A brilliant, yet chilling thread by history podcaster and writer Patrick Wyman, considering the state of things. Sounds familiar? It indeed should...


First published in March 2020.

I spent the better part of a decade thinking about the end of the Roman Empire and what it felt like to live through that, in all its various manifestations – the collapse of political authority, spreading pandemics, economic crises – and now it all makes a lot more sense.

Processes of breakdown happen very slowly and imperceptibly. They are mostly aggregates small things: taxes not getting collected here, bridges not getting repaired there, things like that.

Then, in a moment of crisis, the sheer level of decay becomes clear. You see the aggregate.

A key administrative official was replaced by a feckless political appointee. That official didn’t push to collect tax revenues.

When a drought struck and famine ensued, they didn’t have the funds to import grain. And so on.

Nobody requisitions funds to repair a road. An aqueduct breaks and nobody fixes it. A port silts up and nobody builds new docks. Nobody updates the tax registers.

All of the sudden, your capacity to deal with any sort of major problem – your resilience – is gone.

Every state and society faces problems and challenges, both natural and man-made. The key thing is the capacity for dealing with them.

We don’t have that capacity right now.


Tweets posted on 12 March 2020 by @Patrick_Wyman.






[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 12 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif of Ryse Son of Rome Gameplay.)