Comparative Essay The massively extensive classical empires of Imperial Rome (31BCE-476CE) and Han China (206BCE-220CE) were extremely influential when it came to the world around them. In essence, the two empires were virtually the same in terms of political structure and military protocols, yet greatly different in the area of religious tolerance. Both Han China and Imperial Rome had a political system structure consisting of a sovereign emperor who made executive, almost dictator-like, decisions and directed the affairs of the empire.
However, in both empires, emperors relied on regional governors to regulated affairs in their respective regions due to the fact that both empires were so massive and consisted of an enormous population. These leaders would also collect a tax that was imposed on free peasants of the empire. In both empires, the emperor was seen as a god-like figure, for example the Mandate of Heaven in Han China was used to persuade the citizens that the emperor was a direct link to the gods.
Both Han China and Imperial Rome used religion as a helper in political culture. Confucianism was enforced by the government and promoted obedience, loyalty, and reverence to one’s social superiors. In Rome, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312CE, and used the church as a sort of guidance/advisor. Both civilizations established a type of “civil service” based on educated members of the middle class. As far as military protocols go, both militaries worked extensively on projects for the empire such as roads to expedite troop movement.
Late in the histories of both empires, foreign soldiers were enlisted in the military due to a drop in population of plagues hit the society. The Roman’s enlisted the help of the Germanic tribes while the Hans enlisted the help of the Mongols. These “mercenary” soldiers lacked greatly in motivation and pride. Both civilizations enlisted the help of soldiers of the people who were invading them. The military prowess of both civilizations was used to hold and maintain peace once expansion was accomplished.
While both civilizations consisted of one sovereign emperor, the methods in which emperors imposed their authorities differed between each. In Rome, the emperors resorted to threats and promises, where as in Han China, the emperors relied mostly on the Mandate of Heaven institution and tributes/gifts from the citizens. Both rulers had a slightly different role as well. The Emperor of China was judge, jury, and executioner, whereas the Emperor of Rome could not act without the senate’s approval.
With military expedition and empire expansion, the methods were quite different. When the Romans conquered a new region, they would enforce soldiers in that region until the tax was collected. After the tax was paid, the Romans allowed the conquered peoples to keep their cultural ways. This also applied to religion. Conquered peoples could remain with their religion as long as they followed the system. In fact, in 212CE, Rome offered citizenship to conquered peoples in exchange for adopting Roman culture.
This offer was extended to all free people of the conquered region, and citizenship for them meant they had the right to hold office, serve in legions, and others. However, becoming a citizen did not erase their other identities like religious views. Rome also collected many foreign religions, making the entire empire a college of religious views. Unlike Rome, Han China forced Confucian beliefs upon their conquered areas. When the Han invaded and conquered Korea and Vietnam, they established a Chinese-style rule upon the people and forced Confucian beliefs upon them.
Han did not collect foreign religions with the exception of Buddhism. Han China and Imperial Roman political structure, military protocols, and religious tolerance share various similarities in political structure and military protocols, and are more different in the area of religious tolerance. While both political structures involved a sovereign emperor who used regional leaders as a way to extend his control to the outskirts of the empire, they differed in the ways the emperor imposed his authority.
With military protocols, both militaries were involved in the construction of roads that expanded all over the empire. However, the militaries differed in how they treated their conquered peoples with religion and culture. Both empires had some form of religious tolerance. Han Chinese citizens were allowed to practice Buddhism while the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. However, Romans had more tolerance for foreign religions in the empire than Han China did.
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