THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL Sir John Glubb John Bagot Glubb was born in 1897, his father being a regular ofﬁcer in the Royal Engineers. At the age of four he left England for Mauritius, where his father was posted for a three-year tour of duty. At the age of ten he was sent to school for a year in Switzerland. These youthful travels may have opened his mind to the outside world at an early age. He entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in September 1914, and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in April 1915. He served throughout the ﬁrst World War in France and Belgium, being wounded three times and awarded the Military Cross. In 1920 he volunteered for service in Iraq, as a regular ofﬁcer, but in 1926 resigned his commission and accepted an administrative post under the Iraq Government. In 1930, however, he signed a contract to serve the Transjordan Government (now Jordan). From 1939 to 1956 he commanded the famous Jordan Arab Legion, which was in reality the Jordan Army. Since his retirement he has published seventeen books, chieﬂy on the Middle East, and has lectured widely in Britain, the United States and Europe. William Blackwood & Sons Ltd 32 Thistle Street Edinburgh EH1 1HA Scotland © J. B. G. Ltd, 1976, 1977 ISBN 0 85158 127 7 Printed at the Press of the Publisher Introduction As we pass through life, we learn by limited to this small island. We endlessly experience. We look back on our behaviour mull over the Tudors and the Stewarts, the when we were young and think how foolish Battle of Crecy, and Guy Fawkes. Perhaps we were. In the same way our family, our this narrowness is due to our examination community and our town endeavour to avoid system, which necessitates the careful the mistakes made by our predecessors. deﬁnition of a syllabus which all children The experiences of the human race have must observe. been recorded, in more or less detail, for I remember once visiting a school for some four thousand years. If we attempt to mentally handicapped children. “Our study such a period of time in as many children do not have to take examinations," countries as possible, we seem to discover the headmaster told me,” and so we are able the same patterns constantly repeated under to teach them things which will be really widely differing conditions of climate, useful to them in life." culture and religion. Surely, we ask ourselves, if we studied calmly and However this may be, the thesis which I impartially the history of human institutions wish to propound is that priceless lessons and development over these four thousand could be learned if the history of the past years, should we not reach conclusions four thousand years could be thoroughly and which would assist to solve our problems impartially studied. In these two articles, today? For everything that is occurring which ﬁrst appeared in Blackwood’s around us has happened again and again Magazine, I have attempted brieﬂy to sketch before. some of the kinds of lessons which I believe we could learn. My plea is that history No such conception ever appears to have should be the history of the human race, not entered into the minds of our historians. In of one small country or period. general, historical teaching in schools is The Fate of Empires I Learning from history intervals between the ‘great periods’ are ‘The only thing we learn from history,’ it neglected. Recently Greece and Rome have has been said, ‘is that men never learn from become largely discredited, and history tends history’, a sweeping generalisation perhaps, to become increasingly the parochial history but one which the chaos in the world today of our own countries. goes far to conﬁrm. What then can be the To derive any useful instruction from reason why, in a society which claims to history, it seems to me essential ﬁrst of all to probe every problem, the bases of history are grasp the principle that history, to be still so completely unknown? meaningful, must be the history of the Several reasons for the futility of our human race. For history is a continuous historical studies may be suggested. process, gradually developing, changing and First, our historical work is limited to short turning back, but in general moving forward periods—the history of our own country, or in a single mighty stream. Any useful lessons that of some past age which, for some to be derived must be learned by the study of reason, we hold in respect. the whole ﬂow of human development, not Second, even within these short periods, by the selection of short periods here and the slant we give to our narrative is governed there in one country or another. by our own vanity rather than by objectivity. Every age and culture is derived from its If we are considering the history of our own predecessors, adds some contribution of its country, we write at length of the periods own, and passes it on to its successors. If we when our ancestors were prosperous and boycott various periods of history, the victorious, but we pass quickly over their origins of the new cultures which succeeded shortcomings or their defeats. Our people them cannot be explained. are represented as patriotic heroes, their enemies as grasping imperialists, or _______________________________ subversive rebels. In other words, our Sir John Glubb, better known as Glubb national histories are propaganda, not well- Pasha, was born in 1897, and served in balanced investigations. France in the First World War from 1915 to Third, in the sphere of world history, we 1918. In 1926 he left the regular army to study certain short, usually unconnected, serve the Iraq Government. From 1939 to periods, which fashion at certain epochs has 1956, he commanded the famous Jordan made popular. Greece 500 years before Arab Legion. Since retirement, he has Christ, and the Roman Republic and early published sixteen books, chiefly on the Roman Empire are cases in point. The Middle East, and has lectured widely. 2 The Fate of Empires Physical science has expanded its knowledge endeavour to deduce from them any lessons by building on the work of its predecessors, which seem to be applicable to them all. and by making millions of careful experi- The word ‘empire’, by association with the ments, the results of which are meticulously British Empire, is visualised by some people recorded. Such methods have not yet been as an organisation consisting of a home- employed in the study of world history. Our country in Europe and ‘colonies’ in other piecemeal historical work is still mainly continents. In this essay, the term ‘empire’ is dominated by emotion and prejudice. used to signify a great power, often called today a superpower. Most of the empires in history have been large landblocks, almost II The lives of empires without overseas possessions. If we desire to ascertain the laws which We possess a considerable amount of govern the rise and fall of empires, the information on many empires recorded in obvious course is to investigate the imperial history, and of their vicissitudes and the experiments recorded in history, and to lengths of their lives, for example: The nation Dates of rise and fall Duration in years Assyria 859-612 B.C. 247 Persia 538-330 B.C. 208 (Cyrus and his descendants) Greece 331-100 B.C. 231 (Alexander and his successors) Roman Republic 260-27 B.C. 233 Roman Empire 27 B.C.-A.D. 180 207 Arab Empire A.D. 634-880 246 Mameluke Empire 1250-1517 267 Ottoman Empire 1320-1570 250 Spain 1500-1750 250 Romanov Russia 1682-1916 234 Britain 1700-1950 250 This list calls for certain comments. normally a gradual period of expansion and (1) The present writer is exploring the facts, then a period of decline. The resemblance in not trying to prove anything. The dates given the duration of these great powers may be are largely arbitrary. Empires do not usually queried. Human affairs are subject to many begin or end on a certain date. There is chances, and it is not to be expected that they The Fate of Empires 3 could be calculated with mathematical age of eighty or ninety. Nevertheless, in spite accuracy. of such exceptions, we are justiﬁed in saying (2) Nevertheless, it is suggested that there is that seventy years is a fair estimate of the sufﬁcient resemblance between the life average person’s expectation of life. periods of these different empires to justify (7) We may perhaps at this stage be allowed further study. to draw certain conclusions: (3) The division of Rome into two periods (a) In spite of the accidents of fortune, and may be thought unwarranted. The ﬁrst, or the apparent circumstances of the human republican, period dates from the time when race at different epochs, the periods of Rome became the mistress of Italy, and ends duration of different empires at varied with the accession of Augustus. The imperial epochs show a remarkable similarity. period extends from the accession of (b) Immense changes in the technology of Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius. It transport or in methods of warfare do not is true that the empire survived nominally seem to affect the life-expectation of an for more than a century after this date, but it empire. did so in constant confusion, rebellions, civil (c) The changes in the technology of trans- wars and barbarian invasions. port and of war have, however, affected the (4) Not all empires endured for their full life- shape of empires. The Assyrians, marching span. The Babylonian Empire of Nebucha- on foot, could only conquer their neigh- dnezzar, for example, was overthrown by bours, who were accessible by land—the Cyrus, after a life duration of only some Medes, the Babylonians, the Persians and seventy-four years. the Egyptians. (5) An interesting deduction from the ﬁgures The British, making use of ocean-going seems to be that the duration of empires ships, conquered many countries and sub- does not depend on the speed of travel or the continents, which were accessible to them nature of weapons. The Assyrians marched by water—North America, India, South on foot and fought with spears and bow and Africa, Australia and New Zealand—but arrows. The British used artillery, railways they never succeeded in conquering their and ocean-going ships. Yet the two empires neighbours, France, Germany and Spain. lasted for approximately the same periods. But, although the shapes of the Assyrian There is a tendency nowadays to say that and the British Empires were entirely this is the jet-age, and consequently there is different, both lasted about the same nothing for us to learn from past empires. length of time. Such an attitude seems to be erroneous. (6) It is tempting to compare the lives of III The human yardstick empires with those of human beings. We What then, we may ask, can have been the may choose a ﬁgure and say that the average factor which caused such an extraordinary life of a human being is seventy years. Not all similarity in the duration of empires, under human beings live exactly seventy years. such diverse conditions, and such utterly Some die in infancy, others are killed in different technological achievements? accidents in middle life, some survive to the 4 The Fate of Empires One of the very few units of measurement Peninsula. They consisted chieﬂy of wan- which have not seriously changed since the dering tribes, and had no government, no Assyrians is the human ‘generation’, a period constitution and no army. Syria, Palestine, of about twenty-ﬁve years. Thus a period of Egypt and North Africa were Roman 250 years would represent about ten gene- provinces, Iraq was part of Persia. rations of people. A closer examination of the The Prophet Mohammed preached in characteristics of the rise and fall of great Arabia from A.D. 613 to 632, when he died. nations may emphasise the possible signiﬁ- In 633, the Arabs burst out of their desert cance of the sequence of generations. peninsula, and simultaneously attacked the Let us then attempt to examine the stages two super-powers. Within twenty years, the in the lives of such powerful nations. Persian Empire had ceased to exist. Seventy years after the death of the Prophet, the IV Stage one. The outburst Arabs had established an empire extending Again and again in history we ﬁnd a small from the Atlantic to the plains of Northern nation, treated as insigniﬁcant by its India and the frontiers of China. contemporaries, suddenly emerging from its At the beginning of the thirteenth century, homeland and overrunning large areas of the the Mongols were a group of savage tribes in world. Prior to Philip (359-336 B.C.), Mace- the steppes of Mongolia. In 1211, Genghis don had been an insigniﬁcant state to the Khan invaded China. By 1253, the Mongols north of Greece. Persia was the great power had established an empire extending from of the time, completely dominating the area Asia Minor to the China Sea, one of the from Eastern Europe to India. Yet by 323 largest empires the world has ever known. B.C., thirty-six years after the accession of The Arabs ruled the greater part of Spain Philip, the Persian Empire had ceased to for 780 years, from 712 A.D. to 1492. (780 exist, and the Macedonian Empire extended years back in British history would take us to from the Danube to India, including Egypt. 1196 and King Richard Cœur de Lion.) This amazing expansion may perhaps he During these eight centuries, there had been attributed to the genius of Alexander the no Spanish nation, the petty kings of Aragon Great, but this cannot have been the sole and Castile alone holding on in the reason; for although after his death every- mountains. thing went wrong—the Macedonian generals The agreement between Ferdinand and fought one another and established rival Isabella and Christopher Columbus was empires—Macedonian pre-eminence survi- signed immediately after the fall of Granada, ved for 231 years. the last Arab kingdom in Spain, in 1492. In the year A.D. 600, the world was divided Within ﬁfty years, Cortez had conquered between two superpower groups as it has Mexico, and Spain was the world’s greatest been for the past ﬁfty years between Soviet empire. Russia and the West. The two powers were Examples of the sudden outbursts by the eastern Roman Empire and the Persian which empires are born could be multiplied Empire. The Arabs were then the despised indeﬁnitely. These random illustrations must and backward inhabitants of the Arabian sufﬁce. The Fate of Empires 5 V Characteristics of the outburst Poor, hardy, often half-starved and ill-clad, These sudden outbursts are usually they abound in courage, energy and characterised by an extraordinary display of initiative, overcome every obstacle and energy and courage. The new conquerors are always seem to be in control of the situation. normally poor, hardy and enterprising and above all aggressive. The decaying empires VI The causes of race outbursts which they overthrow are wealthy but The modern instinct is to seek a reason for defensive-minded. In the time of Roman everything, and to doubt the veracity of a greatness, the legions used to dig a ditch statement for which a reason cannot be round their camps at night to avoid surprise. found. So many examples can be given of the But the ditches were mere earthworks, and sudden eruption of an obscure race into a between them wide spaces were left through nation of conquerors that the truth of the which the Romans could counter-attack. But phenomenon cannot be held to be doubtful. as Rome grew older, the earthworks became To assign a cause is more difﬁcult. Perhaps high walls, through which access was given the easiest explanation is to assume that the only by narrow gates. Counterattacks were poor and obscure race is tempted by the no longer possible. The legions were now wealth of the ancient civilisation, and there passive defenders. would undoubtedly appear to be an element But the new nation is not only distingui- of greed for loot in barbarian invasions. shed by victory in battle, but by unresting Such a motivation may be divided into two enterprise in every ﬁeld. Men hack their way classes. The ﬁrst is mere loot, plunder and through jungles, climb mountains, or brave rape, as, for example, in the case of Attila the Atlantic and the Paciﬁc oceans in tiny and the Huns, who ravaged a great part of cockle-shells. The Arabs crossed the Straits Europe from A.D. 450 to 453. However, when of Gibraltar in A.D. 711 with 12,000 men, Attila died in the latter year, his empire fell defeated a Gothic army of more than twice apart and his tribes returned to Eastern their strength, marched straight over 250 Europe. miles of unknown enemy territory and seized Many of the barbarians who founded the Gothic capital of Toledo. At the same dynasties in Western Europe on the ruins of stage in British history, Captain Cook disco- the Roman Empire, however, did so out of vered Australia. Fearless initiative characte- admiration for Roman civilisation, and rises such periods. themselves aspired to become Romans. Other peculiarities of the period of the conquering pioneers are their readiness to VII A providential turnover? improvise and experiment. Untrammelled by Whatever causes may be given for the traditions, they will turn anything available overthrow of great civilisations by to their purpose. If one method fails, they try barbarians, we can sense certain resulting something else. Uninhibited by textbooks or beneﬁts. Every race on earth has distinctive book learning, action is their solution to characteristics. Some have been distingui- every problem. shed in philosophy, some in administration, some in romance, poetry or religion, some in 6 The Fate of Empires their legal system. During the pre-eminence consists of more organised, disciplined and of each culture, its distinctive characteristics professional campaigns. are carried by it far and wide across the In other ﬁelds, the daring initiative of the world. original conquerors is maintained—in If the same nation were to retain its geographical exploration, for example: domination indeﬁnitely, its peculiar qualities pioneering new countries, penetrating new would permanently characterise the whole forests, climbing unexplored mountains, and human race. Under the system of empires sailing uncharted seas. The new nation is each lasting for 250 years, the sovereign race conﬁdent, optimistic and perhaps contemp- has time to spread its particular virtues far tuous of the ‘decadent’ races which it has and wide. Then, however, another people, subjugated. with entirely different peculiarities, takes its The methods employed tend to be practical place, and its virtues and accomplishments and experimental, both in government and are likewise disseminated. By this system, in warfare, for they are not tied by centuries each of the innumerable races of the world of tradition, as happens in ancient empires. enjoys a period of greatness, during which its Moreover, the leaders are free to use their peculiar qualities are placed at the service of own improvisations, not having studied mankind. politics or tactics in schools or in textbooks. To those who believe in the existence of God, as the Ruler and Director of human IX U.S.A. in the stage of the pioneers affairs, such a system may appear as a In the case of the United States of America, manifestation of divine wisdom, tending the pioneering period did not consist of a towards the slow and ultimate perfection of barbarian conquest of an effete civilisation, humanity. but of the conquest of barbarian peoples. Thus, viewed from the outside, every VIII The course of empire example seems to be different. But viewed The ﬁrst stage of the life of a great nation, from the standpoint of the great nation, therefore, after its outburst, is a period of every example seems to be similar. amazing initiative, and almost incredible The United States arose suddenly as a new enterprise, courage and hardihood. These nation, and its period of pioneering was qualities, often in a very short time, produce spent in the conquest of a vast continent, not a new and formidable nation. These early an ancient empire. Yet the subsequent life victories, however, are won chieﬂy by history of the United States has followed the reckless bravery and daring initiative. standard pattern which we shall attempt to The ancient civilisation thus attacked will trace—the periods of the pioneers, of have defended itself by its sophisticated commerce, of afﬂuence, of intellectualism weapons, and by its military organisation and of decadence. and discipline. The barbarians quickly appreciate the advantages of these military X Commercial expansion methods and adopt them. As a result, the The conquest of vast areas of land and second stage of expansion of the new empire their subjection to one government The Fate of Empires 7 automatically acts as a stimulant to com- The present fashion for ‘independence’ has merce. Both merchants and goods can be produced great numbers of tiny states in the exchanged over considerable distances. world, some of them consisting of only one Moreover, if the empire be an extensive one, city or of a small island. This system is an it will include a great variety of climates, insuperable obstacle to trade and co- producing extremely varied products, which operation. The present European Economic the different areas will wish to exchange with Community is an attempt to secure commer- one another. cial cooperation among small independent The speed of modern methods of trans- states over a large area, but the plan meets portation tends to create in us the impress- with many difﬁculties, due to the mutual sion that far-ﬂung commerce is a modern jealousies of so many nations. development, but this is not the case. Objects Even savage and militaristic empires made in Ireland, Scandinavia and China promoted commerce, whether or not they have been found in the graves or the ruins of intended to do so. The Mongols were some of the Middle East, dating from 1,000 years the most brutal military conquerors in before Christ. The means of transport were history, massacring the entire populations of slower, but, when a great empire was in cities. Yet, in the thirteenth century, when control, commerce was freed from the their empire extended from Peking to innumerable shackles imposed upon it today Hungary, the caravan trade between China by passports, import permits, customs, and Europe achieved a remarkable degree of boycotts and political interference. prosperity—the whole journey was in the The Roman Empire extended from Britain territory of one government. to Syria and Egypt, a distance, in a direct In the eighth and ninth centuries, the line, of perhaps 2,700 miles. A Roman caliphs of Baghdad achieved fabulous wealth ofﬁcial, transferred from Britain to Syria, owing to the immense extent of their might spend six months on the journey. Yet, territories, which constituted a single trade throughout the whole distance, he would be bloc. The empire of the caliphs is now travelling in the same country, with the same divided into some twenty-ﬁve separate ofﬁcial language, the same laws, the same ‘nations’. currency and the same administrative system. Today, some twenty independent XI The pros and cons of empires countries separate Britain from Syria, each In discussing the life-story of the typical with its own government, its own laws, empire, we have digressed into a discussion politics, customs fees, passports and of whether empires are useful or injurious to currencies, making commercial co-operation mankind. We seem to have discovered that almost impossible. And this process of empires have certain advantages, particu- disintegration is still continuing. Even within larly in the ﬁeld of commerce, and in the the small areas of the modern European establishment of peace and security in vast nations, provincial movements demanding areas of the globe. Perhaps we should also secession or devolution tend further to include the spread of varied cultures to many splinter the continent. races. The present infatuation for indepen- 8 The Fate of Empires dence for ever smaller and smaller units will XIII The Age of Commerce eventually doubtless be succeeded by new Let us now, however, return to the life- international empires. story of our typical empire. We have already The present attempts to create a European considered the age of outburst, when a little- community may be regarded as a practical regarded people suddenly bursts on to the endeavour to constitute a new super-power, world stage with a wild courage and energy. in spite of the fragmentation resulting from Let us call it the Age of the Pioneers. the craze for independence. If it succeeds, Then we saw that these new conquerors some of the local independencies will have to acquired the sophisticated weapons of the be sacriﬁced. If it fails, the same result may old empires, and adopted their regular be attained by military conquest, or by the systems of military organisation and partition of Europe between rival super- training. A great period of military expansion powers. The inescapable conclusion seems, ensued, which we may call the Age of however, to be that larger territorial units are Conquests. The conquests resulted in the a beneﬁt to commerce and to public stability, acquisition of vast territories under one whether the broader territory be achieved by government, thereby automatically giving voluntary association or by military action. rise to commercial prosperity. We may call this the Age of Commerce. XII Sea power The Age of Conquests, of course, overlaps One of the more benevolent ways in which the Age of Commerce. The proud military a super-power can promote both peace and traditions still hold sway and the great commerce is by its command of the sea. armies guard the frontiers, but gradually the From Waterloo to 1914, the British Navy desire to make money seems to gain hold of commanded the seas of the world. Britain the public. During the military period, glory grew rich, but she also made the Seas safe for and honour were the principal objects of the commerce of all nations, and prevented ambition. To the merchant, such ideas are major wars for 100 years. but empty words, which add nothing to the Curiously enough, the question of sea bank balance. power was never clearly distinguished, in British politics during the last ﬁfty years, XIV Art and luxury from the question of imperial rule over other The wealth which seems, almost without countries. In fact, the two subjects are effort, to pour into the country enables the entirely distinct. Sea power does not offend commercial classes to grow immensely rich. small countries, as does military occupation. How to spend all this money becomes a If Britain had maintained her navy, with a problem to the wealthy business community. few naval bases overseas in isolated islands, Art, architecture and luxury ﬁnd rich and had given independence to colonies patrons. Splendid municipal buildings and which asked for it, the world might well be a wide streets lend dignity and beauty to the more stable place today. In fact, however, the wealthy areas of great cities. The rich navy was swept away in the popular outcry merchants build themselves palaces, and against imperialism. money is invested in communications, The Fate of Empires 9 highways, bridges, railways or hotels, the Age of Afﬂuence silences the voice of according to the varied patterns of the ages. duty. The object of the young and the The ﬁrst half of the Age of Commerce ambitious is no longer fame, honour or appears to be peculiarly splendid. The service, but cash. ancient virtues of courage, patriotism and Education undergoes the same gradual devotion to duty are still in evidence. The transformation. No longer do schools aim at nation is proud, united and full of self- producing brave patriots ready to serve their conﬁdence. Boys are still required, ﬁrst of all, country. Parents and students alike seek the to be manly—to ride, to shoot straight and to educational qualiﬁcations which will tell the truth. (It is remarkable what command the highest salaries. The Arab emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the moralist, Ghazali (1058-1111), complains in manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is these very same words of the lowering of cowardice—the fear of facing up to the objectives in the declining Arab world of his situation.) time. Students, he says, no longer attend Boys’ schools are intentionally rough. Fru- college to acquire learning and virtue, but to gal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to obtain those qualiﬁcations which will enable have a bath and similar customs are aimed at them to grow rich. The same situation is producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed everywhere evident among us in the West of men. Duty is the word constantly drum- today. med into the heads of young people. The Age of Commerce is also marked by XVI High Noon great enterprise in the exploration for new That which we may call the High Noon of forms of wealth. Daring initiative is shown in the nation covers the period of transition the search for proﬁtable enterprises in far from the Age of Conquests to the Age of corners of the earth, perpetuating to some Afﬂuence: the age of Augustus in Rome, that degree the adventurous courage of the Age of of Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad, of Sulaiman Conquests. the Magniﬁcent in the Ottoman Empire, or of Queen Victoria in Britain. Perhaps we XV The Age of Afﬂuence might add the age of Woodrow Wilson in the There does not appear to be any doubt that United States. money is the agent which causes the decline All these periods reveal the same of this strong, brave and self-conﬁdent characteristics. The immense wealth accu- people. The decline in courage, enterprise mulated in the nation dazzles the onlookers. and a sense of duty is, however, gradual. Enough of the ancient virtues of courage, The ﬁrst direction in which wealth injures energy and patriotism survive to enable the the nation is a moral one. Money replaces state successfully to defend its frontiers. But, honour and adventure as the objective of the beneath the surface, greed for money is best young men. Moreover, men do not gradually replacing duty and public service. normally seek to make money for their Indeed the change might be summarised as country or their community, but for them- being from service to selﬁshness. selves. Gradually, and almost imperceptibly, 10 The Fate of Empires XVII Defensiveness nations do not normally disarm from Another outward change which invariably motives of conscience, but owing to the marks the transition from the Age of weakening of a sense of duty in the citizens, Conquests to the Age of Afﬂuence is the and the increase in selﬁshness and the desire spread of defensiveness. The nation, immen- for wealth and ease. sely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth XVIII The Age of Intellect and its luxury. It is a period of defensiveness, We have now, perhaps arbitrarily, divided from the Great Wall of China, to Hadrian’s the life-story of our great nation into four Wall on the Scottish Border, to the Maginot ages. The Age of the Pioneers (or the Line in France in 1939. Outburst), the Age of Conquests, the Age of Money being in better supply than courage, Commerce, and the Age of Afﬂuence. The subsidies instead of weapons are employed great wealth of the nation is no longer to buy off enemies. To justify this departure needed to supply the mere necessities, or from ancient tradition, the human mind even the luxuries of life. Ample funds are easily devises its own justiﬁcation. Military available also for the pursuit of knowledge. readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as The merchant princes of the Age of primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are Commerce seek fame and praise, not only by too proud to ﬁght. The conquest of one endowing works of art or patronising music nation by another is declared to be immoral. and literature. They also found and endow Empires are wicked. This intellectual device colleges and universities. It is remarkable enables us to suppress our feeling of with what regularity this phase follows on inferiority, when we read of the heroism of that of wealth, in empire after empire, our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate divided by many centuries. our position today. ‘It is not that we are In the eleventh century, the former Arab afraid to ﬁght,’ we say, ‘but we should Empire, then in complete political decline, consider it immoral.’ This even enables us to was ruled by the Seljuk sultan, Malik Shah. assume an attitude of moral superiority. The Arabs, no longer soldiers, were still the The weakness of paciﬁsm is that there are intellectual leaders of the world. During the still many peoples in the world who are reign of Malik Shah, the building of aggressive. Nations who proclaim themselves universities and colleges became a passion. unwilling to ﬁght are liable to be conquered Whereas a small number of universities in by peoples in the stage of militarism— the great cities had sufﬁced the years of Arab perhaps even to see themselves incorporated glory, now a university sprang up in every into some new empire, with the status of town. mere provinces or colonies. In our own lifetime, we have witnessed the When to be prepared to use force and when same phenomenon in the U.S.A. and Britain. to give way is a perpetual human problem, When these nations were at the height of which can only be solved, as best we can, in their glory, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and each successive situation as it arises. In fact, Cambridge seemed to meet their needs. Now however, history seems to indicate that great almost every city has its university. The Fate of Empires 11 The ambition of the young, once engaged XIX The effects of intellectualism in the pursuit of adventure and military There are so many things in human life glory, and then in the desire for the which are not dreamt of in our popular accumulation of wealth, now turns to the philosophy. The spread of knowledge seems acquisition of academic honours. to be the most beneﬁcial of human activities, It is useful here to take note that almost all and yet every period of decline is character- the pursuits followed with such passion rised by this expansion of intellectual throughout the ages were in themselves activity. ‘All the Athenians and strangers good. The manly cult of hardihood, frank- which were there spent their time in nothing ness and truthfulness, which characterised else, but either to tell or to hear some new the Age of Conquests, produced many really thing’ is the description given in the Acts of splendid heroes. the Apostles of the decline of Greek The opening up of natural resources, and intellectualism. the peaceful accumulation of wealth, which The Age of Intellect is accompanied by marked the age of commercialism, appeared surprising advances in natural science. In the to introduce new triumphs in civilisation, in ninth century, for example, in the age of culture and in the arts. In the same way, the Mamun, the Arabs measured the circum- vast expansion of the ﬁeld of knowledge ference of the earth with remarkable achieved by the Age of Intellect seemed to accuracy. Seven centuries were to pass mark a new high-water mark of human before Western Europe discovered that the progress. We cannot say that any of these world was not ﬂat. Less than ﬁfty years after changes were ‘good’ or ‘bad’. the amazing scientiﬁc discoveries under The striking features in the pageant of Mamun, the Arab Empire collapsed. Won- empire are: derful and beneﬁcent as was the progress of (a) the extraordinary exactitude with which science, it did not save the empire from these stages have followed one another, in chaos. empire after empire, over centuries or even The full ﬂowering of Arab and Persian millennia; and intellectualism did not occur until after their (b) the fact that the successive changes imperial and political collapse. Thereafter seem to represent mere changes in popular the intellectuals attained fresh triumphs in fashion—new fads and fancies which sweep the academic ﬁeld, but politically they away public opinion without logical reason. became the abject servants of the often At ﬁrst, popular enthusiasm is devoted to illiterate rulers. When the Mongols conqu- military glory, then to the accumulation of ered Persia in the thirteenth century, they wealth and later to the acquisition of were themselves entirely uneducated and academic fame. were obliged to depend wholly on native Why could not all these legitimate, and Persian ofﬁcials to administer the country indeed beneﬁcent, activities be carried on and to collect the revenue. They retained as simultaneously, each of them in due modera- wazeer, or Prime Minister, one Rashid al- tion? Yet this never seemed to happen. Din, a historian of international repute. Yet 12 The Fate of Empires the Prime Minister, when speaking to the Thus we see that the cultivation of the Mongol II Khan, was obliged to remain human intellect seems to be a magniﬁcent throughout the interview on his knees. At ideal, but only on condition that it does not state banquets, the Prime Minister stood weaken unselﬁshness and human dedication behind the Khan’s seat to wait upon him. If to service. Yet this, judging by historical the Khan were in a good mood, he precedent, seems to be exactly what it does occasionally passed his wazeer a piece of do. Perhaps it is not the intellectualism food over his shoulder. which destroys the spirit of self-sacriﬁce—the As in the case of the Athenians, least we can say is that the two, intellectualism leads to discussion, debate intellectualism and the loss of a sense of and argument, such as is typical of the duty, appear simultaneously in the life-story Western nations today. Debates in elected of the nation. assemblies or local committees, in articles in Indeed it often appears in individuals, that the Press or in interviews on television— the head and the heart are natural rivals. The endless and incessant talking. brilliant but cynical intellectual appears at Men are interminably different, and the opposite end of the spectrum from the intellectual arguments rarely lead to emotional self-sacriﬁce of the hero or the agreement. Thus public affairs drift from bad martyr. Yet there are times when the perhaps to worse, amid an unceasing cacophony of unsophisticated self-dedication of the hero is argument. But this constant dedication to more essential than the sarcasms of the discussion seems to destroy the power of clever. action. Amid a Babel of talk, the ship drifts on to the rocks. XXI Civil dissensions Another remarkable and unexpected XX The inadequacy of intellect symptom of national decline is the intensi- Perhaps the most dangerous by-product of ﬁcation of internal political hatreds. One the Age of Intellect is the unconscious would have expected that, when the survival growth of the idea that the human brain can of the nation became precarious, political solve the problems of the world. Even on the factions would drop their rivalry and stand low level of practical affairs this is patently shoulder-to-shoulder to save their country. untrue. Any small human activity, the local In the fourteenth century, the weakening bowls club or the ladies’ luncheon club, empire of Byzantium was threatened, and requires for its survival a measure of self- indeed dominated, by the Ottoman Turks. sacriﬁce and service on the part of the The situation was so serious that one would members. In a wider national sphere, the have expected every subject of Byzantium to survival of the nation depends basically on abandon his personal interests and to stand the loyalty and self-sacriﬁce of the citizens. with his compatriots in a last desperate The impression that the situation can be attempt to save the country. The reverse saved by mental cleverness, without unsel- occurred. The Byzantines spent the last ﬁfty ﬁshness or human self-dedication, can only years of their history in ﬁghting one another lead to collapse. in repeated civil wars, until the Ottomans The Fate of Empires 13 moved in and administered the coup de another, but simply in the differences grâce. between them. Britain has been governed by an elected In the age of the ﬁrst outburst and the parliament for many centuries. In former subsequent Age of Conquests, the race is years, however, the rival parties observed normally ethnically more or less many unwritten laws. Neither party wished homogeneous. This state of affairs facilitates to eliminate the other. All the members a feeling of solidarity and comradeship. But referred to one another as honourable in the Ages of Commerce and Afﬂuence, gentlemen. But such courtesies have now every type of foreigner ﬂoods into the great lapsed. Booing, shouting and loud noises city, the streets of which are reputed to be have undermined the dignity of the House, paved with gold. As, in most cases, this great and angry exchanges are more frequent. We city is also the capital of the empire, the are fortunate if these rivalries are fought out cosmopolitan crowd at the seat of empire in Parliament, but sometimes such hatreds exercises a political inﬂuence greatly in are carried into the streets, or into industry excess of its relative numbers. in the form of strikes, demonstrations, Second- or third-generation foreign boycotts and similar activities. True to the immigrants may appear outwardly to be normal course followed by nations in entirely assimilated, but they often constitute decline, internal differences are not a weakness in two directions. First, their reconciled in an attempt to save the nation. basic human nature often differs from that of On the contrary, internal rivalries become the original imperial stock. If the earlier more acute, as the nation becomes weaker. imperial race was stubborn and slow- moving, the immigrants might come from XXII The inﬂux of foreigners more emotional races, thereby introducing One of the oft-repeated phenomena of cracks and schisms into the national policies, great empires is the inﬂux of foreigners to even if all were equally loyal. the capital city. Roman historians often Second, while the nation is still afﬂuent, all complain of the number of Asians and the diverse races may appear equally loyal. Africans in Rome. Baghdad, in its prime in But in an acute emergency, the immigrants the ninth century, was international in its will often be less willing to sacriﬁce their population—Persians, Turks, Arabs, Arme- lives and their property than will be the nians, Egyptians, Africans and Greeks original descendants of the founder race. mingled in its streets. Third, the immigrants are liable to form In London today, Cypriots, Greeks, communities of their own, protecting Italians, Russians, Africans, Germans and primarily their own interests, and only in the Indians jostle one another on the buses and second degree that of the nation as a whole. in the underground, so that it sometimes Fourth, many of the foreign immigrants seems difﬁcult to ﬁnd any British. The same will probably belong to races originally applies to New York, perhaps even more so. conquered by and absorbed into the empire. This problem does not consist in any While the empire is enjoying its High Noon inferiority of one race as compared with of prosperity, all these people are proud and 14 The Fate of Empires glad to be imperial citizens. But when decline XXIII Frivolity sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory As the nation declines in power and of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is wealth, a universal pessimism gradually suddenly revived, and local or provincial pervades the people, and itself hastens the movements appear demanding secession or decline. There is nothing succeeds like independence. Some day this phenomenon success, and, in the Ages of Conquest and will doubtless appear in the now apparently Commerce, the nation was carried monolithic and authoritarian Soviet empire. triumphantly onwards on the wave of its own It is amazing for how long such provincial self-conﬁdence. Republican Rome was sentiments can survive. repeatedly on the verge of extinction—in 390 Historical examples of this phenomenon B.C. when the Gauls sacked the city and in are scarcely needed. The idle and captious 216 B.C. after the Battle of Cannae. But no Roman mob, with its endless appetite for disasters could shake the resolution of the free distributions of food—bread and early Romans. Yet, in the later stages of games—is notorious, and utterly different Roman decline, the whole empire was deeply from that stern Roman spirit which we pessimistic, thereby sapping its own associate with the wars of the early republic. resolution. In Baghdad, in the golden days of Harun Frivolity is the frequent companion of al-Rashid, Arabs were a minority in the pessimism. Let us eat, drink and be merry, imperial capital. Istanbul, in the great days for tomorrow we die. The resemblance of Ottoman rule, was peopled by inhabitants between various declining nations in this remarkably few of whom were descendants respect is truly surprising. The Roman mob, of Turkish conquerors. In New York, we have seen, demanded free meals and descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers are few public games. Gladiatorial shows, chariot and far between. races and athletic events were their passion. This interesting phenomenon is largely In the Byzantine Empire the rivalries of the limited to great cities. The original conqu- Greens and the Blues in the hippodrome ering race is often to be found in relative attained the importance of a major crisis. purity in rural districts and on far frontiers. Judging by the time and space allotted to It is the wealth of the great cities which them in the Press and television, football and draws the immigrants. As, with the growth of baseball are the activities which today chieﬂy industry, cities nowadays achieve an ever interest the public in Britain and the United greater preponderance over the countryside, States respectively. so will the inﬂuence of foreigners increa- The heroes of declining nations are always singly dominate old empires. the same—the athlete, the singer or the Once more it may be emphasised that I do actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to not wish to convey the impression that designate a comedian or a football player, immigrants are inferior to older stocks. They not a statesman, a general, or a literary are just different, and they thus tend to genius. introduce cracks and divisions. The Fate of Empires 15 XXIV The Arab decline that, although Rome ruled the world, women In the ﬁrst half of the ninth century, ruled Rome. In the tenth century, a similar Baghdad enjoyed its High Noon as the tendency was observable in the Arab Empire, greatest and the richest city in the world. In the women demanding admission to the 861, however, the reigning Khalif (caliph), professions hitherto monopolised by men. Mutawakkil, was murdered by his Turkish ‘What,’ wrote the contemporary historian, mercenaries, who set up a military dictator- Ibn Bessam, ‘have the professions of clerk, ship, which lasted for some thirty years. tax-collector or preacher to do with women? During this period the empire fell apart, the These occupations have always been limited various dominions and provinces each to men alone.’ Many women practised law, assuming virtual independence and seeking while others obtained posts as university its own interests. Baghdad, lately the capital professors. There was an agitation for the of a vast empire, found its authority limited appointment of female judges, which, to Iraq alone. however, does not appear to have succeeded. The works of the contemporary historians Soon after this period, government and of Baghdad in the early tenth century are still public order collapsed, and foreign invaders available. They deeply deplored the overran the country. The resulting increase degeneracy of the times in which they lived, in confusion and violence made it unsafe for emphasising particularly the indifference to women to move unescorted in the streets, religion, the increasing materialism and the with the result that this feminist movement laxity of sexual morals. They lamented also collapsed. the corruption of the ofﬁcials of the The disorders following the military take- government and the fact that politicians over in 861, and the loss of the empire, had always seemed to amass large fortunes while played havoc with the economy. At such a they were in ofﬁce. moment, it might have been expected that The historians commented bitterly on the everyone would redouble their efforts to save extraordinary inﬂuence acquired by popular the country from bankruptcy, but nothing of singers over young people, resulting in a the kind occurred. Instead, at this moment of decline in sexual morality. The ‘pop’ singers declining trade and ﬁnancial stringency, the of Baghdad accompanied their erotic songs people of Baghdad introduced a ﬁve-day on the lute, an instrument resembling the week. modern guitar. In the second half of the When I ﬁrst read these contemporary tenth century, as a result, much obscene descriptions of tenth-century Baghdad, I sexual language came increasingly into use, could scarcely believe my eyes. I told myself such as would not have been tolerated in an that this must be a joke! The descriptions earlier age. Several khalifs issued orders might have been taken out of The Times banning ‘pop’ singers from the capital, but today. The resemblance of all the details was within a few years they always returned. especially breathtaking—the break-up of the An increase in the inﬂuence of women in empire, the abandonment of sexual morality, public life has often been associated with na- the ‘pop’ singers with their guitars, the entry tional decline. The later Romans complained of women into the professions, the ﬁve-day 16 The Fate of Empires week. I would not venture to attempt an with the hitherto invincible Mongols, the explanation! There are so many mysteries descendants of Genghis Khan, who invaded about human life which are far beyond our Syria. By defeating the Mongols and driving comprehension. them out of Syria, the Mamelukes saved the Mediterranean from the terrible fate which XXV Political ideology had overtaken Persia. In 1291, the Mame- Today we attach immense importance to lukes captured Acre, and put an end to the the ideology of our internal politics. The Crusades. Press and public media in the U.S.A. and From 1309 to 1341, the Mameluke Empire Britain pour incessant scorn on any country was everywhere victorious and possessed the the political institutions of which differ in ﬁnest army in the world. For the ensuing any manner from our own idea of hundred years the wealth of the Mameluke democracy. It is, therefore, interesting to Empire was fabulous, slowly leading to note that the life-expectation of a great luxury, the relaxation of discipline and to nation does not appear to be in any way decline, with ever more bitter internal affected by the nature of its institutions. political rivalries. Finally the empire collap- Past empires show almost every possible sed in 1517, as the result of military defeat variation of political system, but all go by the Ottomans. through the same procedure from the Age of The Mameluke government appears to us Pioneers through Conquest, Commerce, utterly illogical and fantastic. The ruling Afﬂuence to decline and collapse. class was entirely recruited from young boys, born in what is now Southern Russia. Every XXVI The Mameluke Empire one of them was enlisted as a private soldier. The empire of the Mamelukes of Egypt Even the sultans had begun life as private provides a case in point, for it was one of the soldiers and had risen from the ranks. Yet most exotic ever to be recorded in history. It this extraordinary political system resulted is also exceptional in that it began on one in an empire which passed through all the ﬁxed day and ended on another, leaving no normal stages of conquest, commercialism, doubt of its precise duration, which was 267 afﬂuence and decline and which lasted years. approximately the usual period of time. In the ﬁrst part of the thirteenth century, Egypt and Syria were ruled by the Ayoubid XXVII The master race sultans, the descendants of the family of The people of the great nations of the past Saladin. Their army consisted of Mamelukes, seem normally to have imagined that their slaves imported as boys from the Steppes pre-eminence would last for ever. Rome and trained as professional soldiers. On 1st appeared to its citizens to be destined to be May 1250, the Mamelukes mutinied, for all time the mistress of the world. The murdered Turan Shah, the Ayoubid sultan, Abbasid Khalifs of Baghdad declared that and became the rulers of his empire. God had appointed them to rule mankind The ﬁrst ﬁfty years of the Mameluke until the day of judgement. Seventy years Empire were marked by desperate ﬁghting ago, many people in Britain believed that the The Fate of Empires 17 empire would endure for ever. Although superiority seems to go hand-in-hand with Hitler failed to achieve his objective, he the luxury resulting from wealth, in declared that Germany would rule the world undermining the character of the dominant for a thousand years. That sentiments like race. these could be publicly expressed without evoking derision shows that, in all ages, the XXVIII The welfare state regular rise and fall of great nations has When the welfare state was ﬁrst introduced passed unperceived. The simplest statistics in Britain, it was hailed as a new high-water prove the steady rotation of one nation after mark in the history of human development. another at regular intervals. History, however, seems to suggest that the The belief that their nation would rule the age of decline of a great nation is often a world forever, naturally encouraged the period which shows a tendency to citizens of the leading nation of any period to philanthropy and to sympathy for other attribute their pre-eminence to hereditary races. This phase may not be contradictory virtues. They carried in their blood, they to the feeling described in the previous believed, qualities which constituted them a paragraph, that the dominant race has the race of supermen, an illusion which inclined right to rule the world. For the citizens of the them to the employment of cheap foreign great nation enjoy the role of Lady Bountiful. labour (or slaves) to perform menial tasks As long as it retains its status of leadership, and to engage foreign mercenaries to ﬁght the imperial people are glad to be generous, their battles or to sail their ships. even if slightly condescending. The rights of These poorer peoples were only too happy citizenship are generously bestowed on every to migrate to the wealthy cities of the empire, race, even those formerly subject, and the and thereby, as we have seen, to adulterate equality of mankind is proclaimed. The the close-knit, homogeneous character of the Roman Empire passed through this phase, conquering race. The latter unconsciously when equal citizenship was thrown open to assumed that they would always be the all peoples, such provincials even becoming leaders of mankind, relaxed their energies, senators and emperors. and spent an increasing part of their time in The Arab Empire of Baghdad was equally, leisure, amusement or sport. perhaps even more, generous. During the In recent years, the idea has spread widely Age of Conquests, pure-bred Arabs had in the West that ‘progress’ will be automatic constituted a ruling class, but in the ninth without effort, that everyone will continue to century the empire was completely grow richer and richer and that every year cosmopolitan. will show a ‘rise in the standard of living’. We State assistance to the young and the poor have not drawn from history the obvious was equally generous. University students conclusion that material success is the result received government grants to cover their of courage, endurance and hard work—a expenses while they were receiving higher conclusion nevertheless obvious from the education. The State likewise offered free history of the meteoric rise of our own medical treatment to the poor. The ﬁrst free ancestors. This self-assurance of its own public hospital was opened in Baghdad in 18 The Fate of Empires the reign of Harun al-Rashid (786-809), and reason for human wars, in which both sides under his son, Mamun, free public hospitals claimed to be ﬁghting for the true God, but sprang up all over the Arab world from Spain the absurd narrowness of human to what is now Pakistan. conceptions should not blind us to the fact The impression that it will always be that, very often, both sides believed their automatically rich causes the declining campaigns to have a moral background. empire to spend lavishly on its own Genghis Khan, one of the most brutal of all benevolence, until such time as the economy conquerors, claimed that God had delegated collapses, the universities are closed and the him the duty to exterminate the decadent hospitals fall into ruin. races of the civilised world. Thus the Age of It may perhaps be incorrect to picture the Conquests often had some kind of religious welfare state as the high-water mark of atmosphere, which implied heroic self- human attainment. It may merely prove to sacriﬁce for the cause. be one more regular milestone in the life- But this spirit of dedication was slowly story of an ageing and decrepit empire. eroded in the Age of Commerce by the action of money. People make money for XXIX Religion themselves, not for their country. Thus Historians of periods of decadence often periods of afﬂuence gradually dissolved the refer to a decline in religion, but, if we spirit of service, which had caused the rise of extend our investigation over a period the imperial races. covering the Assyrians (859-612 B.C.) to our In due course, selﬁshness permeated the own times, we have to interpret religion in a community, the coherence of which was very broad sense. Some such deﬁnition as weakened until disintegration was ‘the human feeling that there is something, threatened. Then, as we have seen, came the some invisible Power, apart from material period of pessimism with the accompanying objects, which controls human life and the spirit of frivolity and sensual indulgence, by- natural world’. products of despair. It was inevitable at such We are probably too narrow and times that men should look back yearningly contemptuous in our interpretation of idol to the days of ‘religion’, when the spirit of worship. The people of ancient civilisations self-sacriﬁce was still strong enough to make were as sensible as we are, and would men ready to give and to serve, rather than scarcely have been so foolish as to worship to snatch. sticks and stones fashioned by their own But while despair might permeate the hands. The idol was for them merely a greater part of the nation, others achieved a symbol, and represented an unknown, new realisation of the fact that only readi- spiritual reality, which controlled the lives of ness for self-sacriﬁce could enable a commu- men and demanded human obedience to its nity to survive. Some of the greatest saints in moral precepts. history lived in times of national decadence, We all know only too well that minor raising the banner of duty and service differences in the human visualisation of this against the ﬂood of depravity and despair. Spirit frequently became the ostensible The Fate of Empires 19 In this manner, at the height of vice and intermarried with the local population and a frivolity the seeds of religious revival are new race resulted, though it sometimes quietly sown. After, perhaps, several retained an old name. The barbarian generations (or even centuries) of suffering, invasions of the Roman Empire probably the impoverished nation has been purged of provide the example best known today in the its selﬁshness and its love of money, religion West. Others were the Arab conquests of regains its sway and a new era sets in. ‘It is Spain, North Africa and Persia, the Turkish good for me that I have been afﬂicted,’ said conquests of the Ottoman Empire, or even the psalmist, ‘that I might learn Thy the Norman Conquest of England. Statutes.’ In all such cases, the conquered countries were originally fully inhabited and the inva- XXX New combinations ders were armies, which ultimately settled We have traced the rise of an obscure race down and married, and produced new races. to fame, through the stages of conquest, In our times, there are few nomadic commercialism, afﬂuence, and intellectu- conquerors left in the world, who could alism, to disintegration, decadence and invade more settled countries bringing their despair. We suggested that the dominant tents and ﬂocks with them. But ease of travel race at any given time imparts its leading has resulted in an equal, or probably an even characteristics to the world around, being in greater, intermixture of populations. The due course succeeded by another empire. By extreme bitterness of modern internal poli- this means, we speculated, many successive tical struggles produces a constant ﬂow of races succeeded one another as super- migrants from their native countries to powers, and in turn bequeathed their others, where the social institutions suit peculiar qualities to mankind at large. them better. But the objection may here be raised that The vicissitudes of trade and business some day the time will come when all the similarly result in many persons moving to races of the world will in turn have enjoyed other countries, at ﬁrst intending to return, their period of domination and have but ultimately settling down in their new collapsed again in decadence. When the countries. whole human race has reached the stage of The population of Britain has been decadence, where will new energetic con- constantly changing, particularly in the last quering races be found? sixty years, owing to the inﬂux of immigrants The answer is at ﬁrst partially obscured by from Europe, Asia and Africa, and the exit of our modern habit of dividing the human race British citizens to the Dominions and the into nations, which we seem to regard as United States. The latter is, of course, the water-tight compartments, an error respon- most obvious example of the constant rise of sible for innumerable misunderstandings. new nations, and of the transformation of In earlier times, warlike nomadic nations the ethnic content of old nations through this invaded the territories of decadent peoples modern nomadism. and settled there. In due course, they 20 The Fate of Empires XXXI Decadence of a system ways of thought, and prove themselves equal It is of interest to note that decadence is to the other citizens of their adopted country. the disintegration of a system, not of its individual members. The habits of the XXXII Decadence is not physical members of the community have been Neither is decadence physical. The citizens corrupted by the enjoyment of too much of nations in decline are sometimes money and too much power for too long a described as too physically emasculated to be period. The result has been, in the able to bear hardship or make great efforts. framework of their national life, to make This does not seem to be a true picture. them selﬁsh and idle. A community of selﬁsh Citizens of great nations in decadence are and idle people declines, internal quarrels normally physically larger and stronger than develop in the division of its dwindling those of their barbarian invaders. wealth, and pessimism follows, which some Moreover, as was proved in Britain in the of them endeavour to drown in sensuality or ﬁrst World War, young men brought up in frivolity. In their own surroundings, they are luxury and wealth found little difﬁculty in unable to redirect their thoughts and their accustoming themselves to life in the front- energies into new channels. line trenches. The history of exploration But when individual members of such a proves the same point. Men accustomed to society emigrate into entirely new surroun- comfortable living in homes in Europe or dings, they do not remain conspicuously America were able to show as much decadent, pessimistic or immoral among the endurance as the natives in riding camels inhabitants of their new homeland. Once across the desert or in hacking their way enabled to break away from their old through tropical forests. channels of thought, and after a short period Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, of readjustment, they become normal resulting from too long a period of wealth citizens of their adopted countries. Some of and power, producing cynicism, decline of them, in the second and third generations, religion, pessimism and frivolity. The may attain pre-eminence and leadership in citizens of such a nation will no longer make their new communities. an effort to save themselves, because they This seems to prove that the decline of any are not convinced that anything in life is nation does not undermine the energies or worth saving. the basic character of its members. Nor does the decadence of a number of such nations XXXII Human diversity permanently impoverish the human race. Generalisations are always dangerous. Decadence is both mental and moral Human beings are all different. The variety deterioration, produced by the slow decline in human life is endless. If this be the case of the community from which its members with individuals, it is much more so with cannot escape, as long as they remain in nations and cultures. No two societies, no their old surroundings. But, transported two peoples, no two cultures are exactly the elsewhere, they soon discard their decadent same. In these circumstances, it will be easy The Fate of Empires 21 for critics to ﬁnd many objections to what XXXIV A variety of falls has been said, and to point out exceptions to It has been shown that, normally, the rise the generalisations. and fall of great nations are due to internal There is some value in comparing the lives reasons alone. Ten generations of human of nations to those of individuals. No two beings sufﬁce to transform the hardy and persons in the world are identical. Moreover enterprising pioneer into the captious citizen their lives are often affected by accidents or of the welfare state. But whereas the life by illness, making the divergences even more histories of great nations show an unex- obvious. Yet, in fact, we can generalise about pected uniformity, the nature of their falls human life from many different aspects. The depends largely on outside circumstances characteristics of childhood, adolescence, and thus shows a high degree of diversity. youth, middle and old age are well known. The Roman Republic, as we have seen, was Some adolescents, it is true, are prematurely followed by the empire, which became a wise and serious. Some persons in middle super-state, in which all the natives of the age still seem to he young. But such Mediterranean basin, regardless of race, exceptions do not invalidate the general possessed equal rights. The name of Rome, character of human life from the cradle to originally a city-state, passed from it to an the grave. equalitarian international empire. I venture to submit that the lives of nations This empire broke in half, the western half follow a similar pattern. Superﬁcially, all being overrun by northern barbarians, the seem to be completely different. Some years eastern half forming the East Roman or ago, a suggestion was submitted to a certain Byzantine Empire. television corporation that a series of talks The vast Arab Empire broke up in the on Arab history would form an interesting ninth century into many fragments, of which sequence. The proposal was immediately one former colony, Moslem Spain, ran its vetoed by the director of programmes with own 250-year course as an independent the remark, “What earthly interest could the empire. The homelands of Syria and Iraq, history of medieval Arabs have for the however, were conquered by successive general public today?” waves of Turks to whom they remained Yet, in fact, the history of the Arab imperial subject for 1,000 years. age—from conquest through commercialism, The Mameluke Empire of Egypt and Syria, to afﬂuence, intellectualism, science and on the other hand, was conquered in one decadence—is an exact precursor of British campaign by the Ottomans, the native imperial history and lasted almost exactly population merely suffering a change of the same time. masters. If British historians, a century ago, had The Spanish Empire (1500-1750) endured devoted serious study to the Arab Empire, for the conventional 250 years, terminated they could have foreseen almost everything only by the loss of its colonies. The homeland that has happened in Britain down to 1976. of Spain fell, indeed, from its high estate of a 22 The Fate of Empires super-power, but remained as an indepen- not based on facts. We are emotionally dent nation until today. unwilling to accept that our forbears might Romanov Russia (1682-1916) ran the have been mean or cowardly. normal course, but was succeeded by the Alternatively, there are ‘political’ schools of Soviet Union. history, slanted to discredit the actions of It is unnecessary to labour the point, which our past leaders, in order to support modern we may attempt to summarise brieﬂy. Any political movements. In all these cases, regime which attains great wealth and power history is not an attempt to ascertain the seems with remarkable regularity to decay truth, but a system of propaganda, devoted and fall apart in some ten generations. The to the furtherance of modern projects, or the ultimate fate of its component parts, gratiﬁcation of national vanity. however, does not depend on its internal Men can scarcely be blamed for not nature, but on the other organisations which learning from the history they are taught. appear at the time of its collapse and succeed There is nothing to learn from it, because it in devouring its heritage. Thus the lives of is not true. great powers are surprisingly uniform, but the results of their falls are completely XXXVI Small nations diverse. The word ‘empires’ has been used in this essay to signify nations which achieve the XXXV Inadequacy of our historical status of great powers, or super-powers, in studies the jargon of today—nations which have In fact, the modern nations of the West dominated the international scene for two or have derived only limited value from their three centuries. At any given time, however, historical studies, because they have never there are also smaller states which are more made them big enough. For history to have or less self-contained. Do these live the same meaning, as we have already stated, it must ‘lives’ as the great nations, and pass through be the history of the human race. the same phases? Far from achieving such an ideal, our It seems impossible to generalise on this historical studies are largely limited to the issue. In general, decadence is the outcome history of our own country during the of too long a period of wealth and power. If lifetime of the present nation. Thus the time- the small country has not shared in the factor is too short to allow the longer wealth and power, it will not share in the rhythms of the rise and fall of nations even to decadence. be noticed. As the television director indicated, it never even crosses our minds XXXVII The emerging pattern that longer periods could be of any interest. In spite of the endless variety and the When we read the history of our own inﬁnite complications of human life, a nation, we ﬁnd the actions of our ancestors general pattern does seem to emerge from described as glorious, while those of other these considerations. It reveals many peoples are depicted as mean, tyrannical or successive empires covering some 3,000 cowardly. Thus our history is (intentionally) years, as having followed similar stages of The Fate of Empires 23 development and decline, and as having, to a decline, decadence and collapse. It is surprising degree, ‘lived’ lives of very similar tempting to assume that measures could be length. adopted to forestall the disastrous effects of The life-expectation of a great nation, it excessive wealth and power, and thence of appears, commences with a violent, and subsequent decadence. Perhaps some means usually unforeseen, outburst of energy, and could be devised to prevent the activist Age ends in a lowering of moral standards, of Conquests and Commerce deteriorating cynicism, pessimism and frivolity. into the Age of Intellect, producing endless If the present writer were a millionaire, he talking but no action. would try to establish in some university or It is tempting to think so. Perhaps if the other a department dedicated solely to the pattern of the rise and fall of nations were study of the rhythm of the rise and fall of regularly taught in schools, the general powerful nations throughout the world. public would come to realise the truth, and History goes back only some 3,000 years, would support policies to maintain the spirit because before that period writing was not of duty and self-sacriﬁce, and to forestall the sufﬁciently widespread to allow of the accumulation of excessive wealth by one survival of detailed records. But within that nation, leading to the demoralisation of that period, the number of empires available for nation. study is very great. Could not the sense of duty and the At the commencement of this essay, the initiative needed to give rise to action be names of eleven such empires were listed, retained parallel with intellectual develop- but these included only the Middle East and ment and the discoveries of natural science? the modern nations of the West. India, China The answer is doubtful, though we could and Southern America were not included, but try. The weaknesses of human nature, because the writer knows nothing about however, are so obvious, that we cannot be them. A school founded to study the rise and too conﬁdent of success. Men bursting with fall of empires would probably ﬁnd at least courage, energy and self-conﬁdence cannot twenty-four great powers available for easily be restrained from subduing their dissection and analysis. neighbours, and men who see the prospect of The task would not be an easy one, if wealth open to them will not readily be indeed the net were cast so wide as to cover prevented from pursuing it. virtually all the world’s great nations in 3,000 Perhaps it is not in the real interest of years. The knowledge of language alone, to humanity that they should be so prevented, enable detailed investigations to be pursued, for it is in periods of wealth that art, would present a formidable obstacle. architecture, music, science and literature make the greatest progress. XXXVIII Would it help? Moreover, as we have seen where great It is pleasing to imagine that, from such empires are concerned, their establishment studies, a regular life-pattern of nations may give rise to wars and tragedies, but their would emerge, including an analysis of the periods of power often bring peace, security various changes which ultimately lead to and prosperity to vast areas of territory. Our 24 The Fate of Empires knowledge and our experience (perhaps our XXXIX Summary basic human intellects) are inadequate to As numerous points of interest have arisen pronounce whether or not the rise and fall of in the course of this essay, I close with a brief great nations is the best system for the best summary, to refresh the reader’s mind. of all possible worlds. (a) We do not learn from history because These doubts, however, need not prevent our studies are brief and prejudiced. us from attempting to acquire more (b) In a surprising manner, 250 years knowledge on the rise and fall of great emerges as the average length of national powers, or from endeavouring, in the light of greatness. such knowledge, to improve the moral (c) This average has not varied for 3,000 quality of human life. years. Does it represent ten generations? Perhaps, in fact, we may reach the (d) The stages of the rise and fall of great conclusion that the successive rise and fall of nations seem to be: great nations is inevitable and, indeed, a The Age of Pioneers (outburst) system divinely ordained. But even this The Age of Conquests would be an immense gain. For we should The Age of Commerce know where we stand in relation to our The Age of Afﬂuence human brothers and sisters. In our present The Age of Intellect state of mental chaos on the subject, we The Age of Decadence. divide ourselves into nations, parties or (e) Decadence is marked by: communities and ﬁght, hate and vilify one Defensiveness another over developments which may Pessimism perhaps be divinely ordained and which Materialism seem to us, if we take a broader view, Frivolity completely uncontrollable and inevitable. If An inﬂux of foreigners we could accept these great movements as The Welfare State beyond our control, there would be no A weakening of religion. excuse for our hating one another because of (f) Decadence is due to: them. Too long a period of wealth and power However varied, confusing and contra- Selﬁshness dictory the religious history of the world may Love of money appear, the noblest and most spiritual of the The loss of a sense of duty. devotees of all religions seem to reach the (g) The life histories of great states are conclusion that love is the key to human life. amazingly similar, and are due to internal Any expansion of our knowledge which may factors. lead to a reduction in our unjustiﬁed hates is (h) Their falls are diverse, because they are therefore surely well worth while. largely the result of external causes. (i) History should be taught as the history of the human race, though of course with emphasis on the history of the student’s own country.