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Unit 1: Redefining World Society and Culture

Lesson C: Rise and Fall of the Classical and Medieval World

Lesson Overview

Empires rise and fall. Throughout history, different empires have controlled different parts of the world. These empires normally gained power through a superior army and powerful rulers. Early empires, such as the Roman Empire and Han Empire, established the concept of what is meant by an "empire." Empires control large areas of land and institute their own system of political control. At its height, the Roman Empire controlled most of Europe and the Mediterranean world and the Han Empire controlled large parts of East Asia. As time went on, these empires declined and were replaced by other empires. Many empires, such as the Mongol and various Islamic empires, ruled over diverse populations, but they created systems to rule efficiently over these large and diverse empires.

map of the roman empire and the han empire at their heights

The Roman Empire and Han Empire at Their Heights [1]

Key Questions

  1. How and why do empires emerge?
  2. How and why do empires fall?
  3. How were Islamic empires able to rule effectively over diverse empires?
  4. How do I analyze and understand secondary sources?

Student Outcomes

  1. Compare the rise of empires such as the Aztecs and Incas in the Americas, the Gupta in India, the Sudanic states in Africa, the Byzantine in Europe, and the Tang and Song in China.
  2. Analyze Arab Muslim success in founding an empire stretching from Western Europe to India and China and describe the diverse religious, cultural, and geographic factors that influenced the ability of the Muslim government to rule.
  3. Compare the concept of empire building, found within the Islamic empires in Western Europe, India, and China with the Mongol empires of China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and Southwest Asia, including the effects on diverse cultures within these empires.
  4. Analyze various causes that historians have proposed to account for the decline of empires, such as the Roman, Han, Mauryan, and Mayan empires.
  5. Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues, as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend regional and temporal boundaries. (Historical Thinking Skill)

Key Terms

Student Resources

Chart of Activities

Activities to Complete Estimated Time
5 minutes
Key Terms
5 minutes
Activator: The World - Ancient to 1300s
5 minutes
Opening: Classical and Medieval Empires
15 minutes
Activity 1: Understanding the Concept and Foundation of Empires
15 minutes
Activity 2: Rise of Empires
30 minutes
Activity 3: Secondary Sources
10 minutes
Activity 4: Check for Understanding – Types of Sources
10 minutes
Activity 5: Examining Secondary Sources
10 minutes
Activity 6: Diversity in the Islamic Empire
20 minutes
Activity 7: Islamic Empires Assessment
5 minutes
Activity 8: The Mighty Will Fall
20 minutes
Review and Assessment
20 minutes
Lesson Summary
5 minutes

Lesson Completion Time

The total estimated time to complete this lesson is 175 minutes.

Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RomanandHanEmpiresAD1.png has been modified and is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution. Attribution: Gabagol.