Monday, September 30, 2013

Old Europe: The Young Ones

And now for a short photoessay about life today.


Atmosphere is next to Fuel. It is around the corner from Tractor, which isn't far from Wind. Atmosphere used to be called Coast Mountain, when it wasn't far from the Mountain Equipment Co-op, which was where hippies bought their camping gear, when there were hippies. It is a good place to buy kayaks, which you need if you want to go kayaking.


Anyone want to take on a 28 hour full time  minimum wage job? Anyone? Yes, we know that you can't pay rent in this neighbourhood at that wage, but that's the going rate. It's not like we can afford to pay more. Anyone? I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that people who take these jobs will have to give up on their kayaking-related activities, and perhaps shop at stores that do not have one-word noun names. 

In 269 or in 271, or perhaps in both years, since surviving fragments of Publius Herennius Dexippus clearly identify a "return" to Italy, the Emperor Aurelian encountered the army of a German nation called the "Juthungi," and allies who may or may not have included Swabians, Marcomanni, Alamanni, Vandals and/or Goths, on the loose in northern Italy. Either in both years or in only one, he chased them around the Pianura Padana (I'm opting for the Italian to shake readers out of using "Po Valley" to label a more complex geography, and specifically to highlight the northeastern extension into Friuli that is also typical river valley terrain but which has no association with the Po). Perhaps on the first occasion he overawed the Juthungi with a spectacular embassy, or, perhaps it was in the second invasion, after he defeated them in three battles, chasing them as far as a crossing of the Danube, or of the Po. It could be either. In any case, he conscripted 40,000 cavalry and 80,000 infantry from the Juthungi, whom he then took east to defeat Zenobia. Or, possibly, which he assembled at Aquiliea in anticipation of the Persian war he never fought. It depends on timing. 

It is the same confused story when Galerius, son of legendary Valerian, pursued and defeated "Alamanni" barbarians near Milan. The story of this incursion is continued in a Roman inscription recovered at Augsburg in 1992, which tells us that Marcus Simplicinius Genialis defeated these same "Juthungi" on the north slope of the Alps in April of 261. Probably. Argument continues about whether this happened before, after, or at the same time that Valerian, his army, and his court were captured by the Persians.

Okay. Wait a minute. Dates have meaning. War in April? Now, that link is not going to mean very much to you if you haven't seen Little Big Man. If you have, you know what comes next. Sheridan's Winter Campaign was a more traditional winter campaign than the one that it is implied here, fought in December on the last standing forage. An army that takes the field in late winter or early spring does so out of magazines, usually aiming to besiege and take a particularly exposed or ill-defended place. Only the most powerful and overbearing state can take the field when there is no grass, and even then  it is a reckless thing to do unless a quick end is guaranteed. Suddenly the Juthungi appear to us in a more desperate light, as victims rather than as perpetrators, however the Roman historians wish to spin this.

"Juthungi" has a number of suggested etymologies. As should by now be clear, I am going with the argument that the word references a "youth sodality." Or, to put it more bluntly, it means "The Young Ones." By which I do not mean these guys.

I mean this.

Little Joe the wrangler he'll wrangle never more
His days with the remuda they're all done
It was long about last April he rode into our camp
Just a little Texas stray and all alone

Said he'd try to do the best he could if we'd only give him work
Though he didn't know straight up about a cow
So the boss he cut him out a mount and kinda put him on
And we knew he liked our little stray somehow
Well he taught him how to heard the horses and learned to know 'em all
And to get 'em in by daylight if he could
And to follow the chuck wagon and to always hitch the team
And to help the carsonaro rustle wood

We had driven to Red River and the weather it was fine
We were camped down on the south side of the bend
When a Norther started blowin' we called the extra guard
Cause it took all hands to hold the cattle in
Now little Joe the wrangler was called out like the rest

Between the streaks of lightnin' we could see a horse ahead
It was little Joe the wrangler in the lead
He was riding old Blue Rocket with a slicker o'er his head
And he's trying to check the leaders in their speed.
We finally got'em millin' and they sort of quieted down
The extra guard back to the camp did go
But one of them was missing and we all knew at a glance
Twas our little Texas strayboy wrangler Joe

"Cowboy historian" Don Edwards manages to make a long song even more prolix, and the bowdlerisation of  Hispanicisisms in the Marty Robbins version is suggestive of subtexts in a song that is, ultimately, the same old story of a desperate kid dying in an industrial accident while trying to do the best he could in a job that he knew he was very lucky to get. 

Our sources for Roman history from the late 250s to the early 280s are incredibly weak. Dexippus was apparently a first rank Greek historian, but his history  is only available to us in fragments prepared in Istanbul in the late Ninth Century. (I call it that because the locals like it better that way.)  What is more surprising is that even though early medieval schoolmasters were clearly doing  their best to preserve a continuous chain of narrative history back to Herodotus, the longest fragment of Dexippus is an extract about one of Aurelian's embassies from a how-to manual. While Photios extracted a number of otherwise lost texts, Dexippus is one of the major losses in the chain of historical reproduction, all the more extraordinary given that he was deemed a Greek stylist on a par with Thucydides. I think that the safe inference to take away is that while  other texts were winnowed out by the lacuna in copying during the "Byzantine Dark Ages" after 630, copies of Dexippus were scarce from the beginning. Clifford Ando offers an even more stark observation. The "Crisis of the Third Century" is usually taken to extend from the murder of Severus Alexander in the late winter of 235 at the legionary camp at Mainz for the crime of bribing the Alamanni and for attempting to take the Rhine legions away from their families to the Persian front. Yet even the supposedly brutal and common Maximian who succeeded Severus continued to issue numerous Imperial rescripts. The number of imperial rescripts cited in the Code of Justinian does not really fall off until the 260s, but when it does, it falls off precipitiously. The feckless child emperor Gordian III issued over 50 during his reign, but Aurelian, vigorous and effective as he was, managed only 6. Notice that we do not know precisely when Valerian's disaster occurred. That's a pretty big lacuna.   

It has frequently been suggested that the Empire was falling apart from the inside. One of our sources for Aurelian's reign tells us that he had to repress a rising by the moneyers of Rome, and the scale of the resulting urban warfare is illustrated by the loss of 6000 soldiers in the fighting. Hendrik Dey reconstructs the chronnology as the repression of a late winter social rising, the kind that ancien regime societies used to suffer in bad years. A few years later, Diocletian sent Maximinus to deal with the Bagaudae, or perhaps Bacaudae in the region around Lyons. (That is, the centre of gravity of Roman Gaul). The Bagaudae certainly sound like social revolutionaries. The Panegyric of 290 is certainly open to be read in the spirit of Mao on war: "the plowman imitated the infantryman, the shepherd the cavalryman, the rustic harvester of his own crops the barbarian enemy." The passage comes next to practically the only historic reference to the Heruli, who would thus be known as a Swabian grouping were it not that Dexippus is supposed to have raised an Athenian citizen militia against an incursion of Heruli. Squaring what we have from these and other sources, the popular reproduction has the Heruli hopping the short distance from Baden-Wurtemberg or perhaps Bavaria to the coast of the Black Sea, to there take ship, launching a general campaign of Mediterranean piracy before reconstituting themselves as an army in the field capable of looting Athens, Ephesus and Sparta before being intercepted several times marching home through the Balkans by various emperors. 

This kind of thing seems less than entirely geographically plausible to me, and, as Alvar Ellegard points out the alternative of "Heluri" is perfectly defensible. We have even less idea about who the Heluri might be than the Heruli (perhaps a Hellinist can comment on Heluri/Helot?), but at least the substituton allows us to stop drawing implausible arrows on the map and requiring that barbarian fleets manage to run the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles on multiple occasions. 

My crazy theory that Aurelian inadvertently revitalised the Roman Empire by building a wall on the customs circuit of Rome and collecting excise taxes due may be familiar to blog readers. I start here, but have since discovered Hendrik Dey giving the idea a much more sophisticated treatment. Look! My wild speculation inadvertently anticipated an actual expert!  Obviously I'm quite chuffed, and everyone should buy Dey's The Aurelian Wall and the Refashioning of Imperial Rome. But at the moment I am more interested in this:

It was little Joe the wrangler in the lead
He was riding old Blue Rocket with a slicker o'er his head
And he's trying to check the leaders in their speed.

The issue here is that we tend to take our Romans in the spirit that the Renaissance revival, or, better yet, Macaulay's Lays,  give them to us to them. "What better a way for a man to die. . . .," (Cringe!) In my youth, I vaguely remember reading a military history, or perhaps a potboiler scifi, in which the story was laid out. The Romans were all about infantry, and also civic virtues. You see, the two go together. Discipline is required by legionary warfare, and all that discipline stuff is also required to live a republican life. 

So what happened? How did there come to be barbarian cavalry, and feudalism, and the Dark Ages? Clearly, no internal military explanation is possible. No true Scotsman legion can be broken by a cavalry charge. The age of cavalry is explained by a millennium long aberration in the progress of Western civilisation from Roman discipline to  the Scientific Revolution. 

On the other hand, it is quite clear that actual Romans were not marble statues. They were people. I am not going to be the guy defending equestrian sports to the end, because of the company I'd have to keep, but the fact remains that if you're going to move cattle long distances to market, the moment is going to come when the extra guard has to ride before the herd. Wild, courageous horsemanship doesn't have to be in defence of landed privilege. It can be proletarian. 

Now, we know that you cannot invade Italy from southwestern Germany without crossing the Alps. The Roman history of the central Alpine passes is unclear, although the paelobotanical evidence is for the widespread clearance of the high alpine pastures only in the sub-Roman, so the human use of the central passes changed in some way with the collapse of the Roman state. (As Lameen will point out, so did the human relation with the trans-Saharan routes, and as the Vikings will suggest, so did the human relationshipo with the pelagic routes into the Atlantic. We're getting to a the point of seeing a pattern here.) 

Yet the central passes were known. The most likely way for a group of "Youngn Ones" to get from the Pianura Padana to Bavaria with "thousands" of Roman citizens captive is via the Saint Gotthard, and the fact that our chronology requires a late-winter crossing suggests that the encampment destroyed by Cereialis was only associated with the group attacked near Milan by Galerius. That is, that there were indistinguishable Alamanni/Juthunig and "Roman citizens" at both ends of the Saint Gotthard.

What's up with that? What is moving on these passes? What is up with the change in pasture regimes?

Now, we know that the mountain roads thread the eastern Alps that have been carrying armies east for millennia are developed from the infrastructure that had emerged by the early Iron Age to move Hallstatt salt to the Alfold. There is no getting around it. If you wish to imagine a fragment of a Central Asian nation camping out on the Hungarian plain being all horse archer-y, and that is the dominant model for understanding Attila and his Huns, then there must have been a heavy eastward traffic of salt down the roads and trails to the Danube plain and its flocks. 

Now a this point we can do two things. We can follow Joseph de Guignes' intuition of the early Eighteenth Century and make the Huns an essentially alien presence in Roman Europe. In the extreme argument, the Huns are the Hsiung-nu of Chinese history, erupting out of the Han borderlands into a defenceless Europe in an extraordinary Volkerwanderung. Well, I say extraordinary in a somewhat ironic sense, since it does occur that as exotic as we find the idea, Guignes' generation was aware of a precedent, the Kalmyk migration I could then turn the Kalmyk example around and suggest that while a move across the Kazakh steppe  from the Dzhungarian Gates to the lower Volga makes sense in terms of pasture resources, the further westward movement does not. But I sure would not want to hang even  a blog post on such an ass pull, and will leave it at the observation that more complex models of ethnogenesis are now in favour. 

Or we can blow it out, and talk about what we do know. We have a great deal of toing-and fro-ing. We have an established trade in salt. We have the Roman annona, bringing huge amounts of grain into Rome. We have the very strong suspicion that entitled Romans would have been more interested in eating cattle fattened on that grain than bread and porridge. 

We have, in short, very strongly motivated the idea of Roman cowboys. Or, rather, German cowboys. Or Roman cowboys. Look, if the drovers/shepherds who herded the cattle to Rome were Little Joes, they did not have a nation. Nations are for people who have stakes, not people who are desperate to prove themselves to the straw bosses. They would call themselves "the young ones," and their identities would be fluid. State failure would collapse ethnic identities, and remudas would turn into rampaging armies of barbarian cavalry. On the other hand, what might happen if a Roman emperor tried to ride before the herd? Would he turn into Attila?      


  1. People got killed surprisingly often even when I was jackerooing in 1998...of course I was invincible, I was 18:-) The Australianism for the manoeuvre is "to wheel the lead" as in the Banjo Paterson song "Kiley's Run".

    I think you're onto something, and I'll point you at Gallagher & Robinson's notion of the crumbling frontier from Africa & the Victorians. Specifically, the intersection of the crumbling frontier, the location of incomprehensible crises that influence politics at the imperial centre, and the wild frontier, somewhere you might emigrate to.

    Weren't we looking for missing Romans at some point? Or rather, weren't the Romans wondering where all the Romans had got to?

  2. Well, this post ended up being less than it might have been, though on the other hand it only cost me a half-day's writing, so there's that.

    The story of the Juthungi intercepted by Galerius and then, supposedly, again by Cerealis is important because we had a Classical account in which a barbarian incursion was defeated in southern Germany, freeing "thousands of Roman citizens" who had been taken captive by the barbarians.Thousands of captives being herded off might be taken as a standard trope, and probably is. However, we have an ongoing debate about the demographics of slavery that suggests that we might need to be looking for a significant number of internal enslavements; and on top of that an off-the-cuff remark by a third century Anatolian Christian (I want to say a Saint Dionysus, but am still trying to find it again) to the effect that one of the shameful things going on during the crisis was the resale of "barbarian captives" on the pretext that they were, themselves, barbarians.

    Be that as it may, Zosimus' story of the defeated Juthungi incursion goes on to describe how the booty was taken to Cologne, where Saloninus, grandson of Valerian, was sitting as a colleague-Caesar under the supervision of Silvanus, who may or may not have been co-Praetorian Prefect with Ingenuus, who was taken captive with Valerian. (Colleague praetorian prefects would have been a far greater constitutional innovation than multiple Caesars. But, on the other hand, timing matters, and there remains the possibility that Ingenuus was a captive of the Persians by this time.)

    Silvanus ordered the booty seized by Postumus' men turned over. Exactly how Postumus enters the story is unclear, though he certainly leaves it as Emperor of the breakaway Gallic Empire, so presumably he was already a big wheel, perhaps a provincial governor. Postumus, asserting the custom of the frontier that the booty belonged to the troops, led a mutiny. Saloninus and Silvanus were killed, and I guess I've already spoiled the ending....

    Drinkwater proposes that the "booty" in question were those Roman citizens. This suggestion gains extra force with the Augsburg Inscription, which underlines that the warband was destroyed in the field far too early in the year for it to have been taken while descending the Alpine passes.

    If there is a missing winter quarter here, the theory is that it was in a valley in the inner Alps where Roman authority did not reach. Which is a romantic story, but hard, albeit not impossible, to square with our picture of a slave raid.

    On the other hand, who are these valuable slaves? It strikes me that the most economical explanation of all is that given that they're a group of people with desirable skills who are highly mobile on the land, why not simplify the story and make the Juthungi themselves at once "shepherds," citizens and booty?

    One explanation of missing Romans: they're the slaves that the mighty are materialising out of the landscape to replace the Romans who used to do their work. It is a great deal less romantic than Germanic Shangri-las in the Forest Cantons, but it fits the picture.

  3. So where did Constantinople get its meat from?

    The idea that urban demand for meat creates extra cowboys (and shepherds), whose required job skills make them formidable fighters, would give a nice twist to Ibn Khaldun's theory of history: not only does the luxury of town life weaken the ruling family's solidarity, it pays the training costs for their eventual conquerors. I'm not sure I can think of any actual North African examples, though – maybe you could link the late Roman rise of the "Moors" to something similar...

    I would say, though, that language is a little less fluid than identity. If these cowboys' common language was Germanic (not that we have much evidence one way or another at this early period), then mother-tongue Germanic speakers were involved somewhere along the line.

    1. I think we might be a little crippled by the idea that Diocletian's "collegiate system" solved the Roman Empire's problems. (The scare quotes acknowledge Leadbetter's 2009 Galerius and the Will of Diocletian, which denies that there was any such thing.)

      What I mean here is that Diocletian's system is then seen to normalise the idea that there are going to be two capitals and two empires. Istanbul is then an artificial capital city, its existence mandated from the top of an all-powerful, quasi-totalitarian system, and its natural status as imperial capital written into the IR realities of the era by its later history.

      A great deal of the recent literature challenges this idea from various directions. Claims that we can read Constantine's court historians as saying that he chose it as a new capital city are pretty clearly incorrect. The process by which it emerged as such are under contention, but the top down direction is debatable. I suppose, not that I am aware of any explicit work making this analogy, people are taking off from the critique of, Brasilia's high modernism. You can't just go choose a capital. There has to be a logic in the state that makes it possible. Sure, Istanbul is an important city "between east and west." But only if you decide to reorient ferry traffic away from the Dardanelles first!

      Anyway, say that Istanbul had to fight for pre-eminence within the Empire. Or, rather, that a political interest group within the Empire (the House of Constantius?) did so. Turn the Eastern, not Western empire into the separatists. Reframe the "Gothic Kingdom of Italy" and "Vandal Kingom of North Africa" in terms of a conscious move by historians' to deligitimise the western regime. See things, in other words, in terms of groups of senators, each deeply embedded in the larger current of economic life in the Mediterranean, wrestling over where the annona is going to be delivered, not as an issue of "bread and circusses," but in terms of which feedlots get the free grain. Though because games are important here, I'm sort of implicitly depending on some kind of substructural argument here where economic logic is important even if the senatorial class didn't frame it that way.

    2. Okay, instead of tying myself in logical knots, I'll try to answer the question. Where is the grass? The Anatolian plateau doesn't have enough pasture. Rome can draw on the northwest, although drove paths down the Italian peninsula have their own consequences, Istanbul is left drawing on Pannonia, from which Rome can also draw. From which Rome might actually prefer to draw, since Pannonian cattle drives have to enter the peninsula from the northeast and come down the Via Flaminia via Ravenna.

      So there's a contest between Istanbul and Rome over influence, property, and military power along the Danube. That's where the struggle for Empire has to take place. And, of course, it is not just, or even primarily about economic ties. The key issue is cavalry manpower for the military struggle.

    3. Now, it doesn't seem to me that something like that can happen in Africa. Or, rather, it has to look very different, because Africa is the source of the annona rather than its destination.

      Diocletian very explicitly had to suppress trouble in Egypt that was caused by high grain prices in Alexandria that led the herders to revolt. we know that people are coming in from the pre-Sahara, because the so-called North African limes existed to tax them. But we also suspect that agriculture in the Tunisian Sahel must have relied on seasonal labour, and probably seasonal manuring. The people and animals of the pre-Sahara are needed along the coast, but there is not necessarily a livestock market to go with it.

      My a priori here is that the North Africa was the most stressed part of the whole system. The 'natural' economic logic of the Maghreb involves a Trans-Saharan trade, because it brings the palmaries (I'm crusading to bring that word back into English usage, because Dune) of the high desert into productive exchange and provides a supply of exotic prestige goods to promote state building in Africa.

      Rome is getting in the way of that, just as it is getting in the way of fishing plantations and atranshumance. Maybe it is transhumance that breaks the system first, because of its military implications at the centre? Sure, you can have "Romano-Berber" Moors on the North African periphery and the rise of "piracy" along the Atlantic littoral, but those don't really matter.

      On the other hand, Once you find that you don't have enough cavalry for what matters --civil wars over the Imperial office-- unless you let people organise a decentralised system of inter-and infraregional herding, you are opening the way to the collapse of the whole model.....

      Language-wise, isn't this the period when people consciously try to stop speaking Latin? The interesting thing about this being that even people who apparently have no other choice decide to differentiate their linguistic product into French, Italian, Castilian, Catalan ...I think we have a handle on this being a third/fourth century phenomenon, right? James Scott would certainly see it as a political, an attempt to escape the eye of the state....

    4. isn't this the period when people consciously try to stop speaking Latin? The interesting thing about this being that even people who apparently have no other choice decide to differentiate their linguistic product into French, Italian, Castilian, Catalan

      Surely they were speaking it all along. All languages have dialects and nonstandardness. Perhaps what's interesting here is that others chose to notice their funny accent and label it as unLatin.

  4. Interesting analysis.

    I can see how the limes is getting in the way of transhumance, but why is Rome getting in the way of trans-Saharan trade? Shouldn't it be creating a greater demand for it?

    Was Tunisia’s grain still getting shipped to Rome during the Vandal period? What about the Umayyad period, come to think of it – did the ships start going to Damascus instead?

    If we're supposing that Pannonia was the Roman Texas, then that ought to cast some light on the emergence of Romanian - in particular, it fits well with the fact that it seems to have been initially associated not so much with a sedentary peasantry, like Western Romance, but with the rather mobile Vlach shepherds. Maybe those cowboys spoke Latin after all?

    I'm not much of a Latinist, but I took a look at Herman's Vulgar Latin (translation 2000, revised ed. 1997), and it looks like in the 3rd/4th century, the transformation into Romance had only just begun. Ordinary illiterate farmers in Gaul could still understand literary Latin up to about the seventh century, and in Italy and Spain until even later. And the reconceptualisation of these increasingly mutually unintelligible local varieties into "separate languages" came even later than that, at least as far as can be seen from discussion of them in written sources; as with Arabic, the speakers seem to have clung to the idea of a common spoken language well after they stopped actually having one.

    1. as with Arabic, the speakers seem to have clung to the idea of a common spoken language well after they stopped actually having one

      This reminds me of Lingua Franca.

  5. Hmm. For the Maghreb we have a set of problems. The Romans clearly thought of Africa in terms of a trope of wealth. Archaeologists look to the distribution of Red Slip tableware as evidence that the Tunisian Sahel was a major "industrial" exporter, and this continued through the Vandal period, the real fading-away taking place under the restored Empire.

    I, on the other hand, want to bring out the "industrial" idea and interrogate it. On the one hand, there is logic of inputs. Grain is extorted by the imperial centre, olive oil (a substitute crop when trees are planted on arable) more-or-less so. Olive mash can fire the kilns.

    Now, Leslie Dossey's Peasant and Empire in Christian North Africa thinks that the biggest thing about late Antique North Africa is the "invention" of peasant rebellion. She wants to talk about a Late Antique consumer revolution on the basis of archaeological evidence, and proposes that talk of revolution represents a policing of social boundaries. The country folk of North Africa are brought into the market of their own volition, and this threatens the privileged status of urban dwellers.

    In concrete terms, this privilege is even monetary. Roman imperial policy, Dossey says, consciously limits rural nonagricultural production, and she proposes a version of the "problem of small change" argument as the mechanism. Rome did not allow the issue of small coins, and this favoured a city-centred production model, as only cities had the economies of scale to use the coinage that the Roman state and its subcontractors did issue.

    In the third century, country centres (ksars!) began to assume municipal privileges, but, in the wake of the crisis, this ended. Church government provided an alternative, hence the rise of heretical churches in North Africa and perhaps elsewhere --the famous wealthy villages of the Syrian limestone country are invoked, and presumably the thesis, if extended, ties them to the rise of the Monophysite church. What we are then to make of Pelagianism in Britain is another question.

  6. Now we have the related problem of the Vandals. I take the Vandals, as I've said, as evidence that a big crackup is incipient. It is no coincidence that they turn up on Saint Augustine's doorstep. Taking Walter Goffart seriously for a moment, the Vandals, like other conceptualised ethnostates in the western empire start out as a tax exemption to cover the costs of a new model army in the familiar, dare I say it, 'feudal' model. They are later reimagined as a barbarian invasion as a justification of Justinian's wars. So when we are told that the Vandals are invited to North Africa by the governor, we should take their actual actions as the point of there being Vandals at all. And that action is the siege of Annaba. In other words, we need to refocus our attention from Germanic invaders to the emergence of a breakaway province from a blockade of St. Augustine. We have to treat the great theologian as a politically important figure,his death as salient.

    From this I see the way forward to a hypothesis that the Vandal kingdom is an internal development. The easiest explanation for that is that it allowed the African provinces to stop paying the annona. In some treatments, this is the critical moment in the decline of the western Empire. Wickham, Framing points to, but dismisses the idea that Vandal Africa continues to pay the annona (87-8) and suggests that Rome must have faced a "swift crisis."

    As we might imagine that it would be, considering the model in which a million people are crammed into the city of Rome eating free North African grain! To deal with this, Wickham suggests that "it is possible" that the Vandals then sold grain to Rome, and that this is why the crisis is manifested as a fall in tax revenues.

    Yet our evidence for this is that over the next few decades, several attempts to reconquer North Africa were organised (only to fail) and that the western emperors moved to Ravenna and only occasionally visited Rome. The Roman enterprise is gradually wound down, presumably in order to give the idle hundreds of thousands of bread-and-circus consumers an opportunity to transition to other roles.

    Meanwhile, Red Slipware finds in the Mediterranean basin do not decrease. The Vandals are still trading. Trends in country do not change. Vandal "piracy," I perversely suggest, indicates a picking-up of trade. No trade means no piracy.

    On the other hand, industrial development on the periphery is not an unknown phenomena, and is usually explained in a modern context by a country's desperate need to earn exchange. To the extent that the Roman fisc required money remittances of North African taxes, and only issued money to the region to pay the very small number of soldiers there, we have an explanation for Red Slipware and the entry of peasants into the market that does not require local "prosperity" or "consumer revolution," and will equally well account for coin scatter evidence. Red Slipware achieves its market dominance by undercutting the competition. Its export is the development of North African underdevelopment, and the rebellious mood in North Africa in Late Antiquity is, contra Dossey, real. We are not talking about an economy in which long distance staples trades are possible and lead to regional specialisation here. It seems to me unlikely that so much effort would have been expended in North Africa to export Red Slipware unless the region had to do so. The end of the annona would not have produced a surplus of grain for exchange. It would have permitted a slackening or efficient redirection of effort.

    Eh, it's a theory.

  7. As for the redirection, the Wilson article you so kindly sent me takes the Fezzan Project's results as overwhelming evidence of a trans-Saharan trade in African slaves. Again at the risk of sounding like a would-be Slate writer, I take the most perverse conclusion. Exotic slaves are a luxury good. Part of their value is that only the very wealthiest household can pair a Swedish slave with a Ghanan, because they can afford the highest bid. The Fezzan route from Lake Chad via Tibesti to Tunis is the easiest route, ,and it is developed early and no competition emerges. The routes to West Africa are not developed. The Roman economy cannot spare capital (anachronism alert!) to develop the periphery. It is being drawn towards the centre. It's the old "Naples is a parasite on south Italy" trick again.

  8. To deal with this, Wickham suggests that "it is possible" that the Vandals then sold grain to Rome, and that this is why the crisis is manifested as a fall in tax revenues.

    Surely a rise in government expenditure, if grain was now procured in the market out of public funds?

    You say that North Africa is paying a lot of tax in cash, and there isn't much of a Roman payroll there to recycle this. You also seem to suggest that this is connected to the annona, but I'm not sure what you mean. If it's a single grain desk, it's spending imperial taxes back in North Africa. If it's some kind of Bolshevik requisitioning mission, why would anyone have paid the tax or stuck around anyway? And who enforces this, when they're by definition not drawing pay? And why would it draw taxes in cash?

    I can see the idea of diversification as a way of raising cash, but I stick on the idea of a huge flow of grain towards Rome, plus a flow of cash in the same direction. If there are Roman cowboys, there can be Roman grain barons, and there must be something in it for them. At least there must have been something in it for them to set the system up.

    So perhaps NA is the first feudal system - you get your spread as long as you deliver a tribute into the annona and fight for colonialism. The rest of the product is yours to sell in the market.

    Then for some reason, the state needs cash, more than it needs grain. At this point, the people who always rebelled against feudalism, the artisans, do their thing and create their own way of earning cash money. Alternatively, landlordism is suddenly less politically important in NA.