October 29, 2013

The Mandate Of Heavean

China's history is long and, if anyone's familiar with Disney's Mulan, includes a number of dynasties, the most famous of which are the Qin dynasty (where the word "China" comes from), and the Han dynasty.

Some Confucian scholars have depicted a dynastic cycle that seems to repeat in every dynasty, otherwise known as the Mandate of Heaven:

Room 5 History
It appears to me that this cycle could be applied to many other rules and countries.  I wonder if it's still relevant nowadays...

October 22, 2013

The Fall Of The Roman Empire

Continuing on my history track, after the decline of the Roman Empire, came its fall.

The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness.
Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with
the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial
supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.
The story of the ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire
was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.
~Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)

477 CE. The highlighted portions are the parts that survived the deposition of the Last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, by Odoacer (the first kind of Italy).
Source: Wikipedia

And on that sober note, here are some theories that have been put forth about Rome's fall:
  1. Climate Change:  it's global cooling!  The drying and cooling climate destroyed ancient agriculture, causing famine.
  2. Soil Exhaustion:  all the lands around the Mediterranean had been depleted of their nutrients and could no longer sustain the intensive agriculture to support the Empire's population (and troops).
  3. Lead Poisoning:  Romans were great architects, but perhaps not great at chemistry, for they used lead in all their pipes (including those bringing their water), which led to widespread lead poisoning and sterility.
  4. Racial Pollution:  too many immigrants!  It must be because of all those Syrians', Greek's and Jews' seed that destroyed Roman vitality and made them unable to rule anymore! (Wow, I had not idea this had been an actual theory.  Then again, people at one point thought the Earth was flat...)
  5. Slavery:  Romans depended too much on their slaves so they got too fat and lazy to defend themselves.
  6. Intellectual Stagnation:  no advance in science and technology = economic dead end.
  7. Social Disorder:  the middle class was destroyed by civil war (in the third century CE, Emperors even encouraged the poor to plunder the middle class!), invasion, over taxation (this sounds familiar, doesn't it?) which had been, until then, the most productive and culturally aware part of the Roman population.
  8. Excessive government:  too many governmental exactions and regulations destroyed the market economy which was their basis for prosperity (this one sounds familiar too).
  9. Christianity:  adopting Christianity as the official state religion in the fourth century CE meant a weak Roman Empire that diverted its scarce resources to building churches and monasteries, and meant larger portions of the population were pacifists.
  10. Immorality:  the old Roman virtues that had allowed what had once been a small village to turn into a thriving and powerful empire disappeared to be replaced by gluttony, sloth and sexual depravity.
So there you have it.  It's interesting, isn't it, how there can be so many different views on what may or may not have happened a couple millennia ago?

An interesting graph on the devaluation of the Roman coin, showing the (hyper) inflation the Roman population felt towards the Empire's end.

October 15, 2013


Nike, goddess of Victory offering the champion a wreath. 

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses."

~George Washington

October 8, 2013

Key Habit Of A Successful Novelist

The following tip should go without saying, but I often find I need to be reminded of it when I get lost in dreams of my ideal writing life...

So here's the tip I'd like to share with you:

Make writing a pleasure.

"Write because you love to write.  Because you need to write.  Because you would be incomplete if you didn't.
Writing, editing, and rewriting can be physically and mentally tough work.  Nevertheless, you shouldn't look at it from  that perspective.  Remind yourself why you are doing it--that your work will make other people happy, invite debate, or make readers once again believe in romance.  It's okay to have a tough day where you have to slog it out in front of the computer, but overall, seek out the pleasure of writing, and readers will find pleasure and inspiration in your work."

Indeed, I find that my best passages are those written while I was enjoying the whole process.  The key (and most difficult process I've found), is to actually sit down and do it (I'm an expert in the art of procrastination).

From 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists.

October 1, 2013

The Decline Of The Roman Empire

These are some interesting notes taken from The Heritage of World Civilizations which I find particularly interesting considering our current political and economic stances:

After the first two centuries of the Roman Empire, considered to be the Golden Roman Age, trouble was brewing.  People would rather spend time enjoying themselves than aiming for higher pursuits.  Even the literature of the time (which before had been propounding the greatness of the Roman Empire and the virtues one ought to follow) had turned to one of refuge--people preferred to read romance novels instead (I wonder what their version of Fifty Shades of Grey was?).

While the Golden Age saw the upper classes competing for the honor to serve and rule their respective municipalities, by the second century these same people fled en masse from such responsibility.  This left the running of towns and cities to those whose chief results were an abuse of power (hey, has anyone heard that San Diego Mayor Filner is finally out?).

These symptoms reflected more basic problems:  the prosperity the empire had enjoyed after the end of their civil war and the rush of riches from the East such as Egypt was only finite and stopped after the first half of the 2nd century; the population had started to decline; and the cost of running the government and keeping massive armies kept rising.  All this need for money had the emperors increase taxes and debasing the value of their money thereby creating inflation.

"These elements were to bring on the desperate crises that ultimately destroyed the empire."

So, what do you see in this (extra) brief historical account that sounds rather familiar to you today?