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Stagnating civilisation

  1. Oct 4, 2005 #1

    wolram

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    Through out the centuries civilizations have waxed and waned, the Roman
    empire, the Aztecs, the egyptian pyramid builders, the Henge builders, why
    is human progression not linear, is it mostly war, or are other things, drought
    and plague more to blame, or is every case unique ?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2005 #2
    There is a general pattern -cycling chiefdoms

    Civilizations also seem to inevitably 'get too big for their britches' and they contract into smaller, marginally independent societies. Due to too much pressure on the environments that support them resulting in famine/flood/etc or natural disasters, decline due to competing societies in trade/war, endemic warfare and internal power struggles. The ideology and institutions may collapse, but usu the main structures of the culture are maintained. Every case is unique, but it seems to be inevitable. It's a cycle of expansion and contraction.

    ...it's an open system and seems to operate like metabolism does - things don't remain in a balance very long and accumulation can only go so far.

    note: There are a lot of societies which aren't always clearly chiefdoms or civilizations, in fact, archaeologists can have a hard time clearly defining what each one is. Usu it has to do with number or people, degree of centralized control, degree of social stratification, and coordination of subsistence
    practices.


    In typical Western fashion - Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2005
  4. Oct 4, 2005 #3
    Blame climate, overdressed Wolram :biggrin:

    There are several cronicles of major disasters. Take for instance the well documented history of the sea people. A reasonable hypothesis seems to be that the sea people were refugees from Europe after an major change in climate.
     
  5. Oct 4, 2005 #4
    Also, you can think of culture as an extended phenotype, subject to natural selection like any other trait.
     
  6. Oct 4, 2005 #5

    wolram

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    Joy is me, some interest, but can any one show why human human evolution
    is not linear through out the ages ?
     
  7. Oct 4, 2005 #6
    Is there any reason it should be?

    btw, I thought we explained the "why." The very nature of life, and even physics that govern the stars, limit linear progression in this universe. Movement seems to be cyclical.

    And do you mean physical evolution or cultural evolution? For the former, this is because evolution has no destination, the only direction is in survival and what it takes to survive changes through time. Same goes for culture.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2005
  8. Oct 5, 2005 #7

    wolram

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    Andre, can climate change be matched with declines in civilization, is there some graph that shows where weather patterns could cause a decline ?

    England, Spain, France etc have all had empires, ok they get to big for their
    birches, could some analyst predict when an irreversible decline will start ?
     
  9. Oct 5, 2005 #8

    wolram

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    Yes you did, sorry. I mean cultural , mental evolution, and quality of life, can
    any one predict where and when the next decline will start ?
     
  10. Oct 5, 2005 #9

    Astronuc

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    What does one mean by "not linear"?

    It would appear that besides climate - i.e. too cold, too hot, or too dry (drought), or perhaps plague and disease, that two other critical factors might play a role: arrogance of leaders and complacency of the population.

    Then of course there are invasions - as in the European invasion of the Americas.
     
  11. Oct 5, 2005 #10

    wolram

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    Linear, some thing like, cave, mud hut, log cabin, brick house.
    or, stick, spear, bow, gun, A bomb.
    or, individuals, tribes, communities, nations
    or, stone, iron, bronze, steel, carbon fiber

    one example of non linear is when the Roman empire collapsed, in some
    lands, art, literature, culture simply vanished.
     
  12. Oct 5, 2005 #11

    selfAdjoint

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    Yes, non-linear, and more complex than you think. It's currently fashionable to blame some hypothetical climate disaster for the dark ages. But I remember looking at the pictures of Roman portraiture in the Encyclopedia Brittanica 14th edition - under "Portrait" as I recall. Portaiture was important to the Romans as it keyed into their ancestor worship, and for centuries the representations of faces just got better and better. But in the third century a (ugh!) paradigm shift occured and the portrait of Constantine the Great looks like an icon, conventionalized, hugely caricatured eyes and all. That's a pure culture change, and supports Gibbons' theory that it was Christianity that brought the empire down.
     
  13. Oct 5, 2005 #12

    BobG

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    Then why was it only the Western half of the empire that fell? The Eastern empire had many of the same 'problems' as the West and Christianity was even stronger and more prevalent in the East than the West. But the East was still a powerful empire for a few hundred years after the Western empire fell.

    I don't think Christianity was a major contributor to the fall of the Roman Empire, but it is a kind of interesting train of thought. Christianity was popular because of 'community benefits' like help for the orphaned, widowed, elderly, and others. It was the Roman times equivalent of Social Security, Medicaid, Welfare, and Unemployment. A lot of fiscal conservatives would probably look at the traits of Christianity during Roman times and agree with you - the Church was starting to be a drain on the economy, what with all of its building of new churches and social welfare programs.
     
  14. Oct 5, 2005 #13

    wolram

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    What a fascinating thought, i know huge amounts of labour was being used to
    "advertise", christianity, could it have been so disastrous ?
     
  15. Oct 5, 2005 #14

    Astronuc

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    Constantine politicized Christianity and made it the state (imperial) religion. That certainly compromised Christianity from the standpoint of foundation and initial direction.

    An excellent history of Christianity can be found in James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews -- A History."

    Later the Popes wrestled control from the Emperors and later European Nobility. That often lead to instability.
     
  16. Oct 6, 2005 #15

    wolram

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Roman_Empire

    The Eastern Empire was largely spared the difficulties of the west in the 3rd and 4th centuries (see Crisis of the Third Century), in part because urban culture was better established there and the initial invasions were attracted to the wealth of Rome. Throughout the 5th century various invasions conquered the western half of the empire, but at best could only demand tribute from the eastern half. Theodosius II expanded the walls of Constantinople, leaving the city impenetrable to attacks. Zeno I ruled the east as the empire in the west finally collapsed in 476. Zeno negotiated with the Goths, ending their threats to the east but leaving them in control of the west
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2005
  17. Oct 6, 2005 #16

    selfAdjoint

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    Also look at the map. There's a land road from central Asia straight down into Italy, but the Slavs constituted a barrier to invasion through Thessaly, and the Armenians did the same for the land bridge between the Black Sea and the Caspian. East and South of the Caspian was the Persian Empire which was the chief foe of the Eastern Empire until the rise of Islam.
     
  18. Oct 6, 2005 #17

    Astronuc

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    It would be nice to put some timelines together on this period.

    Certainly the East and Central Asian tribes (e.g. Huns and Mongols) had a significant impact on Central and Eastern Europe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huns - 3rd-5th centuries CE
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongols - 13th century CE

    The Byzantine Empire (330 AD–1453 AD) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Empire

    The Persian Empire(s) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Empire

    1. The first Persian state: Achaemenid Persia (648 BC-330 BC)
    2. Hellenistic Persia (330 BC-170 BC)
    3. Parthian Persia (170 BC-AD 226)
    4. Sassanid Persia (AD 226-650)
    5. Islam and Persia (650-1219)
    6. Persia under the Mongols and their successors (1219-1500)
    7. A new Persian empire: the Safavids (1500-1722)
    8. Persia and Europe (1722-1914)
    9. Persia in World War One (1914-1918)
    10. Persia after World War One (1919-1935)

    The Ottoman Empire was a rival to Europe (primarily Southeastern Europe and the Meditteranean) from 1299 to 1922 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Empire.

    Oct 7 1571:
    from Wikipedia
     
  19. Oct 6, 2005 #18

    selfAdjoint

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    "Don John of Austria is going to the war!"

    From Lepanto by Chesterton

    http://www.chesterton.org/gkc/poet/lepanto.html
     
  20. Oct 7, 2005 #19

    wolram

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    Was it Emperor Zeno who saved the eastern empire with his truce with the
    Goths ?
     
  21. Oct 7, 2005 #20

    fuzzyfelt

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    I don't know, but I'm interested to know more.

    When SelfAdjoint mentioned Gibbon blaming the downfall of the Western Empire on Christianity and gave cultural examples this was a bit confusing. For Gibbon also mentioned not only the costs and politics of Christianity but also the Christian mentality as having a detrimental effect –that Roman citizens, believing in a better life after this life, had an indifference to this life and diminished desire to ‘maintain and sacrifice for the Empire’.
    As to how other Christian civilisations have managed to maintain and rely upon sacrifice for their survival may have been answered, that it involved initially Byzantium’s tight control via Church and State.

    Interesting is whether or not Christian mentality had the effect of cultural stagnation, linear progression or Theswerve's 'evolution with no destination'.
    I think what was noted in the course of Roman portraiture was a decline of realism, not necessarily a decline in evolution, as this mentality judged reflection of this life of lesser importance. A portrait of Theodosius I contrasted with the peak of Roman realism shows less interest in the reality of this world but replaces realism with expressionism (of the soul), which is a different type of cultural progression.(with no destination)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodosius_I

    The Eastern Roman Empire culture continued to evolve away from the Roman Empire by incorporating Hellenism and further influences like those of Alexandria and Antioch. Initially this was extremely progressive, but slowed with the weight of strict religious conventions- emotion was censored in art, then emotion allowed, a brief iconoclastic enforcement... Nevertheless, Byzantine art and architecture developed unique styles. ‘Despite or perhaps because of the iconoclastic restraints, the Byzantine icon made a lasting contribution to European art’. I have read somewhere that the amount of classical knowledge and culture that could be retained due to the control of the Orthodox Church in Byzantium and was retained, allowed the possibility of the renaissance.
    Going off on a tangent here, if the early Christian preoccupation with life after death brought a diversion to the direction classical culture was progressing, was St Francis, with his revolutionary and celebrated appreciation of not only The Creator (as the early Church), but also His Creations (this life), another important cause for the renaissance? This is something I must have read once and am rather drawn to.o:)
     
  22. Oct 8, 2005 #21

    wolram

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  23. Oct 8, 2005 #22
    The Sahara and the Middle East is bone dry now but used to be pleasant places where the cradle of modern civilisation stood.

    http://www.hp.uab.edu/image_archive/ta/tad.html
    http://www.funagain.com/control/product/~product_id=000455

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_aset=V-WA-A-W-AV-MsSAYZW-UUA-U-AABABCVYVE-AAWYEBCZVE-BEUDUZYWU-AV-U&_rdoc=10&_fmt=summary&_udi=B6VF0-41NK8KV-9&_coverDate=11%2F30%2F2000&_cdi=5996&_orig=search&_st=13&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=54bfb0624fc1611a3d537f5e25b7de75 [Broken]

    which shows that the alleged Holocene stable climate had many not understood features with complex moisture regimes. No doubt that climate has a major impact on the prosperty, growth and demise of civilisations, which of course would not preclude that wars seem also perfectly capable of wrecking civilisations. But climate would set conditions for the recovery from such events.

    So when the climate in the Sahara and Middle-east became bone dry 2000-1000 BC, the local civilisations were doomed and the Greek and Roman empires could take over.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  24. Oct 8, 2005 #23

    wolram

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    This may be off topic, but it is relevant.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02084a.htm

    In 426 the holy Bishop of Hippo, at the age of seventy-two, wishing to spare his episcopal city the turmoil of an election after his death, caused both clergy and people to acclaim the choice of the deacon Heraclius as his auxiliary and successor, and transferred to him the administration of externals. Augustine might then have enjoyed some rest had Africa not been agitated by the undeserved disgrace and the revolt of Count Boniface (427). The Goths, sent by the Empress Placidia to oppose Boniface, and the Vandals, whom the latter summoned to his assistance, were all Arians. Maximinus, an Arian bishop, entered Hippo with the imperial troops. The holy Doctor defended the Faith at a public conference (428) and in various writings. Being deeply grieved at the devastation of Africa, he laboured to effect a reconciliation between Count Boniface and the empress. Peace was indeed re stablished, but not with Genseric, the Vandal king. Boniface, vanquished, sought refuge in Hippo, whither many bishops had already fled for protection and this well fortified city was to suffer the horrors of an eighteen months' siege. Endeavouring to control his anguish, Augustine continued to refute Julian of Eclanum; but early in the siege he was stricken with what he realized to be a fatal illness, and, after three months of admirable patience and fervent prayer, departed from this land of exile on 28 August, 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2005
  25. Oct 9, 2005 #24

    fuzzyfelt

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    Thanks.

    -Amazing the consequences of how 'return to origin' is interpretted.
     
  26. Oct 9, 2005 #25

    wolram

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    Glad at least some one has an interest :biggrin: History opens a whole new
    world to me, and is one area where the butterfly effect is valid, i do not know
    if one exists, but a map with political, religeous, language changes throughout
    the ages would be cool, throw in kings, emperors, saints, could be a lifes work.
    i am tempted to find my crayons :rofl:
     
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