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Total War Heaven » Forums » Total War History » Destruction of Pompeii and the Roman Economy
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Topic Subject:Destruction of Pompeii and the Roman Economy
Punic Hebil
Centurion
(id: Punic Hoplite)
posted 16 December 2012 10:26 EDT (US)         
So last night I was walking back to base with a couple of buddies, and we started talking history. One friend made a statement I disagree with, but seeing as how the other friend, who majored in history, also sided with him, I told them I would put it online in an educated place to get an educated debate going.

This statement was: The destruction of Pompeii was the beginning of the collapse of the Roman economy.

My thoughts were that this was wrong. My view was once the Roman expenditure's main focus was funding the army, the only way for it to continue growing would be to either have a constant input of gold or silver, from either mining or plundering. Trajan still was to take power, and plunder Dacia and all of its wealth, and that wealth was to power the Roman economy for years to come.

His argument was that Pompeii was one of two ports, for both export and import, for Rome, the other being Ostia. Since Rome had lost one of it's two main ports, Ostia couldn't handle the new flow of traffic, and that trade was lost.


Please, give me your opinions and angles on this argument.

I am the Carthaginian who became an angel, and surrendered his wings for a life on the sea of battle.

My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel the Deflowerer
AuthorReplies:
Alex_the_Bold
Legionary
posted 16 December 2012 10:46 EDT (US)     1 / 4       
In my opinion, the destruction of Pompeii was a major blow at the Roman maritime trade, but don't forget that there were some other major ports in Italy, such as the Portus Julius near Pozzuoli, Ostia, the port of Claudius in Rome, "Colonia Iulia obsequens" (modern day Pisa), Aquileia, Genoa, Naples and Brundisium among others. Of course, most of these ports were much smaller than Pompeii or Stavia, but became more prominent after the destruction of 79 AD.

I believe that the financial problems of this period are due to the constant civil wars, such as the Year of the Four Emperors, not solely to the explosion of Vesuvius. I hope more knowledgeable people, such as Pitt or Vasta could enlighten us more...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
ShieldWall
Legionary
posted 16 December 2012 11:05 EDT (US)     2 / 4       
I can't claim to know anything about the economic impacts of Pompeii, but Rome struggled, as do all economies, with cash problems now and again, so I would side with the argument that whatever problems they had at that time were more than cured when Trajan plundered Dacia. I believe that much of what survives of Rome today, owes its construction to the good times that followed the huge influx of wealth.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 16 December 2012 12:22 EDT (US)     3 / 4       
Pompeii was not a major city. It was a town that was annexed into the Republic rather late (89BC or so) and was located in a region where a lot fo wealthy Romans had their country estates/villas.

Its destruction affected very little of Roman life, though a few did mourn the loss of Plinius. The naval base at Herculaneum was more of a loss.

Neither was the beginning of the Roman economic crisis that would affect much of the empire later. Most of that was caused by the Roman economy running out of feul- captured goods, etc, and that happened when the empire ceased to expand. See Trajan's conquest and the econimic revival, followed by the long slide into decay thereafter.

The place did not bring a lot of money or supplies in, making it missable. Nor did Titus spend zillions of denarii restoring the place afterward. Life in Rome went on exactly as it had before the eruption, and continued that way for a long long time afterward.

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 12-16-2012 @ 12:34 PM).]

Pitt
Tribunus Laticlavius
posted 16 December 2012 17:48 EDT (US)     4 / 4       
Rome didn't fall until four centuries after Pompeii's destruction; that would tend to suggest one had little to do with the other.

Grain imports to Rome in order to feed its people don't seem to have been interrupted (presumably Tacitus or a later historian would have mentioned bread riots).

It's true that in later years, Rome itself became steadily less important other than as a symbol, but that has rather more to do with the creation of emperors by provincial armies than a lack of shipping capacity in Rome's ports.
My view was once the Roman expenditure's main focus was funding the army, the only way for it to continue growing would be to either have a constant input of gold or silver, from either mining or plundering. Trajan still was to take power, and plunder Dacia and all of its wealth, and that wealth was to power the Roman economy for years to come.
Military expenditure always made up the greatest part of the principate's budget, as it did in European countries until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the introduction of the modern welfare state.

A currency based on precious metals has serious implications for an economy. Inflation is generally less pronounced (not always though); deflation is more common, as more things are produced but there's no more money in circulation with which to buy them. Quantitative easing as used by modern central banks was impossible. The equivalent was mining more or stealing more, both of which are expensive and time-consuming themselves. The other option is to debase the currency, where the silver or gold content is reduced, allowing more coins to be minted. If done too drastically however, it could destroy confidence in the coins. Fiat money, and more importantly the public's confidence in it, are relatively modern phenomena.

If you flood a market with more silver or gold, but there aren't any more products to spend it on, prices are going to rise. Conversely, a lack of currency in a market with increasing production causes prices to go down, dragging wages down with it. A steady growth is preferable, as it allows for natural growth in economic activity.

"Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." - P.G. Wodehouse, The Luck of the Bodkins

[This message has been edited by Pitt (edited 12-16-2012 @ 06:14 PM).]

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