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Did Diocletianus destroy the Roman Economy...

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Hi,

 

I've wondered if Diocletianus can be considered the main guilty for the fall of the Roman Empire due to his soviet-style economic reforms wich turned the Empire in an ancient USSR destroying its semi-capitalist economy. Am I right or the economic decline had started much earlier than him and was unstoppable when Diocletianus rised to power?

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Soviet Rome? That seems a little far fetched to me. Fundamentally the empire was carrying on business as usual, albeit with a different politcal organisation, but that simply amounted to power sharing at the top. If anything, it was the failure of successors to maintain good order that ruined things. After all, the civil war that followed Diocletians reign can be said to be responsible for Constantines patronage and eventual adoption of christianity as the state religion, paving the way for the christian west in later times. The seeds of economic decline were planted much earlier, the empire living of the fat of former times, but remember that it was Contantine who moved wealth to the east and thus created conditions for western decay, whereas the Byzantines persisted for centuries.

Edited by caldrail

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. . . and even as far back as Hadrian. In effectively halting further conquest, he put a stop to the steady inflow of wealth (and particulalry precious metals) that had been happening thus far. This had been doing a fine job of keeping the lid on the kind of inflationary pressures that continued to dog the Empire's economy thereafter.

 

At the end of the day, it would be great to point at one discreet decision and blame it, but the reasons for the fall of the Western Empire are many, varied, and complex. It wouldn't be beyond the knowledge of this forum's contributors to find a way to blame Augustus. (There's a challenge!)

Edited by GhostOfClayton

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. . . and even as far back as Hadrian. In effectively halting further conquest, he put a stop to the steady inflow of wealth (and particulalry precious metals) that had been happening thus far. This had been doing a fine job of keeping the lid on the kind of inflationary pressures that continued to dog the Empire's economy thereafter.

 

At the end of the day, it would be great to point at one discreet decision and blame it, but the reasons for the fall of the Western Empire are many, varied, and complex. It wouldn't be beyond the knowledge of this forum's contributors to find a way to blame Augustus. (There's a challenge!)

 

Well, I can try to blame Nero (to a certain degree), who I reckon started the trend of adding non noble metals to coins. It's a one of many ways to severely weaken an economy in that time.

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The mistake here is assuming the emperors were controlling the economy. Some had a hand in directing it, but the attitude of the upper classes was never to muddy their hands (at least publicly) in business. Certainly they raised taxes at times, but that's simply demanding an increase in revenue, not financial control, which was left to lesser functionaries to administer, and one suspects most of them were less than contientous.

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The mistake here is assuming the emperors were controlling the economy. Some had a hand in directing it, but the attitude of the upper classes was never to muddy their hands (at least publicly) in business. Certainly they raised taxes at times, but that's simply demanding an increase in revenue, not financial control, which was left to lesser functionaries to administer, and one suspects most of them were less than contientous.

 

Yes . . . I've fallen into my own trap there. Saying that the reasons were many and varied, and then blaming the economy (almost in the same breath). Basically, the economy was bucking like a bronco on-and-off from (arguably) the back end of the 2nd century, but the Western Empire still steamrollered on without too much bother.

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Didn't Diocletian attempt to fix prices, and make many occupations hereditary?

 

I don't know if that made it "Soviet Rome," but it sounds like he saw intervention in the economy and social order as a necessary move.

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Didn't Diocletian attempt to fix prices, and make many occupations hereditary?

 

Have a look (listen to) this website:

 

http://webcast.berkeley.edu/course_details.php?seriesid=1906978539

 

The lectures on 4/23 and 4/25 would probably best answer your questions. But don't tell anybody about this resource . . . I've been using it to make myself sound cleverer than I actually am in front of the other forum members!

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Didn't Diocletian attempt to fix prices, and make many occupations hereditary?

 

This is what I meant: AFAIK he destroyed monetary trade by fixing prices, turning it partially in barter and he also halted social mobility crystallizing roman society. Plus Diocletianus placed a heavy taxation on citizens turning free farmers in people as poor as slaves and by applying taxes collectively on whole communities, enforced by a single functionary, he placed the bases of the medieval feudal economy.

 

Therefore I wondered if Diocletianus can actually be blamed for breaking the back of a still thriving imperial economy in order to sustain heavy military expenses or he just increased the economic decadence of already very impoverished Empire.

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The basis of the feudal economy wasn't created by Diocletian's policies, it was already inherently part of Roman culture. Rather than see Diocletian as a man tinkering with policies to invent a different social order, perhaps it might be more useful to see him as attempting to stabilise a difficult situation? Or even more to the point, as a manager of a large multinational corporation beset with labour problems and low profits?

 

The empire had become somewhat bloated and inefficient by Diocletians reign. Increasing bureaucracy had all but rendered the empire ungovernable by one man. The extent of corruption and increasing numbers of sinecure seeking functionaries hd reached breaking point. In order to prevent a schism in Roman politics and the ugly prospect of civil war between rivals and possibly break-away regions, Diocletian created his tetrarchy, which effectively produced a federal Rome. He is also credited with ending the crisis of the third century for these very reasons. His persecutions were designed to prevent divisions in Roman society, to reaffirm the pagan order of things, and prevent religious strife in Roman society, but they were carried out because of pressure from others, and the extent of persecution was therefore down to public pressure. He was, after all, a very conservative man.

 

Notice that with Diocletian in charge, regardless of the nature of his policies, the system worked. Only when he retired did the empire break down into civil war exactly as he had tried to avoid. A cynical observer might wonder if he was doing what Tiberius had - making the next reign far worse than his, in order to look good in historical records, but then why would he have bothered to share power if he was so self-important?

 

His attempt to control prices was unsuccessful, but then, the Romans did not have any real control of their economy to begin with, and his policies here were largely ignored by the roman populace. His autocratic style obviously helped, as some measure of stability did return, but whereas obstructing social mobility would create a more ordered society, it was also against the competitive and ambitious nature of the Roman mindset.

 

As with all emperors, it's easy to see them as powerful god-like individuals who simply clicked their fingers. In many cases, these men were having to remain popular or suffer the consequences, which means at some point that they need to act on public demands. Diocletian did that, and in a way tried to make Rome a fairer society. The problem was, Romans rather liked things the way they were.

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The basis of the feudal economy wasn't created by Diocletian's policies, it was already inherently part of Roman culture.

 

How? I thouhgt that roman culture in republican and early imperial times was very trade oriented.

 

 

Rather than see Diocletian as a man tinkering with policies to invent a different social order, perhaps it might be more useful to see him as attempting to stabilise a difficult situation? Or even more to the point, as a manager of a large multinational corporation beset with labour problems and low profits?

 

The empire had become somewhat bloated and inefficient by Diocletians reign. Increasing bureaucracy had all but rendered the empire ungovernable by one man. The extent of corruption and increasing numbers of sinecure seeking functionaries hd reached breaking point. In order to prevent a schism in Roman politics and the ugly prospect of civil war between rivals and possibly break-away regions, Diocletian created his tetrarchy, which effectively produced a federal Rome. He is also credited with ending the crisis of the third century for these very reasons. His persecutions were designed to prevent divisions in Roman society, to reaffirm the pagan order of things, and prevent religious strife in Roman society, but they were carried out because of pressure from others, and the extent of persecution was therefore down to public pressure. He was, after all, a very conservative man.

 

Notice that with Diocletian in charge, regardless of the nature of his policies, the system worked. Only when he retired did the empire break down into civil war exactly as he had tried to avoid. A cynical observer might wonder if he was doing what Tiberius had - making the next reign far worse than his, in order to look good in historical records, but then why would he have bothered to share power if he was so self-important?

 

I agree that politically and militarily he stabilized the empire and gave it 2 centuries more of life (even more if we consider the eastern empire) but I argued that he placed an heavy statalism on the imperial society and economy.

 

His attempt to control prices was unsuccessful, but then, the Romans did not have any real control of their economy to begin with, and his policies here were largely ignored by the roman populace. His autocratic style obviously helped, as some measure of stability did return, but whereas obstructing social mobility would create a more ordered society, it was also against the competitive and ambitious nature of the Roman mindset.

 

So do you argue that his edicts remained largely on paper both regarding taxation and tying sons to the profession of their fathers?

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At the end of the day, it would be great to point at one discreet decision and blame it, but the reasons for the fall of the Western Empire are many, varied, and complex. It wouldn't be beyond the knowledge of this forum's contributors to find a way to blame Augustus. (There's a challenge!)

 

I call dibs by placing the blame on Marius and his military reform. My logic was that a professional army led to the empire and that the empire was inherently unstable.

 

I wonder if the price edict of Diocletian was really put in practice.

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I call dibs by placing the blame on Marius and his military reform.

 

 

You rose to the challenge and then some, Kosmo - well done indeed! I can't see anyone out there can beating Marius & his Mules as the cause for the downfall of the Western Empire . . . . .

 

One of GhostOfClayton's worthless prizes goes to the winner!

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Hi,

 

I've wondered if Diocletianus can be considered the main guilty for the fall of the Roman Empire due to his soviet-style economic reforms wich turned the Empire in an ancient USSR destroying its semi-capitalist economy. Am I right or the economic decline had started much earlier than him and was unstoppable when Diocletianus rised to power?

 

 

 

I think the empire fell because of the propensity of the Romans to fight each other for the throne, coupled with the propensity of the Germans to run roughshod over the borders.

 

As far as any of Diocletian's reforms that may have directly impacted the survival of the empire, the main credible theory seems to be the splitting of the civil and military command, along with splitting the military into smaller units. This is alleged to have the effect of making the army a much less efficient and responsive force (Goldsworthy tries to paint Adrianopole as the ultimate consequence of this reform). And opening the army command to people not directly tied to Roman culture and property (i.e, the Senatorial class of old) had the effect of giving outsiders with their own agendas (Germans and other assorted barbarians) too much power to play with in the borders of the empire.

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