Since the beginning of human history, many great empires had been emerged on the face of earth, rose to its zenith and finally fell down and disintegrated to pave the way for the rise of another empire; this ebb and flow is the fundamental part of human history. This paper gives a comparison and contrast of Roman and Han Empires. It also discusses the similarities and differences of their rise and fall, factors responsible for their unification and finally the factors responsible for their disintegration. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
The Roman Empire
Roman Empire was one of the most powerful empires of medieval times. It ruled the area between British Isles to modern day Iraq for almost 5 centuries. Roman Empire was formerly established when Augustus brought peace to the area by ending a hundred years old civil war. The empire experienced peace and prosperity under the dictatorship of Augustus. Trade and commerce had enhanced in his era as he also emphasized on building proper infrastructure for that. However, his predecessors were not as able and politically gifted as Augustus and thus, after 54 years of Augustus, the empire again indulged into a civil war. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
After a violent civil war and a number of coups, Vespasian had emerged as a founder of new line of rulers. Roman Empire was at its summit during that era and this was called as the golden age of Roman Empire by many historians. This golden age was finally ended when Commodus was throned as emperor of Roman Empire. He had indulged in violent and immoral practices which had shaken the very foundations of the empire. Commodus was assassinated in 192 A.D. but the bloodshed, mismanagement and violent practices had continued and became the norm of daily life except for a relatively stable period, i.e. 284 A. D. to 305 A. D. when emperor Diocletian had ruled the empire.
Diocletian was an able ruler who realized that, under such circumstances, it was not possible for a single man to accomplish the loyalties of all the armies and to coordinate a solid defence against the barbarians as well. He, therefore, divided the Rome on Eastern and Western Parts. Constantine was reunited these parts for a brief period but his son Theodosius I, before dying in 395 A. D., again divided Rome in eastern and Western parts and gave them to his two sons. The western wing became weaker by the passage of time and in 476 A. D. Western Roman Empire was officially ended. Nevertheless, Eastern Roman Empire remained prosperous and peaceful for almost one thousand years after that and finally ended by the Ottomans in 1453.
The regions which were controlled by the Roman Empire were entirely different from each other and there is no chance for these regions to be amalgamated under one ruler if they were not forced to do so. Similarly, they were not remained united if the rulers of Roman Empire did not build proper institutions for holding them together. For this purpose, the Roman Empire’s rulers had used several unifying factors and institutions.
The large portion of the population of Roman Empire lived within easy reach of Mediterranean Sea. The government, for easy communication between different parts of the empire, promoted and protected the sea trade. For this purpose, government had built light houses, sheltered harbors and free from Pirates Sea. Romans had also built a network of Canals to extend the water routes, and also used these canals for drainage purposes. A system of roads and bridges was also constructed to manage and knit together the complex water routes. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
Roman rulers knew that their army was engaged in combats only 10 percent of time. So they started using army for building, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. This not only made the movement of army swifter but also had made it possible for Roman Empire to reduce the size of their army.
The highest power belonged to the emperor who was considered as god. The execution of emperor’s wills was the function of the bureaucracy, which was, although small in number, but highly proficient in its working. However, emperor was a distant figure from common Roman’s life. Common people only knew the members of bureaucracy who were responsible for implementing the laws and rules of government.
Roman Empire had well-developed uniform and written laws, uniform system of weights and measures and uniform currency which helped the government and bureaucracy to implement the uniform laws.
Roman Empire had made their armies as productive as it can. When the army was not engaged in combat or in training it worked for brick factories, iron and lead smelters or various other enterprises.
Army recruited people from local population and these recruits were usually from poor and illiterate families. Army had groomed them and taught them how to dress properly, how to speak Latin and also taught them at least one trade. Army had also instilled in them the greatness and majesty of Roman Empire. This was the factor which had united the army at the time even when the corruption and disorder had prevailed in the whole Roman Society.
Culture of any society based on its language. According to the scholars our unconscious language habits shape our perception of the world. In other words, depending on a language’s rules and structures, some thoughts or statements become more manageable or natural than others.
Romans had adopted Latin as a common language. They had also spread a common literature, architecture and art throughout the empire. This practice had abolished cultural differences between people and they had lived in complete peace, harmony and synchronization. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
The Han Empire
The Han Empire started in 206 B.C when liu Bang, who was the prince of Han, had defeated the Qin army in the Wei valley. This defeat was a part of the much larger upheaval that started after the death of the first emperor. Many of the people were not satisfied with the oppression of the Qin leaders.
Even though the customary Chinese history shows that the Han Empire implemented many changes in the government, the Han Empire also continued to conquer in the tradition of the Qin, and had over the time incorporated Confucian concepts in their legalist type of government.
Their adoption of Confucian concepts led to the economic development, developing relationships with the people of the steppes, amplification of the palace at the cost of the civil service, deteriorating of the country’s hold on the peasantry, and the advancement of the rich families.
Similarly, like the Qins, the main aim of the Han having a unified China. This aim resulted in the ultimate breaking up of the Fiefs and the collapse of the regal decency. This process was finally finished during the time of Wu Ti’s reign, which was from 141 to 187 B.C. His time in power was a time of great military development. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
He expanded the borders to Korea and Vietnam and moved further towards the Hsiung nu, which was in the southern part of Gobi. Wu Ti brought around two million people to the northwest part to help in the colonization of such places.
This expansion also led in trading with people in the inner most part of Asia. Subsequently, the Silk Road was made. The Silk Road actually had more than one way from the mountains that the traders could go from. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
Agriculture also grew with the growth of better technology. Iron tools were made of a much higher quality, and oxen haggard ploughs were mostly utilized. Irrigation systems were increased to help in the development of the areas in the northern part of China. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
Crop rotation was also carried out in 85 B.C. the country at that time wanted to control the production or output of salt and iron; these were the two biggest sectors contributing to their country’s economy.
The Han Empire actually had two separate dynasties. It is known as one empire by the Chinese as the second empire was found by a member of the person who was part of the Han dynasty; he stated that he had restored strength than the emperor. The families joined with each other by marriages and were accountable for selecting the officials.
Comparison between the two empires
The basic make up of the government and the supporting philosophy behind that structure of the roman and Han Empire has remained unchanged till now. However, Political institutions made under the Han were relatively steady in the Chinese Empire than the Han Empire.
The Roman Empire during the principatecould be considered a culturally and politically united Empire, however, the way in which this unification was attained was not enough to guarantee the persistence that was seen in Han Empire.
There were similarities between the two empires, both wanted to have a unified country, however, both of the country’s economy had crashed.
The Roman Empire as it existed in the principate collapsed and was quickly replaced with an Empire that called themselves Roam but it did not have the characteristics that had been so important in the partake. Political institutions and the way the conduct had changed and the concepts provided legality to the emperor had also changed, especially with the sunrise of Christianity religion. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
Both of the empires controlled the provinces of around four million kilometers square and had populations of about sixty million people. Both of these empires did not have the goal of expanding their territory, instead they wanted to merge their borders and create a sense of unity among them.
Handling an empire of this large size needs a lot of political resourcefulness to keep the empire united for a long time and different people in these empires must also be kept in control. At the peak, both of the states were made up of large types of administrative districts, encompassing centers of various tribes, states and kingdoms, large urbanized centers in the Roman Empire and mainly controlled commanders in the Han Empire.
Uniformity in a culture can be shown throw common languages known, concepts and habits, unity in political matters by measures, currency and law.
These have been the important factors responsible for the creation of unity for many of the earliest states. This kind of uniformity is also found in Han Empire, but not in the Roman Empire. (Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)
Bentley ,Jerry H. & Ziegler, Herbert F., Traditions and Encounters, v. I, 4th ed., Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008
(Bentley & Zeigler, 2008)