World History

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Last updated: April 8, 2019

Question 2: How was the reign of Hammurabi the high point in Mesopotamian history?In about 2000 B.C. Mesopotamia was invaded by a group of Nomadic worriers called the Amorites.

Within a short time, the Amorites overwhelmed the Sumerians and established Babylon as their capital. Amorite power reached its peak during the reign of a strong king named Hammurabi between 1792 to 1750 B.C.  Hammurabi proved to be a highly successful general who conquered all of Mesopotamia.  As a result, he created one of the world’s first empires a state in which the ruler also controls other lands. (Breasted, 2003 p.

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23)As the capital of a great empire, Babylon became a thriving commercial center.  Soon its rapid growth caused problems.  Babylon’s merchants, farmers, and workers needed written laws to help them resolve disputes.  Although individual Sumerian cities had developed codes of laws, Hammurabi recognized that a single, uniform code would help to unify the diverse groups within his empire. (Van De Mieroop, 2003 p.234) He therefore made a collection of laws known as Hammurabi’s Code.  Scribes carved these laws on stone column, or stele.  The eight-foot stele contained more than 3, 500 lines of cuneiform characters.

A prologue explains the purpose of the code: justice within the land, destruction of the wicked, protection of the weak from the strong and enlightening of the land for better welfare of the people. The code then goes  further to list 282 specific laws.  These laws do not provide abstract theories of justice.  Instead, they establish rules for dealing with everyday issues such as contracts, inheritances, leases, perjury, and debts and with theft and other crimes.  The largest number of laws – 88 in all – deals with marriage, family and property.

Hammurabi’s Code used three fundamental principles to deal with these different legal problems.  First the code frequently invoked the principle of retaliation, which involves doing to one what he has been done to another, for punishment of crimes.  For example, if the ceiling of a house caved in and killed the occupant, retaliation demanded that the builder be executed.

The code was applicable to everyone within the territory even though it was characterized with class and gender discrimination. For instance, men and women, rich and poor were all treated differently.  A common man who killed a member of the upper class would be executed.  If the same man killed a poor farmer, however, he would only be required to pay a modest sum of money to the victim’s family.

Many of the laws applying to men and women also reflected a double standard.  If a husband committed adultery, his spouse was permitted to leave him.  An unfaithful wife, however, would be drowned.

  Although the code discriminated against women in some ways, it also gave them certain rights.  Unlike women in other ancient societies, Babylonian women could divorce, own slaves, transact business, and bequeath property. (Krieger, Neil, Jantzen, 1992 p.76)Finally Hammurabi’s Code established the principle that government was responsible for  everything that went on in the society. For example in a situation where one falls victim to robbery and the thief escapes without being traced, it became the responsibility of the government to compensate the victim.

The recording and public display of the laws showed the king’s determination to promote public order with just laws.Hammurabi’s Code marked an important milestone in Mesopotamian civilization.  It also became a standard that inspired future rulers.

It was the first time ever that laws were written to govern the relationship between individuals.ReferencesBreasted, James Henry. Ancient Times or a History of Early Times, Pt. 1. Kissinger Publishing,             2003.Krieger, Neil, Jantzen.

World History. Perspectives on the Past. D. S.

Heath and Company, 1992Van De Mieroop, Mark. King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography, Blackwell Publishing, 2005 Question 5: What were the major Foundations of Olmec Civilization?Mexico’s Gulf Coast rain forest was an unlikely place for a civilization to develop and thrive.  Every year dark clouds drenched the area with up to 100 inches of rain.

  Giant ceiba, rubber, and mahogany trees formed a thick canopy that prevented most sunlight from reaching the ground.  Jaguars silently stalked their prey along the banks of snake-infested rivers. In about 1200 B.C., a people called the Olmec settled in this demanding environment. (Davies, 1982 p.

70) Olmec settlers planted crops in the rich soil left by flooding rivers.  They slashed and burned trees to clear land for settlements. However, the rain forest was never far away.  Late at night, the Olmec doubtless heard the howls of the wild jaguar.

  Olmec artists carved jade figures that were half jaguar and half human, suggesting that they worshiped the jaguar’s spirit. The peak of Olmec culture was between 1200 to 800 B.C. They were distinct people until about 100 BCE.

One of the major reasons why the Olmec thrived as a civilization was the development of a centralized system. They also developed hieroglyphic for their language. This facilitated easier communication among them thereby providing a strong foundation for their civilization. (Diehl, 2004 p.121) An increasing population in San Lorenzo led to the emergence of an elite class which ensured the dominance of the Olmec. This provided the social basis for producing luxury goods which shaped and defined the Olmec culture.A common religion united the Olmec. They built various ceremonial centers which they used to perform rituals so as to please their gods.

The Olmec had a highly specialized society.  Different social ranks existed, from traders and farmers to artists and rulers. (Fagan, 1991 p.30) Fertile soil and adequate rainfall provided enough food for the population. This meant that the society had the capacity to progress and form a complex social organization. Availability of resources such as fertile soil and consistent rainfall were the major foundation of Olmec civilization.

The civilization thrived for almost 800 years before collapsing at about 400 BC.ReferencesDavies, Nigel. The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico, Penguin Books.

(1982)Diehl, Richard. The Olmecs: America’s First Civilization, Thames ; Hudson, London,(2004)Fagan, Brian. Kingdoms of Gold, Kingdoms of Jade, Thames and Hudson, London. (1991);Question 4: What were the plus and minuses of Mandate of heaven?1115 BC marked the beginning of the longest dynasties in the history of the Chinese. In this year,  Shang was defeated by the Chou.

However, the Chou inherited some of the problems which their predecessors had been faced with-the problem of instituting a new government. How were they going to convince the people that they were the best suited for governing? Authority being gained by conquest during this period of time meant that power could legitimately be taken by anyone who had an army. (Hooker, 1996 p.

10) In other words, those who had armies may have developed some ideas which may have not augured well with the Chou. They had to develop a convenient political theory for the justification of their conquest. The doctrine they developed came to be known as t’ien ming or mandate from heaven.

This mandate was like an imperative. Humans had the freedom to oppress their subjects. This however comes to an end as the heaven appoints the mandate to other families. Since in China, loyalty was to the family it was easy to convince that a ruler had divine approval from heaven. A wicked ruler could lose the mandate of heaven. The spirits of the ancestors might show their displeasure through causing a flood, riot or other calamities.

In such a situation, the mandate might pass to another family. (Mote, 1996 p.231) This was the Chinese explanation for rebellion and civil war.

The fall and rise of a dynasty could never be achieved without a bloodshed.A general application of this concept was adopted among the Chinese. Every action of the Chinese revolved around the mandate of Heaven.

It was through the mandate of heaven that the heaven guaranteed humanity’s well-being. Along with this idea was the concept of destiny or ming. Heavens ruled directly the physical phenomena like earthquakes. In other words, things that happened in the physical world was directly influenced by the heaven and thus beyond human power and control.

The political and social life of the Chinese was largely influenced by this political theory and this is evidenced by the rise and fall of various dynasties whenever it was felt that a dynasty has outlived its usefulness.The mandate of heaven through stating that rulers were appointed by heaven meant that the Chinese had a high regard for their rulers thereby bringing stability. Every individual’s life was controlled by heaven and thus each had the responsibility to maintain a particular moral standard.

However, a major disadvantaged was based on the fact that some powerful families would plot to overthrow the existing system citing displeasure by the heaven on the deeds of the rulers. This arose since there was no proof that a family has received a mandate of heaven. (Perry, 2002 p.97)The principles that the Mandate of Heaven is based revolved around the ruler being granted his ruling rights from heaven, singularity in the heaven hence singularity of rule, virtue of the ruler being the base of the right to rule and the right to rule not being restricted to one dynasty.

  The mandate of heaven beside granting the ruler religious importance and prestige gave him absolute power. A new ruler could gain power very fast if he managed to convince the people that he had the mandate from heaven. Rebellion was also justified as long as it was successful.

The only thing that act as a check to the rulers’ power was virtue.ReferencesHooker, Richard. Mandate of Heaven. Chinese Glossary.

(1996)Mote, F.W. (1999). Imperial China: 900-1800. Harvard University Press.Perry, Elizabeth.

Challenging the Mandate of Heaven: Social Protest and State Power in China.             Sharpe. (2002);Question 8: Long Term effects of Augustus Caesar’s reignAugustus reigned in Rome at the time when the empire was being threatened by disintegration. He laid down various reforms which saw the Roman Empire through some periods of peace. He made structural, institutional and constitutional changes in Rome which saw it emerge as a strong empire. He reduced the powers of the emperor and the senate, making them subordinate entities within the domestic sphere. (Chisholm,1972 p.13)Augustus was one of the ablest emperors of the Roman Empire.

Through far sighted policies, he built the foundations of Pax Romana. He encouraged trade, glorified Rome with splendid buildings and created a system of government that survived for centuries. He set the tone for the empire by extolling the old values of simplicity, sober conduct and patriotism. He lived in a small house and wore homemade white togas.During his reign, there was circulation of a silver coin called a denarious throughout the empire.

This enhanced trade between different parts of the empire. He made Roman lands a single large economic empire by eliminating taxes which he realized hindered trade. He begun a program of highway construction so as to improve transportation and bind his empire together tightly. Later emperors continued his work by turning Roman highways into one of the most lasting monuments of their civilization. The building of roads and bridges of the Roman standard was made possible through the use of concrete which was then a newly discovered building material.

The Romans had learned how to mix lime mortar, pour it into a wooden mold and wait for it to harden. The backbone of Rom’s bold architecture was the use of concrete.Augustus boasted about turning the Rome from a city of bricks to a city of marble. He commissioned Greek artists and architects to build temples similar to Parthenon throughout the city. During his reign, Rome begun to resemble a world capital. Under Augustus, Rome became the center of a very efficient imperial government. (Dio, 1981 p.223) He left the senators their titles and money-making positions in the provinces but gave much of the real work of running the empire to plebeians and even slaves.

He set up a civil service with salaried, experienced workers to take care of Rome’s grain supply, road repairs, the postal system and all the other work of running an empire. People of various ranks served in this civil service. Hardworking, loyal former slaves won many of the highest and most influential positions. Since these people had a rare opportunity to improve their lot, they served Augustus well. (Reinhold, 1978 p.43)Augustus institutional reforms were meant to create permanent and strong offices which were to be headed by long term appointments. By means of legislation, he sought to return among the Roman citizens the Roman tradition in his capacity as the protector and guardian of Rome. Augustus set some institutional reforms which are still being used among the different nations and states today, the most important being the concept of paid civil servants.

ReferencesChisholm, Kitty & John Ferguson. Rome: The Augustan Age; A Source Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1987)Dio, Cassius. The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus. London: Penguin Books. (1981)Reinhold, Meyer.

The Golden Age of Augustus. Toronto, O. N: University of Toronto Press, (1978) Question 6: How did the Chinese maintain a long-lasting and stable political structure?China’s political boundaries have have expanded and contracted according to the strength and weakness of its ruling families. Yet, China remained a center of civilization with cities, organized government and religion, writing, organized crafts and more. According to them, only uncivilized people lived outside the borders of China. Because they considered their country as the center of the civilized world, they called it the Middle Kingdom. (Ben, 2002 p.

78)The culture which developed in China had strong bonds which enabled unity thereby making it maintain a long lasting and stable political structure. Since the earliest times, the Chinese have held the group more important than the individual. Most of all, people’s lives were governed by their duties to the family and the emperor as the two most important authorities. The family was central to society. From birth till death, everyones’ role was fixed within the social realm.

The old had privileges and power while the young practically had none. The family’s possessions and goods were in the hands of the oldest man. He also had the final approval of the marriages that the women of the family arranged for his children or grandchildren.

The oldest woman had the authority over young women. Children were expected to obey elders without question. (Wright, 1978 p.463)Among the Chinese, the most important virtue was respect for one’s parents. The family was closely linked with religion.

The spirits of family ancestors were thought to have the power to bring good fortune or disaster to living members of the family. Beyond the loyalty to the family, the Chinese owed obedience and respect to the ruler just as they did to their own grandfather. The ruler was considered a super grandfather who had supreme responsibility for the welfare of the Chinese people.One of the major factors which help unite the Chinese was this conception of the family and the rulers. This facilitated a strong political unit as the rulers were regarded as supreme.

Their writing system also ensured strong unity. Unlike the Egyptian and the Sumerian writing system, Chinese characters stood for ideas not sound. One could read Chinese without being able to speak a word of it. People in all parts of China could learn the same system of writing even if their spoken languages were very different. This was very vital in unifying large and diverse lands. (Twitchett, 1986 p.

96)The teachings of Confucius also helped to strengthen the Chinese. Through his belief that social order and good government could be restored in China if the society was organized around the principle of good relationship between ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife, older brother and younger brother, friend and friend, the Chinese sought to realize a more integrated society.ReferencesBenn, Charles. 2002.

China’s Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty. Oxford University Press.Twitchett, Denis and Loewe, Michael, eds.

1986. The Cambridge History of China. Volume I. The Ch’in and Han Empires, 221 BC – AD 220. Cambridge University Press.Wright, Arthur F. 1978.

The Sui Dynasty: The Unification of China. AD 581-617. Alfred A. Knopf, New York 


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