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The Idea File

All Great Civilizations Fall. Is America Next?

Nov 14, 2019 | 12 videos
Video by The Atlantic

At its height, in the year A.D. 177, the Roman Empire seemed all but invincible. It was the most expansive political and social structure in Western civilization. Then it fell, in a manner so spectacular and swift as to belie its greatness.


Could the same fate be in store for America? In a new episode of The Idea File, staff writer James Fallows explores the possibility that the collapse of our superpower may be imminent—but that may not be a bad thing. “The end of America as we know it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of America,” Fallows says.


In deconstructing the events that led to Rome’s collapse, Fallows argues that by exiting the world’s stage, Rome paved the way for a rebirth of sorts. “Some things were lost,” he says. “But other things were created and became possible.”


For more, read Fallows’s article, “The End of the Roman Empire Wasn’t That Bad,” and check out the series “Our Towns.”

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Authors: Vishakha Darbha, Jackie Lay, Catherine Spangler, Sophia Myszkowski

About This Series

Deconstructing the way we live, with The Atlantic's writers