Greek and Chinese ways of life Essay
Throughout the course of history, civilizations have been developing all over the globe. Some of these civilizations have shared several goals, experiences, and problems. Two particularly noteworthy civilizations are those of Greece and China. Greece had many city-states within in it. Two major Greek city-states were Sparta and Athens. Despite belonging to Greece, these city-states were unique culturally, politically, and socially. The Han Dynasty in China is another civilization that was unique in terms of its cultural, political, and social development.
Greek and Chinese civilizations have several similar and different aspects that have been the reason for their goals, experiences, and problems in life, but they both have also been unique culturally, politically, and socially. Athens, one of the most powerful city-states in Greece, had three major goals defined by its ruler, Pericles. His three major goals were to protect Athens, beautify it, and to make the Democracy stronger. In order for Pericles to strengthen the democracy he needed to increase the number of paid public officials.
Before, only the wealthy could afford to hold public office, but by increasing the number of paid public officials it allowed even the poor to engage in self-government. Pericles believed that the Athenian constitution should be in the power of the people and by establishing a direct Democracy; he was able to enforce this in Athens. One way Pericles attempted to protect Athens was by using the money from the treasury of the Delian League to build Athens the strongest fleet of ships in the Mediterranean. The Delian League was an alliance of ancient Greek city-states, which were dominated by Athens.
This was important in protecting Athens since it was surrounded by water. If they could control access to their surrounding waterways then they could decrease their chances of invasion. Athens is located right next to the Mediterranean Sea, which enabled them to develop their strong navy force for military use. This was only one way Pericles strengthened Athens; he also found a way to make Athens gloriously beautiful. Pericles beautified Athens by using money from the Empire to buy gold, ivory, and marble.
He did this because those materials were expensive assets and helped make Athens a wealthier and powerful city-state. All these goals that Athens developed over time, helped protect it, beautify it and make it the strongest city-state of all time. Despite Athens’ prosperity, this city-state experienced many obstacles that ultimately stripped it of its dominance within Ancient Greece. Power shifted from Athens to Sparta during the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was focused primarily on militaristic endeavors while Athens celebrated peace, intellectual development, art, and beauty.
Sparta had an inarguable advantage since all male citizens spent their lives training to become strong soldiers, and all women were responsible for being strong enough to bear more soldiers. Sparta’s attacks were most effective when fighting on land so Athens did have an advantage since it was surrounded by bodies of water and had the strongest navy in all of Greece. Under Pericles, Athens’ plan was to avoid land battle with the strong Spartan Army, so they waited for the right time to strike from the sea. Years passed and eventually Athens fell to Sparta’s strong military tactics.
After Sparta won the war, it was then the strongest city-state in ancient Greece. Athens’ downfall shifting power in favor of Sparta was important because it reshaped the Ancient Greek World. These developments made Sparta the strongest city-state in all of Greece. Athens also had major economic inequalities which shaped their way of life. Athenian farmers often found themselves sold into slavery when they were unable to repay the loans they had borrowed from their neighbors. This forced them to pledge themselves as collateral. Years passed and the Athenian farmers asked their lenders to cancel the debts and to give them land.
The lenders were not so keen on this idea, which led to a civil war within Athens between the farmers and the lenders. This civil war within Athens, gave Sparta the right time to strike. Once Sparta attacked, it was all over because Athens was not prepared to strike back. The war within made Athens weaker, giving Sparta the advantage it needed to win the Peloponnesian War. This civil war helped shape Athens’ future by distracting it from external concerns thus giving Sparta the chance to attack and ultimately win the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was a city-state within Greece that also had many goals, experiences and problems.
One of Sparta’s main goals was to create an invincible force. They made their army an invincible force by training their warriors from a young age to become the men Sparta needed to fight Sparta’s wars. This allowed for the expansion of Sparta’s military power. One example of their military power was their victory in the Peloponnesian war. Sparta had strong military tactics, which helped them overcome the mighty city-state Athens. Athens was considered most powerful because of its prosperity, wealth, and strong navy fleet, but Sparta won the war due to their military power on land and the civil war which weakened Athens.
The war changed the dynamic power between the two city-states, which caused a great deal of unique changes in these two city-states, and thus, all of Ancient Greece. The Han Dynasty within the Chinese civilization was another civilization that had many goals, experiences, and problems. One of the Han Dynasty’s main goals was the unification of China. The Han dynasty was able to unify China by incorporating principles of Confucian thought into social structure, laws, and spiritual beliefs. The incorporation of Confucianism helped to strengthen the economy, reconstruct the royal palace, and also allowed for the rise of aristocratic families.
Confucianism brought the idea that people are born with a potential for morality. The Han incorporated this idea into their state policy, believing that rulers must support it. This caused the Han period to see a great reduction in harsh laws and punishments, and a turn to rule by merit doctrine, which is rule under one leader. The Han Dynasty’s unification transformed Chinese civilization in many ways leading to its cultural, political, and social uniqueness. The Han dynasty experienced great military expansion throughout its reign.
Its powerful military forces were able to expand the kingdom all the way to Vietnam and Korea. Chinese culture, ways of life, schools of thought, and religion were spread to all of these conquered lands. This was a major accomplishment for the Han dynasty because it changed the world in more ways than anyone could suspect. Most of all, it made the Han Dynasty bigger and stronger, thus more capable of making even more influential changes. This expansion led to increase trade, which brought about the Silk Road, a massive network of trade routes which connected the East to other parts of the world.
The Chinese used the Silk Road to trade mostly silk, copper, and iron; however this trade route grew to also support the exchange of many other objects such as spices, weapons, textiles, and more. The improved trading network and military expansion allowed the Chinese civilization to prosper as a nation, and to develop culturally, politically, and socially under no one’s terms but their own. Athens and Sparta were city-states within Greece, but they both had different forms of government. Athens’ government occasionally used tyrannical methods, but mainly followed a democratic model of government.
The Spartans did not approve of tyranny so they produced a different form of government in order to avoid it. The Spartans’ form of government was called an Oligarchy. Oligarchic government is made up of four parts: the kingship which is unique in that there are two kings, the Gerousia (the council of elders), the Ephorate, and the assembly. These two forms of government helped these respective city-states within Greece to become some of the strongest nations in the world. Unlike Greece, China was a feudal state. The Han Dynasty was a heavily centralized state, much like that of Sparta.
The Hans did not follow Athens’ form of democracy, which made them different from each other. Under the Han rulers, the doctrines of Confucianism were revived and followed. Under Confucian teachings, the ruler and the subject should have mutual respect for each other, the people and the ruler should both exhibit good behavior, and the ruler should be an example for the rest of the people. Everyone was expected to respect the ruler, even if he was a bad leader. Legalism was another governmental ideal that was spread throughout the Han Dynasty.
Legalism stated that humans were naturally evil and required discipline and restraint by the government. Throughout the Han dynasty, these two forces influenced the government. Confucian teachings and Legalism shaped the Han dynasty’s goals, experiences, and problems which contributed to make them the nation they have become. Many differences between Athens and the Han Dynasty have caused them to become the nations as we know them today. One of the most influential differences between the two was the type of government they used within their civilizations.
Athens had a democracy, whereas the Han Dynasty had a monarchical form of government. The difference between a democracy and a monarchy is that a monarchy is a form of government in which supreme power is given to an individual, who is the head of the state. The individual who heads a monarchy is called a monarch. Monarchies were the most common form of government in the world during ancient and medieval times. On the other hand in a democratic form of government the supreme power is held completely by the people under a free electoral system.
These two forms of governments were prevalent in civilizations all over the globe. Many civilizations have prospered from these forms of governments, and most are still being used today. Another major difference between Athens and the Han Dynasty was that Athens was a small region of Greece whereas the Han Dynasty occupied a much bigger area all over China and was actively working to spread its kingdom. The amount of area a civilization conquered or owned helped determine if it was a strong civilization or a weak one.
Athens despite being a small civilization in comparison with the Han Dynasty was still quite strong. Athens won its fair share of wars and battles, just like the Han Dynasty. One reason why Athens was a small civilization in compared to the Han Dynasty was because Athens was a city-state that was part of a greater empire, whereas the Han Dynasty was a great empire itself, making it stronger than Athens. Another difference between Athens and the Han Dynasty was that the Athenians were pagans, whereas the Han Chinese believed in Confucianism and Daoism.
All these differences between the Han Dynasty and Athens have shaped the goals, experiences and problems for both civilizations in many ways. Within the Han society there were numerous agricultural inventions that helped to boost productivity throughout the dynasty. Among these were pulleys, and ox collars to enable the oxen to pull plows without choking. Another agricultural invention that increased productivity was winding gears which helped with mining. This differed from the Greek model in that the Greeks didn’t really contribute much to increase agricultural productivity.
The Greeks believed that no new methods were needed because there were enough slaves to do the work. Productivity was one way in which the Greeks fell short of China’s standards. Without agricultural inventions the Han Dynasty would not have been nearly as prosperous since these inventions helped shape their way of life and boosted their economy. One major similarity between the Greece civilizations and the Chinese civilization was that their social inequalities and weaknesses of the lower classes of society brought them to their decline.
In Greece, the soil conditions were not ideal for the growth of grain, but grain was an extremely important part of Greek life. Farmers turned to olives and grapes which were very well adapted to the soil’s conditions, but were high in terms of maintenance. Also, grape vines and olive trees did not produce fruits for at least five years after planting; however, farmers still had to pay money to take care of the land, while getting nothing in return. As a result, the majority of the Greek farmers went into debt.
Once in debt, they were very often mistreated by their landlords, who forced them to become laborers or slaves. The Greeks let their slaves do all the work, so there was little need for inventions that could increase productivity. Weakness within Athens and other city-states caused them to fight for each other’s lands incessantly. Constant fighting between the city-states was the greatest weakness Ancient Greece faced. These problems within the Greek world shaped their ways of life in ways comparable and contrastive to the Chinese world.
Within China, a weakness of the Han Dynasty was that the empire was debilitating gigantic. Near the center of the empire, government power was strong. However, as one moved outward toward the borders, government authority gradually declined due to lack of central government oversight. As time progressed, the once effective administration from the Han rulers became corrupt. For example, landlords would lie on their land taxes, so they could make a greater profit. Like Greece, the Chinese landlords would often double tax their already poor peasants, which eventually damaged the economy.
When court officials tried to strip the corrupt landlords of their lands, they faced enormous resistance and were unable to change anything. Another weakness which contributed to the downfall of the Han Dynasty, like the Greeks, was internal fighting. The Confucian scholar gentry turned against the corrupt officials, while the officials struggled for power with everyone else. As all of this was occurring the lives of peasants continued to worsen. Eventually, the landholding elite held all the power in the country, and the policies of the emperor favored them. Then, Taoist ideals began to spread among the peasantry.
Peasants across the country revolted in many instances, such as the Yellow Turban Rebellion, which ultimately led to the fall of the Han Empire. After the fall of the Han dynasty’s central government, power went to three warlords, officially beginning the Period of the Three Kingdoms. In the end, one can see that Greek and Chinese civilizations, though they have their similarities, have each evolved uniquely in terms of culture, political systems, and social norms and structure. Also, within these great civilizations the many differences and similarities within them have shaped their goals, experiences, and problems differently.
Whether it is the form of government a nation follows, religious views, or societal beliefs, all of these factors bear influence on the civilization’s direction in the end. Works Cited Fleck, Robert. “The Origins of Democracy: A Model with Application to Ancient Greece. ” Journal of Law and Economics 49 (2006). Print. Holliday, A. J. “Sparta’s Role in the First Peloponnesian War. ” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 97 (1977): 54-63. Print. Homer, and Robert Fagles. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print. Nylan, Michael. “Han Classicists Writing in Dialogue about Their OwnTradition. “Philosophy East and West 47. 2 (1997): 133-88. Print.
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