- I believe that the reforms of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were truly aimed to help the people of the Roman Republic. These reforms did not help them gain power in any way, except for maybe the affection of the people. They did, however, abuse their power in order to pass the reforms. Before Tiberius, many of the poor were losing their land and therefore becoming homeless and ineligible for the military. Tiberius proposed his reform to get rid of this problem: he would limit the amount of land that any Roman could own and enforce this via a land commission. However, the senate, which was made up of elites whose land would be hindered because of this, were against it. Tiberius risked his own political career by overstepping the senate and going straight to the assembly of the people, then deposing the tribune that the senate appointed to stop him. His reform passed, but the senate refused to fund it. Tiberius found the cash he needed when the king of Pergamum died and left his kingdom to Rome. However, the senate usually controlled foreign affairs, so using the cash in this way was overstepping them again (Video: Consequences of Empire: Political Violence in the Republic). Overstepping the senate continuously was an abuse of Tiberius’s power, but I believe he did it for the people and not himself because it did not gain him any power; in fact, it was risky because it turned the senate against him. This risk eventually cost him his life when angry senators killed him.
Gaius followed in his brother’s footsteps. He also risked himself by overstepping the senate, and even going farther than Tiberius. Gaius proposed many reforms: ensured food for the poor, colonies for the homeless, infrastructure projects to provide jobs, positions for the non-senatorial elites to be judges in corruption cases against the elites, and citizenship for Rome’s allies (Video: Consequences of Empire: Political Violence in the Republic). Gaius could have learned from his brother’s mistakes and chosen to keep himself safe by working with the senate, but he still decided to risk going against the senate to help the people. Unfortunately, like his brother, this cost him his life.
- Both Rome and China used systems that worked from previous societies to help them create strong governments, and they adopted cultural ideas of their predecessors to define and enforce their belief systems. The Roman epic, the Aeneid, was created from the past Greek epics about the Trojan war. It includes similar themes to the Greek epics, such as a journey across the Mediterranean. Some themes from this story are piety, family, and morality, which became staples of Roman culture and defined their standards of behavior (Video: Remembering the Past). Han China looked back at Confucius to create their standards of behavior. Han authority emphasized the Confuscian ideas of tradition through the classes and “filial piety” in their empire (WTWA 258). The Han dynasty also adopted some of the political organizations from the past Qin dynasty. They used the same bureaucratic system and had similar laws, and kept the same principles of regions being governed by one military and one civilian official and everyone having to pay taxes and serve in the military that the Qin dynasty had started earlier (WTWA 265). These traditions from the past helped the Han dynasty keep an authoritative and effective government. The Romans adopted the patriarchal societal organization from the past Greeks. However, they learned from the Greeks and improved on this system in their present, having males continue to dominate in society but giving women more freedoms so they could make effective contributions (WTWA 279).
- The amount of connectivity between different regions surprised me a lot. I had not known about several of the interactions between societies, such as how the Greeks conquered Persia, the early Roman leaders came from Greece after the Trojan war, the Assyrians forcibly relocated the Israelites, and how the Vedic people started out as pastoral nomads. It amazed me how these interactions often defined the success of a kingdom, such as how Assyria was conquered by the people it had angered with its cruelty, and Persia gained its success from trading with its neighbors and treating them kindly. The entire agricultural revolution only became widespread due to trade helping to pass on and create new ideas and inventions. Another aspect of the course content that surprised me was the similarity of creation stories, such as how the Roman, Christian, and Vedic tales all include a persecuted child being floated down a river in a basket, and how almost every creation story begins with a deity being the only thing to exist, and then creating everything else from themself. My overall takeaway from this course is that societies and people are all vastly interconnected with each other, and that the connections that societies have currently and have made in the past determine their beliefs and organization.
4. I think that the videos worked very well. I greatly appreciated that we were able to have a lecture-like environment through them rather than just having readings. I also appreciated the pace of the class; I feel like it was not too fast and not too slow. I also think the TAs did a wonderful job grading and giving feedback. I had friends who were in the in-person section, and they said that they had minimal writing assignments and instead had more quizzes/tests. I think it would be nice for next time to make the online version more similar to this instead of having all of our assignments be writing-based. I also think the discussions should be done in an entirely different manner. To be honest, I know myself and several of my friends would reply to a peer in the discussion section because it was required and then never look at it again. Simply typing to each other on the computer did not facilitate our interest in the conversation. It would be better if we had discussion sections over zoom, where we could hear and see each other in real time. I know at least for me, that would make me a lot more interested in discussing the content.