Originally Posted by Tzar Chasm
Thats a valid point, I was thinkin that meself, the Roman empire may have Waned a bit in the 5th to 10th centuries but it never really went away, just changed its method of dominance, however there was a lot of knowledge lost during that transition.
The fall of the Roman Empire is one of those topics that's been debated and discussed for a long time. Gibbon blamed Christianity and a collapse in traditional Roman values for it, but there have been numerous other theories proffered, from environmental to economic.
One thing is certain, the Roman Empire was not some monolithic entity that collapsed in the fifth century AD. To begin with it went through numerous changes throughout its history; from kingdom, republic through to the two phases of empire (Principate and Dominate) and division between east and west - as someone correctly pointed out the Eastern half continued for another thousand years.
Latin changed too - the Classical Latin
we (used to) learn in schools, was no longer the lingua franca of Rome by the time of Caesar and had already been replaced by Vulgar Latin
(already well on it's way to becoming Italian). And religion too changed, from a polytheistic mesh, to monotheistic Christianity (while retaining many of the old polytheistic traditions - ever wonder why we pray to patron saints?).
In the end, both eastern and western empires declined fairly slowly as a result of numerous reasons, neither 'collapse' was overnight and the Turks and Germans only provided the final nail in the coffin.
Where it comes to the loss of knowledge, certainly much was lost (although the Byzantine empire retained it and we were eventually able to get it back through the Arabs). In the west this was further underlined by Christianity's rejection of this World for the next and promotion of a monastic response to the hubris of imperial power.
However, it would also be false to suggest that we slipped back technologically during the dark or middle ages either. Much knowledge was lost, but it was also arguably also more advanced period, with numerous agricultural and military innovations that were beyond classical science.
But returning to the original question:
Originally Posted by mylastparadigm
Did the romans, the greeks, the incas, etc, ever consider that their empires, their civilisations would fall? did they ever make any allowances for that risk?
Yes - and no.
Rome changed beyond recognition between it's founding to the fall of the Western Empire (over a thousand years) and even during the imperial period adapted and changed constantly. Problem is that it was not able to adapt enough thoughout and thus ended up, ultimately fatally, susceptible to those factors that brought it down.
The Maya, Aztec, Inca and other pre-Colombian civilizations also changed and adapted, but were unable to adapt quickly enough to the drastic and sudden change that eventually came (the pre-Colombian bit giving away what that shock to the system was).
The Chinese empire too essentially collapsed for these reasons. Once leading the World in terms of civilization and technology, its capacity to evolve and adapt had ground to a halt - arguably influenced by the conservative nature of Confucianism that had long given it stability. Conversely, Japan's capacity to evolve and adapt went into overdrive in the nineteenth century, leading to a reversal of fortunes where Japan (that had long been susceptible to Chinese invasion), was able to invade China for a change.
Pretty much the same can be said for the Eastern (Greek) Roman empire. And (pre-Macedonian) Persian empire. And Egypt. Or the French Ancien Régime. Or the European Belle Époque. Or Sumeria.
Societies and empires evolve and adapt to deal with differing realities and threats. If they do not, or do so incorrectly or too slowly, then they become vulnerable to external or internal events - be they natural, man-made or both. And if those events occur while the society or empire is vulnerable, then that is when the house of cards is likely to fall.