Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

What Caused The Downfall Of The Moslem World?

Rate this topic


Bold Standard
 Share

Recommended Posts

Okay-- We've got a few serious History buffs on the forum now, so I'd like to pose this question as a topic for discussion. When Christian Europe was experiencing its Dark Ages, the Moslem World was enjoying a flourishing civilization. When Europe went centuries without a notable philosopher or any significant advancements in thought, the Moslems had great Aristotelians, such as Averoes. They had medicine and science. The West had-- nothing.

So what happened? Why did the tables turn? Was the desire to murder the Infidels present in Muslim culture, even at their cultural peak? There are some interesting leads I found in the Crusades thread. But not even my encyclopedia is giving me the answers I'm really looking for.

And what happened to the Moors? What role did they play in everything? If anyone knows a lot about this topic, I'd love to read as much as you care to write-- I know almost nothing about any of it! Also, if there are any good texts following the trends in "Islam" over the centuries from antiquity up till the modern era, I'd appreciate a recommendation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may want to check out bernard lewis' "What Went Wrong? : The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East" It provides a concise history of Islam to the late 90s.

In the meantime, one factor has to be the many defeats Islam suffered in Europe. Against Martel in Poitiers, at the gates of Vienna, and the Spanish Reconquista in the late XV century (consider, too, that Spain was also rich and powerful enough at the time to finance Columbus, a smart investment if there ever was one).

Defeat makes people angry, and leads them to hunt down scapegoats. Islam being a religion that gives its god a large role in everyday affairs, it might come naturally to suppose that defeats in the battlefield show Allah's displeasure with its flock. this would lead Islam to fundamentalism, and close it off from the West, by then undergoing a Renaissance.

Later on , the many defeats of Arab armies by Israel really let them know just how far they had fallen. Again, I believe this reinforced fundamentalist sentiments. Why should a tiny country with a small population and scant recources beat them every time they clashed?

There are rational explanations, such as poor training and organization in the armed forces (Lewis goes into some detail), very poor schooling, very little liberty of any kind, etc. But it is much easier to believe it's because Allah is mad at you because you saw a woman's bare face, or her loose hair, and you need to fully submit before it will forgive you and let you win over the wicked zionist entity.

This didn't happen all at once, of course. But a gradual change is still a change. Add the fact that the authoritarian regimes int eh region, eben "friendly" ones like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have crushed all opposition save for some religious parties. This makes the fundamentalists weigh mre havily in politicl affairs. Give them a simple message (Allah is mad at you for your disobedience), let them set up a straw man (Israel) on whom they can blame all their ills, and what do you get?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When Christian Europe was experiencing its Dark Ages, the Moslem World was enjoying a flourishing civilization. When Europe went centuries without a notable philosopher or any significant advancements in thought, the Moslems had great Aristotelians, such as Averoes. They had medicine and science. The West had-- nothing.

So what happened? Why did the tables turn? Was the desire to murder the Infidels present in Muslim culture, even at their cultural peak? There are some interesting leads I found in the Crusades thread.

Good question. There are certain internal social and political factors to take into account, first of all. For example, you can't speak of just one Muslim culture; the Arabs, Persians, and Turks had rather different cultural traditions. (The saying in Islam is that Arabic is the language of religion, Persian the language of government and poetry, that is, literature and the arts, and Turkish is the language of the military.) Many of the great lights of Muslim culture were from or flourished in Persia (Nishapur, Herat) and Persian central Asia (Bukhara, Samarqand, Tashkent, Merv and so on)--in part this was due to the Samanid dynasty (900-1000 or so), the first important Islamic Persian dynasty, and some of its successors; they followed rather liberal cultural policies that hearkened back to pre-Islamic Persian traditions. Even earlier, the Abbasids (who ruled as caliphs from 750 to 1260 or so) got their start in eastern Persia (Khorezm), and the caliph who spearheaded the translation of so many works of Greek antiquity, Al-Ma'mun (ruled 812-833), started out in the same region, if I remember correctly, as a governor for his father, and he tried ruling the Caliphate from Merv for six or seven years before moving to Baghdad (which his armies had wrecked in a civil war against his brother). The Persian influence on the Abbasids was quite important for Muslim culture. --You should keep in mind that the spread of Shiism into Iran is much later; it occurred under the Safavids (1502-1722 or so), who started out in Azerbaijan and conquered much of Iran by 1510 or so. Earlier, Shi'ites made up maybe a third of the population in Iran, but the Safavids forcibly suppressed Sunnism and in fact eventually collapsed when they tried to force certain Afghans to convert to Shi'ism and provoked a major rebellion. (Before that time, Iran and Persian Central Asia were a cultural unity, but they went their separate ways after that.)

Similarly, while the Arabs and Turks were both traditionally nomadic (or semi-nomadic), the Arabs were in general more accepting of many aspects of trade and commercial life. This was important because by the mid-800s, the Caliphate had come to rely on Turkish mercenaries in place of the old Arab armies, and for much of the time after that the mercenaries (Mamluks) had real power in many of the various states that the Caliphate started splitting up into. Because of civil war in the early 800s, the irrigation systems in Iraq and the surrounding regions had been damaged and allowed to silt up, and with the rise of the Mamluks there was no strong drive to restore them, which crippled agriculture in the area directly controlled by the Caliphate; the Mamluks were also less interested in a flourishing trade than the earlier Arab rulers had been, which also helped the Caliphate to splinter. Finally, the Turks of the time also tended to be quite strict Muslims with a narrow view of culture, as were the Berbers, which had an increasingly depressive effect on the Islamic cultural world from about 900 to 1200 (the Berbers were important in the history of Islamic Spain; they were invited in to fight the Christians in the 11th century and came back later to overthrow the Moorish states that were already there because they were too tolerant of and cooperative with Christians and Jews--more specifically, the Moors were themselves largely of Berber origin, but the later wave was led by a new dynasty based in Morocco, the Almoravids, who saw themselves as religious reformers). With the fragmentation of the Caliphate you eventually had frequent wars among the various successor states, as well as the rise of a somewhat feudal sort of system (based on the 'iqta, a land grant) and the penetration of much of the Middle East by semi-nomadic tribes among the different cities; they levied high tolls and could easily fall on the towns to extort tribute. That was the social and political situation in the Islamic world, near as I can fathom it, by the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. However, it's not my specialty, so I'm sure there are important points I've skipped or missed.

More fundamentally, the impression I have is that the spread of the frontiers of Islam under the early Abbasids fed a cultural confidence that encouraged the spread of a more worldly, enlightened view of things, a pure curiosity about things that didn't impinge on religious sensibilities overmuch, as well as providing an inflow of booty and tribute that kept the state afloat. When that faltered and the state started hurting and decentralizing, more recent converts not acculturated to the cultures of Baghdad and Persia got the chance to start running things and militarism spread throughout many parts of the Islamic world; along with that a feeling of crisis and religious division spread that made many Muslims turn back to a less worldly strain of religion (note that while there were self-declared Shi'ites from the death of 'Ali in 661, Sunnism as a distinct self-declared alternative to it really only dated from about 1030; it was another line of division coming into prominence about this time), which was heightened by the actual loss of territory to non-Muslims later during the Crusdaes and the Mongol invasions.

Also, if there are any good texts following the trends in "Islam" over the centuries from antiquity up till the modern era, I'd appreciate a recommendation.

I remember I got a lot out of Albert Hourani's History of the Arab Peoples (he was one of three brothers, western-trained Arab scholars, who did important work on Islamic history), but that was well over a decade ago and I can't remember it well enough to discuss it more thoroughly. If you're seriously interested in Islamic history, a book I've found essential is Hugh Kennedy's The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century. He gives a solid political history of the period with excellent discussions of more general themes, as well as the necessary historiographical discussions for what we know and what we have to infer from the records. It's thick going because it's intended as a primer for professional historians of the period, but that makes it a valuable reference work. Unfortunately, I don't know of a similar work for the period after the Mongol conquests.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont claim to know that much about the history of Islam, but I was under the impression that the destruction of Baghdad in the 13th century was the most significant single event. At the time it was taking significant strides towards secularism, with a thriving community of artists and scientists - probably close to being the Arab equivalent of Athens, and certainly far ahead of anything in the Christian world. And then it disappeared pretty much overnight, a blow from which the Muslim world never really recovered.

Edited by Hal
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A correction and a couple of amplifications, now that it's not near my bedtime.

Even earlier, the Abbasids (who ruled as caliphs from 750 to 1260 or so) got their start in eastern Persia (Khorezm)...

Oops! That was Khurasan, not Khorezm. They're both in the east, but they're distinct places.

With the fragmentation of the Caliphate you eventually had frequent wars among the various successor states...When that faltered and the state started hurting and decentralizing, more recent converts not acculturated to the cultures of Baghdad and Persia got the chance to start running things and militarism spread throughout many parts of the Islamic world; along with that a feeling of crisis and religious division spread that made many Muslims turn back to a less worldly strain of religion (note that while there were self-declared Shi'ites from the death of 'Ali in 661, Sunnism as a distinct self-declared alternative to it really only dated from about 1030; it was another line of division coming into prominence about this time), which was heightened by the actual loss of territory to non-Muslims later during the Crusdaes and the Mongol invasions.

The big event in all that was the establishment of the Fatimids in Egypt starting in 969. They were a dynasty of staunch Ismaili Shiites who led a long, drawn-out war (military, commercial, subversive, and ideological) against the Caliphate. It was in response to their ideological and religious propaganda that the madrasa got its start; it was a kind of school established to expound the Sunni response to the Ismaili arguments of the Fatimids. Sunnism at this time became a body of positive doctrine supported by the Seljuqs that was expounded in response to Shiite doctrine as espoused in Fatimid ideology. Many Ismailis from around the Islamic world flocked to Cairo to drink straight from the well and even if they didn't enter the service of the Fatimids they expounded their doctrines when they returned home; one of them, the founder of the Assassins, followed their example. This is what Bernard Lewis writes about the situation of the time:

"In traditional Islamic states, the business of government was carried out by two main groups, known as the men of the sword...and the men of the pen...The former were the armed forces, the latter the civil bureaucrats. Their relative importance and influence varied according to the type of regime, but the two together were commonly agreed to be the twin pillars of the state. The Fatimids, for the first time in Islamic history, added a third--the Mission. In the Sunni Caliphate, the professional men of religion had stood aside from the state, neither serving it nor accepting its direction. The Fatimids organized them into a third branch of government, with its own functions, structure, and hierarchy, under the direction of the Chief Missionary and the ultimate authority of the Caliph in his capacity as Imam. The Fatimids thus created something previously unknown to Islam--an institutional church. Their example was followed by some later rulers, who found in this new relationship between religion and the state a powerful reinforcement of their authority." (70)

"One of these [functions of the Mission] was what we nowadays call ideology--the organized and exclusive system of ideas adopted and propagated by a movement or regime. Generally speaking, Islamic regimes had no ideology other than Islam itself--and that in the broadest and most tolerant definition. Muslim governments took care not to impose, or even espouse, any intellectual orthodoxy, but to allow, within reasonable limits, the co-existence of diverse opinions. The oft-cited saying, Ikhtilafu ummati rahma, difference within my community is part of God's mercy, accurately reflects traditional Islamic attitudes and practice." (70)

"The Fatimids [unlike the Abbasids, who came to power as a vaguely Shiite movement] did not abandon their distinctive doctrines, but on the contrary gave them a central importance in their whole political system. Isma'ili theology provided the basis on which the Fatimids rested their claim to the Caliphate and denied that of the 'Abbasids. As long as the 'Abbasids survived, the Fatimids were engaged in a religious--i.e., an ideological conflict, in which doctrine was one of their most powerful weapons. In a sense, they were caught in a vicious circle. Because of their initial failure to win over all of Islam, they were obliged to maintain their ideological challenge; yet, by doing so, they isolated themselves from the central consensus of Islam, and thus ensured their own ultimate defeat and disappearance." (71)

"The Isma'ili message had considerable appeal, to many different elements of the population. It was a time of great upheavals in the Islamic world--of economic change, political disruption and intellectual malaise. As in late Umayyad times, there were many who felt that the Islamic community had gone astray and that a new leader, with a new message, was needed to restore it to the true path. There was a withdrawal of consent from the existing order, a loss of confidence in hitherto accepted answers. The 'Abbasid Caliphate, and with it the Sunni order, seemed to be breaking up; some new principle of unity and authority was required to save Islam and the Muslims from destruction.

To many, it seemed that the Isma'ilis could offer such a principle--a design for a new and just world order, under the Imam." (72)

This is from his essay "An Interpretation of Fatimid History" in a recent collection, From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. It's well worth reading, especially that essay and one called "Some Notes on Land, Money and Power in Medieval Islam."

Edited by Adrian Hester
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"...Muslim governments took care not to impose, or even espouse, any intellectual orthodoxy, but to allow, within reasonable limits, the co-existence of diverse opinions. The oft-cited saying, Ikhtilafu ummati rahma, difference within my community is part of God's mercy, accurately reflects traditional Islamic attitudes and practice."

Amazing! Quite different from to-day, eh?

I couldn't find the article again just now, but I remember being surprised in looking up the history of Islam in my encyclopedia to see a reference to the Moors being expelled from Spain in 1492. Does anyone know anything about that? Does it have anything to do with Ferdinand and Isabella funding Columbus' voyage to America?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont claim to know that much about the history of Islam, but I was under the impression that the destruction of Baghdad in the 13th century was the most significant single event.

Thanks for the article, Hal. Interesting that the Mongols might have played as large, or larger a role in the downfall of Moslem civilization than did the West, or Islamic infighting.

On marches when there wasn’t time to milk, Mongol riders would open a vein in their horses’ necks and drink the blood, either straight or from a pouch.

OMG GROSS!! Is this true? :blink:

Like the sack of Baghdad, the Egyptians’ defeat of the Mongols was a moment at which history turned. As a result, Islamic culture in Cairo did not get crushed by the Mongols, and so for a time Egypt became the center of Islam; and the Mongols never extended their power beyond Asia into Africa.

Ah, that explains some things, too.

Exploitative and destructive as the West can be, it’s not in a league with the Mongols. It does not routinely destroy everything in its path and leave only ruins and corpses and jackals behind. I mean, come on.

Nice smuggled in jab, there-- "Exploitative and destructive as the West can be..." <_<

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont claim to know that much about the history of Islam, but I was under the impression that the destruction of Baghdad in the 13th century was the most significant single event. At the time it was taking significant strides towards secularism, with a thriving community of artists and scientists - probably close to being the Arab equivalent of Athens, and certainly far ahead of anything in the Christian world. And then it disappeared pretty much overnight, a blow from which the Muslim world never really recovered.

I think not just the fall of Baghdad, but the entire Mongol invasions played a very large part in the stagnation of the Muslim world. The cultural centers of the Muslim world were Persia and Mesopotamia (both of which suffered under the Mongols), and then Spain (which fell to the Christians, and then was ruined by Christian fanaticism).

Bear in mind that the portions of Christendom which also fell under the Mongols (Russia and Eastern Europe) were relatively stagnant as well.

The destruction caused by the Mongols probably outdoes the destruction caused by Hitler, Stalin, or Mao (individually, maybe not by all combined).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I reflect on this, it makes me wonder if the Huns aren't given enough credit for being a major cause for the cultural stagnation of Europe during the "Dark Ages" (c. 500 - 1200 CE).

Maybe people ought to be making a case for higher culture being more fragile and vulnerable to the incursions of barbaric peoples than we often give credit for.

After all higher culture only flourishes with a sufficent socio-economic base. A base which takes time to construct and which the barbarians typically pillage and ruin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I reflect on this, it makes me wonder if the Huns aren't given enough credit for being a major cause for the cultural stagnation of Europe during the "Dark Ages" (c. 500 - 1200 CE).

The barbarian invasions in general are considered a prime cause of the fall of Rome, but the Huns weren't as significant as many other peoples who invaded the Roman Empire, not directly. The Huns ruled a state situated outside the empire proper (based in Pannonia, north of the Danube in modern-day Hungary) and most of the time extorted tribute from the empire; when Attila did invade, he didn't go much beyond northern Italy and he didn't stay too long. It was the invaders who settled inside the boundaries of the empire who were really important in its decline, such as the Vandals, Franks, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Lombards, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes--though several of these tribes settled in the empire (around 406-411) in order to escape being conquered by the Huns, which was probably the greatest long-term influence of the Huns on European history.

Edited by Adrian Hester
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...
The barbarian invasions in general are considered a prime cause of the fall of Rome
I would add that the profusion of Christianity was practically just as important to Rome's fall. In earlier times, much worse invasions, from much fiercer people, were crushed by Romans, often on multiple fronts simultaneously. Edited by Free Capitalist
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I'm no expert either, but I tend to look for intellectual decay before the actual events the perpetuated a culture's demise. By that perspective, the correlation with Aristotle is very stunning. I just finished Andrew Lewis' excellent ARI course, "Foundations of the Renaissance", and it covers exactly what progressed in philosophy from about this period up to the beginning of the Renaissance. From my notes...

Aristotle lived as Greek intellectual period was in decline and he had few follow up philosophers to comment and expand on his work. Alexander propogated his works during the Hellenstic period 300BC - 0AD.

Philosophically, Rome peaked while still in the Republican period, maybe 200B.C. By the time of Christ and the early Roman empire, intellectually it was already in decline, and within a century or two all sorts of types of mysticism were taking hold, including Christianity, eventually Christianity became the state religion. Emperor Theodosius was the one who purged the classical texts purged from the libraries about 390AD. Within a centure the empire collapses, and Augustinian philosophy dominates until the Scholastics rediscover Aristotle in the 12th century.

The Arabs discovered the Aristotelian texts in the far flung libraries of the Roman Empire, and there began the period known as the Islamic Golden Age. They had several philosophers and commentators on Aristotle and the other classicists, mainly in 3 intellectual centers already discussed.

The crusades brought the West back in contact wtih the east and there are intial reports of western scholars travelling to Constantinople to study in the 1100's. Returning crusaders to Spain kicked off the Spanish Crusade, and the Moors were evicted, leaving the Moslem intellectual center of Cordova in Christian hands. This is the reintroduction of all of the classic texts to the west, and while the Scholastics had been working with a few of the remants before this period, this really touched off the intellectual effort. Aquinas rediscovers all of the Aristotelian texts, carves out a space for reason within Christian doctrine and the stage is set for the Reinassance.

Meanwhile in the Arab world, through the 800's-1100's there are all sorts of Aristotelian scholars, al Farabi, ibn Sena, Averoise. But eventually the same sorts of mysticism that brought down the Roman world developed in the Arab world. Lewis particularly notes one scholar, Al Ghazali, who is often thought of as "The Aquinas of the East", but in reality would be better termed the "Islamic Kant". A complete mystic who rejects Aristotle and the classic Greek philosophers. He and his successors eventually succeed in purging all the classical works and commentaries from the Islamic libraries, and 20-30 yrs later, the Islamic Golden Age is considered to have ended. The dark age that ensued continues to this day.

Burgess Laughlin's Aristotle Adventure traces these texts. The book is on the way to me, but I have the poster already and it is pretty startling the correlation of intellectual advancement with the dissemination of Aritotelian reason. Maybe he will see this thread and comment more. As I said, this information is from my notes on Lewis.

Also interesting is that Aquinas attempt to reconcile Christianity and reason is actually a redux of a similar attempt of a Jewish (Islamic) scholar, Mose Maimonides or "The Jew", in Cordova who tried to do the same thing for reason and Judaism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

Persons interested in the subject may also find Dr Locke's "Psychoepistemology of the Arab World" interesting. As well as an expose' of the present state of their mentality, it includes a discussion of what went wrong, and specifies a single man in the old Arab world who acted as an 'Aquinas in reverse' and almost single handedly wrecked any chance of secularisation in the Arab world for generations.

JJM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All civilizations eventually die. Sooner or later they become fat, lazy, stupid, mean, corrupt, decadent, etc. Then they get conquered -- and sometimes reborn -- by a new civilization with more energy and life. This happened to Eqypt, Persia, Rome, etc. And in many ways Islamdom declined precisely because the West rose.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All civilizations eventually die. Sooner or later they become fat, lazy, stupid, mean, corrupt, decadent, etc. Then they get conquered -- and sometimes reborn -- by a new civilization with more energy and life. This happened to Eqypt, Persia, Rome, etc. And in many ways Islamdom declined precisely because the West rose.
How does that last sentence relate to the rest? If a competing civilization is starting to rise, would it not actually be an example to the one that has lost it's dynamism? After all, we're not speaking of a relative decline, but an absolute one.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How does that last sentence relate to the rest? If a competing civilization is starting to rise, would it not actually be an example to the one that has lost it's dynamism? After all, we're not speaking of a relative decline, but an absolute one.

I'd argue that it is largely a relative decline.

When you look at the Islamic world, you are looking at what was typical for the human race for most of its civilized history.

The West has just produced a rather stellar change in things.

For example, we admire Athens, but if you look at how Athenians treated their women, it was actually as bad as the worst stereotypes of the Islamic world, if not worse. Athenian women were veiled, they lived in special parts of the house, and they didn't go out unescorted.

Of course, Athens did have rather independent prostitutes, but that was the choice for women: either veiled domestic slave,or prostitute.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would add that the profusion of Christianity was practically just as important to Rome's fall. In earlier times, much worse invasions, from much fiercer people, were crushed by Romans, often on multiple fronts simultaneously.

That's curious. What does Christianity have to do with the fall of Rome? Any support for that claim?

All civilizations eventually die. Sooner or later they become fat, lazy, stupid, mean, corrupt, decadent, etc. Then they get conquered -- and sometimes reborn -- by a new civilization with more energy and life.

Actually that description sort of reminds me of America right now...

Especially given the rise of fledgling behemoths like China and India.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I'm no expert either, but I tend to look for intellectual decay before the actual events the perpetuated a culture's demise. By that perspective, the correlation with Aristotle is very stunning.

I'm actually taking the second half of a "History of the Middle East" class right now, taught by a leading Muslim apologist. I haven't read any other objectivist views on Islamic history, but I agree that Ghazali is a leading culprit in Islamic decline. Here are the notes I took on Muslim philosophy with my first reading of Hodgson's "The Venture of Islam"

Plato vs.

Aristotle

al-Safa (514?)

Ibn-Miskawayh (932)

<------------al-Farabi (950)

Ibn-Sina (980)

Ghazali (1058)

Ibn-Rushd (1126)

Ibn-Bajjah (1138)

Suhravardi (1145)

Ibn-Tufayl (1185)

Al-Suhravardi (1191)

Davani of Sharaz (1427)

Obviously its a lot more complex than just "Plato vs. Aristotle," but I think this should act as a good guide for further research. There were more that fall into the Plato column but there were so many mystics that I lost track.

I'm not really prepared to conclude that "Ghazali caused the fall of Islam" but I think its safe to say that he ended the "Golden Age of Islam." (when Muslims contributed enormously to technological innovation and science) In the period that followed, some of the Aristotelian writings by Ibn-Rushd were even considered "too good to read" in that they would bring the reader bad luck by looking upon them, so many of them were lost.

Really, since I haven't finished the class yet, I'm only making observations and I'm not ready to make serious conclusions. My theory is currently "Islam is a more complex religion that Christianity (because it includes Political in addition to Ethical rules). Islamic institutions, in this sense, were also more efficient at stamping out deviation. Since Islamic thought was actually philosophically more complete than Christian thought, Muslims were less able to overcome mysticism or even entertain Aristotelian positions when confronted with the choice between Plato and Aristotle."

Edited by badkarma556
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What are SAVAK and VEVAK?
SAVAK stands for Sazeman-e Ettelaat va Amniyat-e Keshvar and VEVAK stands for Vezarat-e Ettelaat va Amniat-e Keshvar: two Farsi expressions translating to "Ministry / Organization for Intelligence and National Security". SAVAK was the Iranian Gestapo under the Shah, VEVAK is the Iranian Gestapo under the Mullah regime. Both specialise(d) in murder and torture for political purposes, viz. suppressing dissent.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wrote: [Wotan @ Mar 17 2007, 09:38 AM]

"All civilizations eventually die. Sooner or later they become fat, lazy, stupid, mean, corrupt, decadent, etc. Then they get conquered -- and sometimes reborn -- by a new civilization with more energy and life. This happened to Eqypt, Persia, Rome, etc. And in many ways Islamdom declined precisely because the West rose."

How does that last sentence relate to the rest? If a competing civilization is starting to rise, would it not actually be an example to the one that has lost it's dynamism? After all, we're not speaking of a relative decline, but an absolute one.

Scholars and intellectuals tend to be very mobile. When Athens prospered around 500 BC, many impressive Greeks from different cities then moved to Athens. Same with Alexandria a few centuries later. Same with Italy in the 1300s. Same with Paris in the early 1900s. Same with America and London today. "Brain draining" and civilizational concentration seems natural and universal.

As the time Byzantine Empire and Moslem caliphate began to get sickly and weak -- mostly bereft of new ideas, ambition, hope and energy -- many of their leading thinkers moved to Paris and Western Europe around 1100 for their mini-Renaissance. So did their art and rich people even. This all hastened the decline of those two Roman successors and aided the rise of the new West.

Edited by Wotan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...