The Value Of Wealth In Ancient Rome

1766 words - 7 pages

The imperial expansion of Rome or in simpler terms the development of the Roman Empire can be associated with the second century BC. Over a relatively short period of time, Rome immensely expanded its territory at a rapid rate. Although the victories in the Second Punic War satisfied Rome, they also motivated them to expend further into their neighbour’s territories and eventually conquer Greece and the North African coast. The Roman Empire became colossal and unstoppable within a blink of a century. Robin Waterfield’s new translation of Plutarch’s original work Roman Lives clarifies the reasons behind this sudden need to grow. The necessity in increase of the common wealth, the lack of available land for the Roman citizen, the safety precaution of having foreign allies and most importantly the constant need in being the most influential empire are among some of the reasons Plutarch provided. The lives of Cato the Elder, Aemilius Paullius, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus demonstrate specific cases of how these factors affected Rome and caused it to expand its borders. All explanations are valid however, when one looks at the larger picture it becomes clear that the prosperity of the Roman society is in the root of them all.
Many factors contribute to the success of a society and determine the supremacy of the entire empire. The most evident of these factors is the common wealth of the population. This wealth is not merely calculated in monetary form but comprises the amount of resources and military power an empire possesses. The endless necessity in an increase of wealth in Rome could have led to the expansion. Since the land was not rich in resources and the soil was not the greatest for agriculture, expansion of the Roman borders was the only way to improve these conditions. Such increases of territory provided the required wealth, and it was the up to the leaders to decide how this capital was to be disbursed. Some, including Perseus chose to spend it recklessly and “lavish money on himself, his children and his kingdom” (Plut.Aem.12) while other such as Aemilius Paullus were more considerate of the value in money and were “afraid to touch it as if it belong to others” (Plut.Aem.12). Paullus was a great consul who loved Rome dearly was received great support from his people, they saw him as “a man with no Lydian or Phoenician blood in him, but one who by right of kinship shared in the nobility of Alexander and Philip, who conquered all their enemies thanks to their belief that money was to be spent on acquiring power, not the other way around” (Plut.Aem.12). As the quote says, leaders must use their power and put in effort to make their people wealthy, instead of using the wealth of their people to become powerful. It is not to say that they could not use Rome’s money when needed for war since people believed that “Greek cities fell not to Philip, but to Philip’s money” (Plut.Aem.12), but it had to be done in a considerate way. Paullus knew...

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