Exploring Alternative Ancient Histories: a Guest Post by James Bennett

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The brilliant atomic physicist Enrico Fermi was notorious for unnerving PhD candidates during their oral examinations by asking ‘How many piano tuners are there in the city of Chicago?’ The point of the question, besides the psychological effect, was to gauge how well the candidate could estimate (and justify!) an apparently inestimable quantity. This is something experimental physicists routinely do to estimate whether a physical effect can be measured. Even in the absence of a neighborhood particle accelerator, Fermi questions are fun ways to pass the time on a long car trip (‘How many trees are in the state of Washington?’, ‘How many gallons of water are there in the ocean?’).

Most Fermi questions typically estimate a static quantity but some Fermi questions ask about whether and how a complex system might reach some state. We employ these sort of exercises every day when we ask what the weather will be like in a few hours, whether a stock might do well in a year, or if it is mate in ten. Answering these questions often requires thinking about events that might impact the main underlying processes and about when they might occur. But depending on the complexity of the processes and the odds of the events, people just aren’t very good at keeping track of the alternative paths and hence estimating the likely outcomes.

This is why computers have become indispensable for answering such dynamical questions with any time depth. Of course you have to have a pretty logical, often quantitative understanding of the processes to be able to run such simulations. A lot of work in weather forecasting, climate change modeling, and chess playing involves encoding the ‘rules’ of the process and ensuring the steps are modeled at sufficient resolution to not miss important impacts.

What about Fermi questions applied to history? There have been many well-known questions about events and the dynamics of history, including wondering about the fall of states and the rise of subsequent or invading states. A recent, excellent example of one such investigation is Walter Scheidel’s The Escape from Rome, in which he asks why another Roman empire never arose in Europe after the fall of the original in 476 CE while, for example, vast Chinese empires consistently reformed in spite of various dynastic collapses. His far-ranging investigations asked what other societies might plausibly have taken Rome’s place in the centuries following the fall and the factors that checked each in turn. Could a computer model help illuminate such long-standing historical quandaries?

In a paper published in PLOS ONE last week I did just this, building a sophisticated computer model of agrarian states and nomadic confederations that substantially accounts for the dynamics of societies in Europe and Asia across three thousand years of history, from 1500 BCE to 1500 CE. Originally inspired by work of Turchin et al. 2013, my model combines elements of different popular theories to predict not only the number of states, their location and size but also their population, which drives their military might. The model predicts how a state’s military expansion would be checked logistically and hence when warriors would turn from interstate to civil war, causing new states to appear and spread. Using historically accurate timing, locations and estimates of the severity of the threat from nomadic groups (who used military means to extort tribute from states), the model can, for the first time, account for the rapidly increased size and proper timing of different mega-empires. These include the Achaemenid, Roman, Mauryan, and Han Empires, along with various large ‘mirror’ nomadic confederations such as the Scythians and the Xiongnu, as suggested by Turchin’s 2009 conjecture about an arms race along the agrarian/steppe meta-ethnic boundary.

But the modeling framework goes further. It allowed me to identify a host of key events and developments that are required to account for observed history. For instance, had it not been for the invention of large, fast, and reliable ships throughout the Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE and the use of camels as transport animals in the deserts of Egypt and southwest Asia, our world would look radically different today. By eliminating, delaying or changing the scale of these contingent events, the model can pump our intuitions about what might have occurred ‘but for’ these events. In one experiment, for example, if agrarian states had arisen in 1500 BCE in the Mekong and Ganges river valleys, rather than in the Nile, Mesopotamian, and Yellow River valleys, the time before the nomadic pressure enabled the rise of very large European empires west of Persia would have been delayed by ~600 years. Interestingly, in this case the first Chinese empire would have arisen from the south as the associated military technology would have ‘boomeranged’ back from Persia through India and then via the Mekong states, allowing a very large southern Chinese state to expand north into the remaining hinterland and finally engage with the nomads there a millennium later than observed. The model also suggests that no Persian, Mauryan or Cambodian empire would have arisen in those regions because they were already well-saturated with many smaller, militarily-balanced states, none of which could effectively exploit the improved military technology before their neighbors also adopted it.

Along the way, I was able to answer some other important Fermi questions. How much more agriculturally productive were large-scale Eurasian states compared with non-states? Roughly three times, then doubling to six times starting in the late Middle Ages. How much more logistically effective did the militaries of ancient states become because of the threat of nomadic confederations? Roughly twice. How much longer did the very large mega-empires survive before internal collapse than smaller empires? Roughly not at all – as the figure below shows, the historical data and model predictions agree that increased size appears to be no cure for the threat of internal instability and civil war!

This type of computer model is a crucial step in consolidating and testing causal theories about the pulse of societies in the past as they rose, spread, and, ultimately, fell. Models built to scrutinize the collected insights of historians will continue to pump our intuitions about why and how history unfolded.

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Godfree Roberts

“why another Roman empire never arose in Europe after the fall of the original in 476 CE while, for example, vast Chinese empires consistently reformed in spite of various dynastic collapses”?

Rome was founded on amoral, monarchical principles and remained so even through the Republican (oligarchic) period. Roman government never had a moral foundation, despite lip service to Christianity.

So an elite Western few still dominate the many throughout the Western, Roman world. The do so as they have always done, though elected and unelected proxies like Congresses and Supreme Courts.

Not so in China. Its moral foundation was laid in 500 BC and has been refined and consolidated ever since. Chinese moral unanimity explains the durability of their culture. That, along with their superior intelligence and energy, makes them pretty much unkillable.

YuriS

Would you maintain a link between ancient China and modern ccp driven state? I think morality of the latter is rather questionable

Jackson Heuer

I don’t know about the “link” but the CCP still tries to sponsor its own variety of “socialist” ethics, and in reality even sponsors Buddhism.

YuriS

How is that “ethic” different from the one during cultural revolution? After living for a few years myself in a different country with “socialist ethic” this phrase does not have any positive connotation for me

Ryan Gierach

Unfortunately, you display your ignorance while trying to appear learned.

The Roman kingdom was founded as a republic. By the second century B.C., the Republic had developed distinct Roman virtues
Auctoritas–“Spiritual Authority”: The sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
Comitas–“Humor”: Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Clementia–“Mercy”: Mildness and gentleness.
Dignitas–“Dignity”: A sense of self-worth, personal pride.

As to China, you DO understand the the world’s most populous nation of over 1.5 trillion is run by a few hundred thousand people with little regard for the sanctity of human life?
China is committing genocide in Xianxing – where are those vaunted morals?

Finwaell

Been a while since I’ve read such load of crap 😂

And the whole article is off. Ofc There was a new “Rome”. Byzantium in the east for the next 1000 years and in the West it was Frankish Empire under Charlemagne who was crowned Emperor in 800AD.
Later the Emperorship was with the Holy Roman Empire, until 1806 when Napoleon took over as Emperor and with Austrian Emperors until the end of WWI. They all called on the Roman tradition in some way. In the east, Russian Emperors (Czars) took on the legacy of Byzantium (even called it a “Third Rome”).
As for China, European morals and philosophy are vastly superior without debate. Unless you think individual freedom and human rights, rule of law and open market are inferior to being basically a glorified ant colony. The superiority of those ideals can be proved simply by the whole world accepting them (even china has to abide by them to a degree. (not to mention they adopted western technology and way of living) Oh yes and their communist regime is also a western thing, even though twisted and hybridized. But it suits their ant colony mentality).

Peter clarke

Had the Romans under Valens incorporated the goths into a romano gothic state and made them Roman citizens subject to military service the hunnic problems would have been avoided .Rome would have the ability to call on 20 romano gothic legions to defend the Rhine against the Huns and Germanic tribes.the Roman senate didn’t want 100,000 heavily armed goths at their doorstep.this perhaps might have avoided the annihilation of Valens legions

James

The main problem with China is their massive population, it may be a strength, also a huge weakness. It has created a politics of under representation and is only making decline. This political culture should not reveberate with western world, we are not Chinese and we are not the East. ie. the Soviet Union did not work, in EU or in Russia.

Chinese populations have made them the workshop of the world, alot of these consumer goods we have are nowdays making the west a dumping ground, cheap & used etc… People need to develop self sufficiency, even the Romans new that….

Communism is engendered to rule upon you, to de establish free market, and is intended to break traditions and ideals, even if your with them.

Making a comparison of Rome and China in ancient times on todays market may be a liitle difficult.
A more fundamental approach to East West understanding may be sought in the Romano-Parthian cold war, or the rise of Sassania,. There is alot to learn in these studies, for those interested in understanding East-West history.

China is more instrumental to themselves than any other power, so just because we are in a global age, does not mean we have to be subjugated to their political objectives, or that these should ever overlap to our independent statehoods. Thats for the traitors and politicians to do.

Not Lost

Did your modeling account for infectious disease?

James Bennett

Not in this paper and you can see that clearly by comparing the historical versus predicted Eurasian population after 300CE and of course around 1400CE. At the moment infections (and famines) would have to be treated as exogenous forces on population (and carrying capacity) until we develop models that might trigger these regional events from other causes. Of course there is a large literature about modeling pandemics in space and time whose insights could be applied to these historical questions. The important thing is that we now have a nascent model and the promising framework that would allow us to explore these questions.

Chuckbob22

Why are you applying modern ideals of morals on past civilizations? China of modern day is drastically different from China of Zhou or Shang dynasties. As well as modern western morals are drastically different from Mesopotamian, Greek, or ancient Egyptian morals.

Morals in the end are part of the many thousands of things that form a culture. Morals are a small part of a larger picture. This post simply expresses macro concept about the shifts and movement of civilization and people depending on where they started in proximity to nomadic peoples.

R. N. England

If we define morals as verbal rules that are key to the survival of a culture, then morals are at its absolute core.

Doyle Perkins

Very well stated. I agree with your arguments concerning the basic amorality of the ancient Roman state and the substantive morality which has distinguished the Chinese ethos for millenia.

Raymond Tsui

I have some didagree to above,to the opposite, Chinese dynasties built on amoral, non-legetimate base, that was why non of the dynastied survivef longer than 300 yrs, the shortest one lasted less than a few ten years, while with Roman Empire was at leasr built on some moral base, that’s it lasted 1000yrars more

R. N. England

Morality at the top of Imperial China was corrupted by family interest, but persisted amongst middle-level administrators of the Confucian tradition.

R. N. England

The West had moral rules as well. Most large European monarchies were aware that Imperial Rome’s lack of an established mechanism of passing on leadership tore the place apart every few years. That is why they developed rigid rules of hereditary monarchy or later and less successfully, popularly elected officialdom. The West was not amoral, at least not before the emergence of liberalism. Rather, its attempts to develop a morality strong enough to sustain it were corrupted.

It is China that will carry the torch of civilisation into the next thousand years, not only because it has retained the Confucuian morality of the compassionate administrator, but because it has also embraced Western science and socialism.

Theodoros Michopoulos

“why another Roman empire never arose in Europe after the fall of the original in 476 CE while…” I had the impression that Roman empire did not fell at 476, simply because the eastern part of the empire did survive until 1453. What is nowadays called Byzantine Empire was actually what remained from the Roman empire.

Mickey

Be interesting to see how the criteria are weighted in the modeling. To the other question, Sunny Auyang write an alexcellent book called The Dragon and the Eagle”, a comparative analysis of classical Rome and Han China. One of the main points she made was the way the two societies looked at law, the western rule if law vs the eastern dependence on Confucian virtue. Rome does survive in the legal principles that undergird all European states.

Dan

That Auyang book is great. A lot of work has been done comparing China and Rome — Walter Scheidel’s stuff work on it comes to mind (‘Rome and China comparative perspectives on ancient world empires’, ‘State Power in Ancient China and Rome’, ‘Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity’). Also some interesting work comparing western and eastern Eurasia taking more of the ideological slant that many of these comments are looking for: Lloyd 2004 ‘Ancient worlds, modern reflections: Philosophical perspectives on Greek and Chinese science and culture’, Shankman & Durrant 2002 ‘Early China/ancient Greece: thinking through comparisons’, Pu 2005 ‘Enemies of civilization: attitudes toward foreigners in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China’

Also worth stressing that a lot of the comments are talking about different things — Rome ‘fell’ in that the territories of Western Europe and North Africa ceased to be governed by roman rulers and institutions, while it also ‘persisted’ in that roman rule and institutions and cultural norms were maintained in the east, specifically around Anatolia and (for a while at least) Egypt and the Levant. There’s the political/institutional issue, but also the territorial issue, and so the picture depends on where exactly you’re talking about. I think what Bennett is asking is why no other large, centralized imperial power rose up again to take control of the territories of Western Europe, while in what is today China empires kept falling but new ones kept forming in more or less the same territory. This question is in fact at the heart of a lot of Scheidel’s work — the model seems to provide at least part of the answer.

Also Bennett’s model really doesn’t include moral factors — what’s super interesting is how well the model matches the historical record (even getting really big Empires in China, Europe, Persia, Egypt, etc) WITHOUT needing to worry about the type of moral or religious attitudes the states held, what sort of political institutions they featured, what kind of economic systems they employed, etc etc. Turns out so much of the large-scale history of Afro-Eurasia was propelled by pretty similar states trying to expand, butting up against each other, and occasionally collapsing under their own weight. Feels like a lesson or two in there, no?

Peter Shapiro

“it is China…” I lived 20 years in Japan.. I agree

Ryan Gierach

Unfortunately, you display your ignorance while trying to appear learned.

The Roman kingdom was founded as a republic. By the second century B.C., the Republic had developed distinct Roman virtues
Auctoritas–“Spiritual Authority”: The sense of one’s social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria.
Comitas–“Humor”: Ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
Clementia–“Mercy”: Mildness and gentleness.
Dignitas–“Dignity”: A sense of self-worth, personal pride.

As to China, you DO understand the the world’s most populous nation of over 1.5 trillion is run by a few hundred thousand people with little regard for the sanctity of human life?
China is committing genocide in Xianxing – where are those vaunted morals?

SEAN Sheehan

“The Roman kingdom was founded as a republic” The incoherence of this sentence results from the errors of fact it contains. The Roman polity was initially a monarchy, Etruscan in origin. The overthrow of the monarchy produced an aristocratic republic with a pronounced aversion to monarchy. This is why Julius Caesar refused a crown, although suspicion that he would establish a monarchy, in fact if not in name, led to the Ides of March.

Ryan Gierach

Thank you for yor correction. I’ve been casting about for a way to make such a correction after seeing my error, but just couldn’t. I was using voice to text, and a couple of words dropped off. You are absolutely correct that what we know as the Roman empire started as a monarch, had seven kings, and then became a republic.
Those seven Roman kings, however, were Roman kings, not Etruscan kings.

Sean Sheehan

I think if you check you will find the Roman kings were, actually, of Etruscan origin, while indeed being kings of Rome.

Sean Sheehan

The Tarquin kings of Rome were Estruscan. The Etruscans were the dominant polity in the area, as illustrated by the name “Tuscany” still applied to the area that was the Estruscan heartland. Any authoritative history of Rome will verify the Etruscan origin of the Tarquinid kings of Rome.

Ryan Gierach

Another good try at obcuscation.
If Etruscans and Romans were, indeed, one and the same, as you seem to claim, I look forward to your explanation of why the Etruscans and Romans went to war half a dozen times while Roman was a monarchy and a republic.
Was that a civil war? I haven’t heard any historians claim that it was…

Ryan Gierach

Okay, I think I now understand your point.
You assert that because a few early kings of ROME were of Etruscan heritage the kingdom they presided over really, actually, was Etruria, not Rome and became Rome when, um, I think you left that part out.
When did Rome become Rome and not Etruria? When the last Etruscan ruled the area around the Seven Hills?
I am pretty certain that the consensus remains that, while the kings of Rome (in the beginning) may have been of Etruscan blood (because that tribe held an advantage over the Romans in technological sophistication), the two tribes were of decidedly different origins, Etruscan coming from Asia Minor and the Romans being Latins.
That’s why the wars over centuries between the two different regions of Italy.
But I think this nit has been picked as thoroughly as it can be.

Tim

Perhaps a strange question. But what would the computer model say if you follow our history as accurately as possible and then take the simulation 5/10/50/100 years into the future?

Daniel

Foundation and Empire.

Getting into psychohistory a bit there, mate. Asimov would be proud.

I believe the issue there is that you cannot assume technological advancements and the changes they may bring. There are also other wild cards that would make that difficult to assume.
For instance, in the next 5 years, will China escape the middle income trap? That will have a massive effect on the next 25-250 years. If they don’t, they could become increasingly hostile militarily, but the West would maintain economic dominance. If they do, they may be more content to slowly build and grow, allowing their economy to reshape society and the world.

The further out you go, the harder it will become to deduce.

James Bennett

Good question with a quick answer: In its present form the model would say nothing useful. Indeed, the current model is unlikely to forecast (or retrodict) what happened even the 100 years after 1500 CE, when its simulation scope presently ends. The reasons are pointed out in the paper: Lots of new technologies (military, industrial, financial, institutional) that had major impacts on how and where states rose and fell. After all, most states after 1850 or so were neither agrarian nor nomadic as assumed by the current model. But we’re working on all that…so stay tuned!

JS

The whole argument makes little sense if you take a minute to observe that while in 476 the city of Rome fell the actual Roman Empire, senate, legions, etc continued until 1453. Constantine relegated the city of Rome to nothing more than a symbolic backwater when he moved the capital, vast treasury, courts and all other administration east to the new capital that would bear his name. Roman Constantinople would stand for nearly 1000 years after the old capital fell. Latin scholars, embittered no doubt by the advanced Eastern Roman prestige and legacy that had left them behind in the ‘dark ages’, would label this extensive period of the Roman Empire ‘Byzantium’.
Changes things a little? New observations? Insights?

Ajay Goyal

You are too myopic in your “vision of Civilzation”…. check out India.. starting with 10,000BC onwards to present… IF YOU WANT TO GET THE REAL STORY.. as the Western, Chinese bits-n-pieces are added to the “Puzzle if History and Civilization”..

Vladimir Dinets

Someboduy has clearly been watching too many Chinese blockbusters gloryfying the fake image of Chinese Empires of the past. To me it is pretty obvious that the reason China persisted for so long as a single empire was that every time it decayed and was falling apart, some conquerors rode in and re-united it by force. Europe, on the other hand, was too strong to be conquered entirely: the Huns, the Arabs, the Mongols and the Turks could only occupy parts of it.

Dimitris Papagiannopoulos

I found the post very interesting and offering some new angles for further developments.
One caveat: We tend to see pre-Westphalian dominions -empires, kingdoms, etc.- as we see modern states with, on the whole, fixed borders, and having inter-state relations. Pre-Westphalia we had relations between individual rulers, who in turn had individual relations with their allies/subordinates. I am aware of only two exceptions, The Delian League and Rome as a somewhat in-between case.
The comments call for two notes.
(1) The discussion about morals of Rome or China is neither here nor there. (ss, since when has history been influenced by morals?). If I were to have my arm twisted on the subject, I would offer one, and only one, albeit quasi moral: Social Cohesion.
(2) Although, as a high-school student, I was taught that Byzantium, actually the (Eastern) Roman Empire, lasted a thousand years, the truth is just slightly different. After the Justinian’s plague, and the wars with Persia and the Muslims/Arabs, not considering the various “civil” wars, the empire was in decline. By the time of the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders there wasn’t much of an empire to talk about,
.

steven t johnson

As to note 2? Unlike the western Roman empire, the eastern Roman empire was replaced. This is the correct, real world example of the “change-and-continuity” thesis proposed to deny that the western empire could even be said to fall. This mode of thought seems also to be about apologetics for Christendom, aka the middle ages. Or Bright Ages, if you insist.

Going backwards to the beginning? As to the partial exceptions, wouldn’t the Hanseatic League merit consideration?

Finishing in media res? The notion that “morals” that is, ideas, cause events is I agree rather dubious. “Morals,” individual ideas and ideals, only come into play historically during revolutionary epochs…but then the brutally material facts of the balance of power between the classes/nations make the notion of “morals” as determinative look like nonsense, I think.

James

The main problem with China is their massive population, it may be a strength, also a huge weakness. It has created a politics of under representation and is only making decline. This political culture should not reveberate with western world, we are not Chinese and we are not the East. ie. the Soviet Union did not work, in EU or in Russia.

Chinese populations have made them the workshop of the world, alot of these consumer goods we have are nowdays making the west a dumping ground, cheap & used etc… People need to develop self sufficiency, even the Romans new that….

Communism is engendered to rule upon you, to de establish free market, and is intended to break traditions and ideals, even if your with them.

Making a comparison of Rome and China in ancient times on todays market may be a liitle difficult.
A more fundamental approach to East West understanding may be sought in the Romano-Parthian cold war, or the rise of Sassania,. There is alot to learn in these studies, for those interested in understanding East-West history.

China is more instrumental to themselves than any other power, so just because we are in a global age, does not mean we have to be subjugated to their political objectives, or that these should ever overlap to our independent statehoods. Thats for the traitors and politicians to do.

Chad Stirner

This is very interesting. Care to expand on some alternative histories you found on the simulations?

James Bennett

Most the alternative histories explored in the paper demonstrate that the model makes plausible long-range predictions if various technologies never arose (for example, no nomads appear, or no camels were available in the deserts, or no ships in the Mediterranean, etc.). Another experiment investigated whether Kremer’s popular theory about innovation over long periods of time could account for the rapid scale changes seen without the nomads (it can’t apparently). Overall the experiments help demonstrate that substantial, regionally-focussed asymmetric shocks are key to shaping events and empires that occur hundreds or thousands of years and kilometers away. All assuming we have the underlying model of societal behavior somewhat correct, of course.

R. N. England

The rise of science has multiplied the number of culture-strengthening possibilities. Science has enabled us to understand why many of these are unsustainable, and enables us to find solutions, though we have not pursued them. I suspect that the rise of science balanced and covered up damaging mutations in the other of C. P. Snow’s two cultures that are now more than 200 years old. The balance has shifted, and the effects of these mutations are now overwhelming the West.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott

What fascinated me about the article was the complete absence of any reference to the strongest influences any civilisation has: Revelation. Each major religion has a founder, a “book” of teachings which include a set of spiritual guidance and laws, and a set of social teachings that are suited not to the time but to the civilisation that will emerge when the spiritual teachings are implemented. The spiritual teachings are essentially the same on all the major religions and have the same goal – unification.

When one looks at the Abrahamic, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian and Islamic societies, their evolutions are similar, and the “wars” they won, sooner or later, were moral, intellectual and administrative in nature, with an underlying spiritual foundation.

In the east the Hindu foundations gave rise to a number of empires. A series of Buddhas (there are five great teachers) gave rise to a series of ever-advancing civilisations. Humanity as a whole progresses in this manner.

It was therefore surprising to see the analysis reduced to weapons etc. Civilizations are not founded by weapons. They are founded in the hearts. There is globe-wide evidence for this. Who cares who managed to backstab whom in Rome? Rome collapsed because it could not withstand the moral example of the emerging Christian community.

After 460 AD Christianity began a serious decline which was rescued by the rise of Islam. The Byzantium of which you speak was undeniably founded upon the moral, social and economic teachings of its founder. After centuries of mindless resistance, these social and spiritual teachings eventually spread into Europe, following the education of one Pope in an Islamic University in Spain inspiring a radical social and scientific reformation.

Islamic societies peaked around 1350 AD and its systems have fallen into decline in all three categories: moral, social and economic. Their own teachings hold that “end” was in the year 1260 AH (1844).

Modelers of history must first identify the Founders of the great religions (in other words, real ones) and then follow the spread of their influence, and the subsequent transformation of the whole society, bottom to top.

The article represents the views of what has been termed “the materialist philosophers of the West” which is to say, an attempt to reduce everything to material relationships, advantages and losses. A rapidly advancing civilization does not have to have an army if it wins without a fight.

The comments above can be characterized as disputations between materialist philosophers focussed on things, not civilizations. Hammurabi’s Code was more influential than bronze; Confucian philosophy more than gunpowder. The modeling should be about what they thought, not who they fought.

James Faulkner

Keep your religion in the box where it belongs, mate.
It’s neither relevant in terms of the models stated experimental goals, nor as a real driver of empire building. If you’d read the article, you should have been able to ascertain that by way of comprehension skills, if your faith has left you any.
Religion may be a great cultural driver, it even begins wars, but it will not hold an empire together when humans are involved. Especially not a religion as openly racist, hostile, violent and aggressive, and altogether made up (as in fictitious) as early Judeo-Christianity.
Only two things truly drive empire building: greed for material wealth and greed for power over other people. That’s it. They are the only force that matters as far as the rise and fall of human empires go. They certainly weren’t born out of social cohesion or morality!

As far as the China vs Rome stuff otherwise in the comments, it’s quite obvious that the anti China sentiment that defines western culture of the last few years has influenced truly objective historicism.
Should be viewed through non- biased filters to truly understand. As it stands, neither modern China nor the US have any legs to stand on as far as decency and morality go. Both countries are oppressive regimes with a heavily indoctrinated population and the tendency to throw their weight around on the global stage.

You pro USA types really need to step back and try to understand why the USA draws the kind of criticism it does from those people who are after all just humans with the same human needs and the same human desires and failings as the rest of us.

Watters

SteveLaudig

Suggestion: How many markedly different ethnicities/nations did Rome attempt to govern? How many markedly different ethnicities did the Han attempt to govern. A population’s cultural uniformity may not be the proper term but one measure would be how different were Roman cultural practices from say the Celts compared to the Han and say the Dong, or Miao. The CPC’s boast about minorities is mostly baloney as what they call minorities when viewed from a distance with the exception of Tibetans and Muslims in Xinjiang are about as different as upper Midwestern Americans and Southern Canadians. How were these to variables, admittedly poorly elaborated by me, addressed. Rome could be invaded from all directions. The Han was safe from the East, pretty much the due North. some from the Northwest, west, and southwest but not much, and not much threat from the Han-ified South. Centralized control among the Hans, which the communists seem to be having a fairly easy time morphing into totalitarian control courtesy of Han cultural predispositions and modern technology evidence certain predispositions. Adolph tried the totalitarian and it failed in the West. Someone, perhaps me, viewed, due to their statements, as being anti-Chinese or anti-Han-ism is in my situation, actually anti-totalitarianism. The Communists claim, and present themselves as Chinese patriots. But they are peddling and imposing their own perverse version of a Western philosophy. One wonders how long the Han Chinese in the PRC will allow themselves to be harmonized before standing up against the totalitarians led by Xi Jinping.

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