Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Development of Leaders in Ancient China, Rome, and Persia

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Development of Leaders in Ancient China, Rome, and Persia

Article excerpt


Each society holds a unique perspective of leadership and the goal of education in producing leaders. Education has played a critical role in developing leaders in both ancient China (Feudal Age, 1500 BCE - 221 BCE and the First Empire 221 BCE - 221 CE) and ancient Rome (Republican Rome, 509 BCE - 27 BCE and the early Roman Empire, 27 BCE - 285 CE) as the production of leaders was the primary purpose of education under each regime. Ancient Chinese educational philosophy was single-mindedly geared toward enlightening students to the wisdom of the ages because they believed that, through this enlightenment, great leaders were created. The ancient Roman system, in contrast, moved from an initial disdain for formal teaching to valuing schools of rhetoric and law in support of the Roman conception of the orator as the ideal leader. The author concludes that a uniformity of mission, culture, and leadership education contributed to the longevity of the Chinese system of government just as dissonance between these elements contributed to the eventual collapse of the Roman Empire. Comparing the above with the Persian system of education for leadership, the author uses the history of ancient Persia (6000 BCE - 651 CE).


Ancient China and ancient Rome were two great, yet strikingly different civilizations. This article explores the philosophies and systems of education used by each of these remarkable societies to obtain their leaders. The goal of this article is to provoke insight into the systems each civilization designed to produce its leaders in the hope of revealing, in part at least, sources of the peerless longevity of the Chinese system and possible problems contributing to the fall of the Roman Empire. The time periods examined were from the later Chou Dynasty (Feudal Age, 1500 BCE - 221 BCE to the First Empire (Ch'in and Han Dynasty, 221 BCE - 221 CE) in China and from Republican Rome (509 BCE1 - 27 BCE) through the early Roman Empire (27 BCE - 285 CE).

First, this article introduces a detailed understanding of how each society viewed the role of education in developing bureaucrats. Following this analysis, the approaches of these two ancient empires are compared and the effectiveness of each system for grooming officials is discussed. The author concludes by comparing the leadership education of ancient China and Rome with that of the Persian Empire (6000 BCE - 651CE).


While an evolution of the Chinese system of education is evident, throughout history Chinese educational philosophy showed a remarkable consistency of purpose. The ancient Chinese demonstrated an exceptional loyalty to the teachings of their great philosophic masters and this loyalty was strongly reflected in their educational methods.

This section will first explore the educational philosophy underlying the ancient Chinese system then present an overview of the educational system itself and look at the reasoning behind the educational focus chosen. Finally, one aspect of the education system, the civil service examinations, will be explored.

Educational Philosophy of Ancient China

The ancient Chinese educational philosophy was primarily rooted in the teachings of Confucius (551 BCE - 478 BCE). The ancient Chinese believed that education should be based on morality and used the Confucian concept of the "Golden Mean" as the centerpiece of their educational thought. Confucius' concept of the "Golden Mean" states that individuals should subscribe to the laws of propriety, meaning that people should avoid all excesses and extreme passions. In elaborating on the "Golden Mean," Confucius introduced the doctrine of the "superior man" who represented the best in education (Mayer, 1960). Confucius believed that a "superior man" would be eager to learn but would not impose his opinions upon others and would be willing to accept the opinions of others without anger and violence. …

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