In their day, both the Han Chinese Empire and the Roman Empire were very powerful and influential. The ancient civilizations of Rome and Han China shared both similarities and differences in their political and social views. One political difference between classical Rome and Han China is that the Roman Emperors had a senate that they had to deal with, and at times appease. In the beginning, the Assembly had very limited power. They could vote for or suggest laws, but the Senate could block their decisions. The Assembly could vote to declare war, but again, the Senate could override them. The system was much like America’s branches of government today. There was no similar legislative body in China: the Emperors ruled supreme, with no question or argument. Another political difference between the two is that the Han ruled by using only the ruler’s ideas and the Romans gathered ideas from the people living in their civilization. This is very important aspect because a lot of present-day societies use this concept, and it shows how influential Rome was to modern times. The Han and the Romans have both contributed to the political aspects that still live on today in modern times.
Both political systems were very organized, with a centralized government to rule the people. Another political similarity is that they both fell because of weak leaders and power hungry individuals. The Han practice of concubinage led to much violence and strife in the royal family, causing disunity and internal conflict. Regents often attempted to seize power. Love of money led to the precarious situations of Rome’s later emperors, as soldiers demanded gold for loyalty. In both empires, corruption of government contributed to the bitterness of the common people. One social difference between classical Rome and Han China is that in Roman society, once a slave was freed, they could become a wealthy merchant and forget all about ever being a slave. The fastest way to advance socially was through the army or trade. In fact, they could even go on to own their own slaves! In China, however, you were born into a given station, and you could forget all about upward mobility. This aspect created a cycle throughout Chinese society. Since individuals couldn’t ever move upwards in society, the same families would possess the most money and best education for generations.
This is because for the elite, nobles, and imperial royalty, education was absolutely free. Anything you wanted to learn, free. However, if you were a member of the lower classes, education was nearly impossible to obtain because you couldn’t afford it. Only wealthy families would ever be wealthy, and poor families would stay poor. Another social difference between classical Rome and Han China is that in China, “slavery” never really existed. They did, however, have a system that sort of worked like slavery. A contract could be written so that if the “owner” breached them, they’d be free. Now, in Rome, if you were a slave, legally, you were property, and you did not even possess the right to speak for yourself. A social similarity between classical Rome and Han China is that they both had similar social structures divided into peasant, merchant, and wealthy classes that defined how their people lived and thrived. This system of hierarchy was very defined and allowed for a very strict outline to how society was. Another similarity is that women in both Rome and China were treated a lot better than they used to be treated. Unlike most other societies during this time, women had at least some rights, including the ability to inherit property. Many of these similarities and differences influenced how the world is today, some of which have been shared by future societies, and others which have disappeared completely.