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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


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

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 XI - The Old Republic and the New Monarchy


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Page 101


In order to show what dimensions money-dealing assumed by the side of this estate-husbandry unnaturally prospering over the ruin of the small farmers, how the Italian merchants vying with the Jews poured themselves into all the provinces and client-states of the empire, and how all capital ultimately flowed to Rome, it will be sufficient, after what has been already said, to point to the single fact that in the money-market of the capital the regular rate of interest at this time was six per cent, and consequently money there was cheaper by a half than it was on an average elsewhere in antiquity.

Social Disproportion

In consequence of this economic system based both in its agrarian and mercantile aspects on masses of capital and on speculation, there arose a most fearful disproportion in the distribution of wealth. The often-used and often-abused phrase of a commonwealth composed of millionaires and beggars applies perhaps nowhere so completely as to the Rome of the last age of the republic; and nowhere perhaps has the essential maxim of the slave-state-- that the rich man who lives by the exertions of his slaves is necessarily respectable, and the poor man who lives by the labour of his hands is necessarily vulgar--been recognized with so terrible a precision as the undoubted principle underlying all public and private intercourse.(51)

51. The following exposition in Cicero's treatise De officiis (i. 42) is characteristic: -Iam de artificiis et quaestibus, qui liberales habendi, qui sordidi sint, kaec fere accepimus. Primum improbantur ii quaestus, qui in odia hominum incurrunt, ut portitorum, ut feneratorum. Illiberales autem et sordidi quaestus mercenariorum omnium, quorum operae, nonaries emuntur. Est autem in illis ipsa merces auctoramentum servitutis. Sordidi etiam putandi, qui mercantur a mercatoribus quod statim vendant, nihil enim proficiant, nisi admodum mentiantur. Nec vero est quidquam turpius vanitate. Opificesque omnes in sordida arte versantur; nec enim quidquam ingenuum habere potest officina. Minimeque artes eae probandae, quae ministrae sunt voluptatum,

"Cetarii, lanii, coqui, fartores, piscatores,"

ut ait Terentius. Adde huc, si placet, unguentarios, saltatores, totumque ludum talarium. Quibus autem artibus aut prudentia maior inest, aut non mediocris utilitas quaeritur, ut medicina, ut architectura, ut doctrina rerum honestarum, eae sunt iis, quorum ordini conveniunt, honestae. Mercatura autem, si tenuis est, sordida putanda est; sin magna et copiosa, multa undique apportans, multaque sine vanitate impertiens, non est admodum vituperanda; atque etiam, si satiata quaestu, vel contenta potius; ut saepe ex alto in portum, ex ipso portu in agros se possessionesque contulerit, videtur optimo iure posse laudari.

Omnium autem rerum, ex quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine libero dignius-. According to this the respectable man must, in strictness, be a landowner; the trade of a merchant becomes him only so far as it is a means to this ultimate end; science as a profession is suitable only for the Greeks and for Romans not belonging to the ruling classes, who by this means may purchase at all events a certain toleration of their personal presence in genteel circles. It is a thoroughly developed aristocracy of planters, with a strong infusion of mercantile speculation and a slight shading of general culture.

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