Archive for August 31st, 2020

Slavery And The Question Of Rome’s Economic Decline And Non-Sustainability

August 31, 2020

Rome sustained an advanced mass civilization which was not replicated for millennia: the usage of ceramics was ubiquitous and massive; after the Roman state collapse, wooden utensils reappeared. To this day, most Californians cannot afford tile roofs, so their houses burn readily; a law to impose tile roofs, to reduce the loss of California cities to fire was abandoned, because… California can’t afford it; in the Roman empire, tile roofs were standard, so houses resisted forest fires; Romans were wealthier than Californians that way. Many historians have claimed that Greco-Roman civilization was not sustainable: there was not high enough a productivity to support such a mass civilization… So how could it be supported for 11 centuries?

Some historians, often of the Marxist persuasion, insist that Rome needed slavery to keep on going. As slavery was unsustainable, so was Rome, those economic historians insist. Indeed they claimed that only wars could bring slaves: as wars waned, so did the capture of slaves, hence the Roman economy also shrunk. This is obviously a disingenuous reasoning as the proximal cause of the collapse of Athens and Rome were military defeats, not lack of slaves… and after the Roman state collapsed, the wealthiest Romans, for example the families adorned with bishops (!) had plenty of slaves.

Moreover, archeology has found great economic prosperity until the uncough hordes of barbarian warriors showed up to destroy the economy, so as to destroy the society… and those invasive aliens collaborated with local Athenian, or Roman plutocrats..

Moreover, a careful examination of the known facts shows that Roman civilization was not founded on slavery… nor was Athens; although slavery was important for Athens’ silver mines, slaves constituted only a minor fraction of the Athenian population; sailors of the fleet were free men, differently from Louis XIV’s galleys, or many California fire crews in the Twenty-first century…

Roman Patrician Cincinnatus, twice elected dictator, had nothing to hide. He was deeply anti-plebeian, but not to the point of degrading public discourse with massive lying. Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, Francia, Rome successor state…

Indeed, the early Roman City-State expanded without much slavery for centuries. So slavery was not needed. For centuries, the strength of Rome was the plebeian farmer cultivating his own land. Even Cincinatus cultivated three acres of land with his own hands, on the other side of the Tiber, when the Senate asked him to become dictator to save the nation from invaders… something Cincinatus did in two weeks, thanks to a military innovation and absolute power, then resigned. 

A second reason to believe that slavery was not crucial to Greco-Roman civilization is that it backfired. The central argument of Tiberius Gracchus, read between the lines, is that, at the time, in the Second Century BCE, mass-slavery had backfired on middle class Roman citizen-soldiers, “making their lives worse than that of wild beasts” (who, at least, had dens to go back to, Tiberius Gracchus pointed out, with relentless insistence). 

Land redistribution from land grabbed by the wealthiest which should have been public land was the central conflict of the Roman Republic. However, a sort of steady state was attained for 375 years, before global plutocratization made the wealthy so much wealthier that the worst of them got completely out of control. 

Consul Julius Caesar’s successful land redistribution law of 59 BCE was a distribution of public land to plebeians. It was not a distribution of slaves. Land, not slaves, was where the wealth of Rome was. Mass slave owners in the Senate were enraged. They never forgave Caesar, in spite of his subsequent generosity, and their hatred was inextinguishable. They would kill Caesar, and would die themselves in the conflagration they caused… But the mood of rapacity and suicidal greed they installed, survived them, thrived and perdured until the Republic sank under the blows of fascism. 

Third point to show why Rome could have existed and even thrived without slavery: the successor state to Rome, the Franks’ Imperium Francorum, within 175 years of the formal demise of the Roman state in Occident, outlawed slavery, and the result was the Carolingian Renaissance

In spite of tremendous synchronized invasions by barbarians from all sides, the Vikings, the Muslims, the Avars and Hungarians, this “Renovated Roman empire” survived, and came out roaring, achieving objective levels of mass civilization Rome had not achieved, by the Eleventh Century. This shows the superiority of anti-slavery civilization. Aside from technological advances in agriculture, a consequence of the outlawing of slavery, the major difference of the Renovated Roman empire with the original Roman empire was the… outlawing of slavery.  

***

The leverage that mass slavery provided appeared much later in Roman history, and then quickly backfired within a generation or two, by 150 BCE: the wealthiest who used to possess so much public lands… illegally the national assembly, the Centuriate assembly as it was called, insisted… started to exploit those immense domains with armies of slaves, bringing the state of things Tiberius Grachus condemned. 

***

Vicious Opposition To The “Populares” Degraded Public Discourse And Changed It To Civil War:

The vicious opposition to Tiberius Gracchus was at the instigation of the self-declared “Best”, the “Optimates”, made of many of the families in Rome rendered wealthy by globalization and mass slavery. Those plutocrats were anti-nationalists, anti-populist, and fanatical organizers of plutocratic globalization. 

The global plutocrats wanted to make war all, conquer all, stabilizing the situation by making alliances with local plutocracies, all over. In other words, they were “Neocons”… And that’s exactly what they proceeded to do until the Republic became a fascist imperial plutocracy headed by a few families (much admired to this day, by the same perverse academics in charge of duplicating the same state of affairs). The enemy of the Optimates was the “Populares” Party.  Except The Gracchus family had been hyper establishment Patrician for generations. No gens was more famous in Rome. Yet the hatred deployed against Tiberius Grachus, including the baseless accusation that he wanted to become king, reminds one of the stridency deployed against Trump., The analogies go very deep.

The Optimates said, and paid others to say, horrible things about Tiberius, which were horrendous lies… But those lies worked: a mentality was created, similar to any self-referential insults throughout history… Like accusing the Jews of human sacrifices (whereas all the historical evidence we have is rather of Christians doing precisely that… to Jews). 

The Optimates did not accuse Tiberius to be friends of the Russians, Carthaginians or Numantians (Tiberius had been one of the top officers commanding in the successful siege of Numantia… However, this sort of accusation was levelled by Octavian against Marcus Antonius, with the Egyptians in place of Russians). In any case, the wild, unfounded accusations against Tiberius were believed by many people, or they found it convenient to pretend to believe them… (Mass) Assassinations followed soon thereafter… In the modern USA, when the president is accused to be a Russian agent, or to have caused a virus, the Trump virus, Pelosi called it, a similar degradation of civic discourse is engaged. 

The degradation of the public discourse by hurling grievous lies at Tiberius, his brother, their collaborators and followers hurt, forever, Greco-Roman civilization, because the grossest lying became an accepted  form of management of the Republic. Genuine discourse would not come back under the modern era, two thousand years later. Without it, there can’t be a Republic.

Patrice Ayme  


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