Homework: The Decline and Fall of Empires

Tonight for your homework, you need to carefully read and annotate the article “The Decline and Fall of Empires.”  Once you’ve finished reading the article, please respond to the following discussion points:

  • Of the nine suggested causes of imperial decline, which do you think would have the most immediate consequences?  Which of the nine causes would have more gradual consequences?  Can you provide any historical examples– different from those already included in the article– which illustrate these points?  
  • What do you think of the author’s suggestion that “otherworldly or escapist religions” can be a cause of imperial collapse?  Why might this be?  Do you agree with this assessment?

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92 thoughts on “Homework: The Decline and Fall of Empires

  1. 1. I think that of the nine factors listed in the article, the one that would have the most immediate consequences would be external enemies. This is because once an external force has started making their way to conquering an empire, they can have it conquered within weeks. It may have taken multiple attempts to conquer the empire but once they have started it does not take long for the entire empire to be taken over. Also, of the nine factors listed, I believe that the one that would have the most gradual consequences would be the decline of martial spirit. I believe this because in an empire, there is almost always a desire to protect the state. The people that fight to protect it will always be willing to fight for it until they die. Once the majority of them die the next generation of soldiers could be less and that could go on until there weren’t enough people to fight to protect the empire. If this happened then the empire would fall mainly to external enemies. That is what happened in ancient Rome and the Han and Tang empires in China.

    2. I think hat the author’s statement about escapist or otherworldly religions can go both ways. It could be a cause of the fall of an empire because if there was a religiously diverse group of people under the rule of an emperor that forced Buddhism upon the citizens, there would likely be a rebellion. However, when we look at the Persian Empire and how they allowed multiple religions and cultures, we see that they lasted for a very long time without chaos or conflict between religious groups.

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  2. 1. External enemies were probably the fastest to lead to consequences, considering how quickly invasion can occur. While it is true that the motives for an attack may take more time to develop, the conquering of an empire can occur within a short amount of time. For instance, Alexander the Great’s conquest was able to take effect on many empires, including the Persian empire, within a short period of time. As for gradual consequences, decline of martial spirit seems as if it would take the most time. It would require a great amount of discouragement for an empire’s fighting spirit to diminish, especially if it is in the midst of bustling success. The decline in question would most likely be a slow one. The decline of martial spirit in the Roman empire was most likely a gradual loss of motivation, not one that posed a sudden and unexpected threat.

    2. The author makes a valid point with escapist or otherworldly religions. It is true that the idea of life after death can lead to less focus on the present and more on achieving a future eternal bliss. These religions were possibly widely adopted by people searching for hope in troubling times. I agree with this assessment.

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  3. 1. Of the nine causes, regional, racial, and ethnic tensions would have created the most immediate cause. This is because when several ethnicity, races, or regions are tries to be mixed, people usually have a hard time adjusting because of how different they are. The differences could cause conflict between the various types of people in an empire and eventually things like a civil war could occur. The cause that would would have more gradual consequences would be costly technology because it usually takes a while for people to create new and improved technology that will takeover an empire. An example of racial, regional, and ethnic tensions would be Africa being taken over by the British. The British forced many tribes to have to unite into one state, which caused conflict within the state because of differences in languages, daily life, etc.
    2. I believe the author was trying to say that because religions call for peace and non violence, empires are less likely to try and fight an enemy back, therefore end up being taken over. I do not agree with this because religion could bring peace among people and retain them from getting into wars within the empire as well.

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  4. I believe that outside influences are the main immediate factor that causes the collapse of an empire. The decline is emanate when an enemy ravages your lands. Unlike loss of funds due to expensive technological solutions need to be forged in iron and wrought with the spirit of battle not written out by bureaucrats in twelve step plans. The Romans were brought down by many barbarian tribes. the borders were so expansive when the Visigoths and the Huns and many others came to conquer Rome they had to end up hiring mercenary to guard the borders instead of loyal Roman troops. Eventually the Visigoths sacked the city of Rome proving even the mightiest of empires will fall to the sword.

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  5. 1.I think economic burdens have some of the most immediate effects on an empire because it causes a weeek economy and stresses the empire. This effectively corrupts an empire and how their economy works and can cause unruly behavior in the citizens. this hapened in rome.
    2. other worly religions cause peole to see themselves as equal t others which van effect an empires social system.

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  6. I think that economic burden would cause the most immediate effect on an empire. Yes, external enemies would have an effect, but the most immediate would be felt by everyone…no money. If there isn’t any money, other effects would soon follow, such as technology becoming more and more costly to maintain and a lack of morale from underpaid soldiers.
    I agree with the author’s suggestion. This could be because other religions teach nonviolence and an escape from the worldly burdens. If an emperor suddenly believes in nonviolence, the empire will lose steam and eventually die out.

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  7. I disagree with Stephanie Garcia because it is is true that ethical, regional, and racial tensions would ultimately lead to the collapse of an empire,as we see with the Shatter-belt, it wouldn’t be the immediate cause of an empire’s collapse. It takes time for tension to break down an empire, factors such as money and invasion would be the most immediate causes because they can quickly affect the power an empire has.

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    • That’s what I was thinking. A blow to the economic section of empire can essentially hinder the entire thing. Without, or a lack of, money can create revolutions among the peasants, a weakening of the army and chance of invasion. BOTH of which can happen within days or weeks, which is pretty immediate for 400 CE

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  8. 1. After reading inequitable economic burdens would be the most immediate and stressing on the empire. At first, it occurred to me because I was thinking about the stock market today but then I realized it could very well apply to ancient empires as well. The fall or collapse of a city, city-state, or entire region of an Empire can cripple the entire empire. If the biggest trade city or region falls in essentially can cut-off or stunt economic growth within a large portion around it. Another instance would be the inability for subjects/citizens to pay taxes. While the rich can avoid and wave taxes, usually taxes on the middle class and lower class such as farmers and merchants and exorbitant rates and create a gap between the classes. This eventually creates an imbalance and a complete collapse when it comes to the economy.
    2. I think that the idea behind “Escapist or otherworldly religions” comes from religions like Buddhism that are individual goals. Christianity is a very “nice” religion in the scheme of things. Many sects of Christianity encourage peace and respect for others and among people. Even so it doesn’t require an acceptance of other people’s religions and like in today’s age… Christianity is a very tender religion to talk about let alone debunk. So under a empire like Rome with Muslims, Jews, and other religious influences can start strife.

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  9. 1. Although many factors caused immediate problems causing the collapse of empires, I believe that External enemies invading the main body of the civilization has the most immediate and impactful effect. For a more gradual effect, decline of martial and moral spirit is a very gradual cause for collapse, but it snowballs into full effect and swings the civilization into collapsation. Some historical evidence of a Martial and Moral decline is in the Roman Empire, because as Christianity grew in the empire, more people believed in equality and caused their to be little to no support for the empire who relied on the worship of the people to stay in power.

    2. What the author suggests is that “Escapist or Otherworldy religions” are religions that are relatively new to the civilization and either bring support for the government or cause the people to rebel against it. This is relevant for Buddhism due to its very quick implementation into China through the Silk Roads. This caused the Chinese people to become more unified because of how widely accepted Buddhism was. This was good for the rulers because a unified people creates a common Nation and nations are less likely to rebel.

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