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Comparative: Roman and Chinese Empires

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Comparative: Roman and Chinese Empires

No matter where an empire is located, maintaining a vast empire always comes with many hardships, and the Roman and Chinese Empires were no exception. In the time of city-states, the Romans had developed a Republican form of government, which successfully met its needs. However, the Romans failed to develop a new form of government that catered to the demands of an expanding empire, resulting in the fall of the Republic, and Roman emperors were never able to develop an effective ideology of rule. Coupled with armies' loyalties to generals rather than the state, the empire was prone to bloody civil wars and frequent change in rulers who only reigned for several months or years. Also, the empire's obsession with expanding and protecting its borders also led to an increased demand for military service, after which many small farmers had no work, leading to growing populations stuck in poverty and prone to riots. Furthermore, these small farms, which used to produce grain, were replaced, and the empire had to rely on imported grain for sustenance. These events led to the third century crisis, in which the Roman Empire faced a period in which political, military, and economic problems nearly destroyed the empire. China, despite being located in a different hemisphere, faced incredibly similar problems. Both the Roman and Chinese Empires had significant political and social turmoil due to conflicts between independent regions over power. Because it was impossible to communicate any faster than the speed of a horse, empires relied on autonomous local leaders to maintain control. However, many local leaders and military generals being more interested in their own political power, which led to internal conflicts and civil wars. The expanding borders also required greater protection, and both of the administrative centers of these empires were located far from its long borders. In order to maintain and protect its borders, the governments demanded more and more taxes and services from citizens who were gradually transferred their loyalties to powerful, rural landowners. In the end, both empires were so weakened that their borders were overrun by outside forces and the central governments collapsed. In a time when communication was slow and difficult, it was very hard for large empires to maintain control, protecting their borders while simultaneously maintaining the favor of citizens. Rome and China, despite the great distance separating them, faced similar problems and challenges in maintaining their increasingly expanding borders.

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