The Classical Period was a time where large, land-based empires were developed. The leaders of these empires were met with many questions on how to control their territories. While both the Han empire and Imperial Rome exercised political control over their empires through government structure, they differed in their organization of bureaucrats and their reliance on slavery. Both the Han and Imperial Rome exercised political control through similar government structure. The Han emperor, who was believed to be the “Mandate of Heaven”, had absolute power over all of his people.
They relied heavily on their trained bureaucrats, the Shi, to carry out lawful duties. This reliance was supported by Confucian ways and stabilized the empire. Imperial Rome also practiced having a singular ruler to control the whole. The Roman emperor also was believed to have power over the citizens of Rome. The Romans also had their own class of bureaucrats who were valued highly. This social stratification unified Rome as a country. Both Han and Imperial Rome relied on social hierarchy to help with exercising political control over their empires.
They practiced this structure because it unified power in the state and lessened the amount of chaos. The Han relied on their bureaucratic class of trained officials to exercise political control; whereas in Rome bureaucracy was given as a reward to returned war heroes. The Han’s bureaucrats, the Shi, were trained in the Confucian ways. This made the officials more reliable and prone to do the right thing. The Shi were also taught to embody the law and enforce it in the state. This method of “lead by example” helped citizens strive to do their best.
If the citizens were all hoping to be a better man, the society as a whole would be a better place. The Han’s bureaucrats were ran more on a basis of trust in their behavior than the Roman’s. This method of trust in the bureaucrats was heavily supported by the Confucian teachings and their training in becoming better men. In Imperial Rome, bureaucracy was given to returned warriors. Rome hoped that by rewarding good soldiers there would be more desire to go fight in a war and succeed.
These bureaucrats enforced the laws rather than embodying them. They weren’t reliable, but were forceful enough to get the job done by using fear to make the citizens behave and do as the laws said. The bureaucracy was given to the returned war heroes as a reward for their accomplishments in battles. This gave soldiers more desire to fight and do well in wars so that when they returned they would be honored for their accomplishments. The Han relied more on trust to carry out their political control than Imperial Rome did.
The Hans trained their bureaucrats to make them more trustworthy and faithful to their ruler. However, Rome used their successful soldiers because they fought in many wars; they needed motivation for their soldiers to go be successful and to fight bravely and honorably. While both civilizations had slaves, Han China didn’t rely greatly on their slaves; however in Imperial Rome slaves were a critical and indispensable part of the society. In Chinese societies slaves were used mostly for at home chores such as cooking, cleaning, or going shopping.
Even without slaves performing these domestic tasks, the Han could’ve survived. Also, slaves in China were treated less harshly than those in Rome. The slaves in China were allowed to refuse certain tasks that were not included in their contract when they first signed to their owner without fearing a severe beating. Lastly, China had an overall more lenient view on their slaves. The owners in Han were not as strict or cruel. However in Imperial Rome, slaves were mostly captured war prisoners who were being punished.
This led to harsh punishment of the slaves to make sure they behaved and did as told. Slaves began doing a majority of the physical labor in Imperial Rome which made them an asset to the Roman society. If Rome were to lose their slaves, the economy would crumble and the empire would fall. Finally, some Roman slaves were given high titles, such as lawyers or doctors. So to lose these slaves would be to lost tons of profit. Both societies used slaves, but Imperial Rome was much more reliant on their slaves than Han China was.
The Hans didn’t rely on slaves much because they knew that they weren’t reliable and if they kept a strong hold on them they would rebel and cause the fall of the empire. However, Rome used the method of scaring their slaves into doing the right thing. If the slaves feared a brutal beating they would be sure to make the right decisions and follow directions. In both Han China and Imperial Rome government structure was used to help exercise political control, however they differed on their organization of bureaucracy and their reliance on slavery.
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