Unit 2: Classical Civilizations
Anatolia was a place in Asia, surrounded by the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea. In the 6th century Anatolia was conquered by the Achaemenids, until Alexander the Great conquered it in the 4th century BCE. When he died, the Hellenistic people took over until the Romans took over. Anatolia is very important to history because it had a big effect on trade. Because of it’s convenient location, Anatolia was able to be one of the major trade facilitators during that time period.
Achaemenid Emperors Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes
Cyrus ruled from 558-530 BCE, and was the king of the Persian Tribes. He was often called Cyrus the Shepherd, in reference to his native lands economy. However, he set up the foundation for the Persian Empire through military conquests. Soon, he had under his control all of Iran, and still wanted to expand. Next he conquered Lydia, which was located in modern-day Turkey, and then Asia and Bactria and Babylonia. Within 20 years Cyrus had expanded the Persian Empire from India to the outskirts of Egypt. Unfortunately, Cyrus died before he could conquer Egypt. Cyrus was important because he expanded the Persian Empire to a great extent. After Cyrus came the Achaemenids greatest emperor, Darius, who ruled from 521-486 BCE. Darius used military might to expand the Persian Empire into northwest India to the Indus River, and in the process conquered Thrace, Macedonia, and the western coast of the Black Sea. Under Darius’ rule, the population reached 35 million, which was the largest empire in the world at that time. To keep control over such a large empire, Darius instituted a centralized the government, and built a new capital at Persepolis. Darius was an important ruler because under his rule the Persian empire became the largest in the world, and also because Persepolis served as the center of the Persian Empire even after Darius’ decline. After Darius came Xerxes, who ruled from 486-465 BCE. Unlike Darius, Xerxes was not a tolerant ruler, and he imposed his policy on the lands he had conquered. This caused much unrest, particularly in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Despite the unrest Xerxes managed to suppress rebels and maintain order, but not forever. Xerxes was important because the unrest caused by his intolerance brought about problems for emperors later in the Achaemenid Empire.
Seleucid, Parthian, Sasanid: After Alexander, the Persian Empire was divided into three parts. The biggest one was given to Seleucus, who reigned from 305-281 BCE, and was a commander in Alexanders army. He and his successors kept the same administration and tax system as the Achaemenids. The Seleucids also created new cities that attracted migrants. Often times, the Seleucids were challenged by the native Persians, and the satraps. Eventually the Seleucids lost power to the Parthians. The Seleucids were important because the cities they founded brought about trade and stimulated economic development in and beyond their empire. The Parthians were the powerful lords of and empire that spanned from Iran to Mesopotamia. They retained much of the culture from the steppe people in Central Asia. For example, the didn’t use a centralized administration, instead using a federation of leaders to get themselves organized politically. The Parthians were also very militarily skilled, and they were used to having to defend their territory from nomads to the east. Starting in the 3rd century BCE the Parthians began to gain control from the Seleucids, and eventually revolted. In their government, the Parthians were less centralized than the Achaemenids and Seleucids. In the early 3rd century BCE the Parthians were brought down by internal rebellion. The Parthians were important because they provided an alternative form of rule to the centralized government of the Seleucids. Next were the Sasanids who took over the Parthians in 224 CE and ruled till 651. They were strong rulers who rebuilt the original Achaemenid administration and cities. The Sasanid merchants were big into trading with those to the east and west, and introduced many new things to Iran such as rice, sugarcane, and citrus fruits. The Sasanids were able to able to stabilize themselves in the west under the rule of Shapur I, and they created “buffer states” between them and the Romans. After Shapur, the Sasanids stopped expanding their borders, but the conflicts with the Kushan, Roman, and Byzantine empires weakened them greatly until the empire fell to the Arabs. The Sasanids were important because they brought back the original Achaemenid structure of government.
There is little information surviving about Zarathustra, but it is believed that he lived around the 6th century BCE. He was most likely a priest who was dissatisfied with the traditional religious practices of sacrifices and rituals. Around the age of 20 Zarathustra left his home in search of wisdom, and had a series of visions. These visions convinced his that there was one supreme deity called Ahura Mazda, who had chosen Zarathustra as the prophet to spread his message, and thus Zoroastrianism was born. Zoroastrianism was not a monotheistic religion, but Ahura Mazda was the supreme deity. They also recognized 6 lesser deities. Supposedly Ahura Mazda was engaged in a fight with an adversary known as Angra Mainyu which lasted twelve thousand years, and afterwards Ahura Mazda prevailed which represented good triumphing over evil. Zarathustra did not believe in asceticism, rather he believed material pleasures a blessing, as long as they enjoyed them in moderation. Zoroastrianism was very popular in the sixth century BCE, especially among the wealthy elites. Zoroastrianism was important because it allowed for a religion based on good prevailing over evil, without extreme asceticism being necessary. Also, Zoroastrianism was practiced during the rules of Cyrus and Darius, and probably influenced some of their thoughts and policies.
Under the rule of Darius, the Persian Empire was divided into 23 satrapies, which were administrative and taxation districts ruled by satraps. The Achaemenids filled most of the positions below the satraps with local officials so as not to push direct rule on their subjects. In order to discourage the possibility of satrapies joining together to become independent, the Achaemenids made sure that each satrapy had military officers and tax collectors who could check the satraps’ power to make sure they didn’t get too strong. Also, they brought in spies who were “the eyes and ears of the king”. They roamed all over the empire and conducted surprise audits and collected intelligence reports. With these two measures the Achaemenids were able to keep and maintain order. Satrapies were important because they helped the Achaemenids keep their control over the Persian Empire, and also they forced Darius to standardize coins to make collecting taxes much easier.
Confucius/ the Analects
Confucius was the first Chinese thinker who addressed the problem of social and political order. He lived from 551-479 BCE, and was from an aristocratic family in northern China. After failing to obtain an influential post at the Lu court, Confucius left to find a better post elsewhere. After 10 uneventful years of searching, Confucius returned to Lu and died. During his career Confucius attracted many disciples who compiled his teachings into a work called the Analects, which has greatly influenced Chinese culture. His thoughts were based on morals and ethics, and were political in character, which made it very practical. Confucius did not focus on philosophical or religious questions, rather he believed that political and social order would come from filling official positions with those who were educated and conscientious. He called these people junzi, and they were not influenced by personal affairs in their political judgement. Confucius believed in three main qualities he called ren, li, and xiao meaning humanity, propriety, and filial piety. Confucius was important because he would influence his followers to use his values to create social and political stability in China, and also because he was the first Chinese thinker to address the social and political problems in China.
Daoism and Wuwei
The founder of Daoism was a man named Laozi who lived during the 6th century BCE. Like Confucianism, Daoism was brought about by the social and political unrest following the Zhou dynasty. The fundamental concept of Daoism was dao, which meant “the way of the cosmos”. Daoists themselves did not have a concrete representation of dao, as it was a very elusive concept. Mostly dao is portrayed very passive and as negative space, for example accomplishing things by not doing anything. To live in harmony with dao, people must disengage from politics and administration, because things like activism had brought about all the problems politically and socially. The most important virtue of dao is wuwei. Wuwei is the belief that retreating from competition and action in the world is the answer to social and political problems. This applied to the state in that Daoists believed that the less government there was, the better. Daoism is important because it provides a counterbalance to the activist principles of Confucianism, and also because it allows people to live as Confucians during the day, meaning that they are active in the day, and as Daoists at night, meaning they are passive at night.
One of the main founders of legalism was Shang Yang who lived from 390-338 BCE. The legalists did not care about principles or nature, or about morals or ethics. The only thing they cared about was expanding and strengthening the state, no matter the costs. The most obedient follower of legalism was Han Feizi who lived from 280-233 BCE. He, and other legalists believed that the base for the strength of a state was agriculture and military. Therefore, everyone was channeled into one of those two area’s, and they were discouraged from other professions such as merchants, scholars, and philosophers as those jobs did not directly benefit the state. The legalist system was based primarily on laws, which distinguished them from the Confucians. They imposed a strict legal system with clear rules, and very severe punishments if the rules were violated. They went by the belief that if their subjects feared committing even a small crime, they would be even more reluctant to commit a big crime. Also established by the legalists was the theory of collective responsibility, which meant that people in a community were to report their neighbors for breaking the law, and if they didn’t they would be punished just the same as the violator. Legalism is very important because it finally was able to bring about social and political order and end the Period of Warring States, as well as eventually unifying China.
Qin Dynasty/ Qin Shihuandi
In the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE, the Qin state went through some very important changes to its military, economy, and its politics. Shang Yang’s policies boosted agriculture, weakened the aristocrats economic power, and established a centralized bureaucratic rule. Also during the 3rd century BCE, Qin rulers expanded China one state at a time, until China was eventually ruled by one state for the first time. In 221 BCE the Qin king at that time announced himself as the first emperor of China, and declared that his descendants would rule after him. The first emperor was Qin Shihuangdi who ruled from 221-210 BCE. He established a centralized rule that greatly helped maintain political order. Shihuangdi divided China into districts, and appointed an officer to each to keep order. He disarmed the districts militaries to discourage rebellion, and built many roads to help move armies easier throughout China, and to make communication easier as well. Qin Shihuangdi began construction on the Great Wall of China, which served as a defensive wall and also employed hundreds of thousands. The main critics of the Qin dynasty were the Confucians and the Daoists, but Qin Shihuangdi soon ordered a burning of all books having to do with philosophy, ethics, history, or literature, and he also executed anyone who criticized his reign. In order to make China more centralized, Shihuangdi standardized laws, currencies, weights, and eventually even a standardized script was established. Qin Shihuangdi died in 210 BCE, and soon after his death the Qin dynasty collapsed into chaos. The Qin dynasty and Qin Shihuangdi were very important because in this time they centralized China for the first time, and started work on the Great Wall of China.
Han Dynasty – Han Wudi and Liu Bang
After the fall of the Qin dynasty, the policy of a centralized government immediately returned due in part to Liu Bang. By 206 BCE he had once again restored order in China, and was now the head of the new dynasty. The Han dynasty lasted for more than 400 years from 206 BCE-9 CE, and then from 25-220 CE. The Han dynasty used a centralized imperial rule established bye the Qin. In his rule, Liu Bang attempted to create a balance between the policies of the Zhou and Qin dynasties, however he soon learned not to rely on family, and from then on he upheld a centralized government. The Han dynasty’s greatest emperor was Han Wudi who ruled from 141-87 BCE. His two principle policies were administrative centralization and imperial expansion. Wudi relied on legalist principles, and used appointed officials to maintain order in China’s districts. He also continued to build and maintain China’s road system to make trade and communication easier throughout China. In order to finance his government, Han Wudi taxed agriculture and trade, and monopolized salt and iron production. In 124 BCE Wudi established China’s first imperial university, which trained men for future government service. The university was based on Confucianism, despite Han Wudi’s legalist principles. Han Wudi used his military to expand China through invading Vietnam and Korea. The greatest challenger Wudi faced was the Xiongnu people, but eventually he conquered them and ruled over them until the Han dynasty was brought to a close in the early 3rd century CE. The Han dynasty was very important because they expanded China a great deal and established the first imperial university.
In 6 CE when a two year old boy was supposed to inherit the throne, a Han minister by the name of Wang Mang stepped in as his regent. Many people thought that Wang Mang did a much better job at ruling than any of the other Hans, and encouraged him to claim the throne which he eventually did in 9 CE, by reasoning of the mandate of heaven. During his rule, Wang Mang instituted a series of reforms. The most important of which was that he limited the land that one family could hold, and broke up the larger properties. Then he redistributed it to people who didn’t have any land. This did not have the effect he anticipated, and confusion ensued. When poor harvests and famines were thrown into the mix, revolts began breaking out and in 23 CE Wang Mang and his dynasty were destroyed. Wang Mang was important because he interrupted the Han dynasty for the first time, and was an example of how not to solve land distribution problems.
Sericulture is the manufacturing of silk. People had been practicing sericulture since the 4th millennium BCE, but during the Han dynasty it spread to all parts of China. Chinese silk was considered to be better than silk made elsewhere because of China’s advanced techniques in sericulture. Chinese silk makers fed their silkworms a special diet of finely chopped mulberry leaves, and unraveled their cocoons by hand which produced long unbroken silk threads, as opposed to in other parts of the world where the silkworms were fed many different leaves and chewed through their own cocoons. Chinese silk rapidly became a hot commodity in places like India, Persia, and even all the way in Rome. Sericulture is very important because it lead to the creation of the silk roads, which served as a trade route and a communication route to other lands.
Yellow Turban Uprising
The Yellow Turban Uprising was caused by the Han dynasty’s failure to address the land distribution problems. Peasants steadily grew angrier and angrier, which sparked the Yellow Turban Uprising. It got it’s name because of the yellow turbans worn by the rebels. The Yellow Turban Uprising greatly tested the strength of the later Han dynasty, around the late 2nd century CE. Due to the Hans military power, they were able to suppress the rebels, but not without sustaining damage themselves. Rebellions following the Yellow Turban Uprising greatly weakened the Han dynasty around the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The Yellow Turban Uprising was very important because it weakened the Han dynasty to such an extent that it was finally able to be brought down, which no one else had been able to do.
The founder of the Gupta dynasty was Chandra Gupta, who established his kingdom in 320 CE. The dynasty was based in Magadha, which dominated the Ganges valley, and was an intermediary between different parts of the subcontinent. Chandra Gupta’s successors, Samudra Gupta who reigned from 335-375 CE and Chanda Gupta II who reigned from 375-415 CE greatly expanded the empire by conquering kingdoms in India, however the Gupta empire was still smaller than the Mauryan. The Guptas let their allies throughout their empire make decisions about local government and administration. As a Buddhist monk who traveled through India in the time of Chandra Gupta II said, India was a safe place with little crime. However, the Gupta’s weren’t able to fend off the White Huns who invaded from the Hindu Kush mountains into India. By the end of the 5th century CE the Huns had established kingdoms of their own throughout India. The Gupta dynasty was important because they expanded India’s territory, and proved that imperial government couldn’t survive for long in India.
Siddhartha Gautama was the founder of Buddhism. He was born in 563 BCE into a wealthy kshatriya family, and only ever experienced happiness. However, he began to grow tired of his pampered life, and on four separate outings he saw an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk. The first three were greatly suffering, and he came to the realization that all humans suffer, and he too would suffer one day. When he saw the monk he saw a man who was completely at peace with himself and the world, and very happy. Siddhartha realized that in leading an ascetic life, as the monk had, he could understand suffering. In 534 BCE he left his family to start his new ascetic life. Siddhartha eventually ended up living as a hermit, and seeking enlightenment through meditation and extreme asceticism. Nothing worked, until he sat beneath a tree in Bodh Gaya, vowing to stay there until he understood suffering. After he sat for 49 days Siddhartha became enlightened and became the Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama is very important because he is the founder of Buddhism which is a major religion in India, and has greatly influenced history.
Buddhism was created by Siddhartha Gautama in around 528 BCE. It rapidly became popular, and its followers were made into monks with only a robe and a bowl to their name. For over 40 years the Buddha and his followers traveled through northern India attempting to enlighten others. The Buddha died in 483 BCE, but his teachings lived on. Buddhism is based on the 4 noble truths which are that all life has suffering, desire causes suffering, eliminating desire ends suffering, and a disciplined life eliminates desire. The disciplined life talked about in the last noble truth is known as living in accordance with the Eightfold Path, which commands right belief, right resolve, right speech, right behavior, right occupation, right effort, right contemplation, and right meditation. It also meant living a balanced life; enjoying things in moderation, but not living too ascetically. Doing these things would eliminate desire and allow for escape from this world at which point one would reach nirvana. Buddhism appealed to many because there was not class distinctions, and it didn’t demand as ascetic a lifestyle as that of the Jains. Buddhism was very important because it provided people with an alternative to such extreme asceticism, and also because it greatly influenced history and is still practiced today.
The Baghavad Gita, meaning “the song of the lord”, was a book of poems that told what to expect from Hinduism. Though it was uncertain who wrote this collection of Hindu works, scholars have found that it was written by more than one person. The Baghavad was written between 300BC-300CE, being edited over until its final form in 400CE. This book explains and describes Indian culture in both the Mauryan and Gupta dynasties under Hindu influence. Containing the Mahabharata, the Baghavad Gita shows a conversation between warrior Arjuna, a warrior who is about to go to war and Vishnu in a human reincarnation form as his charioteer. This epic had a theme that told people to do what they know they need to do, as they were duties that everyone had to fulfill. The Baghavad Gita is important since because of them we understand many things about the culture of Hinduism and India. This book can inform the people of today what common religious texts were like thousands of years ago.
Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, ahimsa
Chandragupta Maurya was the first emperor of the Mauryan Dynasty in India. He took over by 321BC, overthrowing the previous dynasty. Chandragupta was probably most well known for unifying almost all of India. He expanded the kingdom through wars of conquest, and had successfully gotten control of all of northern India by the end of the 4th century. Chandragupta was always in fear of being assassinated; he had several servants taste his food before he ate it, and slept in a different bed every night. In 301BC, Chandragupta gave up his throne to become a Jain, eventually dying of starvation from fasting. Taking Chandragupta’s place was his grandson, Ashoka. Ashoka took the throne in 297BC and continued to expand the borders of the Mauryan Empire like his grandfather. He was passionate, kind, and an overall fair ruler that his people seemed to like. After conquering Kalinga in 262BC, the empire controlled almost the whole subcontinent. Ashoka also built extensive roads that greatly improved the communication throughout the empire. He continued to rule with a bureaucracy until he converted to Buddhism from shock of the bloodiness of the battle at Kalinga, and died in 232BC. The Buddhists believed in nonviolence, and ahimsa was the doctrine that supported this. Most Buddhists were vegetarians who ceased from activities like animal sacrifices and hunting. When Ashoka converted to Buddhism, he followed ahimsa religiously and tried to convince his people to do so as well.
Mahayana vs. Theravada Buddhism
There were two kinds of Buddhists a person could be. Mahayana, meaning “the greater vehicle” and Theravada (also known as Hinayana) meaning “the lesser vehicle” were the two choices. Theravada was the older and more traditional version of Buddhism. It was a much stricter; in the sense that the people lived a much more ascetic life and devoted themselves more to their religion rather than other things. Even though it was the less popular of the two, it attracted many followers in Ceylon, and eventually on to Burma, Thailand and South Asia. Mahayana was, and still is, the more popular because it was a more open version of Buddhism, and it has been this way since 100BC. It was much more achievable than Therevada because it allowed people to reach Nirvana easier. It was also very popular because there were educational institutes in the Vedic age that advocated the religion. This education helped the people fully understand what they believed in and probably made them more committed than others. These religions were important at the time and nowadays as well because they give a person a sense of hope, like many religions do, of salvation after death.
Jainism first appeared in the 7th century BC, but didn’t become popular until Vardhamana Mahariva converted to Jainism around the 6th century BC. Mahavira, meaning “the great hero”, was born into a wealthy northern Indian family in 540BC. He spent most of his life living ascetically, abandoning everything around him that was comfortable to live the Jainist lifestyle. Jainist’s believed that everything in the universe from rocks to animals had a soul in them. Ahimsa, nonviolence to all living things and souls was practiced in Jainism. This was often very impractical because finding jobs that accommodated with their beliefs would have been difficult. The Jainist’s believed that when trapped inside a human body, people experienced a lot of suffering. The only way to get rid of this suffering was to detach from all desires. Jainist’s practices extreme asceticism, fasting was common, and even killed the king Ashoka. Once they were completely detached with no desires whatsoever, they could finally have out of the cycle of reincarnation. Jainism often attracted lower castes because of the belief that everyone was equal in life, and in salvation. Like Buddhism and other religions, Jainism also gave people an explanation to the unexplainable things in life and the mysterious thought of where you go after death.
Alexander the Great
Alexander was the son of King Philip II, ruler of Macedon. When Philip was assassinated in 336BC, the throne was turned over to Alexander. His father had conquered Greek after it was weakened from the Peloponnesian War, but Persia still remained unconquered by the Macedonians. This job was left for Alexander. Putting together an army of 37,000 men, he and his troops marched to Persia, and by 330BC he had installed himself as the new Persian emperor. Even after his success in Persia, Alexander was not fully satisfied. He crossed the Indus River into the Punjab and could have kept going, but his troops refused to go any further. Alexander had many more plans for his travels, but became sick and died after celebrating his success’s by eating and drinking a bit too much. Alexander was an extraordinary conqueror who could have achieved much, much more if it wasn’t for his untimely death. He had 27 different cities around the places he conquered named after himself, and defeated some of the most powerful empires at the time. He was such an important figure that he has been named Alexander the Great. Without him, Macedon wouldn’t have become nearly as prominent and powerful as they had become.
Sparta and Athens
Sparta was a city-state in Greece in the region of the Peloponnesus. During the 7th and 8th centuries BC, they became increasingly more populated, and their economy expanded greatly. Because of this they became much more powerful, and eventually turned their neighbors into helots, servants who they relied on for agriculture and food supplying. Eventually the helots outnumbered the Spartans, and when they realized this they focused their time and energy to making sure no rebellions would take place by being extremely disciplined. Statuses were based on strength and talent in the military, which was probably the most important thing to the Spartans. Boys the age of 7 were taken off to military camps where they learned the skills of a warrior, and became physically fit to handle the hard work. When they turned 20 years old they joined the Spartan army which they stayed in until they were too old, and retired. Women were also encouraged to become fit to have strong children that would benefit the city-state in the future. Like Sparta, Athens had a large increase in population and economy size, which made things difficult to govern. To deal with this, Athens created a democracy by allowing the city-states citizens to decide who was to govern their land. Unlike Sparta, Athens had social classes that became distinct during the 7th century BC. There were many rich aristocrats that owned land, and this caused problems for the people who weren’t rich and owned land. Besides this problem, Athens was a developing city-state that was home to many famous and talented scientists, artists, philosophers, architects, and others. Sparta and Athens were two of the most powerful and influential Greek city-states to this day. Spartan military techniques have influenced many today, and also Athenian democracy has shaped the system of the United States government which shows that both were very important figures.
Solon & Pericles
During the early 6th century, the people of Athens were complaining more and more about the growing line between the rich and the poor. The aristocratic land owners were taking over the small plots owned by others not as wealthy, making them poorer and poorer, and the aristocrats richer and richer. Solon was an aristocrat who decided to solve this problem. His solution was to allow the aristocrats to keep their land to avoid a dispute with them, and then forgave the debts of all the lower classed people, allowing them to be debt free. He also diminished slavery of debtors, and released ones who had previously been in prison for their debts. Lastly he allowed any free man with enough wealth to participate in public life, not just the wealthy aristocrats and let the lower class have representatives as the aristocrats did. With his master plan, Solon got rid of social problems between the classes, and reformed Athens in a good way. Pericles was an aristocrat who was voted to power, leading from 461BC until his death in 429BC. He was probably the most liked leader of Athens, as he cared about everyone, no matter their class. One of the great things he did was create jobs in construction, building different things which helped the lower class who needed a job. He also encouraged cultural development. Under his leadership, Athens blossomed with culture. Scientists, philosophers, artists, and many more talented people were working, making Athens one of the most sophisticated and enlightened city states. Pericles was important because he was the most talented and popular Athenian leader who made sure all people of his city-state were happy.
Fearing the threat of the Persians attacking, all the city states formed the Delian League which was an alliance between all of the states, including Athens and Sparta. The poleis gave money to the League which went into Athens treasury. But instead of using this money to support the poleis from the Persians, Athens, under Pericles’s rule, used the money for architecture. This made the other city-states mad because they had essentially given their money to fund Athenian construction projects. The poleis split into two groups, with Athens and Sparta as leaders on either side, and a civil war began. The war went from 431-404BC, and eventually Sparta forced Athens to surrender. The Peloponnesian War greatly weakened all of Greek, making it easy for Macedon to swoop down and conquer it which is why the war made such an impact on history.
The Delian League was an alliance between the Greek poleis after the conflicts with Persians that occurred in 480BC. To protect themselves from future attacks, the poleis all contributed money to the League, which was then put in the Athenian treasury for safekeeping. Athens had superiority over the rest of the poleis, so they supplied an army for the League. However, Athens did not use the money to protect the city-states. Instead they used the money to fund their bureaucracy and to build new architecture for their cities. The other poleis regretted giving their money, as it only went towards helping Athens, and not anyone else. The Delian League was highly important because it fueled the arguments between the city states that led to the Peloponnesian War soon to come.
Socrates, Plato, & Aristotle
Born in 470BC, Socrates was an influential philosopher and scientist of the classical Greek world. He disagreed with the earlier thoughts of Greek scientists, who were trying to understand the natural world. Socrates, on the other hand thought human affairs were much more important. Socrates decided that living an honest life was better than wealth or fame. He often questioned peoples morals and ideals which made him somewhat of a nuisance in society. He was accused of corrupting the youth’s minds and encouraging immortality, and was sentenced to death in 399BC. Socrates introduced new thought to Greek, and was important because he spread many new and unique ideas around that are still studied today. Although Plato never wrote down any of his thoughts, his disciple Plato put together his work and shared it with the public. Born in 430BC, Plato highly respected his mentor. At first he passed on Socrates views, but over time he developed his own ideas. He came up with the theory of Forms or Ideas. He talked about how people view things like beauty or courage differently than each other, that you couldn’t really define these because everyone had a different idea of what they were. Plato thought that the aristocratic philosophers were at the top of the class system, and those less intelligent would not be as elite as they were. Like Socrates, Plato also developed new thought into the world and introduced new ideas. After Plato passed on in 347BC, his disciple Aristotle took his place as key philosopher of classical Greece. Aristotle was born in 384BC, and died in 322BC. He supported Plato’s ideas of Forms or Ideas until later in his life when he began to distrust it. Aristotle drew an emphasis on a philosopher’s sense, and how using reason was more trustworthy. Along with philosophy, Aristotle wrote about biology, politics, literature, physics and many other subjects he was interested in. Aristotle had a big impact on Western thought, especially science are religion.
Between 264BC and 146BC, the Romans and Carthaginians fought three battles against each other. Disagreements first began between the two since there was economic competition over Sicily because of their supply of grain. Eventually, the Romans won the battles, conquered Carthage, and forced the cities people into slavery. They also used Carthage’s resources to pay for their continuous expansion. The Punic Wars are important because they show just how powerful the Roman Empire was. They could take over a distinguished city like Carthage and use it to their advantage shows the Romans at their best.
Hellenic vs. Hellenistic
The people that lived in classical Greece before the conquests of Philip of Macedon are known as the Hellenic people. The Hellenic Greeks were isolated and there were no influences on it by any outside forces. During the Hellenic period, which was about 750BC-323BC, Greece was mostly about culture. Unlike the Hellenic period, the Hellenistic period was a Macedonian Greece because of Macedon conquering the city-states and declaring it theirs. From about 323BC-146BC, the Hellenistic era was a mixture of civilizations and culture expanding beyond Greece. Both the Hellenic and Hellenistic periods are important because they show the effect that Macedonian conquests had on the rest of the world, especially Greece.
Ptolemaic & Antigonid Empires
When Alexander the Great died, his Hellenistic kingdom was split into three regions in 275BC, and the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt was the wealthiest of these. Ruled by Ptolemy, the empire governed Egypt until the Romans invaded in 31BC. Egyptian society wasn’t meddled with; instead they made sure that Egypt was organized with their agriculture, industry and taxes. The Egyptians had to pay taxes to the Greek and Macedonian overlords and they made sure that the crops were being harvested right. Monopolies on products were also the product of Hellenistic rule over Egypt. Because the Ptolemaic empire was the richest of all the Hellenistic empires, it was important. It was also a busy sea port that greatly helped trade for the Greek and Macedonians. Like the Ptolemaic Empire, the Antigonid Empire was established in 275BC after Alexander the Great died and split his kingdom. The Antigonid Empire was the smallest out of all the Hellenistic Empires, and was settled in the Greece which Alexander had conquered after the Peloponnesian War. The Greeks were not easy to rule, as they often tried to rebel against their new leaders. The Antigonid rule over Greek helped the Greek poleis like Athens and Corinth, who received a lot of trade through their ports. Other poleis tried to bargain with the Antigonids for tax reliefs, and some Greeks had problems with distribution. Because of the problems and overcrowding in Greece, some moved away to the third Hellenistic empire, Seleucid. The Antigonid Empire was small but had many benefits that helped it become successful. It also was the reason for yet another Greek conflict, which makes it important.
Bactria, now modern day Afghanistan, was inhabited by the Greeks of the Hellenistic Empire in a colony on the Oxus River. This colony, called Ai Khanum, may have been founded by Alexander the Great or Seleucus after Alexander’s death. In 250BC the colony withdrew from the Hellenistic empire and became its own kingdom. The colony had much Greek influence on them, and they spoke, read, and dressed like the Greeks. However, they invited Persians into their colony, and some of the Greeks switched to Buddhism. The Hellenistic Empires brought different culture to different lands, like spreading Greek culture all the way to Bactria. This shows the influence Hellenistic ways had on the word.
Sappho was a famous female poet who wrote around 600BC. Being aristocratic, Sappho could get an education and learn how to read, unlike other Greek women who weren’t wealthy enough to learn. Sappho invited girls into her house to give them music and literature lessons, but she was charged with homosexual activity. This is because in her poetry were descriptions of her attraction towards girls. This was such a big deal because homosexual activity for women was highly frowned upon in ancient Greece. Surprisingly, homosexuality was not considered a big deal for men. Sappho is an important figure in history because she was a famous poet that was a woman which was not usual at the time. Also because she is a perfect example of how homosexuality was oddly considered a crime for women, but not for men.
Roman Republic vs. Roman Empire
The Roman Republic originated in 509BC when they replaced the last Etruscan king. The Romans used an aristocratic republic as their government system. All of the classes had a representative in the government, including the plebeians who eventually got ten tribunes. Even though the plebeians had a voice, the patricians were really the ones who ruled Rome, and there was often a lot of tension between the two classes. The Romans had many threats from the outside of their kingdom during the Republic including Gauls and Etruscans. The Romans made military colonies around the regions they defeated, and were generally polite to the people by letting them keep their culture and didn’t tax them. When the republic expanded its borders, it generated problems like land distribution and keeping its conquered land under control from rebellions. They got rid of the republic and reformed into an empire in the first centuries BC and CE. The government was now centralized with kings instead of voices representing the people. These kings were like Alexander the Great; they focused on conquering new land more than keeping peace between the people of Rome. Civil Wars broke out between the classes because of the arguments between the patricians and plebeians. Also, after the convert to an empire, the Romans became much more powerful and conquered much more land than they had ever gotten before the switch. The Roman Republic and Empire prove how successful the Romans were. They conquered more land that anyone ever had and proved great military technique.
Augustus (r. 31 BCE – 14 CE)
Octavian was Julius Caesar’s nephew and adopted son. He eventually became Rome’s first emperor thirteen years after his father’s assassination in 44 B.C.E.. His coronation was prolonged due to civil turmoil. In 31 B.C.E., Octavian defeated his rival, Mark Antony, in a navel battle. Shortly after his victory, the Senate bestowed Octavian with the title, Augustus. The title carried a powerful religious connotation that suggested a divine disposition of its possessor. Augustus was the absolute ruler of his “monarchy disguised as a republic” for forty-five years. He centralized political and military power, and preserved traditional forms of government. Augustus ruled as the emperor of Rome up until 14 C.E. when he passed away. During his rein, Augustus ended civil disputes in Rome and also stimulated a long era of peace, stability, and increased trade called the pax romana.
The era of pax romana, or "Roman Peace", was stimulated by Augustus's rein. The pax romana was a 250-year period of stability and prosperity in the Roman Empire from 27 B.C.E. – 180 B.C.E.. Due to the end of civil disputes in Rome the pax romana created more time to expand trade routes, such as the Roman Roads. Also the era of peace led to more communication throughout the region of Mesopotamia to the Atlantic Ocean. The creation of crafts and art was also simulated. This period was very important to the expansion of the Roman Empire's, trade network, and culture.
The Roman Mediterranean expanded economically and socially as the state itself expanded. As trade increased, people had to keep up with the demand of products. Wealthy elites created the latifundia, large crop plantations employed by slaves, which were used solely for production of exports. Because trade became specialized to each specific region, only some states used the latifundia. For example, North Africa, Egypt, and Sicily exported grain to large cities and needed the latifundia to produce enough resources. Exports could be traded through the network of inland trade routes, or by sea-lanes. The latifundia were the original factories. They were one of the first ways people began creating surpluses in exchange for wealth but also added more pressure between the lower and upper classes.
The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, were chief proponents of social reform. They strived to redistribute land equally between the upper and lower classes. Their efforts were similar to those of Wang Mang from the Chinese Han Dynasty. The strained relations between the classes led to violent conflicts. The brother’s believed that equality of land allocation would lessen the tension. To accomplish this they enforced strict rules dealing with the amount of land one could own, and punishments for exceeding that amount. Unfortunately, the wealthy elites became threatened by the brother’s and Tiberius was executed in 132 B.C.E., and Gaius is 121 B.C.E.. The Gracchi brother’s assassination proved that the Roman Empire could not operate as a whole. Their death was a forewarning of the fall of Rome.
Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth was a compelling Jewish teacher whom Christians recognized as their savior. He was born around 4 B.C.E. and was crucified in the early 30s C.E.. Jesus’ teachings taught the devotion of God and love for humans. He was a wise and peaceful man who had a reputation for miraculously healings of the sick. One of his more controversial teachings was about the “kingdom of God”, a realm where God welcomed his faithful followers. The Romans felt threatened by the new “kingdom”, and they executed Jesus. The ideas presented by Jesus of Nazareth are still believed by many today and his ideas and reputation grew stronger after his death.
Old Testament vs. Torah 47,48 vs. New Testament 283
The Old Testament is a collection of books that records the history of Hebrews and their sacred writings. It makes up the first half of the Christian Bible. The Torah is a compilation of the Israelites’ teachings and scriptures. Religious Israelite leaders’ created the compilation between 1000 and 400 B.C.E.. The Torah put forth Yahweh’s laws, role in worldly affairs, and system for punishment. The New Testament was a written assemblage of Jesus’ life, his supporters’ efforts, and letters illustrating the Christian teachings. The Old Testament differs from the Torah and the New Testament because it is about the Hebrews’ history, not the Israelites or Christians. The Torah differs from the Old Testament and the New Testament because it is not in the Christian Bible and it describes the Israelites’ religious teachings. Lastly, the New Testament differs from the Old Testament and the Torah because it based more on the beginning of the individual, Jesus, rather than the foundation of a group. The Old Testament, Torah, and New Testament all help historians better understand the beginning of major religions. Religions such as Christianity are still alive today and the beliefs of Christians now are very similar to the very first Christians
Paul of Tarsus
Paul of Tarsus was the primary figure in the extension of Christianity outside of Judaism. Paul’s method of teaching Christianity attracted many urban people. His teachings urged followers’ to put faith above their personal lives and to worship God as the creator and decider of the world. Like many other popular religions before Christianity, one could be rewarded for tremendous devotion. Paul was a very tactful missionary. He knew what people admired about religion, and he converted many by outlining the appealing aspects of Christianity. During this time however, the Romans were fearful that Christianity would disrupt the tranquility of the Roman state. To ensure their sanctity, Paul of Tarsus was executed. Paul played a major role in the spread of Christianity. Before his missionary trips, Jesus’ only followers were Jews. Paul’s efforts helped Christianity become as wide spread as it is today.
Jewish War of 66 – 70 CE
The Jewish War was brought on by religious tensions between the Jews and the Roman Empire. Occasionally and empire would force their subject to worship emperors as divinities. The Jews are a strictly monotheistic group, recognizing Yahweh as their only divinity. The Jews in Palestine began to rebel against the Romans in an attempt to regain their religious freedom. The Roman army defeated the Jews in 70 C.E. after a four-year-long battle. The Jews resistance to the government foreshadowed the current “separation of church and state” law we use today. Their ideas of unjust government were similar to ours.
While the empires expanded, the term “long-distance trade” changed dramatically as well. As the growth occurred, merchants began creating vast networks of trade routes linking Eurasia and the northern part of Africa. These trade routes were called silk roads, due to the popularity of Chinese silk traded over the routes. The silk roads led caravans from the Han capital, Chang’an, through oasis towns and ended in the ports of Antioch and Tyre. Today the travel would have from China to modern day Turkey. The silk roads accounted for much of the wealth earned by the empires of that time. Not only were goods and resources traded, but religion was also spread. The popularity of Buddhism in China was due to the oasis towns along the silk road. Without the silk roads, crops wouldn’t have been introduced to non-indigenous lands and religion would not have been spread as effectively.
Manichaeism was a faith that contained aspects of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. It was created by a prophet named Mani, who was originally devoted to the Zoroastrian faith. Manichaeism was spread through the oasis towns along the silk roads. The faith recognized all of the major figures, Zarathustra, Buddha, and Jesus as prophets. This meant that Zarathustra was the prophet of Persia, Buddha was the prophet of India, and Jesus was the prophet of the Mediterranean world. Mani encouraged his followers’ to support an ascetic lifestyle and to uphold high, moral principles. Committed Manicheans sustained from marriage, sexual relations, and luxuries. Less extreme followers’ lived more convenient lifestyles, but they both looked forward to joining the forces of good and light. Mani died in prison due to the negative outlook on Manichaeism. Eventually Manichaeism was terminated in the Mediterranean basin during the fifth and sixth centuries. Manichaeism was one of the many religions that thrived because of the silk roads. Learning about religions helps us identify the values of people in the ancient world.
Around the second and third centuries C.E., the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire were struck by a widespread epidemic. The diseases included smallpox, measles, and the bubonic plague. The epidemic took toll on the population of the empires. Million of people perished and the economical and social impacts of the epidemic were severe. The social and economical changes contributed to the internal tension that led to the fall of both the Han and Roman civilizations. If the empires would have had the medical technology such as vaccinations and antidotes that we have today, they might have survived longer than they did.
The Roman Empire was experiencing internal turbulence. Emperor Diocletian who reigned from 284 – 305 B.C.E., tried to alleviate tension by dividing the empire into two districts. A co-emperor ruled each district along with a lieutenant and officials. Diocletian was able to centralize military control, stabilize the economy, and create administrate reforms. He was the father of Constantine, the next emperor of Rome. Diocletian attempted to fix Rome and his efforts did help for a while. Unfortunately, the tensions later became to great to handle and the collapse of Rome became inevitable.
The Huns were an aggressive nomadic group that originated from central Asia. They spoke a Turkish language and were thought to be cousins of the Xiongnu people. The Huns began migrating westward and in the mid-fifth century, became an undefeatable military group. The warrior king Attila organized them and the ruthless alliance invaded Hungary, Gaul, northern Italy, and parts of the Roman Empire. After the death of Attila, the Huns disappeared. The Huns are one of the most ferocious groups recognized today. The added pressure to the Roman Empire and in part, led to its collapse.
St. Augustine was the most influential of the elites who took an interest in Christianity during the fourth century. He lived from 354 – 430 C.E., and was a bishop of Hippo, a North African city. Augustine was very intellectual and he drew inspiration from Stoicism and Platonism. He even practiced Manichaeism for nine-years. He later converted to Christianity in 387 B.C.E.. After his conversion he focused on reconciling Christianity with the philosophical viewpoints of the Greeks and Romans. Augustine's writings made Christianity more appealing in a philosophical way and as an alternative religion. Basically, helped spread Christianity by making it more attractive to other groups of people.
Fall of Han
The collapse of the Chinese Han Dynasty occurred in 220 C.E.. A considerable factor of the collapse was the internal pressures and the development of factions among elites. People became selfish and were only interested in their own desires. Much fighting occurred and as a result and the central government gradually became less effective. Another contributor was the dispute of land distribution. Those who owned more land had more say in government. This factor put the burden of taxes on the poor peasants. Over time more pressures were added such as the epidemics, the peasant rebellions, and the emperor’s loss of control. The generals gain power of the dynasty and the Han was divided into three large kingdoms, and was therefore eliminated. The collapse of the Han dynasty led to great trade reductions and the cease of some Han traditions.
Fall of Rome
The collapse of the Roman Empire occurred in 476 C.E.. Rome’s decline was similar to the decline of the Han Dynasty. Rome faced internal conflicts such as the “barrack emperors” who divided the empire and fought for power. The empire was very large and was beginning to become too large to govern. Like the Han dynasty, the epidemics also took a toll on the empire. They weakened the economy and killed many citizens. Eventually that Roman Empire fell, but it was not completely destroyed. The remains of the empire survived for another millennium but the once great empire became nothing to behold. The fall of the Roman Empire cut of trade in that region and ended a very influential civilization. Today we still have many similarities to the people of Rome.