Throughout the course of my studies in the field of history, I have found, as have many others, that there are definitely more interesting and less interesting portions pertaining to history. There are, however, perhaps two empires in history that have broken this rule, that have entire histories that I can consider to be simply fascinating throughout their existences; these are perhaps the Han dynasty of China, and the Roman empire. Hence my excitement when my history professor posed the following question to my class and myself as an essay assignment: "Were the reasons for the collapse of the Roman and Han empires similar or different?" Although this question could be simply answered, in order to fully understand any answer that would be given, it is almost assuredly necessary to discuss the reasons for the falls of both the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty. I will do that in this essay; this essay will attempt to discuss the reasons for the falls of both empires, in the hopes of answering the question posed to me with the best of my ability.

The first empire that we will discuss is China under Han rule, or, if you prefer, the Han dynasty of China. Although there were many smaller reasons for the collapse of the Han dynasty in China, what can be considered to be possibly the best way to summarize these is to generalize them into three major topics, instead of several minor topics. The first of these topics to discuss can be described as problems that the leaders could not solve. Another reason for the collapse would be peasant rebellions. Both of those are major reasons for the collapse of the Han Empire, or rather, the Han dynasty.
The first problem or reason for the collapse of the Han dynasty that we will discuss is problems that it's leaders could not solve. This is because the collapse of the Han dynasty can mostly be pinned on internal problems that the leaders themselves could not solve. One such problem was caused by the marriage of imperial family members to members of aristocratic families, which, in turn, led to many private, power-seeking factions of people. The members of each of these groups all sought personal advancement within the imperial government, which led to quite a bit of internal strife, thus somewhat reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the central government. Another problem that the leaders of the Han dynasty could not solve was in regards to the distribution, or, rather, the equitable distribution of land amongst the Chinese citizens. That is to say, in the later two centuries of the Han dynasty (after the reign of the usurper, Wang Mang), the efforts of the early Hans towards the semi- equalized distribution of land were all but lost, leaving China with several large land holders; these men gained a great influence in the government, somehow managing to reduce their share of taxes, thereby shifting the burden to the peasants. Going one step further, these men even managed to form private armies, in order to further promote the interests of their class.
The second problem, or rather, reason for the fall of the Han dynasty that will be discussed are the peasant rebellions, which were, in fact, mainly caused by the situations described in the preceding paragraph. The previous paragraph discussed the fact that the wealthy owners of large amounts of land had great influence in the government, and shifted a great tax burden to the peasants. As is to be expected, this caused great civil unrest amongst the members of the lower class, or, the peasants. This is because they were constantly finding themselves under increasing economic pressure because of these things, and they had no means of influencing the government. One such rebellion was the Yellow Turban Rebellion of 184 C.E. The rebellion was called as such because the massive group of peasants that partook in it wore, as the name of the rebellion tells you, yellow turbans, which are said to have represented the color of the Chinese earth, in addition to representing and reminding them of their peasantry. Although the government put down this rebellion, it left the imperial government weak.
By 190 C.E., the emperor had lost nearly all ability to govern the empire. That is to say, although he did rule officially, power truly belonged to the three generals who had proclaimed themselves as warlords. This essentially left the emperor on the throne, but only as a puppet to the aforementioned power-holding warlords. Despite these facts, or perhaps because of them, the generals accepted and recognized the Han emperor for a short time. However, in 220 C.E., they broke the empire into three of their own kingdoms, thereby disestablishing the Han dynasty.
Those are the reasons for the fall of the Han Empire, or, rather, the Han dynasty in China.

Next, we will discuss the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire, which are as, if not more numerous than those of the reasons for the fall of the Han dynasty. Perhaps what can be considered to be one of the big reasons for the decline and then the collapse of the Roman Empire is its immensity. However, what would prove to be an even larger problem would lie within the ranks of the Germanic peoples. These reasons, in addition to several others, were the reasons for the downfall of the Roman Empire, and show that reasons for the fall of the empire were both internal and external.
The first few things that we will be discussing in regards to the Roman Empire have to do with, and are part of, the internal decay of the Roman Empire. In fact, internal problems explain quite a lot within the fall of the empire. Take, for instance, the 26 men who became known collectively as the Barracks emperors. They are called by this name because they rose through the ranks of and came from the military. From 235 - 284 C.E., each of these men had claimed the Roman imperial throne, only to be temporarily replaced a short time later by a rival or his own mutinous troops. As it is, all except one of these men were violently overthrown and killed for their throne, the exceptional man being believed to have died of natural causes.
Apart from these facts, the Roman Empire also faced a great deal of problems simply because of the vast expanse of its land. Even when the emperor could expect large revenues and surpluses from the highly productive regions of the empire, and could even count on highly disciplined troops, the extensive empire still caused great problems for central governors. Also, after the third century, epidemics began to spread throughout the empire. And, the various regions of the empire began to move to local and self-sufficient economies. Because of these things, the empire became ever-increasingly unmanageable.
The emperor Diocletian, who ruled the empire from 284 - 305 C.E., tried to fix the problem of the empire's manageability by dividing the empire into two separated governmental districts, or, portions; there was an eastern portion, which embraced the wealthy lands of Syria, Egypt, Anatolia, and Greece; the western portion included Italy, Gaul, Spain, Britain, and north Africa. A co-emperor and his lieutenant ruled each district. These four people, collectively known as the tetrarchs, could, theoretically, rule the empire with a greater efficiency than a single emperor. While Diocletian was co-emperor, there was a general order and a quick response to military threats. However, these reforms encouraged ambition in the co-rulers and their generals. Therefore, when Diocletian retired from power in 305 C.E., those ambitions led to internal struggles and civil war.
The man who emerged out of this Civil war as the victor was Constantine, son of one of the tetrarchs, who claimed the throne of the entire Roman Empire for himself in 306 C.E., reuniting the two districts of the empire after approximately 22 years of division into two districts. Defeating most of his enemies and opposition by 313 C.E., he overcame his last rival in 324 C.E. He ordered the city of Constantinople to be built on the Bosporous strait, and it became the capital of the Roman Empire in 340 C.E. Despite these things and his ability to rule, Constantine and his successors found that the reunion of the empire brought them the same problems that Diocletian had, and temporarily fixed, until his reign had ended.
The remaining reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire come externally. The Germanic people, most notably, the Visigoths, had lived on the Roman border since around the 2nd century C.E. Drawing great amounts of inspiration from the Romans, the Visigoths adopted agriculture; they adapted Roman laws to fit their society; they converted to Christianity and translated the bible into their own language. In addition, they also contributed many soldiers to the Roman army. Despite all of these things, the Romans encouraged the Visigoths and other Germanic peoples not to settle within Roman borders, so as they could act as buffer societies on imperial borders. Although this did not seem to be a problem at the time, it would, eventually, prove to be one of the major pitfalls of the Roman Empire.
During the 4th century C.E., the relationship between the Visigoths and the Romans changed when the Huns began a westward migration into Visigoth territory. In the middle of the 5th century C.E., Atilla (the military and political leader of the Huns) gathered the Huns into a nearly unstoppable juggernaut of an army. Under his leadership, the Huns had invaded Hungary, in addition to attacking Gaul, northern Italy, Roman frontiers in the Balkans, and Germanic peoples living on Rome's border. However, Atilla had not created political institutions or a state structure. Because of this, the Huns pretty much disappeared as a military and political force after he died, in 453 C.E.
Despite that fact, because of immense pressure that had already been placed on them by the Huns, the Germanic peoples had already begun to stream en bloc into the Roman Empire, even before Atilla's death. Once inside the borders, they met little resistance, and, as such, settled in the less densely populated areas of the empire, such as Gaul, Britain, Italy, Spain, and North Africa. Then, in 410 C.E., under the command of a man named Alaric, the Visigoths invaded and sacked the city of Rome. 66 years later, in 476 C.E., the Germanic general Odovacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, thereby ending Roman imperial authority in the western half of the empire. Thus we had the aforementioned Germanic invasions, and the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the eastern half surviving for another millennium as the Byzantine Empire.

Now that we have fully discussed the reasons for the decline of both the Roman and Han empires (or, dynasty, in the case of the Hans), it is now possible to fully answer the question that was posed to me, "Were the reasons for the collapse of the Roman and Han empires similar or different?" To simply answer this question, the reasons for the collapse of the Roman and Han empires are remarkably similar, but the actual collapse of the empires themselves were quite different. However, to simply answer this question is not enough - I must explain to you why this is so. Obviously, I must first explain why, or rather, what, the similarities between the reasons for the collapse of both empires were; and I must explain second my statement regarding the differences between the actual collapses of the empires.
The reasons for the fall of both empires are remarkably similar to each other, which, when studied carefully, can be proven relatively easily. Firstly, both empires can place a great amount of the blame for their fall on internal strife. For the Han dynasty, this was caused by the marriage between members of imperial and aristocratic families, in addition to the inequitable distribution of land and economic pressure placed upon the peasants. In Rome, internal strife and decay can be seen with the Barracks emperors and the death of Diocletian, which caused civil war (which can also be called by "division", which is essentially what happened to Han China after the death of the last Han emperor). Also, both empires had great civil unrest by the end of their existence, perhaps best shown by peasant rebellion; the best examples of which lie in the Yellow Turban rebellion in China, and elsewhere in time for the Roman Empire. In addition to these similarities, both empires were recipients of epidemics, which certainly did help in the downfall of the empires by decreasing their populations. This is why the reasons for the downfall of the Roman and Han empires are similar, even remarkably so.
However, I also mentioned that the actual downfalls of the empires themselves were quite different from one another. The best example of this lies in the fact that whereas the entirety of Han China was separated into three different portions when it was ended, the Roman empire was not entirely disintegrated, only the western half of it. Another example can be said to be found in the fact that Romans remained fully in control of their empire. However, whereas the last person to hold power in Han China was a Han emperor, he did not hold real power, he was only a puppet of the three warlord-generals. That is how the actual downfalls of the empires were different, in spite of the fact that the reasons for the downfalls were remarkably similar.

At this point, we have seen the reasons for the downfall of the Roman Empire, and we have seen the reasons for the decline of the Han dynasty. Because of this, we have also seen that the reasons for the downfalls of both empires are remarkably similar to each other, and we have seen why. When taken into a broader sense, we can see that these two societies' downfalls, or rather, the reasons for their downfall, follow the same pattern that every society throughout the course of human history has followed. Even if the exact details are not the same, every society has gone through the same exact pattern. Therefore, because of the remarkable similarities between the reasons for the fall of the Hans, Romans, and every other society in history, I conclude by urging all readers of this essay to take heed of these patterns that have been followed, and to take action to keep their own government from falling into the ruts that history's wagon has left in the roads of time.