It is in the sixth century of the city that we first find materials for a history of the times exhibiting in some measure the mutual connection of events; and it is in that century also that the economic condition of Rome emerges into view more distinctly and clearly. It is at this epoch that the wholesale system, as regards both the cultivation of land and the management of capital, becomes first established under the form, and on the scale, which afterwards prevailed; although we cannot exactly discriminate how much of that system is traceable to earlier precedent, how much to an imitation of the methods of husbandry and of speculation among peoples that were earlier civilized, especially the Phoenicians, and how much to the increasing mass of capital and the growth of intelligence in the nation. A summary outline of these economic relations will conduce to a more accurate understanding of the internal history of Rome.
Roman husbandry(1) applied itself either to the farming of estates, to the occupation of pasture lands, or to the tillage of petty holdings. A very distinct view of the first of these is presented to us in the description given by Cato.
Farming of Estates
The Roman land-estates were, considered as larger holdings, uniformly of limited extent. That described by Cato had an area of 240 jugera; a very common measure was the so-called -centuria- of 200 -jugera-. Where the laborious culture of the vine was pursued, the unit of husbandry was made still less; Cato assumes in that case an area of 100 -jugera-. Any one who wished to invest more capital in farming did not enlarge his estate, but acquired several estates; accordingly the amount of 500 -jugera-,(2) fixed as the maximum which it was allowable to occupy, has been conceived to represent the contents of two or three estates.
Management of the Estate
Object of Husbandry
The heritable lease was not recognised in the management of Italian private any more than of Roman public land; it occurred only in the case of the dependent communities. Leases for shorter periods, granted either for a fixed sum of money or on condition that the lessee should bear all the costs of tillage and should receive in return a share, ordinarily perhaps one half, of the produce,(3) were not unknown, but they were exceptional and a makeshift; so that no distinct class of tenant-farmers grew up in Italy.(4) Ordinarily therefore the proprietor himself superintended the cultivation of his estates; he did not, however, manage them strictly in person, but only appeared from time to time on the property in order to settle the plan of operations, to look after its execution, and to audit the accounts of his servants. He was thus enabled on the one hand to work a number of estates at the same time, and on the other hand to devote himself, as circumstances might require, to public affairs.
The grain cultivated consisted especially of spelt and wheat, with some barley and millet; turnips, radishes, garlic, poppies, were also grown, and—particularly as fodder for the cattle—lupines, beans, pease, vetches, and other leguminous plants. The seed was sown ordinarily in autumn, only in exceptional cases in spring. Much activity was displayed in irrigation and draining; and drainage by means of covered ditches was early in use. Meadows also for supplying hay were not wanting, and even in the time of Cato they were frequently irrigated artificially. Of equal, if not of greater, economic importance than grain and vegetables were the olive and the vine, of which the former was planted between the crops, the latter in vineyards appropriated to itself.(5) Figs, apples, pears, and other fruit trees were cultivated; and likewise elms, poplars, and other leafy trees and shrubs, partly for the felling of the wood, partly for the sake of the leaves which were useful as litter and as fodder for cattle. The rearing of cattle, on the other hand, held a far less important place in the economy of the Italians than it holds in modern times, for vegetables formed the general fare, and animal food made its appearance at table only exceptionally; where it did appear, it consisted almost solely of the flesh of swine or lambs. Although the ancients did not fail to perceive the economic connection between agriculture and the rearing of cattle, and in particular the importance of producing manure, the modern combination of the growth of corn with the rearing of cattle was a thing foreign to antiquity. The larger cattle were kept only so far as was requisite for the tillage of the fields, and they were fed not on special pasture-land, but, wholly during summer and mostly during winter also, in the stall Sheep, again, were driven out on the stubble pasture; Cato allows 100 head to 240 -jugera-. Frequently, however, the proprietor preferred to let his winter pasture to a large sheep-owner, or to hand over his flock of sheep to a lessee who was to share the produce, stipulating for the delivery of a certain number of lambs and of a certain quantity of cheese and milk. Swine—Cato assigns to a large estate ten sties—poultry, and pigeons were kept in the farmyard, and fed as there was need; and, where opportunity offered, a small hare-preserve and a fish-pond were constructed—the modest commencement of that nursing and rearing of game and fish which was afterwards prosecuted to so enormous an extent.
Means of Husbandry
The labours of the field were performed by means of oxen which were employed for ploughing, and of asses, which were used specially for the carriage of manure and for driving the mill; perhaps a horse also was kept, apparently for the use of the master. These animals were not reared on the estate, but were purchased; oxen and horses at least were generally castrated. Cato assigns to an estate of 100 -jugera- one, to one of 240 -jugera- three, yoke of oxen; a later writer on agriculture, Saserna, assigns two yoke to the 200 -jugera-. Three asses were, according to Cato's estimate, required for the smaller, and four for the larger, estate.
The human labour on the farm was regularly performed by slaves. At the head of the body of slaves on the estate (-familia rustica-) stood the steward (-vilicus-, from -villa-), who received and expended, bought and sold, went to obtain the instructions of the landlord, and in his absence issued orders and administered punishment. Under him were placed the stewardess (-vilica-) who took charge of the house, kitchen and larder, poultry-yard and dovecot: a number of ploughmen (-bubulci-) and common serfs, an ass-driver, a swineherd, and, where a flock of sheep was kept, a shepherd. The number, of course, varied according to the method of husbandry pursued. An arable estate of 200 -jugera- without orchards was estimated to require two ploughmen and six serfs: a similar estate with two orchards two plough-men and nine serfs; an estate of 240 -jugera- with olive plantations and sheep, three ploughmen, five serfs, and three herdsmen. A vineyard naturally required a larger expenditure of labour: an estate of 100 -jugera- with vine-plantations was supplied with one ploughman, eleven serfs, and two herdsmen. The steward of course occupied a freer position than the other slaves: the treatise of Mago advised that he should be allowed to marry, to rear children, and to have funds of his own, and Cato advises that he should be married to the stewardess; he alone had some prospect, in the event of good behaviour, of obtaining liberty from his master. In other respects all formed a common household. The slaves were, like the larger cattle, not bred on the estate, but purchased at an age capable of labour in the slave-market; and, when through age or infirmity they had become incapable of working, they were again sent with other refuse to the market.(6) The farm- buildings (-villa rustica-) supplied at once stabling for the cattle, storehouses for the produce, and a dwelling for the steward and the slaves; while a separate country house (-villa urbana-) for the master was frequently erected on the estate. Every slave, even the steward himself, had all the necessaries of life delivered to him on the master's behalf at certain times and according to fixed rates; and upon these he had to subsist. He received in this way clothes and shoes, which were purchased in the market, and which the recipients had merely to keep in repair; a quantity of wheat monthly, which each had to grind for himself; as also salt, olives or salted fish to form a relish to their food, wine, and oil. The quantity was adjusted according to the work; on which account the steward, who had easier work than the common slaves, got scantier measure than these. The stewardess attended to all the baking and cooking; and all partook of the same fare. It was not the ordinary practice to place chains on the slaves; but when any one had incurred punishment or was thought likely to attempt an escape, he was set to work in chains and was shut up during the night in the slaves' prison.(7)
Ordinarily these slaves belonging to the estate were sufficient; in case of need neighbours, as a matter of course, helped each other with their slaves for day's wages. Otherwise labourers from without were not usually employed, except in peculiarly unhealthy districts, where it was found advantageous to limit the amount of slaves and to employ hired persons in their room, and for the ingathering of the harvest, for which the regular supply of labour on the farm did not suffice. At the corn and hay harvests they took in hired reapers, who often instead of wages received from the sixth to the ninth sheaf of the produce reaped, or, if they also thrashed, the fifth of the grain: Umbrian labourers, for instance, went annually in great numbers to the vale of Rieti, to help to gather in the harvest there. The grape and olive harvest was ordinarily let to a contractor, who by means of his men—hired free labourers, or slaves of his own or of others— conducted the gleaning and pressing under the inspection of some persons appointed by the landlord for the purpose, and delivered the produce to the master;(8) very frequently the landlord sold the harvest on the tree or branch, and left the purchaser to look after the ingathering.
Spirit of the System
The whole system was pervaded by the utter regardless-ness characteristic of the power of capital. Slaves and cattle stood on the same level; a good watchdog, it is said in a Roman writer on agriculture, must not be on too friendly terms with his "fellow- slaves." The slave and the ox were fed properly so long as they could work, because it would not have been good economy to let them starve; and they were sold like a worn-out ploughshare when they became unable to work, because in like manner it would not have been good economy to retain them longer. In earlier times religious considerations had here also exercised an alleviating influence, and had released the slave and the plough-ox from labour on the days enjoined for festivals and for rest.(9) Nothing is more characteristic of the spirit of Cato and those who shared his sentiments than the way in which they inculcated the observance of the holiday in the letter, and evaded it in reality, by advising that, while the plough should certainly be allowed to rest on these days, the slaves should even then be incessantly occupied with other labours not expressly prohibited. On principle no freedom of movement whatever was allowed to them—a slave, so runs one of Cato's maxims, must either work or sleep—and no attempt was ever made to attach the slaves to the estate or to their master by any bond of human sympathy. The letter of the law in all its naked hideousness regulated the relation, and the Romans indulged no illusions as to the consequences. "So many slaves, so many foes," said a Roman proverb. It was an economic maxim, that dissensions among the slaves ought rather to be fostered than suppressed. In the same spirit Plato and Aristotle, and no less strongly the oracle of the landlords, the Carthaginian Mago, caution masters against bringing together slaves of the same nationality, lest they should originate combinations and perhaps conspiracies of their fellow-countrymen. The landlord, as we have already said, governed his slaves exactly in the same way as the Roman community governed its subjects in the "country estates of the Roman people," the provinces; and the world learned by experience, that the ruling state had modelled its new system of government on that of the slave-holder. If, moreover, we have risen to that little-to-be-envied elevation of thought which values no feature of an economy save the capital invested in it, we cannot deny to the management of the Roman estates the praise of consistency, energy, punctuality, frugality, and solidity. The pithy practical husbandman is reflected in Cato's description of the steward, as he ought to be. He is the first on the farm to rise and the last to go to bed; he is strict in dealing with himself as well as with those under him, and knows more especially how to keep the stewardess in order, but is also careful of his labourers and his cattle, and in particular of the ox that draws the plough; he puts his hand frequently to work and to every kind of it, but never works himself weary like a slave; he is always at home, never borrows nor lends, gives no entertainments, troubles himself about no other worship than that of the gods of the hearth and the field, and like a true slave leaves all dealings with the gods as well as with men to his master; lastly and above all, he modestly meets that master and faithfully and simply, without exercising too little or too much of thought, conforms to the instructions which that master has given. He is a bad husbandman, it is elsewhere said, who buys what he can raise on his own land; a bad father of a household, who takes in hand by day what can be done by candle-light, unless the weather be bad; a still worse, who does on a working-day what might be done on a holiday; but worst of all is he, who in good weather allows work to go on within doors instead of in the open air. The characteristic enthusiasm too of high farming is not wanting; and the golden rules are laid down, that the soil was given to the husbandman not to be scoured and swept but to be sown and reaped, and that the farmer therefore ought first to plant vines and olives and only thereafter, and that not too early in life, to build himself a villa. A certain boorishness marks the system, and, instead of the rational investigation of causes and effects, the well-known rules of rustic experience are uniformly brought forward; yet there is an evident endeavour to appropriate the experience of others and the products of foreign lands: in Cato's list of the sorts of fruit trees, for instance, Greek, African, and Spanish species appear.
Husbandry of the Petty Farmers
The husbandry of the petty farmer differed from that of the estate- holder only or chiefly in its being on a smaller scale. The owner himself and his children in this case worked along with the slaves or in their room. The quantity of cattle was reduced, and, where an estate no longer covered the expenses of the plough and of the yoke that drew it, the hoe formed the substitute. The culture of the olive and the vine was less prominent, or was entirely wanting.
In the vicinity of Rome or of any other large seat of consumption there existed also carefully-irrigated gardens for flowers and vegetables, somewhat similar to those which one now sees around Naples; and these yielded a very abundant return.
Pastoral husbandry was prosecuted on a great scale far more than agriculture. An estate in pasture land (-saltus-) had of necessity in every case an area considerably greater than an arable estate—the least allowance was 800 -jugera- —and it might with advantage to the business be almost indefinitely extended. Italy is so situated in respect of climate that the summer pasture in the mountains and the winter pasture in the plains supplement each other: already at that period, just as at the present day, and for the most part probably along the same paths, the flocks and herds were driven in spring from Apulia to Samnium, and in autumn back again from Samnium to Apulia. The winter pasturage, however, as has been already observed, did not take place entirely on ground kept for the purpose, but was partly the grazing of the stubbles. Horses, oxen, asses, and mules were reared, chiefly to supply the animals required by the landowners, carriers, soldiers, and so forth; herds of swine and of goats also were not neglected. But the almost universal habit of wearing woollen stuffs gave a far greater independence and far higher development to the breeding of sheep. The management was in the hands of slaves, and was on the whole similar to the management of the arable estate, the cattle-master (-magister pecoris-) coming in room of the steward. Throughout the summer the shepherd-slaves lived for the most part not under a roof, but, often miles remote from human habitations, under sheds and sheepfolds; it was necessary therefore that the strongest men should be selected for this employment, that they should be provided with horses and arms, and that they should be allowed far greater freedom of movement than was granted to the slaves on arable estates.
Competition of Transmarine Corn
In order to form some estimate of the economic results of this system of husbandry, we must consider the state of prices, and particularly the prices of grain at this period. On an average these were alarmingly low; and that in great measure through the fault of the Roman government, which in this important question was led into the most fearful blunders not so much by its short-sightedness, as by an unpardonable disposition to favour the proletariate of the capital at the expense of the farmers of Italy. The main question here was that of the competition between transmarine and Italian corn. The grain which was delivered by the provincials to the Roman government, sometimes gratuitously, sometimes for a moderate compensation, was in part applied by the government to the maintenance of the Roman official staff and of the Roman armies on the spot, partly given up to the lessees of the -decumae- on condition of their either paying a sum of money for it or of their undertaking to deliver certain quantities of grain at Rome or wherever else it should be required. From the time of the second Macedonian war the Roman armies were uniformly supported by transmarine corn, and, though this tended to the benefit of the Roman exchequer, it cut off the Italian farmer from an important field of consumption for his produce. This however was the least part of the mischief. The government had long, as was reasonable, kept a watchful eye on the price of grain, and, when there was a threatening of dearth, had interfered by well-timed purchases abroad; and now, when the corn-deliveries of its subjects brought into its hands every year large quantities of grain—larger probably than were needed in times of peace—and when, moreover, opportunities were presented to it of acquiring foreign grain in almost unlimited quantity at moderate prices, there was a natural temptation to glut the markets of the capital with such grain, and to dispose of it at rates which either in themselves or as compared with the Italian rates were ruinously low. Already in the years 551-554, and in the first instance apparently at the suggestion of Scipio, 6 -modii- (1 1/2 bush.) of Spanish and African wheat were sold on public account to the citizens of Rome at 24 and even at 12 -asses- (1 shilling 8 pence or ten pence). Some years afterwards (558), more than 240,000 bushels of Sicilian grain were distributed at the latter illusory price in the capital. In vain Cato inveighed against this shortsighted policy: the rise of demagogism had a part in it, and these extraordinary, but presumably very frequent, distributions of grain under the market price by the government or individual magistrates became the germs of the subsequent corn-laws. But, even where the transmarine corn did not reach the consumers in this extraordinary mode, it injuriously affected Italian agriculture. Not only were the masses of grain which the state sold off to the lessees of the tenths beyond doubt acquired under ordinary circumstances by these so cheaply that, when re-sold, they could be disposed of under the price of production; but it is probable that in the provinces, particularly in Sicily—in consequence partly of the favourable nature of the soil, partly of the extent to which wholesale farming and slave-holding were pursued on the Carthaginian system(10)—the price of production was in general considerably lower than in Italy, while the transport of Sicilian and Sardinian corn to Latium was at least as cheap as, if not cheaper than, its transport thither from Etruria, Campania, or even northern Italy. In the natural course of things therefore transmarine corn could not but flow to the peninsula, and lower the price of the grain produced there. Under the unnatural disturbance of relations occasioned by the lamentable system of slave-labour, it would perhaps have been justifiable to impose a duty on transmarine corn for the protection of the Italian farmer; but the very opposite course seems to have been pursued, and with a view to favour the import of transmarine corn to Italy, a prohibitive system seems to have been applied in the provinces—for though the Rhodians were allowed to export a quantity of corn from Sicily by way of special favour, the export of grain from the provinces must probably, as a rule, have been free only as regarded Italy, and the transmarine corn must thus have been monopolized for the benefit of the mother-country.
Prices of Italian Corn
The effects of this system are clearly evident. A year of extraordinary fertility like 504—when the people of the capital paid for 6 Roman -modii- (1 1/2 bush.) of spelt not more than 3/5 of a -denarius- (about 5 pence), and at the same price there were sold 180 Roman pounds (a pound = 11 oz.) of dried figs, 60 pounds of oil, 72 pounds of meat, and 6 -congii- (= 4 1/2 gallons) of wine—is scarcely by reason of its very singularity to be taken into account; but other facts speak more distinctly. Even in Cato's time Sicily was called the granary of Rome. In productive years Sicilian and Sardinian corn was disposed of in the Italian ports for the freight. In the richest corn districts of the peninsula—the modern Romagna and Lombardy —during the time of Polybius victuals and lodgings in an inn cost on an average half an -as- (1/3 pence) per day; a bushel and a half of wheat was there worth half a -denarius- (4 pence). The latter average price, about the twelfth part of the normal price elsewhere,(11) shows with indisputable clearness that the producers of grain in Italy were wholly destitute of a market for their produce, and in consequence corn and corn-land there were almost valueless.
Revolution in Roman Agriculture
In a great industrial state, whose agriculture cannot feed its population, such a result might perhaps be regarded as useful or at any rate as not absolutely injurious; but a country like Italy, where manufactures were inconsiderable and agriculture was altogether the mainstay of the state, was in this way systematically ruined, and the welfare of the nation as a whole was sacrificed in the most shameful fashion to the interests of the essentially unproductive population of the capital, to which in fact bread could never become too cheap. Nothing perhaps evinces so clearly as this, how wretched was the constitution and how incapable was the administration of this so-called golden age of the republic. Any representative system, however meagre, would have led at least to serious complaints and to a perception of the seat of the evil; but in those primary assemblies of the burgesses anything was listened to sooner than the warning voice of a foreboding patriot. Any government that deserved the name would of itself have interfered; but the mass of the Roman senate probably with well-meaning credulity regarded the low prices of grain as a real blessing for the people, and the Scipios and Flamininuses had, forsooth, more important things to do—to emancipate the Greeks, and to exercise the functions of republican kings. So the ship drove on unhindered towards the breakers.
Decay of the Farmers
When the small holdings ceased to yield any substantial clear return, the farmers were irretrievably ruined, and the more so that they gradually, although more slowly than the other classes, lost the moral tone and frugal habits of the earlier ages of the republic It was merely a question of time, how rapidly the hides of the Italian farmers would, by purchase or by resignation, become merged in the larger estates.
Culture of Oil and Wine, and Rearing of Cattle
The landlord was better able to maintain himself than the farmer. The former produced at a cheaper rate than the latter, when, instead of letting his land according to the older system to petty temporary lessees, he caused it according to the newer system to be cultivated by his slaves. Accordingly, where this course had not been adopted even at an earlier period,(12) the competition of Sicilian slave-corn compelled the Italian landlord to follow it, and to have the work performed by slaves without wife or child instead of families of free labourers. The landlord, moreover, could hold his ground better against competitors by means of improvements or changes in cultivation, and he could content himself with a smaller return from the soil than the farmer, who wanted capital and intelligence and who merely had what was requisite for his subsistence. Hence the Roman landholder comparatively neglected the culture of grain—which in many rases seems to have been restricted to the raising of the quantity required for the staff of labourers(13)—and gave increased attention to the production of oil and wine as well as to the breeding of cattle. These, under the favourable climate of Italy, had no need to fear foreign competition; Italian wine, Italian oil, Italian wool not only commanded the home markets, but were soon sent abroad; the valley of the Po, which could find no consumption for its corn, provided the half of Italy with swine and bacon. With this the statements that have reached us as to the economic results of the Roman husbandry very well agree. There is some ground for assuming that capital invested in land was reckoned to yield a good return at 6 per cent; this appears to accord with the average interest of capital at this period, which was about twice as much. The rearing of cattle yielded on the whole better results than arable husbandry: in the latter the vineyard gave the best return, next came the vegetable garden and the olive orchard, while meadows and corn-fields yielded least.(14)
It is of course presumed that each species of husbandry was prosecuted under the conditions that suited it, and on the soil which was adapted to its nature. These circumstances were already in themselves sufficient to supersede the husbandry of the petty farmer gradually by the system of farming on a great scale; and it was difficult by means of legislation to counteract them. But an injurious effect was produced by the Claudian law to be mentioned afterwards (shortly before 536), which excluded the senatorial houses from mercantile speculation, and thereby artificially compelled them to invest their enormous capitals mainly in land or, in other words, to replace the old homesteads of the farmers by estates under the management of land- stewards and by pastures for cattle. Moreover special circumstances tended to favour cattle-husbandry as contrasted with agriculture, although the former was far more injurious to the state. First of all, this form of extracting profit from the soil—the only one which in reality demanded and rewarded operations on a great scale—was alone in keeping with the mass of capital and with the spirit of the capitalists of this age. An estate under cultivation, although not demanding the presence of the master constantly, required his frequent appearance on the spot, while the circumstances did not well admit of his extending the estate or of his multiplying his possessions except within narrow limits; whereas an estate under pasture admitted of unlimited extension, and claimed little of the owner's attention. For this reason men already began to convert good arable land into pasture even at an economic loss—a practice which was prohibited by legislation (we know not when, perhaps about this period) but hardly with success. The growth of pastoral husbandry was favoured also by the occupation of domain-land. As the portions so occupied were ordinarily large, the system gave rise almost exclusively to great estates; and not only so, but the occupiers of these possessions, which might be resumed by the state at pleasure and were in law always insecure, were afraid to invest any considerable amount in their cultivation—by planting vines for instance, or olives. The consequence was, that these lands were mainly turned to account as pasture.
Management of Money
We are prevented from giving a similar comprehensive view of the moneyed economy of Rome, partly by the want of special treatises descending from Roman antiquity on the subject, partly by its very nature which was far more complex and varied than that of the Roman husbandry. So far as can be ascertained, its principles were, still less perhaps than those of husbandry, the peculiar property of the Romans; on the contrary, they were the common heritage of all ancient civilization, under which, as under that of modern times, the operations on a great scale naturally were everywhere much alike. In money matters especially the mercantile system appears to have been established in the first instance by the Greeks, and to have been simply adopted by the Romans. Yet the precision with which it was carried out and the magnitude of the scale on which its operations were conducted were so peculiarly Roman, that the spirit of the Roman economy and its grandeur whether for good or evil are pre-eminently conspicuous in its monetary transactions.
The starting-point of the Roman moneyed economy was of course money-lending; and no branch of commercial industry was more zealously prosecuted by the Romans than the trade of the professional money-lender (-fenerator-) and of the money-dealer or banker (-argent arius-). The transference of the charge of the larger monetary transactions from the individual capitalists to the mediating banker, who receives and makes payments for his customers, invests and borrows money, and conducts their money dealings at home and abroad—which is the mark of a developed monetary economy—was already completely carried out in the time of Cato. The bankers, however, were not only the cashiers of the rich in Rome, but everywhere insinuated themselves into minor branches of business and settled in ever-increasing numbers in the provinces and dependent states. Already throughout the whole range of the empire the business of making advances to those who wanted money began to be, so to speak, monopolized by the Romans.
Speculation of Contractors
Closely connected with this was the immeasurable field of enterprise. The system of transacting business through mediate agency pervaded the whole dealings of Rome. The state took the lead by letting all its more complicated revenues and all contracts for furnishing supplies and executing buildings to capitalists, or associations of capitalists, for a fixed sum to be given or received. But private persons also uniformly contracted for whatever admitted of being done by contract—for buildings, for the ingathering of the harvest,(15) and even for the partition of an inheritance among the heirs or the winding up of a bankrupt estate; in which case the contractor—usually a banker—received the whole assets, and engaged on the other hand to settle the liabilities in full or up to a certain percentage and to pay the balance as the circumstances required.
The prominence of transmarine commerce at an early period in the Roman national economy has already been adverted to in its proper place. The further stimulus, which it received during the present period, is attested by the increased importance of the Italian customs-duties in the Roman financial system.(16) In addition to the causes of this increase in the importance of transmarine commerce which need no further explanation, it was artificially promoted by the privileged position which the ruling Italian nation assumed in the provinces, and by the exemption from customs-dues which was probably even now in many of the client-states conceded by treaty to the Romans and Latins.
On the other hand, industry remained comparatively undeveloped. Trades were no doubt indispensable, and there appear indications that to a certain extent they were concentrated in Rome; Cato, for instance, advises the Campanian landowner to purchase the slaves' clothing and shoes, the ploughs, vats, and locks, which he may require, in Rome. From the great consumption of woollen stuffs the manufacture of cloth must undoubtedly have been extensive and lucrative.(17) But no endeavours were apparently made to transplant to Italy any such professional industry as existed in Egypt and Syria, or even merely to carry it on abroad with Italian capital. Flax indeed was cultivated in Italy and purple dye was prepared there, but the latter branch of industry at least belonged essentially to the Greek Tarentum, and probably the import of Egyptian linen and Milesian or Tyrian purple even now preponderated everywhere over the native manufacture.
Under this category, however, falls to some extent the leasing or purchase by Roman capitalists of landed estates beyond Italy, with a view to carry on the cultivation of grain and the rearing of cattle on a great scale. This species of speculation, which afterwards developed to proportions so enormous, probably began particularly in Sicily, within the period now before us; seeing that the commercial restrictions imposed on the Siceliots,(18) if not introduced for the very purpose, must have at least tended to give to the Roman speculators, who were exempt from such restrictions, a sort of monopoly of the profits derivable from land.
Management of Business by Slaves
Business in all these different branches was uniformly carried on by means of slaves. The money-lenders and bankers instituted, throughout the range of their business, additional counting-houses and branch banks under the direction of their slaves and freedmen. The company, which had leased the customs-duties from the state, appointed chiefly its slaves and freedmen to levy them at each custom-house. Every one who took contracts for buildings bought architect-slaves; every one who undertook to provide spectacles or gladiatorial games on account of those giving them purchased or trained a company of slaves skilled in acting, or a band of serfs expert in the trade of fighting. The merchant imported his wares in vessels of his own under the charge of slaves or freedmen, and disposed of them by the same means in wholesale or retail. We need hardly add that the working of mines and manufactories was conducted entirely by slaves. The situation of these slaves was, no doubt, far from enviable, and was throughout less favourable than that of slaves in Greece; but, if we leave out of account the classes last mentioned, the industrial slaves found their position on the whole more tolerable than the rural serfs. They had more frequently a family and a practically independent household, with no remote prospect of obtaining freedom and property of their own. Hence such positions formed the true training school of those upstarts from the servile class, who by menial virtues and often by menial vices rose to the rank of Roman citizens and not seldom attained great prosperity, and who morally, economically, and politically contributed at least as much as the slaves themselves to the ruin of the Roman commonwealth.
Extent of Roman Mercantile Transactions
Coins and Moneys
The Roman mercantile transactions of this period fully kept pace with the contemporary development of political power, and were no less grand of their kind. Any one who wishes to have a clear idea of the activity of the traffic with other lands, needs only to look into the literature, more especially the comedies, of this period, in which the Phoenician merchant is brought on the stage speaking Phoenician, and the dialogue swarms with Greek and half Greek words and phrases. But the extent and zealous prosecution of Roman business-dealings may be traced most distinctly by means of coins and monetary relations. The Roman denarius quite kept pace with the Roman legions. We have already mentioned(19) that the Sicilian mints—last of all that of Syracuse in 542—were closed or at any rate restricted to small money in consequence of the Roman conquest, and that in Sicily and Sardinia the -denarius- obtained legal circulation at least side by side with the older silver currency and probably very soon became the exclusive legal tender. With equal if not greater rapidity the Roman silver coinage penetrated into Spain, where the great silver-mines existed and there was virtually no earlier national coinage; at a very early period the Spanish towns even began to coin after the Roman standard.(20) On the whole, as Carthage coined only to a very limited extent,(21) there existed not a single important mint in addition to that of Rome in the region of the western Mediterranean, with the exception of that of Massilia and perhaps also those of the Illyrian Greeks in Apollonia and Dyrrhachium. Accordingly, when the Romans began to establish themselves in the region of the Po, these mints were about 525 subjected to the Roman standard in such a way, that, while they retained the right of coining silver, they uniformly —and the Massiliots in particular—were led to adjust their —drachma— to the weight of the Roman three-quarter -denarius-, which the Roman government on its part began to coin, primarily for the use of Upper Italy, under the name of the "coin of victory" (-victoriatus- ). This new system, dependent on the Roman, not merely prevailed throughout the Massiliot, Upper Italian, and Illyrian territories; but these coins even penetrated into the barbarian lands on the north, those of Massilia, for instance, into the Alpine districts along the whole basin of the Rhone, and those of Illyria as far as the modern Transylvania. The eastern half of the Mediterranean was not yet reached by the Roman money, as it had not yet fallen under the direct sovereignty of Rome; but its place was filled by gold, the true and natural medium for international and transmarine commerce. It is true that the Roman government, in conformity with its strictly conservative character, adhered—with the exception of a temporary coinage of gold occasioned by the financial embarrassment during the Hannibalic war(22)—steadfastly to the rule of coining silver only in addition to the national-Italian copper; but commerce had already assumed such dimensions, that it was able even in the absence of money to conduct its transactions with gold by weight. Of the sum in cash, which lay in the Roman treasury in 597, scarcely a sixth was coined or uncoined silver, five-sixths consisted of gold in bars,(23) and beyond doubt the precious metals were found in all the chests of the larger Roman capitalists in substantially similar proportions. Already therefore gold held the first place in great transactions; and, as may be further inferred from this fact, in general commerce the preponderance belonged to that carried on with foreign lands, and particularly with the east, which since the times of Philip and Alexander the Great had adopted a gold currency.
The whole gain from these immense transactions of the Roman capitalists flowed in the long run to Rome; for, much as they went abroad, they were not easily induced to settle permanently there, but sooner or later returned to Rome, either realizing their gains and investing them in Italy, or continuing to carry on business from Rome as a centre by means of the capital and connections which they had acquired. The moneyed superiority of Rome as compared with the rest of the civilized world was, accordingly, quite as decided as its political and military ascendency. Rome in this respect stood towards other countries somewhat as the England of the present day stands towards the Continent—a Greek, for instance, observes of the younger Scipio Africanus, that he was not rich "for a Roman." We may form some idea of what was considered as riches in the Rome of those days from the fact, that Lucius Paullus with an estate of 60 talents (14,000 pounds) was not reckoned a wealthy senator, and that a dowry—such as each of the daughters of the elder Scipio Africanus received—of 50 talents (12,000 pounds) was regarded as a suitable portion for a maiden of quality, while the estate of the wealthiest Greek of this century was not more than 300 talents (72,000 pounds).
It was no wonder, accordingly, that the mercantile spirit took possession of the nation, or rather—for that was no new thing in Rome—that the spirit of the capitalist now penetrated and pervaded all other aspects and stations of life, and agriculture as well as the government of the state began to become enterprises of capitalists. The preservation and increase of wealth quite formed a part of public and private morality. "A widow's estate may diminish;" Cato wrote in the practical instructions which he composed for his son, "a man must increase his means, and he is deserving of praise and full of a divine spirit, whose account-books at his death show that he has gained more than he has inherited." Wherever, therefore, there was giving and counter-giving, every transaction although concluded without any sort of formality was held as valid, and in case of necessity the right of action was accorded to the party aggrieved if not by the law, at any rate by mercantile custom and judicial usage;(24) but the promise of a gift without due form was null alike in legal theory and in practice. In Rome, Polybius tells us, nobody gives to any one unless he must do so, and no one pays a penny before it falls due, even among near relatives. The very legislation yielded to this mercantile morality, which regarded all giving away without recompense as squandering; the giving of presents and bequests and the undertaking of sureties were subjected to restriction at this period by decree of the burgesses, and heritages, if they did not fall to the nearest relatives, were at least taxed. In the closest connection with such views mercantile punctuality, honour, and respectability pervaded the whole of Roman life. Every ordinary man was morally bound to keep an account-book of his income and expenditure—in every well-arranged house, accordingly, there was a separate account-chamber (-tablinum-)—and every one took care that he should not leave the world without having made his will: it was one of the three matters in his life which Cato declares that he regretted, that he had been a single day without a testament. Those household books were universally by Roman usage admitted as valid evidence in a court of justice, nearly in the same way as we admit the evidence of a merchant's ledger. The word of a man of unstained repute was admissible not merely against himself, but also in his own favour; nothing was more common than to settle differences between persons of integrity by means of an oath demanded by the one party and taken by the other—a mode of settlement which was reckoned valid even in law; and a traditional rule enjoined the jury, in the absence of evidence, to give their verdict in the first instance for the man of unstained character when opposed to one who was less reputable, and only in the event of both parties being of equal repute to give it in favour of the defendant.(25) The conventional respectability of the Romans was especially apparent in the more and more strict enforcement of the rule, that no respectable man should allow himself to be paid for the performance of personal services. Accordingly, magistrates, officers, jurymen, guardians, and generally all respectable men entrusted with public functions, received no other recompense for the services which they rendered than, at most, compensation for their outlays; and not only so, but the services which acquaintances (-amici-) rendered to each other—such as giving security, representation in lawsuits, custody (-depositum-), lending the use of objects not intended to be let on hire (-commodatum-), the managing and attending to business in general (-procuratio-)—were treated according to the same principle, so that it was unseemly to receive any compensation for them and an action was not allowable even where a compensation had been promised. How entirely the man was merged in the merchant, appears most distinctly perhaps in the substitution of a money-payment and an action at law for the duel —even for the political duel—in the Roman life of this period. The usual form of settling questions of personal honour was this: a wager was laid between the offender and the party offended as to the truth or falsehood of the offensive assertion, and under the shape of an action for the stake the question of fact was submitted in due form of law to a jury; the acceptance of such a wager when offered by the offended or offending party was, just like the acceptance of a challenge to a duel at the present day, left open in law, but was often in point of honour not to be avoided.
One of the most important consequences of this mercantile spirit, which displayed itself with an intensity hardly conceivable by those not engaged in business, was the extraordinary impulse given to the formation of associations. In Rome this was especially fostered by the system already often mentioned whereby the government had its business transacted through middlemen: for from the extent of the transactions it was natural, and it was doubtless often required by the state for the sake of greater security, that capitalists should undertake such leases and contracts not as individuals, but in partnership. All great dealings were organized on the model of these state-contracts. Indications are even found of the occurrence among the Romans of that feature so characteristic of the system of association—a coalition of rival companies in order jointly to establish monopolist prices.(26) In transmarine transactions more especially and such as were otherwise attended with considerable risk, the system of partnership was so extensively adopted, that it practically took the place of insurances, which were unknown to antiquity. Nothing was more common than the nautical loan, as it was called—the modern "bottomry"—by which the risk and gain of transmarine traffic were proportionally distributed among the owners of the vessel and cargo and all the capitalists advancing money for the voyage. It was, however, a general rule of Roman economy that one should rather take small shares in many speculations than speculate independently; Cato advised the capitalist not to fit out a single ship with his money, but in concert with forty-nine other capitalists to send out fifty ships and to take an interest in each to the extent of a fiftieth part. The greater complication thus introduced into business was overcome by the Roman merchant through his punctual laboriousness and his system of management by slaves and freedmen —which, regarded from the point of view of the pure capitalist, was far preferable to our counting-house system. Thus these mercantile companies, with their hundred ramifications, largely influenced the economy of every Roman of note. There was, according to the testimony of Polybius, hardly a man of means in Rome who had not been concerned as an avowed or silent partner in leasing the public revenues; and much more must each have invested on an average a considerable portion of his capital in mercantile associations generally.
All this laid the foundation for that endurance of Roman wealth, which was perhaps still more remarkable than its magnitude. The phenomenon, unique perhaps of its kind, to which we have already called attention(27)—that the standing of the great clans remained almost the same throughout several centuries—finds its explanation in the somewhat narrow but solid principles on which they managed their mercantile property.
In consequence of the one-sided prominence assigned to capital in the Roman economy, the evils inseparable from a pure capitalist system could not fail to appear.
Civil equality, which had already received a fatal wound through the rise of the ruling order of lords, suffered an equally severe blow in consequence of the line of social demarcation becoming more and more distinctly drawn between the rich and the poor. Nothing more effectually promoted this separation in a downward direction than the already-mentioned rule—apparently a matter of indifference, but in reality involving the utmost arrogance and insolence on the part of the capitalists—that it was disgraceful to take money for work; a wall of partition was thus raised not merely between the common day- labourer or artisan and the respectable landlord or manufacturer, but also between the soldier or subaltern and the military tribune, and between the clerk or messenger and the magistrate. In an upward direction a similar barrier was raised by the Claudian law suggested by Gaius Flaminius (shortly before 536), which prohibited senators and senators' sons from possessing sea-going vessels except for the transport of the produce of their estates, and probably also from participating in public contracts—forbidding them generally from carrying on whatever the Romans included under the head of "speculation" (-quaestus-).(28) It is true that this enactment was not called for by the senators; it was on the contrary a work of the democratic opposition, which perhaps desired in the first instance merely to prevent the evil of members of the governing class personally entering into dealings with the government. It may be, moreover, that the capitalists in this instance, as so often afterwards, made common cause with the democratic party, and seized the opportunity of diminishing competition by the exclusion of the senators. The former object was, of course, only very imperfectly attained, for the system of partnership opened up to the senators ample facilities for continuing to speculate in secret; but this decree of the people drew a legal line of demarcation between those men of quality who did not speculate at all or at any rate not openly and those who did, and it placed alongside of the aristocracy which was primarily political an aristocracy which was purely moneyed—the equestrian order, as it was afterwards called, whose rivalries with the senatorial order fill the history of the following century.
Sterility of the Capitalist Question
A further consequence of the one-sided power of capital was the disproportionate prominence of those branches of business which were the most sterile and the least productive for the national economy as a whole. Industry, which ought to have held the highest place, in fact occupied the lowest. Commerce flourished; but it was universally passive, importing, but not exporting. Not even on the northern frontier do the Romans seem to have been able to give merchandise in exchange for the slaves, who were brought in numbers from the Celtic and probably even from the Germanic territories to Ariminum and the other markets of northern Italy; at least as early as 523 the export of silver money to the Celtic territory was prohibited by the Roman government. In the intercourse with Greece, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, and Carthage, the balance of trade was necessarily unfavourable to Italy. Rome began to become the capital of the Mediterranean states, and Italy to become the suburbs of Rome; the Romans had no wish to be anything more, and in their opulent indifference contented themselves with a passive commerce, such as every city which is nothing more than a capital necessarily carries on—they possessed, forsooth, money enough to pay for everything which they needed or did not need. On the other hand the most unproductive of all sorts of business, the traffic in money and the farming of the revenue, formed the true mainstay and stronghold of the Roman economy. And, lastly, whatever elements that economy had contained for the production of a wealthy middle class, and of a lower one making enough for its subsistence, were extinguished by the unhappy system of employing slaves, or, at the best, contributed to the multiplication of the troublesome order of freedmen.
The Capitalists and Public Opinion
But above all the deep rooted immorality, which is inherent in an economy of pure capital, ate into the heart of society and of the commonwealth, and substituted an absolute selfishness for humanity and patriotism. The better portion of the nation were very keenly sensible of the seeds of corruption which lurked in that system of speculation; and the instinctive hatred of the great multitude, as well as the displeasure of the well-disposed statesman, was especially directed against the trade of the professional money-lender, which for long had been subjected to penal laws and still continued under the letter of the law amenable to punishment. In a comedy of this period the money-lender is told that the class to which he belongs is on a parallel with the -lenones- —
-Eodem hercle vos pono et paro; parissumi estis ibus.
Hi saltem in occultis locis prostant: vos in foro ipso.
Vos fenore, hi male suadendo et lustris lacerant homines.
Rogitationes plurimas propter vos populus scivit,
Quas vos rogatas rumpitis: aliquam reperitis rimam.
Quasi aquam ferventem frigidam esse, ita vos putatis leges.-
Cato the leader of the reform party expresses himself still more emphatically than the comedian. "Lending money at interest," he says in the preface to his treatise on agriculture, "has various advantages; but it is not honourable. Our forefathers accordingly ordained, and inscribed it among their laws, that the thief should be bound to pay twofold, but the man who takes interest fourfold, compensation; whence we may infer how much worse a citizen they deemed the usurer than the thief." There is no great difference, he elsewhere considers, between a money-lender and a murderer; and it must be allowed that his acts did not fall short of his words—when governor of Sardinia, by his rigorous administration of the law he drove the Roman bankers to their wits' end. The great majority of the ruling senatorial order regarded the system of the speculators with dislike, and not only conducted themselves in the provinces on the whole with more integrity and honour than these moneyed men, but often acted as a restraint on them. The frequent changes of the Roman chief magistrates, however, and the inevitable inequality in their mode of handling the laws, necessarily abated the effort to check such proceedings.
Reaction of the Capitalist System on Agriculture
The Romans perceived moreover—as it was not difficult to perceive —that it was of far more consequence to give a different direction to the whole national economy than to exercise a police control over speculation; it was such views mainly that men like Cato enforced by precept and example on the Roman agriculturist. "When our forefathers," continues Cato in the preface just quoted, "pronounced the eulogy of a worthy man, they praised him as a worthy farmer and a worthy landlord; one who was thus commended was thought to have received the highest praise. The merchant I deem energetic and diligent in the pursuit of gain; but his calling is too much exposed to perils and mischances. On the other hand farmers furnish the bravest men and the ablest soldiers; no calling is so honourable, safe, and free from odium as theirs, and those who occupy themselves with it are least liable to evil thoughts." He was wont to say of himself, that his property was derived solely from two sources —agriculture and frugality; and, though this was neither very logical in thought nor strictly conformable to the truth,(29) yet Cato was not unjustly regarded by his contemporaries and by posterity as the model of a Roman landlord. Unhappily it is a truth as remarkable as it is painful, that this husbandry, commended so much and certainly with so entire good faith as a remedy, was itself pervaded by the poison of the capitalist system. In the case of pastoral husbandry this was obvious; for that reason it was most in favour with the public and least in favour with the party desirous of moral reform. But how stood the case with agriculture itself? The warfare, which from the third onward to the fifth century capital had waged against labour, by withdrawing under the form of interest on debt the revenues of the soil from the working farmers and bringing them into the hands of the idly consuming fundholder, had been settled chiefly by the extension of the Roman economy and the throwing of the capital which existed in Latium into the field of mercantile activity opened up throughout the range of the Mediterranean. Now even the extended field of business was no longer able to contain the increased mass of capital; and an insane legislation laboured simultaneously to compel the investment of senatorial capital by artificial means in Italian estates, and systematically to reduce the value of the arable land of Italy by interference with the prices of grain. Thus there began a second campaign of capital against free labour or—what was substantially the same thing in antiquity—against the small farmer system; and, if the first had been bad, it yet seemed mild and humane as compared with the second. The capitalists no longer lent to the farmer at interest —a course, which in itself was not now practicable because the petty landholder no longer aimed at any considerable surplus, and was moreover not sufficiently simple and radical—but they bought up the farms and converted them, at the best, into estates managed by stewards and worked by slaves. This likewise was called agriculture; it was essentially the application of the capitalist system to the production of the fruits of the soil. The description of the husbandmen, which Cato gives, is excellent and quite just; but how does it correspond to the system itself, which he portrays and recommends? If a Roman senator, as must not unfrequently have been the case, possessed four such estates as that described by Cato, the same space, which in the olden time when small holdings prevailed had supported from 100 to 150 farmers' families, was now occupied by one family of free persons and about 50, for the most part unmarried, slaves. If this was the remedy by which the decaying national economy was to be restored to vigour, it bore, unhappily, an aspect of extreme resemblance to the disease.
Development of Italy
The general result of this system is only too clearly obvious in the changed proportions of the population. It is true that the condition of the various districts of Italy was very unequal, and some were even prosperous. The farms, instituted in great numbers in the region between the Apennines and the Po at the time of its colonization, did not so speedily disappear. Polybius, who visited that quarter not long after the close of the present period, commends its numerous, handsome, and vigorous population: with a just legislation as to corn it would doubtless have been possible to make the basin of the Po, and not Sicily the granary of the capital. In like manner Picenum and the so-called -ager Gallicus- acquired a numerous body of farmers through the distributions of domain-land consequent on the Flaminian law of 522—a body, however, which was sadly reduced in the Hannibalic war. In Etruria, and perhaps also in Umbria, the internal condition of the subject communities was unfavourable to the flourishing of a class of free farmers, Matters were better in Latium—which could not be entirely deprived of the advantages of the market of the capital, and which had on the whole been spared by the Hannibalic war—as well as in the secluded mountain-valleys of the Marsians and Sabellians. On the other hand the Hannibalic war had fearfully devastated southern Italy and had ruined, in addition to a number of smaller townships, its two largest cities, Capua and Tarentum, both once able to send into the field armies of 30,000 men. Samnium had recovered from the severe wars of the fifth century: according to the census of 529 it was in a position to furnish half as many men capable of arms as all the Latin towns, and it was probably at that time, next to the -ager Romanus-, the most flourishing region of the peninsula. But the Hannibalic war had desolated the land afresh, and the assignations of land in that quarter to the soldiers of Scipio's army, although considerable, probably did not cover the loss. Campania and Apulia, both hitherto well-peopled regions, were still worse treated in the same war by friend and foe. In Apulia, no doubt, assignations of land took place afterwards, but the colonies instituted there were not successful. The beautiful plain of Campania remained more populous; but the territory of Capua and of the other communities broken up in the Hannibalic war became state-property, and the occupants of it were uniformly not proprietors, but petty temporary lessees. Lastly, in the wide Lucanian and Bruttian territories the population, which was already very thin before the Hannibalic war, was visited by the whole severity of the war itself and of the penal executions that followed in its train; nor was much done on the part of Rome to revive the agriculture there—with the exception perhaps of Valentia (Vibo, now Monteleone), none of the colonies established there attained real prosperity.
Falling Off in the Population
With every allowance for the inequality in the political and economic circumstances of the different districts and for the comparatively flourishing condition of several of them, the retrogression is yet on the whole unmistakeable, and it is confirmed by the most indisputable testimonies as to the general condition of Italy. Cato and Polybius agree in stating that Italy was at the end of the sixth century far weaker in population than at the end of the fifth, and was no longer able to furnish armies so large as in the first Punic war. The increasing difficulty of the levy, the necessity of lowering the qualification for service in the legions, and the complaints of the allies as to the magnitude of the contingents to be furnished by them, confirm these statements; and, in the case of the Roman burgesses, the numbers tell the same tale. In 502, shortly after the expedition of Regulus to Africa, they amounted to 298,000 men capable of bearing arms; thirty years later, shortly before the commencement of the Hannibalic war (534), they had fallen off to 270,000, or about a tenth, and again twenty years after that, shortly before the end of the same war (550), to 214,000, or about a fourth; and a generation afterwards—during which no extraordinary losses occurred, but the institution of the great burgess-colonies in the plain of northern Italy in particular occasioned a perceptible and exceptional increase —the numbers of the burgesses had hardly again reached the point at which they stood at the commencement of this period. If we had similar statements regarding the Italian population generally, they would beyond all doubt exhibit a deficit relatively still more considerable. The decline of the national vigour less admits of proof; but it is stated by the writers on agriculture that flesh and milk disappeared more and more from the diet of the common people. At the same time the slave population increased, as the free population declined. In Apulia, Lucania, and the Bruttian land, pastoral husbandry must even in the time of Cato have preponderated over agriculture; the half-savage slave-herdsmen were here in reality masters in the house. Apulia was rendered so insecure by them that a strong force had to be stationed there; in 569 a slave-conspiracy planned on the largest scale, and mixed up with the proceedings of the Bacchanalia, was discovered there, and nearly 7000 men were condemned as criminals. In Etruria also Roman troops had to take the field against a band of slaves (558), and even in Latium there were instances in which towns like Setia and Praeneste were in danger of being surprised by a band of runaway serfs (556). The nation was visibly diminishing, and the community of free burgesses was resolving itself into a body composed of masters and slaves; and, although it was in the first instance the two long wars with Carthage which decimated and ruined both the burgesses and the allies, the Roman capitalists beyond doubt contributed quite as much as Hamilcar and Hannibal to the decline in the vigour and the numbers of the Italian people. No one can say whether the government could have rendered help; but it was an alarming and discreditable fact, that the circles of the Roman aristocracy, well-meaning and energetic as in great part they were, never once showed any insight into the real gravity of the situation or any foreboding of the full magnitude of the danger. When a Roman lady belonging to the high nobility, the sister of one of the numerous citizen-admirals who in the first Punic war had ruined the fleets of the state, one day got among a crowd in the Roman Forum, she said aloud in the hearing of those around, that it was high time to place her brother once more at the head of the fleet and to relieve the pressure in the market-place by bleeding the citizens afresh (508). Those who thus thought and spoke were, no doubt, a small minority; nevertheless this outrageous speech was simply a forcible expression of the criminal indifference with which the whole noble and rich world looked down on the common citizens and farmers.
They did not exactly desire their destruction, but they allowed it to run its course; and so desolation advanced with gigantic steps over the flourishing land of Italy, where countless free men had just been enjoying a moderate and merited prosperity.
Notes for Chapter XII
1. In order to gain a correct picture of ancient Italy, it is necessary for us to bear in mind the great changes which have been produced there by modern cultivation. Of the -cerealia-, rye was not cultivated in antiquity; and the Romans of the empire were astonished to rind that oats, with which they were well acquainted as a weed, was used by the Germans for making porridge. Rice was first cultivated in Italy at the end of the fifteenth, and maize at the beginning of the seventeenth, century. Potatoes and tomatoes were brought from America; artichokes seem to be nothing but a cultivated variety of the cardoon which was known to the Romans, yet the peculiar character superinduced by cultivation appears of more recent origin. The almond, again, or "Greek nut," the peach, or "Persian nut," and also the "soft nut" (-nux mollusca-), although originally foreign to Italy, are met with there at least 150 years before Christ. The date-palm, introduced into Italy from Greece as into Greece from the East, and forming a living attestation of the primitive commercial-religious intercourse between the west and the east, was already cultivated in Italy 300 years before Christ (Liv. x. 47; Pallad. v. 5, 2; xi. 12, i) not for its fruit (Plin. H. N. xiii. 4, 26), but, just as in the present day, as a handsome plant, and for the sake of the leaves which were used at public festivals. The cherry, or fruit of Cerasus on the Black Sea, was later in being introduced, and only began to be planted in Italy in the time of Cicero, although the wild cherry is indigenous there; still later, perhaps, came the apricot, or "Armenian plum." The citron-tree was not cultivated in Italy till the later ages of the empire; the orange was only introduced by the Moors in the twelfth or thirteenth, and the aloe (Agave Americana) from America only in the sixteenth, century. Cotton was first cultivated in Europe by the Arabs. The buffalo also and the silkworm belong only to modern, not to ancient Italy.
It is obvious that the products which Italy had not originally are for the most part those very products which seem to us truly "Italian;" and if modern Germany, as compared with the Germany visited by Caesar, may be called a southern land, Italy has since in no less degree acquired a "more southern" aspect.
2. II. III. Licinio-Sextian Laws
3. According to Cato, de R. R, 137 (comp. 16), in the case of a lease with division of the produce the gross produce of the estate, after deduction of the fodder necessary for the oxen that drew the plough, was divided between lessor and lessee (-colonus partiarius-) in the proportions agreed upon between them. That the shares were ordinarily equal may be conjectured from the analogy of the French -bail a cheptel- and the similar Italian system of half-and-half leases, as well as from the absence of all trace of any other scheme of partition. It is erroneous to refer to the case of the -politor-, who got the fifth of the grain or, if the division took place before thrashing, from the sixth to the ninth sheaf (Cato, 136, comp. 5); he was not a lessee sharing the produce, but a labourer assumed in the harvest season, who received his daily wages according to that contract of partnership (III. XII. Spirit of the System).
4. The lease lirst assumed real importance when the Roman capitalists began to acquire transmarine possessions on a great scale; then indeed they knew how to value it, when a temporary lease was continued through several generations (Colum. i. 7, 3).
5. That the space between the vines was occupied not by grain, but only at the most by such fodder plants as easily grew in the shade, is evident from Cato (33, comp. 137), and accordingly Columella (iii. 3) calculates on no other accessory gain in the case of a vineyard except the produce of the young shoots sold. On the other hand, the orchard (-arbustum-) was sown like any corn field (Colum. ii. 9, 6). It was only where the vine was trained on living trees that corn was cultivated in the intervals between them.
6. Mago, or his translator (in Varro, R. R., i. 17, 3), advises that slaves should not be bred, but should be purchased not under 22 years of age; and Cato must have had a similar course in view, as the personal staff of his model farm clearly shows, although he does not exactly say so. Cato (2) expressly counsels the sale of old and diseased slaves. The slave-breeding described by Columella (I. I. Italian History), under which female slaves who had three sons were exempted from labour, and the mothers of four sons were even manumitted, was doubtless an independent speculation rather than a part of the regular management of the estate—similar to the trade pursued by Cato himself of purchasing slaves to be trained and sold again (Plutarch, Cat. Mai. 21). The characteristic taxation mentioned in this same passage probably has reference to the body of servants properly so called (-familia urbana-).
7. In this restricted sense the chaining of slaves, and even of the sons of the family (Dionys. ii. 26), was very old; and accordingly chained field-labourers are mentioned by Cato as exceptions, to whom, as they could not themselves grind, bread had to be supplied instead of grain (56). Even in the times of the empire the chaining of slaves uniformly presents itself as a punishment inflicted definitively by the master, provisionally by the steward (Colum. i. 8; Gai. i. 13; Ulp. i. ii). If, notwithstanding, the tillage of the fields by means of chained slaves appeared in subsequent times as a distinct system, and the labourers' prison (-ergastulum-)—an underground cellar with window-aperatures numerous but narrow and not to be reached from the ground by the hand (Colum. i. 6)—became a necessary part of the farm- buildings, this state of matters was occasioned by the fact that the position of the rural serfs was harder than that of other slaves and therefore those slaves were chiefly taken for it, who had, or seemed to have, committed some offence. That cruel masters, moreover, applied the chains without any occasion to do so, we do not mean to deny, and it is clearly indicated by the circumstance that the law- books do not decree the penalties applicable to slave transgressors against those in chains, but prescribe the punishment of the half- chained. It was precisely the same with branding; it was meant to be, strictly, a punishment; but the whole flock was probably marked (Diodor. xxxv. 5; Bernays, —Phokytides—, p. xxxi.).
8. Cato does not expressly say this as to the vintage, but Varro does so (I. II. Relation of the Latins to the Umbro-Samnites), and it is implied in the nature of the case. It would have been economically an error to fix the number of the slaves on a property by the standard of the labours of harvest; and least of all, had such been the case, would the grapes have been sold on the tree, which yet was frequently done (Cato, 147).
9. Columella (ii. 12, 9) reckons to the year on an average 45 rainy days and holidays; with which accords the statement of Tertullian (De Idolol. 14), that the number of the heathen festival days did not come up to the fifty days of the Christian festal season from Easter to Whitsunday. To these fell to be added the time of rest in the middle of winter after the completion of the autumnal bowing, which Columella estimates at thirty days. Within this time, doubtless, the moveable "festival of seed-sowing" (-feriae sementivae-; comp. i. 210 and Ovid. Fast, i. 661) uniformly occurred. This month of rest must not be confounded with the holidays for holding courts in the season of the harvest (Plin. Ep. viii. 21, 2, et al.) and vintage.
10. III. I. The Carthaginian Dominion in Africa
11. The medium price of grain in the capital may be assumed at least for the seventh and eighth centuries of Rome at one -denarius- for the Roman -modius-, or 2 shillings 8 pence per bushel of wheat, for which there is now paid (according to the average of the prices in the provinces of Brandenburg and Pomerania from 1816 to 1841) about 3 shillings 5 pence. Whether this not very considerable difference between the Roman and the modern prices depends on a rise in the value of corn or on a fall in the value of silver, can hardly be decided.
It is very doubtful, perhaps, whether in the Rome of this and of later times the prices of corn really fluctuated more than is the case in modern times. If we compare prices like those quoted above, of 4 pence and 5 pence for the bushel and a half, with those of the worst times of war-dearth and famine—such as in the second Punic war when the same quantity rose to 9 shillings 7 pence (1 -medimnus- = 15 — drachmae—; Polyb. ix. 44), in the civil war to 19 shillings 2 pence (1 -modius- = 5 -denarii-; Cic. Verr. iii. 92, 214), in the great dearth under Augustus, even to 21 shillings 3 pence (5 -modii- =27 1/2 -denarii-; Euseb. Chron. p. Chr. 7, Scal.)—the difference is indeed immense; but such extreme cases are but little instructive, and might in either direction be found recurring under the like conditions at the present day.
12. II. VIII. Farming of Estates
13. Accordingly Cato calls the two estates, which he describes, summarily "olive-plantation" (-olivetum-) and "vineyard" (-vinea-), although not wine and oil merely, but grain also and other products were cultivated there. If indeed the 800 -culei-, for which the possessor of the vineyard is directed to provide himself with casks (11), formed the maximum of a year's vintage, the whole of the 100 -jugera- must have been planted with vines, because a produce of 8 -culei- per -jugerum- was almost unprecedented (Colum. iii. 3); but Varro (i. 22) understood, and evidently with reason, the statement to apply to the case of the possessor of a vineyard who found it necessary to make the new vintage before he had sold the old.
14. That the Roman landlord made on an average 6 per cent from his capital, may be inferred from Columella, iii. 3, 9. We have a more precise estimate of the expense and produce only in the case of the vine yard, for which Columella gives the following calculation of the cost per -jugerum-:
Price of the ground 1000 sesterces. Price of the slaves who work it 1143 (proportion to-jugerum-) Vines and stakes 2000 Loss of interest during the first two years 497 —— Total 4640 sesterces= 47 pounds.
He calculates the produce as at any rate 60 -amphorae-, worth at least 900 sesterces (9 pounds), which would thus represent a return of 17 per cent. But this is somewhat illusory, as, apart from bad harvests, the cost of gathering in the produce (III. XII. Spirit of the System), and the expenses of the maintenance of the vines, stakes, and slaves, are omitted from the estimate.
The gross produce of meadow, pasture, and forest is estimated by the same agricultural writer as, at most, 100 sesterces per -jugerum-, and that of corn land as less rather than more: in fact, the average return of 25 -modii- of wheat per -jugerum- gives, according to the average price in the capital of 1 -denarius- per -modius-, not more than 100 sesterces for the gross proceeds, and at the seat of production the price must have been still lower. Varro (iii. 2) reckons as a good ordinary gross return for a larger estate 150 sesterces per -jugerum-. Estimates of the corresponding expense have not reached us: as a matter of course, the management in this instance cost much less than in that of a vineyard.
All these statements, moreover, date from a century or more after Gate's death. From him we have only the general statement that the breeding of cattle yielded a better return than agriculture (ap. Cicero, De Off. ii. 25, 89; Colum. vi. praef. 4, comp. ii. 16, 2; Plin. H. N. xviii. 5, 30; Plutarch, Cato, 21); which of course is not meant to imply that it was everywhere advisable to convert arable land into pasture, but is to be understood relatively as signifying that the capital invested in the rearing of flocks and herds on mountain pastures and other suitable pasture-land yielded, as compared with capital invested in cultivating Suitable corn land, a higher interest. Perhaps the circumstance has been also taken into account in the calculation, that the want of energy and intelligence in the landlord operates far less injuriously in the case of pasture-land than in the highly-developed culture of the vine and olive. On an arable estate, according to Cato, the returns of the soil stood as follows in a descending series:—1, vineyard; 2, vegetable garden; 3, osier copse, which yielded a large return in consequence of the culture of the vine; 4, olive plantation; 5, meadow yielding hay; 6, corn fields; 7, copse; 8, wood for felling; 9, oak forest for forage to the cattle; all of which nine elements enter into the scheme of husbandry for Cato's model estates.
The higher net return of the culture of the vine as compared with that of corn is attested also by the fact, that under the award pronounced in the arbitration between the city of Genua and the villages tributary to it in 637 the city received a sixth of wine, and a twentieth of grain, as quitrent.
15. III. XII. Spirit of the System
16. III. XI. As to the Management of the Finances
17. The industrial importance of the Roman cloth-making is evident from the remarkable part which is played by the fullers in Roman comedy. The profitable nature of the fullers' pits is attested by Cato (ap. Plutarch, Cat 21).
18. III. III. Organization of the Provinces
19. III. III. Property
20. III. VII. The State of Culture in Spain
21. III. I. Comparison between Carthage and Rome
22. III. VI. Pressure of the War
23. There were in the treasury 17,410 Roman pounds of gold, 22,070 pounds of uncoined, and 18,230 pounds of coined, silver. The legal ratio of gold to silver was: 1 pound of gold = 4000 sesterces, or 1: 11.91.
24. On this was based the actionable character of contracts of buying, hiring, and partnership, and, in general, the whole system of non-formal actionable contracts.
25. The chief passage as to this point is the fragment of Cato in Gellius, xiv. 2. In the case of the -obligatio litteris- also, i. e. a claim based solely on the entry of a debt in the account-book of the creditor, this legal regard paid to the personal credibility of the party, even where his testimony in his own cause is concerned, affords the key of explanation; and hence it happened that in later times, when this mercantile repute had vanished from Roman life, the -obligatio litteris-, while not exactly abolished, fell of itself into desuetude.
26. In the remarkable model contract given by Cato (141) for the letting of the olive harvest, there is the following paragraph:—
"None [of the persons desirous to contract on the occasion of letting] shall withdraw, for the sake of causing the gathering and pressing of the olives to be let at a dearer rate; except when [the joint bidder] immediately names [the other bidder] as his partner. If this rule shall appear to have been infringed, all the partners [of the company with which the contract has been concluded] shall, if desired by the landlord or the overseer appointed by him, take an oath [that they have not conspired in this way to prevent competition]. If they do not take the oath, the stipulated price is not to be paid." It is tacitly assumed that the contract is taken by a company, not by an individual capitalist.
27. III. XIII. Religious Economy
28. Livy (xxi. 63; comp. Cic. Verr. v. 18, 45) mentions only the enactment as to the sea-going vessels; but Asconius (in Or. in toga cand. p. 94, Orell.) and Dio. (lv. 10, 5) state that the senator was also forbidden by law to undertake state-contracts (-redemptiones-); and, as according to Livy "all speculation was considered unseemly for a senator," the Claudian law probably reached further than he states.
29. Cato, like every other Roman, invested a part of his means in the breeding of cattle, and in commercial and other undertakings. But it was not his habit directly to violate the laws; he neither speculated in state-leases—which as a senator he was not allowed to do—nor practised usury. It is an injustice to charge him with a practice in the latter respect at variance with his theory; the -fenus nauticum-, in which he certainly engaged, was not a branch of usury prohibited by the law; it really formed an essential part of the business of chartering and freighting vessels.