[[quoteright:289:[[Series/{{Lost}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lost_monument.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:289:[[{{Irony}} Nothing beside remains.]]]]

->'''Ian Malcolm:''' God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man, man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs...
->'''Ellie Sattler:''' Dinosaurs eat man... Woman inherits the Earth.
-->-- ''Film/JurassicPark''

This trope describes none other than the hubris of mankind itself. Mankind, being the self-centered species it is, has a tendency to think that the world revolves around themselves, and that they at their current time period have reached the true apex of civilization, the pinnacle of culture. In celebration of their glory, humanity builds monuments to itself. Architecture becomes grandiose, CrystalSpiresAndTogas become the hot new fashion trend, and pomp and splendor reign throughout the land. This is the {{pride}} before [[PrideBeforeAFall the fall]].

On a smaller scale, however, this can also mean any work of fiction where people blindly build or otherwise invest huge amounts of energy into a pursuit, confident that their ambitious scheme will succeed, only to have it backfire spectacularly, and end in catastrophe and devastation, with a cautionary tale emerging from whatever records survive.

In the end, nothing is left but ashes and the ruins of a great effort gone to waste--and ironically, reason to despair, not because of their inability to compete, but because they realize they, too, will fail in the long run. Humanity learns a painful lesson. HowTheMightyHaveFallen! At least, for a ''while''. As a trope in literature, this oftentimes comes up as AnAesop about {{Pride}} and humility, and, dating back to even [[Literature/TheBible Old Testament]] tales about the TowerOfBabel, is OlderThanFeudalism.

If it involves science or magic, it will often cross into GoneHorriblyWrong because the undertaking violates one or more items on the ScaleOfScientificSins.

Compare with AndManGrewProud. A sister trope to HowTheMightyHaveFallen.

(Useful note: The TropeNamer line is frequently [[BeamMeUpScotty misremembered/misquoted]]: it's "look '''on''' my works," ''not'' "look '''upon''' my works".) Even more frequently, it is simplified to "Look upon me, O world, and despair!"



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Zigzagged with Embryo in ''Anime/CrossAnge''. It is he, who in his attempts to create a perfect and peaceful humanity, destroys the present one and restarts from scratch each time. In the end though, it is a band of that society's rejects, the Norma, and members of pre-existing races who have suffered because of him that ultimately kill him and stop his current attempt at a reset button, saving both the original and the present artificial world, the World of Mana, though the latter is left in shambles.
* The Ryugu Shelter in ''Manga/SevenSeeds'' was one of many shelters built to withstand the meteorites and keep humanity safe. It's built up as a lavishly robust and safe shelter with all sorts of accomidations for them and is considered to continue to stand. By the time three Teams enter it, it's in ruins, overrun with rust or plantlife and falling apart, [[spoiler: although perhaps it would've been sustained a bit better had they not all died about six months after it was in use]].
* The nation of [[MeaningfulName Xer]][[UsefulNotes/GrecoPersianWars xes]] from ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' appears to be partially based on Shelley's poem. The entire population was killed in the course of a day due to the arrogance of the king. All that remains are ruins in the middle of a desert, [[spoiler:and two immortals]].

* The five-part series of paintings ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Course_of_Empire_(paintings) The Course of the Empire]]'' by Thomas Cole depicts the different steps of a developing civilization, and then its decay. The last painting shows a devastated landscape with ruins of the past glorious city seen in the previous paintings.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Directly referenced in ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' by the character Ozymandias. Being an extremely powerful and clever man, he’s completely aware of the unfortunate connotations of his name and demeanor, but is trying to reclaim the title. However, it’s up for reader interpretation whether or not he succeeds. [[spoiler: On one hand, he might have saved all of humanity, though at the cost of half the population of New York. On the other hand, the truth may get out, showing Ozymandias’s hubris and the inevitability of nuclear destruction.]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' fanfic "The Flux of Mortal Things", Seven of Nine recalls the Shelley quote while exploring a derelict Borg vessel.
-->With sudden awareness Seven realised she was seeing not the past but the future. That one day the universe would be full of the silent floating mausoleums of her people. The Borg, believing without question that they were improving themselves, were slowly and inevitably stagnating, grinding to an evolutionary halt. The Collective might exist for thousands of years, might succeed in assimilating Voyager, humanity, the entire galaxy even. But it would all end like this.

[[folder:Film -- Animated]]
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePrinceOfEgypt'': In the beginning of the movie, during the song Deliver Us, the Hebrew slaves are being forced to construct a huge statue of the Pharaoh. Near the end of the movie, at the end of the song The Plagues, the statue collapses. God is more powerful than any Pharaoh.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/BreakingGlass'', Hazel O'Connor sings the song ''Eighth Day'', in which the humans create many machines, until on the titular eighth day, they revolt and kill their former masters.
* ''Franchise/JurassicPark'' ought to be a textbook example. Guy wants to make something of lasting beauty and appeal, accessible to all, and in the process enrich the world. What does he get? Out of control dinosaurs and several instances of "I told you so"'. Much less so in the book, where it turns out his department heads had foreseen almost every problem and he'd turned down their proposed solutions.
* The Krell in ''Film/ForbiddenPlanet'' built a sort of whole-planet {{hard light}} holodeck that could bring a significant amount of energy and matter together at nearly any point for basically any purpose, all controlled with their minds. It worked wonderfully until they went to sleep, and the hidden violent fantasies of their subconscious destroyed their entire civilization in one night of bloodshed.
* ''Film/{{Metropolis}}'': So what if the shining city of the future depends on the suffering of the workers upholding it? They certainly won't [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized rise up and destroy the city]]... right? Also note that, fearing the audience would miss the point, the author blatantly referenced the Ur-example through a mid-film sermon and by naming the city center the "[[WhatDoYouMeanItsNotSymbolic New Tower of Babel]]".
* ''Franchise/TheMatrix'': All that's left of humanity's works [[spoiler:at least 500 years after their enslavement by [[RobotWar their own machine creations]], if the Architect is to be believed,]] is a ''really'' AbsurdlySpaciousSewer network of the dead mega-cities. The last remnants of humanity's LaResistance use them for transportation as they fight for freedom of other humans.
* ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey''. [[TemptingFate "No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information."]] It's debatable whether or not you could say HAL 9000 "made a mistake", but either way it murdered four people.
** The sequel reveals that HAL was ordered to conceal the true reason for the mission from the astronauts until they reached their destination, something that went directly against his programming to be fully honest and truthful. The only way for him to obey both directives was for there to be no one to reveal the information ''to'', making this partly a case of GoneHorriblyRight.
* ''Film/{{Robin Hood|1922}}'': The opening titles are a meditation on this theme, showing the crumbling ruins of 12th century England, before a dissolve shows a ruined castle in its former glory and the story begins.
* ''Film/AlienCovenant''. The android David regards humanity through this trope, with their drive to colonize space just a doomed attempt to revitalize their civilization. He quotes the line verbatim just before he [[spoiler:turns the Engineers' bioweapons against them, and later he and Walter quote the entire poem while David reminisces about the event.]] However David mistakenly attributes the poem to Creator/LordByron, implying that humans are not the only one suffering from hubris, and he's just as flawed as the humans who created him.

* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** In ''Discworld/{{Jingo}}'', the only significant monumental remnant of Tacticus's campaign in Klatch is a single sandalled foot on a pedestal. The quote is a lot more interesting when translated, being ''both'' a boast and a threat at once [[note]]and the punchline from a questionable-taste joke about the Crucifixion, as Pterry doubtless knew[[/note]]:
-->''I can see your house from up here.''
** A less antagonistic version appears in ''Discworld/InterestingTimes.'' Rincewind blunders into a tomb, and all there is is the name, "One Sun Mirror". No additional remarks (e.g. "One Sun Mirror, beloved father and aardvark fancier"), just the name, as though knowing the name means you know everything else you need to know about the guy. (As the narration points out: If you got this far without knowing ''anything'' about him... ''everything based on his works is '''gone'''''.)
** In ''Discworld/SmallGods'', Om, a once-powerful god now stuck in the form of a tortoise, is very uncomfortable when he sees an abandoned temple in the middle of the desert.
-->'''Om:''' A god lived here. A powerful God. Thousands worshipped it. I can feel it. You know? It comes out of the walls. A Great God. Mighty were his dominions and magnificent was his word. [..] And now no one, not you, not me, no one, even knows who the god was or his name or what he looked like.
** Even more traumatically, Om later encounters the nigh-powerless remnant of an ''actual god'' whose faith died untold centuries ago. It's so very enfeebled by its spiritual diminution that it ''doesn't even remember its own name'', only that it used to be worshiped by millions. And despair, indeed...
** In ''Discworld/FeetOfClay'', the vampire Dragon King of Arms (whose long life grants him a certain perspective on these things) reflects:
--> Men said things like “[[UsefulNotes/NevilleChamberlain peace in our time]]” or “[[UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler an empire that will last a thousand years]],” and less than half a lifetime later no one even remembered who they were, let alone what they had said or where the mob had buried their ashes.
* In the world of ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'', there are several (some pretty large) statues and ruins left from the Age of Legends. They're so common, in fact, that people hardly notice them, except for their convenience as landmarks.
* In Literature/TheBookOfTheNewSun, the narrator keeps talking about the ''faces'' of the mountains. Surely he's just being poetic? No: it turns out that literally Every. Single. Mountain he encounters has been carved into the shape of a dead ruler in a manner reminiscent of Mount Rushmore. The irony is that nobody can even remember the ''names'' of any of these rulers, let alone anything about their lives and achievements. (Given the CrapsackWorld nature of the setting, it's possible that their achievements consisted exclusively of "I got my subjects to carve a mountain into my likeness.")
* ''Literature/TheNameOfTheRose'' deals with the loss of knowledge and art to history. A lost work becomes the MacGuffin, and in the novel's climax [[spoiler: the monastery and its priceless library are burned down by a monk afraid of its knowledge slipping out of his control]].
* Before the events of ''Literature/TheLorax'', by Dr. Seuss, the [[MeaningfulName Once-ler]] and his relatives ran a lucrative, though ''highly'' destructive, business turning the foliage of the Truffula Trees into Thneeds. When the last Truffula Tree is felled, however, the Thneed factories shut down and the Once-ler's relatives leave for new ventures. By the time the story begins, all that remains of the forest is a field of tree stumps, the ruins of the Thneed factories, and the Once-ler himself.
* Inverted in ''Literature/InTheKeepOfTime''. The people of Kelso in the future, though disapproving of the greed which they believe led the Technological Civilization to its doom, very much admire the buildings, monuments, and other remnants of our world left behind and are quite interested in studying and understanding it, as well as doing their best to preserve and make new use of it in their world. At the same time, they are determined not to let history repeat itself. On a more meta level, Smailholm Tower itself seems [[RuleOfSymbolism symbolic]] of this, since it remains even centuries in the future and, in the belief of the author, will "still stand when our knowledge and skills are but a chapter in the course of the history of man"—i.e., a sign of the wonders and glory of man, rather than of pride and hubris.
* The ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' series has many examples. The North had hundreds of ruins and tombs dating back thousands of years from the era of the First Men. Likewise, the many castles of the Night's Watch along the Wall: Once, there were nearly twenty fully-manned keeps; now, only three remain in use, while the others have fallen into ruin over the past few centuries. But the crowning achievement can only be Harrenhal. In the distant past, King Harren spent forty years designing and building the largest, most magnificent castle in all the Seven Kingdoms, bankrupting his realm in the process. And the very day construction is complete and he moves into residence, Aegon the Conquerer lands on the shores of Westeros. Barely a year later, Aegon's dragons torch Harrenhal into molten slag. Today, nearly three centuries later, Harrenhal still stands, but in a state of perpetual disrepair, with crumbling towers and passageways. The lands and incomes of Harrenhal's fiefdom are very wealthy, for a minor lord anyway, but there has never been a Lord of Harrenhal that has not come to a bad end.
* In ''Literature/StarTrekDepartmentOfTemporalInvestigations'', most of the races represented in the Axis of Time (basically a PlaceBeyondTime) have to deal with this. In the time periods they consider to be "the present", they're often thriving cultures, indeed the leading races of their interstellar communities. But thanks to the Axis they know that a few thousand years later and they'll have been forgotten, being at best archaeological curiosities to the next group of spacefaring cultures and at worst lost to history.
* ''Literature/TheTripods''. Humanity has been reduced to a medieval culture ruled by the alien Tripods. Lampshaded by the vagrant Oxymandius who uses Shelley's poem as a MadnessMantra.
* The lifeless ruins of the once-great city of Charn in ''Literature/TheMagiciansNephew'' are strongly suggestive of this trope.
* In ''Literature/TheDayOfTheTriffids'' Coker quotes Ozymandias as he contemplates the fall of civilization.
* ''Literature/SpaceMarineBattles'' has a non-human (or perhaps post-human? [[RiddleForTheAges We'll never know]]) example: in ''Malodrax'', Lysander and Corvin both notice examples of once great and proud civilizations which used to build mighty cities to compete with each other, but by the time any of them arrives, all that's left are ruins and some slaves for the Iron Warriors.
* ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'': Possibly. Despite [[spoiler:O'Brien]] and the Party's grandoise claims that they will have power forever and never be overthrown, the [[http://www.newspeakdictionary.com/ns-prin.html Newspeak appendix]] is ''written in the past tense''. Could it be the Party was NotSoOmniscientAfterAll?
* "Merlin's Gun" by Creator/AlastairReynolds. The human Waymaker civilisation covered the galaxy at sub-light speeds, and built the Waynet which allows travel at light speed. Tens of thousands of years later, the Waymakers are dead dead dead. The Waynet is still standing, but no one knows how to work it.
* Franchise/TolkiensLegendarium:
** The clearest and most dramatic example is the the segment of ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'' called ''Akallabêth''. When the Dúnedain are given the island of Númenor as their new home, they are forbidden to sail west, where the [[{{Heaven}} Undying Lands]] are. So they begin to sail east, to Middle-earth, instead, becoming colonizers and conquerors. They grow so powerful that they ''capture'' Sauron. The prisoner then proceeds to play on the pride and fears of the Númenorean king Ar-Pharazôn until the king is convinced that he is powerful enough to ignore this "Ban of the Valar" against sailing west, and that he will be immortal if he does. The Númenoreans spend years building the largest fleet of ships and stockpile of weapons that the world has ever seen and set sail. But as soon as Ar-Pharazôn lands on the Undying Lands, God intervenes to destroy the fleet, the army, the island of Númenor, all of its people except the ones who saw this coming, and even some of Middle-earth's coastline. The only "works" left behind are the kingdoms they founded in Middle-earth, a mere shadow of Númenor's original glory, and--according to legend--the very tip of the Holy Mountain in the center of the island. The Men of Middle-earth who are descended from Númenoreans tend to remember their history in later ages, but the other peoples generally know nothing about it.
** Khazad-dûm, or Moria, is one of the greatest works that is still somewhat intact anywhere in Middle-earth at the time of ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''. By the Third Age, it was a contender as the largest city not just of the Dwarves, but of any of Middle-earth's peoples--and it was completely underground. But of course they DugTooDeep, and now nothing is left but ruins, Orcs, and Durin's Bane.
* Averting this trope is the whole reason the vampires took over the world in ''Literature/{{Vampirocracy}}''. Convinced that if humanity didn't straighten itself out and quick all that would be left of Earth is a radioactive asteroid belt, the vampires saw fit take over the world. So far, they're not doing too bad a job.
* The sprawling underground ruins in ''Literature/{{Below}}'' are referred to as the Elder Kingdom even though it was probably many kingdoms, but nobody actually knows who built it all, or how. "Manthings" like goblins maintain civilizations in some parts of the ruins, but the builders were likely ordinary humans. The sheer mystery of the place is a major force driving people to explore.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* The planet Minos in ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' wanted to build the ultimate weapons system to make themselves "[[Recap/StarTrekTheNextGenerationS1E20TheArsenalOfFreedom The Arsenal of Freedom]]". Unfortunately, the sales-pitch hologram program they created to help sell it wouldn't take no for an answer, and destroyed their civilization as a demonstration of the weapon's power.
** Similarly, the Iconians. 200,000 years ago, they ruled most of the galaxy using their PortalNetwork. Their empire collapsed when various other species turned on them and bombed Iconia to dust for reasons that are never made clear- Picard speculates that their portal technology was misunderstood and scared the other species, but there are hints that they were kind of dicks. ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'' [[spoiler:goes with the latter, with the Iconians having spent millenia in hiding preparing to restore their empire and enslaving entire species]].
* One of the dead planets visited by the crew of the ''Excalibur'' in ''Series/{{Crusade}}'' was destroyed by a techno-mage they had hired to fight a war for them. The nanotech weapon he created for them took over their minds and forced them to murder each other.
* The picture above is from ''Series/{{Lost}}''. The trope may apply to the four-toed statue and the other ancient ruins on the island. It also applies to the DHARMA Initiative, a group who came to the island with lofty goals for humanity, and ended up murdered and thrown in a mass grave.
* ''Series/LifeAfterPeople'' is less a condemnation of man's hubris than a scientific exposition of how everything humanity has right now will eventually decay and that there'll be little left to indicate we were ever here long after our extinction.
** For the record, Mount Rushmore is predicted to last the longest, with it taking millions of years for it to erode away completely.
* ''Franchise/RipleysBelieveItOrNot'' showed a man who once dug a tunnel through bedrock with handtools and dynamite to create a shortcut for trains hauling gold in Nevada over the course of 40 years. Before he finished the trains stopped running when the gold mine dried up. He completed the tunnel anyway. They estimated that because of the bedrock he dug into it will last millions of years and remain as mankind's final testament, outlasting everything else ever created.
* [[spoiler:Emperor]] Londo Mollari of ''Series/BabylonFive'' feels the full weight of this trope towards the end of his character arc when [[spoiler:the Drakh use his own gambit against him to blackmail him into becoming a puppet ruler]], driving the [[VestigialEmpire Centauri Republic]] further into isolation and ruin. In the end, he [[spoiler: sulks in his throne room [[DrowningMySorrows drowning his sorrows]] because he can't bear the thought of glancing at the ruined cityscape unprepared and bursting into tears.]]
* Pretty much the point of ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'' and ''Series/{{Caprica}}''. The Twelve Colonies of Man were ultimately exterminated after reaching the pinnacle of its civilization when it created the robotic Cylons, who promptly destroyed their creators.
* In ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'', Ted Moesby invokes the key lines of the poem when looking upon The Arcadia, a hotel [[spoiler: he has just resolved to demolish.]]
* A non-architectural variation in ''Series/WalkingWithBeasts''. The series ends with the narrator saying that if all the vast evolutionary history of the world has taught us anything, it's this; "no species lasts forever".
* ''Series/BreakingBad'' has a more personalized version of this in Walter White [[spoiler:building a massive meth empire]] as one of the greatest cooks in America. Eventually it all comes crashing down, resulting in [[spoiler:the death of his brother-in-law, abandoning his family and losing any hope of mending his relationship with them, losing nearly all of his millions of dollars, and being forced to go into hiding]]. The [[WhamEpisode episode]] in which all of this occurs is, appropriately, entitled "[[DramaBomb Ozymandias]]". And it, and the final season as a whole, contains ''MANY'' [[RuleOfSymbolism subtle visual references]] to the poem.
** And just to drive the point home, a [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3dpghfRBHE rather ominous promo]] for the episode in question featured a reading of the eponymous poem by Bryan Cranston himself.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** In "Kill The Boy" Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont ponder this trope as they sail along a canal through the ruins of Valyria, even quoting a Shelley-esque lament on the apocalypse that destroyed the once-great civilization.
** Within two seasons of his death, all of [[spoiler:Tywin Lannister's]] gains for his house have been completely undone. Cersei's disastrous attempts at playing politics culminates with her openly murdering thousands of people and crowning herself queen in a short-sighted play at saving her own skin. House Tyrell and Dorne are now both firmly against the Lannisters, and are allying with Daenarys' invading army to take them down. His greatest victory of eradicating the noble Stark family has been completely undone thanks to the rise of the overlooked Stark children, who have taken down the very families he raised to power. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark have retaken the North and destroyed the Boltons who Tywin installed as Wardens of the North, while Arya Stark has assassinated Walder Frey, sending the Frey and Lannister's shaky hold on the Riverlands into chaos. To top it off, the Lannister family itself is in complete shambles, with Tommen, Kevan, and Lancel dead, Jaime implied to now be firmly against Cersei, and Tyrion actively aiding Daenerys' war efforts as Hand of the Queen.
* Not surprisingly ''Series/TheOuterLimits'' features this trope often. In the episode entitled "The New Breed" A prominent scientist named Stephen invents Nanobots that he believes will cure anything. He shows them to his soon to be brother-in-law, Andy and gives a lengthy speech about how [[GodIsInept God created man with many flaws]] and how much better he has done. Shortly afterwards, Andy is diagnosed with Pelvic Cancer and informed that he only has a short amount of time to live if his leg is not amputated. He desperately injects himself with the nanobots Stephen created. They cure him nigh instantly. From then on, Andy spends every night with his fiancé Judy and generally enjoys life. With no disease to cure, the nanobots start registering what they believe are flaws in Andy's structure and making [[BodyHorror improvements]]. As a result, Andy grows a pair of gills and a pair of eyes in the back of his head. Certain [[UnusualEuphemism drives]] of his also become so powerful that his fiancé is freaked out by him. This culminates in him asking Stephen to [[MercyKill kill him]]. Months later Judy cuts her finger inadvertently only for the wound to instantly heal on its own.DeathBySex indeed...

** Another episode features a group of scientists that believe they have created a miracle drug because the monkey they tested it on survives things that would normally kill it. Deciding that they've found the key to immortality, one member of the team promptly steals the drug and injects himself with it. Unfortunately he does this before he finds out what really happens when the drug is taken. Basically the drug takes all of the energy produced by the body and reroutes it to preform one task: Healing. As a result, it gives the illusion of immortality and allows the user to undergo every sort of normally fatal event without even being wounded. Once the drug wears off however, the body's power to heal is completely exhausted and the user rapidly ages before dying.

[[folder:Folklore, Mythology and religion]]
* The proverbial story in the Bible's Book of Daniel about the giant made of metal with the feet of clay - which breaks at the ankles, its weakest point, and topples, and may have been a secondary referent for Shelley's poem.
* The Bible's tale of the Tower of Babel is this trope via God's interference. A post-flood humanity is united with one people and one language. They think to create a city and a tower to reach heaven, so God causes humanity to speak many languages instead of one and in the confusion, then scatters them, so so much for the tower.

* From "Mad About You" by Music/{{Sting}}:
-->They say a city in the desert lies\\
The vanity of an ancient king\\
But the city lies in broken pieces\\
Where the wind howls and the vultures sing\\
These are the works of man\\
This is the sum of our ambition
* "Dark Fate of Atlantis" by Music/RhapsodyOfFire:
-->Monumental growth\\
Breaking rules of history\\
The lost continent was legend\\
Soon the legend became myth\\
Power, strength, prosperity\\
Once too close to divinity\\
Until water became fire\\
And swallowed all its lore
* Procol Harum's "Conquistador":
-->Although you came with sword held high\\
You did not conquer - only die

* Creator/PercyByssheShelley's "Ozymandias", the TropeNamer, describes a monument in Egypt, buried in the sand, lost to time. The irony is particularly emphasized by the 'despair' at the end of the inscription: originally it was supposed to make the observer despair in awe of the power commanded by the one who built the great monument, but the desolation changes it to an existential despair before the might of time, which would eventually leave standing neither great monuments nor memories of those who built them.
* "''Recessional''", by Creator/RudyardKipling, laments how the British Empire could collapse like all other empires before it.
** Also Kipling's "Hymn of Breaking Strain"
* "''The Ruin''", by an unknown Anglo-Saxon author reflecting on the contrast between a city's current ruined state and his speculation on its former glory. Interestingly enough the city has since been resettled, and is now known as Bath.
* [[http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_case4.shtml "He Never Heard of Casey!"]] by Grantland Rice laments that no work of art will be remembered forever, because there is someone who's never heard of "Literature/CaseyAtTheBat".
* In Alexey Tolstoy's poem ''[[http://www.scribd.com/doc/202796739/The-Barrow The Barrow,]]'' bards sang during a warrior's funeral that his deeds will outlast the barrow under which he's buried. Today, the barrow's still standing, but...

* ''Radio/TheStanFrebergShow'': "Incident at Los Voraces" tells the story of two casinos, El Sodom and Rancho Gomorrah, which outdid each other with bigger and bigger attractions until one of them brought in a hydrogen bomb test.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'':
** The Eldar ruled most of the galaxy and possessed the power to destroy stars on whim, yet their empire was brought low by their own hedonism, which spawned the Chaos God Slaanesh, whose birth tore a huge hole in the fabric of reality, engulfing a large chunk of their empire and destroying the souls of the majority of their species.
** Humans from 40k may also count, as their original star-spanning civilization (before the Imperium) was destroyed due to a combination of warp storms and a robot uprising.
** The Tau also suffer from this quite heavily: they are absolutely sure of their own victory due to their technology and ideology...without realizing that the Imperium and Eldar both were even MORE advanced at the height of their power; needless to say, there is a reason the Imperium and Eldar both have a practically Luddite mentality.
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'':
** Module I3 "Pharaoh" has a reference to Ozymandias. A statue sticks out of the desert sand, the face scarred by the ravages of time and sand. An inscription reads:
--->''My name is Maniozimus. Look upon the ruins of the great city that surround you and despair. Great magic once was, now you see only the mighty ruins of men's works.''
** A similar foot-and-shin remnant of a gigantic statue is prominently featured in the ruined city at the heart of module X1's "Isle of Dread". It one-ups Shelley's metaphor of Time erasing human hubris, by having nothing legible left of its inscription at all.
* The ''TabletopGame/{{Numenera}}'' setting is built on this trope. The Ninth World of the setting is Earth a billion years in the future, after eight previous civilizations have risen and fallen. The titular numenera are scattered pieces of technology left over from all the previous civilizations. They act as the setting's [[ClarkesThirdLaw magic items]], but no-one knows who created any given piece or what it was originally intended to do.
* In ''TabletopGame/AtlantisTheSecondAge'', Heroes advance by getting the attention and favor of the gods. As you rise in fame and power, you ''have'' to create Great Works to show that you are worthy of the gods favor. If you get too much power without showing that you deserve to wield it, the gods will smite you for your hubris and lead you to your doom.

* ''VideoGame/BioShock'' depicts an underwater city, conceived as an ambitious project to create a capitalist {{Utopia}}, but which has fallen on, ahem, shall we say [[AfterTheEnd hard times]]?
* ''VideoGame/JurassicParkTrespasser'' even had an EasterEgg where John Hammond quotes "Ozymandias". Fitting, since most of the game consists of you poking around the ruined research buildings of Site B as Hammond's voice-over recounts the wonders and achievements he unearthed there, all for naught. (Not to mention [[{{Irony}} the game itself]] [[ObviousBeta was a failed experiment]].)
* ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'': The Kingdom of [[FloatingContinent Zeal]], a highly prospering society of technology, art, and magic which drew its power from the [[ReactorBoss Mammon Machine]], [[spoiler:a device that tapped into the power of [[EldritchAbomination Lavos]] and eventually led to his [[SealedEvilInACan awakening]] when set to [[UpToEleven max power]] - and in turn he destroyed Zeal [[ApocalypseWow and almost all of the world below it]].]]
* In ''Franchise/MassEffect'', the ''Normandy'' surveys an uninhabited world that was once host to a technologically-advanced civilization that had gone extinct. All that is left is the hollowed-out remains of buildings, and a single column with text on it. When eventually translated, it read "walk among these works, and know our greatness". However, there are crude scratches at the base of the column, which simply read [[Film/ForbiddenPlanet "monsters from the id"]].
** This a recurring theme in Mass Effect [[spoiler: with the cycles of galactic civilization and extinction perpetuated by the Reapers.]] The Protheans commanded a vast, galaxy-spanning empire 50,000 years ago, yet now all that remains of their civilization are their ruins and technology like the Citadel space station and mass relays that made their empire possible and are now used by the current species of the galaxy. [[spoiler: Except the Protheans didn't create the Citadel OR mass relays either; those are the works of the Reapers, who force galactic extinction every 50,000 years. The Protheans are simply the ones the current races of the galaxy know about. Far more have been forgotten completely over millions of years.]]
*** Despite the actions of the Reapers, some races manage to leave behind signs that they didn't go down without a fight. At one point you're being sent to the corpse of a dead Reaper to retrieve technology. How did they find it? [[spoiler: They backtracked from a large canyon on a planet that was created by a massively powerful mass driver that missed its target and kept going on for '''millions of years'''.]]
** Tuchanka is covered with ruins from their pre-nuclear war civilization but they are largely utilitarian. The third game however visits an elaborate burial and temple complex, complete with immense statues of krogans. If Wrex is present he points out how far his race has fallen.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' has plenty of ruins marking the sites of the Night Elves' magnificent, but ultimately doomed civilization. Bonus points for featuring the feet of elven colossi in the ruins of Azshara, but with little left of the statues otherwise.
** Some ruins are significantly older than that, with the fossilized remains of their builders sticking out of the walls.
** You would hardly know it by their present existence, but [[MayIncaTec Troll civilizations]] once spanned the entire world of Azeroth, and magnificent ruins of Troll architecture can be found in every corner of all three continents. The trolls are still around, but only the Drakkari and Zandalari maintained significant holdings until recent events demolished them.
** The Mogu once ruled most of Pandaria before they were overthrown, leaving behind two enormous palace complexes, the Serpent's Spine, and countless statues scattered across the continent. Having largely descended into barbarism, they made a failed attempt to regain power during ''Mists of Pandaria''.
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'':
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' has, in addition to other machina-ruins, the river Moonflow. Backstory indicates that [[AndManGrewProud man]] constructed a massive city spanning over the river on a bridge. [[TheLastStraw Needless to say, one day they brought a toothpick with them to the city and it collapsed into the river.]]
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'' has all of Gran Pulse, with Taejin's Tower standing out even more so.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'' has the Allagan Empire, who [[spoiler: were so bold as to imprison a PhysicalGod and send it into orbit in order to use it for an additional power source. It gave them so much power that it triggered a catastrophic global earthquake that instantaneously destroyed their entire civilization. The imprisoned god became known as a second moon, Dalamud, and the rest is history...]]
* Played with in ''VideoGame/BlueDragon'': After traveling through an underground ruin of an obviously advanced civilization, the party emerges topside to find a town full of ancient murals...which are sentient and friendly, and conduct their own daily business like the humans they have effectively replaced. There are even evil murals that commit crimes and attack you in random encounters.
* This quote appears (like many others) in ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}}'', but is otherwise not an example. Unless you build so many wonders that your opponents get jealous and decide to steamroll you.
** In ''Civ V'', one of the reasons another civilization might hate you is because you beat them in building one or more wonders.
* In the final chapter of ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights Shadows of Undrentide'', your adventure carries you through the halls of the titular crashed flying city. You even get to talk to the guy whose arrogant attempt to look on the face of Mystra brought low the mighty Netheril Empire.
** It should be noted that the plan [[GoneHorriblyRight worked perfectly]]: he took Mystra's place as the god of magic. He simply wasn't quit up to the task...
* Seeing the grandeur of ''VideoGame/DeusExHumanRevolution'', and the CrapsackWorld ''VideoGame/DeusEx'' features, twenty-five years afterwards, it's a safe bet this trope fell upon ''Deus Ex'' universe.
* An underlying theme in all ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'', but very prominent in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}'' amongst the ruins of Washington, D.C. proper. Additionally, the ''Point Lookout'' DLC features a wrecked research vessel named the ''USS Ozymandias'' as part of the sidequest "An Antique Land", which is named after the first line of the poem. Zig-Zagged in ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'' by Mister House. His technology managed to stop several of the bombs from falling on the area, but it wasn't working at a hundred percent; had the bombs fell one day later, the problems would've been fixed and he would've ended up in an even better position post-apocalypse. Should the player not ally with House, his work will be for nothing, at least from his point of view.
* One of the many things players in ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress'' can do is to build mega projects, including dams, giant statues of dwarfs or otherwise. However this often ends badly due to various reasons, most of the time because of a simple miscalculation by the player if [[SuperDrowningSkills water]] or [[KillItWithFire magma]] was involved.
** Especially comes up during reclamations and adventurer modes focused on lost fortresses.
* The Crystal Desert in ''VideoGame/GuildWars: Prophecies'' is littered with the ruined temples, towers, and cities of pilgrims who came there seeking Ascension. Internal strife, the harsh climate, and the natives of the desert wiped out all of the pilgrims.
** Perhaps the most well-known landmark is the Lonely Vigil, the massive statue of a female warrior with one shattered leg. When the player approaches, it topples to the ground, leaving the classic broken feet on its pedestal.
* The plot of ''{{VideoGame/Journey}}'' involves the main character exploring [[spoiler:the ruins of its {{Precursor}} civilization following a civil war.]]
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** The [[OurElvesAreDifferent Ayleids (Wild Elves)]] of Cyrodiil. In their hubris, they believed that they would last forever. They [[KickTheDog tortured their human slaves]] in unimaginably cruel ways, leading to those slaves [[SlaveRevolt rising up]] and [[TheDogBitesBack destroying the entire Ayleid culture]]. Those who weren't killed were forced to intermingle with the other races of Mer, effectively leading to their extinction as a unique race.
** The [[OurDwarvesAreDifferent Dwemer (Deep Elves or "Dwarves")]] of northern Tamriel. Haughty, egotistic and very cruel at times, they made [[SteamPunk mechanical]] [[{{Magitek}} devices]], [[TheseAreThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow metaphysical theorem]], and buildings using technologies and materials centuries more advanced than anything seen since. They went so far as to try and [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence make themselves gods]], and [[RiddleForTheAges managed to vanish completely]], the whole race, every one of them. Now all that is left are their machines and ruins picked clean by centuries of looters.
* In ''Videogame/CommandAndConquerTiberiumWars'', a GDI soldier laments the hubris of humanity while alien invaders called the Scrin are razing Munich to the ground.
* ''VideoGame/CliveBarkersUndying'': According to WordOfGod, the Veragos that are seen in Oneiros are the remnants of great magic users who abused their power and ended up being corrupted and all but wiped out by it.
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed:'' The Isu, the precursors [[spoiler:and direct creators]] of mankind, once ruled the world, spread across the entire planet, with science and technology millennia ahead of anything mankind could achieve... and then the Toba Catastrophe happened. By the modern day, the only sign they ever existed at all are a few ruins scattered about the place, in hard-to-reach locations, and a handful of obscenely dangerous artefacts they left behind.
** ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedOrigins'' has Bayek stumble onto the tomb of Ramses II himself, which comes with a piece of poetry nodding to the TropeNamer itself. [[spoiler:And it probably isn't a coincidence that when Bayek goes to Ramses II's dedicated afterlife, it's an endless desert filled with half-buried statues.]]
* This is one of the main themes of the ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' games. You play a character who explores once mighty empires (or ages), now in ruins because of the curse of the undead, which happens whenever the eternal flame is about to burn out and bring the darkness. If's up to a chosen one to rekindle the flame and start a new age, beginning the cycle all over again. As a result, many empires you explore will have lore attached to how it rose and fell, which you can uncover.

* For that matter, [[http://www.rockpapercynic.com/index.php?date=2009-03-12 look on Ozymandias.]]
* ''Webcomic/CatAndGirl'' has [[http://www.topatoco.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=TO&Product_Code=CG-TROPHY&Category_Code=CG a brilliant bit of merchandise]] based on the TropeNamer: [[http://catandgirl.com/?p=1002 "I got that one for skeeball!"]]
* The TropeNamer is used on the first page of ''Webcomic/ErrantStory'', and beyond, as many of its chapters have titles drawn from the Shelley poem. (And it fits.)
* In ''Webcomic/OzyAndMillie'', [[http://ozyandmillie.org/2000/09/17/ozy-and-millie-463/ Hours of sidewalk chalk art is washed away]] and [[http://ozyandmillie.org/2001/03/07/ozy-and-millie-625/ Millie's snow fort is melted.]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Recess}}'' had King Bob trying to build a mud pyramid. Naturally this leads to mutiny and, on top of that, rain.
** It didn't help that he modelled himself on the original Ozymandias in the first place.
* In ''[[WesternAnimation/{{Thundercats 2011}} [=ThunderCats (2011)=]]]'' the {{Cat|folk}}s' great Kingdom of Thundera practiced extreme forms of FantasticRacism, with tailless [[CatsAreSuperior Cats on the very top lording over the other species]]. Most notably, a captured {{Lizard|Folk}} bitterly claims that the Cats control the richest lands while leaving the rest of the animals to starve, causing him and his companion to raid the border for scraps, only to be caught and tormented by the Cats. When the Lizards invade with [[SuperWeaponSurprise advanced weapons]] and technology, they destroy Thundera in a single night, leaving [[RagTagBunchOfMisfits the crown prince, his brother, a Cleric, an old soldier, and two street urchins]] the only confirmed survivors of the once-great kingdom. As Lizard-General Slithe gleefully comments:
--> '''Slithe''': [[HowTheMightyHaveFallen How quickly things change]] for the Cats: from top predator to endangered species! In a single day!
* Fire Lord Ozai from ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' fits this so well his name is even similar to Ozymandias. He wears an over-the-top red and gold costume, he rides around in a giant gold airship and builds giant statues of himself everywhere. But in the end, none of this matters because when peace is declared, his statues are torn down, his army is destroyed, and his legacy as a conqueror is obliterated. His final fate is to live out his remaining days as a pathetic, powerless old man in jail, while his hated son and brother will be remembered as heroes.
* In ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'', Pink Diamond came to Earth in hopes of turning it into a Gem colony and another facet of the Homeworld's empire. Thankfully, [[BigGood Rose Quartz]] killed her before she could. However, remnants of Pink Diamond's would-be empire remain, such as the Sky Spire, the Kindergartens, other Gem structures, and [[OhCrap very pissed of Great Diamond Authority.]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* ''Collapse'' by Jared Diamond lists a number of civilizations to which this trope could apply. It even quotes Shelley's poem as an epigraph.
* Some of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (save for the Pyramids of Giza, who still stand despite having been built around 2,000 years ''before'' the other six), which served no other purpose than to look opulent (such as the Colossus of Rhodes and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whose status is disputable) and only lasted about a millennium.
** Strangely, the pyramids themselves were subjected to this to a limited degree. After construction, they were covered with polished limestone, and a few were capped with a gold or electrum. Millennia later, between of neglect and possible scavenging for materials, all that's left is the base structure.
* An example appearing both in Diamond's book and in similar studies in general is Easter Island. Once a home to a flourishing, distinctive Polynesian civilization, it saw its downfall in a matter of a few dozens of years. Archeological study links it to the deforestation caused by the expense of construction of famed ''moai'' statues. Or possible to European contact bringing, amongst other problems, entrepreneurs wanting to turn it into a giant sheep farm.
** Incidentally, the giant heads themselves are an example of this. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that they are actually complete statues that have sunk into the ground from the shoulders down.
* The current spate of ''World Without Us''/''Series/LifeAfterPeople'' books and programs are basically one long Look Upon Our Works speech. A couple thousand years, and even our garbage is sunken out of view forever.
* The wreck of the UsefulNotes/RMSTitanic has been upheld as a metaphor for man's hubris more times than most folk can count. Website/TheOnion even parodied this in ''Literature/OurDumbCentury'', with the April 1912 headline "World's Largest Metaphor Hits Iceberg".
* Ironically [[AvertedTrope averted]] by the RealLife Ozymandias, AKA UsefulNotes/RamsesII the Great. Over three thousand years after his death, the breadth and vastness of his empire is still known to be the greatest of any Egyptian Pharaoh. Indeed, if asked to name a single Pharaoh, aside from UsefulNotes/{{Tutankhamun}} (or "[[FanNickname King Tut]]"), he is the most commonly remembered. And many of his works are still standing, not least of which are the temples at Abu Simbel, the "Ramesseum" (although worse for wear, it's still standing), the tomb of his chief wife Nefertari (one of the greatest achievements of Ancient Egyptian art) and his giant statues, one of which was given some replacement bits and erected in the heart of UsefulNotes/{{Cairo}} (where it promptly got attacked by pollution and acid rain...but the conservationists have managed to get to it).
** In addition to his surviving physical works, the fame of [[TropeNamer the Shelley poem]] makes it extremely unlikely that the name Ozymandias is going to be forgotten any time soon, [[{{Irony}} meaning Shelley effectively immortalised him with the very poem intended to mock the idea of being remembered forever]].
* During the Hungarian uprising in November 1956, a hated monumental statue of Joseph Stalin (erected on the site of the city's cathedral, which had been destroyed in [=WW2=] and the site levelled by the incoming Communists for a parade square), was physically torn down. It left only one booted foot anchored to the plinth with the rest of Uncle Joe facedown in the square. Visualised as a diorama model '''[[http://agprov.deviantart.com/art/Fall-of-Ozymandias-1956-344892353 here,]] [[http://agprov.deviantart.com/art/More-Hungary-1956-344967078 here]]''' and '''[[http://agprov.deviantart.com/art/Hungary-56-344968159 here.]]'''
* Of all the thousands of great kings, emperors and world leaders who have come and gone, the average Joe on the street who isn't a history buff will probably only be able to name the ones most popularized in books and film.
** Ask anyone outside of France to name a famous French leader who wasn't ''UsefulNotes/NapoleonBonaparte.''[[note]]The only thing most non-historians will know about him was the oft-repeated lie [[TheNapoleon that he was short]].[[/note]] You might get ''UsefulNotes/LouisXIV'' if you're lucky.
** The only really memorable American presidents before the 20th century are ''UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington'', ''UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson'' and a couple of other founding fathers, then ''UsefulNotes/AbrahamLincoln''. (''UsefulNotes/UlyssesSGrant'' also gets remembered, but more as a general than as a president).
** Ask a non-british person to name an English monarch besides ''UsefulNotes/ElizabethI'' or ''UsefulNotes/HenryVIII''. Or ask them to name a prime minister besides ''UsefulNotes/WinstonChurchill''
** Most historically uneducated people will only think of ''UsefulNotes/JuliusCaesar'' or ''UsefulNotes/{{Nero}}'' when asked to name a Roman emperor.[[note]]Bear in mind that Julius Caesar was killed before the office of emperor was created. His grand-nephew and adopted son UsefulNotes/{{Augustus}} was the first Roman Emperor. Though Caesar ''was'' effectively emperor in all but name, the office being established by Augustus so that the politically dangerous title of "rex" (king) would not be needed.[[/note]] Maybe ''UsefulNotes/{{Caligula}}'' if you're lucky, even then it's just "he's crazy". Trajan, widely regarded by the Romans themselves from his reign onward as the greatest emperor[[note]]He expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest extent ''and'' [[TheGoodKing was a benevolent ruler to his people]]. Afterward it became tradition for the Senate to pray that each newly ascended Emperor to be "luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan" (none met that standard).[[/note]], is largely forgotten outside of Italy, except to actual students of Roman history. Even having the terminally cool title of "Optimus" granted to him by the Senate hasn't helped. For that matter, even Saint Constantine the Great, who arguably did more than anyone else to ensure the survival and spread of UsefulNotes/{{Christianity}}, is relatively obscure to Protestants and non-Christians (rather less so to Catholics and Orthodox Christians).
** Ask the average westerner to name one historically famous Chinese Emperor, or Indian Mughal Emperor, or Japanese Emperor off the top of their head without using Google. Probably none of them will be able to but they'll know the name, ''UsefulNotes/GenghisKhan''.
* UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler promised to establish a [[ThousandYearReign thousand-year]] [[UsefulNotes/NaziGermany Reich]], with Berlin being the new world capital (to be massively expanded and renamed "Germania"). By 1945, nearly every major German city, especially Berlin, Hamburg, Mainz, Bremen, Hannover, and Dresden, had been flattened. The occupying Allied armies immediately began a program of denazification, purging every swastika and "Adolf Hitler Straße" from the country. That said it's unlikely Hitler will be ''forgotten'' any time soon, since he's now remembered as the ultimate personification of evil.