The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814

By H. St. L. B. Moss | Go to book overview

APPENDIX B

(p. 8) (i) 'Money Economy and Natural Economy.'

The problem of the transition from the 'money' economy of the first two centuries A.D. to the 'natural' economy of the early Middle Ages has recently been studied by G. Mickwitz ( Geld und Wirtschaft im römischen Reich des 4 Jahrh. n. Chr., Helsingfors, 1933). It seems probable that even in the fourth century A.D. private, as opposed to State, finance had never relinquished its currency basis. Thus the inflation of the late third century won no fresh fields for 'natural' economy, but merely rendered it rather more prevalent in the spheres which it had previously occupied. Even in the Italy of Theoderic, little change is observable in the system of public finance; the Ostrogothic kingdom is still far from the economic condition of the early medieval States of Western Europe (cf. H. Geiss, Geld- und naturalwirtschaftliche Erscheinungsformen im staatlichen Aufbau Italiens während der Gotenzeit, Stuttgart, 1931).

How far the exchange system in the West, during the centuries which followed the establishment of the barbarian kingdoms, was based on money is an intricate question. Barter and the use of a currency medium had always co-existed, and A. Dopsch ( Natural- und Geldwirtschaft, Vienna, 1930, p. 110) rightly condemns the view that the Germans destroyed the 'money' economy of late Roman times, substituting for it a 'natural' economy more suited to their primitive needs. Money, in fact, continued in general use throughout Merovingian and Carolingian times (especially in Southern France and Italy, and for payments of fines and taxes); but the disorganization of government and trade which followed the break-down of the Roman Empire in the West led gradually to the formation of local self-sufficient communities, among whom the predominant method of exchange was probably direct barter, and the reward for services rendered was not monetary.

(p. 190) (ii) 'The Iconoclast Argument.'

The Iconoclasts' answer to the doctrinal accusations of their opponents was based equally on orthodox Christology. The Divine, it was agreed on both sides, could not without blasphemy be represented in pictures. Christ had two natures--human and divine. A claim to represent only the human nature was contrary to the dogma of the indivisibility of the two natures, and a lapse into the so-called Nestorian heresy. To claim, however, that both natures of Christ could be represented in a picture amounted to a denial of the

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