Only $2.99/month

Unit 2: Classical Civilizations

Terms in this set (48)

Cyrus ruled from 558-530 BCE, and was the king of the Persian Tribes. He was often called Cyrus the Shepherd, in reference to his native lands economy. However, he set up the foundation for the Persian Empire through military conquests. Soon, he had under his control all of Iran, and still wanted to expand. Next he conquered Lydia, which was located in modern-day Turkey, and then Asia and Bactria and Babylonia. Within 20 years Cyrus had expanded the Persian Empire from India to the outskirts of Egypt. Unfortunately, Cyrus died before he could conquer Egypt. Cyrus was important because he expanded the Persian Empire to a great extent. After Cyrus came the Achaemenids greatest emperor, Darius, who ruled from 521-486 BCE. Darius used military might to expand the Persian Empire into northwest India to the Indus River, and in the process conquered Thrace, Macedonia, and the western coast of the Black Sea. Under Darius' rule, the population reached 35 million, which was the largest empire in the world at that time. To keep control over such a large empire, Darius instituted a centralized the government, and built a new capital at Persepolis. Darius was an important ruler because under his rule the Persian empire became the largest in the world, and also because Persepolis served as the center of the Persian Empire even after Darius' decline. After Darius came Xerxes, who ruled from 486-465 BCE. Unlike Darius, Xerxes was not a tolerant ruler, and he imposed his policy on the lands he had conquered. This caused much unrest, particularly in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Despite the unrest Xerxes managed to suppress rebels and maintain order, but not forever. Xerxes was important because the unrest caused by his intolerance brought about problems for emperors later in the Achaemenid Empire.
Seleucid, Parthian, Sasanid: After Alexander, the Persian Empire was divided into three parts. The biggest one was given to Seleucus, who reigned from 305-281 BCE, and was a commander in Alexanders army. He and his successors kept the same administration and tax system as the Achaemenids. The Seleucids also created new cities that attracted migrants. Often times, the Seleucids were challenged by the native Persians, and the satraps. Eventually the Seleucids lost power to the Parthians. The Seleucids were important because the cities they founded brought about trade and stimulated economic development in and beyond their empire. The Parthians were the powerful lords of and empire that spanned from Iran to Mesopotamia. They retained much of the culture from the steppe people in Central Asia. For example, the didn't use a centralized administration, instead using a federation of leaders to get themselves organized politically. The Parthians were also very militarily skilled, and they were used to having to defend their territory from nomads to the east. Starting in the 3rd century BCE the Parthians began to gain control from the Seleucids, and eventually revolted. In their government, the Parthians were less centralized than the Achaemenids and Seleucids. In the early 3rd century BCE the Parthians were brought down by internal rebellion. The Parthians were important because they provided an alternative form of rule to the centralized government of the Seleucids. Next were the Sasanids who took over the Parthians in 224 CE and ruled till 651. They were strong rulers who rebuilt the original Achaemenid administration and cities. The Sasanid merchants were big into trading with those to the east and west, and introduced many new things to Iran such as rice, sugarcane, and citrus fruits. The Sasanids were able to able to stabilize themselves in the west under the rule of Shapur I, and they created "buffer states" between them and the Romans. After Shapur, the Sasanids stopped expanding their borders, but the conflicts with the Kushan, Roman, and Byzantine empires weakened them greatly until the empire fell to the Arabs. The Sasanids were important because they brought back the original Achaemenid structure of government.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE, the Qin state went through some very important changes to its military, economy, and its politics. Shang Yang's policies boosted agriculture, weakened the aristocrats economic power, and established a centralized bureaucratic rule. Also during the 3rd century BCE, Qin rulers expanded China one state at a time, until China was eventually ruled by one state for the first time. In 221 BCE the Qin king at that time announced himself as the first emperor of China, and declared that his descendants would rule after him. The first emperor was Qin Shihuangdi who ruled from 221-210 BCE. He established a centralized rule that greatly helped maintain political order. Shihuangdi divided China into districts, and appointed an officer to each to keep order. He disarmed the districts militaries to discourage rebellion, and built many roads to help move armies easier throughout China, and to make communication easier as well. Qin Shihuangdi began construction on the Great Wall of China, which served as a defensive wall and also employed hundreds of thousands. The main critics of the Qin dynasty were the Confucians and the Daoists, but Qin Shihuangdi soon ordered a burning of all books having to do with philosophy, ethics, history, or literature, and he also executed anyone who criticized his reign. In order to make China more centralized, Shihuangdi standardized laws, currencies, weights, and eventually even a standardized script was established. Qin Shihuangdi died in 210 BCE, and soon after his death the Qin dynasty collapsed into chaos. The Qin dynasty and Qin Shihuangdi were very important because in this time they centralized China for the first time, and started work on the Great Wall of China.
After the fall of the Qin dynasty, the policy of a centralized government immediately returned due in part to Liu Bang. By 206 BCE he had once again restored order in China, and was now the head of the new dynasty. The Han dynasty lasted for more than 400 years from 206 BCE-9 CE, and then from 25-220 CE. The Han dynasty used a centralized imperial rule established bye the Qin. In his rule, Liu Bang attempted to create a balance between the policies of the Zhou and Qin dynasties, however he soon learned not to rely on family, and from then on he upheld a centralized government. The Han dynasty's greatest emperor was Han Wudi who ruled from 141-87 BCE. His two principle policies were administrative centralization and imperial expansion. Wudi relied on legalist principles, and used appointed officials to maintain order in China's districts. He also continued to build and maintain China's road system to make trade and communication easier throughout China. In order to finance his government, Han Wudi taxed agriculture and trade, and monopolized salt and iron production. In 124 BCE Wudi established China's first imperial university, which trained men for future government service. The university was based on Confucianism, despite Han Wudi's legalist principles. Han Wudi used his military to expand China through invading Vietnam and Korea. The greatest challenger Wudi faced was the Xiongnu people, but eventually he conquered them and ruled over them until the Han dynasty was brought to a close in the early 3rd century CE. The Han dynasty was very important because they expanded China a great deal and established the first imperial university.
Sparta was a city-state in Greece in the region of the Peloponnesus. During the 7th and 8th centuries BC, they became increasingly more populated, and their economy expanded greatly. Because of this they became much more powerful, and eventually turned their neighbors into helots, servants who they relied on for agriculture and food supplying. Eventually the helots outnumbered the Spartans, and when they realized this they focused their time and energy to making sure no rebellions would take place by being extremely disciplined. Statuses were based on strength and talent in the military, which was probably the most important thing to the Spartans. Boys the age of 7 were taken off to military camps where they learned the skills of a warrior, and became physically fit to handle the hard work. When they turned 20 years old they joined the Spartan army which they stayed in until they were too old, and retired. Women were also encouraged to become fit to have strong children that would benefit the city-state in the future. Like Sparta, Athens had a large increase in population and economy size, which made things difficult to govern. To deal with this, Athens created a democracy by allowing the city-states citizens to decide who was to govern their land. Unlike Sparta, Athens had social classes that became distinct during the 7th century BC. There were many rich aristocrats that owned land, and this caused problems for the people who weren't rich and owned land. Besides this problem, Athens was a developing city-state that was home to many famous and talented scientists, artists, philosophers, architects, and others. Sparta and Athens were two of the most powerful and influential Greek city-states to this day. Spartan military techniques have influenced many today, and also Athenian democracy has shaped the system of the United States government which shows that both were very important figures.
During the early 6th century, the people of Athens were complaining more and more about the growing line between the rich and the poor. The aristocratic land owners were taking over the small plots owned by others not as wealthy, making them poorer and poorer, and the aristocrats richer and richer. Solon was an aristocrat who decided to solve this problem. His solution was to allow the aristocrats to keep their land to avoid a dispute with them, and then forgave the debts of all the lower classed people, allowing them to be debt free. He also diminished slavery of debtors, and released ones who had previously been in prison for their debts. Lastly he allowed any free man with enough wealth to participate in public life, not just the wealthy aristocrats and let the lower class have representatives as the aristocrats did. With his master plan, Solon got rid of social problems between the classes, and reformed Athens in a good way. Pericles was an aristocrat who was voted to power, leading from 461BC until his death in 429BC. He was probably the most liked leader of Athens, as he cared about everyone, no matter their class. One of the great things he did was create jobs in construction, building different things which helped the lower class who needed a job. He also encouraged cultural development. Under his leadership, Athens blossomed with culture. Scientists, philosophers, artists, and many more talented people were working, making Athens one of the most sophisticated and enlightened city states. Pericles was important because he was the most talented and popular Athenian leader who made sure all people of his city-state were happy.
Born in 470BC, Socrates was an influential philosopher and scientist of the classical Greek world. He disagreed with the earlier thoughts of Greek scientists, who were trying to understand the natural world. Socrates, on the other hand thought human affairs were much more important. Socrates decided that living an honest life was better than wealth or fame. He often questioned peoples morals and ideals which made him somewhat of a nuisance in society. He was accused of corrupting the youth's minds and encouraging immortality, and was sentenced to death in 399BC. Socrates introduced new thought to Greek, and was important because he spread many new and unique ideas around that are still studied today. Although Plato never wrote down any of his thoughts, his disciple Plato put together his work and shared it with the public. Born in 430BC, Plato highly respected his mentor. At first he passed on Socrates views, but over time he developed his own ideas. He came up with the theory of Forms or Ideas. He talked about how people view things like beauty or courage differently than each other, that you couldn't really define these because everyone had a different idea of what they were. Plato thought that the aristocratic philosophers were at the top of the class system, and those less intelligent would not be as elite as they were. Like Socrates, Plato also developed new thought into the world and introduced new ideas. After Plato passed on in 347BC, his disciple Aristotle took his place as key philosopher of classical Greece. Aristotle was born in 384BC, and died in 322BC. He supported Plato's ideas of Forms or Ideas until later in his life when he began to distrust it. Aristotle drew an emphasis on a philosopher's sense, and how using reason was more trustworthy. Along with philosophy, Aristotle wrote about biology, politics, literature, physics and many other subjects he was interested in. Aristotle had a big impact on Western thought, especially science are religion.
When Alexander the Great died, his Hellenistic kingdom was split into three regions in 275BC, and the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt was the wealthiest of these. Ruled by Ptolemy, the empire governed Egypt until the Romans invaded in 31BC. Egyptian society wasn't meddled with; instead they made sure that Egypt was organized with their agriculture, industry and taxes. The Egyptians had to pay taxes to the Greek and Macedonian overlords and they made sure that the crops were being harvested right. Monopolies on products were also the product of Hellenistic rule over Egypt. Because the Ptolemaic empire was the richest of all the Hellenistic empires, it was important. It was also a busy sea port that greatly helped trade for the Greek and Macedonians. Like the Ptolemaic Empire, the Antigonid Empire was established in 275BC after Alexander the Great died and split his kingdom. The Antigonid Empire was the smallest out of all the Hellenistic Empires, and was settled in the Greece which Alexander had conquered after the Peloponnesian War. The Greeks were not easy to rule, as they often tried to rebel against their new leaders. The Antigonid rule over Greek helped the Greek poleis like Athens and Corinth, who received a lot of trade through their ports. Other poleis tried to bargain with the Antigonids for tax reliefs, and some Greeks had problems with distribution. Because of the problems and overcrowding in Greece, some moved away to the third Hellenistic empire, Seleucid. The Antigonid Empire was small but had many benefits that helped it become successful. It also was the reason for yet another Greek conflict, which makes it important.
The Roman Republic originated in 509BC when they replaced the last Etruscan king. The Romans used an aristocratic republic as their government system. All of the classes had a representative in the government, including the plebeians who eventually got ten tribunes. Even though the plebeians had a voice, the patricians were really the ones who ruled Rome, and there was often a lot of tension between the two classes. The Romans had many threats from the outside of their kingdom during the Republic including Gauls and Etruscans. The Romans made military colonies around the regions they defeated, and were generally polite to the people by letting them keep their culture and didn't tax them. When the republic expanded its borders, it generated problems like land distribution and keeping its conquered land under control from rebellions. They got rid of the republic and reformed into an empire in the first centuries BC and CE. The government was now centralized with kings instead of voices representing the people. These kings were like Alexander the Great; they focused on conquering new land more than keeping peace between the people of Rome. Civil Wars broke out between the classes because of the arguments between the patricians and plebeians. Also, after the convert to an empire, the Romans became much more powerful and conquered much more land than they had ever gotten before the switch. The Roman Republic and Empire prove how successful the Romans were. They conquered more land that anyone ever had and proved great military technique.