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End Of An Era: The Fall Of Rome And The Han Dynasty

1023 words - 4 pages

End of an Era: The Fall of Rome and the Han Dynasty
The Classical Era was a time of greatness. Great empires rose to power, the likes of which the world had never seen before. In the west, Rome emerged as the dominant power. Originating in the Italian peninsula, the Roman Empire would eventually stretch from Britain to Mesopotamia and Egypt, a huge empire maintained through a vast network of roads. This empire was made of hundreds of different cultures. In the east, the Han dynasty ruled China, Vietnam, and northern Korea. Han China was united not only by government, but also by culture. Confucianism, a belief system focused on maintaining order, was extremely influential, as was another belief system called Daoism, to a lesser extent. During the Classical Age, the creation of powerful empires allowed for safer trade. Safer trade allowed huge amounts of cross-cultural interaction, trade and the sharing of ideas. But as other empires had done before, and as many did after, the empires of Rome and Han China fell. Rome and Han China had both similarities and differences. The most important similarity was plagues and diseases, and the most important difference was the destruction of culture.
Han China and the Roman empire enjoyed great prosperity because of long-distance trade. Goods and ideas could travel farther than ever before, protected by these empires. However, when people move, they bring their germs with them. Since the trade networks were so vast, uniting places that might have never have had contact with each other, it was easy for diseases to travel. People didn’t have resistance to foreign diseases or medicine to counteract them, so epidemics were able to devastate entire populations. Sanitation in the Roman empire and China was horrendous by modern standards, making it even easier for diseases to spread. Rome and Han China were hit by disease in the second and third centuries C.E, with China experiencing plague later than Rome did. Smallpox, measles and possibly bubonic plague caused huge drops in population in both empires. At the start of the Roman empire, the population had been about sixty million people. In the second century C.E., the population stood at forty-five million. This was due to an outbreak of smallpox in the Mediterranean. In the third and fourth centuries C.E., a deadly combination of wars, invasions and more epidemics lowered the population to forty million. The last major plague came in the sixth century C.E., when bubonic plague struck the Mediterranean. China fared a bit better than Rome, perhaps because it encompassed less distinct ethnicities and therefore less diseases. However, diseases did manage to get to China through trading routes such as the Silk Road. China’s population dropped from sixty million to fifty million by the end of the fourth century C.E. Diseases had taken significant portions of the two empires’ populations, and the effects were also major. Trade started to become more local, instead...

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