Unit 2: The Classical Period

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Unit 2: The Classical Period

  • Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies
  • 600 BCE to 600 CE

From Ancient to Classical Civ

  • Most ancient river valley civs declined after 1200 B.C.E.
  • The classical civilizations, which began to emerge around 1000 B.C.E., were measurably different than their river valley predecessors.
    • They grew noticeably larger through trade and conquest.
    • Classical civilizations developed in China, India, Greece, and Rome. China was the 1st and the largest of the classical civs.
    • Though all the classical civilizations had declined by 500 C.E., they left an indelible mark on world civilization. Their impact endures to the present.
    • Great developments in philosophy, politics, and art in classical civilizations formed the foundation for subsequent civilizations.
    • Patriarchal culture prevailed in each of the classical civilizations.
    • Empires developed as rulers strengthened gov’t and military organizations
    • World religions emerged as potent forces in world history
    • More numerous and better written records
    • More complex long-distance trade
    • More contacts between nomads and sedentary people

Dawn of the Empires

  • Originally created by Ms. Susan M. Pojer Horace Greeley HS Chappaqua, NY


  • What constitutes empire?
  • Imposed political rule over another people and its resources, usually by conquest
  • Must create bureaucratic administrations with sufficient uniformity in language, currency, weights, measures, and legal systems to enable them to function as a single political structure
  • Collection of tax or tribute to provide means to administer the empire
  • Empires create structures that display power and luxury, inspiring loyalty among allies and caution among potential enemies.
  • Often encourage great creativity in the arts and learning
  • Establish vast marketplaces serviced by highways and roads, ports, and dockyards. Ex. All roads lead to Rome, and canals that linked Southern China with the North
  • Earliest empires built with military force, superior technologies and vast armies or powerful navies.


  • What are two forms of imperial rule used in history?
  • Hegemony- preferred as subjects willingly accept imperial rule in exchange for benefits like Stability and peace (Rome, Greece, Persia)
  • - Technological improvements China
  • - Economic trade markets / profits Rome and China
  • - Protection from enemies Greece, China and Rome
  • - or perceived threats
  • B) Dominance- conquest and control through superior military power and or the threat to use it (Akkadians, Hittites, Persians)
  • - Empires by nature are not static and intentionally or unintentionally produce change in subjects
  • - conversion of social, economic, or political sphere


  • What causes the decline and fall of empires?
  • A) Leadership Failure- Rome and Hellenistic Greece
  • Overextension- Administrative responsibilities
  • (Rome and China)
  • Economic Collapse- Cost outrun benefits as territories become more remote (China)
  • Doubts about Ideology- Justice of empire from ruling people leads to possible revolt of subjects
  • Military Defeat- From external enemies or revolt or both (Rome and china)

Earliest Empires

  • Mesopotamia
  • Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE)
  • Amorites (Babylonians) (1900-1500 BCE)
  • Hittites (1400-1200 BCE)
  • Assyria’s brutal reign under Sargon II (720 – 600 B.C.E.)
  • Chaldeans (600-512 BCE)
  • Egypt experienced imperial empire as both colonizer and colonized subjects
  • Conquered Nubia (2040-1640 BCE)
  • Hyksos ruled Lower Egypt (1640-1540 BCE)
  • Egypt under the New Kingdom expelled the Hyksos and created Egypt’s largest empire
  • 1050BCE-Nubia broke free and in 712-657 BCE Nubia estab own empire over Egypt
  • Persia under Cyrus the Great, Darius, and Xerxes

Eurasian Empires of the Classical Era

  • Persia
  • Greece under Alexander the Great
  • Rome
  • China during the Qin and Han dynasties
  • India during the Mauryan and Gupta dynasties
  • The
  • Persian
  • Empire
  • The Persian Empire

Persian Empire

  • Also known as the Achaemenid Empire, it would occupy the arid area between Mesopotamia and the nomadic tribes of central Asia.
  • Indo-European ethnic groups organized into clans who became loosely connected to Mesopotamian overloads.
  • Medes and Persians began to appear in the region east of Mesopotamia about 1300 B.C.E., bringing with them the use of iron.
  • Cyrus the Great
  • 580 – 529 B. C. E.
  • A tolerant ruler  he allowed different cultures within his empire to keep their own institutions.
  • The Greeks called him a “Law-Giver.”
  • The Jews called him “the anointed of the Lord.” (In 537, he allowed over 40,000 to return to Palestine from Babylon).

Cyrus the Great

  • Even though he broke the balance when he defeated the Medes, Babylonians, and Lydians of western Asia, he was seen as a liberator of Babylon.
  • He allowed local rulers to continue work under Persian direction.
  • Upon his questionable death, his son, Cambyses II, expanded Cyrus’ conquest by capturing Memphis and taking control of Egypt.
  • The empire would eventually stretch from North Africa to the Indus River.
  • Darius the Great (526 – 485 B. C. E.)
  • Best organizer among Persian kings
  • Built Persepolis.
  • He extended the Persian Empire to the Indus River in northern India. (empire stretched 3000 mls)
  • He conquered Egypt & built a canal in Egypt connecting the Nile and the Red Sea.
  • Darius the Great (526 – 485 B. C. E.)
  • Established a tax-collecting system.
  • Divided the empire into 23 provinces called SATRAPIES ruled by a satrap= governor
  • Built the great Royal Road system.
  • Established a complex postal system.
  • Created a network of spies called “the King’s eyes and ears.”
  • Ruled more than 35 million people

The Persians

  • Persians = very tolerant rulers
    • Allowed conquered people to keep own languages, religions, and laws
  • Artisans built city of Persepolis = most magnificent city in the empire
  • Ancient Persepolis
  • Persepolis
  • The People of Persepolis
  • Persian “Royal Road”

The Persians

  • Big network of roads
    • Allowed for trade between different peoples/cultures in the empire
    • Allowed for easy movement of soldiers
    • Royal Road = longest road in the empire  had stations along it so travelers could get food, water, and fresh horses
  • Persian Archers & Soldiers

The Persians

  • 480 BCE = Darius’s son Xerxes tried to conquer Greece to expand the empire
    • Failed to defeat the Greeks

The Fall of the Persians

  • Differences between Persians and its subject peoples became too difficult to overcome.
  • Unfortunately, the tolerance for other traditions exhibited by Cyrus and Darius was not continued by Xerxes, the successor of Darius.
  • His policies led to rebellions which culminated in the Persian Wars with Greece. A long period of warfare with Greek city-states resulted in “defeat” and decline. (Marathon & Thermoplyae)
  • In 334 B.C.E., Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great invaded Persia and defeated the Persians three years later. Persia was then divided into three regions ruled by Alexander’s generals until their defeat in 651 C.E.

Greek Civilization: Ancient Greece

The Aegean Area

  • Ancient Greece included the Balkan Peninsula & small rocky islands in the Aegean Sea

The Aegean Area

  • 3/4 of Greek mainland = mountains
    • Protected Greeks from foreign invaders/attackers
    • Kept Greeks isolated from other communities
    • Prevented Greeks from uniting under one government
  • Between the mountain ranges = fertile plains good for farming

The Aegean Area

  • Mild climate
    • So people spent much of their time outdoors
    • Meetings held in public squares
    • Teachers met students in public gardens
    • Actors performed in open theaters

The Aegean Area

  • Despite lack of government -- Greeks spoke same language & practiced same religion (polytheistic)
  • Greeks turned to the seas to earn a living --> no place in Greece is more than 50 miles from a coast

Aegean Civilization [2500 BCE - 1100 BCE] The Minoans

  • Lived on the island of Crete (off the coast of Greece)
  • Ruled by King Minos
    • Had a large palace that contained labyrinths = mazes
    • Story of Minos and the Minotaur (half man, half bull)

The Minoans

  • Murals show that both men and women:
    • Curled their hair
    • Wore gold jewelry
    • Wore wide metal belts
    • Liked dancing, sporting events, and boxing

The Minoans

  • Women enjoyed a higher status in society than in other civilizations
    • Chief deity = goddess of the Earth
  • Made a living from sea trade -- dominated eastern Mediterranean Sea trade
    • Protected the seas from pirates

The Minoans

  • Collapsed about 1350 BCE --> 2 theories why:
    • Large tidal wave destroyed cities
    • Mycenaeans (from mainland) attacked & invaded Crete

The Mycenaeans

  • Migrated from central Asia to the Balkan Peninsula (Greece)
    • Intermarried with local people there (called Hellenes) and set up a group of kingdoms

The Mycenaeans

  • Each kingdom centered around a hilltop with a royal fortress
    • Surrounded by stone walls for protection
    • Palaces = centers of government and production of goods
    • Officials kept track of the wealth of every person
    • People were taxed in the form of livestock, wheat, and honey

The Mycenaeans

  • Adopted many parts of Minoan culture
    • Worshipped same Mother Earth
    • Metalworking, shipbuilding, navigation by sun & stars

The Mycenaeans

  • Mycenaeans conquered the Minoans but were then themselves conquered by the Dorians from the north around 1100 BCE
    • Began “dark ages” of Greek culture
    • Trade stopped, people lost skills, poverty increased
    • Ionians reintroduced Greek culture 300 years later (Ionians = refugees that had escaped when the Dorians took over)
    • New Greek civilization emerged --> called Hellenic after the original people of Greece

Poets and Heroes

  • Two most famous Greek epics = The Iliad and The Odyssey
    • Written by blind poet named Homer
    • The Iliad = about the Trojan War & features the story of the Trojan Horse
    • The Odyssey = about the journey of King Odysseus after the fall of Troy
    • Stories were used to teach Greek values

A Family of Deities

  • Greeks believed that gods caused the physical events of Earth to occur and controlled how people behaved, as well as what happened to people
  • Unlike other early cultures, Greeks didn’t fear their deities
    • Stressed importance of the individual & self-worth --> this self-respect allowed them to approach the gods with dignity

A Family of Deities

  • Greeks humanized their gods & goddesses
    • They had a totally human form
    • Had human behavior
  • Chief god = Zeus

A Family of Deities

  • Each city-state had a particular god as its protector
  • Each god controlled a part of the natural world (ex: Zeus ruled the sky & weather; Hades ruled the underworld; Poseidon ruled the sea; etc.)

A Family of Deities

  • Every 4 years, athletic contests were held to honor Zeus
    • Called the Olympic Games --> held in Olympia

A Family of Deities

  • Greeks began performing plays = beginnings of theater

Ancient Greece: The Polis

The Polis

  • Polis = city-state
  • Each polis developed independently, but shared certain features with other city-states

The Typical Polis

  • Polis included: a city and the surrounding villages, fields, and orchards
  • At the center of the city = an Acropolis = fortified hill
    • On top of Acropolis = temple of the local god or goddess
    • Foot of Acropolis = the agora = public square

The Typical Polis

  • Public square was political center of the polis
  • Citizens gathered there to choose officials, pass laws, etc.
  • Artisans & merchants did business there

The Typical Polis

  • Citizens = those who took part in government
    • Could vote and hold public office
    • Could speak for themselves in court
    • Could own property
    • In return: expected to serve in government and protect the polis

The Typical Polis

  • Most Greeks were NOT citizens
  • Slaves, foreign-born, and women couldn’t be citizens

Greek Colonies & Trade

  • Increase in population after the “dark ages” --> farmers couldn’t grow enough grain to feed everyone
  • Each polis sent out groups of people to set up colonies
    • Colonists sent grain back to the “parent city”

Greek Colonies & Trade

  • Farmers on mainland produced wine, olive oil, and other cash crops for export
    • Greek trade expanded throughout the Mediterranean region

Greek Colonies & Trade

  • 600s BCE = Greeks replaced barter system with money system
  • Began producing textiles (cloth) and pottery

Political and Social Change

  • Greek communities first ruled by kings -- kings soon lost power
  • Each polis was then ruled by landholding aristocrats = nobles

Political and Social Change

  • Disputes between aristocrats and commoners (especially farmers) often arose
    • Farmers often had to borrow money from the aristocrats until harvest --> when they couldn’t pay back the money, the aristocrats took the land, made farmers become sharecroppers/day laborers, or sold farmers into slavery

Political and Social Change

  • Farmers began to protest
  • Farmers were very powerful in Greek armies because they were the foot soldiers
  • Greek armies relied on the phalanx = rows of foot soldiers close together with shields to form a wall

Political and Social Change

  • Middle-class artisans & merchants wanted a voice in government & joined the farmers in protest

Political and Social Change

  • As a result of the unrest: tyrannies arose
    • Tyrant = one man --> seized power and ruled the polis
    • Most were fair; a few were cruel and unjust
    • Tyrannies ruled until 500 BCE

Political and Social Change

  • 500 BCE - 336 BCE = city-states were oligarchies or democracies
    • Oligarchy = a few wealthy people hold power
    • Democracy = government by the people
    • 2 most famous Greek city-states:
      • Athens = democracy
      • Sparta = oligarchy
  • "Hellenic"
  • (Classical)
  • Greece:
  • 700 BCE - 324 BCE
  • “Persian Wars”: 499 BCE–480 BCE
  • Persian Wars: Battles
  • Marathon (490 BCE)
    • 26+ miles from Athens
  • Thermopylae (480 BCE)
    • 300 Spartans at the mountain pass
  • Salamis (480 BCE)
    • Athenian navy victorious
  • Peloponnesian Wars- 431 B.C.E.

The Peloponnesian War

  • The emergence of Athens as an imperial power after the Persian Wars led to open hostilities with former allies.
  • Mainly between the Spartans, financed by the Persians and the Athenians, lasted three decades with the victory of the Spartans.
  • Persia regained much of its control and because of uprisings in Egypt, Cyprus, and Phoenicia, it did not return to attack Greece.
  • In northern Greece, Macedonians, Philip II and his son, Alexander, would reshape the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia in this vacuum.
  • Macedonia Under Philip II
  • "Hellenistic"
  • Greece:
  • 324 BCE - 100 BCE
  • Alexander the Great 356-323 B.C.E.

Alexander the Great

  • He saw himself as an Achaemenid ruler in the tradition of the Persians.
  • Alexander, a Macedonian, defeated Athens but was welcomed by the military to power.
  • Alexander and his armies would travel over 22,000 miles and extend Greek influence from Egypt to the Indus River.
  • Benevolent despotism but don’t test him.
  • Alexander the Great in Persia
  • Building “Greek” Cities in the East
  • Library at Alexandria (333 B.C.E.)
  • Alexander the Great’s Empire
  • Pergamum: A New “Hellenistic” City
  • Cosmopolitan Culture
  • Trade in the Hellenistic World
  • Hellenic vs. Hellenistic Art
  • The Breakup of Alexander’s Empire
  • The “Known” World – 300 B.C.E.
  • The Incursion of Rome into the Hellenistic World


  • Greek language and culture became the dominant culture among the ruling intellectual and commercial elites from the Mediterranean, India, Russia, and Central Asia.
  • Local customs coming from the Persians, endured and transformed the simplicity of earlier Hellenic culture into the more complex, elaborate, and cosmopolitan Hellenistic culture until the death of the last Macedonian queen, Cleopatra in 30 B.C.E.
  • Buddhist art is also transformed.
  • Hellenistic ecumene- unified urban culture, encompassing the vast lands and diverse peoples.
  • Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, Delphi and later cities built by Alexander and his generals.
  • Asia, Africa, and Europe begin to merge culturally.
  • The History
  • of
  • Ancient Rome
  • Originally created by Ms. Susan M. Pojer Horace Greeley HS Chappaqua, NY

Geography of the Romans

  • Rome’s central location contributed to its success in unifying Italy and then all the lands ringing the Mediterranean Sea which it called the “Middle of the Earth.”
  • Italy was a crossroads within the Mediterranean and Rome was a crossroads within Italy.
  • The Tiber River on one side and a double ring of seven hills on the other afforded natural protection to the site.
  • The Apennine Range runs along its length like a spine, separating the eastern and western coastal plains.
  • The mild Mediterranean climate affords a long growing season and conditions suitable for a variety of crops and the conditions for sustaining large populations.
  • The mountainous regions were abundant in timber and iron and other metal were found in the northwest region of Etruria.
  • The Geography of Rome
  • The Mythical Founding of Rome: Romulus & Remus

From Kingdom to Republic

  • Modern scholars do not support the myths of Romulus and Remus but it appears bands of Indo-European migrants crossed the Alps and settled throughout the Italian Peninsula.
  • Like their distant cousins in India, Greece, and northern Europe, these migrants blended with the Neolithic inhabitants of the region, adopted agriculture, and established tribal federations. Bronze metallurgy appeared around 1800 B.C.E. and iron around 900 B.C.E.
  • The first major group of Italy were the Etruscans. Coming from Anatolia, they settled from the Po River in the north to modern-day Naples in the south.
  • The Etruscans deeply influenced the early development of Rome. Several of the first Roman kings were Etruscan and ruled through the seventh and sixth century B.C.E.
  • Influence of the Etruscans
  • Writing
  • Religion
  • The Arch
  • Apennine Peninsula in 753 BCE
  • The Roman
  • Republic:
  • 509 BCE - 27 BCE

Formation of an Empire

  • About 509 B.C.E., Romans drove out the Etruscan kings and declared Rome a republic, a government in which power resides in a body of citizens and consists of representatives elected by them.
  • The Roman Republic which lasted from 507 to 31 B.C.E. was not a democracy. Sovereign power resided in assemblies and while all male citizens were eligible to attend, the votes of the wealthy classes counted for more than the votes of poor citizens.
  • In Rome, as in classical China and Greece, patterns of land distribution caused serious political and social tensions. Conquered lands fell into the hands of wealthy elites who organized large plantations known as latifundia.

The Roman Republic

  • The real center of power was the Roman Senate. Technically an advisory council, first to kings and later to Republican officials, the Senate increasingly made policy and governed. Senators nominated their sons for public offices and filled Senate vacancies from the ranks of former officials.
  • The Senate whose members served for life brought together the state’s wealth, influence, and political and military experience.
  • The inequities in roman society led to periodic unrest and conflict between the elite (patricians) and the majority of the population (plebeians).
  • It became apparent in time the republic which was constructed for small city-states was not suitable for a large and growing republic.

Roman Expansion under the Republic

  • Occurred in 3 Main Stages
    • United Italian Peninsula
    • Conflict with Carthage
      • 1st Punic War (264-241 BCE)
      • 2nd Punic War (218-201 BCE)
      • 3rd Punic War (146 BCE)
    • Subjugation of the Hellenistic States
  • Carthaginian Empire

Expansion of the Empire

  • As it expanded, Rome often offered its opponents a choice between alliance and conquest. If they accepted Roman rule, they would receive Roman citizenship and protection.
  • Rome fought protracted and bloody wars against the Carthaginians (Hannibal) called the Punic Wars. The Carthaginians were the heirs of the Phoenicians which controlled much of the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
  • During the early first century B.C.E., Rome fell into civil war as individuals fought for land and power in the new lands of the Romans. While there were attempts to reform the empire under Tiberius in 132 B.C.E. and Gaius in 121 B.C.E., they were both assassinated and the die had been cast for a move away from the Republican ideals and a move toward a centralized imperial form of government.

Imperial Rome Emerges

  • In addition to the Carthagians, the Romans also fought with the Gauls (Celts) from Modern-day France.
  • Under Julius Caesar, Rome expanded its empire across the Mediterranean and the continent of Europe.
  • The conquest of Gaul helped to create a political crisis. As a result of his military victories, Caesar had become very popular in Rome. As tensions arose in early 49 B.C.E., Caesar had turned his armies toward Rome.

By early 46 B.C.E., he had made himself master of the Roman state and named himself dictator-an office he claimed for life rather than the usual six-month term.

  • By early 46 B.C.E., he had made himself master of the Roman state and named himself dictator-an office he claimed for life rather than the usual six-month term.
  • Caesar’s policies pointed the way toward a centralized, imperial form of government for Rome and its possessions but Caesar’s rule had alienated many members of the Roman elite and he was assassinated in 44 B.C.E. which led to continued civil conflict until the acceptance of Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and adopted son.
  • Expansion under the Republic
  • The
  • Roman Empire:
  • 27 BCE - 476 CE*
  • Octavian Augustus: Rome’s First Emperor

Pax Romana

  • Octavian known now as Augustus, a term with strong religious connotations suggesting the divine nature of its holder, would rule virtually unopposed and fashioned an imperial government that guided Roman affairs for the next three centuries.
  • During the two centuries following Augustus’s rule, Roman armies conquered much of the Mediterranean. The empire had expanded to include not only the lands of Italy, Greece, Syria, Gaul, and most of the Iberian Peninsula, but it would go onto conquer lands as far as Britain, most of northern Africa, SW Asia, and Anatolia.
  • Roman Expansion had especially dramatic effects on European lands embraced by the Empire. Egypt, Syria, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia had long been sites of complex city-based societies but Gaul, Germany, Britain, and Spain were not.
  • When Roman soldiers, diplomats, governors, and merchants arrived, they stimulated the development of local economies and states.
  • The Greatest Extent of the Roman Empire – 14 CE
  • Pax Romana: 27 BCE – 180 CE

Roman Law

  • Under conditions of political stability and the Pax Romana, jurists constructed an elaborate system of law.
  • Romans began a tradition of written law about 450 B.C.E., when they created the Twelve Tables.
  • As armies spread Roman influence, jurists worked to construct a rational body of law that would apply to all peoples under Roman rule.
  • They established the principle that defendants were innocent under proven guilty and they also had the right to challenge their accusers in a court of law.
  • Like transportation and communication networks, Roman law helped to integrate diverse lands that made up the empire and the principles of Roman law continued to shape Mediterranean and European society long after the empire had disappeared.
  • Rome’s Early Road System
  • Roman Roads: The Appian Way
  • Imperial Roman Road System
  • Roman Aqueducts
  • The Roman Colosseum
  • The Colosseum Interior

Roman Society

  • As Rome expanded, it did levy tribute, taxes, rents, and recruited soldiers from the peoples in conquered. They settled their own soldiers in captured lands, turning those lands into Roman estates and enslaving millions of people.
  • The Supplying of Rome, the construction of cities, and trade across the Eurasian land mass transformed the Empire dramatically.
  • Even though it was law for the peoples of the empire to worship Roman deities, as conditions worsened and contact with other areas increased, new religious thoughts would permeate the empire.
  • The two groups who were creating the greatest concern for the Romans were the Jews of Palestine and a Jewish sect, known as Christians.

The Empire Stops Expanding

  • One noticeable difference during this time is the building of walls to keep out the Barbarians of the Empire.
  • The most famous was Emperor Hadrian’s Wall (117 - 138 C.E.) which defined the most northern extent of Roman expansion on Britain.
  • As military commanders were more focused on defensive strategies than on offensive strategies, these changes started to sow seeds for future conflict.
  • The Rise of Christianity

“Third Century Crisis”

  • 235 to 284 C.E.

Crises of the 3rd Century

  • Political Problems
    • Succession (22 emperors b/w 235 & 284)
  • Military Problems
    • Barbarian attacks
    • Barbarization of the army
  • Economic Problems
    • Growing cost of defense
    • Inflation
    • Loss of resources
    • Increased insecurity hurt trade
  • Social Problems
    • Loss of confidence
    • Plague
    • Decline of cities
    • People felt no connection to rulers/only passive loyalty
  • The Empire in Crisis: 3c

Diocletian’s Reforms

  • Political Reforms
    • Divided empire into 2 parts with 2 co-emperors and 2 ceasars
    • Decreased power of provincial governors
    • Emphasized divine nature of the Emperor—called Lord
  • Military Reforms
    • Doubled size of army
    • Began draft
    • Created mobile field armies
    • Rebuilt frontier fortifications
  • Economic Reforms
    • Direct requisition
    • Issued a new currency
    • Heavy taxes
    • Froze wages & prices
  • Persecuted Christians
    • .
  • Diocletian Splits the Empire in Two: 294 CE


  • When Diocletian resigned in 305 C.E., the old divisiveness reemerged as various claimants battled for the throne.
  • The eventual winner was Constantine who reunited the entire empire under his sole rule by 324.
  • In 312, Constantine won a key battle near Rome. He later claimed he had seen a cross superimposed on the sun before battle. Believing the Christian God had helped him achieve victory, he would later legalize Christianity called the Edict of Milan.
  • This ended the persecution of Christians in the empire.
  • Constantine: 312 - 337
  • The Spread of Christianity

Constantinople: The New Rome

  • In 324, Constantine transferred the imperial city from Rome to Byzantium, an ancient Greek city on the Bosporus Strait between the Black and the Mediterranean Seas.
  • This move reflected and accelerated changes in the empire.
  • Byzantium: The Eastern Roman Empire

Rise of the Barbarians

  • Continuing imperial vitality in the Eastern Empire contrasted with deepening decline in the Western Empire, which became a separate entity after 395.
  • While the Byzantine armies were able to stop the warring bands north of the Danube River, many of these groups would move toward the west and create havoc for the Western empire.
  • The primary “Barbarian” groups were the Huns, Vandals, Goths, Saxons, and Franks.
  • The Goths, a Germanic People, would go on to sack Rome in 410. By 530, with the old Roman economy and urban centers in shambles, the Western Roman empire would eventually fall to numerous tribes from across Europe and Asia.
  • Barbarian Invasions: 4c-5c

The Fall of the Roman Empire

  • 476—Odovacar, a German, killed the last Emperor and became King of Italy
  • Considered the Fall of the Roman Empire—now all Roman land west of the Adriatic was ruled by “barbarians.”

The Han Dynasty

Chinese Dynasty Song

  • Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han shang, joe, chin, hahn
  • Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han
  • Sui, Tang, Song sway, tang, soong
  • Sui, Tang, Song
  • Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic yooan, ming, ching, Republic
  • Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic
  • Mao Zedong mou dzu dong
  • Mao Zedong

Ancient Chinese Civilization

  • Chinese civilization along the Huanghe (Yellow River) developed in relative isolation, save for some overland trading with India and the Middle East.
  • By around 1500 B.C.E. a line of kings called the Shang ruled over the Huanghe valley. They began the dynastic cycle that would endure until the 20th century.
  • The Dynastic Cycle
  • A new dynasty comes to power.
  • Lives of common people improved; taxes reduced; farming encouraged.
  • Problems begin (extensive wars, invasions, etc.)
  • Taxes increase; men forced to work for army. Farming neglected.
  • Govt. increases spending; corruption.
  • Droughts, floods, famines occur.
  • Poor lose respect for govt. They join rebels & attack landlords.
  • Rebel bands find strong leader who unites them. Attack the emperor.
  • Emperor is defeated !!
  • The emperor reforms the govt. & makes it more efficient.
  • Start here
  • The rise and fall of dynasties in China – any power that lost power was because they lost their mandate
  • 2500 – 250 BC

Dynastic Cycle

  • Dynastic cycle lasted from 1700 BCE until the early part of the 20th century.
  • Dynasty=family of kings.
  • 3 Dynasties of classical China: Zhou, Qin, and Han.

Shang (1700 - 1027 BCE)

  • First recorded Dynasty
  • Ruled by a belligerent aristocracy
  • First Chinese cities, center of court life
  • Villages organized by clans, not nuclear families.
  • Cast bronze, created silk
  • Developed writing. Ideas through pictographs. Thousands of characters.
  • Honored ancestors, used oracle bones
  • Shang tyrant emperor overthrown by Zhou, who ushered in the 2nd dynasty.
  • Shang Bronzes

Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)

  • Longest lasting Chinese Dynasty.
  • First classical era dynasty.
  • First period of territorial expansion (complicated problems of central rule).
  • Featured decentralized politics but important cultural innovations incl. Confucianism, Mandate of Heaven, and Chinese language.
  • Est system of currency
  • China’s feudal period (rulers gave land to their supporters in exchange for defense).
  • Zhou Coins - bronze

Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)

  • Zhou rulers claimed direct links to the Shang rulers.
  • Also asserted that heaven had transferred its mandate to rule China to the Zhou emperors- Mandate of Heaven.
  • Mandate of Heaven remained a key justification for Chinese imperial rule in all subsequent dynasties (think Divine Right).
  • Promoted linguistic unity via a standard spoken language (Mandarin Chinese). Largest single group of people speaking the same language in the world at this time.


  • As a wondering scholar-philosopher in Zhou China, Kung Fuzi (Confucius) undertook a quest to become chief advisor to a ruler who possessed the wisdom to restore centralized control, peace, and order in his realm (like Aristotle philosopher-king).
  • Though he never fulfilled this goal in his lifetime, his students preserved, spread, and debated his teachings after his death in the early 5th c B.C.E., and compiled his teachings in the Analects. (Consider Greek philos, the Buddha, and Jesus’ disciples).
  • His social and political teachings formed the basis for one of humanity’s greatest and most enduring civs.
  • Confucius
  • 551 – 479 B.C.E.
  • Born in the feudal state of Liu.
  • Became a teacher and editor of books.

Confucianism 101

  • Idealized strong rulers and consolidation of polit power.
  • Advocated rule by highly educated, exclusively male elite (think Aristotle).
  • Began as an ethical rather than religious system.
  • Est norms for all aspects of Chinese life, from familial relationships, filial piety, ancestor veneration, and male authority.
  • Est norms for etiquette of rulers and scholar bureaucrats.
  • Influenced art, music, calligraphyI
  • Formed basis of Chinese philosophical and religious beliefs for more than 2000 years.

Confucianism waxed and waned during subsequent dynasties, but continues to influence Chinese culture today.

  • Confucianism waxed and waned during subsequent dynasties, but continues to influence Chinese culture today.
  • Also exerted influence on other Asian societies incl Japan and Korea.
  • Confucian Temple Complex

Zhou (Chou) (1027 - 250 BCE)

  • The breakdown of the Zhou dynasty’s ability to control its vassals in the 8th c B.C.E. led to a long period of political conflict (i.e. land-owning aristocrats solidified their own power base and disregarded the central govt.)
  • Internal conflicts left China vulnerable to outside invaders btwn 8th-3rd c B.C.E.—Warring States Period

Qin (221 - 207 BCE)

  • By 221 BCE, warrior Shi Huangdi brought an end to the years of civil strife and disunity, ushering in the Qin Dynasty.
  • Shi Huangdi vanquished all his rivals and founded a new imperial court.
  • But Shi Huangdi proved to be a tyrant, so the Qin Dynasty ended shortly after his death in 210 BCE.

Qin (221 - 207 BCE)

  • Self appointed title Qin Shi Huangdi , meaning First Emperor.
  • The name Qin conferred on the whole country its name of China.
  • Brutal yet effective. Organized China into large provinces ruled by bureaucrats.
  • Shi Huangdi appointed officials from nonaristocratic groups, so that they would not dare to develop their own independent bases of power.

Qin (221 - 207 BCE)

  • For defense, built first Great Wall (Ming built other part later), extending 3000+ miles. Largest construction project in human hist.
  • Adopted Legalism: only way to achieve order was to pass strict laws and impose harsh punishments. (Hanfeizi)
  • Ordered natl census, standardized currency, weights measurements, laws, and unified written script throughout the realm.
  • Banned Confucianism, burned books. Attacks on intellectuals and high taxes made him fiercely unpopular.
  • The Terracotta Warriors

Han (202 BCE - 221 CE)

  • After Shi Huangdi’s death, massive peasant revolts broke out. Two peasants led a revolt against Qin oppression, toppling the dynasty.
  • Liu Bang—brought China under control & established the Han Dynasty
  • Lasted for 400+ years. Most effective, & most enduring bureaucracy in the preindustrial world.
  • Legalism replaced by Confucianism
  • Introduced civil service examination (process of selecting govt officials based on merit rather than noble birth). Ltd. power of emperor (checks & balances)
  • Expanded Chinese territory into Korea, Indochina, and central Asia.

Han (202 BCE - 221 CE)

  • Wu Ti (140-87 BCE)-erected shrines to Confucius, and he was established as a god. Official state philosophy.
    • Required nobles to divide their land btw all sons to break up large estates
  • Trade expanded greatly during this time period
  • Peace brought great prosperity.
  • Buddhism introduced, paper invented
  • Great increase in population
  • Govt sponsored public works projects incl complex irrigation & canal systems (compare to Rome)
  • Not highly militaristic.

221 - 581 (CE)

  • Han dynasty overturned by a nomadic tribe, the Huns
    • Han weakened by corruption & peasant uprisings
  • Warlords control china - no centralized gov’t
  • Non-Chinese nomads control much of China
  • Buddhism becomes popular - Confucianism failed
  • (Invaders like Huns might topple a dynasty, but they couldn’t devise a better system to run the country, so the system & its bureaucratic administrators normally endured).

Economy & Society

  • Considerable gap btwn landed elite and the masses (peasant farmers). Strength of agrarian base allowed China to carry about 1/5 of the total human population from the last centuries BCE to the present day.
  • Slavery waned after the Zhou dynasty.
  • 3 main social groups:
    • Landowning aristocracy (educated bureaucrats or mandarins)
    • Laboring masses (peasant farmers, urban artisans)
    • Mean people (unskilled laborers, performing artists). Required to wear green scarves for identification. Punished for crime more harshly.
  • According to Confucianism, men superior to women, old superior to young, etc.
  • “There are no wrongdoing parents.” Courts didn’t prosecute parents who injured or killed children, but would punish a disobedient child.
  • Strict control over one’s emotions.

Economy & Society

  • Trade became important during Zhou & Han. Focused on luxury items: silk, porcelain.
  • Confucian emphasis on learning and political service led to scorn of lives devoted to moneymaking. Therefore, wealthy merchants had low prestige in social hierarchy.

Economy & Society

  • Chinese civ evolved with very little outside contact. Most saw China as an island of civilization in a sea of barbarians with nothing to offer except threat of invasion. They saw no need to learn from other societies.
  • Spread of Buddhism is exception to this rule, b/c it came from India during & after the Han decline.
  • Chinese pioneered technologies that were later disseminated over much of Eurasia & northern Africa: paper & compasses.
  • Asian nomads disseminated these inventions over much of the globe, contributing to tech transformations in Japan, Rome, Mid East, & Eng.
  • China’s silk became valued in Mide East & Roman Empire. Trade of silk and other luxury products generated a network of roads thru ctrl Asia known as the Silk Road. Han actively encouraged Silk Road trade.
  • Indian Empires:
  • Maurya, Kushan, and Gupta Empires
  • Cultural Cohesion
  • 1500 B.C.E.-600 C.E.
  • Originally created by Ms. Susan M. Pojer Horace Greeley HS Chappaqua, NY
  • Aryan Migration
  • pastoral  depended on their cattle.
  • warriors  horse-drawn chariots.

Caste and Varna

  • Caste identities developed gradually as the Aryans established settlements throughout India.
  • The Aryans used the term Varna (Color) to refer to the major social classes. “Wheat colored v. darker skinned”
  • After about 1000 B.C.E., the Aryans increasingly recognized four main Varnas: Brahmins (priests), kshatriyas (warriors and aristocrats), vaishyas (cultivators, merchants, artisans), and shudras (landless peasants and serfs). Untouchables came later
  • Dravidians believed that humans souls took on new physical forms after deaths of their bodily hosts. Sometimes souls returned as plants or animals, sometimes in the bodily shell of newborn humans.
  • Transmigration and reincarnation
  • Varna (Social Hierarchy)
  • Shudras
  • Vaishyas
  • Kshatriyas
  • Pariahs [Harijan]  Untouchables
  • Brahmins
  • The Vedic Age
  • The foundations for Hinduism were established!

The Empires of India

  • Establishment of States

Fortunes of Empire in India

  • By 700 B.C.E., wars of expansion had resulted in consolidation of several large regional kingdoms that dominated much of the subcontinent.
  • However, it is believed that none of these earlier kingdoms were able to establish hegemony over the others.
  • During the classical era, the Mauryan, Kushan, and the Gupta Empires founded centralized, imperial states that embraced much of India, but neither empire survived long enough to establish centralized rule of the entire subcontinent as a lasting feature of Indian life.
  • Cholan Empire (Tamil Nadu) would control much of the south until the British Raj. [300 BCE-1279 CE]

Unification of India

  • The push for unification of India came partly as a result of intrusion from beyond the subcontinent.
  • About 520 B.C.E. the Persian emperor Darius crossed the Hindu Kush, conquered parts of NW India, and made what is now Punjab in northern Pakistan part of the Achaemenid Empire. Persian ways were embraced.
  • Almost two centuries later in 327 B.C.E., after overrunning the Persian empire, Alexander of Macedon crossed the Indus River and crushed the state he found there.

Mauryan Empire

  • Alexander and his armies did not stay in NW India and his withdrawal created a vacuum by removing the existing states.
  • During the late 320’s B.C.E., an ambitious adventurer named Chandragupta Maurya exploited that opportunity and laid the foundations for the Mauryan Empire, the first state to bring a centralized and unified government to most of the subcontinent.
  • He also continued on and captured the Bactrian lands and eventually all of northern India from the Indus to the Ganges.

Maurya Empire

  • 321 B.C.E.- 185 B.C.E.
  • The Maurya Empire
  • 321 BCE – 185 BCE
  • Chandragupta: 321 BCE-298 BCE
  • * Divided his empire into provinces, then districts for tax assessments and law enforcement.
  • He feared assassination  food tasters, slept in different rooms, etc.
  • Like Persia and China, a bureaucratic administrative system enabled him to implement policies throughout the state
  • Kautilya
  • Chandragupta’s advisor.
  • Brahmin caste.
  • Wrote The Treatise on Material Gain or the Arthashastra.
  • A guide for the king and his ministers:
    • Supports royal power.
    • The great evil in society is anarchy.
    • Therefore, a single authority is needed to employ force when necessary


  • Tradition holds that Chandragupta abdicated his throne to become a monk and eventually starved himself to death.
  • Whether this is true or not, it is certain that his son succeeded him in 297 B.C.E. and added most of southern India to the growing empire.
  • The high point of the Mauryan Empire came during the reign of Chandragupta’s grandson, Asoka.

Asoka’s reign (268-232 B.C.E.)

  • Asoka’s first major undertaking was to conquer a region of east-central India known as Kalinga.
  • By Asoka’s estimate 100,000 died and over 150,000 were removed from their lands.
  • Some scholars debate that because of the bloody campaign, Asoka converted to Buddhsim.
  • Asoka’s Empire based in Sarnath
  • Asoka’s law code
  • Edicts scattered in more than 30 places in India, Nepal, Pakistan, & Afghanistan.
  • Written mostly in Sanskrit, but one was in Greek and Aramaic.
  • 10 rock edicts.
  • Each pillar [stupa] is 40’-50’ high.
  • Buddhist principles dominate his laws.
  • All living things…
  • One of Asoka’s Stupas

Asoka’s rule

  • As a result of Asoka’s policies, most of India was integrated and benefited from an expanding economy and a stable government.
  • He encouraged trade by building roads, some over 1000 miles long, to link India to the West. Along the roads trees were planted, wells were dug, and inns were established.
  • Asoka died in 232 B.C.E. and decline set in almost immediately. Many scholars believe the excessive pay and costs of administration helped to pave the way and by 185 B.C.E., the Mauryan Empire had disappeared.
  • Turmoil & a power Vacuum: 220 BCE – 320 CE
  • Tamils
  • The Maurya Empire is divided into many kingdoms.


  • Although the Mauryan Empire came to an end, India did not crumble into anarchy. Regional kingdoms emerged most notably were the Bactrians, Kushans, and the Tamil Nadu
  • The Indo-Greek Bactrian nomads controlled a large territory in northern India. Bactria was a thriving commercial center linking lands from China to the west.
  • This region became a cultural crossroads of the now emerging silk road. Most notably was the Bamiyan Valley in modern-day Afghanistan.

Kushan Empire

  • 30 C.E. – 375 C.E.
  • The Kushan Empire
  • The “Forgotten Empire”
  • 3 CE – 375 CE

The Kushan Empire

  • The Kushans eventually conquered the Bactrians and ruled much of northern India and central Asia from about 1C.E. to 300 C.E.
  • Under Kanishka, the most prominent of the Kushan emperors, commerce resumed and the silk road network again flowed between Persia (Sassanid) and Han China, but imperial rule was not firmly established.

Kanishka (127-151)

  • King of Kings
  • Son of God, Shah
  • Uzbekistan to southern India- Capital city- Peshwar and Mathura
  • Raw silk from China made into fine linens
  • Pepper, Peacocks, Spice
  • 700 feet high stupa- Buddha’s remains

Kushan Empire

  • Trade, trade, trade…
  • Buddhism flourished and brought to China
  • Open-minded, multicultural empire
  • Arts, literature, and science
  • Knowledge of Plants, medicines, etc.
  • Peace, trade, and tolerance


  • the Kushan empire split into western and eastern halves. The Western Kushans (in Afghanistan) were soon subjugated by the Persian Sassanid Empire and lost Bactria and other territories.
  • Then in the mid 4th century they were subjugated by the Gupta Empire under Samudragupta.
  • These remnants of the Kushan empire were ultimately wiped out in the 5th century by the invasions of the White Huns, and later the expansion of Islam.

The Gupta Empire

  • 320 C.E.- 647 C.E.

The Gupta Dynasty

  • Like the Mauryas, the Guptas based their state in the center of northern India near the Ganges.
  • The new empire arose on the foundations laid by Chandra Gupta (Not related to Chandragupta Maurya) who established a kingdom around the year 320 C.E.
  • His successors, Samundra Gupta and Chandra Gupta II conquered many of the regional kingdoms of India and established tributary alliances.
  • Gupta Empire: 320 CE – 647 CE
  • Gupta Rulers
  • Chandra Gupta I
    • r. 320 – 335 CE
    • “Great King of Kings”
  • Chandra Gupta II
    • r. 375 - 415 CE
    • Profitable trade with the Mediterranean world
  • Hindu revival.
  • Huns invade – 450 CE
  • Fa-Hsien: Life in Gupta India
  • Chinese Buddhist monk traveled along the Silk Road and visited India in the 5c.
  • He was following the path of the Buddha.
  • He reported the people to be happy, relatively free of government oppression, and inclined towards courtesy and charity. Other references in the journal, however, indicate that the caste system was rapidly assuming its basic features, including "untouchability," the social isolation of a lowest class that is doomed to menial labor.
  • Trade Routes during the Guptas
  • Extensive Trade: 4c
  • spices
  • spices
  • gold & ivory
  • gold & ivory
  • rice & wheat
  • horses
  • cotton goods
  • cotton goods
  • silks
  • Kalidasa
  • The greatest of Indian poets.
  • His most famous play was Shakuntala.
  • During the reign of Chandra Gupta II.
  • Gupta Art
  • Greatly influenced Southeast Asian art & architecture.
  • Medicine
  • Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Astronomy
  • Printed medicinal guides
  • 1000 diseases classified
  • Plastic Surgery
  • C-sections performed
  • Inoculations
  • 500 healing plants identified
  • Decimal System
  • Concept of Zero
  • PI = 3.1416
  • Kalidasa
  • Solar Calendar
  • The earth is round
  • Gupta India
  • Gupta Achievement

Gupta Decline

  • Unlike Asoka and the Mauryan,the Gupta left local government, administration, and policy in the hands of their allies.
  • When nomadic invaders came in during the fifth century, it split easily along administrative regions.
  • Gupta administrative talents were not a match for the White Huns, a nomadic people of Central Asia who occupied Bactria and eventually moved south across the Hindu Kush.
  • Imperial government survived only a short time in India. India would be overtaken by Muslim groups in the 7th century but not until the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty in the 16 century did any state rule as much of India as the Mauryan or the Gupta.

The Cholan “Empire”

  • 300 B.C.E.- 1279 C.E.

Cholan “Empire” 300 BCE-1279 CE

  • Also known as the Tamil Nadu
  • Ceylon and south eastern coast
  • Mentioned in the pillars of Ashoka
  • medieval Cholas under Vijayalaya (c. 848), the dynasty of Vijayalaya, and finally the Later Chola dynasty of Kulothunga Chola I from the third quarter of the 11th century

Cholan Dynasty

  • Mostly known for later Hindu Temples
  • Trade network and cultural diffusion with Southeast Asia
  • Longest lasting “classical” society
  • Major Rise in the Middle Ages- c. 1000 CE

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