Unit 2: Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, 600 BCE-600 CE

Unit 2: Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, 600 BCE-600 CE

Unit 2: Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, 600 BCE-600 CE

Key Concepts

1. The Development and Codification of Religious and Cultural Traditions

As states and empires increased in size and contacts between regions multiplied, religious and cultural systems were transformed. Religions and belief systems provided a bond among the people and an ethical code to live by. These shared beliefs also influenced and reinforced political, economic, and occupational stratification. Religious and political authority often merged as rulers (some of whom were considered divine) used religion, along with military and legal structures, to justify their rule and ensure its continuation. Religions and belief systems could also generate conflict, partly because beliefs and practices varied greatly within and among societies.

2. The Development of States and Empires

As the early states and empires grew in number, size, and population,they frequently competed for resources and came into conflict with oneanother. In quest of land, wealth, and security, some empires expandeddramatically. In doing so, they built powerful military machines andadministrative institutions that were capable of organizing human activitiesover long distances, and they created new groups of military and politicalelites to manage their affairs. As these empires expanded their boundaries,they also faced the need to develop policies and procedures to governtheir relationships with ethnically and culturally diverse populations:sometimes to integrate them within an imperial society and sometimes toexclude them. In some cases, these empires became victims of their ownsuccesses. By expanding their boundaries too far, they created political,cultural, and administrative difficulties that they could not manage. They also experienced environmental, social, and economic problems when theyoverexploited their lands and subjects and permitted excessive wealth to beconcentrated in the hands of privileged classes.

3. Emergence of Transregional Networks of Communication and Exchange

With the organization of large-scale empires, the volume of long-distancetrade increased dramatically. Much of this trade resulted from the demandfor raw materials and luxury goods. Land and water routes linked manyregions of the Eastern Hemisphere. The exchange of people, technology,religious and cultural beliefs, food crops, domesticated animals, anddisease pathogens developed alongside the trade in goods across far-flungnetworks of communication and exchange. In the Americas and Oceanialocalized networks developed.


1. Describe the ways in which codifications and further developments of existing religioustraditions provided a bond among peoples and an ethical code to live by (in particular, consider Judaism and the Vedic religions).

2. Discuss the emergence, spread, and influence of new belief systems and cultural traditions and the ways in which core beliefs were developed and promoted (think about Confucianism, Daoism, Greco-Roman thought, Christianity, and Buddhism).

3. Analyze the ways in which artistic expressions, including literature and drama, architecture,and sculpture, show distinctive cultural developments.

4. Analyze the ways in which states and empiresgrew dramaticallyby imposing political unity on areas where previously there had beencompeting states (be able to discuss Persian Empires [Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanid],Qin and Han Empires,Maurya and Gupta Empires,Phoenicia and its colonies, Greek city-statesand colonies, Hellenistic and Roman Empires, Teotihuacan, Maya city-states,andMoche).

5. Discuss the developmentof new techniques of imperialadministration based, in part, on the success of earlier political forms (for example, creation of administrative institutions, projection of military power, promotion of trade, economic integration.

6. Describe the social and economic dimensions developed in imperial societies in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas, including the role of cities (particularly Persepolis, Chang’an, Pataliputra, Athens, Carthage, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Teotihuacan), the ways that food production was maintained, and the methods of providing rewards for the loyalty of the elites.

7. Discuss the creation of political, cultural, and administrative difficulties, including environmental and external problems along frontiers, that led to the decline, collapse, andtransformation of classical empires into successor empires or states.

8. Describe the land and water routes that were the basis for transregional trade, communication, and exchange networks, particularly theEurasian Silk Roads, Trans-Saharan caravan routes, and Mediterranean and Indian Ocean sea lanes.

9. Analyze the roles of new technologies, such as yokes, saddles, stirrups and maritime technologies, and the use of domesticated animals, such as horses, oxen, llamas, and camels, in facilitating long-distance communication and exchange.

10. Describe the impact of the exchange of people, technology, religious and cultural beliefs, food crops, domesticated animals, and disease on the areas where they spread.