Fall of Roads
The Fall of Roads is the collapse of the Empire of Roads, also known as the Eladamri Civilization. Throughout recorded history, the Fall was known to be an instantaneous event, and not a slow decline. It was often described by early scholars as "within a single night and a day of misfortune". Discoveries during the Sixth Age seem to indicate that this was an understatement.
There is no exact date given for the Fall of Roads; however according to the Bur'Ian Count it should have been sometime before 4694 B.G.A., assuming an accurate date can be fixed for the establishment of High Tower (the Bur'Ian Chronology does not include such a date). According to Bur'Ian tradition, the first king was crowned perhaps as little as a generation after the fall, meaning it must have occured sometime between 4694 and 4740 B.G.A.
The chronology established by the Accepted Histories places the Fall of Roads at exactly 4700 B.G.A, with the establishment of High Tower and the begining of the Mage Wars exactly 1000 years later in 3700 B.G.A. Herbet Patric Galactis openly stated that there was no archaeological or historical evidence to support these dates; but it presented "some nice, round figures that would be easy for school children to remember on tests".
An alternate chronology based on accounts drawn from the mytho-historic texts of various cultures around the world, cross-referenced with known celestial events, seeks to fix a more accurate date. According to research done in the Third Age, the exact date of the Fall of Roads is set at B.G.A. 4727. The study set an exact length for the Age of Darkness at 1031 years, putting the establishment of High Tower in B.G.A. 3696. This chronology has found little support.
The exact events of the fall were not discovered until late in the Sixth Age when a highly classified mission of the G.S.S. Saratoga performed excavations on the Planet Eladamri, where the best surviving examples of Ancient technology were found, still working.
According to this discovery, the Fall began as a failure in the Eladamrian power system. Because they used Zero-Point Generators for power, the system was made more efficient by centralizing the entire array. Even after 35 or 45,000 years of advancment, Z.P.G. modules were still relatively difficult to construct. The more modules combined, the more power generated. Apparently, with every single module they had combined, the Eladamrians were still barely able to fulfill the energy requirements of their civilization.
The problem seemed to be more about regulating the flow of energy than actually producing it, as the generator was fully capable of producing nearly infinite power. The exact cause of the failure can be found in Forbidden, from The Concourse to Victory; but the short version is that the power grid was interrupted. The ancient civilization was, unfortunately, constructed in such a way that even a momentary disruption of the system caused a complete, irreparable collapse.
The term "Fall of Roads" derives primarily from the collapse of the Road network. Though early Roads were designed and programmed to contact other Roads, those built during Classic Antiquity connected a single Road to many destinations. This system obviously required a great deal of power, and had to be kept "always on". The fall destroyed centuries of careful programing, and though it could have been restored eventually, it severed transportation all over the empire. Because the Roads were also used to transport electricity from the capital to every part of the empire, their collapse made short-term revival of the power grid completely impossible. Years, maybe decades, would be required, as the system had absolutely no redundancy.
The other reason for the term stems from the way so many ancient structures literally collapsed when the Roads fell. The majority of buildings made during Classic Antiquity were 'active structures', which required a constant supply of energy to maintain shape. When the power-loss occurred, these structures simply collapsed, usually killing their occupants. This is believed to have killed at least 60% of the population instantly.
The second problem was food supply. The Eladamrians used matter-replication technology to turn energy into matter (also contributing to their enormous power requirements). All their food was produced by this technology. By the end of Classic Antiquity, the very notion of getting food out of something other than a machine was simply foreign. The same was true of water; most Eladamrians didn't realize that the stuff flowing through their decorative fountains could be drunk.
It is estimated that as much as 95% of survivors of the initial "fall" starved to death or died of dehydration, leaving only 2% of Eladamrians alive. Many of those who survived the initial fall were simply too far away from resources to survive, trapped in the centers of massive cities with no food or water for hundreds of miles. Only a small fraction of the population, who lived in new colonies or on the edges of cities, even had the opportunity to escape into wilderness and attempt to survive. They were utterly unequipped for the task.
Of the 2%, 99% would die in the coming months. Eating poisonous food; drinking tainted water; facing wild animals; and many other dangers surrounded them. Most Eladamrians had never been outside of their cities; survival was a matter of trial and error, and most of it an error.
By the beginning of the Age of Darkness, only one tenth of one percent of the initial population was still alive.
The Gudersnipe Foundation has studied the Empire of Roads, and specifically the Fall very extensively, in an effort to understand why it happened, and what can be done to prevent it. Even when understanding of the Eladamri was extremely limited, they made many discoveries. Knowledge of the Fall of Roads was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Technological Review. But above all else, the social aspects of the civilization were the most important to avoid.
The Eladamrians had centralized all of their power generation and administration at a single point. While this point was supposedly safe and completely proof against failure, it was still a very poor decision. It is understood that at the time of the 'Fall', they were in crisis, and had thus centralized their system because it was the only way to generate enough power. Although a mistake, the social system of the Eladamrians created the need for so much energy, and the refusal to use less that eventually caused their end.
Though the modern picture of the Ancients during the Ages of the Alliance was one of philosophers and scientists, the Eladamrians during Classic Antiquity were, for the most part, extremely selfish and hedonistic. The theory is that this trend evolved from the end of the Roads War. For 25 or 35,000 years, the citizens of the empire were denied every comfort. Countless generations lived and died fighting the Iname.
When the battle was finally won, the celebration lasted over a century. Many people took birth, grew up, grew old, and died celebrating the end of war they had never seen. The lasting impact of this period was a sense of entitlement. The technology once focussed on war was now brought to bear against every human whim.
Though a select few still devoted themselves to scientific and social advancement, the vast majority of Eladamrians devoted themselves entirely to personal pleasure. With most of the work done by machines, there was little need for anyone to do anything. The technology available to the common individual allowed anyone to fulfill any dream, so long as there was enough power.
Based on information gathered from secondary--and sometimes tertiary--sources, it is believed that something similar to the Simulator technology was used recreationally all throughout the empire, and even more so towards the end of Classic Antiquity, to create an artificial world in which the controller possesses god-like power. But even outside of the full-emersion escapism, the simulator could fill an apartment with physics-defying furniture, or even create an entire structure to suit the owner's whims.
These were 'active' structures, meaning they would require constant power literally to stay up. When the Roads fell (and power was cut off) many individuals simply fell to their deaths inside monstrous towers that ceased to be.
The rampant hedonism brought about an insatiable demand for power, which the leadership of the empire felt was their duty to supply. This was the ultimate mistake; rather than forcibly reduce power requirements, they simply attempted to supply more power, until this became impossible.
As Classic Antiquity progressed, technology moved at an astounding pace, with most equipment geared towards reducing the workload on the actual populace. Machines were made, and machines to fix the machines, and more machines to maintain those machines [etc.], until only a tiny fraction of the population knew how to do anything at all.
The presence of matter-replication technology (really matter re-arrangers) made farming and agriculture completely non-existent, until the very idea of food growing in the ground was considered ridiculous. At a point when all food came from the re-arrangers, many people did not even understand that the material flowing through their decorative fountains was actually water.
With much of the population killed in the initial Fall, and so little of the population having any concept of reality, the survivors were left to start over without even stone tools.