Student Handout 1.1—The Persian (Achaemenid) Empire, 550-330 BCE (Map 1)
The Persians, a group of Indo-European speaking tribes from Inner Eurasia, arrived on the Iranian plateau
sometime between 1500 and 1000 BCE. About 550 BCE, Cyrus II, the leader of the Achaemenids, which was
one of these Persian clans, successfully revolted against the Medes, the Persians’ overlords, who controlled
It took Cyrus less than a decade to conquer the Medes. He then moved on to seize control of the Anatolian
Peninsula and the Greek city-states nestled along the peninsula’s western edge. Syria was next and in 539
Babylon fell as well.
When conquering Babylon, Cyrus had promised to treat it fairly and not to destroy either its institutions or its
culture. At the same time, he returned to various groups the goods which the Babylonians had taken from them
as a sign of conquest. Cyrus also freed the Hebrews, who had been enslaved in Babylon. He allowed them to
return home. Later he helped them rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. This policy of local cultural independence
won for him a reputation as a fair ruler.
Meanwhile, other Persian forces moved northeast into the rich lands of Bactria-Sogdiana where they captured
most of the trade centers on the Silk Routes that led to Inner Eurasia. After Cyrus’ death, his son, Cambyses,
added Egypt to the empire‘s holdings. In 322 BCE, Cambyses died. Darius (522-486 BCE), a strong military
leader, seized control. He soon pushed the Persian borders to the Indus River valley in the east. The Persians
now controlled the largest empire the world had ever seen.
The vast Persian Empire was the most culturally diverse empire that had ever existed. It linked the east with the
west and ruled cities where people of every class and culture rubbed shoulders and ideas. It was a huge crucible
of cultural and social cross-fertilization. To rule it, the Persians had to invent new administrative tools.
It was Darius I who, building on the administrative systems inherited from the Assyrians and Babylonians,
reorganized the empire. He established twenty provinces (called satrapies), each with its governor, military
commander, and treasurer, who reported separately to the king. In addition, there was a separate system of
inspectors known as the King’s Eyes or the Kings Ears. These inspectors had their own armies and could move
against even a military commander if necessary. The system was so effective in preventing rebellion,
corruption, and harsh rule that it was copied again and again, even in modern times.
Darius also introduced the Babylonian calendar, known for its accuracy, and set up granaries to assure a
constant supply of food for his troops. He built elaborate underground irrigation systems as well. In the far
reaches of what is now Iran, these irrigation systems turned deserts into gardens.
The Persian ruling class followed the religion of Zoroastrianism. This religion taught that there were two
deities, Ahura Mazda, the god of light and truth and Ahriman, the god of darkness and evil. These two gods
were in constant struggle, a struggle that Ahura Mazda would eventually win. Zoroastrians believed that after
the final battle, there would be a Judgment Day and everyone who had ever lived would be judged and sent
either to heaven or hell. These ideas are believed to have influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today,
there are Zoroastrians communities in Iran and India, where they are called Parsis or Parsees. Communities
also exist in other parts of the world including the United States. The Achaemeinds did not force Zoroastrianism
on their subjects. As rulers of an empire that embraced more cultural communities than had any other before
them, they wisely allowed their subjects much cultural freedom.
Persian kings saw themselves as ruling by the will of the god Ahura Mazda who cared for the well-being of all.
In an inscription on a rock in Behistun, written in 519 BCE, Darius proclaims that “by the favor of Ahura
Mazda I am King; Ahura Mazda bestowed the kingdom upon me.”
Darius encouraged trade and economic development in a number of ways. He standardized weights and
measures and established a coinage system based on gold and silver. He also built banking houses. (The word
“check” is derived from a Persian word.)
When Darius came to power, a network of roads connecting the urban centers in Southwest Asia already
existed. Darius added a royal road from Susa in the Persian homeland to Sardis in the western part of Anatolia,
a distance of some 1500 miles. A system of relay stations made it possible for a rider carrying mail to ride the
distance in six to nine days rather than the usual three months. Officials and merchants traveling on the imperial
roads to do the emperor’s business carried passports entitling them to free food and lodging along the way.
Perhaps Darius’ most ambitious undertaking was the building of a canal, 140 km long and 50 meters wide, from
the Nile to the Red Sea. Completed in 500 BCE, it connected Memphis, then the capital of Egypt, to Babylon by
During Darius I reign, the Greek city-states at the western edge of the Anatolian Peninsula rebelled. They were
encouraged by Athens. Darius successfully squashed the rebellion, and two years later he sent an expedition to
discipline Athens and the other unruly Greek city states. The Persian army was defeated at the battle of
Marathon in 490 BCE. Darius died before he could launch another attack; but his son Xerxes advanced on
Greece with a huge expeditionary force. Xerxes managed to burn Athens. He was defeated, however, when the
Themistocles lured the Persian fleet into a trap at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE. After this humiliation, the
Persians chose to deal with the Greeks through diplomacy, siding with one, then another of Athens’ enemies.
The next 150 years of Persian history saw slow decline under a series of ineffectual rulers. Rebellions
multiplied. By 359 BCE, Phillip II of Macedonia had seen the empire’s weakness and planned an invasion. He
was murdered before he could launch the plan, but his son Alexander carried it forward. In 330, Alexander
earned his title “the Great” with the defeat of Darius III the last emperor of the Achaemenid dynasty.
Student Handout 1.2—The Athenian Empire, 454—404 BCE (Map 2)
Greece was a collection of city-states sprinkled across the tip of the Balkan Peninsula, on islands of the Aegean
Sea, along the western edge of the Anatolian Peninsula (Ionia), and on the rim of the Black Sea. In the sixth
century BCE, the Ionian city-states belonged to Persia, which conquered them along with the rest of the
Anatolian Peninsula. In 494 BCE, however, these city-states revolted, spurred on by Athens. Darius, the Persian
emperor quickly squashed the uprising, and two years later, sent an army to get even with Athens. In spite of
having a force several times larger as the Athenian army, the Persians suffered defeat on the plains of Marathon
in 490 BCE.
Darius died before he could have another go at the Athenians. But in 480 BCE his son Xerxes launched a
second attack. The Athenian navy, however, outfoxed and outmaneuvered the Persian fleet at the Battle of
Salamis. Xerxes watched the defeat of his navy from his throne high up on the coastal plain overlooking the
battle site. He quickly marched home in humiliation. The following year, the Greeks defeated the remnants of
the Persian army at Platea.
Although the Persians had been defeated, they remained a threat to the Greeks. In 478, 104 Greek city-states
created an alliance, the Delian League, under Athenian leadership, agreeing to contribute ships or cash to
Athens in exchange for building and maintaining a navy. Although the League was run by a council of
representatives from member states, the Athenians, as the leading city-state, determined how much each state
would be taxed—how many ships it would contribute or how much money it would pay. Members could not
leave the League without unanimous consent of the members, which meant that Athens could prevent any city-
state from dropping out.
Xerxes died in 456 BCE and with him the threat from Persia. Nevertheless, Pericles (495-429), the powerful,
charismatic leader of Athens, refused to allow any state to leave the League. In fact, he forced more city-states
to join. States that did not cooperate were subject to occupation by Athenian troops. In 454 BCE, the League’s
treasury was moved to Athens. The Delian League had become the Athenian empire. At its imperial height in
the 440s BCE, Athens controlled 172 tribute-paying city-states.
Athens, the champion of individualism and the independent city-state, had become the oppressor. While
probably no Athenian would have admitted to owning subject states, Athens certainly treated the states as
though they were private property. Uncooperative states had their land seized and handed out to Athenian
colonists. Governments in uncooperative states were overthrown and replaced. Taxes were collected regularly
and often raised. With no external enemy threatening the empire, the funds piled up in the Athenian treasury.
Therefore, it was not long before these taxes from member states, whose citizens were mostly farmers, traders,
and herders, were being used support projects in Athens. This money financed the art, architecture, and
literature of what historians call the Golden Age of Athens. In 447 BCE, funds from the League’s treasury paid
for the construction of the Parthenon. Completed in 432, it was built on the Acropolis, where the Persians had
destroyed temples in 480 BCE. Phidias (490-430), one of Greece’s greatest sculptors, created the Parthenon’s
monumental statue of Athena. It was about thirty-nine feet high and made of gold and ivory. The figure of
Athena held a spear in her left hand and a six-foot high statue of Nike, the goddess of Victory, in her right hand.
Ruins of the Parthenon in Athens
The arts, including drama, also flourished under the Athenian empire. Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, and
Sophocles, four of Greece’s most important playwrights, wrote during this period. So did the historians
Herodotus (c. 490-c.425 BCE) and Thucydides (c. 460/455-c. 300 BCE).
Needless to say, subject city-states were not happy about underwriting the glory of Athens. They did, however,
benefit to some extent from the arrangement, enjoying a period of relative peace and prosperity.
All of the city-states of the Athenian empire shared generally the same culture, so religion was never an issue.
By 500 BCE, however, the old polytheistic religion of Zeus, Hera, and Athena, had ceased to be used for much
more than public ceremony. Into this spiritual void came mystery religions such as the Egyptian cult of the
goddess Isis. These cults had elaborate rites and restricted memberships. At the same time, thinkers like
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle used reason to develop systems of rational thought, philosophies that spread
widely in later centuries.
The Athenian navy cleared the Aegean of pirates. This was a benefit to all of the merchants of the empire
because it allowed for an increase in trade. The downside was that Athens closely controlled trade so as to
In the wars against Persia, Athens and Sparta had been allies. Now they turned against one another. The
increase in Athenian wealth and power, both political and commercial, alarmed the Spartans and their allies. In
460 BCE, the First Peloponnesian War broke out. In 445 BCE a 30-year peace treaty was signed, but the peace
didn’t last. In 431, the fighting resumed. In 404, The Spartans won and imposed humiliating terms on Athens.
All but a few of its ships had to be surrendered. Athenian democracy was replaced by a Council of Thirty, an
oligarchy, loyal to Sparta. In addition, Athenian property was plundered and many citizens were exiled. The
Athenian Empire had come to an end.
Student Handout 1.3—Alexander’s Empire, 330-323 BCE (Map 3)
Macedonia was a small woodland kingdom north of Greece. It was peopled by Greek-speaking warrior-
aristocrats who ruled over farmers and herders. Athens and the other culturally sophisticated city-states to the
south tended to regard Macedonians as uncivilized and their land as a source of timber, gold, and horses. In 358
BCE, Philip II became the Macedonian king. He had become familiar with Greek life, culture, and military
tactics during the three years he spent as a hostage in Thebes. While he had no use for democracy, he admired
Hellenic (Greek) ceremony and cultural refinement.
When he returned to Macedonia, Philip created a new kind of army, one with soldiers who served year-round.
He trained his forces in Greek military tactics and armed them with thirteen foot spear-tipped pikes. Then he
advanced on the Greek city-states, including Athens. He destroyed Thebes and Sparta, spared Athens, and
declared himself supreme leader of a unified Greco-Macedonian (that is Greek and Macedonian) federation of
Philip intended to attack Persian-ruled Anatolia next, but he was assassinated before he could take action. He
was succeeded by his son, Alexander, barely twenty years old. Alexander had been educated by the Greek
philosopher Aristotle and trained in politics and war by his father. He was tireless in battle, a stickler for details,
and conscious of his image. He was adored by his soldiers and almost everyone else who met him.
In 334 BCE, Alexander attacked Persia at the head of an army of 35,000 Macedonians and Greek allies. In the
course of the next eleven years, he moved through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Babylonia, conquering as he
went. He faced the Persians in three major battles and won each against huge odds. He forced Emperor Darius
III (336-300 BCE) to flee for his life. He then occupied the great Persian capitals, and moved into the empire’s
northeastern provinces, taking possession of stretches of the trans-Eurasian silk routes. In 326 BCE, he turned
southeast and pushed his exhausted troops across the Hindu Kush Mountains into the Indus valley. There, he
subdued one local ruler after another. When he asked his troops to go on beyond the Indus, they refused. He
saw that they could be pushed no further and agreed to head home. In 330 BCE, Alexander was in possession of
a gigantic Indo-Mediterranean empire.
Alexander was undoubtedly a conqueror and destroyer. For example, he demolished the Greek city of Thebes,
and he allowed his solders to reduce the Persian capital of Persepolis to ruins, killing the men, enslaving the
women, and carrying off the city’s treasure. Alexander, however, was also a builder. He was enamored of Greek
culture and an admirer of the Persian’s skill at administering an empire. At the practical level, he kept Persian
bureaucratic organization, sometimes substituting Macedonians in key positions. He extended the Persian
system of satraps (provinces) to the lands he conquered in non-Persian areas south of the Hindu Kush.
Everywhere, he established new cities in the Greek style and filled them with ex-soldiers mostly Greek and
Macedonian, who settled down and formed an elite class. Most of these Greeks married local women and reared
half-Greek, half-Persian children who grew up speaking Greek. Alexander himself wed Roxana, the daughter of
a prince of Sogdiana, an ancient territory that generally corresponds to the modern nation of Uzbekistan.
Alexander also held a gigantic marriage ceremony, wedding thousands of his soldiers to Persian women.
Alexander traveled with a court that included scientists, doctors, architects, artisans, merchants, and surveyors.
In the region between the Hindu Kush and the Indus, his surveyors laid out a road that facilitated trade in the
area long after Alexander had left. Later, the Mauryan Emperors of India extended the route to the Ganges and
beyond. The route is still used today.
Alexander’s mother once told him that his real father was not Phillip but Apollo. At the time, the
pronouncement did not appear to give Alexander divine ambitions. When he got to Egypt, in 331, however, he
went to consult the oracle of Amon, the Creator God, in the Lybian Desert. There the priest told the king that he
was the son of Amon-Zeus, a name combining the chief Egyptian and Greek gods. Shortly after, Alexander had
himself recognized as the Pharaoh, whom Egyptians considered to be divine.
As his victories mounted and his legend grew, Alexander seemed to become more convinced of his divine roots.
At one point, he required that his subjects prostrate themselves (lie face down) before him. His Greek court and
soldiers refused to do this, so he dropped the issue. He did, however, promote his relationship to the gods by
putting his own likeness on the front of coins and the image of Zeus wielding a thunderbolt on the back. During
his lifetime, several religious cults devoted to his worship appear to have arisen, though they disappeared
shortly after he died.
After Alexander took the Indus valley in 325 BCE, he looked southeastward toward the Ganges River. By this
time, his army had been away from home for almost ten years. Even his toughest Macedonian warriors were
exhausted. They refused to go further, and Alexander decided to turn for home. He got as far as Babylon, where
in June 323 BCE he died. He appears to have died of a fever complicated by a number of factors: wounds he
had suffered in the course of battles, overwork, a hunting trip in mosquito-ridden swamps, and a heavy night of
drinking. He lingered for four days, and when his generals desperately urged him to name an heir, he is said to
have replied that it would go to the strongest. In fact, after his death, his generals almost immediately set to
warring against one another, resulting in the division of the empire into three major military states. Alexander
asked to be buried in Egypt, and reportedly his body was taken there in a golden sarcophagus (coffin). But no
one knows where the conqueror’s remains were laid.
Student Handout 1.5—The Mauryan Empire, 322-188 BCE (Map 5)
By 500 BCE, the Persian Empire controlled the area between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River.
When Alexander the Great invaded Persia, he pushed beyond the Indus, setting up governors and provinces as
he went. After his death, however, his generals fought to control the pieces of the great empire. Seleucus, one of
his generals, gained control of the eastern part of what had been the Persian empire and considered the Indus
region to be part of that empire.
However, father southeast, along the Ganges River, the Mauryan empire began to take shape under
Chandragupta Maurya, the ruler of the kingdom of Magadha. While Alexander’s generals were squabbling
among themselves over the remnants of his empire, Chandragupta moved north and consolidated his control
over the territories between the Indus and Hindu Kush. In 305, Seleucus decided to reclaim Alexander’s Indian
lands. By the time he moved his army into the region, however, he faced the huge Mauryan army with its
700,000 soldiers, 10,000 chariots, and 9,000 war elephants. Seleucus wisely called it quits, signed a treaty with
Chandragupta, gave him a daughter in marriage, and went home with a consolation prize of 500 war elephants.
Chandragupta’s son then pushed the Maurya state southward into India, and his grandson, Ashoka (Asoka, 272-
232 BCE) completed the conquests by taking control of much of the South Asian subcontinent.
The Mauryans appear to have consciously imitated and indeed improved upon bureaucratic methods developed
earlier by the Persians. They divided the state into provinces, districts, and villages. Royal officials, including
superintendents, judges, clerks, and inspectors, fanned out across the cities and countryside, keeping order and
collecting taxes from villages. Well-maintained roads and swift postal riders enabled the emperor to administer
this vast area. An elaborate system of spies kept him informed. The government regulated everything from
copper, lead, tin, bronze, and iron works to gum, dye, perfume, drug, and pottery industries.
Pataliputra, the capital, was at the center of bustling commerce and trade. Megathenes, the third-century Greek
historian and ambassador to the Mauryan empire, describes city walls that were nine miles long and half a mile
wide with 570 turrets. Inside the walls were palaces, temples, a library, parks, and gardens. Under Ashoka,
Pataliputra became perhaps the world’s largest city, with between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
The Mauryan Empire reached its peak under Ashoka (271-232 BCE), Chandragupta’s grandson. Apparently,
Ashoka began his rule as a ruthless autocrat. Legend says that he killed 99 of his brothers in order to secure the
throne for himself. Eventually, he seems to have had a change of heart. According to a stone pillar erected and
inscribed by Ashoka himself, he renounced bloodshed after witnessing an especially bloody battle. He then
turned to Buddhism, a religion that had been developing in northern India since the time of its founder,
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha, the Enlightened One, c. 563 - c.483 ).
Buddha agreed with Hinduism that people’s destiny depended on how they lived their lives. He did not,
however, see a need for Hindu gods, priests, temples, or the sacrificing of animals. Buddha stressed a code of
ethics based on unselfishness and on rules of behavior that he called the Eightfold Path. A person simply had to
live a moral, unselfish life in order to attain nirvana, the perfect peace which frees the soul from reincarnation
(repeated rebirth of the soul until it attains perfection).
Ashoka considered himself responsible for the well-being of his subjects, and he tried to create a system of
government based on dharma, Buddhist moral and ethical principles. He defined these principles as non-
violence, obedience to parents, tolerance of and respect for all opinions and sects, humane treatment of servants,
kindness to all living beings, and generosity to all. He considered these principles so broad that no one, no
matter his or her religious beliefs, could reasonably object to them. He broadcast these principles by carving
them on rocks and stone pillars throughout his empire.
The Mauryan Empire was an important link in the chain of interconnected kingdoms that stretched more than
4,000 miles across Indo-Mediterranea. Trade flourished along trade routes that ran from Pataliputra, across the
Hindu Kush , Persia, and Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean Aegean. Ashoka improved the stretch between the
city of Taxila in the upper Indus valley and Pataliputra on the Ganges. He added shade trees, wells, and rest
houses to accommodate travelers. It was along this route, among others, that Buddhism spread from India after
about 300 BCE.
In Pataliputra, the government carefully monitored travelers. A special commissioner assigned them lodgings,
kept track of their comings and goings, and even took care of them when they were sick. When foreign
residents died in Pataliputra, the commissioner saw to it that they were buried and their belongings properly
forwarded to their families.
After Ashoka’s death in 232 BCE, the Mauryan Empire slowly disintegrated under a series of weak monarchs.
It came to an end around 184 BCE with the assassination of the last emperor.
The legend of the founding of Rome concerns two twin brothers Romulus and Remus who were the grandchildren of King
Numitor who was kicked off the throne by his younger brother Amulius. To secure his place Amulius killed Numitor’s sons and
forced his daughter to become a Vestal Virgin. (priestesses to the goddess Vesta, who honored the goddess by guarding their
virginity, if they broke this pledge the penalty was death). However, her beauty caught the eye of the god Mars who raped her,
making her pregnant with twins (who would be ½ divine). The Twins were Romulus and Remus.
The new king feared them and ordered them to be drowned. They were put into a basket and sent down the river. However they
washed ashore and were suckled by a she-wolf.
When they got older they learned of their origins and went back to their grandfather’s kingdom, killed Amulius and put their
grandfather back on the throne.. They decided to found their own city nearby. However, they got into a fight over who would
rule the city and Romulus killed Remus and therefore the city was named for him.
Sometime before the mid-700s B.C., a group of people called the Latins moved into west-central Italy. This plains region was
called Latium (LAY·shee·uhm). Some of the Latin settlers built villages along the Tiber River. In time, these villages united to
In the late 600s B.C., Rome came under the rule of Etruscan kings from northern Italy. The Etruscans had a written language,
which the Romans adapted. The Etruscans crafted jewelry, made fine clothing, and worked skillfully in metal, pottery, and
wood. These city dwellers also knew how to pave roads, drain marshes, and construct sewers. Under the Etruscans, Rome grew
into a large and prosperous city. Over time the Etruscans blended into the general Roman population. Their culture, however,
continued to influence the Romans.
Some Greeks also settled in ancient Italy. Greek colonies in southern Italy and on the island of Sicily became city-states. These
city-states were as disunited and quarrelsome as those of Greece. Nonetheless, the Greek culture of these colonies strongly
influenced the Romans. For instance, although they went by different names, many Roman gods mirrored Greek gods. Jupiter,
for example, had the same traits as the Greek god Zeus. Roman myths were also similar to Greek myths.
A strategic location. Rome was built on seven hills along the Tiber River, about 15 miles inland from the coast. This location
protected the city from invasion by sea.
Rome’s location gave its people economic advantages as well. The city lay along a shallow part of the Tiber, making it one of
the easiest places for miles to cross the river. This put Rome at the center of trade routes that spread out across the land in all
The Early Roman Republic
In 509 B.C. wealthy Roman landowners overthrew the Etruscan king and vowed never again to be ruled by a monarch. In place
of the monarchy, the Romans established a republic. A republic is a form of government in which voters elect officials to run
the state. In the Roman Republic, only adult male citizens were entitled to vote and to take part in government. Three important
groups of citizens helped govern the republic: the Senate, the magistrates, and a variety of popular assemblies. Senate. The
Senate was the most influential and powerful of the three governing bodies because it controlled public funds and decided
foreign policy. Sometimes the Senate also acted as a court. In times of emergency, the senators could propose that a citizen be
named dictator, or absolute ruler. A dictator could rule for up to six months. During that period, he had complete command over
the army and the courts. Over time, the size of the Senate changed dramatically.
Magistrates. The magistrates who made up the second group of Roman leaders were elected officials. The magistrates included
consuls, praetors, and censors. After the monarchy ended in 509 B.C., two individuals were elected to one-year terms to serve
as consuls, or chief executives. The consuls ran the government, commanded the army, and could appoint dictators. Although
powerful, consuls governed with the advice of the Senate. In addition, each consul could veto, or refuse to approve, the acts of
the other consul. (The Latin word veto means “I forbid.”) This division of power was an example of the principle of checks and
balances, which prevents any one part of the government from becoming too powerful. The United States and many other
nations of the modern world later adopted the veto and the principle of checks and balances as safeguards in their own
The Romans elected the praetors (PREE·tuhrz) to help the consuls. In times of war, praetors commanded armies. In times of
peace, they oversaw the Roman legal system. The number of praetors varied over time, but they continued to head specific
Roman courts. The interpretations of legal questions made by praetors formed much of the civil law in Rome.
Censors registered citizens according to their wealth, appointed candidates to the Senate, and oversaw the moral conduct of all
citizens. Censors became very powerful magistrates in the Roman Republic.
Assemblies. Several assemblies existed in the Roman Republic. Citizens in these assemblies voted on laws and elected officials,
including the consuls. Some assemblies voted to make war or peace, while others served as courts. The assemblies elected 10
officials called tribunes, who had some power over actions by the Senate and other public officials. If the tribunes believed
actions were not in the public interest, they could refuse to approve them
Rome becomes a dictatorship
Julius Caesar, a nephew of Marius, was becoming a popular general during this time. Caesar was a powerful public speaker who
spent a great deal of money to win support.
As a result, Caesar built a huge following among Rome’s poor. The First Triumvirate. In 60 B.C. Caesar joined with two other
popular generals, Gnaeus Pompey (PAHM·pee) and Licinius Crassus. The three formed a political alliance called the First
Triumvirate. Triumvirate means “rule of three.”With the support of Pompey and Crassus, Caesar became consul in 59 B.C.
Caesar knew he could not win power without a loyal army, so he obtained a special command in Gaul, a region that is now
France. During the next 10 years, Caesar brought all of Gaul under Roman rule. Meanwhile, Crassus died in battle in 53 B.C.
Pompey was made sole consul in 52 B.C. Jealous of Caesar’s rising fame, he ordered Caesar home without his army. Caesar
refused to give up his military command and take second place to Pompey. Instead, he marched his army toward Rome in 49
B.C. On January 10 Caesar led his troops across the Rubicon into Italy.With this act, he declared war on the republic. Pompey
and his followers fled to Greece, where Caesar defeated him and then marched into Egypt. He put Cleopatra, a daughter of the
ruling Ptolemy family, on the throne as a Roman ally. In 46 B.C. Caesar returned triumphant to Rome. Two years later, the
Senate declared him dictator for life. The rule of Caesar. Caesar increased the Senate to 900 members but reduced its
power.Many senators, fearing Caesar’s ambition and popularity, formed a conspiracy against him. Two were men Caesar
considered friends: Gaius Cassius and Marcus Brutus. On March 15—the Ides of March—44 B.C., the conspirators killed
Caesar in the Senate
Trade and transportation.
Widespread trade of farm goods and other products also helped unify the empire. The Roman government developed policies
that were designed to encourage trade and commerce. Throughout the time of the Pax Romana, agriculture was the most
important occupation in the empire. In Italy many farmers worked on large estates. In the provinces, small farms were fairly
Most trade within the empire centered around grain, wine, oil, other food items, and everyday items such as cloth, pottery, and
glassware. Foreign trade often included luxury goods such as African ivory, Chinese silk, and Indian pepper.
Most of these goods ended up in Rome. From there, they could be carried to wealthy customers
throughout the sprawling empire Nearly everywhere it went during the Pax Romana,the Roman army built roads and bridges.
These well-constructed road systems served to move reinforcements and supplies quickly. They also promoted trade, travel, and
communication throughout the empire. About 60,000 miles of paved highways extended to army outposts. Bridges spanned
rivers, and highways linked all provincial cities to Rome.These roads were built to last. The top pavement rested on several
layers of broken stone and crushed chalk.The good surfaces made travel fast. This was especially true of Rome’s major road
systems, which were designed to carry heavy military and trade traffic. along its overland and seagoing trade routes
The early Romans sought to achieve harmony with their gods. These included the lares (LAIR·eez), who were ancestral spirits.
Family worship focused on Vesta, the spirit who guarded fire and hearth. Over time, Roman religious beliefs were increasingly
influenced by Greek thought.
By the time of the empire, a state religion had evolved. Based on the old family religion, this state religion had its own temples,
ceremonies, and processions. Its purpose was to promote patriotism and loyalty to the state. In 12 B.C. Augustus became its
chief priest. Since the Romans believed that gods and spirits were everywhere, it was necessary to please them through rituals
and sacrifice. Thus, religious ritual was a part of daily and state life.
After 395, the emperors in the Western Roman Empire were usually figureheads, while the actual rulers were military
strongmen. The year 476 is generally accepted as the formal end of the Western Roman Empire. That year, Orestes refused the
request of Germanic mercenaries in his service for lands in Italy. The dissatisfied mercenaries, revolted, and deposed the last
western emperor, Romulus Augustus. This event has traditionally been considered the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The Empire became gradually less Roman and increasingly Germanic in nature: although the Empire buckled under Visigothic
assault, the overthrow of the last Emperor Romulus Augustus was carried out by federated Germanic troops from within the
Roman army rather than by foreign troops.
The Han Dynasty
The Han empire began in 206 B.C. when Liu Bang, prince of Han, defeated the Qin army in the valley of Wei.
The defeat was part of a larger rebellion that began after the First Emporer's death. The people were dissatisfied
with the tyranny of the Qin leaders and their Legalist form of government. The new empire retained much of the
Qin administrative structure, but retreated somewhat from centralized rule by establishing vassal principalities
in some areas for the sake of political convenience. After the establishment of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Gao
(Liu Bang) divided the country into several "feudal states" to satisfy some of his wartime allies, though he
planned to get rid of them once he had consolidated his power.
The new dynasty received its name from the title that Liu Bang took—King of Han. Like the Qin, the Han
ruled a centralized and growing empire. The Han were more moderate rulers than the Qin, however, and kept
power for about 400 years. Han rulers had so much influence over the development of China that many Chinese
today call themselves “People of Han.” The longest-ruling Han emperor was Liu Ch’e, commonly known as
Wu Ti,who ruled from about 140 B.C. to 87 B.C. From his capital at Ch’ang-an, Liu Ch’e extended Han rule
north into present-day Manchuria and Korea, south into Southeast Asia, and west into central Asia. The Han
ruled over an area larger than the Roman Empire.
A New Government System
Han Gaozu first concentrated on improving the way the government was set up. He did not believe in the way that the Qin
emperor had totalitarian or total control. He divided his government into inner and outer courts. He and Han emperors in
the future would be the inner court with a group of specially chosen and trained people called eunuchs to be his
messengers. The outer court was set up to have a “Prime Minister” in charge and a group called a cabinet who would be
responsible for running things such as the military, trade, and taxes in the country. All positions were to be appointed by
the emperor and Han Gaozu rewarded many of those who had helped him come to power with positions in his
government. By setting up the government in this way, the emperor did not have complete control over China, but relied
on the advice and guidance of others in the outer court.
Chinese Examination System
Because the new system of government allowed more people to participate in running the county, the emperor needed to
be able to judge their abilities. Han Gaozu and future Han emperors began to give tests to see who should be given
government jobs. The tests mostly focused on the person’s skills to do the job. Later, they also tested the person’s
knowledge of the teachings of a great writer and thinker named Confucius who taught that it was important to treat others
as you wanted to be treated. Over many years, the specific skills and knowledge that were tested continued to change as
something called the Chinese Examination System was developed.
The Chinese Examination System was a test that was developed to help decide if a person had the skills or talents
needed to work in the government. A person needed a good education to pass the tests. Because people wanted the
power and money that came with the jobs, it became more common for people to want an education. Of course, since
time and money were needed to get the education that was required to pass the tests, government jobs were still out of
the reach of many people. Still, the tests helped the emperor to be sure that people had the talent and ability to do the
jobs and kept people in his government from just giving jobs to friends or family who might not be qualified. That is why
The Chinese Examination System eventually inspired the use of tests to award government jobs that still exists in many
countries even today.
Wu-di sent an ambassador, Zhang Qian to begin interaction with other to areas of the west as far as Afghanistan. At first
he was just hoping that he might find other cultures that would join with China to control the invaders. When he returned,
he brought back information about other cultures as well as goods such as Afghan horses and grapes. His stories about
what he saw and experienced made the emperor want to know more about the other countries, their inventions, and what
was going on in other parts of the world.
Wu-di continued to encourage trade when he sent Zhang Qian back to the western areas with products such as tea, silk,
and pottery. He hoped the products would make others interested in learning about and interacting with the Chinese
culture. To encourage the interactions, he sent military groups to explore and gain control of the Oxusian Valley trails to
the west. The military protection he sent meant that trade to and from the west could occur more safely and freely. That
trade route eventually went all the way to Rome.
Trade brought items such as gold, cotton, and glassware into China. It also made people in the west more interested in
Chinese products and knowledge as they had more contact with the Chinese and saw the products they had. They
especially wanted the beautiful fabric know as silk that no one else in the world knew how to make. The fabric became
such an important item to trade that the trail to and from China was later called the Silk Road. This trading was one of the
earliest interactions between Eastern and Western civilizations.
The country was affected in other ways as the Chinese sent goods from other parts of China to cities along the Silk Road
where they could be traded or sold. The trading of goods, services, and ideas led to more communication and sharing of
culture. It helped the cities to grow and created areas where people from different cultures could meet and interact for
longer periods of time. The trading of goods was bringing civilizations from the east and west together, but the trade route
called the Silk Road also caused some competition, bad feelings, and fighting as China and other countries competed to
control the areas along the trade route. More Chinese soldiers had to leave home to go and guard or fight to preserve the
trade benefits and cultural exchange that was occurring.
In Han China, although Confucian ideals were popular in the beginning, towards the end of the dynasty
Buddhism became a more widely recognized religion. In later Empires, Buddhism would remain supreme
One of the most important parts of Chinese culture today that entered along the Silk Road was a religion from India called
Buddhism. Buddhism challenged the ancient ideas of Confucius that emphasized life in this world, as well as the ancient
tradition of worshiping dead ancestors. Buddhist ideas emphasized using this life to become more “enlightened” in
preparation for an improved life after death. Though it took another 400 years for the religion to be accepted and
widespread in China, it eventually became a major religion in China.
For 400 years the Han Dynasty helped China to prosper. They had encouraged improvements in farming that led to a
surplus of food. That surplus had allowed other inventions such as paper and silk, crafts, artistic development and
economic grown to occur. Territory and trade in the north and west had been expanded and new products and ideas were
moving into and out of China. But remember, not all people could trade and grow richer.
As time went by, the government did less to provide for what the common people needed. It had to spend more and more
tax money to maintain the military that was keeping the trade route safe and invaders out. They raised taxes on things
people used the most such as salt and iron, to pay the military expenses. This benefited those who used the trade routes
and lived near the invaders, but these things did not help most people and paying extra taxes made their lives harder.
Because it spent more on the military, the government made fewer improvements to irrigation systems and roads. Without
good irrigation, they had fewer crops. Bad roads made it harder to move about and trade within the country. When the
ability to trade declined, people had less money to spend. For many of the poor peasants, these changes made the
difference between making it and starvation. For merchants it meant the loss of their business and a life of poverty.
People began to rebel and rise up against the government. As outsiders began to invade Han territory it became clear that
the Han government had become too weak to protect and provide for its people. The country was split and the central
Han government lost power as regions were taken over by local military groups. China went through a period over the
next four hundred years when it slowly divided into smaller kingdoms. The Han Dynasty had originally done so much to
encourage improvements, inventions, creativity and trade. Over time, it had slowly stopped providing the supports that
had helped the county to enjoy more economic
About 500 years after the fall of the Mauryan Empire A Magadha raja named Chandra Gupta - who was
unrelated to the Chandragupta of six centuries before - controlled rich veins of iron from the nearby Barabara
Hills. Around the year 308 he married a princess from the neighboring kingdom of Licchavi, and with this
marriage he gained a hold over the flow of northern India's commerce on the Ganges River - the major flow of
north Indian commerce. In 319, Chandra Gupta created for himself the title King of Kings (Maharajadhiraja),
and he extended his rule westward to Prayaga, in north-central India.
Ten years into his rule, Chandra Gupta lay dying, and he told his son, Samudra, to rule the whole world. His son
tried. Samudra Gupta's forty-five years of rule would be described as one vast military campaign. He waged war
along the Ganges plain, overwhelming nine kings and incorporating their subjects and lands into the Gupta
Empire. He absorbed Bengal, and kingdoms in Nepal and Assam paid him tribute. He expanded his empire
westward, conquering Malava and the Saka kingdom of Ujjayini. He gave various tribal states autonomy under
his protection. He raided Pallava and humbled eleven kings in southern India. He made a vassal of the king of
Lanka, and he compelled five kings on the outskirts of his empire to pay him tribute. The powerful kingdom of
Vakataka in central India, he preferred to leave independent and friendly.
Around 380, Samudra Gupta was succeeded by his son Chandra Gupta II, and Chandra Gupta II extended
Gupta rule to India's west coast, where new ports were helping India's trade with countries farther west. His rule
influenced local powers beyond the Indus River and north to Kashmir. While Rome was being overrun and the
western half of the Roman Empire was disintegrating, Gupta rule was at the apex of its grandeur, prospering in
agriculture, crafts and trade. Unlike the Mauryas, who had controlled trade and industry, the Guptas let people
free to pursue wealth and business, and prosperity in the Guptan era exceeded that of the Mauryan era
The Gupta established a strong central government which also allowed a degree of local control. Gupta society
was ordered in accordance with Hindu beliefs. This included a strict caste system, or class system. The peace
and prosperity created under Gupta leadership enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors.
Although the king was purposefully associated with Visnu in the inscriptions and even on the coins, it can be
argued that the Guptas were not claiming to be incarnations of Visnu in the same sense as Rama and Krsna were
believed to be incarnations. Rather they were claiming that their authority to rule the land came to them from
Visnu. They expressed their allegiance to their god through their devotional activities, service to the poor, and
patronage of the temple movement. They were kings but also servants, and this pattern of kingship is also found
in different periods of Indian history.
The Gupta system of government did share some similarities with the Mauryan setup but was on the whole a
different style of government. Like the Mauryan system the Gupta kings were the center of the administration.
The empire was divided into several provinces each of which had viceroys who were appointed from amongst
the members of the royal family. The provinces were further sub-divided into a series of districts. Each district
had its own administrative centre. The local administration of the district was free to make decisions on
governing the area, essentially free from central control, except in matters which may have dealt with central
policies. The highest officer in a district was known as the kumaramatya and he was the link between centre and
the district. Unlike their Mauryan predecessors, the Gupta kings were not concerned with every nuance of local
administration leaving such matters to the kumaramatya.
Villages were organized under rural bodies which consisted of the headman and village elders. In the cities
there was a council which had several officers like the President of the City corporation, the chief representative
of the guild of merchants, a representative of the artisans and the chief scribe. The Gupta system of urban and
rural administration was based on encouraging as much local participation unlike the Mauryan system where
royally appointed councils were the norm.
A significant change that had taken place was the increasing trend of paying salaries in land grants rather then
in cash. Land grants usually gave the beneficiary hereditary rights over the land, although technically the king
retained the right to repossess the land if he was unhappy with the conduct of the beneficiary. Brahmins were
usually granted tax free lands which was another concession to an already privileged class. Land grants
undermined the authority of the king as more and more land was taken away from his direct control. Also since
the beneficiaries of land grants were usually Brahmins or government officials the king was not really able to
exercise the repossession option fearing political backlash. The government revenue essentially came from land
as commercial activity was no longer as big a contributor as it once was. Land revenue came from a variety of
sources, like direct tax on the land as well as a tax on the produce of the land.
The Guptas also had a fairly good judicial system. At the bottom, were various councils which were authorized
to resolve disputes that arose. Examples of these were the village assembly or the trade guild. Hence justice was
usually available in the place a person lived or worked. The king presided over the highest court of appeal and
he was assisted by various judges, ministers and priests etc, their presence dependent on the nature of the case.
The judgment were usually made based on legal texts, social customs or specific edicts from the king.
Unlike the Mauryas, who had controlled trade and industry, the Guptas let people free to pursue wealth and
business, and prosperity in the Guptan era exceeded that of the Mauryan era
The Gupta period is also regarded as a period of Hindu renaissance. Ashoka had succeeded in making
Buddhism as the religion as the majority people in Northern India. On doing this neither Brahmanical Hinduism
of Jainism died out owing to Ashokas religious toleration propagated by Ashoka. After Ashoka all the rulers
that followed showed religious toleration which only added to the prosperity of the territories they ruled. The
Guptas though showed a preference to their family deity Vishnu pursued the policy of perfect freedom of
Invaders from central Asia crossed into India in the late A.D. 400s.During the next century they began to take control of
northern India. The last great Gupta king, Skanda Gupta, drained the treasury in an attempt to defend the
empire. Gupta rule ended by about A.D. 550.