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Babylon and Yellow River Valley Civilizations Compare and Contrast Political Religious and Social Aspects
The history of the ancient world is mainly the history of the five great civilizations: Egypt, Babylon, China, Greece and Rome. These civilizations made a great contribution to the world culture as they set the basis for social development of the modern world. In this paper I would like to discuss political and social aspects of the two great civilizations of the East: Babylon and Yellow river civilization (China). Both Babylon and Yellow river civilizations have a lot of common conditions of the development. Both civilization appeared in the river basins and rivers played a major role in the development of both civilizations as they guaranteed the development of agriculture. Rivers were always used as the main source of irrigation and river fossils were used for fertilizing. Babylon was situated between Tiger and Euphrates rivers, ancient China's civilization was situated in the basin of Yellow river. Babylon civilization was one of the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia and on the Middle East. It was considered one the most powerful states in the Middle east during the long period 4000-1000 BC. Favorable climate conditions allowed to cultivate rice and crops which was essential for the ancient civilizations which were mostly agricultural. Development of trade, goods exchange with neighboring states and tribes, military expansions, and capture of slaves contributed to the development of state's strength and power. These favorable military and economic conditions allowed the state to appear in the modern understanding of this word, as the state is form of social organization in a hierarchical society with distinct class division established to promote order control and regulations of different aspects of society's life. One of the main roles in regulation of relations between people in the state was played by religion, which executed a supplementary function of regulating people's morality. The appearance of such political formations as state both in ancient China and Babylon caused the future development of both civilizations.
Today's history knows only certain facts about Babylonian and Chinese states mainly according to a limited number of documents, scriptures and other articles which belong to those epochs and which can assist in creating image of those civilizations. It's a well-known fact that all states of ancient east were despotic, the head of the state king or an emperor was considered to be a god and had unlimited power. Nevertheless even at that times there existed a need in establishing social order and system of regulations so that society would function normally. The fist attempt to realize it on practice in Babylon were the laws of king Hammurabbi. For ancient Babylon the growth of private property and monetary-goods rations became a common practice. But under the conditions when the guarantees of personal freedom were absent such economic relations often caused debt slavery and cabala. Law code of Hammurabbi established compensation for rent and established responsibilities for the cases of damage to property. Laws also regulated employment issues: the amount of wages and the responsibility for the work. These laws regulated the procedure of loans as the main purpose of loan regulations was the attempt to protect debtor from creditor and avoid debt slavery. The maximum period of debt slavery could not exceed 3 years, besides laws regulated responsibility of the creditor in the case of debtors death, etc. Besides a big number of contracts was registered on the clay tables. The nature of these laws witnesses about their secular character as their contents was not influenced either by religious or by ethical and moral norms but instead had a very realistic and logic background. It was the first attempt to protect small producers and to ensure economical relations. Hammurabbi wanted to ensure the state system where the class elite was represented by slave owners so that "strong would not oppress one who is weaker."
The social structure of Ancient Babylon and Ancient China was pretty much the same on the early stage of both states development. The society was divided on several classes: slaves, peasants and artisans, slave owners who represented ruling elite and who were the main support of ruling king or emperor. Slavery was economically profitable on the early stage of society's development but it could be regulated only by force and by brutal punishments. As slaves were simply private property they had no rights and saw no interest in their labor. The labor of slaves was widely used for construction, farming and house-work. In comparison to ancient Babylon, Yellow River civilization of China made a shift from slave owning to traditional feudal system (in 8th-3rd centuries BC) which appeared to be more profitable both from economical side and from the side of management. It can be explained by a number of technological advances in China: ability to make tools from iron, more advanced agricultural technologies, etc.
Religious views of Ancient Babylonians and Chinese were different as well. Polytheism was present in both civilizations on the early stage. But in Babylon it was developed into an organized polytheistic religion with a number of gods. The mythology of ancient Babylonians has a lot of similar features to Greek and Roman mythology. Ancient Babylonians worshiped powers of nature which they identified with gods: Marduk, Thin, Nabuh, etc. Around 3000 BC the pantheon of Babylonian gods was created and the supreme position was occupied by the God of sky and earth named Marduk, but nevertheless the role of other gods was considerable as well. Polytheistic believes were common for Yellow river civilization as well, but the religious believes didn't greatly influence the consciousness of people. The main god of China was Sky, gods were substituted by the concept of absolute virtues and by cultural heroes who (according to Chinese mythology) were the founders of Chinese civilization: Fu Hsi the hero who introduced hunting, fishing and literacy; Shen Hung, the hero who taught Chinese agriculture and who introduced money and Yellow Emperor who introduced state system with government and Taoism. Philosophy of Taoism can not be viewed as religion as it's a set of ethic values and morals which have to be followed by common people. The key ethical norms of Chinese are: wisdom, justice, virtue, desire to achieve social harmony. Taoism is mainly based on rationalism and materialism rather than on blind belief in gods.
Political and social control in Chinese state was established according to the principles of Confucius teaching (4th century BC) which were based on rationalism and strict hierarchy of patriarchal society. Confucius teaching is based on traditional ethical concepts of rationalism, idealism, wisdom and justice . It demands suppression of emotions and submition them to the mind. A special place in Confucius teaching is devoted to fulfilling of responsibilities and duties. According to Confucius " a noble man cares about duty, a mean one cares about profit.," he also taught: "Pay good for good, and pay justice for offence." At the same time Confucius proclaimed that the divine origins of state, emperor and ruling classes. He taught that existing order is unbreakable and everyone in society has to do his best to safe his position in social hierarchy and never protest against existing laws and social norms. Confucius stated that the emperor has to be enlightened and has to rule his nation according to the norms of high moral showing the example of justice and virtues, but not on the base of unfair taxation, punishments and strict laws. Other philosophical and political thinkers of Ancient China also marked the importance of developed bureaucracy, so that the state management of the country would be effective. It started to be quickly realized on practice. Bureaucrats regulated not only civil relations but also established prices on crops, silk, pottery and other items in order to guarantee social…[continue]
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