This list was developed by Van Sloan in consultation with James Sheehan, chairman of Stanford's history department.

Click for descriptions of these Civilizations: Ancient. Middle Ages. or Modern

Appendix A

World Leadership Civilizations

approximate dates

years in leadership

Civilization (location)

Leading City

Ancient ( BC)

4300

2700

1600

Sumerian (Iraq)

Uruk

2700

1075

1625

Egyptian

**Memphis (Cairo)

1075

745

330

Phoenician (Lebanon)

Tyre

745

612

133

Assyrian (Iraq)

**Nineveh

612

539

73

Babylonian (Iraq)

**Babylon

539

478

61

Persian (Iran)

Susa

478

323

155

Greek

Athens

323

197

126

Hellenistic (Mediterranean, Egypt)

**Alexandria

197BC

378AD

575

Roman

**Rome

Middle Ages (AD)

378

467

85

Hindu - Gupta (India)

**Pataliputra (Patna)

467

589

122

Byzantine (Turkey)*

**Constantinople (Istanbul)

589

756

167

Chinese-T'ang

**Ch'ang-an

756

929

189

Islamic (Mediterranean)

**Baghdad

929

976

47

Islamic (Spain)

**Cordoba

976

1071

126

Byzantine (Turkey)*

**Constantinople (Istanbul)

1071

1294

223

Sung & Mongol (China)

Hangzhou & **Beijing

Modern (AD)

1294

1434

140

Italian Renaissance

1. Venice

1434

1508

74

2. Florence

1508

1527

19

3. Rome

1527

1588

61

Spanish

Madrid

1588

1609

21

English

London

1609

1672

63

Dutch

Amsterdam

1672

1814

142

French

Paris

1814

1830

16

Austrian

Vienna

1830

1918

88

British

**London

1918

present

94+

American

**New York

Why do civilizations rise and fall?

One of the best explanations came from Ibn Khaldun, considered by many to be the father of the Social Sciences. He lived from 1332-1406, working as an Islamic scholar in Tunis, Fez, Granada, and Cairo.

Khaldun argues that each dynasty (or civilization) has within itself the seeds of its own downfall.

He explains that new ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires. They use the much stronger social solidarity present in those peripheries to their advantage, in order to bring about a change in leadership. The new rulers are at first considered barbarians in comparison to the old ones.

As the new dynasties establish themselves at the center of their empires, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful. They become more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle at the center of their empire. Their original internal cohesion and ties to the peripheral group dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit. Thus conditions are created wherein a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control, grow strong, and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asabiyyah#cite_note-tibi-2 )

This pattern can be seen throughout history. Rome was on the periphery of the Etruscan and Greek civilizations, and conquered both. The most recent change in the world's leading civilization (see www.sq.4mg.com/AppA.htm - this page ) was from the British Empire to the United States, one of its colonies. While the British may not have considered American colonials as barbarian, they definitely looked upon Washington, Lincoln, Rockefeller, and Ford as socially inferior.



The years in the chart above often relate to a decisive military result, such as Napoleon's 1814 abdication. But such exact dates may not reveal the full extent of a civilization in its prime. Mozart died 23 years before 1814, but his music is certainly part of the golden age of Vienna.

* Comment from a Greek viewer: I really wonder WHY Byzantines are TURKS. Sloan responds: Turkey is listed just as the current location. The Byzantines spoke Greek.

** The connection between City Size and Leading Civilizations. In the past, the largest cities of the world were often part of the leading civilization of the time, typically the capital city. This includes Memphis, Egypt in 3000 BC, Rome in 100 AD and New York City from 1925 to 1965. But leading civilizations did not always have the world's largest cities. The European Renaissance de-linked city size with being the leading civilization. The fact that Cairo of 1300 was a huge city did not make Egypt a leading civilization. But that did help its trading partner and sea power, Venice, become rich. For the next several centuries, Middle East and Asian cities grew large, while European nations became leading civilizations in the sciences and arts. It wasn't until 1830 that a European city (London) again became the world's most populous as well as most advanced. That was followed by technologically advanced New York and Tokyo. In the latter part of the 20th century, the world's largest cities have again become unrelated to leading civilizations, in places like Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil. See http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa011201a.htm for a list of the world's largest cities through time.


For a list of historical novels/ movies that coordinate the the above list, see www.sq.4mg.com/novels.htm

Go to: Influential persons and contributions of above civilizations

Go to: Events marking start & end dates above

Go to: Important civilizations not reaching top influence

Go to: outline of this World Civilizations section of the website

Comments to: VanSloan@yahoo.com