Civilizations have been torn down after they reached pinnacle of organization, culture and sophistication. Empires have been built on power, technology and management. Comfort and refined then combined with declining military might. And then they have been met with brave and desperate raiders. Desperate raiders come from lands that cannot sustain them. So, often it is a about a desperate effort to find livable lands. A long civilization/dynasty gets torn down and raiders rule. The cycle then repeats itself.
Have things changed?
For millennia, man has always been led to lands where his sustenance would require less toil. Aryans and people from up North, including the Armenians have flocked to India. Afghans, Central Asians and Arabs have poured into India for centuries in the name of Islam. Stories of India’s fertile land and abundant water, sunshine, food made this sound like heaven to every prospective raider. A repeated trend has been that of relatively cultured people being displaced and ruled over by men of low sophistication, but possessing greater skill and zeal for battles. Often civilizations based on logic, knowledge etc have crumbled and given in to brute force. Moors poured into from their desert lands in North Africa, to raid the life sustaining lands of Spain. They were stopped only by organized European powers from moving further up. Seljuks moved south from their inhospitable terrains in the North to the beautiful and easier life in the Byzantine. Similarly Vikings invaded lands. Chinese from certain parts moved southwards in search of greener pastures, to settle in South East Asia and alter its racial mix for ever.
While Europe’s centuries long crusading efforts were largely in vein, losing West Asia & Turkey while regaining Spain, things changed with Renaissance. Advances in technology and management gave them unprecedented advantage to build colonies in all other inhabited continents. Their long enemies were biting dust as well.
Today some lands like China and India that long sustained huge inflow of people, seem too overpopulated themselves. India has absorbed Aryans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Armenians, Central Asians, Africans and so on. But Indians seldom looked beyond its shores for making a living. Today things seem vastly different. Indians seem to be running into every part of the earth to make a decent living. Has the time come for cycle to reverse? Today’s raiders will obviously be of different kind. Conquests will probably not through savage means, as we saw how Taliban were destroyed. Vietnam’s defeat of Khmer Rouge in 1979 can also be termed as victory of a better set of people over savages.
Probably, given the tectonic shifts in technology, empires can combine refinement and easy going life with enormous power, only if they can maintain economic might. Can’t imagine a bunch of gun-toting men conquering UK or US, unlike the zealous Genghis Khan conquering lands.