Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Collapse of Civilization

Not the collapse of OUR civilization, of course--that could never happen. But of such examples as--

(1) the Hittite Empire of north-central Anatolia (now Turkey) that arose in the 18th century BCE, achieved its height in the 14th century BCE, and disintegrated in societal collapse, after 1,000 years, by the 8th century BCE

(2) the Mycenean Civilization, the world of Homer, that flourished for half a millennium from 1550 to 1060 BCE

(3) & (4) the Mauryan (322-185 BCE) and Gupta (280-550 CE) States of India; the Gupta State is considered by many historians to be the "Golden Age" of Indian culture with revolutionary advances in science, math, and astronomy, as well as literature, religion, and philosophy; Gupta intelligentsia discovered that the Earth was round, not flat; they invented the game of chess and developed the first positional, base-ten, numeral system (including the invention of the number zero); they brought the world the Kama Sutra on human sexuality and the heights of Sanskrit literature

(5) the Maya civilization of Mesoamerica which flourished for several thousand years until the 16th century CE, when the Spanish arrived with infectious diseases, gunpowder, and horses

(6) & (7) the Han Dynasty which flourished for over 400 years (206 BCE to 220 CE) and the Tang Dynasty, nearly 300 years (618 to 907 CE), in China, the magnificent flowering ages of Chinese culture

These and other societies collapsed because they exhausted their natural resources, became bureaucratically top-heavy, or were subjugated by more powerful technologies than they had mastered. In some cases they succumbed to overwhelming foreign invasion or cultural inundation; in some cases to internal dissension, religious aberration, and martyrdom.

Some advanced cultures did not collapse but came to an end by being incorporated into more complex, inter-regional social structures. Examples of these are--

(1) & (2) ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

(3) the eastern Roman Empire (the western Roman Empire experienced a more typical "collapse")

(4) & (5) the Mughal and Delhi Sultinates in India

(6) & (7) the Aztec and Inca cultures in Meso- and South America

(8, etc.) as well as modern civilizations of China, Japan, India, and many modern states in the Middle East and Africa.

But not OUR civilization surely--not ours.