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About Guaporense

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  • Birthday 09/22/1988

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    Social and economic history<br />Classical history
  1. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    This is a graph on the shipwreck data with the lead pollution data, the two are very strongly correlated. The lead pollution data was extracted from a lake in Italy. Levels of lead pollution indicate levels of lead production as ancient smelting resulted in the emission of a part of lead production. Lead was a by-product of silver production and therefore indicate levels of silver production. Since silver was the standards money of the time, silver supply reflects the overall demand for money and hence reflects the level of commercial activity: source: Ian Morris, Social Development, page 46, on IanMorris.com. Also I have gathered the shipwreck data broken by 20 year periods instead of 100 year periods: from Quantifying the Roman Economy, page 221 Shows a bit greater resolution.
  2. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    That's true. Not all knowledge is based on formal education. It is not correct to classify all workers without formal education as unskilled laborers. Ancient Roman cities were much bigger than mediterranean cities of the 12-13th centuries. The largest mediterranean cities of the middle ages had 100,000 inhabitants, Venice and Genoa, while in the first century Rome had 1 million, Alexandria, Antioch and Cartage each had around a half a million. The 5 largest cities in the Roman Empire in 100 CE had around the same aggregate size as the 4-5 largest cities in the world in 1700 CE. According to this site: http://www.tulane.edu/~august/H303/handouts/Population.htm The populations of the largest cities in the early Roman Empire were these: Rome - 1,000,000 Alexandria - 500,000-750,000 Carthage - 350,000-500,000 Antioch - 350,000-500,000 Ephesus - 350,000-500,000 total: 2,550,000-3,250,000 average: 2,900,000 While according to Chandler's "4000 years of urban growth", the population of the largest cities in the world in 1700 CE were: Istanbul - 700,000 Edo - 688,000 Beijing - 650,000 London - 550,000 Paris - 530,000 total: 3,118,000 Keith Hopkins said that in his article on the political economy of the roman empire, that the cost of transport by sea was 50-60 times cheaper than by land during ancient times. So these huge cities had to be feed on grain carried by sea, since transporting the food by land over hundreds of miles would be unfeasible. Huge merchant fleets kept those cities alive. Literary accounts said that some merchant ships carried over 100,000 amphorae, that would mean ships of 4-5 thousand tons of more. Larger than many merchant ships of the early 19th century. It would be only natural that commercial activity in the mediterranean would be 10 times greater than during the middle ages. The size of the urban economy (i.e. the economy that doesn't depend only on subsistence production, but also production for the market) in the Roman empire was very large if compared to other pre-industrial societies.
  3. Are you sure about that? I would think that if anybody had superior weapons and armour would be the Hellenistic powers of the eastern mediterranean or Carthage. That depends on the enemies. Carthage, Macedonia, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire and other mediterranean powers had comparable technology, social and economic development to the Roman Republic. One has to understand that economic, social and technological factors determine to a great extent the military capabilities of a State. These enemies were Rome's equals because they shared the same civilization with Rome: the classic mediterranean civilization. By the 1st century, the Parthians and the barbarians tribes were far inferior to Rome in terms of military strength, on all levels. Carthage and Rome fought each other in the 3rd century BCE, when Rome's armed forces were still developing. Sassanid Persia started in the 3dr century CE, when the Empire was weaker than during it's peak. Neither nation fought Rome at their peak. Because they won. The Romans managed to defeat every enemy that stood in their way from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century. That's nearly 1 thousand years of military glory. By the early empire nothing could compare to Rome in military power. They considered that anything outside the empire wasn't worth conquering.
  4. Guaporense

    What do You Admire the Most?

    The most impressive fact about ancient Rome was the process of rise and decline of ancient civilization. By the 1st century CE ancient roman civilization had reached a degree of social, economic and technological development much greater than anything ever before and, perhaps, anything after for 1500 years. One interesting thing is the continuous process of decline that lasted for centuries, declining from the first century peak to the eight century and then recovering from the 8th century onwards. This can be illustrated in this graph on the levels of lead production of the world, that we can calculate based on archaeological data on dated ice cores from Greenland: source: "Greeland Ice Evidence of Hemispheric Lead Pollution Two Millennia Ago by Greek and Roman Civilizations", Science, vol. 265, n. 5180, pages 1841-1843. According to these estimates the world lead production started around 3,000 BCE and increased more or less continuously until the first century CE, when it was nearly 100,000 tons annually, then decreasing to less than 5 thousand tons annually in the early middle ages and increasing again to over 100,000 tons annually at the beginning of the industrial revolution. This type of evidence is also supported by various others archaeological findings, like shipwrecks in the mediterranean. It it something unique in human history, that otherwise shows a continuous process of improvement in social, economic and technological development. The Roman case is a case where people in the 11th century can look back a thousand years and really say that there were much greater empires and that the world today is only a shadow of it's past. That is something fascinating.
  5. Guaporense

    Abandoning Rome as capital city

    The east was much richer than the west during the 1st centuries BCE and CE. However, Italy and the western provinces increased in wealth during the early empire, at least according to the archaeological evidence, while the east stagnated or decreased in wealth after the 1st century BCE. This graph presents the chronological distribution of archaeological findings on Roman fish salting factories on Gaul, Spain Portugal and Morocco: source: http://oxrep.classics.ox.ac.uk/nw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40%3Aquantification-of-fish-salting-infrastructure-capacity-in-the-roman-world&catid=13%3Aproject-generated-research&Itemid=163&showall=1 The economic expansion in the early roman period for the western provinces was great. While in the 1st century BCE the east concentrated the bulk of the tax revenues, with time the west gained importance. The difference between the east and the west by the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE was much smaller. For example, out of the 5 largest cities in the empire, 2 were in the west, Rome and Carthage, while 3 were in the East, Alexandria, Antioch and Ephesus. We cannot say that the move of the capital to Constantinople in the 4th century had anything to do with the fact that the east was richer, as the hypothesis that the east was richer is quite in doubt for the 4th century.
  6. The population of Roman Italy fluctuated greatly in history. Some historians, like Keith Hopkins, calculate that Italy in 250 BCE had about 4 million inhabitants, this population increased gradually, and by the time of Augustus, Italy may have grown to 7-8 million. According to some estimates Italy, made by Los Cascio, the population of Italy in the first century CE reached 12-14 million people (link: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-04-28.html). After the 2nd century the population of Roman Italy started to decline. Probably there wasn't a period of quick decline, with the exception of the plagues, but even in the case of plagues the population declined and them recovered (perhaps only partially after 2nd century). By the 6th century the population of Italy declined to, probably, ~3 million. This decline was the product of the decline in commercial and industrial activity, that forced the population of the Empire to work exclusively on agriculture, while Italy, a densely populated part of the Empire, lost it's ability to sustain a large population without it's commercial and industrial role, therefore the population migrated to the large provinces, like Gaul. Also, the decline in agricultural productivity and the overall economic decline contributed to increase mortality rates, which decreased population until it reached a new and lower equilibrium value.
  7. I think that Rome declined gradually in size, while there wasn't any abrupt collapse in the city's population, with the possible exception in the 6th century. However by 500 CE Rome probably was less than a tenth of the city of 400 years before. Also, since the decline of Rome lasted for many centuries, there weren't many buildings standing in the mid 6th century as there were 500 years before. Only the ones made of marble and stone, like the Colosseum, that remained in mostly conserved state.
  8. Guaporense

    Alexander The Great: Gay or Straight?

    Alexander was probably straight. That's because he was hugely aggressive, and his military feats were the product of his aggressiveness. Aggressiveness is heavily influenced by hormone levels and hormone levels also influence sexual preference. Therefore, Alexander the Great was more manly than most men. And yes, there was such thing as gay and straight in ancient Greece, as there is today. Sexual preferences are not the product of culture. However culture can mask the sexual preferences of minorities, like gays and bisexuals. The notion that culture determines everything including sexual preferences doesn't stand on close scrutiny. It's the product of modern Marxian influence on social sciences. Oliver Stone is the product of this "leftist" influenced culture and his film about Alexander distorts reality in favor of this type of thinking.
  9. Guaporense

    Historical Comparisons

    Alexander the Great campaign in the area was a consolidation operation, where he consolidated his conquests. This can be compared in the 20th century with Germany's campaign's in Balkans and Greece, in WW2, when they consolidated their territory before trying to invade the Soviet Union. Though these campaigns can be compared to Alexander's campaigns involving the consolidation of Greece and northern territories, before the invasion of the Persian Empire.
  10. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    The reduction in wars and piracy may have reduced the number of ships sunk, reducing the number of wrecks to be found later. However, there would be other factors favoring the earlier period: in the empire more ships carried marble for the construction of monuments, such ships would tend to be found more easily than ships carrying wheat. Therefore, these types of distortions would tend to favor both periods. We cannot say for sure how a graph with the distortions evened out would look. Also, the data looks like to be quite consistent over time, increasing and decreasing in a smooth way. However, other data, since there are 3 types of data presented in that graph, are strongly correlated with the shipwrecks data. So, only if all the data is distorted in favor of Augustus' age that you can claim that the shipwreck data is distorted by wars and piracy. This is a graph of the rates of change in the relevant variables: You can clearly see that their rate of growth followed a very sharp pattern: it started growing at near 1% a year in the early 3rd century BCE, and growth rates continually decreased, until by the late 4th century, the economy was collapsing. This data applies to both the shipwreck data and the lead pollution levels. Also, if you wish to have a very long run view of the shipwrecks data, I can post this one, from 2500 BCE to 1500 CE, 4000 years of maritime trade: It really shows the rise and decline of classical civilization. Also, in the middle ages, trade in the Mediterranean appear much smaller than Hellenistic and Roman times. Though that is partly explained by the fact that amphoras are much easier to spot than barrels when divers look out. Too bad that I don't have a long run lead pollution graph.
  11. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    Certainly, unskilled workers constitute the bulk of the working population of any pre-industrial society. So their wages would provide information regarding overall productivity. Slavery didn't reduce the wages of unskilled workers directly, they would only do that if the existence of slavery inflated the supply of unskilled labor relative to skilled labor, if slavery didn't exist (i.e. if many slaves wouldn't become unskilled laborers), but that's improbable as the vast majority of workers were unskilled workers. The bulk of the population was rural (maybe 80% or more) and I don't believe peasants can be called unskilled workers especially because they were rarely wage workers in preindustrial societies. They can more easily be described as tenants, small landowners, people with rights on community lands, long term skilled employees and a myriad other relations that created a very complicated rural system of land and labor relations before capitalism. Probably the only unskilled workers employed in farming were those used for occasional, larger projects or for seasonal work like harvest when the usual resources of labor were insufficient. The study exemplifies unskilled workers as " i.e. farm labourers, camel and mule drivers, water carriers, and sewer cleaners". With the exception of the farm laborers I mentioned above the other categories don't look large enough to have an impact. Slavery can reduce the price of labor because removes choice (for example many freeman could refuse to do a work like sewer cleaning pushing the wage up but a slave can be forced to do it) and because they can be kept at a subsistence minimum. Of course this must be correlated with the price of slaves and the ability to control them. The bulk of farm laborers were unskilled workers, because they didn't have much human capital invested. What is human capital? A skilled worker may know how to read, a unskilled don't. Human capital is the capital invested in education and courses. Workers would be skilled or not depending on their human capital invested. If they are wage laborers or tenants or small landholders, it doesn't matter according to this definition. They are workers as long as they are a part of the workforce, they don't need to be a part of the labor market. Which one of the two articles? Both are papers made by the leading authorities of Roman economic and social conditions in the world today. If you mention the second: "The Economy of the Early Roman Empire", well that article was produced based on work on a dozen different articles before, the author synthesized his findings into that paper. The sources for his data are in his sources at the end of the paper.
  12. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    Another paper on the Economy of the Roman Empire is by the MIT economic historian, Peter Temin: http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/089533006776526148 Very good paper, he concludes that Roman income levels were comparable to Europe around 1700 CE.
  13. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    That's the Malthusian trap. The theory advanced in the paper linked above this post is that Roman incomes may have been higher in the earlier centuries, but population grew and decreased per capita incomes, reducing wages. Yes, I have verified that they are far lower than the purchasing power of wages in Pompey, for example. True, comparing wages in terms of silver across time is useless as the purchasing power of silver varies greatly. Though comparing wages in terms of silver across cities and countries at the same time-frame may yield interesting information. Better is a index of wages in terms of wheat. However we don't have detailed information for the Roman Empire as whole, but we have Roman Egypt and wages there were quite low, we also have good data for Ancient Athens, and wages in Athens were apparently higher than in any other place in the world before the industrial revolution, from places that we have sources. Certainly, unskilled workers constitute the bulk of the working population of any pre-industrial society. So their wages would provide information regarding overall productivity. Slavery didn't reduce the wages of unskilled workers directly, they would only do that if the existence of slavery inflated the supply of unskilled labor relative to skilled labor, if slavery didn't exist (i.e. if many slaves wouldn't become unskilled laborers), but that's improbable as the vast majority of workers were unskilled workers.
  14. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    Well, archaeological evidence suggests that the economic peak of the Roman Empire was during the reign of Augustus. One can even defend the thesis that by the second century AD the Empire was already economically weaker than before. By the fourth century, archaeological remains, specially data on the number of shipwrecks, suggests that the volume of trade in the mediterranean was way lower in the fourth century than in the firsts. The archaeological evidence supports the idea that the economic peak of ancient classical civilization was during the first century: Source: In Search for Roman Economic Growth, Walter Scheidel, 2008, Princeton/Stanford working papers on classics. By the 4th century, the classical civilization apparently declined to the same levels of the 3dr century BCE. The eastern started to decline even earlier, according to the author: "Thus, the notion of one-off growth is consistent with the fact that the most recent survey of datable shipwrecks from the eastern Mediterranean finds that wrecks from the last three centuries BCE (n=57) are almost twice as numerous as those from the first three centuries CE (n=32), suggesting that growth stalled even earlier in the East.", page 25 of the paper. In the west growth stalled in the first centuries, in the east it stalled even earlier, according to the archaeological evidence. Link for the paper: http://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/060808.pdf
  15. Guaporense

    How Prosperous were the Romans?

    The wages in the price edict were lower than the real wages 300 years before. Also, they are wages in a price edict, they reflected not the actual conditions of the empire but the conditions that the emperors wished these prices to be. In effect, they wanted to reduce wages to stop inflation, that was the objective of this edict. So, one shouln't use these numbers thinking they represented the true average purchasing power of worker's wages, which were probably higher.