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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER II - The Tribunate of the Plebs and the Decemvirate


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Page 3

Rising Power of the Capitalists

The reduction of the port-dues, although upon the whole a popular measure, chiefly benefited the great merchant. But a much greater accession to the power of capital was supplied by the indirect system of finance-administration. It is difficult to say what were the remote causes that gave rise to it: but, while its origin may probably be referred to the regal period, after the introduction of the consulate the importance of the intervention of private agency must have been greatly increased, partly by the rapid succession of magistrates in Rome, partly by the extension of the financial action of the treasury to such matters as the purchase and sale of grain and salt; and thus the foundation must have been laid for that system of farming the finances, the development of which became so momentous and so pernicious for the Roman commonwealth.

The state gradually put all its indirect revenues and all its more complicated payments and transactions into the hands of middlemen, who gave or received a round sum and then managed the matter for their own benefit. Of course only considerable capitalists and, as the state looked strictly to tangible security, in the main only large landholders, could enter into such engagements: and thus there grew up a class of tax-farmers and contractors, who, in the rapid growth of their wealth, in their power over the state to which they appeared to be servants, and in the absurd and sterile basis of their moneyed dominion, quite admit of comparison with the speculators on the stock exchange of the present day.

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