What it Means When an Empire Falls

Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting “Destruction,” from his series entitled “The Course of Empire” (public domain)

For no particular reason, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the decline and fall of great civilizations.

The common perception is that, when great empires fall, it happens with a bang, and the changes are clear and profound for the people who live through them. In reality, historical moments in which a cataclysmic event quickly takes a society from greatness to disaster are pretty rare.

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