The Major Differences Between Classical Athens and Han China

The Major Differences Between Classical Athens and Han China

History, a record of past events and developments, which are usually in chronological order that define who and what we are today. Now days, history is changing so rapidly and life seems to be stuck in fast forward. Usually when people think of the word history, they often think of big events, when truly everything you do is making up history. Even reading this paper is history in the making. And as a human it is our duty to know and analyze our past to make sure repetition of our downfalls doesn’t happen. It is crazy to think about how different times are now than what they were in ancient times.

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But even back then things were very diverse. For example, Athens and Han China were like night and day. The way in which they ruled their governments, their role as an individual in society, and how they viewed their social classes is almost incomparable. Government is one of the greater things in history that is ever changing. It’s the way in which the people are ruled, so it’s instinctive to find the “perfect” way to do so. Athens believed in a direct democratic style of government while Han China took more of a bureaucratic swing to it. A factor that had an effect to this decision is geographically where they stood.

Athens was located in a mountainous area and is much smaller than the large, open Han Empire. (Doc. 1&2) It is easier for the Athenians to be democratic because of its size. It had a population of about 315,000 compared to a total of 65,000,000 people in Han China. (Doc. 3&4) China was more focused on a central authority and was undeniably the largest political system. (Doc. 7) With a greater population, it is hard to have everyone get their voice out there which is why Athens had the advantage of that. Another aspect to look at is the involvement of the citizens.

For example, in Han China the only people who were actually considered citizens were free, 18 years and older, males with both parents being citizens. And since they were about one sixth of the population that could actually vote and have a say that couldn’t count as a democracy ever because a democratic government is all about the people including the other five sixths that Athenians don’t include. (Doc. 8) Taking a closer look at the Han Empire you will find that they had their bureaucrats examined and trained and where they stood on the totem pole was based on merit.

Once a person is chosen that doesn’t mean anything until approved by the heavens because they believed in the Mandate of Heaven. The Mandate of Heaven was the final step of approval because they trusted “Heaven to hear with the ears of it people. ” (Doc. 6) But ultimately, it was chosen by merit. So Athens was based more around the people and Han China’s foundation of government was based upon a group of higher citizens. In society, each person had his or her own duties they must fulfill in order to keep everything running as it should.

Han China and Athens had different views on what function each person has. In Han China, the great philosopher Confucius believed in fiatal piety. In order to obey you must respect your elders and do whatever you are told to. Everywhere you go people are going to be ranked whether that be on merit, money, etc. In Athens, there was an assembly known as the “Thirty Tyrants” that all free male citizens regardless of income or class had the opportunity to join and serve for Athens. Also Pericles once said, “… everyone is equal before the law. ”


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