Size and Location
In the second century CE, China controlled about 1.5 million square miles of territory. In the second century CE, Rome controlled about 1.7 million square miles of territory.
China's first recorded census (2 CE) gives a figure of 58 million; Rome's population was about the same.
Rome's heartland was confined to Italy, with a population of some 3 million. Ethnically speaking, the rest of the empire was largely non-Roman.
▪ During Han, most of the population lived on the North China Plain. The census figure given above, derived from counting peasant households, is restricted to Chinese.
Differences between Rome and Han ▪ Rome background is republican city-state. Will place limits on power of emperor who must pay homage to traditions (Consuls, Senate, Constitution), which limit his power. Han from highly standardized Qin Empire with Confucian system in place giving heavenly mandate. ▪ Rome provincial administration tolerates local autonomy more like a federation of semi autonomous cities. Han imperial system of provincial administration does no tolerate local exceptions or diversity. Empire is more unified and highly centralized. ▪ Slavery far more important in Rome treated worse. Slavery in China more domestic. ▪ Once it falls, Roman Empire never reconstituted. Chinese imperial model revived in Sui & Tang lasts until 1911 if not today. ▪ Confucianism with its deference to authority and ancestor much stronger than Roman cult of ancestors. No Roman equivalent to Confucianism. Emperor limited by Republican tradition. No dynastic tradition in Rome – refer to Consul as period of rule. ▪ Confucianism disparages merchant class Rome does not. Rome more property and individual rights and less government interference or centralization. ▪ Christianity w one doctrine of truth negates Emperor causes irreversible break with the past. China w idea of emperor as divine son of heaven w access to royal ancestors. Religion in China tends to offer ideological aid to state not to challenge it.
One important difference between Rome and the Han period, however, centers on the question of cultural cohesion. Which society established a common culture as a result of its conquests? In the words of Patricia Ebrey,
Perhaps because of the Chinese script, it is much easier to talk about a common culture among the elite in Han China than in the Roman Empire. As…