Comparing Empires Rome and China

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Comparing Empires: Roman and Chinese
Consolidating the Roman and Chinese Empires 1. both empires defined themselves in universal terms 2. both invested heavily in public works 3. both claimed supernatural sanctions a. deceased Roman emperors as gods (imperial cult) i. persecution of Christians for nonparticipation in cult b. Chinese emperor as Son of Heaven i. rule by Mandate of Heaven ii. dependent on just rule iii. heavy ritual duties to maintain relationship between earth and heaven iv. moral government spelled out by writings of Confucius and his followers The Han Dynasty was heir to the Qin state that had unified China in 221 BCE. The first ruler of the Qin established the title of “emperor.” The power of a Chinese emperor was absolute; however, he was subject to various checks on his authority by both high officials and imperial family members. The Romans practiced emperor worship solely in the case of dead emperors. In addition, only certain emperors were accorded divine honors, and always after death. In other parts of the Empire, however, local customs merged with Roman ones. In Egypt, for instance, emperor worship was practiced more widely. This was because the Roman office of emperor combined with the Egyptian notion as Pharaohas-sun-god. Chinese emperors were not considered divine beings. The emperor was called the “Son of Heaven” and was responsible for conducting sacrifices to both Heaven and Earth. The word “Heaven” referred more or less to what we would call “nature”: the succession of day and night, and the motions of the stars and planets. During the first millennium BCE, the concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” was applied. If an emperor oppressed the people, Heaven could withdraw a dynasty’s right to govern.

Relationships with societies they governed a. Romans were always a minority in empire i. gradual expansion of Roman citizenship; was granted to nearly all free people of empire in 212 c.e. ii. did not imply cultural assimilation iii. some

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