Early Civilization

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Early Civilization

History records the rise and fall of different civilizations of various countries. It has been found that in different times, different civilizations reach the pinnacle of glory. But, due to various reasons, like ecological change, climatic disaster, natural calamities, foreign conquest, epidemic disease, fall-short of population etc. have brought about their decay. The following examples clearly show how, after the zenith of civilization, the downfall may come about. Indus Valley Civilization The explorer’s spade has unearthed the most fascinating remains of the extremely rich and flourishing civilization of the Indus valley.

The long span of the Indus Valley civilization and its firmly – settled character lead to the perplexing question – what was the cause of its destruction? At the present state of our knowledge and till the Indus script is deciphered we are not in a position to know the actual reasons of the end of this great civilization. However, on the basis of the available data, some attempts may be made to find out the causes of the decay of this civilization. First of all, there are dependable evidences to prove that rainfall in Indus valley was somewhat ample and equable in the third millennium B.

C. The Indus valley had a larger rainfall than what we see today and that the land was swampy and full of jungles as known from the figure of animals like rhinoceros, elephants engraved on the seals. In course of time, the volume of rainfall gradually decreased. With the loss of rainfall, land became arid and dry. The aridity of the land led to deterioration of the civilization. The underground salt was dragged to the surface by evaporation of moisture. The progressive drying-up of the land led to desert-condition. This is proved from the story of Alexander’s invasion in the 4rth C. B. C.

when Alexander the Great was marching through the cheerless wastes of Makran, the desert condition of the area was far in advance (Thaper 55). Under the teeth of this inhospitable climate, the Indus civilization started to decay long before the foreigners invaded the towns. Secondly, the growing danger of flood might had been responsible for the evacuation of Mohenjodaro. With the gradual silting up of the bed of the Indus, the water-level rose high, specially in the rainy season. This led, sometimes, to flooding of the city. At least on three occasions devastating floods swept over the city.

It is found from excavation that an embankment 43ft. wide had to be rebuilt 14ft. higher up in order to protect the Mohenjodaro Citadel from the encroaching water-level of the river. Houses were built up on piled-up debrieses or on raised foundations in order to avert the danger of flood. The extensive use of the burnt-brick instead of sun-dried ones at Mohenjodaro equally testfies the danger of flood. Thirdly, human negligence was a contributory factor to the desiccation of Iands. Excessive flood of the Indus towns induced to burn bricks wood was used extensively as a fuel.

The excessive deforestation caused by the felling of trees in order to burn bricks led to decline in the rainfall. It is a cardinal truth that lack of trees and forests decrease the rate of rainfall. The decline in rainfall dried up the crust of the earth and underground salinity came to the surface. Gradually deserts expanded and, resultantly, agriculture and human habitations were destroyed. The later phases of the civilization at Mohenjodaro presents a sad picture of this neglect and barrenness of the Indus civilization.

In upper layers at Mohenjodaro, the dams meant to reserve the flood-water were not properly maintained. The agricultural standard also deteriorated. Fourthly, many scholars have pointed out that the Harrappans had a very iron-bound, conservative outlook about everything. They refused to learn from others any new thing or system. The civilization was cramped by its inherent barrenness and incapability to adjust itself to changing time and environment. With the march of time, the civilization lost its vitality and original creativity. It failed to survive in the midst of changing environment and changing society.

Some scholars emphasize this negative aspect of Harrappan civilization as the fundamental cause of its decay and, in their view, all other causes were merely contributory. An inertia grew out of this conservatism which ruined the vitality of the civilization. This reflects the negligience of the Harappans to repair the dams. At Mohenjodaro among the seven layers, the upper layers of later period, we find growing slums, houses being created upon ruins of old houses, rooms being pertitioned into small cells for swarming lower grade population. Houses were encroaching upon the streets; lanes were chocked with klins.

Old bricks were used for building new houses. Thus, there are reasons to believe that the internal decline and decay in the Harappan towns had set in long before the foreign invasion which completely swept away the Harappan culture. The internal decay started from the stagnation and barrenness of Hardpan culture and its failure to adjust with changing circumstances. With the internal decay was added natural calamities like floods, decrease in rainfalls and so on. According to some scholars, the city of Mohenjo-Daro was situated within a terrible earthquake-belt which might have frequently devastated the city.

Again the earthquake theory has been challenged by others on the ground that if the people at Mohenjo-Daro could build their city upon seven layers, why they failed to built another layer upon the city destroyed by the earthquake? Moreover the earthquake theory is not applicable to all the towns of Harappa-culture (Nath 670). In any case, internal decline started from many reasons and the towns began to decay. This decline and incapability to adjust with the changing circumstances is evident in the failure of the Harappa people to learn from Samaria the art of cutting canals to irrigate the fields.

This incapability led to the destruction of dams or reservoirs. This is how Mohenjo-Daro lost its importance when the Indus shifted its course. “The glorious culture was practically ruined in 1900 B. C. , long before the invasion of the Aryans” (Majumder 201). Fifthly, whatever may be the domestic potential for the gradual decline of the Indus civilization, its ultimate extinction was most certainty due to invasion from without by a people who were probably the Aryans. The tragic end of the Indus civilization came about 1500 B. C.

, the time the when the Aryans entered into the land of the seven Rivers. It is said that, the Aryans destroyed some metal forts and seasonal forts. Similar forts or citadel have been found at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and other places. Hence, it is reasonable to infer that the Aryans were the destroyers of the Indus civilization. Certain circumstantial evidences are also available to justify the theory of Aryan invasion. Excavation have reveled that in the last stage of Mohenjo-Daro civilization, people were massacred in streets, houses and public places.

Some of the victims were even women and children. Head and skull injuries found in the skeletons point to the use of sharp and heavy weapons by the invaders. The dead bodies were left uncared and exposed. (Paul 126) According to some historians, the downfall of the Indus Valley civilization came up due to some natural disasters like earthquake or flood. But most historians believed that the fall was actually caused by the Aryan invasion and the consequent cultural conquest. Fall of Roman Empire The city of Rome, founded in 753 B. C.

was originally the most important commercial center situated on the Tiber, very near to place where it flows into the Mediterranean. But subsequently Rome grew into a political power and expanded the empire over a large part of Europe, the Tigris and Euphrates valleys in Asia Minor, and the northern coasts of Africa. In 330 A. D. , Emperor Constantine founded a second capital at Byzantium on the Black Sea, which came to be known as Constantinople after the name of its founder. Virtually, the vast Roman Empire was divided into two parts – Western and Eastern.

In fifth century A. D. (476) the West Roman Empire was broken up by the invading barbarians but the Eastern Empire, also called the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital continued to exist about a thousand years more (1453). In the view of Prof. Henry Perrine the fall of the Roman Empire has caused a stir among the historians. According to the view of Penne the Roman Empire was essentially confined to the Mediterranean by the end of the 3rd century B. C. in fact the Roman Empire had to depend on the Mediterranean commerce for its political and economic interests.

Perrine has put emphasis on the issue that the repeated German tribal invasions in the 5th century B. C. on the Western Roman Empire while converting them into German provinces could not destroy the unity of the Empire. The provinces of the Roman Empire were not Germanized. He is of the opinion that it is also a mistake to suppose that the intermittent German tribal invasions lead to the introduction of agrarian economy in the occupied zone of the Roman Empire. The Frankish system was, in fact, Romano-Byzantine. It is obvious that Perrine did not attach much importance to German invasions of the Roman Empire.

His comment on the expansion of the Islam on the Mediterranean is more important as it produced far-reaching consequences. According to him, the Islamic invasion of the 7th century A. D. is something unique. The occupation of Syria, Tunisia and Spain by the Moslem invaders destroyed the Mediterranean unity and caused the final separation between the East and West. In this way two opponent civilizations came face to face with each other by the middle of the 7th century and this confrontation led to the inauguration of the middle ages in Europe.

As it has been aptly pointed out, the Mediterranean, once a Roman Lake, henceforth was converted into a Muslim Lake. Secondly, in the view of R. H. C. Davis, when the Byzantine and Islamic empires were flourishing, the economy of the Latin West was stagnant. Davis has pointed out that Perrine has come to his conclusions from a consideration of the economy of the ancient world. The economy of the ancient world was dependent on the commercial navigation in the Mediterranean.

Perrine is of opinion that so long this commercial navigation remained unmolested by the pirates, there was a regular flow of commerce and the population of Rome could be fed on African corn. If this normal commercial activity was disrupted then there would have been a total dislocation in this region. Davis has anticipated, following Perrine, the possible disturbing factors in the event of the inevitable decline of commerce in the Mediterranean. According to him, with the decline of commerce, the towns and cities face the same fate.

The flourishing life of municipal towns became the matter of past. Naturally, the population gradually decreased. The agricultural wealth locked up within the country as there was no other outlet. The greater landlords built up their own workshops for making tools or weaving cloth and they paid their workers in kind. This possible state-affair has been described by Perrine as the ‘economy of no outlets’. According to Perrine, this character of the economy was vividly seen during the eighth and ninth centuries and this is attributed to the feudal society.

The land was the only source of wealth. According to him feudalism was the outcome of this ‘economy of no outlets’ and Charlemagne was a child of it. It is the opinion of Perrine that free navigation of the Mediterranean might have been suspended but the more important problem is to determine the actual time of this suspension. He therefore, has tried to find out evidence of the use of such goods in the Frankish Kingdom as could be produced in eastern or southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Although his findings have been disputed, yet these goods included gold, olive oil, (from North Africa), oriental silk, papyrus (from Egypt) and spices. According to him, these goods were very much in use in Gaul upto the last quarter of the 7th century and they all disappeared from the market by the first quarter of the eight century. Thirdly, the invasion of the Muslims is an important factor in disrupting the Mediterranean navigation. But at the beginning of the 8th century A. D. the Muslim captured Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Spain.

The occupation of Tunisia was the most vital as later had a position of particular strategic importance. After its occupation the Muslims could disrupt the communications between the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean. Trade also continued in Byzantium, but Pisa, Genoa and other ports of provinces were neglected. Perrine pointed out, that for its reason a great vacuum was created in the port of Marseilles. This eventually led to the decline of the cities of the southern Gaul and the “economy of no outlets” was imposed by the Muslims on the Latin West.

Fourthly, in the ninth and tenth centuries the most important trading centers were secured. Thus instead of Milan, Florence, Pisa, towns like Pavia, Amalfi, Reims and Verdun flourished as they were relatively secured and farther from the coast. Venice was an exception and trade was at its low ebb in the Latin West during the ninth and tenth centuries. Fifthly, the religious intolerance also played its part. The spread of Christianity was another important factor contributing towards the fall of Rome. Rome had been known to be a nation of religious tolerance.

But some Romans, mainly the Jews, did not accept Christianity. Naturally, there was a conflict between these two communities. Sixthly, although Jesus was crucified for his efforts to spread peace, the Romans were truly inspired by his words. Soon, the number of Roman involvement in the military and the participation in the community gradually declined. Resultantly, the Roman army was not increasing in numbers. At this juncture, the Barbarians of Germany, who formed an integral part of the Roman army, revolted against Rome and led disorganized attacks on several parts of Rome and even on the Roman army itself.

Gradually, the Roman army became weakened and it was no longer a military super power in the world. Thus, it is crystal clear that the downfall of any civilization was never caused due to any single factor. Several factors accumulated and contributed together to the decay of these civilizations. Hence, it is amply clear that no civilization is permanent and ever lasting. As it rises at a particular time, similarly, it comes to an end at another historical juncture. Reference Majumder, R. C.

Indus Civilization, The Vedic Age, Dakshinamurty Prakashan, Calcutta, p. 201-203 Nath, P. The Scripts on the Indus Seal, Modern Publications, New Delhi, p. 670-74 Paul, C. Causes of the Downfall, A History of Rome, Dey Publishers, New Delhi, p. 121-26 Sethy, S. Perrine Thesis, The Fall of Rome, World Press Pvt. Ltd. , Calcutta, 1981, p. 126-34 Thaper, R. History of India, vol. 1, ed. 3, 1987, p. 55-68 Wells, H. G. Wells, Barbarians Break Empire into East and West, A Short History of the World, Penguin Books, London, 1965, p. 152-61


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 21 August 2016

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