Author: Leo Nicolletto

John Glubb and Avoiding the Fate of Empires

Empires rise, and empires fall. This fact of history—so obvious looking backwards—is all but inconceivable to those living through an empire’s peak. Human life is so short in the scheme of civilisations that we tend to overemphasise the importance and length of our own era, while past ages blur together. We live closer in time to Cleopatra than she did to the builders of the pyramids, but Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome all blend in the popular imagination into a shadowy and distant past. Culture biases us as much as our sense of time. The Arabic-speaking Moors ruled large parts of what is now Spain for nearly eight centuries—that is, for a third as long again as the 600 years that have passed since they (or at least, their leaders) were driven out by the newly-united Catholic monarchs of Aragon and Castile. Yet through contemporary European eyes, Moorish rule is typically viewed as an “interlude” in the history of the Spanish nation—a nation that, in reality, didn’t come into political being until the late 15th …