The Influence of Wealth in Imperial Rome/Preface

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Published in New York, 1910.


This book attempts to consider various phases in the economic and social life of Ancient Rome; such as has not been treated, except incidentally, in any English work, nor in any French or German work from precisely the same standpoint ; a fact which gives justification for the present essay.

The purpose is to consider the influence of money and of the commercial spirit throughout the period of Roman greatness. Sometimes a liberal interpretation has been given to the term "Money Power," and certain subjects have been discussed not at first sight closely connected with public finance or private industry and commerce. Yet the idea that the Romans owed much, both of their greatness and of their ultimate failure, to the supreme estimate they put upon wealth and its concomitants has never been lost from view.

This essay makes no claim to exhaustive or original learning. The evidence of the ancient authors, supplemented by much testimony from the great Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, is however carefully used, and from what is possibly a somewhat new point of departure. Yet modern investigators on one point or another have put the author under a great debt Friedlaender, Grupp, Mommsen, Marquardt, Voigt, Schiller, Seeck, Hirshfeld, Schanz, Bloch, Boissier, Duruy, Arnold, Dill and many more, as well as the able contributors to Smith's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, and to the Pauly-Wissowa Real-Encyklopaedie der classischen Alterthumswissenschaft.[1]

Since this book does not claim to be a critical compendium for the advanced scholar, it has not seemed wise to encumber the pages with foot-note references and citations of the classical and modern authorities. The only notes given are to complete or elucidate the statements in the text.

Much of the book naturally is taken up with a discussion of the prosperous period of the early Empire; yet the "Influence of Wealth" began its dominance far back under the Republic, and many references must be made to this period. Also the testimony of Cicero is too important to be ignored in a great many matters. Abundant use is made of the evidence of the younger Pliny, as one of the most illuminating and entertaining witnesses to the social life of the Empire.

If this essay shall succeed, in scant measure, in making plain that within the Roman world, amid which Cicero thundered his eloquence, Caesar led his legions, and Nero indulged his passions, there was another world, less voluptuous and glittering, less famous in history, but no less real and important to the men of the day the realm of the great god Lucre, the attempt will not have been in vain.

For much kind revision and criticism of this work while it was in manuscript, I am extremely indebted to my friend, Professor Joseph B. Pike of the University of Minnesota.

University of Minnesota
W. S. D.

  1. The recent works of Messrs. Ferrero and Heitland came to hand after the preparation of this volume was well under way. I have not always agreed with Signore Ferrero's conclusions, but Roman history owes him a debt for the marked accent he has placed upon the economic factor. His book, however, has mainly to do with the Republic, while I am chiefly concerned with the Empire.