‘One of the lessons of history is that even the deepest crises can be moments of opportunity. They bring ideas from the margins into the mainstream’ (Mulgan, 2009). Empires have come and gone away but the lessons they brought to the world remain in the minds of the people and documented in the books of world history. The word empire has a very broad definition and some often misinterpret the word. To many it means dictatorship, war among civilisations, exploiting the poor, high profile palaces and Kings and emperors living in comfort ruling over a growing conquest. Although some part of all this is true all of this is history in the world we live in today all that is left is lessons that they brought and the teachings that we still abide by even to this day; history brings more to the table than most people come to think because the governance structures used today, religions, cultures and arts are all brought by the historical world that is passed.
In this paper, we are going to discuss the brief history of three empires in history that came in different eras looking at their history, their similarities and the lessons that can be drawn from them. The focus will be mainly cast on governance and city planning but also taking a look at how religion and culture influenced governance and to what extent. How artistry also played a part in planning the cities of the past and how all of these play a major role in our cities today.
The empires that are going to be discussed include: The Roman Empire, The Mongols Empire and the Mughal Empire. The structure of the paper is discussing the brief history of the above-mentioned empires individually then from there we look at the common characteristics that exist in each empire that made them successful, this paper will further discuss the differences, the lessons that we can take from history that are still relevant today in terms of governance and city planning.
Some scholars argue that the Roman Empire existed even during the ‘Republic’ although to some extent this is true it was just never visible. It all started in Rome a city-state that is located 25 kilometres from the mouth of the Tiber River. It consisted of high advanced culture and strong army which made it a powerful civilisation (Edward, 1979).
Figure 1: Roman Empire (Anon, 2008)
Julius is seen as the engineer of the Empire, he was born to a patrician family in 100 B.C.E to a chief in the senate house of the “Roman Republic”. He rose in popularity in Rome. Popular with the troops and the people because of his conquest of Gaul; A brilliant military commander. He was murdered on the 15th of March 44 B.C.E; stabbed 23 times by the senate this triggered a civil war which saw Augustus take over the Republic and turning it into an Empire (Bladen, 2011).
Rome transitioned from a Monarchy to a Republic then finally to an Empire. This gave a clear distinction between the Proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the rich and the poor, women and men. Only a group of people were allowed to be citizens during the Roman Empire. It was ruled over by one individual who was given the divine power due to power, wealth or any other valuable contributor. The Empire spread all over the Mediterranean Sea as shown above by the picture, ruled by peace there was almost no warfare. This dictatorship system continued for the rest of the Empire (Garnsey & Saller, 2014)
The Romans and conquered personnel brought many cults to the Empire; they worshiped in churches and their homes, they made sacrifices and held festivals in their honour. Rituals were the main threshold of Roman Religion. Rome was the birth of early Christianity (Garnsey & Saller, 2014).
With the emergence of trade routes and sea transport at the heart of Rome; trade and warfare where the big driving factors to the growth of empire. Winning wars and conquering new territories gave Rome more resources; they acquired new skills from captives, and more slaves that increased the working force (Hopkins, 1980).
Boasting at twice the land area of the Roman Empire; The Mongols have the largest land empire in world history which stretched long and wide from Central Asia to Central Europe, over to the Sea Of Japan then to Siberia and Indian subcontinents and lastly to Arabia (Khan, 1984).
It existed from 1206 to 1368. The Mongols were horse men which enabled them to grow their empire wider and further quicker. The acquiring of horses and other livestock enabled then to greatly enhance their military strength (Rachewiltz, 2013).
Figure 2: Mongol Empire (Anon, 2010)
Born to a politically strong family during the year 1161. Brilliant organizer and military mastermind he built the foundation of the Mongols Empire. He died on the 18th of August 1227 which triggered unrest to his grandsons that saw it relevant to grow what he started in memory of his life (Weatherford, 2004).
The law was drawn up by Genghis Khan himself with a vital point of instating the ‘Death Penalty’ which made the civilisation to be more peaceful. It was safe and well run because anyone who goes against the rules set out would endure a hard penalty (Rachewiltz, 2013).
The Non-democratic parliament central assembly was held at the ‘Kurutai’ where members where the bureaucratic members of the civilisation and the chief was the only one allowed to directly communicate with the Emperor to discuss political and civil related information This dictatorship system continued for the rest of the Empire. Trade routes and postal systems were invented during this time (May, 2012).
Although the Emperor allowed for religious freedom the transition of religious systems went from Buddhism to Christianity then finally to Islam. Although citizens were allowed to follow which ever religion they chose (Mumford, 1946).
They were generally horsemen which gave them an advantage over they foot soldiered opponents; they travelled in 10s as they attacked (Saunders, 1971).
Figure 3: Mongol Army (Anon, 2012)
In 1494 an 11 year old boy by the name of Babur inherited a Kingdom from his father, the elders thought it would better suit the interest of the empire to take away the kingdom from the boy and assume power driving him away from the land, but little did they know that the boy possessed the power to come back and rule over his father’s empire. After being banished he built an army so strong it could withhold any opposition. The conventional beginning of the empire begins when the army of Babur assumed victory over Ibrahim Lodi in the very first battle of Panipat in 1526. He was a brilliant general and a mastermind in war this is clearly shown by his conquest of an army that had 100000 troops with his army of just merely 12000. He laid the main foundation of the Empire leaving his children to take the throne after he died (Schimmel, 2004).
Figure 4: Mughal Empire (Anon, 2013)
Babur’s son was the driving force in the small decline of the empire that was growing ever small because of his lack of brilliance in the war field. Akbar on the other grew the Empire through his knowledge and understanding of humans (Sharma, 1999).
After conquering his opponents Akbar took the opportunity of growing the culture of his Empire by incorporating the cultures into his Empire.
He ruled as the divine ruler with the help from his Bureaucratic officials which formed part of a senate with the chief of the being the one that has direct communication to the Emperor. He approached the position with some element of ease. This dictatorship system continued for the rest of the Empire (Schimmel, 2004).
The Empire was well rounded with different cultures and religions due to the brilliance of Akbar with his ability to blend cultures, He allowed for freedom of Religion this meant that anyone in the empire could worship their own God he’s tolerance was seen when he married women from all different types religions and allowed them to practice in the palace (Schimmel, 2004).
The official Religion in the Mughal Empire was Islam but the blending created a host of different cultures new ideas on education, art, politics and language (Sharma, 1999).
The most remembered people that gave a foundation to the respective empires were all born to highly recognized families. First we look at Julius Caesar who was born to a patrician family with the father part of the higher order of society which gave him the platform to be greater than his father that is why he continued on to lay a foundation for the Roman Empire (Bladen, 2011). Genghis Khan was born to a political and wealthy family which gave him the power and popularity to go on and exploit this side and take charge to bringing the Mongol Empire (May, 2012). Babur was a son of a king that is why he was presented with the opportunity to rule, although his elders took it away he’s nature to rule was fulfilled when he conquered Ibrahim Lodi and took over (Sharma, 1999).
The descendants of the foundation kings took over the Empires and grew them to greater heights. The children and grand-children grew the Empires to greater Heights. Augustus took Rome to another level of empire and so did the emperors that followed him (Bunson, 1994). Ögedei Khan was assigned by Genghis Khan to be his successor this proved crucial to the growth of the empire (Rachewiltz, 2013). Akbar the grandson of Babur grew the empire to become the largest land empire in history (Sharma, 1999).
They all adopted governance structure according to what they thought would work for the current time, place and given resources.
The empires used the resources given to achieve what they managed to achieve. Looking at the Mongols they used horses to expand their territory because they could cover more land quicker and faster and it gave them an advantage over opponents at war.
They fought to keep their empires and they fought to gather more land and power which was common to all the above empires as a means of expanding their territory
Eventually the needs of the people are much greater than the needs of those in power, by addressing the needs of the people then you will be good in terms of popularity and your position in power will be solidified. This is shown by the Akbar in the Mughal he tolerated the conquered to continue their religion even after he’s captured them (Schimmel, 2004). Freedom of religion gives power to the ruling class because it keeps the dwellers happy. Well assembled civilisations in terms of governance are safe and well run because everyone is happy because they can do whatever they want but abiding by the given rules. The death Penalty by Genghis Khan was a relevant governance structure. This reduces high level crimes like murder so this is a good lesson (May, 2012). How such a small group of Mongols Empire managed to conquered such a vast piece of land was because they were contempt in incorporating they groups that they win over into their empire and this meant that they didn’t have some kind of barrier that doesn’t allow for outsiders so this meant cultures were well engineered to meet the cultural dynamic unlike most cultures that don’t allow other cultures to enter. City building was influenced by arts and culture that was in the empire and the desired taste of the Emperor because he has the final say on the building of the city.
Each Empire has its own significant characteristics but at some point they overlap to some extent which means that they have some strong similarities as to how their Empires began which was due to the power hungry political children in an attempt to by-pass their parent’s success.
How they handle their conquered territories is also different while some choose to incorporate cultures some just choose to instate their own into the lives of the captives.
We can draw a lot from history although we refuse to take the lessons and incorporate them because we think we know better and that history is irrelevant although it plays a vital role in our lives now and it will continue to influence our ideas even in times to come
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