This Is the Best Day of My Life Essay
This Is the Best Day of My Life
1. How did geography and the environment impact the Persians? The harsh terrain in the area of modern Iran made it very difficult for humans to survive and find water sources. The arid climate meant more work for agriculture and agricultural surplus was very rare. Organizing the building of underground irrigation channels for agriculture required a strong central government. The connection between royal authority and prosperity can be seen in the ideology of the first Persian Empire. (p. 100, 102).
2. How did Persia rise from nomadic roots to become the largest land empire the world had ever seen? Persia’s rise to power began with the marriage between a Persian and a Median. Cyrus, the son of a powerful Persian chief, married a Median princess. The Medes had been the first to achieve a complex political organization in Central Asia near western Iran. The Persians eventually overthrew the Median monarch but maintained the framework of the Median government. In Persian society the warrior was dominant. Over the course of two decades the Persian rulers and their armies redrew the map of western Asia from Anatolia to Mesopotamia and as far as the Indus region. Cyrus and his successors used the traditions of the local people and the creation of a new organizational structure to maintain control of their empire. (103-104)
3. Describe the family and social structure in the Persian Empire. They had occupational and social classes. There were the warriors, priests, and peasants. The warriors were the aristocrats who enjoyed fighting, hunting, and gardening. The priests were the specialists in rituals and sacrifice, and the peasants were the working class, common people. The king and the royal family were at the top of the society. The king had several wives. Both Greek and Persian sources reveal that Persian elite women were politically powerful, possessed a good bit of property, traveled and were prominent on public occasions.(p. 104,105).
4. How were the complex tasks of administration managed in the Persian Empire? The central administration was based in Elam and Mesopotamia. Trained administrators and scribes were used by the kings. Records indicate government officials distributed food and other essentials to large numbers
of workers. The empire was also divided into 12 provinces, each with its’ own governor(satrap) and court. All these provinces were connected to the empire by well- maintained and patrolled roads. A body of law was written during the reign of Darius, but conquered people were allowed to live with their own traditions and laws. This shows the decentralized character of the Persian Empire. (p. 104, 105).
5. Describe Persian religious beliefs during the height of the Persian Empire. Persians believed the empire stood on the will of god and believed the rulers were given a mandate to bring order to a world of turmoil. This comes from, Zoroastrianism a religion created by Zoroaster who taught that Ahuramazda created the world. Angra Mainyu and demons threatened that world. The struggle between good and evil would end in a great fight and good would prevail. People would be rewarded or punished in the afterlife for their actions. Along with following Zoroastrianism they respected nature and venerated beneficial elements like water and fire. They believed the body soul should always be pure, therefore telling the truth and keeping promises was very important to them. (p. 109).
6. What impact did geography or the environment have on Greek civilization? Greece was relatively resource-poor. The rough landscape of central and southern Greece, with small plains separated by ranges of mountains and the many island in the Aegean favored the rise of hundreds of small, independent communities. Because of the limited natural resources of this region, the Greeks had to resort to sea travel and trade with other lands in the Mediterranean. The terrain and climate made it easier for the Greeks to migrate to nearby areas because similar living conditions meant similar cultural practices and way of living so it made it easier for people to get along and adapt to the new place (p. 109-111).
7. What brought Greece out of its isolation and “Dark Age,” and inaugurated the “Archaic” period of Greek history? Explain. The “Dark Age” had seen Greece isolated from the rest of the world. By 800 B.C.E. Phoenician ships began to reestablish contact between the Aegean and the Middle East. This set the Greeks off in search of raw materials, trade and farmland. The Phoenicians also introduced the Greeks to their writing system through which helped the Greek civilization prosper. (p. 111- 112).
8. Describe the cause and effect of Greek colonization.
The growing population caused Greeks to colonize and spread which gave them the opportunity to spread their culture. As a result people were able to experience a new writing system, culture, and form of art that the Greeks had developed; and it also allowed the Greeks to become aware of the things that bound them together with other people and introduced them new ideas and technology such as the invention of coins from Lydia. This allowed for rapid exchanges of goods, better record keeping and storage of wealth. The reduction of surplus population by colonization helped relieve pressures within Greece and laid the foundation for new economic, social, cultural and political ideas, (p. 112-114).
9. Explain the evolution of political systems in the Greek city-states? Invention of coins was a significant development; this started trade and increased wealth. Increasing prosperity and the growth of a middle class in Archaic Greek society led to the emergence in the mid-seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. of one-man rule by tyrants, who reduced the power of traditional elites. The tyrants were eventually ejected, and government developed in one of two directions: oligarchy or democracy. (p. 114).
10. What part did religion play in the Greek states?
Greek religion involved the worship of human like sky gods, many of which represented forces of nature. These gods were worshiped at state ceremonies. Sacrifice was a central part of religious practice and helped to create a sense of community. In addition, Greeks sought advice from oracles such as the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and also revered female fertility deities.(p 114-115)
11. How were Sparta and Athens different? Alike?
Although Sparta and Athens had similar environmental and cultural backgrounds, they developed differently. Sparta was a polis located in the Peloponnesus in southern Greece. The Spartans conquered the area of Messina for its fertile land and enslaved its population. Because the number of slaves outnumbered the Spartans, they became a military society. Sparta did not participate in the economic, political and cultural renaissance taking place in the rest of Greece. They were forbidden to engage in commerce. Women had more rights or a higher place in society in Sparta than Athens. Athens was located only 5 miles from the sea in the area known as Attica. It had a large population compared to Sparta and other Greek city-states. Because of its location it was more deeply involved in commerce. During the Archaic period it evolved from a government of a small group of aristocratic families to rule by tyrant and eventually a democracy.(p 116,117, 121)
12. What brought the Greek city-states and the Persian Empire into conflict? In 499 B.C.E., the Greek cities of Anatolia, aided by Eretria and Athens, staged a five-year revolt (the Ionian revolt) against Persian rule. Because of the aid given by Greek city-states the Persians were angered. This led to the Persian Wars—two Persian attacks on Greece. (118)
13. Who were the three great Greek philosophers? Describe their philosophies or accomplishments. The three great Greek philosophers were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The two most influential philosophers of the Classical period were Socrates and Plato. Socrates turned the focus of philosophy to ethics, probed the precise meaning of words, and created the Socratic method of question and answer. He was tried on charges of corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods of the city and sentenced to death. Socrates’ disciple, Plato, wrote dialogs exploring concepts such as justice, excellence, and wisdom.
Plato taught that the world as we see it is a pale reflection of a higher, ideal reality. Plato’s intellectual activity is representative of the transition from oral to written culture: Plato read and wrote books, and he founded a school, the Academy. Aristotle was pupil of Plato and Alexander’s teacher. He set up his own school the Lyceum. He sought to collect and categorize a vast array of knowledge. He lectured and wrote about politics, philosophy, ethics, logic, poetry, rhetoric, physics, astronomy, meteorology, zoology, and psychology. (120)
14. How were slaves treated in the Greek city-states? Women? Slaves were mostly foreign, accounted for one-third of the population, and were regarded as property. The average Athenian family owned one or more slaves who were treated like domestic servants. Slaves provided male citizens with the leisure for political activity. The position of women varied in different Greek communities. In Sparta, women were relatively free and outspoken. In Athens, women were more confined and oppressed. Athenian marriages were unequal, arranged unions of younger women to older men. The duties of a wife were to produce and raise children (especially sons), to weave cloth, and to cook and clean. (121)
15. What led to the Peloponnesian War and what was the outcome? The Peloponnesian war broke out because of the emergence of Athens as an imperial power which eventually led to suspicions and hostilities between previous allies. It was mainly between Athens and Sparta. As a result of this war, the Spartans won and took over all overseas Greek empire. Eventually the weakening of the Greek city-states because of this war led to the takeover by the Macedonians from the north. (p. 124).
16. How did cultural synthesis develop during the Hellenistic Age? After Alexander the Great died the Greeks divided into kingdoms. The Seleucids (largest in western Asia- founded Greek- style cities), the Ptolemies (encouraged Greek immigration) and the Antigonids (ruled Macedonia). In all the Hellenistic states, ambitious members of the populations learned the Greek language and adopted elements of the Greek way of life. In the Hellenistic Age there was a spontaneous synthesis of Greek and indigenous ways. With little official planning or blessing, coming for the most part from the day to day experiences and actions of ordinary people, a great multicultural experiment unfolded as Greek and Meddle Eastern cultural traits clashed and merged. (p. 125- 129).
CHAPTER 5: An Age of Empires: Rome and Han China, 753 B.C.E. – 600 C.E., pages 134 – 161 1. How did Rome’s location contribute to its success?
Rome was a crossroads not only of Italy but the Mediterranean. This location contributed to its’ success in unifying Italy. Rome also had the Tiber River on one side and double ring of seven hills on the other to act as its natural barriers to invaders. Rome and Italy had many navigable rivers, a mild climate suitable for many crops, and natural resources like iron and timber. All of these favorable conditions sustained a much larger population than Greece. (p. 136).
2. What was the essential economic activity in the early Roman state? Explain. Since social status, values, and political privileges were based on landownership, agriculture was the dominant economic activity. Most Romans were independent farmers and few had large amounts of land, and those were the people who would be chosen to be a member of the senate (p. 136).
3. Although the early Roman state was a republic it was not a democracy. Explain. Sovereign power resided in several assemblies and while all male citizens were eligible to attend, the votes of the wealthy classes counted for more than the votes of poor citizens. And in the Senate (a “self- perpetuating body”) the Senators would just nominate their own sons to take the seat, and fill in vacancies with former officials, this didn’t give everyone the equal amount of chance to be involved. The centers of political power were the two consuls and the Senate. In practice, the Senate made laws and governed.(p. 139).
4. Describe the organization of society and the importance of family in the Roman state. The two main classes were the patricians(elite) and plebeians(the majority of the population). The Roman family was the basic unit of Roman society. The Roman family consisted of several generations of family plus domestic slaves, living under the absolute authority of the oldest living male, the paterfamilias. Society was hierarchical. Families and individuals were tied together by patron/client relationships that institutionalized inequality and gave both sides of the relationship reason to cooperate and to support the status quo.
Roman women had relatively more freedom than Greek women, but their legal status was still that of a child, subordinate to the paterfamilias of their own or their husband’s family. Eventually procedures evolved that made it possible for some women to become independent after the death of their fathers. (139-140)
5. Trace the Roman political system from the Republic to the Principate. The Republican government consisted of a Senate and two consuls. As Rome expanded, the social and economic bases of the Roman republic in Italy were undermined. As the independent farming family that had been the traditional source of soldiers disappeared, Roman commanders built their armies from men from the underclass who tended to give their loyalty, not to the Roman state, but to their commander. This led to generals taking control of politics, to civil wars, and finally to the end of the republican system of government.
Julius Caesar’s grandnephew Octavian (also known as Augustus) took power in 31 B.C.E., reorganized the Roman government, and ruled as a military dictator. He created a paid civil service from a class of wealthy merchants and landowners to manage the growing empire. After Augustus died, several members of his family succeeded him. However, the position of emperor was not necessarily hereditary; in the end, armies chose emperors. Rather than laws developing through a senate and assemblies, as it had during the Republic, the emperor became a major source of laws during the Principate. (139-144)
6. How was the Roman Empire an urban empire?
About 80 percent of the 50 to 60 million people of the Roman Empire were rural farmers, but the empire was administered through and for a network of cities and towns. In this sense, it was an urban empire. Rome had about a million residents, other large cities (Alexandria, Antioch, and Carthage) had several hundred thousand each, while many Roman towns had populations of several thousand. (p 144)
7. Describe the impact of technology on the Roman Empire?
The Romans were expert military and civil engineers. Among their accomplishments were bridge-building, ballistic weapons, elevated and underground aqueducts, the use of arches and domes, and the invention of concrete. The impact of this technology can be seen in the expansion of the empire and the spread of their civilization. (147)
8. What was the importance of trade to the Roman Empire?
Manufacture and trade flourished under the pax romana. Grain had to be imported to feed the huge city of Rome. Rome and the Italian towns (and later, provincial centers) exported glass, metalwork, pottery, and other manufactures to the provinces. Romans also imported Chinese silk and Indian and Arabian spices. One of the effects of this trade was Romanization. In the western part of the Empire, the Latin language, Roman clothing, and the Roman lifestyle were adopted by local people; and indigenous cultures had an effect on Rome through cultural interaction. (p145)
9. What factors brought about the decline of the Roman Empire? The state system constructed by Augustus worked well until what historians call Rome’s third-century crisis. The symptoms of this crisis were frequent change of rulers, raids by German tribesmen from across the Rhine-Danube frontier, and the rise of regional power when Rome seemed unable to guarantee security. Rome’s economy was undermined by the high cost of defense, debasement of the currency and consequent inflation, a disruption of trade, reversion to a barter economy, disappearance of the municipal aristocracy of the provincial cities, and a movement of population out of the cities and back into the rural areas.(147-150)
10. How did China become an empire under the Han?
Confrontation with the Xiongnu confederacy nomads of the north revealed the inadequacy of Han troops, leading Gaozu to develop a policy of appeasement, buying them off with annual gifts. The Han went through a period of territorial expansion under Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 B.C.E.) who increased the power of the emperor. During his rule, he expanded the empire into areas as far as northern Vietnam, Manchuria, and North Korea. Instead of appeasing the Xiongnu, he built his military to fight the northern nomads.Wu’s reign saw the expansion of Chinese territory into the northwest and the foundations of the Silk Road. Walls and forts were built on the frontier. (155-156)
11. What was the social organization in Han China?
The family was the basic unit of society which even included ancestors. Chinese society believed that a hierarchy in the family, dominated by the elder male, reflected a hierarchy in society, dominated by rulers, with interdependent relationships more important than the individual. (Confucianism) The status and authority of women depended upon their social status. Women of the royal family could have some political influence. A young wife was expected to be obedient and recognize her mother-in-law. The emperor and the royal family were at the top of society. The elite lived in elegant multistoried houses and lived a good life with everything they could want.
The common people lived in closely packed houses in largely unplanned, winding alleys. Local officials were supplied by a class of moderately wealthy, educated local landowners called the gentry. The gentry adopted Confucianism as their ideology and pursued careers in the civil service, most often paying to have their sons trained in the same profession. Merchant families also tended to be based in cities. (157)
12. How did technology and trade help the spread of Chinese civilization? Relative to technological innovations, the Han era saw the development of the watermill, a usable horse collar, paper, horse breeding to supply cavalry forces, and a reliable crossbow trigger. These inventions led to the success of the Han armies and the expansion of the empire. The Han also built thousands of miles of roads to facilitate army movement and a network of canals connecting northern and southern river systems. These improvements helped spread Chinese civilization. (157-158)
13. What brought about the decline of the Han Empire?
The Han Empire was undermined by a number of factors. First, the imperial court was plagued by weak leadership and court intrigue. Second, nobles and merchants built up large landholdings at the expense of the small farmers, and peasants sought tax relief, reducing revenues for the empire. Third, the system of military conscription broke down and the central government had to rely on mercenaries whose loyalty was questionable. These factors, compounded by factionalism at court, official corruption, peasant uprisings, and nomadic attacks, led to the fall of the dynasty in 220 C.E. China entered a period of political fragmentation that lasted until the late sixth century. (158)
14. What were the most important similarities and differences between these
two empires? Similarities:
The Han and Roman Empires were similar agriculture being their fundamental economic activity. Both empires received revenue from a percentage of the annual harvests. And both empires strengthened their central rule by breaking the power of old aristocratic families, reducing their land holdings. Both empires saw their authority eroding at the end of their reigns by the reversal of this process. Both empires faced similar problems of defense: long borders located far from the administrative center, aggressive neighbors. They built walls and maintained a chain of forts and garrisons. The cost of defense caused economic problems. The empires became dependent on their military. Ordinary citizens felt the burden of the demand for services and taxes. Both empires lost the loyalty of the people. Both empires were weakened by invasion. The invaders or immigrant groups tried to maintain the imperial culture. Differences
In China, the imperial model was revived and the territory of the Han Empire re-unified. The former Roman Empire was never again reconstituted. Differences between China and the Roman world can be located in the concept of the individual, the greater degree of economic mobility for the middle classes in Rome than in Han China, the make-up and hierarchy of their armies, and the different political ideologies and religions of the two empires. (159-160)