The Classical Period in AP World History
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The Classical Period in World History
Periodization: Classical • The classical period runs from about 1000 or 800 BCE to 500 or 600 CE. • Some of the key formative elements of major civilization-what historians call the great traditions-were forged in the classical period and would be ingredients in world history from this point onward. • The classical civilizations were situated in areas where river valley civilizations had flourished earlier, although they usually relocated somewhat and always expanded.
The Classical Age • Areas: China expanded from the north to the southern portion of the Yellow River, forming the Middle Kingdom. Indian civilization spread through the whole subcontinent, with its focus now in the Ganges River basin rather than the northwest. Classical Mediterranean civilization was located in Greece and along the shoreline of the eastern Mediterranean and ultimately spread westward, both in North Africa and southern Europe.
The Classical Age The classical civilization that stayed closest to it river valley roots was Persia, which had its center in the Tigris-Euphrates valley but also spread more widely in the Middle East. So the core areas of China, India, Persia and the Mediterranean are the centers of the Classical Age.
The Classical Age • The period saw great activity and many changes. These major civilizations included major population centers. • At its height, China included 54 million people; Rome had 52 million. • It must be noted that the features that came from the classical civilizations did not define the whole world—key parts of northern Europe, many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, places in Asia (such as Japan) and the Americas are left out. (We will examine the Americas a bit, despite this)
The Classical Age • Also of note: The Classical societies did build on the river valley kingdom’s achievements, but classical civilization differed in many ways: – Classical civilizations are much larger. – All of these civilizations had iron technologies. Iron had been introduced around 1500 BCE. (Thus the Assyrian Empire was one of the first to use Iron and building an Empire in the Middle East.) **Metallurgy – Leaders saw advantages in terms of population expansion for economic and military reasons.
• Classical civilizations did have numerous contacts. *Trade-the Phoenicians
General Comparisons: Overview • China: From the fairly decentralized, often landlord-dominated Zhou dynasty, China made a move to centralization under the Qin dynasty and even more centralized political and ideological operation under the Han dynasty at the end of the period.
General Comparisons: Overview • Mediterranean: This area emphasized the Greek tradition until the 4th century. This was followed by the period of Alexander the Great’s conquests and the Hellenistic period, in which Greek cultural and political influences interacted with the traditions of Egypt and the Middle East. In its final phase, the civilization’s emphasis shifted to Rome, the republican period and expression of the classical Mediterranean.
General Comparisons: Overview • Persia: In the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, Persia was more important than Greece and had established a strong, effective government. The Persian tradition would be partially overshadowed, however, first by the conquests of Alexander, then by the conquests of Arab Islam.
General Comparisons: Overview • India: Classical India involves the story of the in-migration of Aryan or Indo-European peoples, whose culture was gradually codified into major works of literature and religious philosophy. Indian, in this second civilization period, settled down into more recognizably coherent development, with a major empire in the 4th century BCE-the Mauryan Empireand, at the end of the classical period, another major imperial statement-the Gupta Empire.
Cultural comparisons (differences) Belief systems: • China: Confucianism and Daoism; on the whole China was mostly secular • India: the most spiritual generating Hinduism and Buddhism. Science: • China: Emphasized empirical science because of its utility to society and the economy. • The Greco-Roman tradition was more theoretical. • India had a strong tradition emphasizing mathematics.
Cultural Comparisons (differences) Political: • China: Created a strong central government and a large bureaucracy. Emphasis on key political concepts that supported the central government, specific training systems and even exams for government officials. • India: Stresses a smaller, decentralized states and placed less emphasis on political ideology. • Mediterranean: A strong political emphasis, although its overall political tradition was more decentralized than China. The Roman state was more interested in the development of a legal system as a unifier, than massive bureaucracies.
Cultural Comparisons (differences) Social: • India: The Caste System • Med: Strong reliance on slavery; slavery did exist in India and China • China: Under Confucianism, developed a social hierarchy based on the notion of rule by wise people of an upper class, with the lower classes offering deference in return.
Cultural Comparisons (differences) Economics • China: Depended on trade, but Confucianism prompted a cultural bias against merchants, who were viewed with suspicion because of their devotion to moneymaking and the possibility that they would pull away from the central political and social values of Chinese society. • India: Merchants were encouraged to use the Indian Ocean as an artery for foreign trade.
Cultural Comparisons (differences) Technologies • China: Would be the most important source of technological innovation in the world. Most technologies would go westward. • India: Also success in stressing invention— especially steelmaking. • Med: Probably the least developed emphasis on technology, possibly because it tended to expand the slave system rather than increase production through tech development.
Why the differences? • China may have focused on political order because of its geography. The possibility of invasion from Central Asia may have encouraged an emphasis on order to ward off disruption, but the threat was not so great that establishing political order became impossible.
Why the differences? • India was also affected by invasions and influences from the outside world that came through the passes that lead through the Himalayas and northwestern India. Indian’s emphasis on artistic sensuality and religious fervor could have stemmed from its climate.
How did these empires maintain? • Economic integration: e.g. China created canals to connect locations; Med leaders connected with grain growing regions of Africa. • Culture integration: In the 6th and 5th centuries BCE all of these groups introduced belief systems. E.g. China and Confucianism and Daoism; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; Zoroastrianism in Persia, philosophy and art in the Greco-Roman world.
How did these empires maintain? • Political integration: The building of imperial structures that would foster and reinforce economic and cultural coherence.