Episode 187 – Hey Big Spender

Principle stages in the debasement of the nomisma (from the Economic History of Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks)

Principal stages in the debasement of the nomisma (from the Economic History of Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks)

After the Pecheneg Wars the Roman treasury was empty. We look at Constantine Monomachos’ response to this and other Imperial expenses which may have exacerbated the situation.

Period: 1042-54

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Categories: Podcast | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Episode 187 – Hey Big Spender

  1. Deane Jennings

    Hi, thanks for the informative podcast. One question I would like to ask – given that the Roman empire lasted almost 1500 years if we count the full period, is it actually fair to say that Europe needed the empire to collapse before innovation, science, art and philosophy could develop in Europe? I reason I ask is that technologically the Roman empire was very limited in its innovation. This seemed to be limited to methods of war, buildings and roads. But essentially the level of technological advancement didn’t move on much over the 1500 years. As an empire it was not on an upward technological projectory, and in fact seemed very static. This is ironic because we ascribe great engineering to the Romans, but maybe Roman society was actually a block to real innovation and advancement.

    • It’s an excellent question and you’re right that technological progress was fairly static in the Roman era. I will be producing a Byzantine Stories episode (eventually) on this subject and I look forward to exploring how the Empire’s structure stifled certain innovations. But I don’t think the Romans were alone in this. Most of the surrounding Empires/Civilisations were operating with the same level of technology throughout this period.

  2. dustz92

    I guess this is for the end of the century but, why did not anything of this had happened during say the 6th and 7h centuries? The situation was as bleak and the collapse of the revenue was much more massive. It was Heraclius’ decision to cut the salaries in half? (which comparatively, I assume he had an easier time applying without complaints as the border collapse of back then was apparent to everybody)

    • Yes I think you’ve identified the reason. The enforced cuts during Heraclius’ day drastically reduced the state’s expenditure. Army salaries remained relatively low until Theophilus raised wages in the 9th century. By Monomachos’ day it was much harder, politically, to cut salaries.

  3. Brenda Pokorny

    Hi Robin
    This episode brought to mind the evolution of the Latin language. This may make me seem incredibly ill-informed on the subject, but can you explain the origins and spread of Latin please? The early Roman empire spoke Latin, right? And, I think I’ve read that it possibly evolved from ancient Etruscan language. But, during the time of Jesus, weren’t Greek, Aramaic, Syriac predominant in the Roman empire? And, at what point did the western church start using Latin in place of Greek? Thank you in advance for any light you can shed on this subject, and thanks in general for your podcast. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy it 🙂

    • Thanks so much. Yes Latin was the language of the Republican Roman state. So when they planted colonies across the growing Empire the locals would speak Latin. In places where no written language already existed Latin tended to take root. So in France, Spain and the Northern Balkans Latin or a version of it became the predominant language. Whereas in the Eastern Mediterranean the elites already spoke Greek – which as a written language was harder to replace. So the Romans accepted that Greek was the natural language to speak in the Eastern half of the Empire. This protected the rural populations of the East from having to learn Latin. They would continue to speak local languages (as you said) – Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic and so on – and just learnt some Greek to deal with the government. The Western church began to only use Latin in the late 300s when the Empire came to be divided administratively into eastern and western halves.

  4. Brenda P

    THANK YOU! I knew you’d be able to clarify this for me. Really appreciate your taking the time.

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