Books: Why All Empires Come to Dust THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS

People have learned to live with the knowledge that they will die. But the evidence that entire nations, apparently invincible behemoths, may be similarly fated has proved the source of enormous curiosity and awe. The Old Testament exclamation "How are the mighty fallen!" was only one of the earliest recorded responses to the spinning wheel of fortune. Ever since, the rubble of old realms has teased and provoked imaginations. In the 18th century, a visit to Rome inspired Gibbon to write an enduring history of imperial decline. Romantic poets found the gloom and doom of antiquity irresistible. Envisioning an ancient toppled...

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