The Roman Empire and Inflation

Silver Denarius of Julius Caesar


In the modern world, nation-states, empires, and civilizations are often compared to and judged by the perceived success of the Roman culture. There is no doubt that Roman culture was successful and enduring, which has contributed to make Rome the “gold standard” by which most other societies are judged. In terms of longevity, few societies can beat Rome as the Roman Republic began in 509 BC and continued for nearly 500 years before transitioning into the Roman Empire, which saw its last western emperor abdicate his throne in AD 479. 

Rome is also admired today for its apparent modernity in the ancient world: the Romans brought to the world running water, concrete and a complex system of roads, republican government, and organized sports. Truly, among all the ancient peoples there is no doubt the Romans were the most “modern.” But perhaps just as intriguing as Rome’s longevity and modernity was its collapse.

But among all the factors that contributed to Rome’s ultimate demise, the economic factors are often overlooked. In particular, the role of inflation, which many believe to be endemic only in modern economies, played a fairly significant role that ultimately contributed to internal problems within Rome. Once the Roman economy was hopelessly ravaged by inflation, the borders of the empire were open for the Huns, Goths, and Vandals to take what they wanted.

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Categories: Roman History

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