DBQ Han and Roman technology

6 June 2016

Technology plays an important role in our everyday lives. The same was true in the first and second centuries B.C. during the Han and Roman empires. These two empires were very powerful during their time and technology was used widely across both. Although the Hans and the Romans both viewed technology as a way to show off their power, the Hans saw technology as a valued and practical application to better the lives of the common people, while the Romans thought that technology was only useful if it was created by the upper class.

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Technology during the Han and Roman empires was seen as a tool to show how great and powerful the empire was. Both empires were proud of their advancements and thought they were better than those of surrounding societies. In Document 8, the Roman general Frontinus writes, “Compare such numerous and indispensable structures carrying so much water with the idle pyramids or the useless but famous works of the Greeks.”

Frontinus clearly thinks that the Roman aqueducts surpass anything done by the Egyptians or the Greeks. This bold statement makes it seem like there is almost a competition going on to see who has the best technology and according to Romans it was obviously them. Furthermore, Document 3 tells about the pestle and the mortar which were invented by the emperor Fuxi. The document states things such as “cleverly improved” or “increasing the efficiency” which shows how they used the technology to better their society.

Technology was so important to the Hans that even their emperor was creating new forms of it. This shows that the Hans really were proud of their work and saw their technology as a way to portray their supremacy just as the Romans did. An additional document that would strengthen this point of view would be one from the wife or daughter of an upper-class man in either of these empires. A journal entry from the wife of the emperor or ruler talking about how her husband is always trying to find new technology to better their empire and show how great and powerful it is would confirm the empires’ use of technology to show their strength.

The Han empire valued technology greatly and saw it as the best way to improve the lives of the common working class. Document 4 states that governor Tu Shih “loved the common people and wished to save their labor.” This shows that the Hans cared for the commoners and didn’t want them to work harder than was necessary. Also, Document 1 is written by a government official who wished to prevent flooding and conserve water.

The yellow river flooded quite frequently. Being able to control the flood water and conserve it would prevent crops from being ruined and the conserved water would be able to be used for farming. This would greatly help the farmers who were often devastated by the floods. Document 1 shows how the Hans used technology to help the farmers. In addition, Document 2 also shows how the Han wish to improve the lives of the commoners. In Document 2 a government official, named Huan Guan, realizes that the state has made a mistake in monopolizing salt and iron trades because the tools being made are not as high of quality as those made by workers for their own use.

Guan writes. “Salt and iron are now sold at very high prices by the state and many common people cannot afford to buy either.” The fact that Guan realizes the government has made a mistake in monopolizing these trades shows that he really is concerned about the working class and wants to use technology to help them. A document that would solidify this perspective would be one from a person in the working class.

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