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Comparative Essay: The Roman Empire and the Gupta Empire

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Thousands of years back into our world’s history there were numerous empires which each grew differently. Even though no two were exactly alike some shared incredible similarities. Two of these empires -- The Roman Empire in Europe, and the Gupta Empire in India -- were very similar in the way that they developed even though they were separate from one another. They had a similar basis for their economies which allowed them to thrive, and shared many aspects to their social structures. But the two empires differed slightly in their political set up. Both empires had economies which were successful and based on the same foundations. Rome exported mostly olive oil, wine, and metalwork while the Gupta empire exported salt, cotton, and spices. The Roman Empire had a huge trade network that went around several continents, it reached as far as North Africa, England, and the Middle East. The Gupta Empire’s routes did not extend as far, but were equally as successful. For its size it had a relatively large international trade network which consisted of empires and civilizations located in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, The Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea. Both were known to have traded along the Silk Road. In addition they both had monetary systems. The more popular Roman currency was the Denarius, and the name of the Gupta currency is unknown. Both empires made their coins out of either brass, silver, copper, or gold. In addition to their strong trade systems, both had a strong agricultural aspect to their economy. These two elements combined gave them the key to having a super efficient and prosperous economy, which gave them a strong standing in the world. Regarding their social structures, both empires had very similar norms when it came to positions in society. On a the larger scale regarding the entire empires, both had capitals which were the center of wealth and social importance. In important Roman cities such as Rome and Constantinople there was an important place called the Forum, while in the Gupta Empire it had one very important city known as Pataliputra. Both were known for having a very distinct system of hierarchy. The Roman Empire’s system was divided into two main groups, which group you were in was determined at birth and you could rarely move up in society. The first group was the Patricians. There was a sort of myth history that said their blood line could be traced back to the very first consul of Rome. They were rich, educated, and had important roles in society such as positions in government and those who made lots of money off of trade and businesses. The second group was the Plebeians, who were all other citizens. Most of which were impoverished people. They consisted of working people and societies lowest, such as prostitutes. Even further below that was slaves. The Gupta Empire had the same basic idea of a social hierarchy which you were born into called the Caste system. There are five levels to the caste system. THe Brahmins are on top (the priests) followed by the Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), the Vaisys (skilled traders and merchants), the Sudras (unskilled workers), and then the Pariah, better known as the untouchables. In both empires the lower classes needs were often unmet, they were stuck in poverty, and were seen as scum by the minority upperclass. In addition to their social structures both Empires were male dominated patriarchies which left women with few rights and freedoms. When it came to politics they had commonalities and differences. Their main similarity was their structure. Both empires had a lot of land to control so they had systems where they would assign officials to regulate society. They also were also both militaristic and were constantly attempting to unify their existing land and conquering new ones by force. They differed mostly on their methods of ruling. Rome was a democracy, though they did have an Emperor, which had many different levels within itself. They had Magistrates, who presided over the Senate and assemblies. They were in charge of many things such as the foreign representation of Rome, and the legal system. The Senate was composed of 600 people and was the chief governmental body, they controlled things such as public and military finances. Below them were the Assemblies, which were composed of all male Roman citizens. The Gupta Empire on the other hand was dealing with a much less organized and less unified area. India was not unified completely, so one of their main focuses was always to keep it as stable as possible. Their government was much more like a monarchy with their king at the center of all the final decisions. Beyond that they subdivided their administration into provinces, which were further divided into districts in order to more efficiently control their land. The Gupta and the Roman Empires shared very similar economies and social structures, but mostly differed in their political set up. Their differences are to be expected though since no two Empires are exactly alike. Their overall strongest similarity was that they were two of the strongest Empires known. They contributed much to society culturally, socially, politically, economically, and in many more aspects. Both Empires were so great that some of their greatest contributions can still be seen in todays society.

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