During the Han Empire of China and the Roman Empire of the Mediterranean World were both had advanced technology for their time. Han China’s attitude toward manufacturing and labor was more positive than the Romans who had a more class divided society, therefore causing attitudes toward labor and technology to be looked down upon. The Hans respect technology and the people who use it. In China, 2nd century B. C. E. a government official stated that he wanted to organize their labor force with the use of technology so they could help to prevent a disaster from occurring when and if a flood takes place.
This could help the people from getting hurt and their property from getting destroyed (Doc. 1). Huan Guan, a Han government official during the first century B. C. E. was concerned about the lack of technology and poor government policy that is affecting the people. Haun Guan was trying to say to the Han government that using convict labor to make tools and monopoly on salt and iron is causing devastating affects towards the people and feels that the government can solve this problem by using the available technologies.
Even though Haun Guan is a government official himself, he shows interest in helping the people and is very critical towards the current government policies that are in place (Doc. 2). Huan Tan, a upper class Han philosopher during 20 C. E. is expressing his appreciation of the progress that technology has had since the emperor’s first invention . Huan Tan also expresses how technology has benefited the Chinese people and feels that technology is a “gift” from the enlightened emperors (Doc. 3).
A Han government sponsored speaker, around 200 C. E. states how a Han governor, Tu Shih, cared deeply for the Chinese people and used the advanced technology to help benefit them. This government sponsored speaker emphasizes how much the inventions helped minimize the amount of human labor that the people did (Doc. 4). This is interesting because he was hired by the government to talk to people who might be losing faith in the Han Dynasty and he basically glorified the information way more than it actually was.
On the other hand, the Romans felt that working with your hands was vulgar and seemed to heavily look down upon technology and whoever used it. Cicero, an upper class Roman political leader from Italy during the 1st century B. C. E. states that anyone who works with their hands are vulgar and looks greatly down upon craftsmen and hired workers. Cicero then goes on stating that “gentlemen do not work with their hands. ”(Doc. 5) It seems that Cicero lacks a huge respect for inventions and inventors and feels like technology is indeed necessary, but not for the “enlightened minds”.
Plutarch, a Greek born roman citizen during the 1st century Roman Empire, expresses Gaius Gracchus’ road building enterprises and continues to explain how the Roman upper class does appreciate technology that benefits the upper class (Doc. 6). Plutarch does show appreciation towards technology, but only because it benefits himself, as well as the rest of the upper class. He does not go on to mention how it helped the commoners in any way, because it most likely didn’t help anyone but the upper class.
Seneca, an upper class philosopher and advisor to Emperor Nero, from the 1st century Roman Empire, states that it takes someone nimble and sharp to make inventions but craftsmen don’t have great minds. Seneca goes on to say that he does “not believe that tools and crafts were invented by wise men” (Doc. 7). Seneca lacks respect for craftsmen and is basically saying that they are not as smart as he is, and degrades their achievements and abilities that they have.
He isn’t concerned about any of the tools or inventions that are made by these craftsmen because he feels since he is an upperclassmen, he would never use them for the fact that they would be degrading to his specific class in society. Frontinus, a Roman general, governor of Britain, and water commissioner from the 1st century C. E. of the Roman Empire discusses how he praises the Roman aqueducts and their uses in Rome. He talks about how intelligent the designs are and how much it benefits the public (Doc. 8). It was quite interesting how highly was talking about the aqueducts.
He talked about how amazing they were to the other Roman officials so they could see he was doing a good job as water commissioner, which is why he talked so highly of the aqueducts, because that’s his job. A point of view that is missing from these documents that could further help to the discussion of the Han and Rome attitudes towards technology would be the commoners. All eight of these documents were of the point of view from government officials or other upperclassmen. It would’ve helped to see an argument made by the commoners from both empires because that’s who the technology is affecting-the commoners.
Although the technology is also affecting the upperclassmen, it would have made a better argument to have someone who is more “exposed” to the technology in their everyday lives. The people of the Han Empire did have a more optimistic approach towards technology, while the Roman Empire looked at technology as a more negative thing. The Hans took more into consideration of how it would benefit the commoners, unlike the Romans who didn’t mention the commoners in any of their arguments. Although both Empires did use technology, some thought more highly of it than others.
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