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Old July 30th, 2010, 06:13 AM   #61
Black Cat
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Thanks Eddard for your latest installment.

I'm interested to better understand the nature of the Roman Empire in its late classical stage, particularly from an economic perspective. Perhaps you could expand on your comments from an earlier installment?

"The Empire of the 4th century was much different from the one of the second century.

Some examples? no legions clad in red. But several "units" with a much larger use of cavalry. The roman empire was becoming "medieval". If you also see the architecture of 4th century roman empire it looks like the medieval architecture (romanic in particular)

But archeological findings and the size itself of cities and cultivated areas suggests now that the empire of 4th century was actually richer and more populous than the one of the II century, the golden age of the roman empire."
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Old July 30th, 2010, 04:04 PM   #62
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Thanks Eddard for your latest installment.

I'm interested to better understand the nature of the Roman Empire in its late classical stage, particularly from an economic perspective. Perhaps you could expand on your comments from an earlier installment?

"The Empire of the 4th century was much different from the one of the second century.

Some examples? no legions clad in red. But several "units" with a much larger use of cavalry. The roman empire was becoming "medieval". If you also see the architecture of 4th century roman empire it looks like the medieval architecture (romanic in particular)

But archeological findings and the size itself of cities and cultivated areas suggests now that the empire of 4th century was actually richer and more populous than the one of the II century, the golden age of the roman empire."
Basically the empire of late antiquity - late antiquity being the period that follows the "military caos" of the III century and that, for most historians, lasts at least till the arab invasions of the VII century - has been reassesed by historians. Conclusions are not - of course - universal but there is a new tendency among historians

Archeological findings suggests most Roman cities where actually larger in the IV century than in the II. Agricolture - thanks to more extensive excavations that interested in the last decades the non-hurban areas of the empire - have shown that the area cultivated in most of the empire - except a few more dangerous areas on the borders - actually grew

How can we explain this from an economical point of view?

The III century was for the empire for sure a period of crisis. The empire was shaken by revolts, invasions and a general anarchy.

However at the end of the century a string of very effective emperors - from Aurelianus to Diocletianus, the importance of the latter could never be underestimated - rejuvenated the empire much more than previously thought. The new military system based on the new strategic review which abandoned the legionary system, the new political system of the division of the empire in two halves, the economical reforms of the Diocletian era brought stability, a state which was much more autoritarian and a general economic development

But probably that's not enough. What probably happened was that the neighbours of the empire got richer.

Take the Germans: their material life got much more sophisticated from the II to the IV century. Than they were living in tribal areas and most people were equals and with equal material living. In the IV century Germans had kings - often - and always a nobility which demanded some important items from the empire and traded with it. This was true for Germans, Sarmats and all other people close or even pretty far from the empire.

Also the Persian empire had a considerable growth in the period between the Parthian and the Persian empire, consideribly growing in power and - we assume - economical wealth. Also trade with this empire had to be growing.

Probably the empirial economy become a "luxury" industrial powerhouse for all the people living on its borders, which were becoming less "barbaric".

This "export" boom together with availability of once closed raw material markets - the baltic for example - could very well have triggered a period of economic growth for the empire which lasted all the way to the Gothic wars of the late IV and early V century
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 05:37 AM   #63
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I came across an interesting account about changes to the currency and taxes during late roman times, and the presumed impact on society.

The conclusion comments "...The early 5th century Christian priest Salvian of Marseille wrote an account of why the Roman state was collapsing in the West — he was writing from France (Gaul). Salvian says that the Roman state is collapsing because it deserves collapse; because it had denied the first premise of good government, which is justice to the people.

By justice he meant a just system of taxation. Salvian tells us, and I don't think he's exaggerating, that one of the reasons why the Roman state collapsed in the 5th century was that the Roman people, the mass of the population, had but one wish after being captured by the barbarians: to never again fall under the rule of the Roman bureaucracy.

In other words, the Roman state was the enemy; the barbarians were the liberators. And this undoubtedly was due to the inflation of the 3rd century. While the state had solved the monetary problem for its own constituents, it had failed to solve it for the masses. Rome continued to use an oppressive system of taxation in order to fill the coffers of the ruling bureaucrats and soldiers..."

For the article, see "Inflation and the Roman Empire", by Joseph Peden, 2009: http://mises.org/daily/3663
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Old August 5th, 2010, 01:38 PM   #64
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I came across an interesting account about changes to the currency and taxes during late roman times, and the presumed impact on society.

The conclusion comments "...The early 5th century Christian priest Salvian of Marseille wrote an account of why the Roman state was collapsing in the West — he was writing from France (Gaul). Salvian says that the Roman state is collapsing because it deserves collapse; because it had denied the first premise of good government, which is justice to the people.

By justice he meant a just system of taxation. Salvian tells us, and I don't think he's exaggerating, that one of the reasons why the Roman state collapsed in the 5th century was that the Roman people, the mass of the population, had but one wish after being captured by the barbarians: to never again fall under the rule of the Roman bureaucracy.

In other words, the Roman state was the enemy; the barbarians were the liberators. And this undoubtedly was due to the inflation of the 3rd century. While the state had solved the monetary problem for its own constituents, it had failed to solve it for the masses. Rome continued to use an oppressive system of taxation in order to fill the coffers of the ruling bureaucrats and soldiers..."

For the article, see "Inflation and the Roman Empire", by Joseph Peden, 2009: http://mises.org/daily/3663
It is interesting, however a little bit seen I believe with modern time point of view.

It's true taxation and freedom declined in the III century. The cause was the existential threat of Persia. Rome had to adapt to the new enemy.

It is not true the army of the IV century was larger than the one of the II. It actually was probably smaller. The reason of this error is that often historians which do not know much about Roman Military believe the legions of the IV century were similar to the one of classical Rome. They were not, they were much smaller and divided into small units. Most of the "comitatensis" were paid actually very little as they were sort of peasant-soldiers at the border of the empire and not a mobile force.

That said, the scenes of roman peasants going for the barbarians are true only for the last years of the empire. Why?

The Empire after Stilico had an enormous problem: a lot of barbarians within its borders which both posed a big threat to the existence of the empire and at the same time - unlike in the past - were occupying territory which did not send taxes to Rome anymore.

This is true - let's remember - only for the V century, and only after the capture of Africa from the Vandals (in the thirties of the V century) the situation become dramatic.

The empire had basically more enemy than before and less (by 450 much less) taxes. So it tried to survive squeazing everyone - the ruling class included - in order to have the fund to survive, soldier on and reconquer the lost territories.

Alas, it did not happen. But we cannot blame the Magister Militum ruling the empire in the V century (the position of emperor was largely cerimonial) for trying

But before those fatal years (406-410) the Empire was largely intact and - even if transformed - the population was completely loyal to the state. An example? When the romans (after the disaster of 410) had to recall troops from Roman Britannia the Roman citizen there kept organizing themselves like Romans and sent many missions to Ravenna begging the empire to take them back in the fold.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 02:43 AM   #65
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It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which the Romans were more advanced than their illiterate Dark Ages successors. The conversion of heathen Europe to Christianity saw a restoration of literacy and a basic level of civilization to Europe (a conversion programme organised from Rome, of course). However it wasn't until the gothic cathedrals of the C12th, that Europe's architecture recovered the level of sophistication last seen under Rome. It wasn't until the C15th and the Voyages of Discovery, that Europe's scientific knowledge advanced upon that of the Greeks and Romans (and in other areas, such as surgery, it was still centuries behind), and it wasn't until the late C19th or even C20th that Europe's standards of water provision, sanitation, sewerage, etc regained the level of the Romans, who used to bathe several times a day and who piped in fresh water on amazing aqueducts from clean sources beyond the city. Likewise the quality of Roman roads were not matched until the C20th. Awesome civilization....





And here is an awesome video of ancient Rome:
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Old August 9th, 2010, 09:47 AM   #66
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Very nice thanks!

There is thought a basic mistake in the video: now we know all those white columns were actually painted. The Roman (and Greek) cities were much more colorful than we usually imagine
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Old August 9th, 2010, 12:45 PM   #67
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The capitals and frieze were painted, not the whole building.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 09:45 PM   #68
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A great book too read on the subject is The Fall of the Roman Empire, by Peter Heather.

Its a cracking review over the fall of the empire, if anyone is interested in learning more on the subject. But I have to say allot of the views in the book have already been covered in the thread....
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Old August 10th, 2010, 05:09 PM   #69
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The capitals and frieze were painted, not the whole building.
also the columns

And the statues

And almost surely also some/most of the buildings
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Old August 10th, 2010, 05:10 PM   #70
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b the way if anyone is interested I can write another chapter about the fall of the Roman Empire. After Stilicone, it's the time of the next general which saved the empire at the beginning of the V century: Flavius Costantius
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Old August 10th, 2010, 09:42 PM   #71
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Columns covered in reliefs such as the Trajan column were painted, but temple columns were not.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 08:25 AM   #72
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also the columns

And the statues

And almost surely also some/most of the buildings
They would have generally been painted like this.



Paint was used to bring out the fine sculpture work, but not to cover everything.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 12:04 AM   #73
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They would have generally been painted like this.



Paint was used to bring out the fine sculpture work, but not to cover everything.
This is a Greek temple

Romans apparently liked something more Hollywood-style

But it's not 100% sure yet, only a few columns have been found with some traces of painting
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Old August 15th, 2010, 11:45 PM   #74
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Please keep up your installments Eddard. I'm reading the Peter Heather book at the moment, & yes, the column capitals of the Parthenon were painted as can be seen in the British Museum. The Roman temple fronts are believed to have also been painted with a somewhat gaudy paint scheme too. I have read that the Greeks painted their sculptures and the painters were as revered as the carving work, though we see little of this today except on smaller statues.
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