Monday, January 29, 2018

An Economic Model of the Medievil Church

Rome was an interesting place to say the most and in my opinion, I think this can be attributed to the tourism industry. Tourists are attracted to this ancient world power because of sites like the coliseum, pantheon, and most of all the country Vatican City. The Vatican located inside Vatican City was the most powerful governing organization in ancient Roman times.  This power can be attributed to the monopoly that they had over salvation which let them take fiscal advantage over their believers.
The Church’s monopoly over salvation is because of the revenue they were able to produce because of their power over salvation. Their revenue came from clergy men being able to buy their positions and setting high interest rates on loans. The clergy men were very eager and willing to pay high prices to be able to get into higher positions in the church because of the economic power they could achieve. The church eventually prohibited Usury which is lending money at high rates of interest but by doing this they decided what was right and wrong letting them to keep practicing Usury when it benefitted the church. An example of this shown by the interest rates they would charge the medici bank which was between 5-10 perecnt but when the church borrowed money from the medici bank they had interest rates of 2.3-6.6 percent. The power of the church was not just because of their connection to god but also because of their connection to the people’s pocket books.
The Vatican today still has a monopoly which is spurred on by the tourist industry. This monopoly was revealed when visiting the Vatican’s post office. Since Vatican City is their own country they have their own stamps that can only be bought there. Thus, letting the Vatican have a monopoly over Vatican City stamps. Although this might not be as severe as a monopoly they had in ancient Rome it still is a monopoly that is extremely successful because of the attraction of the Vatican.
The Vatican in ancient Rome was a very successful and powerful church and firm. This can be attributed to their monopoly over salvation which let them employ high interest rates on loans and dictate Usury. It was also fun to be able to visit the Vatican and make monopolistic connections from my article to somewhere as simple as a post office. In sum the Catholic church was extremely successful because of their monopoly over salvation but is this still the case?

The Vatican's Post Office

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Amphorae and trade in the Roman West

Jan 24th, 2018

Today we visited Monte Testaccio, which is an artificial mound in Rome composed almost entirely of fragments of broken amphorae dating from the time of the Roman Empire. It contains the remains of an estimated 53 million amphorae. Amphorae were used for the transport and storage of various products, both liquid and dry, but mostly for wine. Finding and analyzing these pieces is important because they provide crucial information about the civilization they belonged to, in this case, the Roman Empire. By tracing the origin and characteristics of each piece, scientists are able to determine commercial interactions and routes between Rome and other countries such as Spain and Gaul. Furthermore, analyzing the changes between one type of amphora to the other investigators were able to determine how the import and export of wine changed through time.

Pieces of amphorae at Monte Testaccio

During the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., Dressel 1 was the predominant type of amphora used. It was big in size and was found in numerous numbers, this expresses how big the exportation of wine was at the time. Romans exported wine to the rest of the Roman empire but also to Spain and Gaul. At the end of the first century, the production changed from Dressel 1 to a smaller type of amphora, Dressel 2 and 4. Investigators discovered this change coincides with the establishment of vineyards in Spain and Gaul, which would explain a decrease in demand for the Roman product. Due to the decrease in demand Romans reduced the size of their wine amphorae. Also, they shifted from the exportation of huge amounts of wine to a small amount with higher quality. Higher quality Italian wine became so popular in Spain and Gaul that some people started to manufacture fakes. Identical amphorae differing only in the type of clay used to make them have been discovered. Plagiarizers would copy the size, type, and even the stamps.

Monte Testaccio

Amphorae can provide huge amounts of information but dating and organizing them is a difficult but worthy task. The clay they are made of makes them long-lasting and resistant so they were reused as much as possible. It is amazing how a piece of clay can say so much about the people who used it. They provide information about the way of living, commercial activities and trade interactions. It was amazing to hear the click-clack of history while we walked up the hill on Monte Testaccio. Everything you step on at this place contains a piece of data from Roman life.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Public Works and Manpower Needs of the Julio-Claudian Emperors

From 29 B.C. to A.D. 68, there were significant public works projects in the city of Rome. These projects were dictated by the emperor at the time, and there is variation between the amount of public works performed under each emperor. As we have been in Rome, our class has experienced many of these public projects. In order to study these works and the emperors that dictated them, the researchers must identify the most relevant public buildings within the time line and be able to assign each of these buildings manpower costs. One way that they are able to get a lot of their information is through written works by the emperors of Rome, as many of them enjoyed describing their contributions to the society. The researchers also needed a base in order to assign the manpower costs of each of the public works, so they decided on a base building of 480 square meters. With the estimate of 60 work units for the building, it was calculated that one unit of work porduces 8 square meters. For reference, an average temple in ancient Rome was around 100 work units.

After researchers had an idea of the amount of manpower it would take to create each public work, they were able to find that between 29 B.C. and 68 A.D., there were two major peaks and two major dips in the manpower intensive projects in the city of Rome. The first major peak was called the Augustan boom and was from 12 B.C. to 3 B.C. During this time, many project were put into place, including the introduction of aquaducts into Rome. All together, the work units were 13, 102. The other boom happened between 38 A.D. to 51 A.D. There were many fountains made during this time, and the work units totaled to 17,824. The first major dip was between 22 B.C. and 12 B.C. There were very few projects in these years. The work units totaled to 7, 337.  The other major dip was between 61 A.D. and 68 A.D. The work units totaled to 6,468.

These numbers tell us a lot about both the economy at the time and the emperor ruling. For example, the dip between 61 and 68 A.D. was both during the Great Fire of Rome, and during Emperor Nero's reign. So, not only was the economy at a weak point, but the people were unhappy and the workforce was depleted. Instances like this explain part of the reason why there are the peaks and dips in the public works programs. Another aspect to take into account is the public view of the emperor. Emperors who were attempting to please their people and gain popularity also gained economic benefits because the people of Rome were more willing to work and had better quality lives. These manpower units also begin to show us the economic state of Rome at the time of the building. In most cases, the higher the manpower units, the better the economy is at the time of the building. It is important to put time and energy into studying topics like the amount of manpower needed for public buildings in ancient Rome because it not only helps us put together this history, but it also helps us learn strategies to put into place in our modern world that can help produce a more productive and happier society.

The images below depict ancient Roman architecture in styles that were popular during the Julio-Claudian empires. Also, these structures were considered public works and the upkeep of these would also be public works.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Slaves in Ancient Rome

Yesterday, we went on a bike ride on Appia Antica, an old road with monuments for freed slaves.  It was a beautiful ride and an interesting look into the lives of the slaves of that time.  Slavery in ancient Roman times was much different than the form of slavery that we saw in America and many other parts of the world.  There were several ways in which the two differed.  The level of specialization and rate of manumission were just a couple of them.

Most of the slaves in ancient Roman times were highly specialized.  In the US, a large number of slaves were typically forced to do simple, repetitive tasks.  In Rome, there were slaves that were admirals in the Roman Navy, policemen, perfume makers/shop keepers, etc..  Slaves were highly specialized in what they did and could, and sometimes did, return to what they did after they had bought their freedom.  Slaves could also have a fairly high social status.  For example, some slaves were Gladiators.  Gladiators that won were typically celebrated.  Some Gladiator slaves were granted their freedom because gladiators often had wishes granted the night before a fight.  Slaves that were Gladiators were more similar to slaves in the US because the were forced to go fight and often risked death.  This fits more with the form of slavery called “stick slavery,” a form of slavery in which slave owners motivate slaves by using force, though, slavery in the US better fits the term because gladiators were often given gifts to incentivize them as well.

In the US, we think of manumission as an exception rather than a rule.   In ancient Roman times, quite the opposite was true.  Most slaves were able to buy their freedom.  Rather than using force, as was the case in the US, slave owners would use the possibility of freedom to incentivize slaves.  It was a balancing act of increasing the amount given to slaves in order to increase the total productivity.   In economics this is called optimization by balancing at the margin.  This type of slavery can be thought of as “carrot slavery,” or slavery in which slaves are given positive incentives to motivate them.  The more skilled and specialized the slave was, the easier it was for them to buy their freedom.  Freed slaves had a fairly easy time reintegrating into society because the status of slave was not determined based on ethnicity.  Many were able to become successful.  Some slaves chose to return to the families who had owned them after they had bought their freedom while others left the families.

It was interesting to see some of the differences between the slavery in Ancient Rome, and the slavery we had in the United States.  I had no idea that the two were so different.

Below is a picture of the inside of the Roman Colosseum.

Here are a couple pictures of La Via Appia Antica:

Rome & Cathedrals

This trip has been so educational and has gone by so fast! I can't believe it's already the last day.  My mind is swimming through all the memories I've had here before I leave.  In Rome, I've been able to see the Roman Colosseum, bike through a portion of Rome, and visit the Vatican! 

Coming into this trip, I was looking forward to see the buildings, art, eat the food, and learn about the economics of Italy.  I was able to do all of those things.  Throughout my time here, I've learned so much of the history as well. Italy has a very prosperous history, but also a very sad history through lots of tragedies.  
One thing that has stuck out to me is the beautiful cathedrals.  I recently read an article talking about the great cathedral age of 1160-1280, years where cathedrals were built throughout Europe.  Each one has a bishop, but what's awesome was learning the economic history of them and seeing them.  When people think of cathedrals often times, they see them as a place of worship, or a place to forgive sin, or a place to take in people for the night.  What was interesting about the article that I read was the economic influences of them and their construction.  We like to imagine that the church through donations funded the creation of their churches, but throughout this time period, this did happen, but the Roman Catholic Church controlled the Papal, which means they were able to enforce taxes on urban fairs, and profits on trade and agriculture to get them built.  They were able to do this because before the Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church acted as a religious monopoly in all religious markets because of their control over the Papal. Seeing cathedrals was one of my favorite parts of this trip so I thought learning about that was interesting. Nonetheless, they're beautiful.  Below is pictures of Cathedrals in Orvieto and Amalfi! 

The Olive in the Roman World

Who would've guessed that olives were so essential to Roman life? The thought of an olive usually brings to mind a little salty, black food with a hole in it. This is a very great misinterpretation of the value that this incredible typical cuisine carries with it. With dozens of uses, olives have been a very undervalued and little understood fruit for what an important role they have played throughout history.
The use of olives goes back thousands of years. There have been archeological findings in the past that has found that the olive was one of the main fruits produced in Rome. In the site they discovered that the olive made up 60% of the orchard ground area. It was discovered that the expansion of the olive farming was formed through large investments in olives presses, nurseries, and real estate. It required a significant amount of risk as well from the farmers and landowners as well. Whether food, fuel, or flavoring, there is no denying that olives played a significant role in the Roman culture.
Olives played a valuable role in the health and economic stability of the Romans. Since the olive is a plant that prefers a temperate climate, it grows only in select places, but luckily for the Romans, it was abundant in Italy. The long-distance trade of the olive also was a large part of the Mediterranean sea traffic, so the olives were also a key component in trade and wealth distribution. From olive oil to food for livestock, it is hard to imagine how the Roman economy would have fared without the olive. The olive was known as a delectable fruit that could be preserved through salting, smoking, and pickling processes, but was far from limited to that single use.
Lighting was another key role that the olive played in history. The oil from the olives could supply over 100 hours of light per liter, so it is thought that the Romans may have used millions of liters per year of olive oil to light their city. This would be made through the use of olive mills to pulp the flesh and nut to make a paste for the press.
The tree itself is quite the spectacle. Some olive trees can live to be centuries old, and others over a thousand years old. There are olive trees in existence today that were planted by the Romans. These amazing trees are able to survive for so long due to their ability to recover from fire, disease, old age, and frost damage. New suckers rise from the root bowl, and rejuvenate the tree.

Throughout our travels, we have seen the value of the olive and the products that came from it. These travels and first-hand experiences have helped us to gain a new appreciation for these everyday products that we sometimes take for granted. From the thousand-year-old olive stone crushers in Orvieto to the delicious olives and olive oil that we ate in Rome, olives still play a large role in Italian society today.


The Market for Redemption

                                                             The Orvieto Cathedral
   I have lost count of the number of churches we've been inside on this trip. Usually, like the picture above, it is the most impressive, awe-inspiring building in the town. 

    When caught up in the beauty of these places economics is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet in religion, like in every human activity, opportunity costs must be weighed, and limited resources allocated.

    It may seem unusual or even offensive to label the church as an economic market. However, the church offers services: Space for worship, assurance for the afterlife, confessionals, weekly or even daily services, and even a ticket to societal acceptance.

   The upheaval of the Protestant reformation makes for a fascinating economic study. Considering the 16th Century Catholic Church as a monopolistic firm, the protestant church was a radical upstart that joined the market despite high difficulties of entry. People finally had a choice in where to expend their budget for spiritual goods and services.What ensued was a complex process of individuals making decisions to maximize their spiritual benefits and minimize costs.

   A strong correlation has been shown between the nature of the local government and the acceptance of this new form of religion. Areas that had more even wealth distribution were more likely to become protestant because the church framework needed the support of wealthy nobility. Areas with high unemployment and homelessness would be drawn to stay close to the Catholic church because as a last resort the could become a nun, priest, monk, bishop, or administrator. 

  The reformation was a time of new ideas, but these factors indicate that the people had their earthly well-being in mind as well when they made their choice.