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Civilizations end

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Justme, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Justme

    Justme Banned

    I've noticed that in many, if not most Sc-Fi themes that there is always a reference to ancient civilizations and I was wondering if anyone sees a pattern of activities that seems to herald or suggest the ending of civilizations, past or present?

    I would also like to look at what belief systems, if any have to do with cementing or eroding the fabric of any society. Does faith in any higher power, wither it be a deity or the presence of and observing race have any effect on the society beneath them and what would be that effect.
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Civilizations are always somewhat fluid in their dynamic, rising or falling in prominence as the years go by without actually falling apart; many change into something else (I.E. The Roman Empire vs. Holy Roman Empire). I have read science fiction and fantasy and made a bit of study in real history. Possible reasons for a complete collapse are as follows.

    1. Invasion: Being conquered tends to decimate the population, destroy population centers. Think about the Europeans' treatment of the Native Americans and you'll have some idea of this since many of the tribes were completely destroyed; their heritage and history burned away. In some cases it is only partially accomplished, but the remnants can't go back to what they were so for all intents and purposes, their civilization is destroyed.

    2. Disease: With invasion or even trade comes the possibility of disease from foreign lands that can wreck havoc on a population that has no inherent immunity to the disease since they haven't been exposed to it in their history. A fine example of this is many of the mesoamericans (mayans/aztecs etc.) that contracted smallpox from the invading Spaniards. It wiped out an estimated 80% of the population, leaving them seriously depleted to fight off the invasion and was actually the instrument that destroyed many mesoamerican cultures.

    3. Economic factors: In some rare cases, economic depression or collapse led to (or contributed to) the destruction of a civilization. In any country there is a limit to the wealth available to everyone and when it's only available to the upper 10% of the people, the rest tend to be upset, seeing the wealth of others and tend to rebel against those with money. Civil war and rebellion can be just as destructive as a conventional war and if taken far enough could destroy everything that makes the civilization what it is, forcing them to become something else instead. During the decline of the Roman Empire for example, counterfeiters were the only ones making new coins since the government couldn't afford to mint any and it postponed the inevitable.

    4. Environmental factors: Tragic events can wreck havoc on any civilization that happens to be in the wrong place. Pompeii is a prime example of an environmental factor bringing about the destruction of a city. Famine; also an environmental factor could force the starvation of millions of people and force them to migrate to a more hospitable location, forever altering what they would have been if they'd stayed. Environmental factors that persist for long enough can definitely leave it's mark on the culture, but generally can't erase it completely by itself.

    5. Religious factors: Differences in religion or political views are the cause of MANY wars in the history of mankind and truly horrific event occurred for religious or political prejudice. The Crusades or Spanish Inquisition are prime examples of a religious conflict taken to the extreme and hundreds of thousands died in the name of religion (mostly jews and francs). If it was taken to the extreme of say, world war 2 in scope and millions killed; it could easily bring about the destruction of a civilization.

    6. Racial/cultural factors: Another reason is because of the difference in skin color, societal structure, or personal preferences. Many genocides have come about to perform "racial cleansing" or because the day to day rituals of a neighboring country are seen by the people as "abominable" (most is simple stupidity or narrow-mindedness on a societal level) Seven million jews were killed during the second world war, simply because they were jewish and the German people; deluded by a madman didn't want those jews interbreeding and making their race "imperfect"; as though they hadn't been conquered hundreds of times in centuries before, most notably by the Roman Empire. Even to this day, you hear stories about ethnic cleansing in countries and if any of them are taken far enough, an entire civilization can perish.

    7. Location: If a culture is forced into an area that perhaps isn't sufficient to the task of feeding the people... or the land becomes something else (likely after some extended environmental factor or overusage) then it could definitely contribute to bringing about the end.

    8. Devices of Apocalypse: A big meteor/comet falling from the sky, a planet or moon colliding with the host planet.

    9. The WOW factor: When talking about Science fiction or Fantasy; other things become possible. Complete and total nuclear war could doom a civilation; but generally not by itself either. There would likely be environmental factors (nuclear winter, ash and debris from the sky) as well as economic and societal aspects (people scrambling for whatever is left). A magic spell or scientific experiment gone horribly wrong could affect a large scale. Giant stone eating worms could eat their way out of the center of the planet where they live and cause irreperable damage to the planet and to themselves.

    Overall, I don't realistically seeing any one reason bringing about the complete destruction of a civilization (except maybe the devices of apocalype). Likely it will be a combination of many factors that would lead to a total and irrevocable collapse or destruction of a culture or civilization and relegate it to history.

    I think that most science fiction/fantasy writers don't tend to go into the reasons those civilizations fail, since it is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things and may not advance the story. I wouldn't add a reason unless it directly affects how the characters percieve the antagonists (maybe they caused the destruction) or adds something to the story.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
    CupofJoe likes this.
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    The only thing I would add is that in some cases the end of a civilisation may only be recognised in retrospect, sometimes hundreds of years after the event. For the people involved it might just be another bad year/decade or so gradual that it isn't really noticed until someone looks round and says "Has anyone seen X recently?".
    I see some evidence [and I'm thinking of Crete, the later Roman Empire, Nazism and the spread of Islam (though I freely admit my knowledge of that is from one TV show I watch two days ago...)] that monotheistic religions/ideologies tend to become more dominant during times of stress. This might be because a monotheistic religion offers to its adherents a clearer theory/theology/ideology and one solution or that it has only one voice so can direct its followers more effectively or that as one faction rises to power it overwhelms any opponents.
  4. Zander

    Zander Dreamer

    Saigonnus sums a lot of it up I think. It should be emphasised though that civilisations (at least as far as I know) seem generally to fall in the face of other civilisations (in more recent history). THe Aztecs fell to the spanish in the face of metal and gunpowder technology and the horse, and especially introduced disease. The Ismaili were forced for centuries to live in a sort of religious hiding, pretending to be Sunni because the governments of the time were opposed to them. When the Romans initially expanded out of Italy, the traditional Helenistic mode of warfare involved fighting the foe into a position in which you could make treaties favourable to yourself-the Helenistic kingdoms accordingly underestimated the aggression and will to conquer of the Romans, and fell under their yoke.
    A lot of things can contribute to the fall of a civilisation, but I think that generally opposition from another is usually the thing to push oit over the brink. I mean, both the middle east and europe survived the plague. The Aztecs were obliterated by the spanish when the got smallpox.
  5. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Technically you are right, the Aztecs were completely destroyed as a civilization, but only perhaps 80% of the population was killed; which should give an example of how devastating an event or chain of events needs to be for it to end a civilization. Most of the people left converted to Catholicism and eventually became part of modern day Mexican heritage. It's been five hundred years since then (almost anyway) so much of their heritage and culture are a mix of Native, Spanish and even French (who owned parts of Louisiana and fought against the Aztecs and other peoples in the region. There are people today who claim to be descendants of the Aztecs and they were such a populous people it's impossible to refute their claims.

    The culture simply couldn't continue on as they were, forced by circumstance to adapt or perish. There are still remote places in Mexico where the people still follow the ancient traditions and speak the old tongues (Zapotecas from Oaxaca for example) and are direct descendants of the culture of the same name. Many of the things in the Mexican belief system has lingering rites or practices from the time of the Aztecs, Olmecs and other classic cultures of the same period.

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