Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty in China Essay Sample

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The Roman Empire and Han Dynasty in China are two kingdoms that, despite the geographical difference between them, managed to achieve great success and failure in equal measure. Both were characterized by imperial dynasties that were headed by the emperors and they held large territories. Both of these kingdoms faced various challenges after their formation that became a major stabling block, but due to good leadership, they both managed to overcome and achieve success. Nevertheless, due to different reasons, both the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty declined and fell. This paper analyzes the similarities and differences between the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty taking into consideration their achievements and causes of their decline. The Roman Empire was formed during the post-Republican period and it was characterized by a government that was headed by emperors. It also had large territorial holdings that were around the Mediterranean Sea in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The Roman Empire lived for a period of 500 years but was destabilized by numerous political conflicts and civil wars. Julius Caesar was among the perpetual ruler of the dynasty even though he was considered as a dictator that led to his assassination during the 44 BC1. The civil wars and several executions were random occurrence in the Roman Empire until Octavian, the adopted son of Caesar, rose to leadership and won battles over their long rivals Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian also managed to annex Egypt. On the other hand, Han Dynasty was an imperial China dynasty that was formed in 206 BC. The dynasty was preceded by the Qin Dynasty in 221 to 207 BC2. The Han Dynasty unlike Roman Empire was founded by a rebel leader known as Liu Bang who was thirsty for power. Nevertheless, his newly found victory to form an empire was faced with various challenges. The Han Dynasty was broken off by the Xin Dynasty that was ruled by Wang Mang.

As a result of the interruption, a great rift was created between the Western Han and the Eastern Han. These two groups remained separate. Just like the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty was also engaged in different power struggles that were violent among different consort clans of the empress dowagers and the empresses. However, unlike the Roman Empire that managed to stand when Caesar’s son Octavian rose to power, the Han Dynasty was totally ruined by the interior and exterior wars that led to its ultimate downfall. Other groups that possessed as a challenge to Han dynasty were the religious societies that instigated the Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion and the Yellow Turban Rebellion3. The dynasty ended after all the military officers of Han were mercilessly massacred that allowed the aristocracy members and the military governors to divide and become warlords of the empire.

The Roman Empire is known to be among the most powerful empires to have ever existed in the world. It was powerful in terms of economy, political, military forces, and culture during its time. The greatest achievement of Roman Empire was its vast empire that spread in more than three continents. The Roman Empire was also the largest empires in the history of the world and with the largest Classical antiquity. It covered a total of 6. 8 million square kilometers that contained over 70 million people. During this period, the Roman Empire comprised of 21 percent of the world population4. The empire was also managed to last for about 500 years which is a great achievement. Another great achievement was the Roman army that was incredible in terms of power and skills. The only way a country or an empire was able to survive for a long period was because of its government and the army.

For instance, Han dynasty was not able to live for a long period because it had a weak army unlike the Roman army that history has it to be the most powerful ever. They were heavily equipped with swords, spears, bows and shields that they used to win their wars5. Nevertheless, their skills in the battlefield were tremendous. The Roman people managed to spread their Latin language across Europe and over a period of short duration, Latin became known as the Romance language. Italian, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Rumanian all developed out of the Latin language. For instance, in Latin the word freedom is pronounced or written as libertas, it was translated in Italian as liberta, in French as libertein, in Portuguese as liberdade, in Spanish as libertad, and in Romanian as libertate. This is a clear indication of how rich the Roman language was and the influence it had on other communities across the world. Romans were also known to be the greatest builders and architects. They built the longest and the largest roads during the ancient period.

The Roman roads that stretched for about 56, 000 miles had 29 highways. The Romans built the roads to transport their soldiers across their large territory and also used it for trade. It is one of the reasons the Roman Empire became more economically prosperous than any other territories in the ancient world. On the other hand, Han Dynasty also had better roads. They are known to have established the Silk Road which was used to conduct trade and to link the dynasty to different markets. Majority of the products that Han people sold were artwork. One reason that the Han Dynasty stood out during the ancient period was because of their rich culture.

They had great talents and artists who produced glazed pottery, stone carvings, exquisite lacquer-work, and bronze vessels that they transported to sell in different markets across the territory. The Han Dynasty is known for its economic prosperity. It had a significant economic growth and prosperity during the reign of Zhou. The Han Dynasty utilized the water conservation and irrigation projects to irrigate their lands during dry seasons. They specialized mostly on agriculture that enabled them to raise substantial revenues to boost their economy. The Han community also had excellent and efficient farming tools. The fall or decline

The Roman Empire fell for various purposes. The straightforward reason was the invasion of the empire by the Barbarian tribes. The Goth or the barbarian groups encroached beyond the borders of Rome and successful sacked the city. The German tribes who were the barbarians became a major threat to the empire. Another major reason for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is the rise of Eastern Empire during the late third century. It divided the empire into two halves which weakened the government and the military forces. Military overspending was also another reason that caused a decline of the Roman Empire. As the empire spent more and more money to keep and maintain their army which was the stronghold of the nation, the Romans failed to invest on the new technology.

The political instability and corrupt government also led to the collapse of Rome. The war of power led to inconsistency in leadership that made the empire weak. It is also known that the Han Dynasty also fell because of political rivalries among the eunuchs and the family of the empress dowager. It weakened the nation, making them vulnerable to their enemies. The Han Dynasty was broken off by the Xin dynasty and was ruled by Wang Mang. As a result of the interruption, a great rift was created between the Western Han and the Eastern Han. These two groups remained separate. Just like the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty was also engaged in different power struggles that were violent among different consort clans of the empress dowagers and the empresses.


Adrian, Goldsworthy. In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire. London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 2003. Adshead, Samuel., and Adrian, Miles. China in World History. London: MacMillan Press Ltd. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Benjamin, Isaac. The Limits of Empire: the Roman Army in the East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Block, Leo. To Harness the Wind: A Short History of the Development of Sails. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003. Campbell, Duncan. The Rise of Imperial Rome, AD 14-193. New York: Osprey, 2013. Csikszentmihalyi, Mark. Readings in Han Chinese Thought. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2006. Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Complete Roman Army. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003.

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