My world is a realistic post-apocalyptic revival of civilization. Thousands of years have passed, and almost all knowledge of the old world has been lost or greatly distorted. There is plentiful physical evidence, but no written records that can now be understood. This is a pre-scientific age, so the barely recognizable ruins attract no serious academic study. They are either exploited or avoided. The best historical accounts come from the rare educated elite, in turn passed down from oral tradition originating well after the fact.

Only a few things are certain and widely accepted: the ancient ones were a vastly more powerful people than any since; their downfall was sudden and catastrophic; it involved fire and earthquakes and falling stars; and the current ice age is a result of their demise.

The more learned may understand some of the following, which they may or may not wish to share depending on their ideology: that the ancients were just humans like us, but far more advanced; that the fall was at least in part due to their own destructive technology; that the final death blow came from the heavens; that much of the now populated lowlands were then under the sea.

With that limited cultural knowledge in place, how might it affect the beliefs of indigenous and organized religions, and philosophical schools of thought, in early civilization?

  • $\begingroup$ This is similar to the setting of Final Fantasy 10 $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ On one hand, they could embrace the precursors, or they could embrace gods framed against the precursors for some (possibly made up) folly. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I have a similar society in my world, little is known about the ancient society other than that they existed. They were, however, more advanced than the current people. (My world is magic.) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ This question seems to me to be trawling for idea suggestions. Seems to me I could spend all day thinking of different possible answers to that. I like the topic, but I wonder if it might be more useful and appropriately answerable to ask how one might go about choosing & designing cultures in a situation like this, rather than an open-ended request for specific ideas. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ There just isn't enough detail to determine a best answer. Cultures can vary tremendously in how they respond to outside stimuli, so attempting to generalize a response to the knowledge of a dead super-advanced civilization is hard to come up with. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 16:04

6 Answers 6


There's a very good real-world analogy to this: the fall of Rome.

After the Roman Empire fell, for several hundred years people looked back on the things they had built with a fair amount of awe and wonder. They saw these great aqueducts, temples and colliseums, great works of art and literature that they could not reproduce. As late as the 1700s people were still talking about recapturing the lost science, technology, and arts. The mystique lasted long after people had surpassed the Romans in most ways.

Okay, they were not perceived as being destroyed BECAUSE of their technology in the sense that you are saying here. More like, "their wealth became so great that they became weak and decadent".

So all that said, my thoughts:

Number one: It would be simplistic to suppose that EVERYONE will have the same reaction, any more than everyone today has the same religion or political ideas or philosophy of life.

I'd suppose that some will say, They were destroyed by their technology. Technology brings destruction. Technology is evil. We must fight anyone who tries to rebuild this terrible technology.

Others will say, They accomplished great things that we are no longer capable of. We should study the ruins and surviving writings and try to recover this lost knowledge. They might add, Yes, they destroyed themselves, so we want to be careful not to repeat their mistakes. Technology doesn't kill people: people kill people.

Yet others might say, There is no point in even trying. We can never match the achievements of our ancestors, and even if we did, we see that their triumphs were fleeting. Life is hopeless.

Effects on religion? Presumably some would see their destruction as judgment from God. Depending on how much of their history is salvaged, possibly a direct divince judgment, like Sodom and Gomorrah, or judgment via human agencies, like the Babylonian Captivity. But other than being held up as a prominent example of the penalty to be paid for defying the laws of God or the gods, I don't think it would make that much practical difference. I mean different from religions as they exist today. Plenty of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others believe that at one time God destroyed almost all humanity with a great flood. Would the knowledge of another cataclysm, with many more survivors than the Flood, fundamentally change their beliefs? It would reinforce them, but I don't see why it would change them.

I'm tempted to say that such an event would shatter the beliefs of people who have very optimistic religions. I mean, people who say, God loves us so he would never let anything really bad happen. But then, and I don't want to get into attacking other people's religion here, so let me just say that I've never understood how people can believe that sort of thing given all the bad things that happen in the world every day. Traditional Christianity says that the world is full of evil and here's why and here's what God is doing about it, and whatever you want to say about Christianity, at least its evaluation of the world is consistent with what we actually observe.

Similar things coudl be said about secular philosophies. Like the Humanist Manifesto says how people are getting better all the time and we are entering a new era of peace and love and enlightenment and we don't need any God. That was written shortly before World War I. When that war proved that so much of their optimism was unfounded, they didn't abandon humanism, they just toned it down a bit. I assume the same thing would happen to the highly optimistic at the time of a cataclysm like you describe. Some would abandon their beliefs, but most would probably simply adapt them.

You could speculate that some number of people would believe the ancients were gods and build a religion around them. I doubt it personally, I had a question myself in this general direction (Would relatively primitive people really confuse technology with magic?). But it's certainly conceivable.


I don't know about you, but I hear that an extraordinarily advanced race just like us was destroyed - most likely because they were too advanced - then I would become a hardcore Luddite. "Look what happened to the people who tried to learn too much, and build too much! They were struck down, whether it was by their own doing, by nature, or by a deity."

If I'm an important figure in a religion, I can easily use this as a stance to discourage technological development and learning. "We need to go back to a simpler time, a kinder time! Their destruction was the work of our god, whose vengeance is almighty and terrible! None should challenge his omnipotence and omniscience."

Aside from this, there will clearly be an element of god-fearing in any religion, assuming the above conclusions are drawn. The people pray to an angry god, a vengeful god, and he must be appeased! Religion will play a much more central role in life, similar to how it was in the days of the God-fearing, extremely pious Puritans.

Moving to a more secular school of thought, philosophers will draw the same conclusions as the religious folk drew in my first paragraph. See what technology brought them to! Maybe curiosity and exploration are negative parts of human nature.

  • $\begingroup$ You know, some people believe that the antediluvian peoples had advanced technology, before they became corrupted and had to be destroyed. Or possibly after they became bad. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ The pseudepedriphal books Noah and Enoch have it that the angels that spawned the nephillim taught many modern arts. (medicines and cosmetics, among them) Interestingly, I can't tell if there was a point against certain technologies being made or if it was simply a case where the patrons were bad, so their students didn't use it properly. It certainly wasn't a clear case of condemning the advanced technology. Always thought that was an odd detail. $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:49
  • The precursors will have cleaned out many of the easily accessible raw materials, from copper ore to coal. Mining in an area with millenia-old collapsed mines will be dangerous. On the other hand, there might be many smallish "motherlodes" in the form of buried junkyards. Does that decentralize the culture?
  • Would those barely recognizable relics inspire architects and engineers build on the same scale? Imagine the stumps of a bridge like the New River Gorge Bridge. Sometimes knowing that something is possible is halfway there. Does that centralize cultures around imperial capitals?

Thats such a pretty topic. Still, it does feel like a mashup of Fallout and Fall From Heaven (a Civilization IV mod). But still, at least I think that what you are describing could be earth just just around 100BC.

People embrace their gods and carry on the stories unfolding during their gods... earth time to the next generation. These gods of course where pretty powerful, but somehow they were prone to fighting and cheating at each other, or going for a... ehm... date down to earth. Keep that impression for a moment.

Now fast forward to the point of your stories start. The next iteration of human rise and fall did start, but sadly these guys will have pretty hard time even coming to a second age of iron (because all the iron easy accessible was mined out centuries ago). Now they wander around, dwelling in wooden huts somewhere thousend years ago Germans and British Vacationists fought for the best chair at the pool. That area is now is a desert like area, because the Mediterranean Sea dried out, but at least there are no glaciers pushing forward downhills over here.

Its kind of cold, so they gather around a warm fire and start telling stories about the "old ones". You might hear the tales of Pot-Harald, who did beat a creature, shimmering in the sun, to death with his trusty broom while completely missing that he was parked in the friendzone by the red-haired lady he did like really. Or the tale of Mister Dom, who tamed a wild beast and used it to race other beast riders, until some day his best friend died. Or the tales of the well dressed guy which went out to fight the evil in the world while drinking huge loads of alcohol before grabbing the bad guys lady for a... walk. Hey, there are children around here!

Speaking of them; one might ask, what did happen to the old ones. Parents now start looking at each other and make space for the elder of the community, which - so tales tell - is old enough to know all the stuff he is telling first hand (weeeeell...).

So this old man places himself and start telling the story of the Old Ones, that worshiped the Apple of Awareness by carrying around small tokens with a picture of it, showing it slightly bitten off as a symbol for their own connection to Awareness and Wisdom.

But there were a mischievous group of baddies, who thought their God - the penguin machine - was far superior. Both battled for eternities, until one day, the Kraken of Information - Octogogolos its name - did awake from its slumber and took away the Old Ones connection to all their wisdom, angry that no one even thought about worshiping himself! For centuries the Old ones tried to please him by offering pictures of pretty girls with... less coth than advisable and cute kitten. But Octogogolos was way to angry to fall for more offerings any more.

Sadly by taking the knowledge away from the Old ones, they forget how to watch for the skies and missed that the minions of Eduard, the Space-Munky, started throwing mountains from outer space to earth. That wasn't even a bad scheme; the minions expected someone back home catching these mountains, because the old ones didn't look pretty any more. But with no one knowing how to catch them any more, they did fall at the heads of the Old Ones, crushing their homes, flushing away towns with water and causing general mayhem. If you look out to the east you still can see such a mountain. In this days people try to get ore out of it, but its pretty complicated...

At least the kraken was pleased with all the water now flooding the earth, because he always needed it to keep himself cool...

"And what do we learn about this", the elder now asks. "Right: worship your fruits, because they are good for you, but forfeit the machines, because they will anger the kraken. But you can keep yourself save from him by sharing pictures of kitten and pretty girls with the cold water."

So... as said to the beginning, that did happen to humankind already I think. But now people start carrying around books of such misunderstood stories and think they are lessens from gods or stuff like this. And it will happen again; but the outcome may change based on what kind of story is passed to the people out there. Maybe there are groups, that still worship the penguin machines, or try to awake the kraken Octogogolos so it will give back the knowledge to humankind.

Its all about the stories, and who tells them. Always.

  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't really answer the question. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 9:51

For less educated people, it's easy to correlate anything coming from the sky as coming from a divine source. Thus, it is quite possible that technology will be considered evil, and having too much of it would be risking the wrath of God. However, a large part of how things develop will depend on who survived the apocalypse.

Religious groups surviving will believe it was the wrath of God, and will develop technology-free societies. What is deemed to be dangerous technology or not will be left up in large part to the leaders, and among those leaders you can get corrupt leaders who will classify certain technologies as safe for their own benefit, or pious leaders who may ban new things to protect their people.

Well-educated groups that survive (or groups with well-educated members who are respected) will pass down a different story to their descendants. It sounds like the apocalypse was not entirely self-inflicted ("the final death blow came from the heavens"), so there may be an element of "the wrath of God", but the focus will be on the hubris of human ambition. These groups will attempt to bring technology back, but emphasize caution, studying the negative effects of what they do, and learning from the mistakes of the past.

There is an immediate conflict between these two different ideologies—one wants to bring technology back (techies), while the other wants to prevent its return (luddites). This will encourage the techies to bring back technology faster, as they will desire to be able to protect themselves from the luddites. However, the luddites, even without technology, could easily overwhelm the techies if the luddites are more numerous and find the techies within a century of the end of the apocalypse. This could force the techies to hide, either in remote locations or secretly among the luddites.


Imagine a setting in which small caches of learning materials were stored in such a way to survive and be recovered. A very knowledgeable person stumbling upon such a cache, might be able to use that recovered knowledge to improve his life.

Of course the written language in such materials would diverge widely from what was in common use.

The application of the knowledge in those books would also diverge widely from what was in common use.

Imagine a person inventing simple electrical and mechanical devices. In some ways this would appear to be identical to the learned wizards of fantasy settings. Having to learn an ancient language, recovering lost wisdom, controlling vast and mysterious powers that can potentially kill the careless.

Yup, sounds like wizardry to me.

And like wizardry in a fantasy setting some will fear, avoid, and/or persecute the "magic wielders" while others will try to bend those powers to their own needs/wants/wishes.

Putting it another way, people will still be people. As such there will be good people, bad people, and the majority who are somewhere in between the two.

  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me that there would likely be people who, when civilization fell, would try to preserve the knowledge. Like the Medieval monks who preserved the knowledge of Greece and Rome. Then you'd have the islands of knowledge, waiting for a time when they could rebuild. Like the novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:22

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