Fall of Rome and Han Chinaby Rit Nosotro
Compare the religious and political influences that led to the collapse of Han China and the Roman Empire.
Everything man creates in this world sooner or later is either destroyed, or fades from former glory into nothing. Human beings have been flawed since the fall of man, therefore everything man creates; buildings, science, weapons, art, and even empires are also flawed. The Roman Empire and Han China were two of the biggest and most powerful empires of Ancient Europe and Asia. Yet Han China only lasted about 200 years, and Rome for about 900. In the end they were not beaten by any superior force or empire, but by plagues, low birth rates, internal strife and corruption, lower tax income, and barbarians.
The Roman Empire was huge. It spread from northern Africa up to the borders of Scotland, from the Atlantic Ocean to the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There are at least three main reasons the Romans lasted so long; huge armies, civilized people, and expanding borders. Keeping the empire in one piece was a hard task for the emperors. For 900 years the empire lasted, uniting the entire Mediterranean area for the first and only time. Nothing lasts forever though and by the late 2nd century signs of decay had arrived and continued to grow as the years went by.
Armies were harder to keep due to population decrease, since birth rate was very low at the time. The Roman army is made up of soldier-farmers who must spend years away from their farms defending Rome. When they return, their farms are in ruins and have to be sold to rich men who use slave labour to do the farming. The soldiers are forced to move to cities.
remember watching a program about ancient Rome. It stated that prior to Constantine becoming emperor the Roman tactic for managing the barbarians on the western frontier acroos the Rhine river was to engage in periodic raids/ethnic cleansing so as to devastate barbarian communities so their power and population was held in check. This had been the ruthless pagan way of dealing with Romes enemies...totally ruthless but it worked. The Romans then had vast economic, technological and military superiority over the barbarians on their western frontier.
Then when Constantine became the first christian emperor he changed Roman policy towards the barbarians radically. Keeping the barbarians in check by engaging in regular ethnic cleansing/genocide against them was seen as too unchristian/cruel.
Henceforth he decreed that the raids against barbarians would stop and instead they would be paid money/gold in exchange for pledging not to attack Rome. The barbarians were therefore allowed for the first time to settle in the lands across the Rhine and live in peace with Rome.
As a result they prospered and their population greatly increased requiring ever increasing sums of Roman gold to placate them. Eventually the sums of money need to buy off the barbarians became so great that it drained the Roman treasury of money needed to maintain the Roman army and hold the empire together. It reached a point where the barbarians became so numerous and powerful and the Roman army became so underfunded and weak that the barbarians effectively held Rome to ranson at will. The barbarians now demanded more...they demanded they be allowed for the first time to settle in Roman lands. However they didn't assimilate and eventually demanded kingdoms of their own carved out from Roman lands. The new barbarian immigrants/mercenaries became so numerous in the army that one day a senior barbarian general disbanded the Roman senate and took over. The Roman empire then ended in the West. Ironically the Roman army was 600 000 strong but the Romans had lost the will to resist the barbarians by then.
Sounds familiar? The message Rome gives us is that if a much more advanced
and powerful society tolerates another much less advanced and powerful culture
that won't assimilate (and is agressive, expansionist and intolerant), then
that culture could eventually bleed the host dry of resources and destroy it.
(Republic + Empire)?
Rome lasted for such a long period of time 31 BC – 1453
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Mr. Mangles is just plain wrong in one aspect: the traditional date of the Regifugium is 509 BCE, not 590 BCE. So using his other dates of 44 BCE for the end of the Republic, 27 BCE for the beginning of the Empire and 476 CE for the end of the Empire, the Republic lasted for 465, not 564 years. Empire, clear winner.
I'd also challenge his other dates -- the fall of the Republic ought to
be dated as no later than Sulla's dictatorship (if the "restoration"
of the Republic after death counts, well, consuls were still being "elected"
into the 6th century CE), and Byzantium could be considered Roman into the reign
of Heraclius I (unless one takes the radical viewpoint that the East was never
successfully Romanized, and that Byzantium, Persia, and the Caliphate and its
successor states down to the Ottomans were just different masks on the same
"Magian" civilization), but that IS the sort of thing that you probably
don't wish to take up space with.
A lot of the later Emperors were brutal and sometimes crazy. Many of them were plotted against and killed, either by citizens who couldn’t stand them, or by other corrupt leaders wanting to be emperor. Then by the end of the 2nd century Rome was hit with a series of plagues that swept over the empire, seriously lowering the population. Soon barbarian tribes started popping up around Rome causing trouble. Near its end some of Rome’s later emperors tried to reverse the flow of decline. Diocletian ruled from 284 to305 A.D. He tightened up the ministration and did his best to improve tax collection, unfortunately he also tried to force people to treat the emperor like a god and worship him. Roman Christians though would not worship him and that cause him to persecute them with particular hate and brutality.
Another emperor called Constantine ruled from 312 to 337 A.D. and had a completely different approach. He created another capital city in the eastern half on the empire to control it better, and he also tried to convert as many Romans as possible into Christianity to reunite the people spiritually. While that did help the empire survive longer, it wasn’t enough to stop the decline. After Constantine there was a separate emperor in both the East and West Roman empires. Although, the Eastern Empire with Constantinople managed to survive and flourish as a smaller nation until about 1200 A.D. when the Turks took the capital during the fourth crusade. The west didn’t fair as well as the east did, it continued to decline and after a while actually had to start hiring barbarians to defend their borders. If they did get invaded they would offer the tribe land to settle down and keep out the Romans hair. One barbarian tribe that may have had Mongolian roots lived by the Danube river was called the Huns. The Huns had excellent horse ridding skills and used those skills to their full extent in battle. Their leader had two sons, Bleda and Attila. When he died they had joint leadership until Attila killed Bleda and took control of the Huns (400 A.D.). They had argued about where to expand, Bleda wanted to go east or stay put, and Attila wanted to conquer Rome. When Attila took command he claimed to be guided by Mars the God of war, and started attacking the eastern Romans. At first the Romans tried offering bribes, land, gold, women, and slaves, but Attila was set on taking Rome. He wasn’t able to take Constantinople and headed to western Rome, and burned many cities of Gaul on the way over. Now the Romans had no army strong enough to stop him so they hired tribes like the Visigoths and other gualish tribes. They managed to defeat Attila in a battle or two, but Attila may have conquered Rome if he hadn’t gotten drunk and drowned in his own nosebleed before taking Rome. The tribes under his command revolted against his sons and soon finished the Western Roman Empire. They split it up between the main tribes; the Visigoths took the now Spanish area, the Ostrogoths got Italy, the Franks and Burgundies took France, and Saxons and Angles conquered Britain. Rome’s fall caused many shockwaves across Europe, the unity that was around the Mediterranean was gone forever, and new civilizations started popping up where Rome fell.
Han China had a similar yet not as dramatic decline and fall. It wasn’t as huge as Rome either, but nothing to scoff at. Its eastern border was the Pacific Ocean, to the north was Mongolia right above the Gobi desert, and western boundary was where the Pamir Mts. and the Taklamakan Desert met, south past the South China Sea. There was a brief faltering after the reign of Emperor Wudi, but Han china managed to survive for about two centuries. In 88 A.D though the Emperors were getting more corrupt, there was a lot of political infighting and backstabbing. Living conditions and life for the peasantry was getting worse, and the rich land owners grew more powerful by buying there own private armies and avoiding taxes. The peasants finally revolted, led by a Daoist group in 184 A.D. Han’s generals put down the rebellion, and then set them selves up as regional rulers, signaling the end of Han china. They got rid of the final Han Emperor in 220 A.D. and divided the country into three separate kingdoms for a few years, finally these collapsed too and the landowners took over pars of the country. There were no more firm dynasties till about 350 A.D, and barbarians other people tried to invade China, but were run off. Buddhism becomes popular on the middle of all the chaos, helping to unite the country under on idea once again.
The main thing that’s similar about the fall of the two empires is that there was a lot of infighting and corruption at the end of both empires. Generals, younger sons of emperor, and other rich powerful Romans all-trying to out smart the other without ending up dead. Big differences were; Rome took much longer to fall because of the size and power of the empire, the Romans got hit by many plagues, and they were constantly under attacked by barbarians near the end of their rule. Its interesting, but neither empire was destroyed by a bigger empire, or even a more powerful army, as good a strategist as he was, Attila the Hun wouldn’t have stood a chance if Rome had been in their prime days.
I conclude that both empires basically defeated them selves, through bad planning, corrupt thinking, poor strategy, and inability to continue tax collections. The one thing that seems to have saved both the eastern Roman Empire and what was left of China was religion. China united itself under a deceptive mix of Taoism, Ancestor worship, and Buddhism, with its eight-fold path that that claimed to offer a release from suffering. (Centuries later, the emptiness of that false hope allowed China to be duped by atheistic communism which led to millions of deaths.) Christianity, on the other hand, was miraculously preserved by God as a kingdom not of this world. As in the Old Testament, God still uses nations to bless his obedient children and punish the disobedient. A ray of truth survived through the Christian Church of Rome, Constantinople, Kiev, London, and Boston. Now it shines into Seoul and Shanghai. Nations who darken the truth will decline. Although powers such as the Roman Empire and Han China have come and gone, peoples who put their trust in Jesus will endure forever.
World Civilizations, Peter N. Steams, Michael Ades, Stuart B. Schwartz, Mare Jason Gilbert, Copyright 2001 by Addison-Wesley Education Publishes Inc.
Attila the Hun, http://www.realm-of-shade.com/zarathustra/attila.html
1. Why did Rome have trouble raising armies?
A. The men went on strike.
B. Plagues and lower birth rate
C. Didn’t have the money to pay the soldiers.
D. All the men turned pacifist.
2. Why did Constantine split the Empire in half?
A. To have a place to hide if one half fell.
B. To make ruling the empire easier.
C. If one empire completely deteriorated before his eyes, he could still rule the other one.
D. So trading would improve.
3. The big peasant rebellion in Han China was lead by:
A. Angry Chickens
B. Daoist leaders
C. A bunch of old people with big sticks
D. Some sneaky land owners
4. Who bought their own armies and avoided taxes?
A. The Cows
B. Rich Landowners
C. Buddhist Monks
D. A bunch of peasants who pooled their money together.
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