Slide Show #7

The Great Empires
Slideshow #7
Review Questions
1.) WHY WERE trade routes so important to axial-age empires? What
were the advantages of land routes and sea routes? Where were they
2.) HOW DID the Persian Empire benefit its inhabitants?
3.) HOW WAS Rome able to conquer and rule a vast empire?
4.) HOW DID Asoka seek to unify his empire?
5.) WHAT WAS the significance of the Han dynasty for China?
6.) WHERE DID the first potentially imperial states arise in the Americas?
Trade during the Axial Age
Desire for luxury goods: silks, spices and herbs, horses, precious
stones, cotton and linen, etc.
Sea routes across the Indian Sea
 Monsoon winds
Land routes across Eurasia
 Dangers of piracy and raiders
 High value, low bulk goods
Control over trade routes
 Persia: Control over Western and Central Eurasia
 Rome: War with Carthage and with Hellenistic Greek states
Control of the Mediterranean
China: Building of Great Wall threats from northern raiders
such as the Xiongnu;
major wars and expansion during Han dynasty protects trade routes
China and Rome--Silk Roads. A face with Caucasian features on a woolen weaving from the first or
second century C.E. is evidence that the Chinese and the Romans were linked by trade. The cloth was
discovered in a grave on the Silk Roads in Xinjiang. The face was stitched into a pair of pants and woven
in a style not used by the Chinese.
Trade Routes to the East: Silk Roads
Empire Building
Persia: Building of roads and infrastructure
Rome: Massive road building, enormous
expenditures on infrastructure (public markets,
theaters, govt. buildings, etc.) facilitating trade
China: Similar expenditures as in Rome, with
even more rational and centralized bureaucracy
India: Asoka runs centralized state
Integrating economy, government, religion
Romans and Barbarians
The Roman general who dominates the composition—in the center, with arm outstretched—was buried
inside this magnificent sarcophagus of the mid–third century C.E. Bearded Germans succumb beneath the
horses’ hooves of the clean-shaven Romans. In reality, the Germans were not so easy to defeat.
Tombstone of Roman Soldier
The Roman Empire moved
people across vast distances.
This tombstone in Cologne,
Germany, records a veteran
soldier, Marcus Valerius
Celerinus, who married and
settled locally after his legion
was transferred to Germany
from his home in Écija in
southern Spain, late in the first
century C.E.
Roman Aqueduct at Segovia, Spain
Nearly 3,000 feet long and rising to 115 feet high, the second-century C.E. aqueduct is one of the surviving
marvels of Roman engineering. In laying the infrastructure of communications and supply, the Romans were
not only building up their own power and their ability to shift and sustain armies, they were also
demonstrating the benefits, self-confidence, and durability of their rule for subject peoples
The Celts
This wine vessel, buried with a high-ranking woman in the mid-first millennium B.C.E., was as tall as she
was. Like the wine it contained, it was imported from the Mediterranean. Greek soldiers and chariots
decorate the rim. Serpent-haired Gorgons form handles, inside which lions climb—all symbolizing the
owner’s power.
Egypt: Fayyum portrait
When Egypt became a Roman province
in 30 B.C.E., burial practices remained
the same: Mummies were encased in
painted caskets. But the style of painting
that depicted the deceased gradually
took on Roman conventions of
portraiture, as in this lovely example of a
young woman from the mid–second
century C.E.
Persepolis. Reliefs that line the approach to the audience chamber of the ruler of Persia at Persepolis
show exactly what went on there: reception of tribute, submission of ambassadors. The figures look uniform
at first, but their various styles of beards, headgear, and robes indicate the diversity of the lands from which
they came and, therefore, the range of the Great King’s power.
Terracotta warriors at Xian, Shaanxi Province
Though his life and reign were short, everything else about Shi Huangdi (r. 221–210 B.C.E.), the Qin ruler
who conquered China, was on a monumental scale. The size and magnificence of his tomb, guarded by an
army of terracotta warriors, echoes the grandeur of his engineering works and the scope of his ambitions
and uncompromising reforms.
Terracotta Army, Xian, Shaanxi Province
Spread of Ideas
Persia: Conquest by Alexander the Great c. 335 BCE
India: Asoka’s empire spreads Buddhism,
Buddhism spreads east into Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan
Trade routes, monasteries
Rome: Christianity spreads and develops
system created by Persian empire facilites spread of Greek culture
Greek-influenced art, coins begins to appear in India.
Mediterranean region: along the trade routes and Rome’s imperial cities.
Across Asia into China as a result of the land and sea routes of trade
China: Confucianism & Daoism spread to Korea, Japan,
Also influences many Central Asian peoples
Meanwhile Central Asian (Nomadic) culture influences China
Heavenly horse. Chinese artists have favored horses as subjects in almost every period, but never more
than during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.), when an intense effort to import fine horses from
Central Asia enriched China’s equine bloodstock. More than for their utility, horses inspired artists—as in
this example from Wuwei (Gansu province) of the second century C.E.—as symbols of the fleeting, everchanging nature of human life. The Art Archive/Picture Desk, Inc./Kobal Collection
The Empire of Alexander the Great
Gandharan sculpture. Soldiers of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 B.C.E.) founded the kingdom of
Gandhara. Greek influence is unmistakable in its art: in the realistic modeling,, the deep reliefs. Buddhist
piety dominates the subject matter. Here the artist illustrates the legend of how King Sibi became a Buddha
by sacrificing his eyes and flesh to save the life of a pigeon while gods look on.
General Wudi worships the Buddha. In the early second century B.C.E., shortly after the founding of
Dunhuang, the Chinese General Wudi invaded Central Asia along the Silk Roads in search of horses. “Two
golden men” were among the other booty he captured. Buddhist painters at Dunhuang assumed that these
statues were Buddhas and depicted Wudi worshipping them.
The Stupa of Sanchi
The Emperor Asoka (r. ca. 272–223
B.C.E..) built the first shrine at Sanchi, in
India, to honor a place made holy by the
footprints of the Buddha. Enriched by the
donations of pilgrims, it was adorned by
dozens of elaborate structures over
thousands of years. The northern
gateway, shown here, is elaborately
carved with scenes of legends of the
Buddha’s life and with tales of exemplary
charity. Note the elephants and tree
spirits, in the form of dancers entwined
with mango trees, who hold up the upper
Collapse of Empires, Not Trade or Ideas
Although each empire collapsed in its turn
because of problems in communication, the
military, the economy, or over-centralization,
none of the ideas that were spread because of
these empires died out. These ideas were
stronger than the might of powerful states.
Today’s Question
Is America an empire?
 The global reach of American armed forces
 American willingness to use that force in its own interests,
sometimes at the expense of the interests of the global
On the other hand, consider
 The vast difference in political philosophy behind the U.S and
empires such as Rome or Han China
 The limits of America’s ability to dominate the world
Is America in some sense an imperial power today?
More usefully, what opportunities and dangers for the use of
American influence would an affirmative answer to this question
imply, in light of the history of the great empires of the classical