Ancient Roman Logistics & Expenses

Ancient Rome

Military Considerations

Half Rome’s budget at end 4th century went to feeding & paying the army of about ½ million.

Logistics of army supply was the single most important element that linked the imperial provinces together, along with the need to feed the imperial capitals.

Imperial Tax System

Underpinning all these structures, and making them possible, was the imperial tax system, which was based above all on a land tax, assessed on acreage, through buttressed by a much lighter tax on merchants and artisans.

High taxes were needed for several reasons:

  • To pay the salaries of soldiers, bureaucrats and messengers.
  • To feed the capitals of the empire.
  • To fund the enormous scale of Roman public buildings and state wealth. 
  • To connect the different parts of the empire together physically, as grain in ships moved northwards from Africa, Sicily and Egypt, and olive oil moved out of Africa, the Aegean and Syria. The movement of goods was essentially Mediterranean-based, as it was far easier and cheaper to transport in bulk by water than by land.

The Inheritance of Rome
The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000

Chris Wickham

Myths, Legends & Folktales

Myths, Legends, Folktales

Prose Narratives

Myths, legends, and folktales are narratives in prose – referred to as prose narratives. This distinguishes them from proverbs, riddles, ballads, poems, and other verbal forms.


Myths 

Myths are prose narratives which, in the society in which they are told, are considered to be truthful accounts of what happened in the remote past.

Characteristics of Myths

  • Accepted on faith, taught to be believed, and can be cited as authority in answer to ignorance, doubt, or disbelief.
  • Embodiment of dogma, usually sacred, and often associated with theology and ritual.
  • Main characters are usually not humans, but they often have human attributes – they are animals, deities, or cultural heroes, whose actions are set in an earlier world, when the earth was different than it is today.
  • Account for the origin of the world, of mankind, of death, or for characteristics of birds, geographic features, and phenomena of nature.
  • Recount the activities of deities – including their love affairs, family relationships, their friendships and enemies, their victories and defeats.

Legends

Legends are prose narratives which, like myths, are regarded as true by the narrator and his audience, but they are set in a period considered less remote, when the world was much as it is today.

Characteristics of Legends

  • More often secular than sacred.
  • Principal characters are human.
  • Tell of migrations, wars and victories, deeds of past heroes, chiefs, and kings, and succession in ruling dynasties.
  • Include local tales of buried treasure, ghosts, fairies, and saints.

Folktales

Folktales are prose narratives which are regarded as fiction.

Characteristics of Folktales

  • Not considered as dogma or history, may or may not have happened, and are not to be taken seriously.
  • Though they are often told only for amusement, they may present moral truths.
  • May be set in any time and any place, and in this sense they are almost timeless and placeless.
  • Fairies, ogres, and even deities may appear, but folktales usually recount the adventures of animal or human characters.
  • Have been called “nursery tales” or “fairy tales.”

Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth
Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth

Edited by Alan Dundes

“In The Beginning” – The Story Of Myth

Myth

Sacred Narrative

“In the beginning” is how many myths start their story. And, simply put, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form. That myths are sacred means that all forms of religion incorporate myths of some kind. There is nothing disparaging about the term myth. The term mythos means word or story. It is only the modern usage of the word myth as “error” that has led to the notion of myth as something negative.

Metaphorical Guise

In common parlance, the term myth is often used as a mere synonym for error or fallacy. “That’s just a myth!” one may exclaim to label a statement or assertion as untrue. But untrue statements are not myths in the formal sense – nor are myths necessarily untrue statements. For myth may constitute the highest form of truth, albeit in metaphorical guise. If one keeps in mind that a myth must refer minimally to a narrative, then one can easily eliminate most of the books and articles employing myth in their titles.

Study of Myth

The study of myth is an international and an interdisciplinary venture. Scholars from around the world have contributed to the analysis of myth, and this includes scholars of anthropology, classics, comparative religion, folklore, psychology, and theology, among others areas of specialization.

Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth
Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth

Edited by Alan Dundes

How Much Stuff Is Enough?

Buy More Stuff

Role of Consumption

In the last few hundred years, the acquisition, flow and use of things – in short, consumption – has become a defining feature of our lives. In the rich world (and increasingly in the developing world) identities, politics, economies, and the environment are crucially shaped by what and how we consume.

Advanced economies live or die by their ability to stimulate and maintain high levels of spending – with the help of advertising, branding, and consumer credit. Taste, appearance, and lifestyle define who we are (or want to be) and how others see us.


Our Relation to Things

Possessions in a pre-modern village of an indigenous tribe pale when placed next to the growing mountain of things in advanced societies. This change in accumulation involved an historic shift in humans’ relations with things.

In contrast to the pre-modern village, where most goods were passed on as gifts or part of a wedding collection, things in modern societies are mainly bought in the marketplace, and, they pass through our lives more quickly.


Stuff & More Stuff

  • A typical German owns 10,000 objects.
  • In Los Angeles, a middle-class garage often no longer houses a car, but hundreds of boxes of stuff.
  • In 2013, the United Kingdom was home to 6 billion items of clothing, roughly a hundred per adult – a quarter of these items never leave the wardrobe.

Empire of Things
Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First

Frank Trentmann

 

Sacred Messages & The Written Word

Sacred Writing

Messages from God

The importance of the written word can be seen in the number of religions that have sacred texts, and in how often it is claimed a god wrote those texts.

Examples of Ancient Writings

  • The Egyptians believed that the ibis-headed Thoth, the scribe of the gods, gave humanity the gift of writing.
  • The Assyrians believed it was the god Nabu who gave them the gift of writing.
  •  The Maya believed that Itzamna, the son of the creator, invented writing and books.

Sacred texts were distributed on a variety of writing materials prior to the invention of paper – and some, such as the Jewish Torah, are still preserved handwritten on animal skin.

Paper: Paging Through History
Paper: Paging Through History

Mark Kurlansky