Why Do Civilizations Decay?


Why do civilizations decay? Why’d the mighty Rome die into shambles that too subdued by the unruly Huns & Goths? Why’d the all powerful Achaemenids, Arabs or Chinese, timeless as they were obfuscate so easily.

  So, here we have a plethora of disparate reasons leading up to the decline & decimation of large cultures across the world. Between all of these, we may very well see a pattern:

  1. Strength turns weakness:

The very nature of a civilization is such that ‘social inertia’ continues to grow; agriculture, the mainstay of economy remains stagnant throughout the life of a civilization. So, does the perception of masses. Deeply entrenched belief system, also adds into their inflexibility & fear of changes however, needful.

People are no more receptive to changes, at times even spiteful towards progress. This nonchalance is in fact insidious eating over society completely.

E.g: The cultures of Mesoamerica crumbled not because of heroics of Spanish conquerors but, more of their own inherent indolence towards adapting to changing circumstances.

We surely need some Darwanian theory here!

Another one here, this vicious cycle of laxity impedes innovation & empires turn susceptible to technologically superior foes.

“When Ibrahim Lodhi & his towering war elephants were preparing for the Battle of Panipat, not even the most erudite of his men expected to be confronted by canons which could tear down double- walls & fortifications.”


  1. External causes:

Back in 1660’s Aurangzeb was sitting on his opulent Peacock throne crushing every rebellion across the length & breadth of Hindustan, an austere & shrewd states-man as he was, still failed to see Nadir Shah sacking Delhi in less than a century. Plundering much of Mughal treasuries including, Peacock throne & Koh-i-noor.

How could things turn so grim? Actually, the second is related to first closely even intricately.

Complacency begets nonchalance & hence, laxity. Even greatest of  rulers can barely escape this lethal combination. Thus, most of the times empires would fail to overcome when confronted   by a powerful adversary.


  1. Concentrated power:

Why did we see the Union Jack flutter across half the world? Why has France been able to overcome every peril it was thrown into?

The thumb rule is, never ever restrict power in one hand. It has never served & never will.

Glorious empires like the Ottomans, Safavids & Byzimtium were torn apart more due to internal scheming than any mortal blow of their enemy.

Avarice, greed & lechery between contenders of power weakens empire & eventually leads up to its demise.

“e.g: The struggle for throne between Humayun, Kamran, Askari & Hindal almost terminated the Mughal line in India even before it begun. Four generations later, the gory civil war between Aurangzeb (Murad & Shah Shuja on his side) & Dara Shikoh let loose Pandora’s box effectively ruining the empire once Aurangzeb died.”

©Haris Ahmed

(Originally written on Quora)

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