viernes, 28 de junio de 2013

Abrupt Civillization Changes (II)

Prosigo republicando en este blog de Observar y Pensar algunos textos en inglés publicados por mi en 2010, que creo conviene revisitar en la coyuntura actual siria, como así mismo de otros países próximos, en esta hora de profundos cambios estratégicos tanto a escala mediterránea como global. 

Abrupt Falls


Modern man has kept a constant focus on certain historic moments. One of the most frequently observed is the collapse of the Roman Empire. This is curious because the Roman fall was very smooth. It started at around the III century A.D. and the last political signal as Roman State was sent to the History in the Vth century, when the Prefect of the Annona stopped the free distribution of bread to the Roman poor in 476 A.D.
Therefore the Roman collapse is not an Abrupt Collapse, it is just like many other collapses - a decline of territorial “imperium”, and political unity. It is worth mentioning that Roman armies won most of the wars engaged against their German foe.
Another very important thing normally forgotten…or even never learned…is that the Roman Empire was divided into two sections several centuries before the collapse of the western area. The eastern section survived a long time after the western collapse until 1453. It is a fact that Constantinople was the capital of the surviving eastern Roman Empire. Its decline was also very smooth, and, paradoxically, Constantinople´s decline is related to Christian invasions and partial destruction made by war fleets and armies from Gene, Catalonia. One of these Christian attacks on the capital of the Holy Roman Empire was from Crusaders going to Jerusalem in 1205. In this way the final decline of Constantinople was a sum, such as that of the Western Roman Empire, of successive crises lasting dozens of years through, at least a couple of centuries.
Thus, when we talk or read about the Collapse of the Roman Empire we are before one of the best documented long declines of a political entity in known History.
If we look before the Roman glorious period and its smooth decline, we find the Greek-Hellenic-conglomerate of city-states federated under Alexander’s domain. The cause of this Pan-Hellenic federation under Alexander is the loss of power by Athens and Sparta. The former occurred in a very short span of time, and the latter through a political and military eclipse before the strength of the Macedonian king Phillipos, the father of Alexander.
I think the fall of Athens is full of interesting, useful, information, going well beyond its chronological frame, a glimpse of this phenomenon will follow:
The long war between Sparta and Athens lasted a grand total of 26 years from 431 to 404 B.C., and it marked the abrupt military decline of Athens. This war is well known through Thucydides book “The Peloponnesian War”, where a lot of interesting details of ancient war are shown for the very first time. For me the most useful information, derived from this detailed written source, is the abrupt decline of Athens because of its catastrophic naval expedition against Sicily in 415 B.C. The power of Athens was at its highest threshold, the continuous mutual attacks between Athenians and Spartan armies were of no consequence since both acted on different strategic spheres: the Athenians preferred to war at sea while the powerful terrestrial army of Sparta kept their battles on the ground. Therefore, quoting Thucydides, neither enemy destroyed the military might of their rival despite many long years of war. But Athens did step into a naval-terrestrial expedition into Sicily which foresaw that the strategic key to win against her enemy was by attacking one of the most rich and active rearguards of the Peloponnesus league, controlled by Sparta. The Athenian expedition ended in 415 with the complete destruction of the Athenian army, her soldiers were killed or enslaved. From this moment on, Athens lost not simply an army but a very qualified one: in this Sicilian expedition her soldiers were very well trained sailors and the operative core of her fleet. The final battle of Aegospotami in 405 was a paradoxical battle where the superior speed of the Spartan fleet trapped the Athenian ships lying in shore. In less than 10 years from the Sicilian catastrophe Athens lost military control of the Ionian sea, the access to the Hellespont, and most importantly, the leadership of the Dalian League. The late did mean the abrupt loss of any ability to reshape her former power among the Hellenic city-States. Athens, after her military and political Abrupt Change, did not disappear from either the maps or from the memory of men. But nothing was the same again for them. In this sense it is worth mentioning that some Abrupt Changes within the geopolitical sphere do not necessarily imply the physical smashing of cities, people and civil organisations. This kind of abrupt geopolitical change does not have to imply abrupt civilization change.
Is there any other example where such an Abrupt Change provoked physical destruction of cities and the dispersion of their inhabitants? Yes, indeed, and in our next post we are going to surf onto some key examples.