social hierarchy of a civilization refers to a
system in which people are put at various several examples of the
social hierarchy in some of the ancient civilizations, the highest
rank at the top of the table:
can see that the social hierarchy in the different ancient civilizations
was fairly similar-the people were generally divided into 4 social
classes, the nobles and priests being of the highest rank while
the slaves and outcasts being of the lowest. The nobles and priests
enjoyed higher status since they were important rulers of the country
and leaders of the society. For instance in Mesoamerica, it is known
that the high priests acted as advisors to the lords and nobles
in the ruling of the country. In India, the priests were very important
people, even more important than the kings and nobles as they were
the only ones who could read and memorize the Vedas, which were
great poems or hymns sung in praise of the Gods, and perform religious
The slaves and outcasts were placed at the bottom of the social
ladder, since they were either prisoners of war, convicts, no-pay
laborers, people who took on jobs that no one else wanted to do
or simply servants to the rich and nobles. In the ancient civilizations
such as India and Mesoamerica, the slaves were despised by all.
Fa-Hie, a Chinese traveler who came to India during the rule of
the guptas, mentioned that the outcasts lived in separate parts
of the village and that their presence was regarded as a form of
pollution to the environment!
is interesting to note however, that the slaves in ancient Rome
were very much differently treated from those in India and Mesoamerica.
They, in contrast, possessed certain rights such as the right to
get married and were given a lot of freedom. Some of the household
slaves who were educated Greek prisoners-of-war served as tutors
for the children of the Romans and were even regarded as friends!
In fact, there was a Spartan joke which said that, it was impossible
to tell the difference between a slave and a Roman citizen in the
streets of Athens!
In between the 2 classes that have been mentioned above, we have
the rest of the people of the country who possessed various jobs
such as merchants, craftsmen and farmers. They were the ones who
contributed largely to the economic and cultural well being of the
today's society, the division of social classes still exists. However,
we are more generally grouped into 4 social classes: the upper class,
the working class, the middle class and the underclass. This method
of classification is based on wealth occupation rather than on the
traditional ranking. The upper class consists of the rich and wealthy
who are able to enjoy a much higher living standard than the rest
of the community. The working class is mainly made up of workers
in factories and industries, who cannot survive without a salary
and own few properties. The middle class consists of white-collar
professionals like lawyers, doctors and teachers who enjoy a reasonable
standard of living. The underclass are mainly the poor and unemployed,
who are dependent on the country to provide them the basic needs
of life. They are usually the ones who suffer from discrimination
since they are regarded as useless and a burden to the society.
Now, would one prefer the ancient social division or the present
one? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these 2 systems
of social classification? Or are they similar in any way? Is there
a better way in which the society should be grouped instead?
Social Division of the Shang society was simple and well-defined.