Themes in ap world History



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Example:

  1. Under both the Han and Roman empires

    1. imperial roads were connected to the Silk Roads

    2. new territories were added to the empires

    3. a time of peace settled over both empires

    4. enduring cultural traditions were established

    5. all of the above.

Knowing a combination of specific characteristics and the significance of classical

civilizations would lead you to the correct answer choice (e).
10. Belief Systems and Religions of the Classical Period

Religious beliefs had an enormous impact on the political and social structures of classical civilizations. Moreover, religious beliefs helped define the cultural characteristics of these civilizations. An intimate knowledge of the fundamental beliefs, the impact of those beliefs on society, and the spread of these beliefs is required of AP World History students




  1. Polytheism

    • characteristic of early agricultural (River Valley) civilizations and Classical Mediterranean religions

    • animism: form of polytheism in which gods/goddesses are found in naturally occurring objects (trees, stones, plants); characteristic of African and Polynesian religions

2. Hinduism

    • developed from the literature/oral traditions of the Aryans in present-day India

    • no single founder

    • polytheistic: many gods, principle gods were Vishnu (provider) and Shiva (destroyer)

    • Brahmins were priests, at the top of social structure

    • Brahama = divine essence; meaningful life is union with Brahma through reincarnation (this is called moksha and means the soul no longer experiences suffering)

    • karma = a person’s good and bad deeds; determines form of reincarnation

    • dharma = moral code to guide life and actions

    • worship of cattle as sacred (housing reincarnated souls); consumption of beef forbidden

    • Significance: religious beliefs reinforced caste system, strengthened patriarchy by stressing obligations to community and family; beliefs continue to influence Indian society today

    • Spread: Hindu beliefs spread along the Silk Roads and to Southeast Asia via Indian Ocean trade

3. Buddhism

  • developed by Sidartha Gautama and his followers in Northeastern India in the mid 500’s BCE; “Buddha” = the enlightened one, but NOT a deity

  • Similar to Hinduism: relief from worldly suffering through the union of soul with divine spirit (nirvana); belief in reincarnation

  • Departures from Hindu beliefs: stressed equal treatment of all people (therefore opposed to caste system)

  • Ideas of equality appealed especially to those of the lower classes

  • Spread: Buddhist monasteries established along trade routes; monks and nuns hosted travelers and spread beliefs; Mauryan emperor Ashoka promoted Buddhism after he converted

  • Significance: Buddhism achieved widespread popularity, especially in East and Southeast Asia, although it lost popularity in India itself; offered an alternative to Hinduism for those in the lower castes, providing these people with hope for a better life in the future

4. Confucianism

  • Emerged during the Era of Warring States (between Zhou and Qin dynasties)

  • Kung Fu-tse (Confucius): Chinese scholar and philosopher who studied the literature of the Zhou period and developed a theory of how to establish stability in China

  • Confucius taught that good, stable government depended on educated civil servants and adherence to virtue; specifically stressed a series of patriarchal relationships such as obedience and loyalty to the emperor, filial piety and veneration of ancestors

  • Followers recorded Confucius’ teachings in the Analects, which became the basis of the program of study for those wishing to enter China’s bureaucracy (after the Han established the civil service examinations)

  • Significance: Confucius’ teachings became the cornerstone of Chinese tradition and culture; civil service examinations provided a greater level of competency among government employees; Confucianism supported autocratic government in China and preserved patriarchal social structures/gender roles; continues to have an influence in much of East Asia today

  • Spread: although Confucianism remains primarily a Chinese belief system, elements of Confucianism have been adopted in areas that fell under Chinese control (such as Korea and Vietnam) or in areas that imported heavily from Chinese culture (such as Japan)

  1. Daoism

    • Emerged during the Era of Warring States (between Zhou and Qin dynasties)

    • Lao-zi (Lao-tsu) = founder of philosophy

    • Philosophy: balance in nature (yin and yang) is preferable; human understanding of nature and harmonious balance achieved by following “the Way” (the life force found in nature)

    • Political affiliations: Daoism, in stark contrast to Confucianism, teaches that political activism and education are not necessary to harmony in nature because the natural flow of events would resolve problems

    • Significance: the Chinese adapted some Daoist principles to fit with Confucianism to reinforce ideas about responsibility for the community and the importance of meditation; ideas have influence on modern pop-culture (the Force, in Star Wars)

    • Spread: Daoism, like Confucianism, remains primarily a Chinese belief system, however, elements of Daoism have been adopted in areas that fell under Chinese control (such as Korea and Vietnam) or in areas that imported heavily from Chinese culture (such as Japan)

  2. Judaism

    • ~2000 BCE: migration of Abraham from Mesopotamia to Canaan; followers called Hebrews

    • Monotheistic: the first people to have a monotheistic religion; have a covenant in which Yahweh is their god and Jews are his followers; history recorded in Torah (Hebrew scriptures, Old Testament of Christian Bible)

    • History: migration out of Canaan to Egypt (famine?); enslaved by Egyptians; exodus and freedom from slavery led by Moses; receipt of the Ten Commandments as law for the Jews; return to Canaan (Palestine) and establishment of theocracy (rule by religious leaders); establishment of Kingdom of Israel under Saul; Jerusalem becomes capital of Israel under David; kingdom weakens under Solomon (taxes); division of Israel into two kingdoms, Israel (North) and Judah (South); Northern kingdom fell to Assyrians, 722 BCE, leading to first Jewish diaspora; Southern kingdom fell to Babylonians (Chaldeans) in 586 BCE and Jews taken into captivity in Babylon; Persian invasion led by Cyrus the Great led to renewed freedom for Jews; Jews return to Palestine, which remains under Persian control until becoming a part of the Roman empire (province of Judea, 63 BCE); 132 CE: rebellion of Jews against Romans led to second diaspora

    • Spread: Followers of Judaism did not try to convert others to their religion

    • Significance: first monotheistic religion; foundation for future monotheistic religions of Christianity and Islam; pattern of persecution against Jewish people continues even today

  3. Christianity

    • 4-6 BCE: birth of Jesus Christ, believed Messiah prophesized by Jewish faith

    • History: Jesus, as an adult, traveled around Judea, accompanied by 12 disciples, preaching forgiveness of sins; called the Christ = “anointed”; Jesus’ teachings perceived as a threat to Jewish and Roman authority in the region; trial and execution of Jesus; resurrection of Jesus and foundation of Christianity as followers of Jesus traveled the Roman empire spreading Jesus’ message; accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings found in New Testament of Christian Bible

    • Spread: missionaries used Roman roads to spread the message of Jesus; religion spread rapidly throughout the empire, although for the first few hundred years it was not openly tolerated; as Christianity gained popularity, Roman Emperors accepted its existence and later emperors even converted, establishing Christianity as the official religion of the Empire; after the collapse of the western half of the empire, Christianity spread further north in Europe and East into Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Russia

    • Significance: Christianity continues to have an enormous influence on Western Culture and is considered one of the West’s most important cultural heirlooms from Roman times; Christianity had wide appeal among the poor and among women because its stress on the concept of equality in faith; served as a unifying force among Europeans after the fall of the Roman Empire; earliest organized Christianity in the form of Catholicism, which had a significant influence on Medieval and Early Modern European rulers





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