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Justin Swanson Social Studies 1: Athens & China DBQ

Which was more awesome: Classical Athens or Han China? Both of them are famous ancient civilizations. Classical Athens was a small city-state in Greece, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was at its height in the 5th century BCE. Han China, on the other hand, was a large unified empire in East Asia. It lasted from 202 B.C. to A.D. 220. How different were these two civilizations? Three of the many differences were their populations, their art, and their forms of government.

First of all, their populations were different. Han China had around 65 million people, and they were spread out over a large territory. Classical Athens only had about 315 thousand people, and they lived in and around just one city. The difference in population mattered because it affected how important individuals were in the society, and what form of government might work well.

A second difference between the cultures was their art. Artists in Classical Athens painted pictures that focused on individuals. They were usually almost or completely naked, and shown as strong and powerful. Artists in Han China, on the other hand, painted pictures of landscapes, where fully-clothed people were surrounded by nature. The people were only a tiny part of the big picture. This shows how differently the two cultures saw the individual. The Greeks saw the individual as important and powerful, where the Chinese saw nature as more important than the individual.

Yet another difference between the two civilizations was their government structure. Han Chinas form of government was bureaucracy. There were lots of ranks of government workers, with the emperor at the top, but ordinary people had no say in the government. Classical Athens did it differently. They created a democracy, which is rule of the people. In their government, everyone had a say. In fact, they were supposed to participate in the government and criticized if they didnt. The form of government of each civiliza tion made

a big difference to its citizens, in how much power they had and in whether they got to choose their leaders and in how they felt about their government.

So these two civilizations, Classical Athens and Han China, were different in many ways. They had different populations, they had different art, and they had different government structures. These made life very different for ordinary citizens. A Chinese citizen would have no say in his government and would feel not so important, because he was just one of millions. An Athenian citizen, however, had more power and control in his life and government. So they were both awesome civilizations, but if I had to choose, I would rather have lived in Athens!

Sources: Classical Athens and Han China: How Great Were the Differences? Background Essay Document 2: Athens Population Chart Document 3: Han China Population Chart Document 5: Government in Athens Document 6: Mandate of Heaven Document 11: Discus Thrower Document 12: Chiu Ying, Landscape in the Style of Li Tang