Even though the Roman and the Mongol Empires were located in separate continents, they shared some elements in common. Similarities existed in terms of their organization, leadership and justice system among others.
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Similarly, both empires were large; they covered large geographical areas with huge populations. In enhancing administration, both empires were divided into distinct territories, for instance, the Roman was divided into provinces whereas the Mongol was divided into four major divisions.
Though these empires had common similarities, they differed in their style of leadership. The Mongol embraced the monarchy whereas the Romans had a decentralized and democratic system of administration. Thus, due to the vastness of the two empires, internal problems such as; lacks of unity, economic and political and military turmoil were common, in fact, these problems contributed to their collapse.
Why Mongol was “Empires” rather than an “Empire”
The vastness of the Mongol empire made it to be known as the “empires”. The empire had small empires within itself. It covered a contiguous land mass stretching as far as Eastern Europe, Central Asian, Middle East to Siberia, Iran and the Sea of Japan1.
Burbank and Cooper indicates that the total area covered by the empire was approximately 9,300,000 sq. miles which was equivalent to about 16% of the total earth surface. The empire had a population of about 100 million people2.
Characteristics of the Mongol and Roman Empire
The Mongol empire was organized on Confucian ideas and education. By embracing Confucian ideas, the empire fixed creative ways of organizing its army. For example, to ensure efficiency in the army, the empire created divisions within depending on responsibilities and tasks to be completed.
Security was important for the its survival and conquest of new lands; hence, the empire established the Kheshing to address security issues in the whole empire3. Reward for the army for their loyalty to the empire was a policy. Promotions were awarded to loyal armies whereas those who failed to observe this virtue were dismissed or punished4.
Similarly, the Roman Empire had an organized system anchored on classical learning and the Roman law. They had astute army which was organized in ranks. Roman law was an order to be followed by all in the empire.
The Mongol empire had an elaborate road network. The roads spawned across the empire linking the entire empire to the outside world. Of great importance was the Silk Road5. Silk road supported the economy of the whole empire and was important in the transportation of porcelain, silk and tea to the outside world.
Romans also had an elaborate road system that connected Rome to the rest of the empire. The road system was vital; it simplified movement of the army and connected the empire to major trade routes in the region. The roads were paved, thus, lasted for many thousand years.
Differences among the Empires
Religious beliefs were perhaps the major distinction between the two empires. While the Romans practiced Christianity, the Mongols embraced the doctrines of Confucius. Religion ultimately influenced future beliefs and decisions of leaders in both empires.
The Mongol empire had an organized justice system. They had a supreme judge in charge of keeping records of the empire. Besides, the justice system was responsible for implementing and enforcing army, food and family laws. The common code of law in the empire was the “issue”6.
In some occasions, the law was applied partially among the ruled. The “issue” allowed thorough screening of army generals based on their performance. The law prohibited vandalism and thievery; however, it was tolerant on religious views.
On the other hand, the Romans had a unique justice system. They had a law that spelt a distinction between human beings. The “ law of persons” as it was known, granted restrictive rights to men in regard to acquiring citizenship, voting and vying for public posts.
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Slaves and other citizens who had stayed in the empire and had no forms of identification were given partial rights; however, legal protection was a priority among other privileges.
Control and economy
Trade was at the heart of Mongol empire. They traded in tea, silk and porcelain. To enhance trade, the empire developed silk roads and expanded ports such as the Fuzhou and Guangzhou. Similarly, trade was increased to cover parts of India, Arabia and Persia territories. Trading activities increased contacts between the Mongols and the Western and Arab world.
On the other hand, agriculture was widely practiced in the Roman Empire. It was mechanized, for instance, mills were found in places such as Rome to grind wheat. Also, long distance trade was widely practiced, in later centuries, participation in this form of trade was reduced.
The Mongol empire spanned across territories that included the Yellow Sea to Eastern Europe. It also covered Korea, Armenia, Persia, China, Mongolia, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam among other areas. These regions were covered by mountains, forests, rugged landscapes and waters.
The vastness of the Mongol was replicated in the Roman Empire; the empire was very large and it was characterized with terrains, seas and oceans. Charles indicates that the total area covered by the empire was
approximately 5 million square kilometers7. The empire had about 50 to 60 million people equivalent to about 1/6 of the world population.
Divisions of Territories
The Romans Empire was divided into provinces for administrative purposes. Outside the Roman Empire, the provinces and territorial units remained the administrative units of the empire. Different forms of provinces existed. One of these was the imperial provinces. Imperial provinces were newly conquered territories found along the borders. Another province was the senatorial province.
The senatorial province was established along the borders. Because the Romans had control of these provinces for a longer period, they were known for being stable and peaceful. Similarly, the Mongol empire was divided into four major divisions.
The II-Khanate covered parts of the Middle East and Asia, the Great Khan covered parts of the Far East, Russia and China, Chagadai Khanate was predominant in Ventral Asia and the Blue Horde was found in Southern Siberia and Kazakhstan
The Mongols expanded their territories through conquest. Charles indicates that the Mongols conquest contributed to its expansion in North China and present day Iran8. During their conquest, they waged war leading to many deaths. The same strategy was also employed by the Romans. The Roman Empire used military to expand to new lands.
According to the circumstances, the military carried out direct conquest or the empire encouraged the friendly kingdoms in strategic buffer zones to yield into their demands in return for security along their borders. Also, the Romans used the annexation strategy. The Romans annexed empires that were friendly in return for protection.
Forms of Administration
The Mongol empire was marked by true unit of unification. Hence, the centralization of authority consolidated power of the empire and made expansion into new lands easier. Liebeschuetz indicates that the central leadership understood the importance of a strong alliance because it eliminated threats to the authority and influenced other friendly empires in the region9.
On the other hand, the Roman Empire had a decentralized form of administration. The empire was governed through its cities10. Hence, each city strove to establish personal power and authority based on their emperors, rather than for the whole empire.
Style of Leadership
The Mongol leadership was tribal anchored on family ties and chieftain. With Genghis Khan taking the throne, the clans merged under his leadership becoming a universal ruler. In a nutshell, Liebeschuetz shows that the Mongol leadership was monarchical. It was absolute in nature with the Mongol ruler being given the mandate to protect his people11.
On the other hand, the Roman had a democratic form of leadership. The people elected the senate which ruled for life. The senate was mostly made up of wealthy and members from aristocratic families. New senators were selected to replace who died while in office. Thus, the participation of the people in electing the office holders was a sign of democracy in the empire.
According to Liebeschuetz, the Mongol Empire was large. It was approximated to consist of about 100 million people. The population was organized along tribal lines, spanning across Siberia, China, Mongolia, Persia and Korea among other areas. The population was diverse, comprising of people from various regions such as the Koreans, Europeans, Chinese and Indians among others.
Also, the Roman Empire had a considerably higher population. The population was about 50 to 60 million people from various cultural and racial backgrounds. In North-West Europe region were Europeans, in the Near East were people of Asian origin while in the Mediterranean were mainly Africans from North Africa.
Stability of the Empires
Despite covering large areas, both empires had a series of problems which hampered efficient administration. These problems resulted in the instability of the empires. One of the problems experienced by the empires was the political and military turmoil. Because of the vastness of the empires, the military in both cases was in disarray.
Rather than giving their allegiance to the central authority, they opted to follow the commands given by their immediate commanders who fought alongside them. For example, the Romans permitted foreign armies to fight for them in return for money.
While they could accept meager pay than the local army, they had less commitment and loyalty to the empire. Moreover, the loyalty which had developed among the citizens also weakened. In the past, both empires cared so deeply about its population.
Lack of unity was also a major problem of the two empires. Because of their hugeness, efficient skills of administration and organizing the entire empire was a challenge. For example, despite being resolute fighters, Mongols had insufficient administration skills.
They entrusted administration to outsiders who had little loyalty to the empire12. What is more, inept and corrupt in the administration often contributed to rebellions in some parts of the empire.
Rebellions had some repercussions for the empire because it made the empire lose the control of the newly conquered lands. With a decentralized administration, Romans problems were even more. Decentralization hampered the consolidation of power in the whole empire.
Though the Mongol empire had a strong economy supported by trading activities, the Roman economy was weak. The hostile tribes, the pirates along the coastal cities disrupted trade. Besides, the scarcity of gold and silver led to inflation because these resources were needed for minting money.
Other problems included raising the taxes. High taxes created a burden to the people. Also, the agricultural sector experienced more problems. Yields in various parts of the empire were increasingly low, coupled with years of war which destroyed agricultural lands, a series of food shortages and population decline was the order of the day.
Allsen, Thomas T. Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251-1259.Carlifornia: University of California Press, 1987.
Bradley, Keith. Slavery and Society at Rome. London: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Burbank, Jane, Cooper Frederick. Empires in world history: power and the politics of difference. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010.
Burgan, Michael. Empire of the Mongols. New York: New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005
Halperin, Charles J. Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Wolfgang, Liebeschuetz.”The End of the Ancient City,” in The City in Late Antiquity. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001.
1 Thomas, Allsen T. Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251-1259.California: University of California Press, 1987, p.79
2 Jane, Burbank, Frederick Cooper. Empires in world history: power and the politics of difference. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 46
3 Thomas, Allsen T. Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251-1259.California: University of California Press, 1987, p.89
4 Jane, Burbank, Frederick Cooper. Empires in world history: power and the politics of difference. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010, 56
5 Michael, Burgan. Empire of the Mongols. New York: New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005, p. 162.
6 Michael, Burgan. Empire of the Mongols. New York: New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005, p. 169
7 Charles, Halperin J. Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985, p.163
8 Charles, Halperin J. Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985, p. 179
9 Liebeschuetz, Wolfgang.”The End of the Ancient City,” in The City in Late Antiquity. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001, p. 200
10 Keith, Bradley. Slavery and Society at Rome.London: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 208
11 Liebeschuetz, Wolfgang.”The End of the Ancient City,” in The City in Late Antiquity. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001, p. 200
12 Thomas, Allsen T. Mongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Möngke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251-1259.California: University of California Press, 1987, p.125