for more information.

Rivera Sun is a change-maker, a cultural creative, a protest novelist, and an advocate for nonviolence and social justice. She’s a love-based revolutionary and the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, The Way Between and ten other fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Her essays and writings are syndicated by Peace Voice, and have appeared in over a hundred journals nationwide. Rivera Sun speaks and facilitates workshops in strategy for nonviolent change across the country and around the world. She connects the dots between the issues, shares solutionary ideas, and inspires people to step up to the challenge of being a part of the story of change in our times. www.riverasun.com