Early in the record the slave-industry, controlled by the powerful landlord-capitalists of Rome and the other great cities of the Empire, began to crush out and even to enslave the small freeholders who had arisen on the break-up of the tribes, or who belonged to conquered nations. Their independent work, with a few slaves around them, could make no head against the enormous production for gain which their large competitors carried on. The Licinian Law and the agitations of the Gracchi were meant to protect the vigorous yeomen from forcible and still more from economical expropriation. But the movement was too strong to be resisted. Large properties grew steadily larger, and these great farms ruined not only Italy but other portions of the empire. The soil, though rich, was exhausted in the course of generations by ceaseless over-cropping for profit alone; the slave class of the country supported a useless and very numerous slave class in the towns; and the condition of the poor, free, Roman citizen became so bad that economically it could scarcely be worse. Thus, the prosperity of the whole empire was steadily sapped, and some regions have scarcely recovered the process unto this day. The Eastern Provinces, which had a history of their own even throughout the period of Roman domination, suffered less than the rest, whilst they provided the great proprietors of the metropolis with their luxuries, and thus regained in part by commerce what they lost by tribute.
The whole system of production and exchange was such that mercenary armies were needed to replace the old independent military service. Rome followed in the path of Carthage. Slowly the economical forms changed, and afterwards the social and political. From what seemed to contemporary observers the most dangerous or most worthless portions of the existing civilisation, a new life arose and progress followed. Out of the rottenness of the Roman Empire of the West, the slaves within and the barbarians from without formed the nucleus of another society. The spread of a new revolutionary Asiatic creed, with a higher morality than the popular forms of Paganism, was accompanied throughout the empire by a rising spirit among the slave class which provided its earliest converts, and the barbarian invaders, driven onwards probably by the exhaustion of their own sources of food supply, found that the inhabitants of the territories they overran almost welcomed them. The downfall of the Roman Empire of the West was, in short, due to the necessary growth of fresh forces below, which took the place of worn-out forms that hampered the advance.
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Language - English
Published Date - August 22 2019
ISBN - 9780267992690
Dimesions - 22.9 x 15.2 x 0.5 cm
Page Count -
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