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AP World History Class » Periodization 1 and 2 » Comparison of Classical Civilizations

Comparison of Classical Civilizations Comparison of Classical Civilizations

A.     Similarities of the Classical Rome and Han China and Gupta India

1.     agricultural-based economies

2.     patriarchal family structures

3.     complex governments – because they were so large, had to invent new ways to keep their lands together politically; each was still unique

4.     Central government relied on local officials to regulate society

5.     trade important – connected by land and sea

6.     Social hierarchy

7.     Income gap

8.     Land distribution issues

9.     Capital cities are the center of artistic and scientific innovation; easier during a time of peace/Pax

B.    Similarities between Rome and Han

1.     Expanded into terr. that brought a variety of char. but they also brought cultural unity to those territories

2.     Educated bureaucracy

3.     Built infrastructure (roads or canals) to promote commerce, help military move, etc.

4.     Built walls/forts to protect against invaders which led to economic problems keeping up with the costs

5.     Government lost loyalty of the people as they were asked for more money to pay for the military

C.    Differences of the 3 Classical Empires (Rome, Han, Gupta)

1.     Groups at the top reflected different values systems

a.     priests in India

b.     scholar-gentry/bureaucrats in China

c.     aristocrats in Greece and Rome

2.     Status of merchants varied

a.     Low status in China

b.     High status in Rome and Gupta

3.     Opportunities for mobility varied

a.     India’s caste system had the most limitations – created at birth

b.     China’s – opportunities through education

c.     Rome - wealth

4.     Religion

a.     No Roman equivalent to Confucianism—no ideology of political organization and social conduct that could survive the ending of the Roman state

5.     Society

a.     Chinese believed the individual was deeply embedded in the larger social group, respect for authority remained important (family served as the model for the organization of society and the state);

b.     Romans were more aware of the right of individuals, so citizens were more willing to want and ask for more from the government

6.     Who rules

a.     Chinese believed their emperor was divine and mandated by heaven, so there was a basis to revive the position of emperor in their society

b.     Roman emperors were chosen by the Senate during the Republic period; from the military during the Empire period

7.     Women were considerably freer and less oppressed than Chinese or Gupta women



D.     Similarities of the falls

1.     Attacks by nomadic groups

a.     attacks from the Huns/Xiongnu – nomadic people of Asia that began to migrate south and west during this time period (probably caused by drought and lack of pasture and the invention and use of the stirrup facilitating their attacks on all three established civilizations

b.     Romans attacked by Germanic tribes

c.     both Roman and Han capitals overrun

2.     deterioration of political institutions -  all three empires were riddled by political corruption during their latter days, and all three suffered under weak-willed rulers; moral decay also characterized the years prior to their respective falls; nepotism

a.     Rome

                                          i.    The barracks emperors: series of generals seizing throne (235-284 C.E.)

                                         ii.    The emperor Diocletian (284-305 C.E.) - Divided the empire into two administrative districts; A co-emperor ruled each district to try to solve problems

                                        iii.    The emperor Constantine and new capital Constantinople – political, econ. and rel. center

3.     protection/maintenance of borders – all empires found that their borders had grown so large that their military had trouble guarding them (Great Wall did not keep out the Huns—they went around it)

4.     tax issues

a.     Roman – tax revolts by upper class and church exempt

b.     Han – officials exempt; difficult to collect from peasants

c.     Gupta – not enough taxes to pay for military defense

5.     Political fragmentation

a.     Gupta - regional princes took local power

b.     Han - military generals took charge of the

c.     Western Roman empire totally gone

E.      Differences between the falls

1.     Cultural continuity

a.     western Roman Empire totally collapsed

b.     China’s system took some time to recover - Common culture (Chinese script, Confucianism, assimilation) prevented as drastic a collapse as in Rome

c.     India’s system was not based on political unity (Hinduism remained)

2.     Economic

a.     The Chinese economy was based more completely on crop agriculture; cities and commerce played a lesser role in China than in the West

b.     much more commerce in Roman Empire

c.     proportion of slaves in Roman Empire hurt the economy; less productive but more people to feed

3.      Demography

a.     whereas, major migrations primarily of Germanic tribes changed the demographic make-up of the Roman empire, China assimilated nomadic invaders

b.     Roman landowners bought up more and more land and staffed it with slaves; small farmers were pushed out and had no land to farm

F.      Effect of the falls

1.     Political

a.     Europe dissolved into various political systems involving kings, with little authority, nobles, knights, vassals, city-states in Italy, and small territories ruled by princes, bishops, or the pope

                              i.        China was once again under a single emperor

                             ii.        China still governed by a merit-based bureaucracy

                            iii.        China’s Confucianism still ordered the society

2.     Economic

a.     Farmers chose to work for large landowners to avoid taxes (beginnings of manorialism/feudalism)

3.     Religion’s importance increased as political authority decreased

a.     Surge in the Great Religions – Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam expanded as the great empires decline; political and economic instability, plus the impact of devastating epidemic prompted individuals to seek new spiritual answers

b.     in the west, religion, particularly Christianity, was left to slowly develop authority and the Roman Catholic Church became increasingly institutionalized

                                      i.        Conflicting doctrines and practices among early Christians

                                     ii.        Established standardized hierarchy of church officials

                                    iii.        The bishop of Rome, known as the pope, became spiritual leader

                                    iv.        As Roman empire collapsed, Christianity served as a cultural foundation

c.     Buddhism spread into China as competition to Confucian traditions

G.     Magnitude of Fall

1.     Gupta fall had the least impact, partly because political unity wasn’t the rule anyway, and partly because the traditions of Hinduism and the caste system (the glue that held the area together) continued after the empire fell.

2.     Han dynasty – loss of the dynasty meant loss of centralized government resulting in disorder from the loss of authority;  Chinese society very hierarchical; dynastic cycles that followed the dictates of the Mandate of Heaven were well defined in China, and the Confucian traditions continued to give coherence to Chinese society

3.     Roman Empire was the most devastated

a.     Roman civilization depended on the ability of the government and military to control the area

b.     Christianity emerged in Europe too late to provide an unifying factor

c.     Area fragmented into small parts and developed unique characteristics

H.     Global Effects

a.     political disunity in the Middle East forged the way for the appearance of a new religion in the 7th century; by 600 CE Islam began expanding

b.     trade was disrupted but survived, keeping intact the trend toward increased long-distance contact; trade on the Indian Ocean increased as conflict and decline of political authority affected overland trade

c.     urban centers decrease in importance

I.      Cultural Diffusion - Cultures, religions, and disease spread particularly because of trade routes like the Silk Road


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