Monday, May 24, 2010

The Italian Niche: Rome, Italy and the Provinces, First Century B.C. (5)

(Continue from Page: 4)

It has been asserted that the smallholders were swallowed up by the great landlords, because the former mainly grew corn, which constantly fell in price because of the vast import of cheap corn from the provinces. It is certain that they were swallowed up; but this was not caused by the import of corn but by other causes___the flow of money to Italy, the eagerness of rich men to invest their capital in land, their willingness to buy land at any price, and the heartless confiscations by which the leaders of revolutionary armies flooded the land market. In fact, if the civil wars brought ruin in their train, the victims were generally men of moderate or small means. Almost all the individuals of whom we know certainly that they were ruined by civil war belong to the class of fairly well-to-do farmers. Virgil lost his estate; and he was a small landowner at Mantua in north Italy. Horace, as a partisan of Brutus and Cassius, forfeited his property, which consisted of land near Venusia, on the borders of Lucania and Apulia. Many no doubt were thus ruined and forced to take up their residence in the towns, others became tenants of the fields they had owned, and others were forced to emigrate to the Eastern or Western provinces. They were joined there by all who thought it better to sell land in Italy and seek their luck in foreign parts, where they hoped to find a good investment for their capital and labour.

The flow of capital to italy explains also the expansion of industry there in tyhe second and first centuries B.C. Some kinds of manufacture had flourished from very early times. Etruria had always exported a large quantity of bronze articles; as early as the fourth century the local pottery of South Italy had driven out vessels exported from Attica; and these manufactures were now largely developed. Capua became one of the chief centres for the production and export of bronze and copper vessels. Capua first, and Arretium in north Italy later, supplied all the West with earthenware. In the first century a great manufacture of earthenware lamps was started in north italy. The fine fleeces of Apulia had long been famous and now became known all over the world, while an excellent wool for coarser fabrics was supplied by the flocks of north Italy.

The provinces, however, were in a much less flourishing economic condition. In the West, Africa produced corn on the vast estates of the Roman nobles, but produced hardly anything else; Spain was slowly recovering from fierce and continuous wars, from the time of Viriathus to Sertorius, and from the time of Sertorius to the conflict between Caesar and Pompey; Gaul was first ruined by the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutones and then weighed down by Caesar's campaigns in the centre and north of the country. Yet even there the influence of Italy, so near and so prosperous, was felt. The whole of Italy had now become Latinized. The language of Pompeii was Oscan before the Social war; at the time of Sulla's death Latin had driven Oscan out. In Cisalpine Gaul the Celtic tongue died out without leaving a trace behind: every one spoke and wrote Latin. Virgil, the greatest of the Latin poets, was a native of Mantua: his rival, Horace, was born at Venusia in south italy. Latinized herself, Italy began to diffuse the same influence among the Western provinces. Latin culture and Latin town-life took root there.

In the first century the planting of Roman colonies and the immigration of italians turned southern Spain and southern Gaul into something like districts of italy. These Italians took with them some of their native capital and their native capacity for business. The settlers took a lively interest in the economic life of these countries and paved the way for future prosperity.

To be continued: Page: 6

Source of Information: A History of the Ancient World by M. Rostovtzeff; Volume II Rome (Translated from the Russian by J.D. Duff. Oxford at the Clarendon Press Published: 1927 Great Britain.

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