In 1976-77 John Glubb wrote this thesis about "priceless lessons [which] could be learned if the history of the past four thousand years could be thoroughly and impartially studied."
Glubb notes that key success factors in all cultures are "amazing initiative, and almost incredible enterprise, courage and hardihood."In this essay, the term ‘empire’ is used to signify a great power, often called today a superpower.
Key factors in the decline of superpowers are: "People make money for themselves, not for their country. Thus periods of affluence gradually dissolved the spirit of service, which had caused the rise of the imperial races. In due course, selfishness permeated the community, the coherence of which was weakened until disintegration was threatened. Then, as we have seen, came the period of pessimism with the accompanying spirit of frivolity and sensual indulgence..."Boys are... required, first of all, to be manly—to ride, to shoot straight and to tell the truth. (It is remarkable what emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is cowardice—the fear of facing up to the situation.) Boys’ schools are intentionally rough. Frugal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to have a bath and similar customs are aimed at producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed of men. Duty is the word constantly drummed into the heads of young people.
frivolity "Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The resemblance between various declining nations in this respect is truly surprising."
The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player, not a statesman, a general, or a literary genius.
I might debate Glubb on some aspects of his thesis (duration of the Roman Empire, role of women, etc) but I think he was on to something. Especially with the key success factors.