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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
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