Most Dreaded Terror 10 Mesopotamia

Dore “Raven”   downloaded Feb 18, 2018
It is the 13 of March, 2018.  In the last talk I was giving data on voles, how vole populations in Europe often follow a stereotyped pattern of damped oscillation over time.  This pattern has been seen in the lab with fruit flies, in a computer simulation and now in the wild.  However, in all my wanders I have never seen it reported in humans.  I imagine it happens but has never been noticed.
One things humans do notice is when an empire falls.  A civilization reaches a certain degree of development, and then barbarians sweep in killing, looting and burning so that the language and culture are extinguished or else another civilization comes in and does the same thing.
But think about that for a moment.  The original civilization has food, transportation and a standing army.  It is said that in a battle the attacking force needs a ten to one advantage.  But for an invasion at a distance things are even worse.  Food, weapons and discipline must be maintained and brought along in an orderly way.  Defections must be minimal.  Sanitation and health are important, likely more important than victory in the field.  All this should not succeed often, yet it does with regularity.  How is that possible?
One kind of data that can be amassed with reasonable confidence turns out to be the dates of the collapses; a lot of things change: the language, the religion, the government and so forth.  What I have done was to look at the dates in lower Mesopotamia, Iraq.  (My knowledge of Syria in upper Mesopotamia is not adequate.)  I got together how many years (broken into 50 year intervals) each civilization survived.  Then I calculated how many survived fifty years, how many survived from between 50 and 100 years and so forth.  Then I calculated the chance of making it 50 years, the chance the survivors had of making it to 100 years, now their chance of lasting to 150 years and so forth.  I present it as a graph.  If you have tears, prepare to shed them.  I did make one tweak.  The Ottoman Empire was ruled by an autocrat.  But it was a lot of work, so he appointed a vizier to do the usual business.  Beneath him, in early years, were a group of slaves, the Janissaries, recruited from the Balkans.  The were the elite soldiers, the administrators and generally made things work.  But the supply of them ran out after many years and from then on they became a hereditary class.  I count that as being two empires, although nominally they were the same empire. 
Chance of surviving the next 50 years is on vertical axis


Age of the empires in years is on horizontal axis.
Information taken from R. H. Carling THE WORLD HISTORY CHART International Timeline.  In about 1574-1596, the Ottoman Empire changed the way they recruited the Sultan’s personal guard, the janissaries.  We count them as two empires changing then.
You can look at that graph a long time.  It covers all of recorded history into the 20th century, so the numbers aren’t going away. 
First notice that the line is very clean.  If there were a number of reasons a civilization might fall, all unrelated to each other, the line would be noisy.  If there were hundreds or thousands of data points, that might smooth the line out.  But since the graph covers 6,000 years the number of regimes is in the dozens.  If the line is this smooth there can only be one or two reasons the civilizations fall, presumably related reasons. 
On class of things that might bring down a civilization would be disasters coming from outside: overwhelming invasion, depopulating plagues, climate change.  In that case, the outside threats would have nothing to do with the ages of the civilizations and the line would be level. It is not level.
Another kind of threat would be problems within the population itself such as the wrong technology, the wrong kind of government, the wrong religion, the wrong genes.  In that case there would be a kind of selection in which the less favored civilizations would collapse first and what was left would be more durable.  In that case the line would rise.  It does not rise. 
Therefore civilizations are doomed because of something that is neither inside of the population nor outside.  Consider: the most expensive thing I own is not in my house, nor is it outside my house.  Obviously it is my house itself. 
I say doomed.  As any civilization ages, it gets more and more likely to fall.  As it approaches 300 years, its chance of survival drops to zero.  At least that is true in this place over this enormous span of time. 
The only thing that can be at work is that, given a population big enough to maintain a civilization – or to administer it – fertility will eventually collapse.  There is just no other possibility without invoking forces outside nature, and it is forces within nature that we must concern ourselves with.  Nothing else permits prudent choices. 
Look long and hard at this graph.  In order to escape this doom we must understand it.  That means we must know the mechanism.  That is where we are going. 
In the next talk I shall show that this effect is not limited to lower Mesopotamia. 

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