The Romans left some spectacular ruins, but ruins nonetheless. Ottomans are relegated to the furniture gallery. The Mings, the Greeks, the Mayans … the Celtics, the Yankees, the Fighting Irish.
The framework crumbles. Key personnel depart. Success gets taken for granted. It happens in history, it happens in business, it happens in sports.
It even happens to Tiger Woods.
With the departure of caddie Steve Williams, another piece fell off the infrastructure that helped build a dynasty unseen in golf.
"I think it's time for a change," Woods said Wednesday in making the split public.
Williams later offered his own statement, saying Woods dismissed him during a meeting at the AT&T National three weeks ago. It ended a 12-year run that featured 13 of Woods' 14 major championships.
Widen the focus, and there isn't much left from the structure that had the Tiger Woods machine atop the golf world for the better part of a decade. When he won the 2009 Australian Masters, it capped a year that brought $10.9 million on the course and exponentially more away from it.
Then the SUV got wrecked. Twenty months later, little looks the same.
Agent Mark Steinberg remains, albeit with a different affiliation. IMG chose not to keep him around, and Woods opted to walk with him. They're now with Excel Sports Management, trying to build a golf division around his tarnished name.
Endorsements hit a dry spell as he lost Gillette, Accenture, Gatorade and Tag Heuer in the sex scandal that led to his divorce. Nike's still around but reportedly hit him with a two-year financial penalty for his indiscretions.
Swing coach Hank Haney was one of the first to depart, ending the relationship himself 14 months ago. Sean Foley brings new ideas, but that highly debated swing makeover is stalled while Woods' knee recovers. Whenever Woods is ready to tee it up again, he will have to find a replacement for Williams.
Even the putter that Woods used to win 13 majors and $100 million in winnings is on the sideline. He still is seeking that first victory with the Nike replacement. Since belatedly giving up the No. 1 spot in October, his world ranking is down to 20th.
"Everything changes," ESPN analyst Curtis Strange said before the British Open. "It all depends on how he reacts to all of this, how well he comes back and plays. Then you throw in the injury. We just don't know. We really don't know."
It's fair to suggest there are a few things about which Woods isn't all that sure. Letting Williams go doesn't make sense on the surface, as they had worked only nine holes together since the Masters.
One thing's certain, though: The surroundings sure look a lot different from how they once did.