After Empire
The Collapse of Classical Empires and their Aftermath

  1. The Rise of the Steppelands peoples

    1. Classical empires collapse c.200-400 CE

    2. Partially a result of internal weaknesses

    3. But also triggered by migrations and invasions

      1. Germanic tribes (also known as Goths) begin to migrate into the Roman Empire after c. 200 CE

      2. spurred in part by pressure from steppelands nomads

      3. Huns move west after c. 370 CE

      4. Huns push south into India c. 415 CE bringing down loose knit Gupta Empire

      5. Turkic and other stepplanders invade China as Han dynasty collapses, c. 200 CE

  2. How Empires Fall

    1. Rome

      1. long frontiers difficult to defend

      2. lack of clear succession rules leads to civil wars, instability.

        1. Caesar Augustus (63 BCE-14AD) had united empire under one ruler, ending Republic.

        2. But the position of emperor depended on the loyalty of the military, something not all emperors could command.

      3. economic decline, possible plague, leads to a steady abandonment of the western part of the empire

        1. from the beginning, the western and eastern parts of the empire were quite different

        2. West - largely rural and agricultural, few large cities, mainly Latin speaking

        3. East - densely populated, many large cities, much commerce, mainly Greek speaking

        4. by the late 200s CE, the west was losing population, becoming poorer

        5. Diocletian divides empire in four parts to be ruled by him and co-emperors

        6. Constantine moves the capital from Rome (which long before had become so crowded and polluted most emperors did not live there) to Constantinople, 330 CE

        7. Constantine reunites empire and rules as sole emperor, but empire will be periodically re-divided by some later emperors, with generally less attention paid to the West.

      4. Government allows Germanic migrants in, but lacks resources to acculturate them

      5. migrations become invasions c. 395 CE with the Visigoths, who sack Rome in 410

      6. army garrisons retreat from west to defend eastern region from invading Huns

      7. Constantinople tries to hold things together by recognizing Gothic kings as "Roman officials"

      8. Roman aristocrats in the west retreat to estates, form alliances with invading Goths

      9. last co-emperor in Rome, Romulus Augustulus, deposed in 476 CE by Ostrogoths

      10. eastern half of Empire survives, become known as Byzantine Empire

    2. China - fall of the Han Dynasty

      1. China better prepared than Romans to defend against invaders

      2. But lack of clear succession rules leads to increased intrigue and civil war

      3. Full scale civil war erupts by 184 CE

      4. last Han emperor forced to abdicate, 220 CE

      5. empire breaks apart, as in the Warring States period

      6. breakup allows for invasions by stepplanders

  3. Aftermath - Emergence of New Actors

    1. Ruins of the Western Roman Empire

      1. Gothic states emerge

        1. Visigoths in Spain and Portugal

        2. Franks in France (Roman Gaul)

      2. Influence of Rome remains

        1. many Gothic kings use Roman titles, clothing, rituals

        2. in accepting titles from the emperor in Constantinople, officially recognize him as a kind of overlord

        3. but real power or Rome is symbolic and cultural, but not direct

        4. Roman law still widely used, but idea of Roman citizenship declines and fades

    2. Asia

      1. Decline of Chinese power provided opportunities for other to emerge

      2. Independent kingdoms appear in Korea; unify in mid 500s CE

      3. Disruption of the Silk Roads pushes trade into the sea, providing wealth for the rise of Funan (roughly Cambodia) in southeast Asia

    3. Ethiopia

      1. increased Indian ocean trade also favors rise of Ethiopia

      2. Agricultural state with capital at Axum, comes to be key player at nexus of East Mediterranean-Arabic-Indian trade routes

      3. along with Ireland, first place outside of Roman Empire to Christianize

  4. Attempted imperial recovery in the Mediterranean

    1. Under Justinian (r. 527-565 CE), Constantinople tries to reassert power in the West

      1. Historians refer to the post-476 empire based in Constantinople as Byzantine, but these emperor still called themselves Roman

      2. Justinian was successful in taking back much of Italy, North Africa, and southeast Europe

      3. But became overextended, and these gains were mostly lost after his death

    1. Imperial recovery everywhere stunted by disasters of the 500s

      1. Epidemics spread in Eastern Mediterranean, Arabia, and Ethiopia

      2. Massive volcanic eruption in 535 in Indonesia cools climate, creates famines worldwide, helps spread disease

      3. May have contributed to Byzantine weakness, fall of Teotihuacán in Mexico

    2. Germanic and Slavic migrations and invasions continue in late 500s and 600s CE

  5. Imperial Recovery in China

    1. Sui Dynasty (581-617)

      1. Founded by military conqueror Yang Jian (r. 581-605 CE)

      2. Imposed brutal, strongman rule to reunify empire

      3. As with Qin dynasty, heavy taxation and labor demands led to unrest

      4. failed military adventure in Korea leads to collapse, 617 CE

    2. Tang Dynasty (618-907)

      1. Reformed bureaucracy and administration to stabilize government

      2. Fosters a period of urban growth and flourishing of arts and literature

      3. Mismanagement leads to civil war, militarization of provinces, and steady decline of central authority after 755 CE

      4. Despite troubles, China as a cultural region not only survives, it expands - unlike Rome

        1. New Korean kingdoms heavily influenced by Confucianism, Chinese technical knowledge, and Taoism and Buddhism

        2. Japanese state emerges under the Yamatos in 400s CE

          1. adopted Confucianism and Buddhism by way of Korea and China

          2. established an imperial state modeled in part on Chinese example

  6. Arabic invasions result in new empire

    1.  Inspired by emergence of Islam

      1. founded by Mohammed (569-632)

      2. begins to experience revelations around 609; eventually written down in Koran

      3. initially finds little success in his preaching, but after 622 sees more success, leading to conversion and conquest of much of Arabia

      4. Main ideas

        1. Related to the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity
        2. Radically theocentric - social justice and obedient worship of the one God
        3. Warned against false gods and immorality, especially injustice to the weak and unfortunate
        4. The Five Pillars of Islam
          1. Complete acceptance, even just once, of the idea that "There is no God but God (Allah); Mohammed is the Messenger of God.
          2. Prayer five times per day, facing East and Mecca
          3. Muslims must give alms generously
          4. Muslims must fast for one month--Ramadan
          5. Muslims must try, at least once, to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, called the hadj
          6. These things serve to reinforce the notion of the centrality of God and to strongly to bind together the umma - the "submitters," the community of believers
            • "These rituals provided the believers with an extraordinarily powerful social cement. They prayed and fasted together, they assumed responsibility for less fortunate believers, they journeyed to Mecca together--rich and poor, yellow, white, brown, and black." (from Stavrianos)
    2. Weakness of Sasanian Persia and Byzantine empire provides an opening
    3. Conquests become too great to hold together in one empire
      1. Between 634 and 756, conquer all of Persia, Middle East, North Africa, most of Spain and Portugal
      2. Political and religious leadership unified in the figure of the the Caliph
      3. Disagreements over political succession leads to spiritual splits, as no distinction was seen between spiritual and secular world
      4. Spiritual splits make political unity impossible
      5. Results in emergence of Sunni-Shia split
        1. Sunni would uphold traditional dynastic progression
          1. caliph as temporal, secular ruler, a defender of the faith
          2. spiritual guidance from the ulama, religious and legal scholars
        2. Shi'ia would uphold an alternate progression based on Ali, Mohammad's son-in-law
          1. spiritual authority passed down through the family of Mohammed
          2. emphasis on religious purity
          3. the imams, the spiritual leaders, officially abstained from secular power, regarding it as inherently wicked
          4. awaited the arrival of a mahdi ("guided one') who would usher in a golden age
          5. Shiites would traditionally be Muslims of non-Arab extraction
          6. powerful forces in Iraq and, especially, Persia (Iran) among Farsi-speaking people.