AP World History: Period 2
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Historians have labeled the years c. 600 BCE to c. 600 CE the Classical Era. During this period classical empires such as the Greek and Roman civilizations in the Mediterranean region, the Han Dynasty in East Asia, and the Maurya and Gupta empires in South Asia rose in political, social, and economic power, and then fell. Other important classical civilizations of this era include the Persians in central Asia and the Mayans in Mesoamerica
The earliest known organized religion, with written codes of the faith and a class of religious leaders (priests), Hinduism was centered in South Asia. Its beliefs were influenced by Indo-European groups who migrated into the region from western areas near the Caspian Sea. Hindu teachings supported the caste system that greatly influenced the political and social structure of South Asia
A "reform" of Hinduism was begun by Prince Siddhartha Gautama c. 500 BCE, who became the Buddha ("Enlightened One"). Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism supported spiritual equality and missionary activity. Buddhism spread far from its origins in South Asia into Southeast and East Asia along trade routes.
Based on the teachings of Kong Fuzi (Confucian) in China, c. 500 BCE. He established clearly defined codes of behavior, and gender and family duties. Confucius's teachings were a philosophy, not a religion dedicated to a deity. Over time, however, Neo-Confucianism emerged, which included aspects of Buddhism and Daoism, and promised eternal reward for faithfulness to Confucius's teachings
Like Buddhism was to Hinduism, Christianity was a reform of an existing religion, Judaism. Jesus taught eternal salvation through the belief that he was the Jewish Messiah, sent by God to save humanity from eternal punishment. Jesus named his disciple Peter as his first successor; this act represents one political difference with Islam's hierarchy (see No. 25 below). Over time, missionaries spread Jesus' gospel ("good news") throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam spread globally and are the religions with the most followers today.
East Asia's Han Empire existed around the same time as the Roman Empire. In fact, they traded with each other. The Han was one of the largest empires of the classical era and, in terms of technology, was far ahead of other civilizations of the same era.
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven reflected the belief that the emperor in China would stay in power as long as the heavens were satisfied with his rule. If the emperor's family line (a dynasty) died out or was overthrown, it was a sign that the emperor had lost his mandate. Although many dynasties rose and fell in China over the centuries, the Mandate of Heaven was a continuity that added stability to society.
Chinese Examination System
The Chinese examination system was a political feature of Chinese empires beginning with the Han dynasty and lasting until the early twentieth century. Scholar-bureaucrats took state-sponsored exams in order to become government scribes and serve in other capacities to help emperors run the affairs of state. In this system, it was possible – but rare – for even low-born citizens to rise to political prominence.
"Mediterranean Civilizations" is a term used in AP World History to describe the classical Greek and Roman civilizations. The Romans borrowed so much of their political, social, and economic culture from the Greeks that, from a global perspective, historians find it convenient to combine the two.
In the fourth century BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and put his social and political Greek stamp on his short-lived empire, which stretched from Egypt to India. "Hellenistic" culture is a blend of Greek and local styles. One example of Hellenistic art is a Buddha statue made in unmistakable Greek style, with lifelike features and flowing robes.
These classical empires in South Asia were geographically extensive and powerful empires. Thee Mauryan Empire existed from c. 320 to c. 185 BCE; the Gupta Empire lasted from c. 320 CE to c. 550 CE. Another later powerful South Asian empire was the Mughal (see 46 below). These empires were exceptions to the trend of political fragmentation in South Asian history. During most of its existence, India had many regional leaders, not one unified empire, as these others were
The Bantu migrations are the most-often cited sub-Saharan event in Africa that occurred over much of the Classical era. Beginning in central Africa c. 1000 BCE to c. 500 CE, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated south and east over many centuries, spreading a common language base and metal-working technology.
The Silk Roads
A must-know trade route, the Silk Roads connected East Asia to northern India and central Asia and, indirectly, to the Mediterranean region, West Africa, and northern Europe. Silk, tea, spices, horses, and technology were carried westward along camel and horse caravan routes. Chinese goods and technology made their way into southwest Asia, Africa, and Europe along these routes.
Indian Ocean Trade Network
Connected to the Silk Roads, the Indian Ocean trade network was just as important, but with routes over water. African, Arab, Jewish, and Chinese, both Muslim and Christian, merchants carried religion (especially Buddhism and Islam) and exchanged silver, cotton, spices, and many other items across the Indian Ocean.
Fall of Classical Empires
Beginning c. 200 CE, all three major classical empires declined and fell. First to go was the Han Dynasty in China (c. 220 CE), followed by the western Roman Empire (476 CE) and finally the Gupta Empire in India in the mid-sixth century CE. All three fell from internal pressures, such as peasant revolts, and external pressures, such as invading nomads and imported diseases.
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