Latifundia

Latifundia (http://www.uoregon.edu/~klio/maps/re/Limes%20-%20Rekonstruktion%20einer%20villa%20rustica.gif)
Latifundia (http://www.uoregon.edu/~klio/maps/re/Limes%20-%20Rekonstruktion%20einer%20villa%20rustica.gif)




Introduction:

The following information about the Latifundia’s involvement in the Roman crisis was provided by Palmira Brummett’s Civilization Past and Present [1]

While Rome was rapidly expanding it’s empire in 133 BCE, it was also facing great problems regarding economic and social conflicts. Majority of these problems were due to the decreasing number of small landowners, whose contributions and service made Rome a flourishing society. After the destruction caused by Hannibal in 218 BCE, and the their inability to contest against Sicily’s (a province of Rome) cheap grain imports, the small farmers that were the backbone of Rome’s society sold their farms and moved to the city. All of these unemployed farmers joined the large group of the unemployed in Rome, called the Proletariat. This name reflects the idea that the members of this group only contributed proles, or “children” to society. Over time, the group of Proletariats grew, and eventually became the majority of people in the city. Meanwhile, Rome had adapted superior farming methods from the Greeks, which “encouraged rich aristocrats to buy more and more land” (139). Leaving previous demands to grow grain, a new age of farming was introduced, now producing olive oil and wine, and herding sheep and cattle. Slaves from conquered territory were bought and forced to manage and work on these large pieces of land. The abundant supply of slaves led to “worsening treatment of the labor force, as well as deteriorating conditions for the declining numbers of free laborers on these large estates” (139). These estate turned slave plantations, known as Latifundias, became popular and spread throughout many regions in the Roman Empire. Specifically, the Latifundias were found in essential locations such as Magna Graecia, Sicily, South African Maghreb, and the Hispanic Baetica in southern Spain. Latifundias are often compared to the haciendas found in colonial and post-colonial Mexico [2] New definition of the Senatorial Roman class was an immediate result of ownership of land, which was organized in latifundia. Latifundia benefited the elite class greatly, because it provided freedom as merchant traders
Furthermore, Latifundia “were the closest approximation to industrialized agriculture in Antiquity” [3]

The issues over land faced even more difficulties because of the “governments practice of leasing part of the territory acquired in the conquest of the Italian peninsula to anyone willing to pay a percentage of the crop of animals raised on it” (139). Because only the wealthy could afford to lease this land they eventually began treating it as if it were their own and not the states. There were several protest for a law that would limit the amount a single individual can have to 320 acres of state land, however the land never was instated. These protests were all in attempt to lessen the power gap between the wealthy and poor, however, as the protests kept being overturned, tension between the wealthy and peasants continued to increase.
There were many contributing factors to the growing issues in the Rome. One of which was the corruption in the government in the Roman Republic. Province officials were becoming very greedy, and “took advantage of the opportunity to engage in graft for great profit, and aggressive Roman businessmen scrambled selfishly for the profitable state contracts to supply the armies, collect taxes and loan money in the provinces, and lease state-owned mines and forests”(140).
Eventually, Rome was left with city where majority citizens were impoverished, landless,and jobless. Rome was filled with imported slaves, unemployed farmers,and fortune hunters. The great contrast between the “poverty of the many coupled with the great wealth of the few” (140)created a hostile environment, differing much from old Rome’s values and ethics.

The Effects of the War

Devastation and destruction led the economy to plumit. For example, when Tarentum was captured by the Romans in 209 B.C.E, the whole city population was enslaved. This attack then led an once blossoming village, to become obscure. Villages were ruined due to the destruction of crops, buildings, and livestock, which directly caused the depopulation of large territories.

The Peasants
The indirect effects were often more severe to the peasants because they received prolonged military service. 130,000 peasants from the Roman and Italian army were used during the defeat of Hannibal. [4] This means that over half of the adult males continually served in the legion for a minimum of seven years. [5] Therefore, peasants began to struggle financially. Lack of money was just the beginning of the crisis for the lower class. Many had to sell their land, and even more got evicted from their homes. This process became more common, because the rich wanted to invest in successful warfare by buying Italian land.

The Rich
The rich drove out the poor in large numbers and replaced them with cheap slave laborers. [6] Latifundia became even more present due to investments in land that had previously been worked on by peasants. In the eyes of the rich, it was a sweet deal because, thanks to their success in the military, the slaves kept coming in large numbers. Also, with such large numbers, the slaves could be broken down into different groups to increase productivity for large agricultural regions. Simply, the slaves were cheap and exempt from conscription. [7] "Latifunida was facilitated by the influx of wealth and slaves...". With the development of latifundia in the 2nd century BC came new methods of farming. "These methods were produced to provide absentee landlords with cash income from the selling of produce."
A Latifundia (http://krusekronicle.typepad.com/kruse_kronicle/images/2007/05/14/villa_2.gif)
A Latifundia (http://krusekronicle.typepad.com/kruse_kronicle/images/2007/05/14/villa_2.gif)

  1. ^ Palmira Brummett Civilization's Past and Present (New York:Pearson Inc./2006), 139-140
  2. ^ Economic Expert.com,Roman Latifundia, http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Latifundia.htm
  3. ^ Economic Expert.com,Roman Latifundia, http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Latifundia.htm
  4. ^ Unknown, 1.
  5. ^ Unknown, 1.
  6. ^ Unknown, 1.
  7. ^ Unknown, 1.