Ancient Rome at Work: An Economic History of Rome from the Origins to the Empire

Ancient Rome at Work: An Economic History of Rome from the Origins to the Empire

Ancient Rome at Work: An Economic History of Rome from the Origins to the Empire

Ancient Rome at Work: An Economic History of Rome from the Origins to the Empire

Excerpt

Although the period which we have to consider here is relatively wide, and the cycle of events to which we shall refer is one of the most complex which have existed, the Roman world shows in the successive phases of the organization of labour the same continuity and unity as characterize its general history.

The logic of evolution is no less striking in this domain than in all others. The rare and unquestionable beauty of Roman law and that element in it which makes it even to-day the most vigorous of mental disciplines are due to the simplicity of its development, the fecundity of every principle once it had been admitted and the skill of the jurisconsults in deducing from these principles their extreme consequences. The strictness of the rules of deduction is only equalled by the clarity of the basic affirmations. Confusion, incoherence, obscureness and intrinsic contradiction were never tolerated by the practical Romans, who disdained the virtuosity of the rhetoricians. Similarly, in following age by age the forms of labour in the continually expanding society of Rome, and in studying the changes which these forms imposed upon public and private life and the reactions caused by incidents apparently far removed from any connection with economics, one is obliged to admit that arbitrary or chance events played but an infinitely small part in the transformations which came about. Everything is capable of explanation, is a link in a chain. Mystery is unknown, reasons are manifest and irrefutable.

It is no mere freak of fate that the latifundia made their appearance at a given moment and presented one of the greatest social problems which a people has ever been called upon to solve; a series of legislative measures which coincided with definite events had brought about the expropriation of the small farmers in favour of a privileged class . . .

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