Compare/Contrast Essay Question: Compare the development of traditions and institutions in any TWO of the following major civilizations. Han China and the Mediterranean World The development of traditions and institutions in Mediterranean World and the Han period of Chinese history were momentous in the development of each society’s culture and identity. The Han, Romans, and Greeks all had strict family structures and gender rules and the Han and Romans both had a unique system of assimilating the peoples they conquered into their society.
But the societies also were different, for example, the Roman and Greek religion was very different from Chinese religion, mostly because the Chinese did not have a national religion and more of a national philosophy (Confucianism) then a religion like Greece or Rome had. Additionally, while the Han ruled through Emperors, the many Greek city-states had a monarchy, oligarchy, or a democracy. SimilaritiesDifferences – The Romans and the Han used a unique system of assimilating conquered peoples into their society. The Han, Greeks, and Romans all followed strict gender rules – The Greeks and the Romans had a very different religious system compared to Han China that had more of a national philosophy then a religion. – The Han ruled through emperors, while the Greek city-states ruled either by monarchy, oligarchy, or a democracy and the Romans had a republic. In both China during the Han dynasty and the Roman Republic/Empire, the way they absorbed conquered peoples into their society was a very savvy way of governing.
When the Romans or Chinese had conquered an opposing nation, instead of taking over the towns and cities and disposing of their rulers, they allowed the conquered peoples to govern themselves as long as they stayed loyal and gave tribute to Rome or the Emperor respectively. For example, when the Romans had taken over Gaul (modern day France), instead of ruling through force, they pardoned the leaders of the various tribes and let them govern themselves.
Over time, they would become heavily influenced by Roman culture and would serve as Auxiliary forces (soldiers who were not Roman citizens) in the Roman legions. The system was similar in China during the Han dynasty. During the Han dynasty, (commanderies) were basically small states controlled by their bigger neighbors. The Chinese then instated a new system that turned all commanderies into vassal states that had to give tribute to their conqueror but were able to rule themselves. The Chinese during the Han dynasty, Romans, and Greeks all followed similar rules about family structure, class and gender.
The Greeks, with their many city-states had unique laws and customs, but were mostly patriarchal societies with few rights for women. Ironically, the city-state where women were treated the worst was also the birthplace of democracy, Athens. Women were treated like property, all girls married in their teens in arranged marriages with men in there 30’s. Until a women gave birth, she was not considered a member of her husband’s family, and once she did, the husband had the choice of considering it was fit to live.
If the child was deformed or unhealthy, the husband would simply put it in a pot outside of his house and let it die from exposure and hunger, whichever came first. Athenian women were not able to leave the house without good reason, and had to be accompanied by a man to be allowed to go outside. Dominated by men for their entire lives, they had zero political rights and all property that the women might have owned went to their husbands once they had married.
Women in China were treated with more respect in China during the early dynasties, but by the time of the Han dynasty, their status had decreased. With Confucianism, a philosophy that stated women must be submissive to the head of the family or their husbands when they had married, the Han period was the golden age of many things in China, but women’s rights were not one of them. Women were thought of as subservient, weak, and only fit to take care of the house and children. In China during the Han Dynasty, Confucian ideals were the dominant philosophy and became the official state philosophy.
Unlike the Roman or Greek religion, Confucianism did not have any gods and was centered on kindness and respect for others, ancestor veneration, and the Five Relationships. The religion of the Greeks and Romans was much more extensive than the Confucianism ever was. Everyone had to worship and keep the many gods happy, so cults were formed for the especially devoted to make sure that the gods were satisfied. Additionally, the Romans gods were borrowed heavily from the Greeks, and were basically the same gods but with different names.
The Roman Emperor also played a big part in the religious rituals and festivals, while the Han Emperor took part in ceremonies and rituals, but was mostly uninvolved with it. While honoring the gods was a large part of everyday life and was taught to all Roman children in school, an average Chinese child during the Han dynasty didn’t learn about any god or higher power and instead was taught how to honor the five main virtues of Confucianism, Ren (humaneness), Yi (Righteousness), Li (Etiquette), Zhi (Knowledge) and Xin which meant integrity so that they might live honorable lives.
The way the people were governed during Han dynasty, with their Emperor being decided by bloodlines and the Roman Republic and the Greek-City states also having many unique ways of governance made the two in comparison, very different. While the Emperor was merely the first-born son of the previous Emperor, in the Roman Republic coming into power was much more difficult. Especially as they inched closer to becoming the Roman Empire, being to powerful or popular was very dangerous, and many would-be reformers and rising politicians were assassinated.
In Han China things were different. An all-powerful Emperor, who held supreme power over the land, ruled China. He had to have the mandate of heaven, which was approval of his ancestors in order to lead. Additionally, the Emperor, unlike the Roman Republic/Empire was secluded from society and even coming into his palace without permission meant you were to be executed immediately, no matter which class you belonged to. While neither society had a perfect system of governance or ideals, they were still shining examples of progress and advancement in the ancient world.