Compare and contrast the methods through which Han and Roman leaders enlisted their subjects' support. What emphasis did each place on ideology, civil bureaucracy, and military organization?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Han Chinese government:

Political Ideology, Civil Bureaucracy, and Military Organization: During the Han dynasty, Confucianism became the dominant political ideology. Confucius doctrines of respect, hard work, and merit permeated every aspect of Chinese government. Although the previous Qin dynasty had promoted men to positions of honor based on the evaluations and recommendations of public officials, the Han dynasty adopted a Confucius-based civil service government system. The civil service examinations were heavily based on Confucian Classic texts and commentaries on those classic works.

Examinations were predicated upon four levels of administration: the county level, the district level, the provincial level, and the imperial level. Those who passed at the imperial level became the most powerful and influential members of the Chinese bureaucracy. Through this merit-based system, the Emperor was able to field the most talented and educated leaders into his administration. This merit-based system also became a great vehicle for citizens from the local classes to advance their positions in society. The Confucian civil system greatly benefited both Emperor and citizen.

The Confucian Classics and Civil Service Examinations

During the early Han period, men who reached the age of twenty-three were often conscripted into the military. The later Han dynasty saw the emergence of a largely voluntary Army. The Han Dynasty boasted great military prowess, supported by a strong imperial and scholar-gentry class alliance. It was this powerful alliance which imposed order on Chinese society during the Han Dynasty. Every member of society was tasked with specific duties for the welfare of their country. The Emperor himself was tasked with being his country's chief defender from enemy assaults.

Military campaigns were well-funded by government run monopolies in salt, iron, silk, and wine production.Tributes from conquered domains as well as a large agricultural base kept tax revenues high. The Emperors of the early Han period maintained the status quo (in Confucius belief, both the poor and the rich are expected to know their place in society) through clever alliances with local leaders. However, the later Han period saw the fracturing of society (due to famine and economic decline) and the slow, eventual rejection of Confucius ritual conformity. The lower classes and the landholder classes united to confront central authority, which was sustained by the Confucius civil service system.

The Han military organization also maintained its own hierarchical power structure. During the later Han period, Imperial military forces at the capital were divided into five regiments: Archers, Garrison Calvary, Elite Calvary, Foot Soldiers and Chang River Regiment. Each regiment was commanded by a colonel (with a salary of two thousand shi of grain).

Later Han Military Organization

Han Dynasty Military and Bureaucracy

So, you can see that, for most of the Han Dynasty, the Emperors depended upon the universal reverence of Confucian principles at all levels of the government and the military to enlist local support for the existing power structure.

Roman Government.

Political Ideology, Civil Bureaucracy, and Military Organization: The Roman governmental structure was supported by the Roman military. Therefore, it was imperative that the military structure supported strong incentives for men to enlist as soldiers. Many fighting units which excelled in battlefield exploits were accorded military honors which distinguished their regiments. During the expansion of the early Roman Empire, these soldiers' systematic plundering of conquered territories contributed to the enrichment of the state. So, the Roman political hierarchy maintained its power by exploiting the strength of the Roman military. In turn, soldiers were accorded monetary benefits and military honors for their service.

As for government bureaucracy, the Roman hierarchy was based on a republican form of government, where elected representatives ruled on behalf of citizens. Our American government system is based on this governmental structure. Roman citizenship came with special privileges. For example, all citizens were allowed to vote and to decide who their representatives would be; they were also to marry other free-born individuals and to engage in commerce. Citizens distinguished themselves in dress by their white togas. Initial power was mainly held in the hands of the patricians, the wealthy class, who ruled as senators. These patricians chose two consuls to preside over the entire government. The lower classes, or plebeians, eventually elected their own representatives, known as tribunes, and agitated for greater say in the running of their government.

Additionally, in order to secure the loyalty of conquered peoples, the Roman government invited conquered citizens of foreign countries to become Roman subjects. The right of all citizens to equality was predicated on the Twelve Tables, the earliest known Roman laws. So, unlike the Han system of government where Chinese citizens were expected to conform to rigid class-based hierarchies, the Roman system of government was based upon equality and the preservation of individual rights. However, both systems of government eventually splintered due to corruption and internal conflict. For more, please read:

The Roman Republic

The Ancient Roman Military



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