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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
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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."


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
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