Collapse of Civilizations Essay

Collapse of Civilizations Essay

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The factors that lead to the “collapse” of civilizations are almost directly related to those that created it. Archaeologists characterize collapse by a number of elements, some of which we have evidence for, others we do not. Most archaeologists are unsure of exactly what caused the decline of most civilizations in the ancient world, yet there are many clues to some of the events that could have contributed. The collapse of the ancient Roman Empire, the Mesoamerican Mayan, and the Egyptian cultures will be discussed in the following paragraphs, with a focus on the uniqueness of each.
     “Collapse” is in quotations because its definition when applied to civilizations is often debated.

Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary states:

1: to fall or shrink together abruptly and completely: fall into a jumbled or flattened mass through the force of external pressure
2: to break down
3: to cave or fall in or give way
4: to suddenly lose force, significance, effectiveness, or worth
5: to break down in vital energy, stamina, or self-control through exhaustion or disease; especially: to fall helpless or unconscious
6: to fold down into a more compact shape

Although this definition can vaguely describe the overall fall of most civilizations, the actual details are more finite. One such event would be an environmental change. Archaeologists use this as a reason for the decline of civilizations often because it fits so well into any situation. A terrifying earthquake, a change in flow of a vital river, and a volcanic eruption are examples of what could have happened to abruptly end a civilization. Another reason might be over use of natural resources. As civilizations grew, the need for more resources increased. They could not grow enough food to support the growing population, and as a result trade networks fell apart, people began to starve, and large epidemics spread. Also many of these civilizations based everything on ideology. They believe that their rulers were gods on earth, so when these devastating things started happening, they lost faith in their ruler. Building temples, making statues of their kings, redistributing their goods, and the following of rulers all ceased. The accumulation of all these factors resulted in decline.
     For a long period of time, the Mayan civilization was assumed to ha...

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...n 1163 B.C., Egypt entered a period of slow decline (Scarre 1997:116). Pharaohs became less powerful, and their prestige dwindled. Hungry soldiers were terrorizing the community, while tomb robbers were raiding the pyramids for resources that were very much needed. They had buried their pharaohs with food, goods and jewelry, all of which were needed to keep the civilization in tact. They had built too many pyramids, and there were setbacks in Asia which corrupted trade. People did not understand why the pharaohs could not fix the problems that were going on. They viewed them as gods and lost trust and faith. Egypt fell apart as these things culminated with loss of belief in the pharaohs.
These three civilizations all had a decline that can not be totally explained. Each unique yet similar in different ways. Both the Egyptian and Mayan civilization seemed to have declined because of agricultural and ideological reasons, and all three had to do with a loss of power and trust in rulers. There are many factors that create a civilization or empire and make it powerful. The corruption and loss of these same factors is what leads to the decline of an otherwise successful civilization.

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