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If he is talking about ancient Greece, so no. Homosexuality was accepted and sometimes praised during the classical era in both Greece and Rome. So there is no casuality here unless teh gay causes both the rise and fall of civilizations that we claim as intellectual forefathers because the arabs copied their texts.

If anything it goes the other way, after accepting Christianity with its Mosaic sexual mores, Rome falls!

(No, I don't think there is a casuality there either.)

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 05:12:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're taking causality rather casually ;-)

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 05:29:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I do think there was a casuality: it's little remembered that the takeover of Athanasian Christianity ( = God is father-and-son; it turned into a Trinity later) in the 4th century went along with anti-Hellenic iconoclasm that extended to the destruction of baths (with effects on public hygiene) and libraries (with effects on technological prowess and the economy) and included insanely long fastenings. This peaked under the rule of the fanatic emperors Gratian and Theodosius I, after which both halves of the Empire were economically weakened and easy pickings for the invading barbarians. (By the time of Attila, the western half was de-facto ruled by Germanic kings and generals and the eastern half paid tributes.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 10:39:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the economic decline started earlier, during the Crisis of the Third Century. So I would rather say that the economic decline triggered reforms to shore up state power and the economic interests of the nobility at the expense of the general population. Diocletian's reforms tied the farmer to the soil and the craftsman to his craft as well as make the state more autocratic. He also made the hitherto most serious attempt at religious persecution to favor of his promotion of the Olympic pantheon across the Empire.

Constantine appears to have had a slightly different power base and replaced Olympic gods with Christianity as the dominant and domineering religion. Yes, Christianity had a special affection for dirtyness and hatred for libraries, but I suspect those meeting-places would have had to be dealt with in some way. Can't have uncontroled meetings taking place when you are establishing control to suck the masses dry.

So I would place Christianity as a consequence (with additional feedback) of the long economic decline that toppled the Roman Empire.

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 02:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The claim that the economic problems of the Crisis of the Third Century were the start of a long economic decline are in the entirely unsourced bulk of the English Wikipedia article. The much better sourced German version, or example, says that serious economic and trade problems were limited to certain regions, and financial problems (inflation and taxation) kicked in late. And there was recovery later:

Cornell Chronicle: Roman Empire's collapse has lessons for today

"The idea that you have people on the ground for the government to run efficiently is Diocletian's idea," Bowes said.

As the states grew, so did tax collection, which became an industry itself. Tax collecting was highly desirable as those involved skimmed off the top. People were encouraged to pay their taxes, because they hoped to be employed by the tax officials one day, according to Bowes.

As the government and the tax collectors became richer, so did the entire population, said Bowes, who was part of the Roman Peasant Project in Cinigiano, Tuscany, in collaboration with the Universita di Siena, which revealed that in the fourth century, the rural poor had far more consumer goods than in previous centuries.

"Somehow, even in a landscape not important to the empire, the money [was] trickling down," Bowes said.

She said her pick for the No. 2 Roman leader of all time is Diocletian's successor, Constantine: "He introduced the first gold standard," Bowes said. Previously, the values of the silver and gold coins in circulation played off each other, resulting in constant confusion over the worth of money.

"People had faith in money again," Bowes said, which led to the creation of the commodities market. "People [could] now produce agricultural surpluses whose value could be determined and be traded off of," she said. The end result was that "the fourth century was rich, rich, rich," Bowes said.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 07:29:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... that everything he lists as parts of the recovery are things that everybody else always lists as parts of the decline.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 10:06:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like Eurozone economic news for the past 3 years?

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 02:58:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am having a hard time finding decent online sources as most Google hits ends on sites that unsourced pushes their version. The topic is to wide to be covered by a phd thesis (which often can be found online) and the books I think we want - like Rich's The city in late antiquity and Rostovtzeff's The Economic and Social History of the Roman Empire - are found behind (sometimes dubious) paywalls.

On the limited topic of coin inflation I at least found this review of a scholarly work:

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.09.07

Finally, Duncan-Jones demonstrates clearly the process of debasement of the metal content of the coins, a process that went on in a virtually uniform trajectory from the later years of Nero's reign to the third century (see especially 230-231 tables 15.7 and 15.80. At the same time, due weight is given to variations in weight and quality that resulted entirely from technical limitations of ancient mensuration and quality control (238-247).

The Roman Peasant Project is interesting but appears (from tehir website) to be a rather limited ground to reject the standard historical narrative. If and when they have excavated more villages and can demonstrate patterns more clearly an interesting discussion will follow.

My impression of the standard historical narrative is that Diocletian's was a recovery of the Roman state, at the expense of its citizenry. The nobility (being the merging patrician and equestrian classes) got payed of from their formal loss of power by continued tax excemption, access to new positions in the state and improved relative position compared with the commoners. So the taxes landed heavily on cities and peasants. To prevent people running away the freedom of movement for labor was abolished.

The problems was more marked in the west as the it was the west that had suffered most from the invasions of the third century. So its cities and countryside was already poor, making Diocletian's taxes (in kind to avoid the consequences of inflation, which also means less transportable and thus more local power) harder to bear. Thus further de-urbanisation and expanse of estates as people escaped the unbearable taxes of the state for the slightly less unbearable fees of noble estates, also leading to more local power. In the end the Germanic invasions lessened the constraints on the commoners while taking over an already medieval social structure. And thus western Rome fell.

But back to topic, for eastern Rome Christianity appears a poor cause. Islam would fit better. Of course if you extend it to Third Rome you can say that socialism toppled it. And socialists being gay probably fits Serge Dassault's narrative.

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to include a link to these graphics from the university of Oregon. For those that prefer images in presentation of the standard narrative.

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 07:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
inflation

This should be an interesting point for ET. On one hand, does inflation equate economic decline? On the other hand, does the standard monetarist reading of Roman inflation add up? (Here is a critical analysis.)

The nobility (being the merging patrician and equestrian classes) got payed of from their formal loss of power by continued tax excemption

Do you have a source on this? From what I could find, Diocletian's tax reform actually reduced exemptions, privileges came later, and problems arose from another rule of his which the rich tried to escape:

  • The reform replaced ad-hoc requisition by marching armies with a regular system using tax collectors.
  • Italy was no more tax-exempt, only Rome.
  • The appointed tax collectors were local wealthy men, who were liable for tax not collected (see details here). So, I find, the theory goes, the depopulation of cities is connected to wealthy people's attempt to evade being appointed by moving to rural estates. (I wonder though how much the city exodus picture is based on the example of Rome itself, which also suffered decline due to the moving away of the imperial administration to new capitals in the East.)
  • The tax exemptions I could find evidence of were those for the Church, granted by Constantine I. Apparently, appointment as Church official became a popular way to evade appointment as tax collector, making Constantine to retract the exemptions.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:34:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
inflation

This should be an interesting point for ET. On one hand, does inflation equate economic decline? On the other hand, does the standard monetarist reading of Roman inflation add up? (Here is a critical analysis.)

Good questions. And good paper.

But in the standard historical narrative (as within the subject of history) the Roman inflation through debasement is mostly relevant as a sign (rather then a cuase) of an economic and political crisis. And it is not the only sign, for example from the paper you quoted, page 10, note 11: "For instance, the maintenance of the principal road network that was necessary to hold the empire together defensively and economically, was by and large left to lapse; and sea-born inter-regional trade seems to have experienced a downturn (Hopkins, 1980; Starr, 1982; Butcher, 1996)."

Also page 16, note 32: "32 On the basis of numismatic evidence, Hopkins (1980) suggests that at the time, the monetary unity of the Empire nearly disintegrated. In fact, he points to comparisons in the weight and fineness of first and second century coins from the city of Rome and the provinces, which reveal that provincial silver coins were cheapened roughly to the same extent as, and sometimes before, silver coins minted in the city of Rome, as is the case in a coordinated monetary policy. However, this is not the case with several series of the third century coins. Harl (1996) suggests that attempts were made to maintain uniformity in the 250s and 260s."

DoDo:

Do you have a source on this?

Checking old textbooks I started to wonder if I had added that myself (it is alluded to, but not mentioned). But I at least found an online-lecture, suggesting I can have picked it up on a lecture:

The Later Roman Empire | Lectures in Medieval History | Dr. Lynn Harry Nelson, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History, KU

3. Exempted senatorial class from taxation. The descendants of anyone who had served in the Roman Senate (a body that was restricted to the noble and wealthy) continued to hold hereditary senatorial status. Immune from taxation and many other expenses, the senatorial class held vast estates and were the richest class in Roman society. This meant that the full weight of the property tax fell on the small farmers and middle-class businessmen and artisans. The farmers who could not pay their taxes could be enslaved (along with their wives and children) and so gave their lands and their persons to local members of the senatorial class. In this way, they avoided taxes but lost their freedom, becoming tenant-farmers (coloni).

But otherwise, if the nobility reasserted itself in that aspect after Diocletian, that works too. Also Diocletian's edicts were not always followed through in a consistent manner. Anyway it is not like the nobility went poor or anything:

Roman equestrian order - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the late 4th and in the 5th century, therefore, the senatorial class at Rome and Byzantium became the closest equivalent to the equo publico equestrian class of the early Principate. It contained many ancient and illustrious families, some of whom claimed descent from the aristocracy of the Republic, but had, as described, lost almost all political and military power.[85] Nevertheless, senators retained great influence due to their enormous inherited wealth and their role as the guardians of Roman tradition and culture.[86]

Centuries of capital accumulation, in the form of vast landed estates (latifundia) across many provinces resulted in enormous wealth for most senators. Many received annual rents in cash and in kind of over 5,000 lbs of gold, equivalent to 360,000 solidi (or 5 million Augustan-era denarii), at a time when a miles (common soldier) would earn no more than 4 solidi a year in cash. Even senators of middling wealth could expect an income 1,000-1,500 lbs of gold.[87]

The 4th century historian Ammianus Marcellinus, a former high-ranking military staff-officer who spent his retirement years in Rome, bitterly attacks the Italian aristocracy, denouncing their extravagant palaces, clothes, games and banquets and above all their lives of total idleness and frivolity.[88] In his words can be heard the contempt for the senatorial class of a career-soldier who had spent his lifetime defending the empire, a view clearly shared by Diocletian and his Illyrian successors. But it is the latter who reduced the aristocracy to that state, by displacing them from their traditional role of governing the empire and leading the army.[89]

(Sources unfortunately offline, so I can't check them. Except Ammianus Marcellinus)

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:13:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If and when they have excavated more villages and can demonstrate patterns more clearly an interesting discussion will follow.

Agreed, on the other hand, I wonder what evidence the standard narrative has. I mean, as it is in the Wikipedia article, language like the following is pure narrative:

These changes were not restricted to the third century, but took place slowly over a long period, and were punctuated with many temporary reversals. However, in spite of extensive reforms by later emperors, the Roman trade network was never able to fully recover to what it had been during the Pax Romana (27 B.C.--A.D. 180) of the first century A.D.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:43:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aye, there is the rub.

I still suspect finding Rostovtzeff's The Economic and Social History of the Roman Empire is the key. It is often referenced, and appears to be a cornerstone in the understanding of the time. Like in the review I mentioned:

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.09.07

The economy of the Roman empire remains endlessly fascinating, not least because of the broad range of evidence that can be summoned to testify. We are still very far from the day when someone will be able to write the book to replace Michael Rostovtzeff's classic but long outdated The Economic and Social History of the Roman Empire, but whoever does will owe a great debt to the work of Richard Duncan-Jones, to which Money and Government is a fitting new contribution.


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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the subject of coin debasement, debasement of the metal content of coins is not necessarily indicative of inflation. It could also be indicative of price stability in a growing economy with fixed metal supplies, or a monetization of the economy under fixed metal supplies. Inflation is price increases measured in the unit of account. If the unit of account is "weight of silver" then debasement of the currency would be associated with inflation. But if the unit of account is "coin of the realm," then the silver content of those coins matters not at all to the question of inflation.

Typically, there would be three levels of economic activity in pre-modern times: Local rural activity, which was almost purely barter and credit based, with no monetary transactions to speak of. Urban production and long distance trade within the same jurisdiction, where the coin of the realm is used, and international trade, where precious metals was frequently used. Computing the rate of inflation under such a diverse mix of units of account is a decidedly non-trivial (and highly political) exercise even with access to modern comprehensive trade and price data. You can fuggetabout doing it for the Roman empire.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 01:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't need the rate of inflation to have an inkling that inflation during the third century looked little like inflation during the first and second.

The paper DoDo linked uses soldier wages to get some grasp. The annual wage for a legionaire during different emperors (table 1, page 13)

Augustus (27 B.C. - A.D. 14) 150 → 225
Commodus (180-92) 300, 375
Septimius Severus (193-211) 400, 450, 500, 600
Caracalla (211-17) 600, 675, 750, 900
Maximinus Thrax (235-38) 1200, 1350, 1800
Diocletian (284-305) 7500, 12400

Using Egyptian wheat prices (table 2) they estimate annual price increases of wheat at 8-9% during the last half of the third century compared to around 1% in the two preceeding centuries.

JakeS:

On the subject of coin debasement, debasement of the metal content of coins is not necessarily indicative of inflation. It could also be indicative of price stability in a growing economy with fixed metal supplies, or a monetization of the economy under fixed metal supplies.

Which is probably what we see during a large period of the debasement (this is also argued by the authors of said paper, in contrast with the common view of a prolonged inflation), while the radical debasement in the second half of the third century was connected with inflation. That inflation presented a problem to the Roman state as its taxes were collected in fixed sums. The inflation was also a symptom of larger political problems that were probably driving down the amount of goods.

Same paper (p29):

It would appear that at the time, devastations caused by civil wars and foreign in-vasions (which led to loss of production, infrastructure, and the decline in inter-regional trade), along with a rise in barter practices, adversely affected the physical volume of transactions, T. This development would have certainly stimulated price increases, within the Equation of Exchange framework. Other factors that could have further boosted price increases are (a) an increase in the velocity of circulation, a slight or modest rise of which is conceivable; and/or (b) an influx of currency (by the Government or rival governments), which has to be explained in terms of (i) pay-rises, (ii) pay-compensations for equal reductions in provisions in kind, (iii) an expan-sion in the numbers of administrative staff, (iv) an expansion in the size of the army. Of these, item (i) is unattested, (ii) and (iii) seem unlikely during the climax of political instability/anarchy, and (iv) is plausible (even somewhat attractive) in that it allows for Diocletian to have found a larger-than- usual standing army instead of nearly doubling it (alluded in footnote 38). In short, we propose that the price increase that transpired a few decades prior to the reign of Diocletian ought to be attributed to a decline in T, and, perhaps (unmeasured, though conceivable) rises in V and M.

They also argue that Diocletian might have triggered 100% inflation in a year by doubling the value of the coins. This being the grounds for his largely failed price edict.

By and large, I think treating Roman inflation as an economic issue misses the political side. The realm was being torn asunder, this had effects on the coins of the realm.

Also to add to my theory about Christianity (which is btw not a part of the standard historical narrative) some link I followed noted that Constantine and his successors got a lot of the silver and gold they minted from the pagan temples they closed. So maybe Christianity was a good religion to embrace partly because of its relative lack of precious metals?

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by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 04:10:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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