Chapter 3 Migration and Empire: the Spread of Civilization, 2400-500 BC

As word of the wealth and security provided by civilized life spread beyond the river valleys, those who lived “outside” began to covet its benefits. Some determined to obtain them through conquest. As non-sedentary peoples conquered the cities, however, they soon adopted the habits and lifestyles of their new subjects. In effect, they too became “civilized” – only to be threatened in their turn by yet new groups of invaders seeking the comforts and riches of civilized life. In search of security in such a dangerous climate, many rulers determined to forestall potential invaders by extending their boundaries, taking control of more and more territory. Thus began the process of empire building. Throughout the ancient world, civilizations developed into empires, either through conquest by non-sedentary peoples or in an effort to forestall them. As always, these empires too rose or fell according to their ability to adapt to new challenges from their environment. In effect, empire itself was an adaptive response to new security challenges from the human environment.


City-states of the Fertile Crescent in the 2nd millennium BCE Taken from

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