There have been many great empires over the course of history. They have all fallen so far at one time or another. Some have been very brief in the grand view of history such as that of Napoleon which lasted less than a generation. Even the Soviet empire lasted only about three generations which is nothing more than a whisper in the march of time since the arrival of homo sapiens. Today Iraq is in our news on a regular basis but we often forget the ancient history of that region and the lessons of empire that come from there.
Probably the first true empire was created there over 5 thousand years ago. It was the Sumerians. They came to have hegemony over that region of southern Iraq and spread that control and influence from the Persian Gulf to Northestern Turkey and up to the Northwestern reaches of modern Iran and the areas all around the southern Caspian Sea. But several centuries later the Amorites came from the area of modern Israel and took over the area. The Sumerians like so many other empires collapsed from trying to control too large and area and too many diverse peoples. It drained them. The Amorites created the Babylonian Empire. Their greatest leader was Hammurabi who established the Hammurabi Code of laws. The first known codification of laws that regulated the criminal and commercial activities of a people. The Amorites didn’t establish a “new” civilization they mostly assumed control of the existing one of the Sumerians. They absorbed the Sumerian civilization into their own culture. They controlled the region now but weren’t really that much different than the Sumerians.
As with the Sumerians they were under constant attack from the fringes of their empire much as they Romans would be centuries later. Finally the pressure from these constant forays depleted their power and the Hittites came and sacked the capital and took control. The Hittites are also known from Biblical days just as the Amorites. The Hittities came from the north around the Caucasus mountains. By now it was the Semitic language that endured in the region. The Conquerors adopted it as their own over time. Next was another of the famous Biblical peoples from Genesis that came. It was the Assyrians from the northern part of Iraq. Their citadel was Nineveh. The place where Jonah as to go and spread the belief in God of the Old Testament. The Assyrian leader even went so far as to adopt the title of King of Sumer-Akkadia which was a tacit acknowledgement of the continuing influence of the Sumerian civilization centuries after the “Sumerians” were long gone as a military or political force. They held sway for several centuries before they succumbed. They were assailed on all fronts the old Babylonians from the south, the Medes from modern Persia and the Scythians from the Black Sea region. It was at this time that the Jews were taken into captivity and marched to Babylon. It was only in the 6th century B. C. that this Sumerian based empire finally collapsed and lost all cohesion with the conquest of the region by the Persians and Cyrus the Great.
The Roman empire during it slow glide into submission also absorbed the very people who were bent on conquering her. Attila the Hun was a subject of the Roman empire and indeed wanted to become a great leader of that Empire. He attacked when his ambitions were thwarted. Even after his sack of Rome he continued to have his own family and other of his lieutenants intermarry with the great Roman families. He wanted to defeat Rome but at the same time he envied the Roman culture. After the complete collapse of the Roman empire all learned peoples of the civilized world continued to admire and adopt as many Roman ways as they could. The language endures to this day even if not sp0ken by any general populace. But any medical student will tell you it endures. One of the most cherished titles any leader of Europe could claim for centuries after the fall of Rome was that of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The “empire” lasted for almost a thousand years even if for most of that time it was merely a shell and echo of the former glory of Rome.
All these empires have left a lasting mark on mankind. Some brought us the use of mathematics and higher math like geometry. Others have left a legacy with their language still in active use or the roots of it all over modern language. Some gave us the foundation of democracy and the rights of the people to have a say over their lives and government. The most human of activities–to write and communicate came from these empires. Thought without the ability to express it to others is of limited value. Writing brought our minds to a higher level and sharpened our intellectual keenness. They all left clear and lasting footprints in the path of civilization which we follow even today.
One wonders what the footprints will be of the US a few centuries from now. Some empires came and went without a truly lasting impression on the journey of man. The Aztecs were an interesting empire but they left nothing of scientific or cultural value that has been emulated by others over the centuries. When we inevitably decline at some point will our values, systems of governance and religious beliefs be deemed worthy by our progeny and yes, even our eventual conquerors to endure long after we have faded into the mists of history?
“Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups or relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State” Mussolini. Hmm, makes one wonder. www.olcranky.wordpress.com