Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why You Should Never Pass Down Your Legacy to Multiple People

"A House Divided Cannot Stand"
Lincoln really knew what he was talking
about when he made these words famous. 
As I paged through my dense world history textbook and pondered the adventures of history's greatest people, I found myself questioning a pattern. Time and time again, powerful leaders of successful empires deliver their legacy to their grandchildren, generals, or relatives. Their once-great kingdoms are divided and left for the dogs (foreign invaders). Have we not heard "a house divided cannot stand"?

Alexander the Great
We have all heard of the powerful leader. He conquered the known world at the time. His army was fierce, and his tactics were gruesome. At his death, he had not named a successor to his empire. In turn, three of his top generals fought over the left over land. The kingdom was divided into Ptolemy (Egypt), Macedonia, and the Seleucid Empire (Persia). The divided land was weaker than the whole as under Alexander, but his legacy still remains as a one-hit wonder.

Genghis Khan
Look at that beard.
Genghis Khan
If you have heard of Alexander, you have probably heard of Genghis. He was born into a poor family and struggle to make a living for himself left alone a name. At a young age, he was declared leader of the Mongols, and he then conquered kingdoms to establish the largest continuous kingdom in history. With his death, his kingdom was divided between his grandsons and relatives into four main regions: the Khanate of Chagatai (central Asia), the Khans of the Golden Horde (Russia), the Ilkhans (Persia), and the Yuan Dyansty (China). How many of these have you heard of?

This man is less well-known, but he did the same thing. He built the Carolingian Empire in Europe, the first kingdom to reestablish authority in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. After his death, his three grandsons fought bitterly over who should get it, and in the end they divided it up. It all crumbled so quickly that my textbook doesn't even name the successor states. Why didn't his legacy live on?

This has happened repeatedly in history, and I am not exactly sure what we should learn from it. Perhaps that a leadership position should not have too many co-positions. Or maybe that most legacies work this way, and sometimes no one can be the same as that one great leader. Or maybe these leaders planned it that way, so that they would be the only ones to make the history books. Who knows? All I can say is aim to be a legacy starter not a hopeless successor.

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