Attitudes Towards Technology in the Han and Roman Empires
Attitudes Towards Technology in the Han and Roman Empires DBQ 2 Technology is always changing. New ideas are being introduced, and innovations to current technologies are always taking place. Some may see changes in technology as a vital and helpful thing, while others may oppose. Upperclassmen’s attitudes toward technology, especially advancements within technology, in the Han Empire, were very approving and encouraging. In the Roman Empire, the majority of upperclassmen’s attitudes toward technology were very supportive, as long as the technology or advancement was invented by someone of a highly philosophical mind.
Roman upperclassmen in general had positive attitudes towards technology, as well as innovations in technology. Some higher classmen, however, looked highly upon themselves, and felt like anything not originating from their minds or hands was below them.
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Some philosophers had the attitude that anything they did not invent was only mediocre and sufficient, instead of excellent and great. (Doc. 7) Along with that, some upper class political leaders believed that it was vulgar and degrading of any man to be employed in any field of labor. Doc. 5) I placed these documents in a group together because of the fact that both of the authors of the documents had extremely opinionated outlooks on technology formed by lower classmen. Both authors stated in their documents that anything created by a lower classman was only mediocre in comparison to improvements in technology created by a higher classman like a philosopher. Therefore, their attitudes toward technology was positive… as long as it was created by a man higher up in society.
In Document 7, an upper-class Roman philosopher and adviser to Emperor Nero named Seneca expresses that any tools created by men who are not philosophers are mediocre and insignificant. His point of view is that he feels that the minds that did create the current technological advances in tools were nimble and sharp, but not great nor elevated. His attitude towards these breakthroughs in technology are this way because of his role in society. He is a philosopher, so it his is of his role to think with an abstract mind, imagining things from an “outside of the box” type of erspective. Because philosophers are trained to think this way, they would be able to create tools and new innovations in technology that could completely change how technology was viewed, leading their empires to greater and greater heights. But because of the lack of training and experience in abstract thought, he felt that normal men would tend to come up with good tools that were well built and could assist them in their day-to-day lives, but nothing groundbreaking that could have everyone captivated and amazed like “great and elevated minds” like his could invent.
While some Roman upper class members liked only the technology invented and improved by elevated minds, that wasn’t the case for all of Rome. A Roman political leader named Gaius Gracchus set up a new system of road building, paying equal attention to the functionality and the appearance of the roads. He helped travelers keep track of distance by measuring out every mile and placing a column there. As well as the columns, Gracchus placed large stones on either sides of the road at lesser intervals, so it would be easier for those who road horses to mount them. (Doc. 6) Another brilliant advancement in technology was the aqueducts.
Six of the aqueducts flowed into covered containers. Then, the volume was measured by means of calibrated scales. The use of the water was not only used for what was needed, but the water was also utilized for pleasure purposes. (Doc. 8) I grouped these two documents together since they both displayed advancements in technology without being discriminatory against those who were in lower classes. Because they both show the advancements in technology, it is evident that the attitude toward technology was extremely positive. (Doc. 7) members of the Han Empire accepted and embraced new technologies.
In fact, many government officials often implemented new ideas in their societies. For example, Tu Shih, who was the governor of Nanyang, invented a water-powered blowing-engine for the casting of iron agricultural implements that allowed people to enjoy great benefit for little labor. Not only has his invention been widely used, but it has also been adopted and innovated by those who use it. (Doc. 4) Fuxi, though only a mythological emperor, was said to have invented the pestle and the mortar. Throughout the years, his invention was cleverly improved in such a way that the ending benefit was increased a hundredfold. (Doc. ) There were times, as well, when government officials wrote to local officials describing exactly what needed to be done to assist in current problems. Though the government officials came up with such an in-depth plan and strategy, the local officials ultimately made the final call, tailoring the governmental plan to fit the individuality of each town. (Doc. 1) I grouped these documents together because they all involve a leader inventing something, with lower classmen innovating the invention. This proves that the Han Empire had a positive attitude about technology, and were still completely open to the aspects of change and advancements.
In Document 3, an upper-class Han philosopher named Huan Tan expresses, with great enthusiasm, his point of view of the evolution of the pestle and the mortar throughout the years. In the document, it goes in depth describing all of the innovations and advancements the pestle and the mortar have gone through. This exemplifies the fact that Huan Tan’s attitude towards innovations in technology was devoutly positive. In Document 3, Huan Tan conveys the story of how Fuxi, who, though mythological, was an emperor, created something, which was improved by regular commoners.
This shows that unlike the Roman philosopher in Document 7, Huan Tan shows no discrimination against the lower classes. He does not feel that in order for truly excellent work, you must have a philosopher title. He understands that ordinary people can be the most brilliant at times, and finds the entire concept of advancement in technology astounding. An additional document I feel would be beneficial in helping to convey my thesis would be a journal entry from the point of view of a Han Peasant, depicting their attitude towards the new advancements in technology.
This is needed because every document we were given was written from the perspective of an upperclassmen. In order to more accurately answer the question, I feel like we should have an understanding of every socioeconomic class. I also think that in order to more efficiently analyze Document 2, we need a comparison with the journal entry from a Han Peasant. Because Document 2 talks about how individual family’s tools were better than the government-made ones were, I think that a journal entry explaining their thoughts on family-made tools versus the government-made tools would help give a better understanding of the document.