The Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty

The Roman Principate and the Han dynasty were two very competent empires that left lasting influences in the areas of their expansion, even following their demise. Despite this congruence in basic political structure and social arrangements, the two empires varied in concepts such as religion, center of power, and military significance. This compelling unity, nevertheless, revived for the Chinese years later, but unfortunately never remerged for the Romans.

In order to have had an empire, of course, both civilizations had very strong and autocratic central governments. This allowed for a powerful and an ever-expanding kingdom. This expansionary military needed a way to travel, thus was the reason for creating a road system. The basic foundation for the military and government may appear to be similar on the surface, but they actually were quite different. The Roman army, for one, was a more experienced and privileged group of men who held higher ranks in the class system. These men, along with the senate also played a vital role in the picking of an emperor and maintained a great deal of loyalty to him. The senate was typically the center of power for the Roman Empire, anyway. In the Han dynasty, however, the ruler was hereditary and he had to appeal, persuade, and even threaten to achieve agreement with him. The military was certainly less loyal and less likely to struggle for power, mostly due to the fact that the soldiers were newly drafted and had little experience. China had two capital cities, Luoyang in the east, and Chang’an in the West, that served as seats of power for emporers. The middle class was free from government constraints in Rome, which allowed for economic mobility. This was not the case for the Han as the merchant class¬†was¬†restricted by the government. The imperial model of these two societies managed only to revive in China some years later; however, the same cannot be stated for Rome.

Ultimately, the two empires were agriculturally based with homogenous cities and diverse peoples living in the surrounding regions. Rome was even considered an urban empire because rule was from the cities, in spite of having over eighty percent dedicated to agriculture. The cultures had very different attitudes concerning the state and family, though. The hierarchy, strengthened by Confucius thought, was emphasized in China as compared to Rome. The family, with a good deal of deference for ancestors and respect for authority, was a significant model for society and the state. In Rome, the cult of ancestors and the family was not a model for society. There, in truth, was never a definite ideology of political organization for the state and its rulers to abide by. This may explain why there was never a reemergence of the Roman imperial model.

Religion was perhaps the prime distinction between the two nations. While the Han appeared to benefit from the doctrines of Confucius, Christianity appealed to the Romans, but after its acceptance from Constantine. After Constantine’s revelation with Christianity, he ended the persecution of Christians and nearly converted the entire empire to these beliefs. It is unknown whether Constantine actually accepted Christianity, but he supported the church as did numerous succeeding rulers. This religion eventually influenced many decisions and beliefs of future rulers of Rome. It more specifically appealed to the lower classes such as women, slaves, and the poor. Buddhism, a heresy to Confucius idea, was just emerging in China and did not grasp the majority until the post-Han era.


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