Game Discussions A note on the "Roman Model" of Imperial Slavery.

Will the real Bronze Age Mindset please stand up:

"I have written quite a bit about Bronze Age archaeology in the ancient Near East. That is where the Act of God stipulation originated. It appears in the Laws of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC. The problem that the Babylonians had to deal with was what to do when there is a flood, a drought, warfare or a pandemic. What should be the rules when, suddenly out of nowhere, cultivators and the citizenry on the land are rendered unable to grow and harvest crops, out of which to pay the debts that they have run up during the year and are falling due. They owe the taxes, sharecropping or other rent that could not be paid.

Hammurabi was quite specific about how to handle this situation. Paragraph 48 of his Laws said that there would be a debt and a tax amnesty when the weather god, Adad, created a flood or otherwise prevented debts and other obligations from being paid. If the storm god floods the lands, the debts and rents don’t have to be paid. A fresh start was made under conditions of balance for the next crop season.

The basic problem was similar to that today: How does a society restore continuity and save itself from disruption creating a permanent loss and distortion of existing wealth and income relationships? What Hammurabi and every other Babylonian, Sumerian ruler and other Near Eastern rulers did between about 2,500 BC and the 1st century BC was to proclaim amnesties in such circumstances. If they hadn’t done that, cultivators would not have been able to pay their creditors and they would have fallen into bondage. They would have owed their labour and crops to their creditors.

This would have caused a serious fiscal problem for rulers. If victims of a crop failure or other economic interruption had to pay their creditors with their labour and crop surplus, this labor and crop tax wouldn’t be available to pay the palace its normal claims for taxes and corvée labour duties to build infrastructure or even serve in the army. Social balance and continuity would have been destroyed – from within. So when Hammurabi and every ruler of his dynasty proclaimed a clean slate cancelling the debts and rent arrears that had mounted up unpaid, proclaiming a return to the normal situation prevented a creditor oligarchy from emerging and seeking its own interest as distinct from that of the palace.

All this changed in Roman times. Classical antiquity protected the financial and rentier elites. Cicero and the other Roman leaders said that all the debts had to be paid, even (or indeed, precisely because!) this led to the enslavement of poorer Romans and Greeks. Rome’s creditor oligarchy used every crisis as an opportunity to grab the land of the smallholders, to force the population into bondage and to get control of their land."
 
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Hammurabi had expanded his empire, by a massive extent. So basically, he could afford to 'write off' the debts, of 'his own' people. All of the states and lands he added to his empire, had to pay massive tributes to him, for the rest of his rule.

Yes: He established laws and a progressive form of social justest, which were probably the foundation stones, of the societies we see today; but he had the collateral backing to fall back on and the time (40 years in power was a long time then), to become the apparent altruist, he has been remembered as.

Edit:- As to the Romans. Due to some/most of the later rulers, greed and excesses, their empire, became too expensive to run.
 
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Rome imported so many slaves from the newly conquered lands that this cheap labour competed against the "middle class" artisans. Roman citizens didn't fall into slavery - instead they developed into a dependency from rich families in the clientele system or fed the Roman military with fresh recruits seeking out properity in foreign lands. The erosion of the economy by slave labour and bloated military eventually led to the fall of the republic.
 
Also the rich houses were able to buy more and more land that they operated with slave labour. The increased productivity on these latifundias made the small scall peasants lose in the competition (prices, ability to store harvests) leading to further concentration of land in the hands of the wealthy. And more proles going to the city to seek some form of employment.
 
Rome imported so many slaves from the newly conquered lands that this cheap labour competed against the "middle class" artisans. Roman citizens didn't fall into slavery - instead they developed into a dependency from rich families in the clientele system or fed the Roman military with fresh recruits seeking out properity in foreign lands. The erosion of the economy by slave labour and bloated military eventually led to the fall of the republic.

There are interesting parallels here i feel with modern day USA. The nation has a vastly bloated military industrial complex, and an economy supported by cheap labour, sometimes internally, but often based in overseas nations such as China and India through outsourcing and globalisation.
The result is a society with an increasingly wealthy billionaire Elite, a hollowed out middle class, and a burgeoning underclass living in poverty. History has shown that this is a fermenter of unrest and revolution.
 
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