Beginnings and Ends

In today’s lecture, Professor Watrall’s lecture was very heavy in the characteristics, both similarities and differences, of lower and upper Egypt throughout different periods of time. He noted many times that unification had not necessarily happened yet, and that when it did indeed occur, it was a slow and gradual process. As he put it, there is no specific day Egyptians set aside to celebrate unification. There were many differences between lower and upper Egypt, but, there were also, of course, many similarities. Over time, as evidenced by the evolution of lower Egyptian pottery, from crap to nice (or from lower-style to upper-style), the two Egypt’s began closer trade and communication. Eventually, they will unify, which leads me to my thoughts of the unification of Egypt and the general beginnings of nations across the world.

It seems to me that the study of ancient Egypt, its many nuances, and the many differences and similarities between the lower and upper regions can be, in a sense, a microcosm of how a country forms. One could compare the beginnings of predynastic Egypt to that of city-states that had began gaining power and traction throughout the late medieval period of Europe. Gaul and Germania were very rough territorial boundaries that had been designated by Roman emperors much prior to this – Gaul being modern day France; Germania being modern Germany. Beside this, however, there was very little to distinguish between the two, as populations were relatively unorganized, with a somewhat classless society. The populaces of Gaul and Germania at this time were very far behind the empire of Rome, of course. The question I would pose is, how did the modern day European boundaries of countries such as Germany and France form? While England’s boundaries are quite easy to distinguish, it is interesting to wonder how boundary-lines, cultural practices, and language evolved between Germany and France (and of course, Poland, Russia, and the many other European countries).
While the beginning is fascinating, so is the end. Professor Watrall had mentioned that the conclusion of archeologists is that all empires will collapse. It is just a matter of when. Throughout human history, there have been numerous collapses of empires that have had dire consequences. When Rome was sacked, and the Roman Empire’s capital moved to Constantinople (and would become the Byzantine Empire), Western Europe essentially collapse. The entire western part of the continent would suffer through the Middle Ages for centuries before the first ray of light came with the Renaissance. However, not all empires end in such a manner. England’s globally dominant empire, the one that the sun never set on, would come to an end some centuries after its beginning. Following the end of World War II, Britain would no longer be an Empire, as it had gone through a long process of decolonization. Obviously, there have been no dire consequences as a result, as Britain’s fall from the foremost global power to a western country was somewhat voluntarily and occurred in the age of information and technology. With that example in mind, does the collapse of an empire necessarily mean civil war and a loss of wealth, technology, and power? Or is it simply the passing of a torch? One could argue that the United States ascent to the foremost world power occurred simultaneously with Britain’s descent.

Professor Watrall’s discussions of the beginnings and endings of empire and civilization is one of great interest to me, and really does offer up some interesting questions and possibly conclusions!

1 thought on “Beginnings and Ends

  1. Kevin Zemanski

    Your blog got me thinking about the way I and I assume most people think about the rise and fall of civilizations. I think that when we discuss the rise and fall of empires and civilizations we tend to think there was one big event that led to either the rise or the fall. But, it doesn’t work like that as we have learned. It takes time, it takes many small events over many years to build up a civilizations and ultimately for that civilization to fall. We wish there was some huge event that took place, like a war, that could provide us with the many answers as to why certain civilizations rise and fall, however, it is much more complex than that. Civilizations don’t fall the way we see in movies. There is not one big asteroid that destroyed ancient Egypt that would be too simple and unrealistic as we have seen so far. Just like the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt was a slow and gradual process, so is the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. Yes, unexpected things happen for example, the climate changes and the civilization adjusts to that change and that change may cut the civilizations life short but it isn’t a quick strike. Usually, this change in climate is accompanied by many other things such as the death of a leader or a disease that spreads throughout the population preventing them from working like they have been. Whatever these reasons may be that these civilizations rose and fall I am excited to find out how it happened as much as I am why it happened.

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