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Comparing Classical Athens and Han China

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The differences between Classical Athens and Han China were major and distinctive. The background information, government, values of the individual, and art of each society show how differently each empire developed.

Within the background information of both Athens and Han China you can automatically notice evident differences between the two. The first document shows the maps of both empires side by side. The Han Empire is isolated and much bigger than Athens's city-state Attica, which is a mere 50 miles long, while the Han Empires stretches to over 2400 miles long. Just their differences in size show how the Empires would have developed differently Since Athens is smaller the people are closer together so therefore it would have been easier to develop democracy there while everyone in Han China is more spread out. Therefore, Hans China would have be more difficult to govern if each citizen had a say in the government. The author of the maps is trying to show that The Han Empire was very different in size and geographically from Athens, and that because of these variations the two developed into dissimilar empires. The second and third documents show the population distribution in both Han China and Athens. The differences here are clear. First of all, there are only 315,000 people in all of Attica while Han China has 65,000,000. The total population of Han China is about 206 times bigger, which requires the need for a strong government system. The demographics also show distinct differences between the two empires. The majority of the residents in Athens was slaves, accounting for about 36% of the population, while in Han China they only had a few household slaves which fell into the category of "Mean people", which only account for about 7% of the population. Also, in Athens only 50,000 people out of 315,000 were citizens, all being male. Athens was a democracy, but just barely, because only the male citizens controlled the government. In Han China, the emperor and his officials were in control, and the educated bureaucrats and aristocrats had more of a say in things. These people were barely 2% of the population, while 90% were peasant farmers who stood by and let themselves be governed. This shows that in Athens most of the men had a voice and were able to choose what went on in their government while in Han China they were governed by one emperor and his many officials. This supports that because of all the people living in Han China, it would be less likely for them to form a democracy. The authors of the charts are trying to show that the total populations of both empires were made up of mostly people who didn't count, but more people had a say in Athens than they did in Han China.

Due to their different geographical locations and population sizes the two empires formed very different government systems. The fourth document is a speech by Pericles given to the people of Athens. He speaks very highly of the democracy in Athens to show Athens is superior to other states. He is proud that the city is governed by the people rather than the government, and describes how admirable the structure of their government is. Of course, he is from Athens which would show why he is so captivated by it, but this speech basically shows that the first democracy is working out and the people are happy with it. Document 5 describes the makeup of the Athens's form of government, which the author believes was the first true democracy in history. He believes the Athenians governed themselves. Most importantly, this document shows that in Athens no one remained in power long enough to take over. The chief executive changed every day, but could only be chosen from 10 generals. The sixth document is a conversation between Mencius and Wan Chang who discuss how the emperor in Han China is chosen. They believe in a system called the Mandate of Heaven in which heaven chooses the new ruler by the acceptation of the people. If the people are content then they know that heaven has accepted the new emperor. This document is directly from two men who are governed under this system, so they accept it and believe in it. Document 7 shows how the government in Han China worked out. Most of the power laid in the hands of the emperor and he governed the rest of China with the help of governors, officials, and bureaucrats. The emperor stayed in power for a long time and he was regarded as the "Son of Heaven". The author of this document strongly believes that the government of Han China was remarkably successful and are probably biased in that they are not going to describe the system's flaws. In Athens, they made sure all of the power would never lay in the hands of one man, or even with a group of men. The power was distributed among all of the male citizens, while in Han China the large amount of citizens had no say in the government.

Both empires also had different values of how the individual should regard the government. In Document 8, Pericles shows that he feels in Athens an individual should not only be interested in his own affairs but needs to be concerned with what's going on in the government too. He feels that if a man has no interest in politics then he doesn't belong in Athens. This shows that in Athens, to be a good citizen you needed to be involved with the government and make sure you knew what was going on. You were not to just stand aside



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