Empires take years to establish. Some empires enjoy long and fruitful existences while others are a flash in the pan. Some of the most successful empires have been led by a
10. First Persian Empire
From about 728 BC until the 7th century AD, the Persian Empire was one of the most enduring empires the world has ever seen. The latter part of this dynasty was marked by economic, political and military weakness which conspired against it and lead to its demise. After many years of war, the Persians had exhausted their resources and their leadership had deteriorated through a series of coups. In the end, the leadership had crumbled to the point that an 8-year-old by the name of Yazdegerd III occupied the throne from 632 until 651. Years of repeated attacks and invasions by Muslim forces finally succeeded and the First Persian Empire finally fell in 651 AD. Military weakness is one of the top 10 reasons every empire eventually collapsed.
9. Soviet Union
The once mighty Soviet Union was a mess in the late 1980’s when Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power. The economy was terrible, the political system had been irreparably corrupted and the Soviet Union as a whole was stagnating. There were growing calls for independence and democracy from inside the Union and Gorbachev realized that something had to be done. His approaches to these challenges were a departure from the traditional iron-fisted ways. He introduced “glasnost” and “perestroika”. He refused to crack down on dissidents and was growing increasingly unpopular with hard-liners. Gorbachev could no longer contain his population and after an unsuccessful coup attempt and mounting political pressure he decided to step down on December of 1991. Finally, in 1992, the Soviet Union collapsed and the 15 members “Commonwealth of Independent Republics” officially replaced what was once a mighty empire.
8. Western Roman Empire
A long list of circumstances conspired to bring the end of the Western Roman Empire. A bad economy, lack of political savvy, greed and corruption are just a few examples. Successive governments were responsible for severely weakening their army and not addressing the many economic problems within the empire. Discontent among the masses grew but the ruling elite did little to improve the situation. Attacks from invading hordes took their toll on the already weakening military. The Western Roman Empire finally ended under the emperorship of an inexperienced 16-year-old Romulus who was overthrown by invading Germanic forces. The Western Roman Empire had collapsed. Political indifference is one of top 10 reasons every empire eventually collapsed.
The Aztecs appeared early in the 13th century AD and quickly established themselves as a dominant force. The Aztecs were sophisticated, industrious and they had a strong military tradition. They were also effective with diplomatic relations which they used to their advantage. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, the Spanish decided to visit. Under Hernan Cortes, the Spanish established themselves in Mexico and quickly made alliances against the Aztecs. In 1519, despite being outnumbered, Cortes along with his superior weaponry and merciless militia were able to kidnap Montezuma and seize control of Tenochtitlán. The Aztec Empire was conquered and the Spanish Empire was flourishing.
In 1531, Francisco Pizarro and an army of 180 soldiers set sail for South America. They landed and proceeded to loot and pillage their way through the Andes. Pizarro and his men happened to stumble across the Incan village of Cuzco. The Incans were an advanced people with a vast empire. Unfortunately for them, they were also in the midst of a battle of succession between two princes, Huáscar, and Atahualpa. Atahualpa killed his brother and the civil war ended. When Atahualpa presented himself to Pizarro and his army in 1533, he was taken a hostage and ransomed. After meeting Pizarro’s demands of silver and gold, Pizarro had Atahualpa killed anyway. Pizarro and his gang then captured Cuzco and made slaves of the Incans. The Incan Empire was history.
5. Macedonian Empire
Alexander the Great’s passing left a huge void in the Macedonian Empire. Alexander had stabilized and expanded the borders making the Macedonian Empire a true force. Unfortunately, Alexander died young and there was no succession plan. The empire had been unified under Alexander but when he died it was divided amongst generals who took power in cities and turned the empire back into a system of city-states. As the generals attempted to consolidate their individual powers, the city states began fighting with each other. They did not present a unified front to the rising Romans who were able to divide and conquer.
4. Egypt: Old Kingdom
Ancient Egypt had been successfully maintained under long-reigning monarchies. By the end of Pepe II’s long reign, there had been a decentralization of power. There was also a long period of drought and changing climate that saw the annual Nile floods to abate. This had a devastating impact on agriculture and caused severe famine and panic. It also severely damaged the economy. Provincial governors began to assume royal powers and this lead to political chaos. There were mass emigration and Egyptian cities began fighting each other in a desperate attempt to seize vital food and resources. These factors made Egypt an easy target for invading forces that were able to conquer Lower Egypt.
3. Russian Empire
After years of often self-absorbed dictatorial monarchy, the Russian Empire was in serious trouble by 1917. The economy had tanked and this is one of top 10 reasons every empire eventually collapsed. The people were starving and the under-equipped military had turned against the Tsar. World War I had made things even worse for Nicholas II. Scores of Russian soldiers had lost their lives during several unsuccessful battles. By the end of 1916, an estimated 1,800,000 Russian soldiers had lost their lives. Nicholas II was also blamed for the flat-lined economy and bad foreign policies. The peasants began a series of revolts and strikes which Nicholas responded to by ordering troops to move on the protesting masses. The troops sided with the protesters and Nicholas had effectively lost control. He was forced to abdicate and was taken prisoner and executed along with his family. After some political grappling, Vladimir Lenin emerged as the newly founded Republic’s leader.
2. Mayan Empire
The Mayans had a sophisticated civilization that consisted of approximately 19 million people. There are many theories that try to explain how this advanced civilization crumbled within the span of a hundred year in the 8th or 9th century AD. Foreign invaders, famine, and even aliens have been thought to be the cause.
There is evidence that the region was hit by severe drought and famine that may have lasted 200 years. This would explain why cities were abandoned. There is also the possibility of disease which would explain the decimation of the population. There appears to be no simple answer. A combination of factors is likely responsible for the disappearance of Mayan civilization.
1. Mesopotamian Empire
Mesopotamian civilization was one of the first on the planet. The Mesopotamians discovered how to use irrigation in order to have a successful and sustainable agriculture industry. Their methods, while greatly successful also eventually worked against them as the soil became eroded and unusable. This, of course, led to famine, disease, and economic hardship. Agriculture was decimated by 2300 BC.
Another contributing factor was that the civilization consisted of city states that were independently operated. The city states would fight each other for regional control and the control of resources. This caused further weakening of the military and eventually the Amorites conquered the region. They united the city states under a centralized government and restored order.