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The Han And Roman Empires: A Test In Longevity

2037 words - 8 pages

The history of the empires of Afro-Eurasia ebb and flow like an ocean tide; it's waves representing the degrees of dissension; its over bearing water levels claiming the dry shore in its path, claiming the sands as its people. Such is never permanent, soon the tides will recede and the sand will be claimed by yet, another tide; to repeat this process yet again. Two empires in Afro-Eurasia, born in the final years before the common era; defied those that came before in their ability to maintain their reign over their respective realms. The Han dynasty in China would be born out of the aristocratic and violent overthrow of the Qin empire, while at the other end of Afro-Eurasia, Rome confronted its oppressors in a similar, yet at the time unprecedented level of violence. Though, born out of similar circumstances to previous empires, their longevity is attributed to far different management skills; though like the rise and fall of the sea, it would eventually all be washed away with the fall of the tides.
The Qin dynasty could not be maintained any longer. The constant warfare was draining the tax revenue, and disagreements at court led to Chief Minister Li Si being accused of conspiracy; which led to his execution. The rebellion had begun, as workers found allies with descendants of Warring States nobles, local military leaders, as well as merchants who had a significant level of influence. Before the death of the first emperor, the educated elite had joined the mutiny; and with the short lived reign of the second Qin emperor who had killed himself, the next successor surrendered to the Han forces.
A civil war followed when the insurgent's leader Xiang Yu established the nineteen feudal states in an effort to restore the Zhou system. Liu Bang, a commoner, declared himself prince of his region of Han, and after Xiang Yu killed himself, proclaimed himself the first Han Emperor. The Qin were depicted as cruel, with the Han being moral, and following in the Confucian ideals; though in reality the Qin and Han laws were similar in severity1.
In the beginning of the Han empire, there was significant compromise with the aristocratic groups who helped to overthrow the Qin. Liu Bang handed out land grants to his military supporters as well as his relatives. The bureaucracy of the Qin was adopted as the basis for the Han empire; it was highly centralized, and all were affected. All males were required to register, pay taxes, and serve in the military. Former regional princes were removed from power and rebellions were crushed, in their places regional officials took over. A civilian official and military commandant were responsible for each commandery, which were the provinces of the new empire. They shared an enormous responsibility to collect taxes and maintain political stability of a vast region, which contained millions of people who belong to many ethic groups.
Schooling was an important aspect of Han life. The government supported the education...

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