Rome’s location contributed to its success in unifying Italy and all the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Agriculture was essential to Rome and was the source of most wealth. Social status, political privilege, and fundamental values were related to land ownership. The heads of families who were able to acquire a large profit of land were members of the Senate—“Council of Elders” that played a central role in Roman politics. The Republic was not a democracy in the modern sense. In Rome, the votes of the wealthy classes counted for more than the votes of poor citizens. Individuals of separate classes came together in ties of obligation, such as the patron/client relationship.
Rome’s success in creating a huge empire released forces that eventually destroyed the Republican system of government. Octavian eliminated all enemies and reconstructed the Roman system of government. This period following the Republic is called the Principate. Augustus, one of the many names given to Octavian, became the name by which he is best known. Augustus’s understanding of human nature enabled him to manipulate Roman society. During his reign Egypt, parts of the Middle East, and Central Europe were added to the empire. Augustus had allied himself with the equites; Italian merchants and landowners second in wealth and social status. They helped run the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire of the first three centuries was an “urban” empire. Trade was greatly enhanced by the pax romana guaranteed by the Romans. Romanization—the spread of the Latin language and Roman way of life—was strongest in the western provinces.
During this period of tranquility and success, many waited for the arrival of “the Messiah,” or Jesus, a young Jew. Paul, a Jew from the Greek city of Tarsus in southeast Anatolia, threw his talent and energy into spreading the word of Jesus. Surviving pieces of roads, walls, aqueducts and buildings are evidence of the engineering expertise of the ancient Romans. The third century crisis, or political, military, and economic chaos that plagued the Roman Empire during much of the third century C.E. included frequent changes of ruler, civil wars, invasions, decline of urban centers, and near- destruction of long distance trade and economy.
Diocletian restored order by making fundamental changes. When he resigned, men battled for the throne, coming to the conclusion of Constantine, who reunited the entire empire entirely by himself. The Shang and Zhou dynasties ruled over a small zone in northeastern China. The Warring States Period saw hostilities among small groups of states with differing languages and cultures. The Qin quickly conquered its rivals and created China’s first empire, however, it barely survived the death of Shi Huangdi. Power then passed to a new dynasty, the Han.
Thus began the long history of imperial China. The threat to their way of life created by the Chinese invasion caused the creation of the Xiongnu Confederacy. Gaozu, the new emperor of the Han courted popularity and consolidated their rule by bringing back many Qin laws. We know much about the personality and policies of Wu because of Sima Qian, chief astrologer. Chang’an City became the capital of the Qin and early Han Empires. China had many gentry who shared a common Confucian culture and ideology. With the fall of the Han, China entered a period of political fragmentation that lasted until the rise of the Sui and Tang dynasties in the late sixth and early seventh centuries c.e. Many Chinese migrated south into the Yangzi Valley, and the center of gravity of both the population and Chinese culture shifted to the south.
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