“Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”
Even though no one is certain who first spoke or penned this statement, truer words were never uttered.
(Why Democracy Doesn’t Work by Joseph Farah, a nationally syndicated columnist at
Where are the great empires of the past? Where is the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, and the Roman Empire? You can find what is left of them in museums, in ruins and in a few ancient stone buildings frequented only by modern tourists.
We cannot help but be impressed by the great empires of the past. The Babylonian Empire ruled the Middle East, and the armies of Nebuchadnezzar were unstoppable. The mighty Roman Empire lasted for 500 years, before falling to the Vandals and the Heruli. World War II saw the blitzkrieg expansion of the Third Reich across Europe and North Africa. Hitler’s ambitions included conquest of the Soviet Union, but he failed, and Allied armies pummeled mighty Germany into a rubble heap. Can any nation or empire long endure?
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consisted of 15 republics and one-sixth of the world’s land surface, or 2.5 times the area of the U.S. This great superpower reveled in its Communist ideology; it fought for the hearts of nations all over the world and lost. On November 9, 1989, the symbol of its subjugation of Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall, came tumbling down. Now this once-mighty power has shattered into 15 struggling nation-states, with 12 tied together in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Who could have predicted the fall of this great superpower?
(Rise and fall of Nations, Cover Story: Richard F. Ames at
History shows us that all of the great nations of the world have never lived much more than 200 years and there has been sequential stages in every case.
The first stage moves from bondage to spiritual faith. The second stage moves from spiritual faith to great courage. The third stage moves from great courage to liberty. The fourth stage moves from liberty to abundance. The fifth stage moves from abundance to selfishness. The sixth stage moves from selfishness to complacency. The seventh stage moves from complacency to apathy. The eighth stage moves from apathy to moral decay. The ninth stage moves from moral decay to dependence. And the tenth and last stage moves from dependence to bondage again.
These are the ten stages through which all the great nations have gone. We can’t help from noticing the progression from bondage to liberty back to bondage. It seems that the law of circularity might be at work. Nevertheless, the first generation throws off the shackles of bondage only to have a later generation … through apathy, indifference, and dependence upon the government … to allow it to once again be enslaved.
The people of the great nations of the past seem normally to have imagined that their pre eminence would last forever. Rome appeared to its citizens to be destined to be for all time the mistress of the world. Seventy years ago, many people in Britain believed that the empire would endure forever. Although Hitler failed to achieve his objective, he declared that Germany would rule the world for a thousand years. That sentiments like these could be publicly expressed without evoking derision shows that, in all ages, the regular rise and fall of great nations has passed unperceived. The simplest statistics prove the steady rotation of one nation after another at regular intervals.
The belief that their nation would rule the world forever naturally encouraged the citizens of the leading nation of any period to attribute their pre eminence to hereditary virtues. They carried in their blood, they believed, qualities which constituted them a race of supermen, an illusion which inclined them to the employment of cheap foreign labor (or slaves) to perform menial tasks and to engage foreign mercenaries to fight their battles or to sail their ships.
These poorer peoples were only too happy to migrate to the wealthy cities of the empire, and thereby, as we have seen, to adulterate the close knit, homogeneous character of the conquering race. The latter unconsciously assumed that they would always be the leaders of mankind, relaxed their energies, and spent an increasing part of their time in leisure, amusement or sport.
In recent years, the idea has spread widely in the West that ‘progress’ will be automatic without effort, that everyone will continue to grow richer and richer and that every year will show a ‘rise in the standard of living’. We have not drawn from history the obvious conclusion that material success is the result of courage, endurance and hard work a conclusion nevertheless obvious from the history of the meteoric rise of our own ancestors. This self-assurance of its own superiority seems to go hand in hand with the luxury resulting from wealth, in undermining the character of the dominant race.
It is of interest to note that decadence is the disintegration of a system, not of its individual members. The habits of the members of the community have been corrupted by the enjoyment of too much money and too much power for too long a period. The result has been, in the framework of their national life, to make them selfish and idle. A community of selfish and idle people declines, internal quarrels develops in the division of its dwindling wealth, and pessimism follows, which some of them endeavour to drown in sensuality or frivolity. In their own surroundings, they are unable to redirect their thoughts and their energies into new channels.
(Adapted from THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL by Sir John Glubb at
We can find about 28 symbols of different civilizations in world history, out of which 18 are now extinct, 9 are on the decline and only one civilization remains that is progressing. But the future of this civilization may also not be different from the other civilizations. Before Toynbee (British historian), many historians and social philosophers had given their theories on the concept of rise and fall of civilizations. Spangler said, “Society is like an individual. It is born and then after passing through various stages it expires”. Plato was also of the same view. Toynbee differed with all these concepts. He said that the fall of a nation or civilization takes place with the failure of self determination. The subject of the fall of civilizations is very vast and cannot be dealt with in one go.
The first situation is that there is an eruption of a new social force in a society and that society fails to bring the essential changes in various organs of the society to cope with the change. This lack of ability to bring contemporary change gives rise to a revolution, as a result of which everything is destroyed and the new energy is also usurped.
The second situation says that the ingenious and intricate ability of the human mind is beneficial and at the same time harmful also. If you achieve the success by employing your ingenuity on one occasion, you may develop such an over confidence that you tend to lose in the face of a very trivial difficulty subsequently. If repeated time and again at the higher level of society, it ultimately leads to downfall.
The third situation is that you make an attachment and association with successful institutions like the monarchy, the parliament or the clergy in such a manner that if the downfall of those institutions starts, you are unable to detach yourself from those institutions. In that case the ship will sink along with everybody onboard.
The fourth situation is that you adopt some principles, doctrines or the instruments of war and as a result you achieve many successes. But as with the passage of time these rules, doctrines and the instruments of war (or even instruments of peace like tools of production etc) become outdated and the superior concepts and doctrines over take them, you are unable to adapt to the changes required by the prevailing situation. You tend to apply old solutions to resolve the newly emerged problems and thus face the defeat.
The fifth situation is the unwise and irresponsible use of power (Also refer to the philosophy of power given by Bismarck). The Greek used to explain this reason of downfall in three words: abundance, irresponsibility and destruction. The Assyrians had excelled in the art of warfare. After every conquest they would add new force to their fighting ability. Their conquests continued till many decades. But there was an inbuilt weakness in their strategy. The continued and unabated wars dissipated their energies. The ultimate result was their annihilation.
When Phillip II sent land force against Holland and naval force against England, when Napoleon III attacked Prussia, when William II attacked Belgium, when Charlemagne attacked Italy five times and when Tamer-lane spent his 42 years in fighting wars. All these are the examples of the violation of the philosophy of power and thus met with failure.
The sixth situation of down fall is the state of intoxication acquired due to successes achieved. The victory and triumph creates temporary satisfaction but also opens Pandora box of new problems. The intoxication, whether of power or victory, does not allow time to take stock of other problems. And this is what proves fatal. In 2nd century BC the Roman Empire got intoxicated due to extensive military victories and ultimately it became one of the causes of their downfall. The Rome got intoxicated by the victorious to such an extent that they neither took rest nor did they allow others to rest. The peace is needed even by the victorious, and the defeated ones want asylum and safety. Both the situations became nonexistent.
(Adapted from Rise and fall of the Nations: What does history have for the bright future of mankind? by Peace at
Reflections on the History of Nations:
When I consider mighty nations’ fate,
Their rise, their growth, their grandeur, and decline;
And all their varied history contemplate,
I see and own in each the Hand divine!
Not of themselves they rose to wealth and power,
And gained on earth a glory and a name;
Alike, to God, the nation of an hour,
And that which stands a thousand years the same.
To such as walk in righteousness and truth,
He gives long years of steady, sure increase;
They, like the eagle, shall renew their youth,
Their honor and their glory never cease;
While such as from his just commandments stray,
Shall sudden fall; or waste by slow decay.
(Jones Very, 1868 at


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