Key Concept 2.1. The Development and Codification of Religious and Cultural Traditions
As states and empires increased in size and contacts between regions multiplied, religious and cultural systems were transformed. Religions and belief systems provided a bond among the people and an ethical code to live by. These shared beliefs also influenced and reinforced political, economic, and occupational stratification. Religious and political authority often merged as rulers (some of whom were considered divine) used religion, along with military and legal structures, to justify their rule and ensure its continuation. Religions and belief systems could also generate conflict, partly because beliefs and practices varied greatly within and among societies.

1. Codifications and further developments of existing religious traditions provided a bond among the people and an ethical code to live by.

2. New belief systems and cultural traditions emerged and spread, often asserting universal truths.
  • The core beliefs about desire, suffering, and the search for enlightenment preached by the historic Buddha and recorded by his followers into sutras and other scriptures were, in part, a reaction to the Vedic beliefs and rituals dominant in South Asia. Buddhismchanged over time as it spread throughout Asia — first through the support of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, and then through the efforts of missionaries and merchants, and the establishment of educational institutions to promote its core teachings.

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  • In the major Daoist writings, the core belief of balance between humans and nature assumed that the Chinese political system would be altered indirectly. Daoism also influenced the development of Chinese culture (Medical theories & practices, Poetry, Metallurgy, Architecture).
  • Christianity, based on core beliefs about the teachings and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded by his disciples, drew on Judaism, and initially rejected Roman and Hellenistic influences. Despite initial Roman imperial hostility, Christianity spread through the efforts of missionaries and merchants through many parts of Afro-Eurasia, and eventually gained Roman imperial support by the time of Emperor Constantine.

The core ideas in Greco-Roman philosophy and science emphasized logic, empirical observation, and the nature of political power and hierarchy


3. Belief systems affected gender roles. Buddhism and Christianity encouraged monastic life and Confucianism emphasized filial piety.
4. Other religious and cultural traditions continued parallel to the codified, written belief systems in core civilizations.
  • Shamanism and animism continued to shape the lives of people within and outside of core civilizations because of their daily reliance on the natural world.
5. Artistic expressions, including literature and drama, architecture, and sculpture, show distinctive cultural developments.
  • Literature and drama (Greek Plays, Indian Epics)acquired distinctive forms that influenced artistic developments in neighboring regions and in later time periods.
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Key Concept 2.2. The Development of States and Empires

As the early states and empires grew in number, size, and population, they frequently competed for resources and came into conflict with one another. In quest of land, wealth, and security, some empires expanded dramatically. In doing so, they built powerful military machines and administrative institutions that were capable of organizing human activities over long distances, and they created new groups of military and political elites to manage their affairs. As these empires expanded their boundaries, they also faced the need to develop policies and procedures to govern their relationships with ethnically and culturally diverse populations: sometimes to integrate them within an imperial society and sometimes to exclude them. In some cases, these empires became victims of their own successes. By expanding their boundaries too far, they created political, cultural, and administrative difficulties that they could not manage. They also experienced environmental, social, and economic problems when they overexploited their lands and subjects and permitted excessive wealth to be concentrated in the hands of privileged classes.

1. The number and size of key states and empires grew dramatically by imposing political unity on areas where previously there had been competing states.
  • Required examples of key states and empires (Student should know the location and names)
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2. Empires and states developed new techniques of imperial administration based, in part, on the success of earlier political forms.
  • In order to organize their subjects, the rulers created administrative institutions in many regions (China, Persia, Rome, South Asia).
  • Required examples of administrative institutions:

  • Imperial governments projected military power over larger areas using a variety of techniques.
    • Required examples of such techniques:
      • Diplomacy
      • Developing supply lines
      • Building fortifications, defensive walls, and roads
      • Drawing new groups of military officers and soldiers from the local populations or conquered people

  • Much of the success of the empires rested on their promotion of trade economic integration by building and maintaining roads and issuing currencies
3. Unique social and economic dimensions developed in imperial societies in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas.
  • Cities (Persepolis, Chang'an, Pataliputra, Athens, Carthage, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Teotihuacan) served as centers of trade, public performance of religious rituals, and political administration for states and empires.
  • The social structures of empires displayed hierarchies that included cultivators, laborers, slaves, artisans, merchants, elites, or caste groups.
  • Imperial societies relied on a range of methods(Corvee, Slavery, Rents and tributes, Peasant communities, Family and household production) to maintain the production of food and provide rewards for the loyalty of the elites.
  • Patriarchy continued to shape gender and family relations in all imperial societies of this period.

4. The Roman, Han, Persian, Mauryan, and Gupta empires created political, cultural, and administrative difficulties that they could not manage, which eventually led to their decline, collapse, and transformation into successor empires or states.
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Through excessive mobilization of resources, imperial governments caused environmental damage (deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, silted rivers) and generated social tensions and economic difficulties by concentrating too much wealth in the hands of elites.

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Key Concept 2.3. Emergence of Transregional Networks of Communication and Exchange

With the organization of large-scale empires, the volume of long-distance trade increased dramatically. Much of this trade resulted from the demand for raw materials and luxury goods. Land and water routes linked many regions of the Eastern Hemisphere. The exchange of people, technology, religious and cultural beliefs, food crops, domesticated animals, and disease pathogens developed alongside the trade in goods across far-flung networks of communication and exchange. In the Americas and Oceania localized networks developed.

1. Land and water routes became the basis for transregional trade, communication, and exchange networks in the Eastern Hemisphere.
  • Many factors, including the climate and location of the routes, the typical trade goods, and the ethnicity of people involved, shaped the distinctive features of a variety of trade routes.
  • Required examples of trade routes
  • Eurasian

2. New technologies facilitated long-distance communication and exchange.
  • New technologies(Yokes, Saddles, Stirrups) permitted the use of domesticated pack animals (Horses, Oxen, Llamas, Camels)to transport goods across longer routes.
  • Innovations in maritime technologies (Lateen Sails, Dhow Ships), as well as advanced knowledge of the monsoon winds, stimulated exchanges along maritime routes from East Africa to East Asia
3. Alongside the trade in goods, the exchange of people, technology, religious and cultural beliefs, food crops, domesticated animals, and disease pathogens developed across far-flung networks of communication and exchange.
  • The spread of crops, including rice and cotton from South Asia to the Middle East, encouraged changes in farming and irrigation techniques (The Qanat System, pictured below).

  • A qanāt (from Arabia) (Iran, Syria and Jordan) is a water management system used to provide a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation in hot, arid and semi-arid climates

  • The spread of disease pathogens diminished urban populations and contributed to the decline of some empires (Effect of disease on the Roman Empire, Effect of Disease on the Chinese Empires
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  • Religious and cultural traditions were transformed as they spread.