The Chinese Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire

A long time ago, in the era of agriculture, there was an urgent necessity for any big empire to expand. The reason for this expansion was the need for both political and economic enforcement of the state. Invasion into unconquered territories was the best variant to get the desired enforcement of the state. In fact, for each of the empires, the most important aspects were the military state, the development of infrastructure, as well as having a powerful government. None of these expansions were cheap and would often come at a great price. Each of these factors were the cause of the beginning of the great expansion processes. It was much easier for the empires to conquer illiterate and indigenes people that were settled on remote territories than to seek the way of improving the country from the inside. In other words, it was easier to take resources from other countries and regions rather than creating their resources from within their own borders. However, the success of controlling newly conquered nationalities did not last for a long time (Big History Project).

There existed two, on the first sight, completely opposite empires, if to take into account their way of expansion and conquering. These two empires include the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire. First, they differ in their cultural aspects. The Chinese Han Dynasty lasted from 206 BCE to 220 CE following the rule of the Qin State after their fall.  The Chinese Han Dynasty was represented by elite sharing a common language as well as a knowledge of the Confucian classic learnings. The people who studied these teachings and language would have been qualified to take part in various roles in the public office. This empire proved to be successful due to their abilities of offering a uniform religion, promoting economic growth, how well they were organized in their day-to-day lives, and how well they maintained social order. They also shared the belief that people who were not a part of or that lived on the outside of the empire were “uncivilized”. The Roman Empire, on the other hand, concentrated more on their social aspect, basing their approach of strengthening the state’s policy rather than counting on the conquered people. The Roman’s often gained control over new areas through the use of violence and brute military force. Because of this, there were numerous ethnicities and regions that were brought together that formed one large political state. Their primary reason for expansion was of all the migrations as well as their new and rapidly advancing military and political innovations. Through the expansion process, they had newly acquired agriculture processes as well as innovative mining techniques that allowed them to harvest larger amounts of silver, tin, copper, and gold.

It is worth saying that the Chinese Han Dynasty was stronger than the Roman Empire because it had a larger amount of resources and could start expansion on its own, whereas the Roman Empire controlled and managed other territories but was not that strong on its own. However, this was not the only aspect that defined their difference in expansion patterns. As the Chinese Han Dynasty focused mainly on the elite, these were official authoritative bodies. The Roman Empire, on the contrary, viewed citizens, soldiers, as well as the military leader to be the center of its government.

The unison of the elite with the state’s authorities inside the Chinese Han Dynasty was the primary means of imposing empire’s control over the whole Chinese society. In fact, bureaucrats were even more powerful than the official ruling bodies. They were responsible for stabilizing the policy and collecting taxes that automatically made them independent and invincible. What is more, they encouraged the rise of universities, where the most emphasis was put on studying of classical Confucian philosophy that were their inborn beliefs. This formed the main ideology of the state. Simultaneously, it gave the elite the possibility to control not only the policy and economy of the country but also shape the youth and its values and attitudes.

One of the main approaches of the Chinese Han Dynasty was building profitable relationships with authoritative people in different regions. Relationships with trade and agrarian leaders helped to improve the financial condition of the empire. Special attention here should be paid to the existing hierarchy in the society. Whereas elite and key leaders gained control over the country, free peasants worked hard to provide all the necessities for the empire and were the ones primarily responsible for working the land. Unlike the Chinese Han Dynasty, the Romans used slaves to work their lands and provide their necessities.

The empire has also managed to gain control over the major part of the Mediterranean region. Its primary goal was to gather as many different peoples in one state as possible. The expansion of the Roman Empire started from invading the territory of Italy that resulted into the formation of strong army and enforcing of the enforcement of the whole military forces. It’s evident that the military section was the main component of the Roman Empire. All the resources were used to enhance the armed forces. Thus, the initial stage of expansion presupposed the huge number of wars aimed at conquering the newer territories. Then, the attempts were made to establish a stable policy. In comparison to the Chinese Han Dynasty, here the authority was individual.

Although the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire had their differences, they were also alike in several ways. The most notable singularities included the fact that each of them covered large amounts of territory and stretched out across the lands, were full of people of all ethnicities and were both diverse in culture, and the fact that they had a large amount of influence on areas throughout the world. Both like to idealize from that of those before them, but they both also differed from their processors. Unlike those before them, they chose to integrate the technologies and the peoples (both friends and rivals) into their world. They would accomplish this through the use of laws, the promotion of trading goods and resources through the use of the Silk Road, as well as sharing their beliefs.  In other words, they were open for suggestion on some aspects and would often try new methods in order to expand. Both left behind a lasting impression and left their mark on history even though the end result was the collapse of their empires.

Hence, it can be said that the size of the territory, occupied by the empires, have not significantly influenced the state as it was. The Chinese Han Dynasty took a larger geographical territory than the Roman Empire. While the Roman Empire put a greater emphasis on their military forces controlled by the individual ruler, the Chinese Han Dynasty chose to focus more on their humanities and classical studies. Neither of these patterns succeeded, just as in the video, as the end result was the collapse of both of the empires. Empires could only expand so much before they run out of areas to conquer and resources to maintain their empires before they slowly begin to fall. The reason was that the initial goal was to satisfy the need of the empire to expand (Big History Project). Taking into consideration that the focus was on the usage of the conquered peoples, it still did not guarantee the success of the patterns from the beginning. Both empires tried to control a huge territory of conquered nations to feed their states. One of the things that each of the empires had in common was the fact that, if they were no longer able to expand, it would soon lead to their demise or their collapse (Big History Project).