An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

Excerpt

The economic condition of Italy during the first five centuries of the Middle Ages was powerfully influenced by structural changes in the late Roman Empire and the effect they produced on Rome and Italy generally. The peaceful centuries of the early Empire had been a period of widespread prosperity, which reached its peak in the reign of Trajan and his immediate successors. At that time was established the great network of highways, which served trade as much as government and defence, and by linking Rome with all corners of the Empire, made the city in every sense the centre of the civilized world. It was an age of energetic building, which saw the construction of many new and well-furnished ports, of canals and aqueducts, markets and inns, temples, theatres, and amphitheatres. The system of government also changed, and a constitution based on the ruling city, to which the provinces, though separate and partly autonomous, were uniformly subject, was steadily replaced by a unified Empire, centrally administered, by a vast bureaucracy with power extending over every province. In the words of a later writer, the whole world had become one city (urbem fecisti quod prius orbis erat). By the second century the language, law, and coinage of Rome were everywhere in use, and the Empire formed a single market, which all the provinces shared in perfect parity with Italy and Rome.

This was a great achievement, and its effects are still felt even today. At the time, however, the "Roman peace" brought . . .

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