The classical societies of China and Rome can be compared in their similar centralized governments while they can be contrasted in their different relationships between geography and culture and their different views on slavery.
The classical societies of Rome and China can be compared in their similar centralized governments. Rome’s government was centralized more under the idea of having good laws. They followed the “way of the ancestors” which laid out clear republican beliefs that the Roman citizens should follow.
Citizens were the main force of the government, and both the wealthy and the poor were represented in the political system. The upper class, or the patricians, were represented by the Council of Elders, a group of 20 or so men over the age of 80 who decided on Rome’s laws based on the wealthy’s perspective. The lower class, or the plebeians, were represented by tribunes who were government officials that supported the poorer people.
The tribunes helped give the lower class more say in government decisions.
As a result, all the citizens in Rome were kept happy, maintaining stabilized control throughout Rome. China, on the other hand, centralized their government under the idea of good men. Emperors ruled by the Mandate of Heaven which linked the emperor’s actions on Earth with the gods. These emperors also ruled by a belief called Legalism (later changed to Confucianism). Legalism was the idea that if a citizen did something wrong, harsh punishments were invoked upon them. Because of the harsh punishments Legalism invoked, many citizens feared going against the Chinese government. This kept all of the people under control in China’s government because they feared the harsh punishment. Rome and China had different ways of establishing an effective centralized government, but nonetheless, they both proved effective for the time.
The classical societies of Rome and China can be contrasted in their different relationships between geography and culture. Rome was a quite vast and open territory that was in the middle of many important water masses and landforms and was the center of a cultural heartland. Rome also had a very strong and brutal army that people feared. Because of these combinations, Rome was able to conquer many other lands, adding to their massive and impressive empire. An example of this was Rome’s conquering of Carthage. Their brutal army razed the city, demolishing all of its architecture and robbing all of its buildings. They then killed most of the people but the rest became slaves. The cultural traditions of Carthage were then brought into the Roman Empire. In order to keep the peace between conquered people, Rome absorbed their cultural traditions making their civilization one of the most diverse of the classical era. By absorbing these traditions of other people, Rome’s government helped prevent the chance of a revolt by any unhappy conquered people. China contrasts to Rome in that they didn’t absorb other cultural traditions.
China was more secluded compared to the other classical societies, but nonetheless had invaders who wanted to conquer their civilization. Instead of absorbing these foreigners’ cultural traditions, they tried to assimilate the outsiders. This meant they became entirely Chinese, through intermarriage, language, physical appearance, and cultural traditions. As a result, China could easily maintain control over these people because there were little to no differences between culture meaning not a lot for people to be upset about. There weren’t many cultural influences surrounding Chinese civilization which is another explanation for why Chinese culture isn’t very diverse. Since China was so secluded and they assimilated their people, there was no where else for people to travel to(except nomadic groups). Though Rome and China both had a stabilized central government, they had very different tolerances of other cultures.
The classical societies of Rome and China can be contrasted in their different views on slavery. The Greco-Roman world was the center of a slave society. In Rome alone, there were 2 to 3 million slaves, over 33 percent of the population. Every household in Rome owned a slave. The wealthy could own as many as hundreds of thousands of slaves while even the poorer households owned a slave or two for domestic work and sexual purposes. Anyone of any culture could become a slave in Rome, but most slaves came from those who were debtors or prisoners of war. Because of all the wars Rome was in, they had many prisoners of war which therefore meant a vast number of slaves.These slaves worked alongside free men in any possible occupation except military service. Most work conditions were quite brutal and the slaves faced awful punishments including physical abuse and being sold to a different slave owner.
Rome’s slavery was similar to slavery in the United States during the 1800s. The slaves in America faced brutal working conditions on plantations and were punished by being whipped or sold to another owner. Their forms of slavery were also a bit different because Roman slaves were allowed to work alongside free men in almost any job and Roman slavery was a little bit more harsh that slavery in the United States. Slavery was less prominent in China. With only about 1 percent of the population being a slave, China’s work had to be done by other workers. Slaves still took care of the dirty work, such as cremating dead people and caring for dead or diseased animals, but the peasants were the major workforce in China as well as the majority of their population.
Peasants lived in small houses, normally housing two or three generations of the same family. Along with their house, some families owned a small plot of land where they grew just enough food to feed their families and maybe just enough extra to sell at the market. This life was held only by some of the peasants for most of them were very poor and had to live on the streets. peasants overall were well respected in China because of the hard work they did to feed the people. Although they didn’t have much money, peasants were still fairly happy because of the respect they earned from the other classes in China. While slavery played very different roles in Rome and China, both societies found a way to get the work that needed to be done completed.
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