Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

AS argument continues over the European empire's plans for developing its very own army, it is worth speculating what it might be used for. The Romans would have had a pretty shrewd idea.

Like Brussels, the Roman empire depended for survival on its capacity to raise the money necessary to keep it going. Apart from the occasional windfall from booty raised by military operations, the money came from taxes raised in the empire's provinces (Romans themselves did not pay tax), and it was the prime duty of provincial governors to keep the taxes flowing. Since the ancient economy was agricultural, it was ultimately the exploitation of peasant farmers that kept the whole show on the road.

If the empire was to be successful, it was essential to generate loyalty to it among its provinces. A major player in generating that loyalty was the Roman army. It provided a good standard of living for its soldiers and welcomed allcomers, of whatever tribe, into its ranks. This inclusiveness was essential. The army's main function was to ensure that provinces did not defect. Only in this way could the empire's revenue-- flows be guaranteed and the army, which was very expensive to maintain, be financed. …

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