Chapter 5: The First World Civilization: Rome, China, and the Silk Road

I. Early Rome and the Republic

A. Early Rome

            B. The Roman Republic, 509 B.C.E.

            1. The Roman Conquest of Italy

                        2. The Roman State

            C. The Roman Conquest of the Mediterranean  (264–133 B.C.E.)

                        1. Evolution of the Roman Army

D. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Republic (133–31 B.C.E.)

                        1. Growing Unrest and a New Role for the Roman Army

                        2. The Collapse of the Republic


II. The Roman Empire at Its Height

A. The Age of Augustus (31 B.C.E.–14 C.E.)

B. The Early Empire (14‑180)

1. The Five Good Emperors (96‑180)

                        2. Frontiers and the Provinces

                        3. Prosperity in the Early Empire

            C. Culture and Society in the Roman World

                        1. Roman Literature

            2. Roman Art

            3. Roman Law

            4. The Roman Family               

5. Slaves and Their Masters

                        6. Imperial Rome

                        7. Disaster in Southern Italy


III. Crisis and the Late Empire

            A. Crisis in the Third Century

            B. The Late Roman Empire

                        1. The Reforms of Diocletian (284-305) and Constantine (306-337)

                        2. The End of the Western Empire       


IV. Transformation of the Roman World: The Development of Christianity

            A. The Origins of Christianity

            B. The Spread of Christianity

            C. The Triumph of Christianity


V. The Glorious Han Empire (202 B.C.E-221 C.E.)

            A. Confucianism and the State

            B. The Economy

            C. Imperial Expansion and the Origins of the Silk Road

            D. Social Changes

            E. Religion and Culture

            F. The Decline and Fall of the Han




latifundia - large landed estates in the Roman Empire (singular: latifundium).

paterfamilias  - the dominant male in a Roman family whose powers over his wife and children were theoretically unlimited, though they were sometimes circumvented in practice.

centuriate assembly - the chief popular assembly of the Roman Republic. It passed laws and elected the chief magistrates.

civil service examination - an elaborate Chinese system of selecting bureaucrats on merit, first introduced in 165 c.e., developed by the Tang dynasty in the seventh century c.e., and defined under the Song dynasty; later adopted in Vietnam and with less success in Japan and Korea. It contributed to efficient government, upward mobility, and cultural uniformity.

consuls - the chief executive officers of the Roman Republic. Two were chosen annually to administer the government and lead the army in battle.

council of the plebs - a council only for the plebians. Aft er 287 b.c., however, its resolutions were binding on all Romans.

dictator - in the Roman Republic, an official granted unlimited power to run the state for a short period of time, usually six months, during an emergency

good emperors  - the five emperors who ruled from 96 to 180 (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius), a period of peace and prosperity for the Roman Empire.

natural law - a body of laws or specific principles held to be derived from nature and binding on all human society even in the absence of positive laws.

patricians - great landowners who became the ruling class in the Roman Republic; in Early Modern Europe, a term used to identify the ruling elites of cities.

Pax Romana  - “Roman peace,” the stability and prosperity that Roman rule brought to the Mediterranean world and much of western Europe during the first and second centuries c.e.

plebeians - the class of Roman citizens who included nonpatrician landowners, craft speople, merchants, and small farmers in the Roman Republic. Their struggle for equal rights with the patricians dominated much of the Republic’s history.

praetorian guard - the military unit that served as the personal bodyguard of the Roman emperors.

praetors - the two senior Roman judges, who had executive authority when the consuls were away from the city and could also lead armies.

senate - the leading council of the Roman Republic; composed of about three hundred men (senators) who served for life and dominated much of the political life of the Republic.

State Confucianism - the integration of Confucian doctrine with Legalist practice under the Han dynasty in China, which became the basis of Chinese political thought until the modern era.

tribunes of the plebs - beginning in 494 b.c.e., Roman officials who were given the power to protect plebeians against arrest by patrician magistrates.


Discussion Questions


  1. Develop the factors and influences (geographic environment, Etruscan and Greek cultural influences, etc.), which determined the nature and timing of early Roman development.


  1. Explore the conservative but also the pragmatic nature of Roman society from the beginning of the Republic to its fall.


3.   Examine and describe the issue of the evolving nature of the gradually “democratizing” society of Rome’s early centuries.


4.   Trace and discuss the governmental and socioeconomic results of mounting Roman imperialism through the late second century B.C.E. 


5.   Describe and assess the varied forces and personalities which ended the Roman Republic and launched the Roman Empire.


6.   Survey the cultural accomplishments of the late Roman Republic and early Empire, and compare and contrast Roman cultural achievements with those of classical Greece.


7.   Explore the concepts of freedom and liberty in the Roman Empire, with particular emphasis upon Edward Gibbon’s “golden age” of the second century C.E.


8.   Compare and contrast the significance and the influence of the various religions and religious movements which were found in the Roman Empire during the first century C.E.


9.   Examine the cultural, religious and socioeconomic changes which transformed Roman society between the death of Julius Caesar and the early third century C.E.


10. Trace and comment upon the various perceptions of the nature and causes of the decline and collapse of the western part of the Roman Empire after the early 200s C.E.


11. Compare and contrast the decline and fall of the Roman and Han empires.