ahorbinski: an imperial stormtrooper with the word "justic3" (imperial justice)
[personal profile] ahorbinski
Bibliographic Data: Rostovtzeff, M. The Social and Economic History of The Roman Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. [last three chapters]

Main Argument: Cause of the C3 Crisis was not conflict between the emperors and the senate, but rather the army fighting the privileged classes until the privileged classes were liquidated and the army had overtaken the state. According to Rostovtzeff, this is a consequence of changing theories of monarchy--under the Antonines, there was a compromise between the imperial power and the educated upper classes/the senate over the issue of "naked" monarchism; recall that the government of the principate was comprised of senatorial aristocrats and some equestrians. But as the army became barbarized, it was no longer able to understand this compromise, and thus after the establishment of the Severan dynasty it axiomatically resisted all attempts to return to the prior system of government based in civilian elites, propounded by the weakening of those same elites. The C3 Crisis emperors made the best of a bad situation; the army carried out its negative program because it was drawn from the classes of those shut out of "the brilliant civilized life of the Empire" at the end of the C2, i.e. the peasantry. This is thus a tale of class envy and of the city/country divide, of a social crisis with political effects and not the other way round.

Argument, Sources, Examples
- The sources for the second half of the C3 (i.e. the time of the reconstruction of the empire) are pretty crap, except for Herodian
- The crisis emperors uniformly followed the policy of Septimius Severus, namely the militarization of the government and the autocratization of the monarch whose power was based on the allegiance of the army as well as of state officials and emperor-worship (i.e. military monarchy)
- Militarization of the government = barbarization of the same; old aristocrats (NB = high imperial aristocracy; Republican families did not make transition to the monarchy) were phased out and new aristocrats were drawn from the army. Total militarization of equites
- system of administration = "system of permanent terrorism which from time to time assumed acute forms" (449). relationship to government = compulsion
- in conditions of permanent revolution, state of exception became the norm, and the new compulsory government gradually undermine empire's prosperity and sapped the morale of its denizens
- Maximinus carried out purges of the lower echelons of the elites as well as the imperial aristocracy, partly from the need for money. End of euergetism in the provinces and throughout directly connected to this phenomenon
- Didn't work; by the end of the C3 Crisis the economy was nearly entirely demonetized
- Barbarian attacks direct result of internal unrest incited by crisis emperors in the name of restoring the military monarchy (city "bourgeoisie" wanted the civilian monarchy of the Antonines)
- Local associations such as shipbuilders etc brought under state control in the means of ensuring supplies and labor to the center; loca senatorial mints abolished
- At the same time, senate was new: military aristocracy of landowners with no allegiance to the old high empire or the cities
- R. argues that the emperors were for the most part forced to these exigencies by the times and by the army (hmmm); they prioritized keeping the state together and did what they had to in order to do that
- The army was a problem: largely proletarianized peasants, they were replaced by mercenaries who were more mobile and less restive, i.e. barbarians: the new Roman army was not Roman
- C3 Crisis: Devaluation of the currency + skyrocketing inflation; attempted switch to fiduciary currency caused wild swings in wages and interest rates (related: cessation of commercial relations w/India)
- Depopulation (plagues, civil warfare, chosen childlessness); piracy; public works not maintained; land going out of cultivation ==> decreasing productivity
- C3 crisis destroyed the middle class, the petit bourgeoisie
- Task of Diocletian and Constantine was to remake the state in accordance with changed conditions: simpler, + based on country/peasantry
- New conception of the emperor was needed that could be understood by the masses and that had the legitimacy to not be constantly attracting assassins: thus, the compromise of Constantine with the Christian church
- Army was also reformed into a mobile field operation, and ranks of imperial bureaucracy swelled because municipal self-government was effectively dead, and someone had to administer things
- Reform taxation along lines of C3 Crisis 'organized robbery' and demand payments in kind rather than in cash. Land was divided up into iuga and cultivators were bound to it; same for city-artisans
- Although Diocletian and Constantine accomplished brief revivals, "the salient trait of the economic life of the Roman Empire was gradual impoverishment" (523), and the post-C3 Crisis contained the seeds of its own destruction
- late Roman Empire thus = "a democracy of slaves" that was nonetheless less democratic than the high empire (going up the system just opens people up to greater exploitation--and it became almost impossible to move out of one's class/status group anyway) (525)
- empire thus divided up into two classes: those who did the work and got poorer, and those who did no work but stealing the output of the former and getting richer thereby

Critical assessment: I was with R. right up until the end when he turned classist and maudlin.

Bibliographic Data: Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century A.D. to the Third. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Main Argument: Roman armies were distributed along rational principles based on clear security goals.

Argument, Sources, Examples In the Julio-Claudian era, the needs of the state were principally internal security--or more precisely the security of Roman hegemonic control, rather than territory per se--and the zone of client states outside direct control could and did absorb the attacks of the odd extra-imperial aggressor. The system worked so well because it possessed a great economy of force; it did not take much work to provide a lot of security. In the span from the Flavians to the Severi, however, the security policy was to turn the empire into a marching camp via a network of imperial defense borders, which "were intended to serve not as total barriers but rather as the one fixed element in a mobile strategy of imperial defense" (57). By the time of Hadrian the frontiers were demarcated physically on the ground--although the crucial feature was not the fortifications themselves but the network of roads just behind them. According to Luttwak, the point of all this was to provide security for the interior against external threats so that economic Romanization could occur undisturbed; on the frontiers themselves, fortifications were designed to give the Romans the advantage of the concentration of forces as soon as possible, thanks to the roads; it was a system of "preclusive" defense. At the time of the C3 Crisis and after, the name of the game became "defense-in-depth," which combines self-contained strongholds with mobile forces operating between them and is predicated on an asymmetry of forces. Although the emperors made every attempt to revert to the strategy of the prior age, the security of the outlying provinces had been sacrificed for the security of the empire as a whole. Even when the strategy of defense-in-depth was successful, however, the logic of the system tended towards the "goal of preclusive protection for all imperial territory against threats at all levels of intensity" (think of R.'s empire as prison camp) (136). The imperial army that evolved to counter the threats of the C3 Crisis and after was larger than that of the principate, but it was still unable to stop external incursions until after the damage had been done; what it excelled at was protecting the power of the soldier-emperors who led it. But "it relentless eroded the logistic base of the empire and relentlessly diminished the worth of the imperial structure to its subjects" (190).

Critical assessment: Luttwak's arguments do not hold well for the empire in the East, and his image of CENTCOM Rome is frankly ridiculous on a number of levels--there is no evidence that the Romans undertook a synthetic or analytic security policy, and it's not even clear that the frontiers he talks about were actually fortified in most periods. That said, his analysis does provide an insightful way to think about the Roman Empire's security problems, and the ways that it solved them.

Bibliographic Data: Erdkampf, Paul. "The Corn Supply of the Roman Armies During the Principate (27 BC - 235 AD). In The Roman Army and the Economy, ed. Paul Erdkampf (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2002): 47-69.

Main Argument: "…the Roman authorities in the provinces throughout the empire controlled huge amounts of corn, which were used in three ways: to contribute to the supply of the populace of the capital city, to sustain the Roman armies and fleets, and occasionally to alleviate temporary shortages in various provincial cities" (59). "The evidence indicates that the individuals paid their taxes to the community, which in turn paid to the Roman authorities. However, the communities were responsible for paying the total amount that was due, not each individual taxpayer" (64). Taxes during the high empire were due in cash and in kind.

Critical assessment: NB: Not actually corn, which was introduced to the Old World in the C16 after the Columbian Reunification. [WTF, dudes.]

Bibliographic Data: Isaac, The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Main Argument: The Roman army in the East was primarily organized for offense, not defense, until the Byzantine period. (Subtext: Luttwak is wrong, wrong, wrong.) Basing ancient historiography on modern military strategy is also wrong. Equally importantly, the Romans conquered peoples, not land [thinking of the territory rather than its inhabitants is an early modern conceit]. Ergo, "the very concept of such a [territorial] boundary had no relevance in antiquity" (396) and the limes cannot be presumed to be anything like the modern concept of such; in fact, they were most likely roads and rivers. Not coincidentally, what the Roman army seems to have done, as part and parcel of securing the authority of Rome, was build, improve, and organize roads and road systems, in order to secure its own communications. Moreover, in the East, the roads were the raisons d'être for forts rather than the other way around, as the bulk of the armies were stationed in cities until the C4. Unsurprisingly, Roman rule in the region entailed occupation of important sites along trade routes rather than territorial control. For ancient states, territory was secondary to control over peoples and towns; the boundary the Romans cared about was the pomerium, the boundary of the city of Rome. Thus, Roman expansion "was an aim in itself and therefore opportunistic," not systematic" (416). Furthermore, "the population in the frontier zone was not so much an object of care to the authorities as an instrument of empire" (418).

Critical assessment: Isaac is right about general principles, but when he generalizes from the East to the Rest of the Empire, he runs into problems (opposite of Luttwak, ironically).

Bibliographic Data: Wickham, Chris. "The Other Transition: From the Ancient World to Feudalism." Past and Present 103 (1984): 1-36.

Main Argument: Wickham sets out here to describe the economic history of the end of (late) antiquity. The classic picture of the transition from the slave to the serf mode of production is not correct, not least because more than one mode of production can and did coexist in the same state.

Argument, Sources, Examples In the Diocletianic state of the later empire, production was in the hands of tenant cultivators, i.e. the feudal mode of production; the point, however, is that taxation was the dominant mode of appropriation, which "must by itself have integrated the late empire into a single social formation, despite considerable regional differences" (12). Contra R., Wickham sees the later empire as still being "a cellular structure based on cities," which "were in fact in ideological terms even more lasting than central government, at least in the Mediterranean west; the state in the end survived only on the level of the city" (14-15). Note that in the later empire there was nowhere for the wealthy elites to put their money into land, with the eventual result that "the political settlement of each Germanic state assumed, however, that the Germans formed the army, and these new armies were based on the land–that is to say, on landowning. The major expense of the state was removed at one blow. Taxation was here immediately replaced by rent: the logical conclusion of the refusals and evasions of the past century" (20). Landowners had stopped seeing the point of paying the Romans taxes, and with the conversion of centralized taxes to localized rents under the successor states, the medieval mode of production was well under way, even as successor states continued to attempt to levy land taxes despite its increasingly obviously illegitimacy; as Wickham points out, in the case of central tax revenue in late antiquity, "there was barely anything to spend it on any longer" (21)--and the kingly giving of gifts which it did fund was the grammar of feudal social relations. The change came when landowning ceased to be the path to power and became power itself--a change that never happened in the east. NB: this is not why the Empire fell in the west; Germanic armies ended up on the land because the empire's taxation mechanisms were already in shambles. Equally important, although it can be argued that the Roman empire lost consent by the end of the C3 Crisis in some senses (and certainly by the end of the C4), and "it eventually crumbled, but the process was long drawn out and highly mediated, for the state was based on a direct economic process of surplus extraction" (28). The successor states did not have this direct extractive relationship with the means of production and thus were much weaker; the point is not that they replaced the empire but failed to replicate it in miniature. At the same time, it seems that even tenant cultivators were not fully converted to serfdom until the end of the Carolingian period, and were not slaves from antiquity straight through until the early modern. Although it can be argued that Byzantium was eventually reconfigured as one giant city-state, what is clear when it is considered in context is that it scarcely fits the rubric of the "ancient mode of production," along with its neighbors--more work for future historians.

Bibliographic Data: Wickham, Chris. "The Uniqueness of the East." The Journal of Peasant Studies 12, no. 1 (1984): 166-96.

Main Argument:
The difference between feudal and tributary is not, then, one between presence and absence of structural relationships, economic logic vs. lack of economic logic; there is a positive contrast in the methods and aims of economic interventions inside the two modes. And it is for this reason, too, that state tax-raising and coercive rent-taking by landlords cannot be conflated. They represent two different economic systems, even if they can come together in some exceptional circumstances. Their differences, their antagonisms, lie in their divergent interventions in the peasant economy, just as their convergencies lie in the fact that both are rooted in it. The same productive forces, however, can be seen as giving rise to two separate modes of production. (187)
Thus survival of the state should be seen as the norm, and failure as the deviation; the challenge is to explain Rome, rather than to explain China and other Asian empires: "the basis for their survival was their continuing force as motors of surplus extraction, even in the presence of structurally antagonistic feudal aristocracies, more or less ready to replace them in a hierarchy of dominance, if it ever became possible (and it seldom did)" (189).

Argument, Sources, Examples
- "the key qualitative aspect for state survival is the state's continuing control over the terms of the relationship between aristocrat and peasant" (179)

- "A tributary state is thus both economically and sociopolitically more complex than a feudal estate. … The feudal mode can exist without the tributary mode, but the tributary mode cannot exist without the feudal mode, except in extreme circumstances, when it continually has to fight off the feudalization of some of its local institutions; its history is the history of the resultant antagonisms" (184)

- "The state does not need to control the economic and social lives of its subjects; it just needs the funding that enables it to pursue its chosen objectives. It is in this area that we find class struggle between the state and its peasantry (and indeed its landowners): in the amount of tax payable, especially when it is felt that there are no adequate returns" (185)

Further reading: Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity

Meta notes: "Roads lead to Jerusalem because people want to go there, not because it is a natural halting place or caravan city." --Isaac, The Limits of Empire (105)

"The Asiatic mode as it has always been formulated cannot be regarded as having any analytical validity." --Wickham, "The Uniqueness of the East" (170)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-07 15:49 (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
the Columbian Reunification

Hee! at the term.

(Though as you know Bob, prior to that event, the English word corn referred to any cereal grain, and indeed the Old English root is cognate with Latin grānum, grain.)



ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

July 2014

67 89101112
131415 16171819

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags