Empires on their outside may seem very different and unique. However, when you get down to their fundamentals, you begin to truly realize how similar they are. Just as the imposing pine tree and humble tomato plant may seem vastly different, their start from a lowly seed and craving for water and sunlight to survive unifies them. Such is also true with the Han and Roman empires. While key differences may be present, their social structures, influencing religions, and causes of collapse unify them. Society cannot exist without a unified social doctrine, as is true with both the Han and Roman empires. While there may be vast differences between them, at their roots is the same thing, a structure built on family. In this family structure, the households are run by the oldest male member. This member was to be given total respect and obedience and made all the important decisions for the family. This structure not only applied to the household, but to everyday life. Your sex, age, and social standing determined your level of influence in matters of state.
These societies also treated women in a similar way. In both societies women had little to no control over their marriage prospects and could not own property or represent themselves in court. Women of higher social standings did have more political influence and as time went by women began to gain better social standings and powers. While similarities may be present, these empires have some key social differences. In Han China, there was little possibility to move between social classes, unlike in the Roman empire where there were more opportunities to do so. In Han China, one was stuck in the class they born in and simply had to endure the fact. Also, in Rome, the people had more power than the citizens of Han China. Since Rome started out as a republic, the citizens had a say in what the government did. While it may be true that most of the political power was reserved for the wealthy, the people still had more political power than those of the Han empire.
While both empires used a family structure and treated women similarly, their set up of social classes and distribution of political powers separated them. Throughout the course of time, religion has had an enormous influence on societies. This also is true for the Han on Roman empires. In both societies, the genesis of their key religions were quite similar. Both were mainly based off of forces of nature and kept shrines in places that were pure and natural. Polytheism was a common practice and a different god was devoted to each different aspect of nature, such as wind, fire, and agriculture. Both empires also stemmed off from these nature based religions and absorbed religious theories and practices of other cultures that were introduced to them. however, the religions and practices that were introduced to them were quite different. In Rome, Christianity was introduced and become widely accepted. This was, of course, after many years of persecution and discrimination. Christianity promoted monotheism, or the belief in a single god, but this caused problems. Due to this practice, many early Christians were punished because they would not worship the emperor as a god. After many years of turmoil and bloodshed, Christianity was adopted into society. In Han China, a different religion had effect, or technically two religions.
These were Daosim and Buddhism. Doasim entailed a magical and mythological belief and was mainly practiced by the common people. In Daoism it was common to practice alchemy and search for potions of immortality. Buddhism, however, practiced the art of separating oneself from earthly possessions and focused on developing strong family ties. Religion always plays a key role in societies, so it is no wonder that these societies had similar religions to begin with, but influences from different religions separated them from each other. The Earth has seen the rise and fall of many empires, and Han China and Rome are no exceptions. As gravity clearly shows, what goes up, must come down. At the root of the whole problem was the need for more military might.
The empires were expanding, causes the need for more soldiers, which drained their coffers. This lead to economic collapse due to the need of higher taxes causing less economic growth. This economic collapse was the onset of many civil wars and disputes which further weakened these empires. Commerce was hindered and many people moved from the city back into the country, causing an economic regression. However, these civil wars and economic collapses had different effects on these two empires. In Han China, the empire totally collapsed. The han dynasty was terminated by General Cao Cao and the former empire moved into a state of political fragmentation that would last for 400 years. The empire in Rome however, did not fully collapse. Instead it was reformed and split in two. The western half collapsed when it was overrun by Germanic nomads. The eastern half however continued to flourish, but it was never quite as powerful as the former empire. Many see this split as the fall of the Roman empire, even though technically the empire survived.
Just as a ball tosses into the air falls back to the ground, so is the fate of all empires, past, present, and future. While the Han and Roman empires have many similarities in social structure, religious influence, and causes of collapse, they also have many differences. First, their uses of a family structure and treatment of women are similar but their ability to move between social classes and political influences varied greatly. Second, while their origin religions were similar, the religions they were influenced by were vastly different. Last, while their causes of imperial collapse stemmed from the same problems, the lasting effect they had were quite different. Although these empires had vast differences, they both managed to have lasting effects on the world around them.