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Did Diocletianus destroy the Roman Economy...

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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.

 

... 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.

 

 

In the late 4th century the Roman army was still a formidable force. Julian was able to use a relatively small force to defeat a much larger force of Alemani at Strassburg. I don't think that he could have done so without an element of the traditional Roman discipline. Many of the soldiers were of barbarian origin, but they were trained and led in the Roman manner.

 

After Adrianople, Theodosius seemed more concerned about dealing with Maximus, and later Eugenius than dealing with the more rampant threat of the Goths. Perhaps he underestimated the danger of the Goths. Or as it has been suggested, he thought he could kill them off by having them fight his civil wars for him. The plan backfired. Many Goths were killed at the Frigidus, but they were not annihilated. They came out of the battle feeling that they deserved more recognition and demanded special treatment undeserving of their status. As Machiavelli pointed out it is not a good idea to injure an enemy without killing him because he will seek revenge, as Alaric did in 410.

 

"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."

Niccolo Machiavelli

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In the late 4th century the Roman army was still a formidable force. Julian was able to use a relatively small force to defeat a much larger force of Alemani at Strassburg. I don't think that he could have done so without an element of the traditional Roman discipline. Many of the soldiers were of barbarian, but they were trained and led in the Roman manner.

 

Battlefield tactical discipline is not the issue with the argument I referenced above. The issue is allowing Roman generals who were also Germanic princes. Roman operatives with divided loyalties, commanding untrustworthy states-within-a-state, ultimately using their power base within the empire to carve out kingdoms for themselves.

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In the late 4th century the Roman army was still a formidable force. Julian was able to use a relatively small force to defeat a much larger force of Alemani at Strassburg. I don't think that he could have done so without an element of the traditional Roman discipline. Many of the soldiers were of barbarian, but they were trained and led in the Roman manner.

 

Battlefield tactical discipline is not the issue with the argument I referenced above. The issue is allowing Roman generals who were also Germanic princes. Roman operatives with divided loyalties, commanding untrustworthy states-within-a-state, ultimately using their power base within the empire to carve out kingdoms for themselves.

 

I understand what you are saying. I don't think that was much of a problem prior to Adrianople. Stilicho's father led a Vandal unit under Valens at Adrianople, and there were no issues of of divided loyalties there.

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I read that Diocletian killed Roman commerce by setting artificially low prices for the sale of goods - why would you keep a business if you couldn't make any profit?

 

has anybody read anything about Roman revenues - where did the Empire get its money from?

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My knowledge of Roman economics is pretty limited, but I'm sure that Constantine and his successors tried to reverse some of Diocletian's poorer decisions. I think by Diocletian's time the silver content in coins had been reduced to zero, with most coins being washed with silver. Everybody could see through this and as a result coinage became increasingly devalued. Constantine tried to reverse this by keeping the gold standard. Gold coins can't be devalued in the same way as silver ones as they tend to lose colour. These reforms weren't entirely succesful, but they do show an attempt by Diocletian's successors to undo some of his economical errors. Too bad that the Roman economic structure had already altered by the third/fourth century anyway, with a decline in trade. With less trade with foreign markets - especially India, and gold running out from the mines in Spain and Dacia; the Roman landowners began to depend more and more on their locally produced goods - essentially produce off their own estates. Asa result the Romans were already getting poorer and poorer, even before the Germanic tribes began nabbing their territory and therefore their tax base.

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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.

 

The extent and importance of trade is not disputed, but rather the nature of it. The Romans overall practised a free economy and the phrase caveat emptor "Let the buyer beware" is rather telling. The rapacious behaviour of merchants toward gothic refugees after they crossed the Rhine is a prime example of how Roman commerce functioned.

 

In fact, we shouldn't overlook the influence of the patrician class in trade, for they often underwrote commercial enterprises and certainly had a hand in making commercial decisions even if they weren't supposed to muddy their hands with trading.

 

Diolcetian can be be seen in this case as attempting to regulate practises already in effect. It would seem his measures weren't entirely succesful, not because they failed in principle, but because no-one really took much notice.

 

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

This is what I mean. Traditionally sons had practised their fathers trade in any case. We know this to be the case because of legionary recruitment practises dating back to the Marian Reforms. Diocletian is apparently making that association a legal necessity to promote traditional values an, in all likeliehood, to restore what might have been a perceived trend toward selfish or anti-social vocations.

 

It is an interesting thing though. How did that affect volunteering for the legions? Or perhaps even the arena, which in Diocletians time was still a thriving industry (if somewhat moribund and increasingly prone to dramatic 'wounding' fights as opposed to 'honourable duels')

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Guest ParatrooperLirelou

. . . 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!)

I always thought that Rome fell because its people became slothful and slowly lost the nationalism that allowed them to endure previous wars and crises such as the Punic Wars.I'm no expert, but its apparent that the lack of nationalism and sense of duty among the Roman people in the era of decline and fall was responsible for the fall of Rome.I'll post a thread where we can further discuss this later.

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They say that the fish rots from the head. Usually this is pinned on the caesars (and not without reason), but I do think we have to consider the upper class of Rome as a whole guilty party in this.

 

The thing is, during the principate the patrician class were deeply involved in politics and from a distance, trade. They were a sort of manorial manager class in effect and kept things under control. However, as time passes, the old order dies out for various reasons leaving behind 'new money' un their place, and it was said that most of those later patricians were the descendants of former slaves rather than inheritors of noble blood.

 

That doesn't necessarily mean a drop in expertise, but I'm inclined to believe that in this case, that's more or less what happened. Patricians of the later empire seem far less concerned with duty and career, more with feathering their nest. It's as if they saw what the old guard got up to on the quiet and made that their primary objective once they were in charge. Certainly the factional rivalry was worse than in previous times.

 

Therefore the older control of trade was gradually eroding and Diocletian saw a need to bolster the oversight of trading in the empire, which as I said before was not well regulated in any case unless tax revenues were affected. Roman traders were too opportunistic to be swayed by rules and since success in the Roman Empire was all about risk, it perhaps comes as no suprise that traders weren't too observant of the rules.

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I think it is unlikely that Diocletian destroyed the Roman economy, and to speak of his reforms as a cause of the fall of the West is equally as unlikely given the relatively early date. He did however have a naive view of inflation, and what was needed to offset it, and unfortunately his financial policy brought to the attention of the masses the debasement of the denarius. Prior to this, despite steady debasement over the previous 150 years, the denarius continued to function as a denomination. By and large the government honoured its face value, despite its dropping silver content - in the same way as a British shilling was worth much the same in 1948 as it was in 1946, despite being minted in cupro - nickel from 1947 on. In this sense, the denarius was functioning very nicely as a token coinage, Diocletian's reforms having the effect of ending this satisfactory, although unintended outcome.

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As it happens, coinage became so debased in the late empire that it hardly contained any valuable metal at all. Although the empire was able to survive financially confortably, much of its wealth seems to have been squandered on military issues, including factories, supply, and security, besides keeping barbarians at bay. I also suspect a great deal of wealth was squandered on excessive bureacracy as people sought sinecures or status through reward and staff size. In other words, the late empire was struggling to balance the books because the very people supposed to be doing that were exploiting the system, never mind squabbling among themselves.

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I think Diocletian was trying to make the best out of a bad economic situation.

 

The Crisis of the Mid 3rd Century left parts of the empire, especially in the West, depopulated and it's economic productivity damaged from epidemics, barbarian raids, civil war, economic breakdown, coinage debasement, and banditry. At the same time, defense costs were going through the roof. The result was that Diocletian was trying all that he could to stabilize the economy and to squeeze as much tax out of people as he could.

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