This is the third painting of a series of four about the life cycle of empires. Cole was inspired by these lines from a poem by Lord Byron:
“There is the moral of all human tales:
‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page,—’tis better written here,”