Comparing/Contrasting Rome to Han China

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Comparing/Contrasting
Imperial Rome to Han
China
Similarities & Differences
Using your SPECTS
The Basics:
 Han = 206 BCE – 220
CE
 Roman Empire 27 BCE –
476 CE
 Both lasted approx 400
years
 Both had populations of
50 million
 Similar size territory
Geography
 Rome had a large “inland” sea (Mediterranean) for ease of
trade and travel. Well constructed roads made land travel
and communication possible.
 China was a land based empire. River travel, canals, roads
had to be built and maintained for transportation and
communication.
 Territorial size of both was approx. 2.5 million at their peak
 Territorial size of Rome was ultimately restricted by deserts
(N. Africa/Middle East) and European mountains (Alps)
 Han’s territorial size was limited by the Tibetan Plateau,
western deserts (Gobi, Taklimakan), mountains (Himalayas,
Tian Shan)
Origins
 Han built off precedents
of many previous
dynasties Shang, Xhou,
Qin
 Rome built an empire
“more from scratch”;
some based on Greeks
 Imperialism
 Both were imperialistic but Rome far more so
 Militarism
 Both were threatened by nomadic invaders. Conquered
territories under imperial control.
 Rome paid it’s soldiers with conquered land and captured
wealth. Resulted in greater incentive to use military.
Constantly sought to expand. Local leaders often remained
in control under Roman supervision.
Economic
 Both economies were based on agriculture
 Land was highly valued
 Governments imposed taxes for revenue
 Both standardized weights and measures, monopolized key resources
i.e. salt, iron
 China relied on peasants to do labor
 Rome relied on slave labor (captives from war) up to 1/3 of pop.
 Wealth more concentrated in small landowning population. Forced
peasants to live in urban areas. Need for slave labor on latifundia.
Technology
 Road building important to both. Roman roads were marvels of
engineering. Facilitated trade, travel, military travel
 Roman aqueducts, for irrigation, water delivery
 Roman construction/architecture = monumental, grandeur
 Chinese construction/architecture = practical, defensive,
transportation
Political
 China
 Confucianism,
Mandate of Heaven,
Civil Service Exam
(some social
mobility), emphasize
homogeneous culture
Ritual ancestor
veneration,
ceremonial,
educated
gentleman class
(Junzi), Ren, Li,
Xiao
Rome
Less centralized, built by overlaying
Roman law over local rulers and laws
Rome prided itself on establishing
peace and rule of law through
expansion
Venerated emperors “cult of worship”
Culture
 China
Focused on homogeneous culture building
largely through Confucianism, promoting
ethnically Han language, sending out
bureaucratic officials to enforce
 Rome
Looser, more diverse, cosmopolitan
More local autonomy, local leadership, greater
diversity of language
Roman citizenship granted common rights
Culture
 Patriarchal
Eldest male/father most respected,
authoritative
China: family was model of gov’t
organization i.e. emperor was “father” –
Confucian ideology
Rome – emperor is not viewed as father
figure; he is a god
 Paterfamilias
Religion
 Outside religion moves into each region
 China = Buddhism in later Han
 Rome = Christianity
 In both places the new religion is not officially
welcomed. Through syncretism both gain mass
conversions and official acceptance
 Both are salvation religions i.e. seek to eternal life,
heaven, nirvana etc…
Decline of Empires
Rome and China
Threatened by outside invasions of nomadic
(aka barbarian) forces related to the Huns
Both are weakened from overexpansion =
borders are too long/too expensive to
defend
Weakness signals to citizens decay
China “right to rebel”
Rome - loss of support for Roman empire
Differences in Decline
 Rome = civilization and institutions
collapse
Loss of Latin language = rise of
vernacular
Loss of Roman numerals and measures
Loss of basis for legal culture
 China
Although government falls, language,
culture, institutions will remain or be
revived

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