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Rome vs. Han China Essay

Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that began growing on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century B. C. E. It became one of the largest empires in the world, contributing greatly to government, politics, art, literature, architecture, warfare techniques, and social structures in the western world. The Han Dynasty was an age of great economic, technological, cultural, and social progress in China. It promoted Confucian ideas that set up a legal system lasting for 2000 years.

The Romans emphasized family with pater familias, promoted commercial agriculture and manufactured goods, and honored a great number of deities and gods. Han peoples emphasized on family ancestors, operated the silk roads to facilitate trade, and relied heavily on the teachings of Confucius. Both were dominated by patriarchy and reverence for fathers, emphasized military ventures, and were exposed to new religions late in the Classical Period (Buddhism in China, Christianity in Rome). In Rome, the pater familias headed the family and had near total power over his relatives.

Men and women of wealth in the Roman Empire acted as supporters to people of the lower classes. The wealthy made generous distributions of food and entertainment. Likewise, in Han China, the base of society was made up of a free peasantry who owned and worked their own land. Peasants were honored for their productivity, poor farmers and laborers lived frugal lives, and at the bottom of society resided criminals and slaves. Agriculture and manufactured and mined goods became heavily incorporated in Rome and the Mediterranean basin.

The Romans also built an unprecedented number of roads, coordinated road networks with sea routes, and facilitated trade with the mass production of coinage. A massive agrarian base provided the Han state with revenue as well as growth in silk and iron production. The state also established monopolies in salt, iron, and wine to fund military campaigns. Religion was in the hands of state officials in Rome; they instituted and maintained the support of a wide variety of religious cults. Romans participated in festivals, offered sacrifices and offerings, and created religious practices in the home.

Romans made Christianity illegal at first because Christians did not worship the emperor. Persecutions were sporadic, usually didn’t last long, and were not uniformly carried out throughout the empire. The Roman emperor Constantine employed The Edict of Milan which legalized the faith. By the late third century, Christian communities flourished throughout the Roman empire. The Han used Confucian thought as the primary foundation for the empire. Not only were local elites expected to be supported, but the people were also expected to be civilized.

By 100 B. C. E., the Confucian ideals of honor, tradition, respecting the lessons of history, and emphasizing the emperor’s responsibility to heaven became the official policies of the empire. By implementing Confucian ideas, the Han established a policy that created a careful balance between the emperor and his officials and authorities to criticize bad government and even to accuse corrupt leaders. Although these empires instituted political and religious procedures differently, they share many of the same economic and social structure policies. Many religious practices from Rome and Han China contribute to modern society.


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