ahorbinski: an imperial stormtrooper with the word "justic3" (imperial justice)
Bibliographic Data: Bowman, Alan and Andrew Wilson. "Quantifying the Roman economy: Integration, growth, decline?" in Quantifying the Roman economy: methods and problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009: 3-84.

Quantification: yea or nay? )

Bibliographic Data: Hopkins, Keith. “The Political Economy of the Roman Empire.” In Ian Morris and Walter Scheidel, eds., The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009: 178-204.

Main Argument: Rome was big enough as an empire that its political economy achieved several important economies of scale, which were crucial to its longevity and its success.

Important points )

Bibliographic Data: Rathbone, Dominic. "Egypt, Augustus and Roman Taxation.” Cahiers du Centre Gustave Glotz 4 (1993): 81-112.

Main Argument: Happy families are all alike, but senatorial provinces were not all the same; Rathbone argues that "the fiscal arrangements made between 30 and 27 BC by Octavian for Egypt are not particularly peculiar," especially because Egypt was effectively the first "imperial" province (110). "Far from being an exceptional case, Egypt was the laboratory in which Octavian developed and tested the novel elements of the fiscal system which as Augustus he made, with some modifications, standard throughout the empire" (111-12).

Argument, Sources, Examples The poll tax was the most radical of the taxes introduced to Egypt, and Augustus imposed it thereafter throughout the empire so that he would never have to tax Rome and Italy again. Most notably, he also created the category of "ge idiotike" which essentially corresponded to the ager privatus, which was a major force for muncipalization: "a crucial royal right of assignment of land in return for personal service was abandoned and replaced with the concepts of private landownership and communal obligations arising from it which were characteristic of the Greek and Roman city-state" (85). That said, most practice in Egypt accords with the precedents of incorporating other former Hellenistic kingdoms as provinces. The other notable exception was Octavian's confiscation of the estates and assets of Cleopatra VII and her allies as his personal patrimonium, a right which he did not have under Roman law and which was part and parcel of his emerging monarchy--indeed, this was a prime weapon wielded against senators down to the end of the high empire, and in this he drew firmly on Ptolemaic rather than Roman precedents.

Bibliographic Data: Goldsmith, Raymond W. "An Estimate of the Size and Structure of the National Product of the Early Roman Empire." Review of Income and Wealth 30 (1984), 263-88.

Main Argument:
Useful figures:
- Area of the empire: 3.3km^2
- Population estimate: 55 million [NB this is low, 60-70 million more common)
- Population of Rome: 1 million
- Rate of urbanization: 10%
- Other cities with 500K people: three (Antioch, Alexandria, Carthage)
- Gross national product: 20bn HS [based on pop of 55 million]
- Birth and death rates: very high
- Income inequality: very high (top 3% received 20-25% of the wealth)
- Slave population: 10-15%
- Working population: 40%
- Share of gov't expenditures in GNP: ~5%
- Capital expenditures in GNP >2%

Critical assessment: Goldsmith concludes that this was a "stagnant" economy, which is frankly staggeringly wrong and based on some wrong-headed assumptions about premodern economies. Note also that his population figures are low and his "snapshot" method (his year is 14 CE) shouldn't actually let him talk about change over time, but he does it anyway. However, not all his fault; Greenland ice cores and Swedish lakebeds not yet analyzed.

Further reading: Ken Pomeranz, The Great Divergence

Meta notes: "To be Roman was to be sweaty and clean. The Roman Empire was an empire of conquest but also a unitary symbolic system." --Keith Hopkins


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

August 2017

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