Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (Oxford Studies in Early Empires)

Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (Oxford Studies in Early Empires)

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0199758352

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Transcending ethnic, linguistic, and religious boundaries, early empires shaped thousands of years of world history. Yet despite the global prominence of empire, individual cases are often studied in isolation. This series seeks to change the terms of the debate by promoting cross-cultural, comparative, and transdisciplinary perspectives on imperial state formation prior to the European colonial expansion.

Two thousand years ago, up to one-half of the human species was contained within two political systems, the Roman empire in western Eurasia (centered on the Mediterranean Sea) and the Han empire in eastern Eurasia (centered on the great North China Plain). Both empires were broadly comparable in terms of size and population, and even largely coextensive in chronological terms (221 BCE to 220 CE for the Qin/Han empire, c. 200 BCE to 395 CE for the unified Roman empire). At the most basic level of resolution, the circumstances of their creation are not very different. In the East, the Shang and Western Zhou periods created a shared cultural framework for the Warring States, with the gradual consolidation of numerous small polities into a handful of large kingdoms which were finally united by the westernmost marcher state of Qin. In the Mediterranean, we can observe comparable political fragmentation and gradual expansion of a unifying civilization, Greek in this case, followed by the gradual formation of a handful of major warring states (the Hellenistic kingdoms in the east, Rome-Italy, Syracuse and Carthage in the west), and likewise eventual unification by the westernmost marcher state, the Roman-led Italian confederation. Subsequent destabilization occurred again in strikingly similar ways: both empires came to be divided into two halves, one that contained the original core but was more exposed to the main barbarian periphery (the west in the Roman case, the north in China), and a traditionalist half in the east (Rome) and south (China).

These processes of initial convergence and subsequent divergence in Eurasian state formation have never been the object of systematic comparative analysis. This volume, which brings together experts in the history of the ancient Mediterranean and early China, makes a first step in this direction, by presenting a series of comparative case studies on clearly defined aspects of state formation in early eastern and western Eurasia, focusing on the process of initial developmental convergence. It includes a general introduction that makes the case for a comparative approach; a broad sketch of the character of state formation in western and eastern Eurasia during the final millennium of antiquity; and six thematically connected case studies of particularly salient aspects of this process.



















jin, 90 percent of them disbursed in the long reign of Wudi.166 This is consistent with the report that under this ruler, gold was cast in deer- and horse-hoof shapes and distributed “among the vassal kings as grants to them.”167 Unfortunately, it remains unclear how many of these transfers actually entailed gold: only 30 percent of all references explicitly mention “yellow” jin,168 and as noted above, even these are not above suspicion. In theory, if all these payments had been made in gold,

33.67 and 33.97, with Harl 1996: 81–82 and the references 408–9. See in general Domergue 1990. These figures imply an aggregate total in excess of the national total for China of 10 tons in 1925: Golas 1999: 15. 209. Peng 1994: 278. 210. Peng 1994: 430. By 1925, annual output had dropped to a single ton: Golas 1999: 15. 211. Golas 1999: 109–23, esp. 119–20, and the key to map 8 (113–18).  Rome and China unknown in central China prior to the Warring States period.212 This metal is generally

mount. Because the steppe was too arid to support the agriculture that was the essential economic basis for Chinese society, the empire could not hold captured territory by establishing colonies of peasants to support garrisons of soldiers, while the cost of transporting food and other necessities from the center to large concentrations of troops on the periphery proved to be prohibitively expensive. However, despite the military strength of the Xiongnu, they never represented a serious threat to

“encompassing,” and “variation-finding” techniques.6 Most actual work in this area has followed a “case-oriented” rather than a “variable-oriented” approach that views historical cases as configurations of characteristics that are to be related to particular outcomes.7 Comparative history, by its very nature, 4. Adshead 2000: 37–9 gives a concise summary. Raschke 1978 is the most detailed study. For the pivotal role of India, see esp. Liu 1988 and Ray 2003. 5. In August 2007, Paul Goldin’s

excavated Chu tombs contain scales and exceptionally tiny weights that appear to have been designed for the weighing of gold.128 All this suggests that this type of currency was not particularly rare: an observer from the Song period reports that “very many people” had found specimens in the soil and in rivers.129 For these reasons, and given their moderate weight, these units may well have performed genuine monetary functions even beyond narrow elite circles. Was this type of gold money an

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