1. How did Persian and Greek civilizations differ in their political organization and values? Persian and Greek civilizations differed in their political organization and values in a plethora of ways. Firstly, the Persian Empire was a large and powerful chunk of land run by one all-powerful monarch, while Greek civilizations were individual city-states governed by separate rulers. Secondly, the Persian empire prided themselves in participating and absorbing pieces of culture from the civilization they conquered; wearing clothes from Medes, dawning Egyptian breastplates in battle, and supporting all religions (and cults). They wanted to gain the favor of the people by accepting their customs, not by giving them a political voice. Meanwhile, in Greek Civilizations, neighboring city-states were frequently at war with one another, but they all shared a common ground of language and religion. The people in Greek civilizations were showed favoritism in their ability to voice their political opinions. Many Greek city-states, particularly Athens, were run as democracies (excluding the participation of women and slaves), which allowed for all men (rich or poor) to participate in political assemblies and decisions, unlike the iron fist approach to ruling (as seen in the Persian Empire). Finally, the Persian Empire was far larger than the Greeks because of how they acquired it. The Persian Empire gained its vast dominance by conquering and controlling civilizations, while Greek civilizations expanded as farmers and traders deliberately settled into places they felt could better sustain their trade (iron) and crops.
2. Why did semi-democratic governments emerge in some of the Greek city-states? Semi-democratic governments emerged in some of the Greek city-states because of the increasing numbers of men able to afford the means of citizenship. During the beginning of Greek civilizations, only wealthy men were fully considered “citizens” (they had the power to vote, go to political assemblies, fight in the army, and hold public office). However, as more middle class men (and some farmers) began purchasing the weapons and armor necessary for the army, they too began gaining citizenship. In addition to common people taking action, leaders known as tyrants occasionally arose within city-states with the intent to support the lower class and challenge the previously unquestioned privileges of the upper class. An extreme product of these tyrant rulers is the democratic system in Athens, while other city-states continued following monarchs, and others formed milder versions of this democratic system. Leaders, like Solon in Athens, provided the final push into a democracy for some of these civilizations, though none could compare to Athens.
3. What were the consequences for both sides of the encounter between the Persians and the Greeks? The Persians and the Greeks both faced consequences due to their encounters, but both parties were not equally affected by the Greco-Persian Wars. The wars began after the Persian Empire conquered Ionian Greek cities while expanding towards the West. These small cities led a mini-revolt against the massive Persian Empire in 499 B.C.E. and were met with retribution from the Persians twice in the next ten years. With support from Athens, the Greeks remarkably beat the Persians and set into motion the downfall of their society as they knew it. After the war, the Greeks made Athenian Democracy universal and entered “The Golden Age of Greek Culture,” 50 years later. However, the beginnings of an empire were rising as Athenian individuals felt they should rule all Greek city-states since they were the ones to lead them to victory. This opinion resulted in a civil war from 431-404 B.C.E. and ended with the victory of Sparta and a universal distrust amongst the city-states of Greece. The Persians, on the other hand, continued their empire after the Greco-Persian Wars with nothing but a little embarrassment about their defeat. The wars also created the beginning of an East/West division between both parties (a divide that has continued to shape American and European thinking to this day).
4. What changes did Alexander’s conquests bring in their wake? Alexander’s ten-year expedition began as a way to get vengeance on the Persian Empire, and unit the people of Greece under a new ruler and against a common enemy, yet it became so much more and changed the very dynamic of all the societies in the region. First, he succeeded in destroying the Persian Empire. This was what he set out to do and its effect on the world was predictably massive, leaving 3 separate kingdoms in its wake. Second, Alexander succeeded in spreading his knowledge of Greek culture throughout what used to be the Persian Empire. This general widespread knowledge is what began the Hellenistic Era. This era was the most significant result of Alexander’s great journey and was crucial in the cultural integration that followed.
5. How did Rome grow from a single city to the center of a huge empire? Rome began in the 18th century B.C.E. as a very small, poor, city-state with people desperate enough to steal women to reproduce. It was ruled by a king until 509 B.C.E. when Roman aristocrats turned it into a Republic that favored them, as patricians. A group of patricians, known as the Senate, appointed two consuls that they gave administrative authority to. This system created tensions between the patricians and the plebeians (Rome’s lower classes) until a tribune was selected to represent the plebeians in political settings and have the ability to veto congressional decisions. The core beliefs and values that governed the Roman people were also known as, “the way of the ancestors.” The Romans began their true transformation into an empire in 490 B.C.E., when they conquered their central Italian neighbors and a few hundred years later, almost the entire Italian peninsula. Rome extended its empire to North America and the Western Mediterranean after a victory against Carthage in 146 B.C.E.. This gave Rome naval power and soon Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia were under Roman rule. Finally, Rome conquered present-day Spain, Britain, and France and Octavian’s/Augustus’s unofficial title of emperor rounded off Rome’s massive period of growth.
6. How and why did the making of the Chinese empire differ from that of the Roman Empire? The making of the Chinese empire differed from the making of that of the Roman empire in the ways that growth was started and wanted, and the attitudes of their first leaders. Rome was a poor-city state that was expanded by conquering peoples over time. China used to be a strong first civilization, gradually growing under the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, but by 500 B.C.E. China had fractured into lots of City-states and the leader of them universally agreed to reunite China (although it was Qin Shihuangdi who actually succeeded in this goal). This makes the making of the Chinese empire an act of bringing back what was once lost, while the Roman empire worked to gain something that they never had before. Secondly, the mindsets of Qin and Augustus were very different and therefore shaped their own empire in a specific way. Augustus lay a more passive claim to the throne and the title that came with it, referring to Roman conquests as the “power of the Roman people” and acting as an emperor in name. Qin took his new position as the one who united of China very seriously, giving himself the name, Shihuangdi, translating to, “first emperor.”
7. In comparing the Roman and Chinese empires, which do you find more striking- their similarities or their differences? In comparing the Roman and Chinese empires, I find their differences more striking. It’s remarkable to think that these civilizations barely knew of each other’s existence and yet their political systems show large and slight variations that can now be evaluated and compared in modern times. Although Rome and China both spoke of themselves as the conquerors of the world, the ways that they treated their people and religions other than their own contrasted each other’s methods. In Rome, Christianity emerged in a small group of people who refused to normalize and participate in activities that worshipped pervious emperors as gods. The Christian faith was supported by Pax Romana and it slowly spread through the lower classes of the empire. Christians received oppression from the Roman Empire until 4th century B.C.E., when the emperors of the time hoped to reunify a crumbling empire under a single religion, prompting the swift spread of Christianity. In China, Buddhism did not emerge from within, but was brought in by traders from India. The religion didn’t gain a large following until the destruction of the Han dynasty in 220 B.C.E.. The new emperor of the Sui dynasty, Wendi, temporarily united China under the Buddhist religion, but it soon became one of many cultural traditions that Chinese people could select from. In Rome, citizenship was given to societies that had done a service to the empire or had shown their integration of Roman beliefs into society. This worked in most societies, except for the Greeks, who some Romans believed had a better culture than their own. The training of young Roman men in Athens created new Greco-Roman traditions that the empire actively spread throughout itself. Other non-Roman traditions (like those in Persia or Egypt) were also allowed to spread throughout the empire. China, on the other hand, recognized Chinese culture as the one that everyone should conform to. Buddhism was the only example of a widespread, non-Chinese tradition in the Chinese Empire.
8. How did the collapse of empire play out differently in the Roman world and in China? The collapse of empire played out differently in the Roman world and in China, in the lead-up to their society’s downfall, and the aftermath of their defeat. In the Roman empire, politics became corrupt (with 26 people claiming the throne between 235-284 C.E.) and disease and overpopulation infected their civilization, leaving a weakness in Rome that was exploited by German individuals on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. These German individuals soon began moving into central Rome and establishing their own Kingdoms. These civilizations, and the fall of the Roman empire in general, created their own unique cultures. In China, the semi-agricultural individuals located on the outskirts of their empire became a problem. As disease and overpopulation also riddled the Chinese empire, these agricultural individuals created a collection of “barbarian states” as the Han dynasty weakened. Unlike the fall of the Roman empire, these barbarian peoples still affiliated themselves with Chinese culture; they did not create their own. During the aftermath of the Roman Empire, Europe turned into a civilization with lots of individual territories, city-states, and individual rulers. Despite the attempts of some, the enormity and brief success of the Roman empire could never be recreated. However, China was able to reunite their people once again, after the fall of the Han dynasty. 350 years after the destruction of the Han dynasty, China was reclaimed and ruled in the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties, allowing it to carry on the longest political tradition in the history of the world.
9. Why were centralized empires so much less prominent in India than in China? Centralized empires were less prominent in India than in China because of its lack of loyalty (shown by previous empires, like the Chinese), its subjection to frequent attacks from Central Asia, and its caste system. First, Indian civilizations lacked the mentality of an empire. They were governed individually and no single ruler had the same desire as Alexander the Great or Qin Shihuangdi to attempt to unite all the civilizations of India; creating an empire takes work and it seems that no one was keen on doing it. Second, many Indian civilizations that had the potential to form the heart of an Indian empire, found themselves constantly defending their civilizations from the frequent attacks and invasions of Central Asia. These invasions made it impossible for a powerful core to be formed in India and subsequently made the formation of an Indian empire impossible.
Finally, the Indian caste system allowed for strong local and occupational connections, but dismissed the idea of a widespread Indian identity (a citizen of an empire). Vocabulary; define and explain its significance: 1. Persian Empire-An empire that was, at its peak, the largest in the world. The Indo-European people that began it absorbed culture from each of the peoples that they conquered and were accepting of all religions to try and gain support from all of their citizens. The Persian Empire’s ways of bureaucracy, tax collection, and administrators functioned as a blueprint for future empires. 2. Athenian Democracy- The democratic ways that the Greek city-state, Athens, functioned under. It was a democracy in which all public officials were chosen and paid, and all men (rich or poor) could participate in political assemblies and vote. Athenian Democracy functioned like a polar opposite to the Persian Empire and even other Greek city-states of the time. Although it was very different from modern democracy, it laid the groundwork and was a crucial aspect of Greek civilizations.
3. Greco-Persian Wars-Two Persian attacks on the Greeks (particularly Athens) in 490 and 480 B.C.E. in response to a mini attack made by the Greek Ionian civilizations in 499 B.C.E. due to the Persian Empire conquering their land. These wars went on to shape the future of Greece and created the idea of a divide between the East and West that has continued to shape modern American and European mindsets. 4. Alexander the Great- The son of Phillip II, the leader of Macedonia in 338 B.C.E.. Alexander went on a ten-year expedition against the Persian Empire from 333-323 B.C.E. and succeeded in destroying the Persian Empire, becoming the pharaoh of Egypt, and leaving in his wake, 3 kingdoms. His expedition also set off the Hellenistic Era and resulted in the widespread knowledge of Greek culture in the region. 5. Hellenistic Era-A period of time from 323-30 B.C.E. where Greek culture was slowly integrated into the Antigonid Empire, the Ptolemaic Empire, and the Seleucid Empire. This period was one of the grandest feats of cultural integration and defined the ways that Greek culture was seen after individual Greek Civilizations had been abolished.
6. Caesar Augustus-Rome’s first unofficial emperor. Agustus allowed the Senate and public assemblies (key aspect’s of Rome’s old republic) to remain active during his rule. He called himself the, “first man,” as opposed to the king or emperor (although he had enough power for the latter titles). Caesar Augustus was the first ruler of the Roman Empire as we commonly know it. 7. Pax Romana- The period of time in which Agustus ruled over the Roman people as the “first man” (the unnamed emperor). Pax Romana directly translates to Roman peace and was the beginning of the Roman Empire as we commonly know it.
8. Qin Shihuangdi-The emperor of China in 221 B.C.E. who was primarily responsible for reuniting China. He was formally the leader of the state of Qin, the home of legalism, and used legalism and a strong military to reclaim the states of China. 9. Han Dynasty-The Chinese dynasty following the short Qin dynasty (which established a Chinese empire). The Han dynasty was from 206 B.C.E.-220 C.E. and worked replace legalism with Confucianism, develop political allies and expand the Chinese Empire. 10. Mauryan Empire- A period of time in which India was governed by its longest, and first political systems (in 326-184 B.C.E.). This empire had a population of 50 million and was as massive as the Roman, Chinese, or Persian empire, though it didn’t last nearly as long. 11. Ashoka-A Mauryan emperor that ruled from 268-232 B.C.E.. Ashoka was famous for his proclamations written on rocks, and for his conversion to the Buddhist faith that defined most of his peaceful rule. He is remembered in India now, as an enlightened leader that hoped to spread peace through the ways of Hinduism and Buddhism.
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