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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VIII. THE GREAT AGE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC, 264-31 B.C.
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THE PROFITS OF CONQUEST
In the old days, before Rome entered on a career of foreign conquest, her citizens were famous among men for their love of country, their simple lives, and their conservative, old-fashioned ways. They worked hard on their little farms, fought bravely in the legions, and kept up with careful piety all the ceremonies of their religion. But now the Roman republic was an imperial power with all the privileges of universal rule. Her foreign wars proved to be immensely profitable. At the end of a successful campaign the soldiers received large gifts from their general, besides the booty taken from the enemy. The Roman state itself profited from the sale of enslaved prisoners and their property. Large sums of money were sometimes seized and taken to Rome. When once peace had been made, the Roman governors and tax collectors followed in the wake of the armies and squeezed the provincials at every turn. The Romans, indeed, seem to have conquered the world less for glory than for profit.
GROWTH OF LUXURY
So much wealth poured into Rome from every side that there could scarcely fail to be a sudden growth of luxurious tastes. Rich nobles quickly developed a relish for all sorts of reckless display. They built fine houses adorned with statues, costly paintings, and furnishings. They surrounded themselves with troops of slaves. Instead of plain linen clothes they and their wives wore garments of silk and gold. At their banquets they spread embroidered carpets, purple coverings, and dishes of gilt plate. Pomp and splendor replaced the rude simplicity of an earlier age.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy