Social and Economic Dimensions of States and Empires: c. 600 BCE - 600 CE

AP Concept: 2.2 The Development of States and Empires
Key Concepts
  • Imperial societies in Eurasia developed unique social and economic dimensions
Social Aspects
  • Most classical states and empires had patriarchal societies with rigid social stratification
  • In patriarchal societies, women often had to submit to their fathers, husbands, and sometimes sons
  • They rarely had control over property or the dowries they brought to marriage
  • Often upper-class women were educated in writing, reading, and the arts, in order to make proper marriages (such as in China or Greece)
  • Social structures typically placed educated scholars or priests at the top, with servants or slaves at the bottom of the social pyramid
  • China's highest class was the scholar-gentry, landlord families who could afford to prepare for and take the civil service examinations for jobs in government
  • Rome eventually placed wealthy merchants and landowners near the top of the social pyramid as the empire's wealth increased
  • India had the most rigid social structure, or caste system. People were born into castes, which determined their jobs, diets, and marriage, and they could not move to different castes
  • Several empires also had large slave populations, acquired through war, trade, or the justice system
  • Rome had the largest population of slaves—1/3 of the overall population by the second century CE; they were employed as domestic servants or workers on country estates
Economic Aspects
  • The creation of roads and other communication networks often contributed to an empire's economic growth
  • Rome constructed 60,000 miles of roads throughout its empire, which connected disparate regions for trade and created markets for goods produced in other regions of the empire. A uniform currency and shared language further facilitated trade
  • The Persian Empire used a network of roads, including the 1,677-mile Royal Road, for communication and trade within the empire
  • Under Ashoka (Mauryan Empire), India's agricultural expansion contributed to a rise in towns, which encouraged trade
  • Several empires took part in the Silk Road overland trade, which facilitated the exchange of ideas and goods
  • Several empires explored sea trade networks, such as Greece (via the Mediterranean) and India (via the Indian Ocean)

Related Links:
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Collapse of States and Empires: c. 600 BCE - 600 CE