Spengler's civilization model  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Oswald Spengler's civilization model appears as three tables, each in a three-page long folded sheet, inserted between pages 68 and 69 of the first volume of his Der Untergang des Abendlandes, in the definitive edition published under the author's care by C. H. Beck in Munich, in 1931. Page numbers slightly changed from the previous German editions, yet were always placed immediately after the end of the Introduction. The English translation published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York in 1936 as The decline of the West, vol. 1, carries these tables at the end of the volume (after page 444). For their meaning and significance, see the main article.


Spiritual epochs

Phase Indian
from 1500 BC
from 1100 BC
Magian (Middle Eastern)
from 0
from 900
Rural-intuitive. Great creations of the newly-awakened dream-heavy soul. Super-personal unity and fulness
Birth of a myth of the Grand Style expressing a New God-feeling. World-fear. World Longing
1500–1200 BC 1100–800 BC 1–300 900–1200
Earliest mystical-metaphysical shaping of the new world-outlook. Zenith of Scholasticism
Preserved in the oldest parts of the Vedas
Ripening consciousness. Earliest urban and critical stirrings.
Reformation: Internal Popular Opposition to the Great Springtime Forms
10–9th century BC 7th century BC
Beginning of a purely philosophical form of the World-feeling. Opposition of idealistic and realistic systems
Preserved in the Upanishads 6–5th century BC 6–7th century 16–17th century
Formation of a new Mathematic Conception of Number as copy and Content of World-form.
Missing 540 BC
  • Algebra (the indefinite number)
  • (development not yet investigated)
Puritanism. Rationalistic-mystic Impoverishment of Religion.
Traces in the Upanishad 540 BC 650s
Intelligence of the City. Zenith of strict Intellectual creativeness
"Enlightenment". Belief in the Almightiness of Reason. Cult of "Nature". "Rational" Religion
Zenith of mathematical thought. Elucidation of the Form-World of Numbers.
Zero as a number
The Great Conclusive Systems
Dawn of Megalopolitan Civilization. Extinction of spiritual creative force. Life itself becomes problematical. Ethical-practical tendencies of an irreligious and unmetaphysical cosmopolitanism
Materialistic World-Outlook. Cult of Science, Utility and Prosperity.
Ethical-social ideals of life. Epoch of "Unmathematical Philosophy". "Skepsis".
Tendencies in Buddha's time Movements in Islam
Inner Completion of the Mathematical Form-World. The Concluding thought.
Degradation of abstract thinking into Professional Lecture-Room Philosophy. Compendium Literature.
Schools of
Spread of Final World Sentiment
Indian Buddhism since 500 Hellenistic-Roman Stoicism since 200 The practical Fatalism in Islam since 1000 The spread of ethical Socialism from 1900

Artistic epochs

Phase Egyptian Culture Classical Culture Arabian Culture Western Culture
Pre-Cultural Period
Chaos of Primitive expression forms. Mystical symbolism and Naive Imitation
2830 BC-2600 BC 1600 BC-1100 BC 500 BC-0 500-900
Life-history of a style Formative of the entire inner-being. Form-language of deepest symbolic necessity
Early Period
Ornamentation and architecture as elementary expression of the young world-feeling: "The Primitives"
2600 BC-2200 BC 100 BC-650 BC 0-500 900-1500
Birth and Rise. Forms sprung from the Land, unconsciously shaped
2550 BC-2320 BC 11-9th century BC 1st-3rd century 11-13th century
Completion of the early form-language. Exhaustion of possibilities. Contradiction
2320 BC-2200 BC
  • 6th dynasty
  • End of pyramid and epic relief styles
  • Bloom of archaic portraits.
8-7th century BC 4-5th century 14-15th century
Late Period
Formation of a group of arts urban and conscious, in the hands of individuals: "Great Masters."
Formation of a mature artistry
2130 BC-1990 BC
Perfection of an intellectualized form-language
1990 BC-1790 BC 480 BC-350 BC 7-8th century
  • Umayyad dynasty
  • Victory of architecture and picture-less arabesque art
Exhaustion of strict creativeness. Dissolution of grand form. End of style. "Classicism" and "Romanticism"
Confusion after about 1750
Existence without inner form. Metropolitan city art as a commonplace: luxury, sport, nerve excitement. Rapidly-changing fashions in art (revivals, arbitrary discoveries, borrowings)
Modern art. "Art problems". Attempts to portray or to excite the metropolitan consciousness. Transformation of music, architecture and painting into mere craft-arts
1675 BC-1550 BC Hellenism
  • Hellenistic painting modes ( veristic, bizarre, subjective)]]
  • Pergamen (theatrically)
  • Archetictual display in the cities of Diadochi
9-10th century dynasties 19-20th century
End of form development. Meaningless, empty, artificial, pretentious architecture and ornament. Imitation of archaic an exotic motives
1550 BC-1328 BC 100 BC-100 AD From 2000
Finale. Formation of a fixed stock of forms. Imperial display by means of material and mass. Provincial craft-art
1328 BC-1195 BC
  • Mongol Period from 1250
  • Giant building (e.g. in India)
  • "Oriental craft-art" (rugs, arms, implements)

Political epochs

Phase Egyptian Classical Chinese Western
Pre-Cultural Period
Primitive folk. Tribes and their chiefs. As Yet No "Politics" and no "State"
Thinite Period (MENES) 3100–2600 Mycenaean Age
(AGAMEMNON) 1600–1100
Shang Period
Frankish period
National groups of definite style and particular world-feeling: "nations." Working of an immanent state-idea
Early Period
Organic articulation of political existence. The two prime classes (noble and priests).
Feudal economics; purely agrarian values
1. Feudalism. Spirit of countryside and countryman. The "City" only a market or stronghold. Chivalric-religious ideals. Struggles of vassals amongst themselves and against overlord.
Feudal conditions of IV Dynasty
Increasing power of feudatories and priesthoods
The Pharaoh as incarnation of Ra
The Homeric kingship
Rise of the nobility
(Ithaka, Etruria, Sparta)
The central ruler (Wang) pressed hard by the feudal nobility Roman-German Imperial period
Crusading nobility
Empire and Papacy
2. Crisis and dissolution of patriarchal forms. From feudalism to aristocratic Stare
VI Dynasty. Breakup of the Kingdom into heritable principalities. VII and VIII Dynasties, interregnum Aristocratic synoecism
  • Dissolution of kinship into annual offices
  • Oligarchy
934–904: I-Wang and the vassals
  • 842. Interregnum
Territorial princes Renaissance towns. Lancaster and York
  • 1254. Interregnum
Late Period
Actualizing of the matured State-idea. Town versus countryside. Rise of Third Estate (Bourgeoisie). Victory of money over landed property
3. Fashioning of a world of States of strict form. Frondes
11th Dynasty
  • Overthrow of the baronage by the rulers of Thebes
  • Centralized bureaucracy-state
6th Century
  • First Tyrannis (Cleisthenes, Periander, Polycrates, the Tarquins)
  • The City-State
Period of the "Protectors" (Ming-Chu 685–591) and the congresses of princes (–460) Dynastic family-power, and Fronde (Richelieu, Wallenstein, Cromwell)—circa 1630
4. Climax of the State-form ("Absolutism") Unity of town and country ("State" and

"Society." The "three estates")

1990–1790: 12th Dynasty The pure Polis (absolutism of the Demos) 590–480: Chun-Chiu period ("Spring" and "Autumn")
  • Seven powers
  • Perfection of social forms (Li)
Ancien Regime. Rococo. Court nobility of Versailles. Cabinet politics Habsburg and Bourbon. Louis XIV. Frederick the Great
5. Break-up of the State-form (Revolution and Napoleonism). Victory of the city over the countryside (of the "people" over the privileged, of the intelligentsia over tradition, of money over policy)
1788–1680: Revolution and military government. Decay of the realm. Small potentates, in some cases sprung from the people. 4th century: Social revolution and the Second Tyrannis (Dionysus I, Jason of Pherae, Appius Claudius the Censor)


480: Beginning of the Chan-Kwo period.

441: Fall of the Chou dynasty Revolutions and annihilation-wars

The body of the people, now essentially urban in constitution, dissolves into formless mass. Megalopolis and Provinces. The Fourth Estate ("Masses"), inorganic, cosmopolitan
1. Domination of Money ("Democracy"). Economic powers permeating the political forms and authorities
1675–1550: Hyksos period. Deepest decline. Dictatures of alien generals (Chian). After 1600, definitive victory of the rulers of Thebes 300–100: Political Hellenism. From Alexander to Hannibal and Scipio royal all-power from Cleomenes III and C. Flaminius (220) to C. Marius, radical demagogues. 480–230: Period of the "Contending States"
  • The Imperial title (288)
  • The Imperialist statesmen of Tsin
  • From 289, incorproation of the last states in the Empire.
  • 19th Century: From Napoleon to World War I, "System of Great Powers," standing armies, constitutions
  • 20th Century: Transition from constitutional order to informal sway of individuals. Annihilation wars. Imperialism
2. Formation of Caesarism. Victory of force-politics over money. Increasing primitiveness of political forms. Inward decline of the nations into a formless population, and constitution thereof as an Imperium of gradually-increasing crudity of despotism
1580–1350: Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt 100 BC–100 AD: Sulla to Domitian
250 BC–26 AD: House of Wang-Cheng and Western Han Dynasty
  • 221 BC: August title (Shi) of Emperor (Hwang-ti)
  • 140–80 BC: Wu-ti
3. Maturing of the final form. Private and family policies of individual leaders. The world as spoil. Egypticism, Mandarinism, Byzantinism. Historyless stiffening and enfeeblement even of the imperial machinery, against young peoples eager for spoil, or alien conquerors. Primitive human conditions slowly thrust up into the highly-civilized mode of living
1350–1205: Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt 100–300: Trajan to Aurelian 25–320: Eastern Han Dynasty after 2200

External links

The following links to print versions of the tables are provided for verification purposes.
In German:
Table I. "Contemporary" Spiritual Epochs
Table II. "Contemporary" Artistic Epochs
Table III. "Contemporary" Political Epochs
In English:
Spengler's Civilization Model
The Decline of the West (the tables of "contemporary" epochs are on page 448).

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