Posted by: ken98 | September 18, 2009

Slavery and Citizenship

Day 6 – Ken here

In Praise of Rome

A slow day in the Gibbon fields.

There are whole tracts of Gibbon given over to abject praise of all things Roman. Today’s pages were, in part, one of those sections.

Gibbons is maniacally pro-Roman, and he is forging new ground by adopting an almost sociological overview of Roman society. The next 10 pages are on citizenship and slavery. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows how Paul prized his Roman citizenship for the advantages citizenship gave him as a provincial from a small backwater province. Much of what Gibbon writes is laudatory in the extreme and vague, and not particularly detailed.

Roman Freedman

Slavery was a common state in the ancient world, having nothing to do with race, but resulting from war. Most of the economy, and a great majority of the population were slaves (Gibbon gives an estimate of the population of the Roman world at somewhere around 120 million, based on a Claudian census of citizens, of which he calculates more than half or 60 million, were slaves – DF p.69). Modern estimates of the entire population are less than half that 45-55 million in total with possibly 2 million as slaves – UNLV. Freedmen were a strange state resulting from slavery. A slave was born a slave and gave birth to slaves, a freedman was born a slave, freed, and gave birth to citizens. Freedmen were a one generation state.

Tomorrow, more on Roman habits in giving large gifts to cities. To Gibbon, it was just another piece of evidence showing the excellence of the Roman civic spirit. It appears at first sight, to be yet another trivial couple of pages praising the “un-degenerated” Roman, as opposed to the degenerates who ruled the empire later and caused its decline. It is much more significant, in my opinion. It is, like an iceberg, the smallest visible portion of a huge economic system driving the great engines of commerce, manufacturing, and finance, and pumping money and goods back and forth across the Mediterranean basin ( see: Fustel de Coulanges.)

better get to bed – until tomorrow

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