Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/289

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
265
SERFS, SLAVES, SOCIAL CLASSES

goods as they wandered between one area of primitive civilization and another. In the Babylonian and Assyrian world the traders were predominantly the Semitic Arameans, the ancestors of the modern Syrians. They became a distinct factor in the life of the community; they formed great households of their own. Usury developed largely in the last thousand years b.c. Traders needed accommodation; cultivators wished to anticipate their crops. Sayce (op. cit.) gives an account of the Babylonian banking-house of Egibi, which lasted through several generations and outlived the Chaldean Empire.

(7) A class of small retailers, one must suppose, came into existence with the complication of society during the later days of the first empires, but it was not probably of any great importance. It is difficult to understand how there could be much active retailing without small change, and there is little evidence of small change to be found either in Egypt or Mesopotamia.[1] Shekels and half-shekels of silver, weighing something between a quarter and half an ounce, are the lightest weights of stamped metal of which we find mention.

(8) A growing class of independent property owners.

(9) As the amenities of life increased, there grew up in the court, temples, and prosperous private houses a class of domestic servants, slaves or freed slaves, or young peasants taken into the household.

(10) Gang workers.—These were prisoners of war or debt slaves, or impressed or deported men.

(11) Mercenary soldiers.—These also were often captives or impressed men. Sometimes they were enlisted from friendly foreign populations in which the military spirit still prevailed.

(12) Seamen.

 

In modern political and economic discussions we are apt to talk rather glibly of "labour." Much has been made of the solidarity of labour and its sense of community. It is well to note that in these first civilizations, what we speak of as "labour" is represented by five distinct classes dissimilar in origin, traditions, and outlook

  1. J. L. M. says this is the view of a Londoner. In a village or small town where everyone knows everyone, long credits are possible with barter. In Asia Minor there is much reckoning with quite imaginary money of account.