"On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world."
There was a time our lives and the world were new and full of wonder, when innocence and curiosity led people to explore, trust each other plainly, make amazing discoveries, invent amazing technologies, or simply make awe inspiring works of art.
It can be because we, or the world we are born into, have grown up. It seems smaller by comparison, understandable; no longer mysterious, full of adventure and romance. Children can't grow up to be famous explorers if there are no new continents to explore (space or the deep sea floor being expensive future exceptions), and some works of art made with the expertise of long dead masters can never be truly replicated, whether sword or song. This is what the End Of An Age feels like: tragic, cynical and full of loss.
There are many plots and stories that evoke this trope to add the bitter in a Bittersweet Ending, or less commonly as something to be fought against in order to preserve the Age or at least the relics thereof.
Applies generally: the rise of the internet was paralelled by the rise of the fansubs and scanlations, guerilla distribution of unlicensed anime and manga outside Japan. The days of guerilla distribution is considered to be over when internet media such as Crunchyroll began striking deals with Japanese IP holders to simulcast anime. Today, anime has lost much of its mythical allure since you don't need to go through much hoops to get it (that and proliferation of moe). The gritty frontier is no longer there.
Throughout Lone Wolf and Cub, it's both expressed and strongly implied that Feudal Japan is about to come crashing down and that Itto is "the Last True Bushi."
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou shows the "age of the calm evening" before "the night of humanity". This is paralleled in Alpha's own development.
Holo of Spice and Wolf decides to leave the villagers she helped because they say that they don't need a harvest god anymore. While she initially helped them by making the crops grow, she occasionally had to do the opposite to prevent the growing village from being struck by the Tragedy of the Commons, which made them resent her. In the first episode, before she leaves, we see her portrayed in the village harvest festivities as an oppressive force and a thief instead of as a wise benefactor.
One Piece is starting to look very much like this as of recent events, with the romantic "Great Pirate Era" coming crashing down, as Portgas D. Ace, who was revealed as the son of Gold Roger, the legendary "Pirate King", is killed by Admiral Akainu, providing the first death of a major character, and Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate, who held the title of the "World's Strongest Man", meeting his end shortly afterward, with the almost certainly series Big Bad Blackbeard and his crew killing him, and stealing his devil fruit power.
Several characters have different views of what exactly this "New Age" is about. For example, the Marines seem to think of it as an age where pirates are more ruthless than ever, whereas Trafalgar Law thinks of it as an age where the Marines' days are numbered. Eustass Kid seems to hold the belief that pirates are in an Evil Power Vacuum, dog-piling over each other to get at One Piece - not so much about being the Pirate King anymore.
Urusei Yatsura had this in the third movie "Remember My Love". When Lum is kidnapped, all of the Oni leave Earth to find her. Eventually the character's lives return to those of normal teenagers; time even becomes unstuck and our characters advanced to 12th Grade. This is all wiped out, and the original timeline restored by the end of the movie.
There are a handful of Axis Powers Hetalia fics that picture Nations at either the end of the world or their own "lifetimes." Whether it's peaceful, violent or tragic depends on the writer. But let's just say that they take it well...
Sometimes, this can include the end of a particular era of their history. Such as the French Revolution or the final years of Austria-Hungary.
In canon, England reflects on the loss of the British Empire, and France thinks about Joan of Arc and Napoleon as he's being defeated by Germany in WWII.
In Keroro Gunsou, a flashback chapter revealed that shortly before Dororo reunited with his platoon mates, the denizens of the ninja village he had been living with (including his friend Koyuki) were forced to re-integrate with normal Japanese society after Japan's "department of ninjutsu" was disbanded.
Sailor Moon states that an unidentified length of time ago, the entire Solar System was ruled in peace by The Moon and its queen, and every planet was a utopia, in an era known as the Silver Millennium. Now, though, every planet but Earth is dead. (Sailor Moon does promise via Time Travel, though, that the future will be bright - and based in Tokyo.)
The Big O's Paradigm City is a unique example in that the Golden Age was forcibly suppressed and all memories of that time were erased, thereby skipping the long decline. The result is a grungy, post-apocalyptic noir New York City in which the Lost Technology is memories and the occasional Black Box pops up in the form of giant robots, artificial stars, and advanced androids.
The aliens of Tokyo Mew Mew see Earth as exactly this due to pollution.
Partially pollution, and partially because these "aliens" are actually the original inhabitants of the planet, and want to know what the hell we humans are doing bumming around in their property.
∀ Gundam has this as its distant backstory. They even have a name for it: The Black History. That backstory happens to be the entire Gundam franchise up to that point; Word of God adds in most later Gundam series to backstory.
Batman #400 is the last story of the pre-Crisis Batman, and ends with: "And so the night of resurrection nears its end, but when next he strides forth from this dark womb of bats... it all begins anew. 'Hello again. Beware... forever.'"
One of the key themes at the heart of Batman: "The Long Halloween" is the mob and traditional criminals in general having to come to terms with their own increasing impotence as the age of flamboyant supercrime begins
In a broader sense certain comic books are said to bring about the end of an age, Kingdom Come for instance is often cited as the end of the dark ages of comics.
Even more common is to describe "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (Amazing Spider-Man #121) as the story that marked the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age of comic books.
This is also the idea behind the Malibuverse comics. The superheros were Human Popsicles from the last "golden age" of men. Or demons. By the way, we are the tenth generation, while they were the ninth.
Gold Digger - magic and magic users still exist but the age of magic is over and most magical beings retreated to other realms some time ago.
Dracula Vs King Arthur ends with the Knights of the Round Table dead and Camelot in ruins after the war with Dracula. Arthur knew well before going into battle this was going to happen. And as a final request, rather then rebuilding the kingdom, that Excalibur and the Holy Grail be returned to the Lady of the Lake in hopes of his kingdom's subjects making their own future.
Final Crisis, from what this troper could gather is about the passing of the New Gods and the age of the Monitors, and the birth of the new-New Gods and the power of stories or something.
The Code Geass fic The First Servant, which takes place after Zero Requiem, chronicles not only the end of one era but also the events leading the end of another.Which involves Empress Nunnally's death and the final downfall of the Britannian Empire.
The 1983: Doomsday Stories has this trope as one of the overarching themes. The world as we know it ended in 1983, with the remaining Nations doing their best coping with the new one taking its place. On the other hand, it's also treated as a Dawn of an Era: humanity's rebuilding, Survivor-Nations are finding their place in the brave new world and the pre-Doomsday Nations are coming to terms with their ultimate fate.
In the Pony POV Series, the G2 world is shown to have been a Golden Age of pony civilization, surpassing even the modern day of G4/FIM (according to Luna, the ponies of that period had even landed on the moon, technology that the FIM ponies do not have). We've so far seen from two different perspectives — first from Celestia, and then from the main seven G2 ponies — how this period came crashing down when Discord's brother Destruction basically nuked the planet back to the Dark Ages in order to prevent the G3 world from coming into existence, thereby preventing the errors of that period from causing universal collapse.
When the four first meet Grunnel in With Strings Attached, he speaks longingly of the good old days when monsters and Tayhil roamed around and the skahs happily slaughtered them. But the skahs were too efficient and killed everything off, and for the last ten years Baravada has been in the grip of the Rusting: there's nothing for the skahs to do any more, no one is breeding (though Grunnel doesn't talk about that), even the populated places are falling apart, and the gods won't do anything about it. The four have to fake being sympathetic, as they are Actual Pacifists and disgusted by Grunnel's joyous descriptions of piles of bodies. And later, they are not at all happy about inadvertently providing the means to reverse the Rusting. Though they do manage to prevent that.
Played in Forrest Gump. Many have interpreted Jenny's death from a disease that might be AIDS as being symbolic of the death of the 1960s/1970s counterculture in the early 1980s.
This was touched on in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. In Dead Man's Chest, Cutler Beckett had a speech about how the world was changing and there would soon no longer be a place for pirates like Jack Sparrow. In At World's End, Sparrow and Barbossa had a similar conversation; the point gets driven home when they stumble upon the body of the Kraken.
Barbossa: The world used to be a bigger place.
Jack: The world's still the same. There's just less in it.
There is an interpretation that the whole Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy deals with the end of the age of freedom and adventure in a symbolic kind of way.
On Stranger Tides hammers the point home even more so with the Spanish destroying the Fountain of Youth at the end of the movie.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? links the construction of the Pasadena Freeway to the end of old-timey Los Angeles culture, represented by The Golden Age of Animation come to life. For anyone who knows the history of LA, that was actually somewhat Truth in Television. It's the freeway that was a major factor in the basin's development and subsequent suburban sprawl. However, the freeway was actually built seven years before the film is set, making it strange that the very idea of a "freeway" is presented as a novel concept that everyone but Judge Doom thinks Will Never Catch On. Also, living cartoons never happened.
The Last Samurai and The Hidden Blade are both about the end of the samurai age. In The Hidden Blade, an expert in western culture even teaches the samurai how to run in the "western style."
Downfall is about the end of World War 2 for the Germans as the Nazi fantasy world comes literally crashing down on their heads.
The Serbian film Underground is about the dissolution of the united Yugoslavia, which the film mourns. Many critics did not appreciate the film's romanticizing of Tito's communist regime.
The lightning strike to the clock tower in Back to the Future arguably represents the beginning of the eventual decline and decay of Hill Valley's town square. Or, in a broader sense, it perhaps symbolizes the end of America's 1950s post-war boom.
It's largely only subtext in the film, but the novelization of Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf makes it clear that for the Norse people the dawning of the age of Christianity means the end of the age of myths and legends, something which Beowulf greatly resents.
Sam: The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today, it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it's like checkin' into an airport. And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it's all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds.
Dragonslayer. The end of magic and dragons, and the start of Christianity.
Kung Fu Panda 2 has this as a theme of the story as the advent of the cannon threatens to make kung fu irrelevant and useless in battle. However, Po averts this spectacularly by discovering an effective kung fu Catch and Return technique to defeat cannon fire, making kung fu still a vital skill in battle that can counter artillery. Furthermore, Po rather casually makes it clear that he can teach his friends this technique, which means it will be spreading throughout China in due time.
The Hungarian film Sunshine chronicles Hungary's fall from glory, from the upbeat optimism of the Habsburg Monarchy to the bleak and fatalistic 1956 Revolution against the Soviets.
James Cameron's Titanic can arguably be this, especially for the viewpoint of the Present Day Rose.
Boogie Nights deals with end the close-knitted 70s, 80s porn producing subculture and the rise of the open market porn industry. Little Bill, played by William H. Macy, appears in the 70s scenes, frequently complaining about his wife. However, at a New Year's Eve party, ushering in 1980, Little Bill shoots his wife dead, says "Happy New Year" to the shocked partygoers, and then shoots himself in front of them. The scene sets the tone for the grim, uncertain 1980s after the carefree, hedonistic 1970s.
The Old Republic in the Star Wars universe, shown in its final stages of decline in the prequels. In the original film (A New Hope), Obi-Wan describes the good old days of the Jedi Knights to Luke.
Sunset is about both the end of the Old West and the end of silent movies.
A recurring motif in Ocean's Thirteen, various characters remark at different points at how the casinos and heists in Las Vegas have changed around them ("You're analog players in a digital world"). The changing of the times also divides the crooks of the setting between the heroic Gentlemen Thieves who abide by the codes, and the villain of the movie, who sees the modern Las Vegas as an excuse to betray it.
Apocalypto: The Mayan civilization is on its last legs, and the Spaniards arrive to the Americas.
David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series takes place in the last years of the world-spanning Han Empire. One of the main protagonists has made it his life's calling to forestall the end.
Part of C. S. Lewis's Narnia stories is that only children may enter it, so as the cast ages they become excluded from coming back. However, by the last book all the children, most now grown, who held faith in having gone to Narnia and Aslan in particular, are allowed to come back for the final showdown.
How was that before the final showdown, exactly?
None of the children return to Narnia. The children appear in the Narnian version of heaven, on the other side of the stable's doorway.
At least half the stories relating to Arthurian Mythology, including the musical Camelot and T.H. White's book The Once and Future King, focus on how swell the age of Camelot was and how much it sucks that it's over.
Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End follows this form, with two twists: the setting is science fiction, not fantasy and the present-day real-world is construed to be the Golden Age, relative to a (future) alien invasion.
Conan the Barbarian of all things, focuses on this in its story. REH's Hyborian Age essay reveals that this age of high adventure will end violently with the surge of a Pictish tide from the Western reaches.
The Lord of the Rings is literally set at the end of the Third Age, with the last of the High Elves leaving for the land of the godlike archangels (Valar). This is an ongoing process, with unnumbered years where the Valar coexisted directly with Middle-Earth, three Ages of ascendance for the elves, and then a slow dimming away, with Middle-Earth eventually becoming the world we know today. These are called the Ages of the Children of Ilúvatar, and the Fourth Age is the first Age of Man. As such it is both Götterdämmerung (for the First and Second Ages) and The Magic Goes Away (for the Third).
This trope is the heart and soul of The Silmarillion, which details the history of Tolkien's universe from the beginning of time up until the events of Lord of the Rings. Each Age of the world ended with the irretrievable loss of some precious entity or artifact and the overall image is of a world that "grows ever colder" (in Gandalf's words). So for example, the First Age ended with the War of Wrath where Morgoth was defeated in a titanic battle and finally imprisoned by the Valar, but not before most of Beleriand is destroyed and two of the three Silmarils, the last unpoisoned light on Earth, were lost forever.
The Gondorians suffered from this after the time of the "Ship-Kings." Their great, mighty nation dwindled away as a kingless state. Arnor on the other hand never recovered from their losses in the War of the Last Alliance, and Isildur's death a few years later.
Paralleling the primary world. Arnor=Western Roman Empire; Gondor=Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantium.
All-World, where Roland lives and most of the action takes place, was once dominated by magic, which was used to power the twelve Beams which hold the world together. The setting's Precursors eventually replaced the magic with technology, and when they died out in nuclear war, the machines began to break down, causing the world to fall apart at the seams, both literally and metaphysically.
The novelization of Revenge of the Sith, which is generally considered to be very, very good, brings up the concept in its introduction, which gives brief rundown on the situation of the Republic as it stands, how important Anakin and Obi-Wan are to it, and then finishes with a single sentence:
Though this is the end of the age of heroes, it has saved its best for last.
In Discworld, Sourcery might be considered the last gasp of the age of, well, sourcery. Magic, and the humans who wield it, have been considerably scaled down since then, making things less wondrous but a hell of a lot safer.
The events of Sourcery also killed off many of the most powerful and dangerous wizards which lead to Ridcully becoming Archchancellor and ending the age of Klingon Promotion among the wizards. The wizards become more laid back, less aggressive and more scholarly wizards were able to rise to positions of power.
Men at Arms started the transformation of the City Watch into a modern police force and ended the age of the police being marginalized by the guilds, palace guards or the army. Old school coppers like Colon and Nobby don't really fit into it anymore and are nostalgic about how things used to be.
Interesting Times features the last gasp of Cohen the Barbarian and his band of geriatric heroes - a literally dying breed of men on the Disc whose days, like the Red Indians of North America, are soon to be ended by the "Telegraph" and encroaching civilization. The silver horde elect to go out with a very big bang, first here and in the loose "sequel", The Last Hero.
Jingo and Going Postal: as incidental detail in both books, the ferocious and savage non-human species called the Gnolls, who like rogue Apache Indians terrorised the overland trade routes through the wilderness in Equal Rites, are seen to capitulate to realpolitik and give themselves up to encroaching civilization, like reservation Indians in 1890. Jingo sees their debased remnant entering Ankh-Morpork to take up the bottom rung on the social ladder, as scavengers and rubbish-pickers. In Going Postal there is a strong hint, from the coachmen who are relieved the former hunting grounds of the Gnolls are suddenly so empty, that the last wild gnolls were victims of a sudden and mysterious genocide akin to the defeat of the Native Americans.
And we never knew what caused it, Mr Lipwig.
Though gnolls are literally living compost heaps, they actually like being sweepers and garbage-men, they have a ready source of food all to themselves.
Unseen Academicals ended the old, very brutal way of playing football and many of the old movers-and-shakers are not happy with it.
The short story "Troll Bridge" is basically about Cohen and Chert being the last gasps of bold warriors who kill things without asking many questions, and trolls who live under bridges and eat people until the aforementioned bold warrior kills them. The Disc is mostly about what happens to a Heroic Fantasy world afterwards.
Jack Kerouac's On the Road uses this trope symbolically when Sal finally settles with his wife and leads a peaceful life, leaving Dean, the embodiment of his reckless youth, to wander behind.
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series includes an effectively infinite number of these, including one explicitly described, and with most fans convinced that a second is coming any book now:
Since time in the series' is circular, the world must go through at least one more end of an age to become the "real" world.
There's also the implied end of our modern age that prepared the world for the Age of Legends in the first place.
However, the series also combines this with the Dawn of an Era: new Talents of the Power are being discovered, lost ones are being found anew, vast advances in technology are being made. The present Age is ending; a new one is beginning. One character even lampshades it upon seeing a demonstration of the world's first firearm, saying: "The world just changed in a very big way."
The Wheel of Time is set 3000 years after the male Aes Sedai (magic-users) broke the world. Now, what were everyday occurrences in the Age of Legends are heralded as miracles, artifacts from the Age of Legends are treasures, etc. Of course, the entire series has an underlying theme of Ages coming and going, so this happens many times.
It also subverts it by showing that some weaves in this age surpass the Age of Legend. For example, the Warder Bond, a common bond that causes a link to form between an Aes Sedai and a bodyguard (Warder), was unheard of in the Age of Legends. A scene occurs in Path of Daggers where The Dragon Moridin rails off a list of things that were unheard of in his age but the primitives from this age know. One such weave involves curing severing (a process that makes a magic user... not), something thought impossible (though this was itself only discovered very recently, by a main character).
There are also some hints that the story takes place long after some apocalypse levels our civilization. ("Mosk" and "Merk", the giants who fought with spears of fire that reached around the world is taken by some as a reference to Moscow and America with ICBMs in the Cold War, or perhaps even some future conflict. For more see: here.
Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon laments the gradual inaccessibility of Avalon - the spiritual center of pagan Britain - as the Goddess-worshipping religion is superseded by Christianity within the lifetime of its last priestess, Morgaine.
Guy Gavriel Kay does this twice, in both The Lions of Al-Rassan, and The Last Light of the Sun. The former deals with the end of Moorish Spain, and the latter with the last Viking raids on England. Both are very nostalgically written, and capture the uncertainty and sadness that comes with the end of something grand, be it good or bad.
In How to Train Your Dragon it's hinted by the older Hiccup narrating that the end of the the time of Viking heroes, as well as the disappearance of the dragons, will be brought on by his younger self.
Shannara has this. First came the age of the faeries, featuring various magical nature spirits, which ended in apocalypse. Second was the modern, technological age, which also ended in apocalypse. The third, current age is one mainly of magic, although the lost technology from the past shows up occasionally, and the most recent books have solar powered airships.
The book Gone with the Wind deals with this directly. Ashley tells Scarlett that following the collapse of the Confederacy, the former cottonbelt aristocrats are living a day-to-day götterdämmerung.
According to J. R. R. Tolkien, this is the entire point of Beowulf: after the age of heroes comes to an end, the Geats face a dark and uncertain future.
In Dragonlance this actually happens twice. Once after the Cataclysm, when all of the gods(except for the Gods of Magic) withdraw their presence from Krynn, taking with them Priestly magic. Wizardly magic is still around, but Wizards try and keep a low-profile due to persecution. All of Krynn enters a dark age that takes three centuries to recover from. The gods return during the War of the Lance. It happens again after the Chaos War, with the gods going away except for Takhisis due to her stealing away the world. All magic is gone from the world this time around, but it only takes about five years for Mysticism(which is akin to Priestly magic, except it relies on the casters faith in themselves) to be discovered and Primal Sorcery(actually the oldest type of magic, akin to Wizardly magic) is re-discovered fifteen years or so later.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda exists in a time where the great civilization known as the Commonwealth had fallen. Cynically, attempts to recreate it have so far simply resulted in corruption of power.
Stargate SG-1: The Stargate system is a leftover from a much older galactic civilization. Most of the dominant alien races barely understand the technology they use, and the ones who do are dying or gone. This is a type 2, as Terran humanity is implied to have potential equal to or greater than the old powers, but things will probably still keep declining for a while.
The advent of the Tau'ri (Terrans) brings about the downfall of the thousands-year reign of the Goa'uld "System Lords" (who arguably were a society already in decay but still held power over most of the galaxy).
Other episodes show that the Federation continues to expand and thrive centuries into the future, including having the Klingons join.
Important to note Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda was intended originally to be a Star Trek Series set long after the fall of an even greater Federation than reached at the end of Deep Space Nine, where the Klingons took the places of the Nietzscheans. Explains a few things.
Upstairs Downstairs depicts, through the changes in the Bellamy household, Victorian England slowly yielding to modern Britain. Downton Abbey does the same with the Crawley household.
Cranford chronicles the end of the agricultural age in England and the coming of the Industrial Revolution, as symbolised by the railroad. Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote the three novels the TV series was based on, also wrote a nonfiction book about this transition, called The Last Generation in England; material from this was also used for the show.
Revolution takes place 15 years after the Blackout stopped electricity from working and ended human civilization as we know it. The events of the series mark the end of the post-Blackout scavenger period where the desperate survivors tried to build a new life for themselves in a world without electricity. The young people coming of age barely remember the pre-Blackout world and new nations have formed on the ruins of the old USA.
The Blue Oyster Cult anthem Golden Age of Leather is about the last stand of old unrepentant Hell's Angels for whom the world has got too small, who choose to go out and die in a blaze of glory:
There passed from man to man/A wanton child, too dead to care,/ That each would find his pleasure as he might;/For that fantastic night was billed/As nothing less than the end of an age,/ A last crusade, a final outrage...
Ice-T's "Gotta Lotta Love" is about the Watts Truce ushering in an age of peace.
Woke up the other morning. I heard a rumor. They said the gang wars was over...
The song "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles, which relates to the replacement of Radio as the national medium. In an interesting side note the music video was the first one to ever be played on MTV. In producer/composer Trevor Horn's own words, he felt that "an era was about to pass".
The Bruce Springsteen song The River is about a man who steadily has to give up his dreams and face the realities and responsibilities of life, with the eponymous river symbolic of those dreams.
But I remember us riding in my brother's car,/ Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir/ At night on them banks I'd lie awake and pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take./ Now those memories come back to haunt me/ They haunt me like a curse/ Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?/ Or is it something worse?
The biggest symbol of the rise of the "teenybopper", meaning a separate class of people defined by teenagers moving away from their parents' culture, was the time when Frank Sinatra became the very first musical teen idol. Ol' Blue Eyes was the first music star to elicit screams from moonstruck teenaged girls, copious copying from teen boys eager to mimic their new idol, and disgust from the older generation toward the skinny Italian who was causing all this commotion. Sinatra's rise to fame thus marked the end of the era where there were no defined generations pop culturally speaking.
The album Queen of the Wave depicts the downfall of Atlantis and the loss of their advanced knowledge, due to the Atlanteans' own corruption and the machinations of an evil wizard.
The loss of a "Golden Age" in this case is the "fall of man", and being cursed with sin and death.
Both destructions of Jerusalem are this for the Jews.
Similar to Ovid, the Book of Daniel compares the four ancient empires around the Mediterranean (which reigned over the Israelites) area to metals: Babylon is gold, Media is silver, Persia is bronze, and Greece/Macedonia is iron.
According to some interpretations, inverted in Revelation, where the result of the Final Battle between God and Satan will result in the Dawn of an Era that restores humanity to its former glory.
Dharmic religions (mainly, but not limited to, Hinduism and Buddhism) has the Wheel of Time, with ages beginning and ending in perpetuity like the seasons. An age typically come to an end due to evilness (World Half Full or goodness) of men have exceeded the threshold of that age. Sages usually see the current age as part of a long decline in morality, and claim that the old time was better, but the better time had to go because people lost righteousness and began to misrule the world. With the ending of the age of wisdom, people also lost superhuman powers, lifespan, and the capacity for morality.
The Trojan War is often believed to be the event that put an end to the Heroic Age of Classical Mythology.
Shadowrun by FASA adapted the idea of different Worlds or Cycles from the Mayan calendar. The Sixth World started in 2011 with the renewed rise of magic (our own magicless world was the Fifth Age), but there had been previous ages, many thousands of years ago, where magic was far stronger, strong enough that everyone could do magic and Horrors from Another Dimension had broken through and walked the Earth. This was the setting of Earthdawn, another Tabletop RPG by FASA.
Later, they expanded this concept into the future, with a new RPG set in the Eighth World.
Exalted is another Tabletop RPG example. The world had an incredibly advanced state of magical technology in the First Age, when the godlike Solars ruled over everything. Then their servants rebelled, replacing their system with the less-advanced Shogunate. Unable to maintain the Solars' technology, they've slowly lapsed into more and more primitive societies, aided by a massive plague and an invasion of the chaos beyond the boundaries of reality.
Of course the First Age takes place directly after the Primordial War, which culminated in the Three Spheres Cataclysm, which retgoned nine-tenths of Creation right down to erasing existential concepts and possibilities. Those outside Creation at the time (Fair Folk, etc.) describe the High First Age as a "tiny, burnt-out remnant" of what Creation used to be.
The exact principles behind the decline are detailed here.
Besides, the present Second Age is basically Celestial Exalted - free. Which are, to remind, powers to topple gods and primordials. So by generating a Solar (or Lunar, Infernal and whatever else splat you fancy) for a campaign you are heralding the end of said Second Age, right here.
Most of White Wolf's earlier RPG, the Old World of Darkness, had a sense of Gotterdammerung. For instance, Mage: The Ascension had a group of magi called The Technocracy using the power of belief to erase the fantastic from existence. Changeling The Dreaming was probably the worst, though; the period of fae influence on the Earth was described in terms of seasons, from "Spring", when myth was vivid and the fae interacted fully with humans, to "Winter", when the Dreaming is mostly cut off from Earth and everything fantastical withers and dies. And most of the game takes place in Autumn...
And now, in Mage: The Awakening, we have the fact that, in the time before history, there was a great civilization of all-powerful mages (Atlantis) who, through their hubris, brought about the creation of the Abyss (a great gulf of anti-reality between this world and the higher "Supernal" world), which led to the destruction of Atlantis, the scattering of mages, the loss of much magical lore and artifacts, and the general weakening of magic. Things have been getting worse ever since.
Similarly, in Werewolf: The Forsaken the Uratha believe the Material World and the Spirit World used to be one, until the death of their great ancestor Father Wolf tore it apart. Despite not technically being a "paradise" (depending on who you ask), the general consensus seems to be that everyone's worse off for it.
Vampire: The Requiem has its own example in the Camarilla, the vampiric government of the Roman Empire. It wasn't perfect, but it was the one time when there was an overreaching body of vampiric politics that oversaw the span of the "known world"... and it fell when Rome did, making modern vampiric politics almost entirely local with occasional feuds between covenants.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse lore states that the Weaver, the Wyrm and the Wyld worked in harmony at one point until the Weaver ensnared the Wyrm and the latter went mad and hellbent on destroying the world from within.
Demon The Fallen: the titular Fallen know that they were better off before...erm, the Fall. To the best of their less-then-perfect memory, everyone else around was better off, too.
Ironically, the fact that every other splat's having its Dark Age makes now the Golden Age for Hunters. They might not readily agree, but imagine them trying vampire hunt in Enoch or witch hunt in Atlantis, and you get the idea.
Eberron featured the imperfect but relatively idyllic continent-spanning (in theory) Kingdom of Galifar, which allowed slow yet steady improvements in sapient rights, Magitek, concepts of justice, and educational standards... until finally an ascension dispute broke out and the five provinces collapsed into over a dozen warring states over the course of a hundred years. When the dust finally cleared, nationalism, distrust, and cynicism ran high. Many of Galifar's achievements remained, but not the optimistic outlook that allowed them in the first place. For those not paying attention, it's World War One in fantasy-land.
In Forgotten Realms, ancient Netheril was a highly developed magocracy where even servants used minor magics, Magitek was used routinely and most main cities were made of mountaintops cut off, overturned and enchanted to float. When all magic across the world "turned off" for a short while, the empire fell — literally. The same event damaged the 'Weave' which supports all magic on Toril, so the goddess who guards it curtailed access to prevent more damage and the greatest spells of old Netheril just don't work anymore. Now even their minor artifacts are guarded jealously by new owners.
Also, subverted by the epoch of Myth Dranor. It's known as a lost Golden Age (magical Renaissance and goodwill festival). But with all its wonders, it wasn't completely idyllic, nor was its technology absolutely superior — for example, some Myth Drannan magic items are vulnerable to explosive overload, while modern counterparts aren't. As well, the end of the age led to a proliferation of the arts.
The default "Points Of Light" setting of 4th Edition takes place 100 years after the collapse of Nerath, the last great human empire. Towns and villages are pretty much states unto themselves and there's no central government, so the heroes are usually all that stand between a community and the dangers of the wilderness. The history of the setting also has other collapsed empires, making the rise and fall of nations cyclical.
In Magic: The Gathering, the Time Spiral block concluded with almost all of the original, godlike planeswalkers dying or becoming human to save The Multiverse, and more limited, mortal planeswalkers rising to take their place.
Warhammer 40,000 has the Dark (or Golden, if you ask the Adeptus Mechanicus) Age of Technology, when mankind first colonised other planets and created amazing technological advancements. Most of the fanciest stuff used by the Imperium are barely-understood and often nearly irreplaceable relics of this time.
The general underlying theme of humanity in 40k is that it is doomed to die a long, slow death from not only its own beliefs but also the vast hordes of unimaginably strong aliens, traitors and daemons. But that is very far away and right now has lots of explosions and chainsaws.
The Eldar are no better off - most of their greatest achievements came before the Fall. It's unclear in their case, however, how much this comes from loss of knowledge or lack of the resources required to put that knowledge to use.
The Eldar are rather deep into this twilight.
The only real consolation that the Eldar have is the growing strength of a new god to replace their dead pantheon, a god of the dead that grows stronger with each slain Eldar. Essentially, he will reach such great power when the last Eldar dies that he will be able to kill Slaanesh...but all the Eldar will still be dead.
Gamma WorldD20, the Darker and Edgier version of the setting, has some feel of this. Humanity had advanced science to an incredible degree, with robotics, bio-tech, genetic engineering and nanotechnology not merely possible, but commercially available — that's right, you could create your own life-form in your living room, and do it legally. Then came the catastrophe, and, well, most people barely know how to build crossbows and forge swords, or maintain old-fashion slug-thrower type guns, never-mind create technology that manipulates matter on the atomic level, maintain robots with human (or greater) levels of intelligence, or design whole new lifeforms from scratch.
Witchcraft's future iteration Armageddon deals with...well, Armageddon. Though instead of what everyone expected (The Old Gods vs. the Fallen Angels vs. The Heavenly Host with mortal and immortal creature caught between them), an Eldritch Abomination came in and waged war on everyone—and it's winning, forcing the groups to team up or die.
"Secrets Of The Third Reich" has this as a backdrop for the setting. Albeit the world is slowly turning more and more into this as WWII drags on and on.
A heartbreaking moment towards the end of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The main characters realize that as thrilling and exciting as their adventures and lifestyles were, they have to accept the fact that they're over and they need to move on. Or do they? The show ends on a high note.
Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen chronicles the end of an age. In Das Rheingold Wotan is warned that a dark day is dawning for the gods. By the end of Siegfried, Wotan's power has been broken by the destruction of his spear and also the last of the giants is dead. In Götterdämmerung the gods are finally destroyed, the dwarf Alberich who made the ring of power can only appear in his sons dreams and the ring itself is cleansed by fire and returned to the Rhine from which it came. Humanity are left alone in the world to make their own fate free of the corruption of supernatural beings.
The end of Tales of Vesperia had the protagonists forced to destroy all blastia, a material people are dependent on for magic and everyday life, in order to prevent the world's destruction. However, the tradeoff is that they create Mana and Summon Spirits.
Final Fantasy VI ends with the death of the last Espers and the fading of magic... not to mention the entire world being a scarred ruin of what it used to be, although that happened at the game's halfway point.
Final Fantasy X ends with the end of the thousand-year oppression of Sin. While on the whole this was a very good thing, as people didn't have to worry about their towns being wiped out if they exhibited too much technological advancement (or sometimes just at random), the Fayth had to sacrifice themselves to allow this to happen, meaning the powerful magic of summoning was lost forever.
Final Fantasy XII saw the end of the rule of its so-called "gods" Occuria. This left mankind able to determine their destiny from now on. Strangely enough, it was the goal of the Big Bad all along, and he succeeded.
Final Fantasy XIII sees the end of the fal'Cie, who had ruled over Cocoon for a very long time. Like the above examples, this too left humanity free from supernatural forces. While it should have meant the end of magic since only l'Cie could cast magic, the sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2 may prove this to not be the case.
After the hero defeats Typhon in Titan Quest, all the greek gods (and presumably the egyptian and chinese too) leave the world behind, ending the age of gods... and beginning the age of man.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes place at the end of the Third Age and start of the Fourth. Though the game ended on a somewhat hopeful note, background revealed of the years following the events of Oblivion shows that the end of the Septim line and the death of the Tribunal in the earlier Morrowind made way for a time of increased strife, the destruction of Morrowind, and the collapse of the Empire.
Morrowind has shades of this. The age of the Tribunal is over, with Almalexia going crazy, Sotha Sil dead and their power slowly fading away.
Red Dead Redemption takes place in 1911, in the final years of the Wild West. The enroaching Federal control is a major theme in the third act.
In God of War, Kratos personally ends the reign of the Greek pantheon.
Behind the cheery cartoony graphics, this was the theme of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker- the end of the era of the war between Hyrule and Ganondorf, with both of them in the end lying crumbling and forgotten, slowly eroding to nothing by the unending force of the waves, all their magic departed and memory forgotten.
Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army takes place during the time period where Japan was furiously modernizing into the 20th century, yet hadn't left behind the old world yet completely. This gives the game a very unique flavor and appearance. There's one important mission involving a vengeful rickshaw puller who's out of work because of automobiles, for a start.
In the trailer for Dragon Age II, Flemeth mentions that those who face destiny head on and seize control of it are the ones who change the world forever. By the end of the game, Hawke's personal rise to power and the choices he/she makes do change the status quo. For better or for worse, the uneasy stalemate between Mages and those who would suppress them has been shattered by Hawke's actions, and the world stands on the edge of ruin or a new age.
In Lunar: The Silver Star, it is declared at the game's finale that the age of magic has ended and shall be replaced with an era of technological advancement. Make way for Steam Punk!
Phantasy Star II: At The End Of The Lost Age. The subtitle is not just for show. At the end of the game, Mother Brain has been destroyed, destroying the technological civilization of the Algo system and sending Mota into a technological dark age. As for Palm, the throneworld of the system? It went away in the middle of the game.
Arcade Gannon's companion quest takes this in a different direction. It shows the Enclave Remnants, a retirement-age squad of former Enclave soldiers. The Enclave were the Big Bad of Fallout 2 and Fallout 3, and were, quoth Arcade, "a Fascist paramilitary organization." They were also the descendants of the pre-war United States government and elites, and considered themselves the last vestige of real America. Orion Moreno tells the story of the evacuation of Navarro, the last Enclave base, a few years after the destruction of the main off-shore base that ends Fallout 2, saying, "Well, that's it. This is the end of America." And it's true; the Enclave are the last organization that existed before the nuclear war, even if they did so in secret.
Pretty much the standard ending of the World of Mana series is the destruction of the Mana Tree and the loss of the world's magic, until the new Tree (grown from the ruins of the old) is ready (in about a millennium or so).
This is universally presented as a good thing, or at least preferable to the alternative. With the exception of Secret of Mana, aka Secret of Mana.
In addition, Legend of Mana eventually reveals the artificer's purpose: the revival of the Mana Tree. Complicated somewhat by the fact that the previous Mana Tree burned to ash as an indirect result of the Mana Goddess being unable to contain her Super-Powered Evil Side.
Might and Magic 7 reveals that the Silence mentioned throughout this and the previous game was exactly this, if you complete the "good" path.
Might and Magic 6 and 8 makes it clear that a) this was closer to a full-blown After the End, although with some added disasters thrown in to help it to that state, and b), this happened to many, many more worlds than just this one.
Touhou: Gensokyo is a last-ditch attempt to preserve the existence of the supernaturals. The supernaturals begin to fade from this world as technology arose and humankind no longer believe in the fantastic. This theme is played heavily in Touhou 10: Mountain of Faith.
In the manga Wild And Horned Hermit, the subject is brought up again. Even within Gensokyo, the old ways are starting to fade. Youkai are starting to no longer be feared, unknown entities, but are acting more like occasionally dangerous eccentrics.
The storyline of Chrono Trigger features this. A long time ago, there was the Kingdom of Zeal, inhabited by people with incredible knowledge and powers, and all of this is absent in all subsequent epochs.
Dwarf Fortress starts with a golden age of legends, which gradually gets worse as great civilizations are destroyed by such disasters as carp, kamikaze elves, overpopulation of cats, nobles,...
Development marches on — as early as .14, it takes the efforts of Fortresses and Adventurers to go from Age of Myth to Age of Legends, and then to Age of Heroes, an effort which involves slaying the humungous rampaging beasts. v.21 introduced a class of Night Beasts to be slain before all fantastical creatures could be considered extinct.
The Golden Sun series has this, done on purpose by mankind. The two major options are a world brimming full of magical alchemy but with the potential of evil people going on a dictator spree, or cutting off the source of alchemy which results in the world slowly dying over the course of millenia.
Evolution: The World of Sacred Device as set in a world where humanity was only just reaching modern-day standards however there were ruins left behind with powerful artifacts remaining. A couple of the characters wield said devices as weapons.
The sequel elaborates. And by elaborates, we mean reveals that Linear is one half of the instruments that wiped the previous civilization out, and the other half has just convinced her to come along to do it all over again. The Power of Love prevents this.
Skies of Arcadia had six ancient civilizations which were all nearly wiped out in a massive meteor storm. One of those civilizations were Abusive Precursors. The Big Bad's goal is to harness that power and bring an end to the current era.
Suikoden series had the Sindar, a highly advanced civilization that has ruins left all over the world. Not much is known about them, or why they fell.
The legends say that their leader was the bearer of a True Rune, the Rune of Change, which compelled them constantly abandon their civilization and reestablish it elsewhere, hence the ubiquity of Sindar ruins. Which might mean that the Sindar still exist somewhere, but unless Konami revives the series we'll never find out.
The collapse of EVE Online's titular Eve Gate, a reinforcing mechanism to a naturally occurring wormhole between two galaxies, caused one in the game's backstory. It has been at least 10000 years since then, and the various empires formed from the colonists stranded in New Eden are only now starting to get back up to tech levels remotely approaching what they had before. note To put this in perspective: manufacturing military starships in a few hours, casual FTL, universally-compatible modular starship equipment, and weapons systems capable of causing planetary mass extinction events at a whim are considered Tech Level I. Variants of the above constructed with exotic minerals and hyper-specialized components are considered Tech Level II. Fully modular, rapidly-reconfigurable starships based on the technology of several long-dead but highly advanced human civilizations are Tech Level III. Pre-collapse Terran technology is reckoned to be Tech Level X.
The backstory of Arcanum has both magic and technology being far more powerful 2000 years ago, in the time called the Age of Legends. In the present, Arcanum is undergoing an industrial revolution which is clashing with its history that was largely ruled by magic over the millenia. The two being fundamentally incompatible isn't helping matters.
Ys, the seemingly trendful paradise, pulled from the height of its prosperity into the abyss of infinite isolation. How could such a land simply vanish from the face of the earth?"
The real Gotterdammerung in that series happened when the Eldeen civilization got submerged in water due to humans' trying to control Weather Control Machine for their own ends. Comparatively, the titular Ys was a minor case as it was a small empire built by the two survivors of the Eldeen civilization with the power of the Black Pearl.
Fate/stay night shows this, as the power behind her basic spells used by the servant Caster (who lived in the Age of Gods from the Ancient Greek legends) would take a modern-day magi around a month of to accomplish, and her multi-word spells are seen as bordering 'True Sorcery' or a miracle. She casts in one word spells that would take an excellent magus around a full minute of casting.
On the other hand, what counted as a True Magic in her day is now common practice as the science of magecraft has advanced. There are less magicians now simply because people have been discovering the principles behind the old Magics and reproducing them. As such, it's actually a bit of a trade off because the likes of Caster could not hope to really match someone like Zelretch and his... well, Zelretch Kaleidoscope/Sword. In fact, Caster appears amazed at the sheer potential Sakura possesses in Fate/hollow ataraxia. The verdict? Caster is a cheater for being able to use her divine casting language.
It should be noted in the Nasuverse, while magic has steadily decreased in power, magical creatures have NOT. Vampires, in fact, tend to get much more powerful (but much less sane) with age. The most powerful of the Dead Apostle Ancestors are by no coincidence also the oldest.
Vandal Hearts mentions an ancient, technologically advanced civilization in passing, that's where the train comes from. Vandal Hearts II's world is actually a post apocalyptic wasteland.
In World of Warcraft, at the end of the Cataclysm expansion, the Dragon Aspects tell you that they have forfeited their powers in their efforts to destroy Deathwing, and now walk among you as mortals.
Mass Effect 3 has this trope connected with Dawn of an Era. The game consists of Shepard cleaning house and tying up all kinds of galactic-scale loose ends in preparation for the final battle. It's possible to cure the thousand-year Depopulation Bomb inflicted on the krogan, and the centuries-long animosity between the quarians and the geth will come to a head one way or another. But all possible endings involve the destruction / disabling of the entire mass relay network, and potentially most of the other advanced tech as well, pushing the galaxy into a new dark age.
The extended endings add a more hopeful note, the implication being that galactic civilization eventually restores what was lost and this time they don't have to worry about the Reapers anymore.
Asura's Wrath Has the final ending VIA DLC be the end of an Era for the Shinkoku Race.
Some of the entries in the Total War series involve the end of certain eras in history, whether it's the twilight of Rome in Barbarian Invasion or the Meiji Restoration in Fall of the Samurai.
This seems to be a running theme in Grand Theft Auto IV and one of its sidestories. Most of Niko Bellic's employers are either dead or in prison by the end of the game, and he is told repeatedly that with the feds closing in, organized crime as they know it is on its last legs. "The Lost and Damned" sees the dissolution of the Lost MC, and hardcore, all-American biker gangs in general.
In Dark Souls, the Age of Flame was brought about by the Lord Soul's triumph over the dragons, and is currently fading into nothingness. The player's mission, eventually, is to Link the First Flame and allow the age to continue. If the serpent Kaathe is to be believed, this is to the detriment of mankind as a whole, as Lord Gwyn's torturous and futile persistence as the fuel of the flame is delaying the Age of Dark, which might be mankind's golden age, to the benefit of the gods. Upon defeating Gwyn, the player may choose to take his place and prolong the Flame for a while longer or begin the Age of Dark.
Transformers: War for Cybertron sees the collapse of Cybertronian society as Megatron assassinates Sentinel Prime and corrupts the planet, forcing most of the population to flee to outer space.
Shown in detail in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which basically consists of rats biting each other as they flee a sinking ship. The transformers have gone from immortal masters of technology to another pack of violent refugees.
The entirety of Total War Shogun 2 : Fall of the Samurai is the end of the samurai reign in Japan, as Westernization marches in and the old ways are no longer viable in facing the foreign threats. Bye bye swords, welcome Gatling guns. You can be one of the Shogunate clans and try to preserve the regime, but no matter how you achieve that, the old days are over. See also the Japan entry in the Real Life, below.
You can take this Up to Eleven— you can declare that Japan doesn't need either Shogun nor Emperor, and turn the land ruled by your clan into an independent Republic. Be prepared for the onslaught, though. Historically, only Satsuma Domain and Republic of Ezo attempted it. They ended very badly.
In the Medieval II: Americas expansion, this is a subtle overlying theme if you play as one of the Mesoamerican factions, like the Aztecs or the Mayans. You could completely change history and prevent European colonisation, but things definitely wouldn't be the same for these factions ever again...
In Yosh!, the magic in the world was sealed away in the distant past after the Magi abused it and were beaten down by a unique individual who was completely immune to magic. The story begins in a world that looks much like our own, a few years after some of the sealed magic was released, causing a world-spanning magical event. The results of that event include Cat Girls, Talking Animals, and Functional Magic, among other things.
In Linburger, the Cyll were once were the typical Our Elves Are Better, with long lives and high class. Unfortunately, some strange, catalclysmic event happened in the distant past, stripping the Cyll of their long lives, and now they live in slums with the other Demi Human races.
Open Blue's Back Story has the Iormunean Imperium, precursors (based on the Roman Empire) who were more or less the greatest civilization in the world... until they turned a blind eye to some heretics, causing their goddes to turn her back on them while they were in the middle of a war against invading barbarians.
Adventure Time could be thought of as a sort of inversion; the Age that ended to become the world seen in the show is actually modern Earth. When the apocalypse happened, it apparently led to the introduction of several new species, magic, and adventure (making it seem the more wondrous of the two). But yet, episodes dealing with the setting's past give it a nostalgic and tragic feel.
In Avatar The Legend Of Korra, it's made clear in the second season that people are becoming increasingly less connected with the spirit world then they were in the original series, though the modernization of the setting has led to breakthroughs in technology, such as automobiles, radios, telephones, etc., making it somewhat bittersweet.
The second season ends another era, with the spirit world no longer separated from the human world, and the Avatar losing her memories of the Avatars before Korra. Quite the change.
One of the earliest examples of this would be the meteorite collision that ended the Mesozoic era, and hence the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The ending of the Paleozoic thanks to the Great Dying is an even earlier example.
And a bit more than two billion years before that, the "Oxygen Catastrophe" marked the extinction of most anaerobic organisms as oxygen first became a significant part of Earth's atmosphere.
The end of the Ice Age for a number of reasons. First was the extinction of most of the world's megafauna. Many large mammals that were once common throughout the world went extinct completely or were reduced to a handful of surviving examples (ex: rhinoceros used to live in almost every continent save Antarctica, South America and Australia, now they are only found in Africa and parts of Asia). The second was that human beings evolved and rose to become the dominant species on the planet. This could be seen as either a good thingor a bad thing depending on your personal view.
The end of an ice age—you need to specify which one. It's a natural cycle in a planet with a climate like ours, and there have been many ice ages in Earth's history.
Dark Ages, Warring States
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Europe was cast into the Dark Age, and large parts of Roman technology and culture were forgotten. Of course, sixth-century Europeans didn't see themselves as being in a Dark Age, and many may have been very happy not to be on the business end of Roman imperialism any longer. Also, "Dark Age" in this context doesn't necessarily refer to the standard of living at the time but rather the fact that we're "in the dark" about a lot of what went on then due to a dearth of contemporary writings. Nowadays most historians refer to this time period as the Early Middle Ages to avoid the connotations of the word "dark."
After four centuries of being oppressed into submission by The Empire Of The Han note the Roman Empire's contemporary, they had embassies in each other's capitals in the 3rd century AD the slow disintegration of the first long-lived empire to dominate all of China was punctuated by a coalition of nations south of the Yellow River effectively declaring themselves independent as new states. The fighting eventually ground to a halt as everyone went broke and had to sue for peace, splitting the empire into three de facto countries whose Emperors each claimed to be the sole legitimate heir (aka the 'Three Kingdoms' era). It took four hundred years before any of the region's Emperors, kings, dukes, or petty lords managed to amass enough military power to crush the others and keep their peoples suppressed note the latter being especially difficult, because the region's nations had nothing in common with (bar the writing system) and hated each other. In the end it took a northern Emperor marrying into and forging an unholy alliance with nomads from the steppes (the Turks) to upset the balance of power for good and establish The Empire Of The Tang over the entire region in the 7th centurynote Which only lasted some three centuries itself before a whole bunch of nations declared independence again and fought it out. .
The destruction of Baghdad in 1258 at the hands of the Mongols ended the Islamic Golden Age, which had probably ended by the time of the crusades in most places, but probably continued on in Baghdad. Although Islam had been declining in relative power for quite some time in most areas (thanks to the Crusaders, Mongols, and the Reconquista in Spain and Portugal), it wasn't until Baghdad was utterly destroyed that Islam's decline really set in. The city of Baghdad was razed, the greatest center of Islamic learning was destroyed, and more people died in that city than (possibly) in the destruction of any other up to that point in time. Losing these centers of learning crippled the progress of Islam. How bad was it? For the next 700 years (roughly), Islam retreated into a rigid state, held back by antique tradition, and going from a relatively tolerant religion into the repressive mess seen today. After Baghdad fell, the momentum of Islam shifted from the Arabs to the Turks, whose Ottoman Empire kept the Middle East in stasis, while Europe would go through the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and advance in every human field. It is only today that (possibly), Arab and Islamic countries are starting to adapt to international standards, and with great resistance from dictators, terrorists, and religious fanatics.
Ottoman Empire was not all that bad. It put gunpowder into effective use (the reason we have Istanbul Not Constantinople) and it ruled the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. Its decline was caused by influx of gold and other resources from the Americas by the Christian colonialists.
Losing the second of three Islamic intellectual centers was a hideous blow to the Muslim world, especially when one considers that the first intellectual center to be lost, Cordoba, was reconquered by the Christians, and the last, Cairo, never recovered from the bubonic plague until modern times.
On the other hand, the Mongol then converted to Islam and started their own brand of Islamic civilizations.
The abandonment of the Congress of Mantua's planned crusade against the Turks before it had even begun at Ancona in 1464 is considered to mark the final death of the temporal power of the Papacy over the Princes of Europe. Envisaged by Pope Pius II as a grand final crusade, creating a United Europe to fight and finally annihilate Christendom's common enemy, Islam, the "paper crusade" was ignored by almost every European power of note. When the miserable Crusade fleet, a tiny flotilla of barely seaworthy Italian warships, finally sailed into Ancona, the elderly Pope crossed the Despair Event Horizon and died two days later. The Vatican's power was never quite the same.
The capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 marked the end of The Middle Ages, and it was also the final defeat of the Roman Empire that had been in existence for almost two thousand years. By then, the Empire was just The Remnant, but the defeat sent shockwaves through Christendom. The fifteenth century also brought the flowering of the Italian Renaissance, and the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation that ended the religious dominance of the Catholic Church in Western Europe.
Of course this is a highly contentious issue - for others the End of The Middle Ages is marked not by the fall of Constantinople, but by Columbus' first voyage (1492) or Luther's Reformation. And from a Greek-Byzantine point of view there were no Middle Ages, the fall of Constantinople marking the end of antiquity. To a large extent, "The Middle Ages" is a construct of snooty Renaissance writers badmouthing their antecedents. In the view of many (social) historians, the Middle Ages went on until the 18th century in many respects throughout large parts of Europe.
1453 also signaled the end of the Hundred Years War, which meant the end of the English dream of taking the French throne (and uniting both crowns).
The Wars of the Roses, which went down just two years after the above happened and would not end until 1485, spelled the end of the age of feudalism in England.
In 1492, a mediocre sailor named Christopher Columbus led three ships across the Atlantic in an attempt to reach China and India. What they found was something different, and what happened next was nothing short of The End of the World as We Know It for Native Americans. European diseases spread far in advance of European settlers, killing up to 90% of the Indians infected (estimates for the number of Indians killed by disease at the time exceed ten million). When the Europeans themselves followed, the results were no less tragic, with widespread pillaging, forced conversions, and genocide. Thousands of years of Native American civilization, including two of the mightiest empires the world had ever known, were destroyed in less than a century, leading to the concept of Indians as backwards primitives.
Early Modern (15th-18th Century)
There are two points at which the Sengoku Jidai are said to have ended. The first is the official point, the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, where the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated those of Ishida Mitsunari. Despite some resistance beyond the battle, the Sengoku period is usually declared to be over after this by most historians. The other is more symbolic, the Battle of Nagashino twenty five years prior, where Oda Nobunaga destroyed the famed Takeda clan cavalry by using European arquebus in rotating volumes of fire. Guns had been used before this battle, but the tactics used by Nobunaga kick-started an arms race and forever altered the Japanese attitude towards warfare. Both are seen as the point when the traditional age of Samurai engaging in honorable single combat, Ronin wandering aimlessly from town-to-town and the political plotting of the daimyo ended. Often viewed in the same light as the declared end of the Western frontier in American culture.
The Golden Age of Piracy ended in the early 18th century, with the passage of the Treaty of Utrecht and the rise of conscript armies.
Commodore Perry's arrival in Japan hastened the end of isolationist feudal shogunate rule, which officially came with the ascension of Emperor Meiji in 1867 and started the Meiji Restoration in 1868. From that point, Japan embarked on a programme of rapid industrialisation.
More tragic-romantically, this is the definite end of the samurai rule. People saw that the samurai regime of Tokugawa couldn't defend the country from the dangblasted foreigners and feared that Japan would become the next China. Wars ensued. The new country that rose from the ashes of war then allow every citizen to hold positions of significant power, not just the samurai.
In Europe the slow decline of autonomous noble power began in this period as well. From the greater military power of politically unified nations, a rise of absolute monarchs, the spread of revolutionary political thought and the growing economic power of lower classes the nobles were unable to compete. While there were holdouts for a long time (some European states still have official positions for nobles) it was never the same.
In 1890, the US Census officially declared that the "Frontier" no longer existed. This marked the end of American expansionism and of the "frontier culture" that had characterized the US until then.
World War One, the War To End All Wars, is considered to have ended an era. Before that, human progress seemed unlimited and war and many other ills would be abolished. Alas, the mighty technologies of mass production and automation can be applied to killing people. The realization pretty much put the kibosh on the centuries-old idealism of the Enlightenment. Nice work, fading monarchies of Europe (And France).
It also signaled the end of many old European powers, with the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires imploding from a mix of war fatigue, ethnic nationalism and revolution.
Very much the sense of Sir Edward Grey's famous words about the outbreak of World War I:
The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.
World War One also brought the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, which is (today) largely seen as the last Caliphate. Turkey saw a secular zeal to overthrow anything that smell like Islam in the government. The Arabs and Persian carved new states out of Ottoman-ruled lands, in many cases with the eager help of the more successful, non-Muslim empires of the time: British, French, American, Russian, and so on. Arab Nationalism was in vogue, and it seemed that government backed by God is 'so yesterday'.
Arab Nationalism got a rude awakening immediately after World War II and the following decades, which saw the UN acknowledging the state of Israel. The inability of Arab nations to put an end to Israel caused Arab Nationalism to meet its end of age, and in many cases replaced by religious zeal. Within the Islamic world, there's a slow but unrelenting trend of the end of inclusive nationalism, with an idealism of re-building the Caliphate that was lost following World War I. It would be interesting to see where this cycle leads...
The close of World War II in 1945 (and the freeing of various formerly "conquered" and "settled" territories) marked the end of Fascism and Imperialism. The British Empire liberated itself out of existence, and when taken together with rebellion and revolution in the Empires of France and the Netherlands and Belgium and Portugal the 1970s saw a world without military-political colonialism (so-called 'economic colonialism' is another matter) and geographically large empires.
The end of World War II also marked the end of roughly a century of power concentrated largely in European hands and marked the rise of two superpowers outside of Europe.
Much of the nostalgia surrounding both New York World's Fairs (1939-40 and 1964-65) focuses around the former being held just before World War II and the latter being one of the last straight examples of the shiny jetpack future prior to the Vietnam War and The Sixties 'back-to-nature' movement.
The 1960s is considered the End of American Innocence (or Naïvete).
Symbolically tied in to that, President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier (also known as "Camelot"), ended when he was assassinated.
The Manson Family murders can be seen as putting the kibosh on the idealism of the 1960's.
The Fall of Saigon in April 30 1975 that ended the Vietnam War was considered the end of the 60s as the Post-Vietnam hippies began to be seen as cloudcocolanders.
The Bretton Woods post-war economic certainty was thrown into disarray by the costs of the Vietnam War, industrial unrest, and the oil crises of the 1970s. The knockout blow came with the election of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, signalling the start of the financial deregulation era.
The 70s is often considered this for boxing, especially the heavyweight division.
The 1980s and AIDS are considered the End of The Sexual Revolution.
The mid-90's saw Japan's economic bubble burst. Their global dominance in the automotive and computer manufacturing fields suddenly ended, leading to a steady decline that some say mirrors the "Great Recession" America would suffer a decade later. While still an important player in both industries, Japan is no longer seen as taking over the world and focus has instead shifted to China. In Japan, this era of sudden economic downturn is known as "The Lost Decade".
The end of the Soviet government means the end of the welfare state and the beginning of neoliberal capitalism. The new capitalists plundered the country's assets via privatization, while the average people suddenly lost all the benefits that communism once mandated the state to provide to them. This is one of the reasons why post-Soviet Russia was not able to immediately transform itself into a new superpower, despite its Soviet properties.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union dissolved one of the largest political entities in human history, sparked a rise in ethno-nationalism and completely altered Central Asian, Balkan and Eastern European politics.
Coinciding with this the death of Tito in 1980 led to a situation where the one unifying figure in Yugoslavia was gone and no other figure was capable of stepping in without sparking resentment and distrust from leaders of the other ethnic groups. Happening at the same time as the collapse of the Soviet Union this meant the end of Yugoslavia and its own (much more violent) dissolution.
Jim Henson's sudden death in 1990, just as he was preparing to sell his company to The Walt Disney Company so he could focus more on the artistic side of creation than the business side, turned out to be this in its way. Years of sales and resales fractured ownership of the company and its properties, while both his original work and new productions building upon his legacy are rarely capitalized on by distributors and often overlooked or dismissed by audiences. In particular, in The Eighties the "classic" Muppets looked set to join the panopaly of Disney animated characters as beloved by multiple generations, but by The New Tens were virtually Deader Than Disco — even the 2011 revival film The Muppets made their fall from attention a plot point. While The Walt Disney Company does own the classic characters now, it doesn't afford them the attention and care that they truly warrant (i.e., not releasing the final two seasons of The Muppet Show to DVD).
There are a pair of video game age endings. Nintendo releasing the Gamecube and finally rendering cartridge-using game consoles extinct and "The Death of the Dream"—the end of the Sega Dreamcast—which saw SEGA go from major console developer to a third-party game publisher and saw the rise of the Xbox, where Microsoft essentially took their place among "Gaming's Big Three".
The switch from analog to digital television. For decades, television programs were broadcasted with an analog signal and many people watched their programs with antennas on their TV sets. By the 2000s, when high definition started to take off, many television sets produced at that time were made with digital signals instead of analog, which meant the sound and picture came out more crisp. TV programs took advantage of the digital signal for better quality images and sound (including HD formats) and by 2009, the federal government ordered that all basic programs/television channels had to convert to digital formatting in order to free up space on the analog spectrum for emergency services that needed them (such as firefighters and police). The transition lookedlikethis.
A number of observers have seen the revelation of NSA's Project PRISM and other Internet surveillance as the end of idealism surrounding the Internet and its transition from a tool of emancipation to a means of social control.
Many animators and animation fans either consider cartoons of the Millennium Age to be inferior and nowhere near the quality of what was seen in previousdecades, or think that there are still good cartoons, but they're just in low supply on television and film due to the economy (and executives).
On a related note, the cancellation of Toonami is considered to be the end point of the 90's-2000's Anime Boom (Toonami is considered to have started that boom) as it would be difficult for anime (and animation in general, for that matter) to get a place in television, and thus exposure, with Network Decay running a-mock, especially in regards to the animation related networks. Naturally, when the block was revived, some have touted it as a sign that another boom is on the horizon.
Most people believe the quality of television gets worse every year as the internet becomes a bigger haven for shows and movies.
With Deng Xiaping's triumph in ousting Mao's hand-picked successor in 1978, the de-facto end of Communist and the re-discovery of Capitalist China.
The idea that man is in a state of cultural degeneracy from a perfect golden age is Older Than Feudalism. Plato complained that the youth of his age were degenerate and antiauthoritarian. This cycle of the older generation believing 'the youth' are corrupt and only getting worse has basically continued until the present day and probably will not stop now. Moral Guardians often latch on to The New Rock & Roll and cite it as a symptom of cultural degeneracy (which can only be reversed by reverting to The Good Old Days). Comic Books, Video Games, and Socrates were all blamed for corrupting the youth.
Hesiod, above, was writing during the age after the Dorian conquest. They brought iron with them, but a lot of things were lost from the previous age — like writing. So, it was the dark Iron Age.
Due to an asymmetry in the space of all events, we perceive time as flowing from a state of low entropy to a state of high entropy.
"There is no more good music". "All the good music has already been made".
"Oh look. Here comes the last wave."
This tends to run in cycles, as the last big thing becomes more and more dominated by label-created groups that are focus grouped to death until the stage is set for the next revolution in music (movies follow the same pattern). The fact that most of what we remember from past eras is the cream of the crop and ignores Sturgeon's Law is also a big part of it.
What makes music a particularly sticky issue is that our general definition of music tends to be defined when we're first being exposed to it as kids or teenagers. Thus, when a new genre comes out of the woodwork (which, to be fair, hasn't really happened since the birth of Rap or electronic genres like Techno and Drum'n'Bass), older generations (even those in their late-teens/early-20's) tend to have a problem with it, since it most likely doesn't fit in with how they came to define music as they discovered it.
Pretty much every generation laments for their respective "good old days". Those born in the 20's wished for the days before rock'n'roll; those born in the 50's wish for the days of Leave It to Beaver; those born in the 60's keep telling those born in the 80's that "we didn't do that sort of thing when we were your age"; and those born in the 80's bitch about how kids have it too easy now, and are growing up soft. It's happened since the dawn of time and will keep happening until the end of organized society as we know it.
The Daily Show lampooned this and said it was because everything seems less complicated when you're a child.
A lot of this also depends on how happy the parents are with their own lives. Generally, parents who are unhappy with their marriages and personal lives tend to be far more bitter and cynical towards the younger generation than those who are happilly married and have fulfilling lives.