Classical Athens and Han China were two very successful and powerful early civilizations that shared major similarities. However, there were many clear differences between the two that made both of them important in their own unique ways. Some of these major differences include geography, government and society.
In the development of Classical Athens and Han China, geography played an important role that was similar but also unique for each civilization. Classical Athens was a city-state within the small country of Greece. The seas of the Ionian, Aegean, and Mediterranean were present on the western, eastern, and southern borders of the country, and the land contained a large mountainous peninsula with smaller islands surrounding the main country. Han China was located in the eastern part of present day China, and contained many mountains and desserts. To the east lies the Pacific Ocean and other smaller seas such as the Yellow Sea. The sea was an important role in both civilizations, however the number of larger seas that were accessible to the Greeks gave them more trade and communication opportunities with outside countries. China was big on trade, but they were very isolated from foreign countries making the trips longer and having limited social opportunities compared to the Greeks. The mountains played another important role that provided both civilizations with isolation. However, this isolation was used unique for both sides. The mountains in Classical Greece provided isolation for people within the country, causing the formation of different communities (city-states) that had their own ideas, systems and ways of life. Two of the most popular being Sparta and Athens. In Han China, mountains and deserts isolated the whole country of China from other Asian countries/civilizations.
The governments of Classical Athens and China were both very powerful and significant in the development of these civilizations, but worked differently. Classical Athens had a democratic type of government that influenced future government systems which still exist today. Their democracy (“the rule of many”) consisted of the Athenian Assembly, the council and the prytany assembling meetings held 40 times a year to freely debate and vote on proposed laws. These groups were only made up of free adult male citizens of any social class. Members of these groups were always changing so that there were always different opinions and ideas and no one took over. They believed that everyone within the community should be involved with the government because they would be affected by the decisions that were made. Han China’s form of government was more monarchical and focused on central bureaucracy. An emperor who was born into the throne had the duty of keeping their community functional and peaceful. To make ruling easier, the emperor divided the central government into three sections – military, civil service, and censorate. Well-trained officials based on skill were then hired to take care of these complex sections, forming a highly successful bureaucracy. The Han China government was based on power and the decisions of skilled officials or the emperor, meaning not everyone got a say in the laws and decisions made.
The ways of society were also a major role in the development of Classical Greece and Han China, however the roles of people differed. In Classical Athens, family was important to the growth of the community. The main focus of a family was to produce children/more citizens for the development of the civilization. The family consisted of the father (provided for family and was part of the assembly) the mother (bared children and stayed at home), and the children. The women weren’t allowed to go to the council, had to stay home and got put under strict supervision when leaving the house. They cared for the children who would someday grow up and become a citizen, unless they were girls in which case they would learn to be a housewife/mother. Child abandonment was common in Athens; however, many people of the council didn’t approve of it. In Han China family was important, but everyone had a duty to a certain person. For example, a wife would serve her husband as her master with respect and no funny business. A child must revere their parent, even though they are treated worse compared to the wives. Children were barely thought of as human, rather an object or disposable product if their duties weren’t fulfilled. Child abandonment was very common and encouraged if the family wasn’t satisfied or couldn’t provide for it. Han China believed that if everyone had a role or duty to fulfill, the society as a whole would function more efficiently.
In conclusion, both Classical Athens and Han China share many similarities when it comes to their geographical isolation, powerful governments, and importance of family in society. However, its their differences that made them so successful and unforgettable to us in the future.