Re: Greeks (was Group selection)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 22 Feb 2005 - 15:18:52 GMT

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    At 09:24 AM 22/02/05 +0000, you wrote:
    >>At the root of almost all downfalls is a damaged environment, sometimes
    >>complicated with climate change.
    >Long term I'd agree....but over the c 2 generations it took to fell
    >Starta? Sparta was weakened in winning the Peloponnesian war v Athens, and
    >the struggle v Thebes, so Philip/Alex cleaned up. Despite any
    >environmental damage Sparta had been a very efficient power for 300+
    >years, and had just got its hands on the Athenian colonies....I'd argue it
    >was just very unfortunate that Philip of Macedon happened just as they
    >were rebuilding after finally beating Athens.
    >If Philip had come 1 generation later, Sparta would have rebuilt itself
    >and it may have been a different story - after all they did give Macedon a
    >hard time twice, (and one of their women brained Pyrrhus of Epirus a
    >generation later) even though they were severely weakened, and Spartan
    >generals were still highly valued in the Hellenistic world...
    >Imagine a world where its Spartan, not Athenian memes that are Greece's
    >dominant heritage!

    Ultimately the power of a state depends on a large well fed population. Well fed populations (prior to decent birth control) tended to grow, requiring more food. For a while they can get it by overloading the ecosystem, exhausting the soil, etc.

    It wasn't just the people, but the goats that eventually denuded Greece and led to substantial declines in agricultural production, which of course led to a drop in the population and power of the state.

    Diamonds book has a bunch of these studies in them, some of which humans by means of strong limits on the population growth and care of the environment have been going for over a thousand years.

    The Mayan story has remarkable parallels to what happened in Greece.

    Keith Henson

    PS There is a reasonable account of what happened to Greece here:

    Copyright on this book is 50 years ago.

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