The Race Change in Western Europe
Historians have recognized that a tremendous change of attitude and/or temperament took place in the people of Italy, North Africa (and even Spain and Gaul) between the 2nd century B.C.E. and the 3rd century C.E. The truth is, it wasn’t that the native populations (that is, the early Latins, Etruscans, Celts, etc.) changed their basic temperaments. Something very different happened. These areas of western Europe were deluged by great influxes of peoples from other areas of the Roman Empire, notably from the east. It wasn’t the temperament of the people that changed, it was the race. Simon Magus, in going to Rome, came among his own type of people. While in his time there remained a thin veneer of old Latin stock in the west, most of the population of Rome and Italy by the 1st century was made up of Chaldeans, Syrians, Phoenicians, Edomites and Samaritans. Italy, by the 1st century of our era, had become a Semitic country.
This evidence comes from historical and archaeological records which have been accumulated by some of the world’s most recognized historians, men who have devoted their whole lives to the study of Roman history. In the following pages of this book I will quote at length from these historians in order that no one could possibly charge an "out-of-context" evaluation on the material that will be presented. It is hoped that the longer quotes (which I feel are important) will not prove laborious reading for the non-professional. They are necessary evidence for the student of history.
The principal scholar to whom credit is due for discovering this race change was Professor (Tenney) Frank of John Hopkins University who died in 1939. It was in 1916 that he contributed his classic research on the race change in Italy and the western provinces. What he wrote is still recognized today as a first class presentation of the matter. His essential facts come from inscriptional evidence which he presented to prove his case. Scholars today rank him among the great Roman historians such as Mommsen and Rostovtzeff (and he well deserves to be). His conclusions have never been successfully challenged as any common sense student of history would admit. But, just like Professor Goodenough in cataloguing what he considered to be Jewish archaeological remains has not been given the proper attention for his work, Professor Frank’s early researches have not been given the equal attention in the last forty years that they deserve. This book in part is written to revive the historical and archaeological information that Professor Frank and others discovered in the early part of this century.
The lack of attention does not mean that Professor Frank is not respected for his academic abilities and his contributions to the understanding of social and economic matters in the Roman Empire. The problem today is the fact that so many scholars are afraid to tackle the subject of race in history (or changes of race) because the climate for unemotional discussion is not available even in the universities. Too many people are so sensitive to the subject of "race." In evaluating such things the terms "superiority" or "inferiority" often enter the discussions by emotionally motivated individuals (even scholars) so the subject of "race" is not a popular one today.
But this attitude needs to be changed. Let me say at the outset that in my view there is no such thing as "superiority" and "inferiority" in race as anyone with common sense would observe. But there are demonstrable differences in temperaments and attitudes existing among all races of peoples (though there are always exceptions to any rule and stereotyping a race is not always proper). But no one would argue that the temperament of the Finnish people (as a recent television episode of 60 Minutes showed) with their very private and subdued emotional attitude to life, have the same temperament as the Spanish people who proverbially are characterized as showing effervescence in temperament. The point is, both peoples (as all people on earth) are "superior" in representing themselves as a necessary (and a desired) part of the human race to which we all belong.
All races should rejoice in their differences (because we all have them) and capitalize on them for their own pleasure and welfare. No one should use demeaning terms such as "superiority" or "inferiority" in regard to the different attributes of any race. Thankfully, Professor Frank never resorted to such epithets, but we should be grateful that he did not shrink from giving his historical evaluation regarding the facts of history that he found in many of the monumental inscriptions of early Rome and Italy. His contribution in showing a change of race in the area is superb.
Where did the expertise of Professor Frank exist? Let me state at the start that Professor Frank was a recognized authority on the economic history of ancient Rome. He was the author and editor of the five volume Economic History of Rome, and the author of many other books and articles for scholarly journals concerning ancient Roman History. As a matter of interest, the Cambridge Ancient History and the Oxford History of Rome by Cory, as well as the excellent works of Professor Boak in America, freely quote from his various works.
Since much of the material in this part of the book is founded on Professor Frank’s researches, and because of that (for the benefit of those not having studied much Roman history), I have felt it necessary to give his qualifications. Mention also must be made of Professor Duff of Oxford University whose book, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, represents a substantiation of Professor Frank’s work.
The compilation of quotes which will be given in the rest of this book were prepared by me to illustrate a part of my history class which I taught at a college in England for 13 years (from 1960 to 1972) titled: ‘The History of Western Civilization." The quotes herein were centered primarily on that section of the class dealing with the period of the late Roman Republic and that of the Roman Empire. Though most of the research was done in the first half of this century, recent investigators have not in any way changed the deductions reached by those scholars in historical research who dominated the first part of the 20th century. That’s why I have not felt it necessary to buttress with up-to-date (1993) historical observations that vindicate what the earlier historians of this century related. Indeed, as stated before, modern historians often avoid the issue of "race" in their discussions.
Let us now look at what Professor Frank discovered in Latin inscriptions which he found in and around Rome. What he uncovered was proof that a fundamental change of race occurred in the Italian peninsula between the 2nd century B.C.E. and the 3rd century C.E. The records of the monuments attest to this change. What we will discover is Chaldean, Anatolian, Syrian, Phoenician, Edomite, Samaritan (and some Egyptian) racial stocks replacing the earlier Latin races in Italy. A little amalgamation of Latins with these immigrant Semites (most were Semitic) took place, but the Latin element was so weak when the mixing began, that in Italy the remnants of the Latin race were completely submerged by these incoming Semites. For all practical purposes, by the end of the Empire, Italy had become a Semitic country.
The vast majority of these immigrants to Italy and western Europe had a Semitic origin from the patriarch Abraham (who was the progenitor of numerous Semitic-type peoples besides the proverbial Jews and Arabs). It is not normally recognized but the apostle Paul told the Romans of his day (and though they were clearly uncircumcised Gentiles and not Jews) that Abraham was their father, not only spiritually, but he was their father in the flesh. Note what Paul said in Romans 4:1 (the capitalization points out what is usually overlooked): "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, AS PERTAINING TO THE FLESH?" That’s right, the main population of Rome by the time the apostle Paul wrote his epistle were fleshly descendants of Abraham (though they were not Jews nor were they circumcised).
This statement of the apostle Paul about the physical origin of the Romans of his time (that they were of Abrahamic physical stock) should not be surprising to anyone when the evidence supplied by Professor Frank and other historians is understood. The archaeological and historical indications make it certain that there was a significant race change that took place in Rome and Italy in the two centuries preceding the time of Paul (and that the race change increased even more in the following three centuries).
Let us notice this evidence from history. As we have mentioned, we will first quote from Professor Tenny Frank. He, probably more than any other person, studied at length the native Roman records, epigraphical information and archaeological finds relative to his specialty which was the social and economic history of Rome. Now, let us notice what Professor Frank said about the race question which he revealed in "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," American Historical Review 21(1916): 689–708. The information he records is illuminating. What Professor Goodenough admirably did to catalogue Jewish (or what he thought were "Jewish") archaeological remains, Professor Frank did for the ordinary Romans and Latins from the 2nd century before our era to the 4th century after.
My own comments will be given in brackets within the various quotes that follow in this book. I am also italicizing rather extensively (which has not been done in the earlier parts of this book) in order to point out to non-professional historians (to whom this book is being written) the essential features of the quote in order to view in an easier way the central theme of the text. Also, the words "orient" or "oriental" or "orientalization" that occur quite frequently in the original quotes of the scholars tend to confuse most lay readers today because they almost always associate those words with the Far East such as China and Japan, while the Roman historians who use such terms restrict them to the eastern part of the Roman Empire, notably Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine and even Egypt. For that reason I have taken the liberty of changing those words in the original texts to "east" or eastern or "easternization."
Let us begin with Professor Frank’s opening statements on this evidence of a race change in western Europe. Words in brackets are mine, including italics and boldness.
[Juvenal] recording a fact when he wailed that the Tiber had captured the waters of the Syrian Orontes? If so, are these foreigners ordinary immigrants, or did Rome become a nation of ex-slaves and their offspring?
"There is one surprise that the historian usually experiences upon his first visit to Rome. It may be the Galleria Lapidaria of the Vatican or at the Lateran Museum, but, if not elsewhere, it can hardly escape him upon his first walk up the Appian Way. As he stops to decipher the names upon the old tombs that line the road, hoping to chance upon one familiar to him from his Cicero or Livy, he finds prenomen and nomen promising enough, but the congnomina all seem awry. L. Lucretius Pamphilus, A. Aemilius Alexa, M. Clodius Philostosgas do not smack of freshman Latin. And he will not readily find in the Roman writers now extant an answer to the questions that these inscriptions invariably raise. Do these names imply that the Roman stock was completely changed after Cicero’s day, and was the satirist
"Unfortunately, most of the sociological and political data of the empire are proved by satirists. When Tacitus informs us that in Nero’s day a great many of Rome’s senators and knights were descendants of slaves and that the native stock had dwindled to surprisingly small proportions, we are not sure whether we are not to take it as an exaggerated thrust by an indignant Roman of the old stock. ... To discover some new light upon these fundamental questions of Roman history, I have tried to gather such fragmentary data as the corpus of inscriptions might afford. This evidence is never decisive in its purport, and it is always, by the very nature of the material, partial in its scope, but at any rate it may help us to interpret our literary sources to some extent. It has at least convinced me that Juvenal and Tacitus were not exaggerating. It is probable that when these men wrote a very small percentage of the free plebians on the streets of Rome could prove unmixed Italian descent. By far the larger part ― perhaps ninety percent ― had eastern blood in their veins.”
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," pp.689–690
About ninety per cent of those people living in Italy in the 1st century had originally come from the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. Now what was it that convinced Professor Frank that a change of race had taken place? What he and his colleagues did was to study the epigraphical information on the various tombs and monuments in Rome and throughout Italy. He looked at over 13,900 different inscriptions with various names written on them and found that about three quarters bore names of foreign derivation. The vast majority had Greek cognomina (that is, their last names show a Greek origin).
To Professor Frank the bearing of Greek last names in what had been prime Latin areas of the west gave him a major clue to the movements of people from the east to the west. Note what he states:
[i.e. he was foreign].
"For reasons which will presently appear I have accepted the Greek cognomen as a true indication of recent foreign extraction, and, since citizens of native stock did not as a rule unite in marriage with ‘liberti,’ a Greek cognomen in a child or in one parent is sufficient of status
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," p.691
"On the other hand, the question has been raised whether a man with a Greek cognomen must invariably be of foreign stock. Could it not be that Greek names became so popular that, like biblical and classical names today, they were accepted by the Romans of native stock? In the last days of the empire this may have been the case; but the inscriptions prove that the Greek cognomen was not in good repute. I have tested this matter by classifying all the instances in the 13,900 inscriptions where the names of both father and son appear. From this it appears that fathers with Greek names are very prone to give Latin names to their children, whereas the reverse is not true"
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire,"pp.692–693
"Clearly the Greek name was considered as a sign of dubious origin among the Roman plebians, and the freedman family that rose to any social ambitions made short shift of it. For these reasons, therefore, I consider that the presence of a Greek name in the immediate family is good evidence that the subject of the inscription is of servile or foreign stock. The conclusion of our pro’s and con′s must be that nearly ninety per cent of the Roman-born folk represented in the above mentioned sepulchral inscriptions are of foreign extraction. ... Who are these Romans of the new type and whence do they come? How many are immigrants, and how many are of servile extraction? Of what race are they?"
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," p. 693
Professor Frank will answer these questions. Information on this matter cannot come from epigraphical material, it must come from literary sources, especially from eyewitnesses. In this we are not left without evidence. In fact, there is quite a lot of information about these foreigners and who they were. These new "Romans" bore Greek names. This is enough to show that the majority came from the east, from Greece and the Hellenistic world. However, from literary evidence we can gain a better insight into the exact locality from whence most had come into Italy. Juvenal in the 2nd century, referring to the Roman population speaks about these people with Greek names. He says most epithetically: "These dregs call themselves Greeks but how small a portion is from Greece; the River Orontes has long flowed into the Tiber" (III,62).
Juvenal, then, tells us that very few of these people were actually Greek. They were actually from the Hellenistic world. To be exact, they were from Syria, Anatolia, the Levant and Samaria.
But how did these eastern peoples get into Italy? Some came by migration, but the vast majority (as the records show) came as slaves. When Rome conquered the east, vast numbers of peoples were captured and brought back to Italy as slaves. The great majority came from the east, particularly Asia Minor and Syria. And, unless one begins to think that these people of servile origin were "inferior" in any way, it must be understood that these people were brought to the west principally by rich land owners to be their doctors, teachers, agriculturists, scientists, professional domestic help (such a chefs, valets, clothing manufacturers, etc.). True, there were also ordinary "day laborers," but even here, these people were almost always from areas where children normally had a basic education in the three "R’s."
And whereas the original Latins of the old stock were interested in military and legal matters (among other things), these new people from the east were the ones who brought them the finer things of life that the Romans were beginning to desire. Since the time of Alexander the Great, these people from the east had grown up within a Hellenistic (Greek) environment as far as society, religion and government were concerned, and they brought their style of living with them into the west. In the main, these people who had come to the west were educated people. Frank continues,
[Dr. Bang was a professor from Germany]. In his list of slaves that specify their origin as being outside Italy [during the empire], by far the larger portion came from the east, especially from Syria and the provinces of Asia Minor, with some from Egypt and Africa [which for racial classification may be taken with the east]. Some are from Spain and Gaul, but a considerable portion of these came originally from the east. Very few slaves are recorded from the Alpine and Danube provinces, while Germans rarely appear, except among the imperial bodyguard. Bang remarks that Europeans were of greater service to the empire as soldiers than servants. This is largely true, but, as Strach has commented, the more robust European war captives were apt to be chosen for the grueling work in the mines and in industry, and largely they have vanished from the records. Such slaves were probably also the least productive of the class; and this, in turn, helps to explain the strikingly eastern aspect of the new population.
"Therefore, when the urban inscriptions show that seventy per cent of the city slaves and freedmen bear Greek names and that a larger portion of the children who have Latin names have parents of Greek names, this at once implies that the east was the source of most of them, and with that inference Bang’s conclusions entirely agree
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," pp.700–701
There is another reason why captives from European areas were not found with much representation in Italy. When the Romans took over prosperous Gaul (present day France), with its vast agricultural areas, the captive slaves were kept in that region to farm the land. This was also true for Spain. After all, Italy was being stocked with masses of slaves from the east. To bring Gauls to Italy would bring about redundancies, and who would care for the farms of Gaul and Spain? This is the main reason Dr. Bang found so few western and northern Europeans as slaves in Italy. The east supplied most of the new people to the Roman heartland.
However, can it really be said that these eastern slaves displaced the old Latin stock of Italy? Can we believe that those of servile origin, even though they were brought by the tens of thousands to Italy, could completely take over the country’? It seems, at first glance, almost an impossibility for such a thing to happen. But it did!
As a modern example, I was born in 1932 in Oklahoma. Because the "Dust Bowl" and the Depression which were hitting our area very hard, my parents left Oklahoma in 1935 (along with thousands of others from Arkansas, Missouri and Texas) and went to California. We settled in the San Joaquin valley into a region of the country very different from what we were used to. But within thirty years our people had transformed that area of California (with much of our own standards of society and religious beliefs becoming dominant) that it became known as the "Bible Belt" of California. And now, in the last thirty years, the same region is being changed again with masses of immigrants having come from Mexico to work in the fields and now they are even becoming the business people, etc. The same type of thing happened in ancient times in Rome, Italy and the Western Empire, although it occurred over a longer period of time.
There are many reasons which brought about this change of race in Italy and Western Europe. It was not alone the bringing of these new races. Other factors were happening to the original Latin race as well. It seems that all historical events were working together to make this change of race. Let us get a rundown by Professor Frank,
"There are other questions that enter into the problem of a change of race at Rome, for solution of which it is even more difficult to obtain statistics. For instance, one asks, without hope of a sufficient answer, why the native stock did not better hold its own. Yet there are at hand not a few reasons. We know for instance that when Italy had been devastated by Hannibal and a large part of its population put to the sword, immense bodies of slaves were brought up from the east to fill the void; and that during the second century B.C., when the plantation system with its slave service was coming into vogue, the natives were pushed out of the small farms and many disappeared to the provinces of the ever expanding empire. Thus, during the thirty years before Tiberius Gracchus, the census statistics show no increase. During the first century B.C. the importation of captives and slaves continued, while the free-born citizens were being wasted in the social, Sullan, and civil wars. Augustus affirms that he had half a million citizens under arms, one eighth of Rome’s citizens, and that the most vigorous part. During the early empire, twenty to thirty legions, drawn of course from the best free stock, spent their twenty years of vigor in garrison duty, while the slaves, exempt from such services, lived at home and increased in numbers. In other words, the native stock was supported by less than a normal birth-rate, whereas the stock of foreign extraction had not only a fairly normal birth-rate but a liberal quota of manumissions to its advantage"
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," p. 703
The foregoing comments by Professor Frank are the main problems which influenced the race decline of the Latins in Italy. The main factors were the decimation and emigration of the native stock, while foreigners, especially from Syria, Samaria, the Levant and Asia Minor took their place. Also, records show that the birth-rate of the Latins was very low while that of servile origin was very large (they were encouraged to have children so that more servants could be had). So, the servile population in Italy, during the 1st century B.C.E., increased rapidly while the native stock, still in the peninsula, diminished to an alarming proportion.
"To this increase in the population the native stock seems not to have contributed much. Decimated by long wars, fought by citizen crimes, which secured to Rome a Mediterranean empire, its ranks were thinned still further by the withdrawal of colonies of citizens to the provinces beyond the sea and by a heavy decline in the birth-rate even among the poorer classes. The native Roman and Italian population steadily dwindled and the gaps were filled by new races."
La Piana, "Foreign Groups in Rome," pp. 188–189
This population decline of the native races was alarming to Caesar and to Augustus. Laws were enacted by those rulers to attempt some reversal of the "race-suicide" (as the historians call it) of the Latin peoples. But their laws were completely thwarted.
"One of the most serious evils with which the imperial government was called upon to contend was the decline in population. Not only had the Italian stock almost disappeared from the towns, but the descendants of freedmen had not been born in sufficient numbers to take its place. Accordingly, while the Lex Papia Poppaea offered privileges to free-born citizens for the possession of three children, it used the whole question of inheritances of freedmen and freedwomen for the encouragement of procreation."
Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, p. 191
In other words, the laws backfired on them. Instead of causing an increase in native Italian stock, it encouraged the procreation of multitudes of ex-slaves who had been freed by magnanimous Romans. The rulers simply could not stem the tide by laws. Everything was against them. The social laws were powerless in their effect.
"The center of the empire had been more exhausted by the civil wars than any of the provinces. The rapid disappearance of the free population had been remarked with astonishment and dismay, at least from the time of the Gracchi. If the numbers actually maintained on the soil of the peninsula had not diminished, it was abundantly certain that the independent native races had given way almost throughout its extent to a constant importation of slaves. The remedies to which Caesar resorted would appear as frivolous as they were arbitrary. ... He prohibited all citizens between the age of twenty and forty from remaining abroad more than three years together, while, as a matter of state policy, he placed more special restrictions upon the movements of the youths of senatorial families. He required also that the owners of herds and flocks, to the maintenance of which large tracts of Italy were exclusively devoted, should employ free labor to the extent of at least one-third of the whole.
[i.e. the race change in Italy], to which the eyes of most statesmen of the day were already open."
"Such laws could only be executed constantly under the vigilant superintendence of a sovereign ruler. They fell in fact into immediate disuse, or rather were never acted upon at all. They served no other purpose at the time but to evince Caesar’s perception of one of the fatal tendencies of the age
Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, vol. 2, pp.395–397
Or, as Professor Duff said referring to the period of the emperor Augustus.
"Even in Augustus’ day the process of easternization had gone too far. The great emperor saw the clouds, but he did not know they had actually burst. His legislation would have been prudent and not a whit excessive a century earlier; but in his time Rome was a cosmopolitan city, and the doom of the Empire was already sealed."
Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, pp.207–208
These laws were enacted too late, and never enforced! Professor Frank shows their failure despite their inaction. His following observations are important to the issue.
[about 200 years later]. The Aemilsi, Fabii, Claudii, Manlii, Valerii, and all the rest, with the exception of Cornelii, have disappeared. Augustus and Claudius raised twenty-five families to the patricate, and all but six disappear before Nerva’s reign [about 100 years later]. Of the families of nearly four hundred senators recorded in 65 C.E. under Nero, all trace of a half is lost by Nerva’s day, a generation later. And the records are so full that these statistics may be assumed to represent with a fair degree of accuracy the disappearance of the male stock of the families in question. Of course members of the aristocracy were the chief sufferers from the tyranny of the first century, but this havoc was not all wrought by delatores and assassins. The voluntary choice of childlessness accounts largely for the unparalleled condition. This is as far as the records help in this problem, which, despite the silences is probably the most important phase of the whole question of the change of race. Be the causes what they may, the rapid decrease of the old aristocracy and the native stock was clearly concomitant with a twofold increase from below; by a more normal birth-rate of the poor, and constant manumission of slaves."
"The race went under. The legislation of Augustus and his successors, while aiming at preserving the native stock, was of the myopic kind so usual in social lawmaking, and failing to reckon with the real nature of the problem involved, it utterly missed the mark. By combining epigraphical and literary references, a fairly full history of the noble families can be procured, and this reveals a startling inability of such families to perpetuate themselves. We know, for instance, in Caesar’s day of forty-five patricians, only one of whom is represented by posterity when Hadrian came to power
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," pp. 704–705
To all of this, the remarks of Professor Duff are also very appropriate:
[leaving it to the easterns] that finally restrictions had to be passed to prevent the complete depopulation of the Latin stock, but as we have seen the laws were never effectively put into force. The migrations increased and Italy was being left to another race. The free-born Italian, anxious for land to till and live upon, displayed the keenest colonization activity."
"It may be asked in this connexion what became of the Latin and Italian stock? Reasons may be given for the coming of the foreigners, but at the same time some explanation may be demanded for the disappearance of the native. In the first place there was a marked decline in the birth-rate among the aristocratic families. ... As society grew more pleasure loving, as convention raised artificially the standard of living, the voluntary choice of celibacy and childlessness became a common feature among the upper classes. ... But what of the lower-class Romans of the old stock? They were practically untouched by revolution and tyranny, and the growth of luxury cannot have affected them to the same extent as it did the nobility. Yet even here the native stock declined. The decay of agriculture ... drove numbers of farmers into the towns, where, unwilling to engage in trade, they sank into unemployment and poverty, and where, in their endeavors to maintain a proper standard of living, they were not able to support the cost of rearing children. Many of these free-born Latins were so poor that they often complained that the foreign slaves were much better off than they, and so they were. At the same time many were tempted to emigrate to the colonies across the sea which Julius Caesar and Augustus founded. Many went away to Romanize the provinces, while society was becoming eastern at home. Because slave labor had taken over almost all jobs, the free-born could not compete with them. They had to sell their small farms or businesses and move to the cities. Here they were placed on the doles because of unemployment. They were, at first, encouraged to emigrate to the more prosperous areas of the empire, to Gaul, North Africa and Spain. Hundreds of thousands left Italy and settled in the newly acquired lands. Such a vast number left Italy
Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, pp. 200–201
There were two major reasons why the native Latin flocked first to the cities and then to foreign lands. The first, as we have mentioned, was slave labor. The small farm owner with a few acres could not compete with the large landowner with hundreds if not thousands of slave laborers. The free-born farmer, by sheer economics, was often forced to sell his small holding to the larger farmer and then to live in the cities and on to the doles. But there is a second important reason why the small farmer and even the village free-born gave up their holdings. This was the desolation that was evident in a good deal of the land in Italy. The Hannibalic and Civil wars had rendered whole sections sterile by the ravages that took place. Vast areas of once fertile soil in Italy were, by the 1st century B.C.E., desolate wastelands. This was especially true in certain central and southern regions. The central Etruscan area was so desolate that one general returning to Rome, complained of traveling for miles without so much as seeing a village.
[Latin] men capable of bearing arms in this [central] district on which Rome’s ability to defend herself had once mainly depended, had so totally vanished, that people had read with astonishment and perhaps with horror the accounts of annals (sounding fabulous in comparison with things as they now stood) respecting the Aequain and Volseian wars. ... Varro complains, the once populous cities, in general stood desolate."
"The stock of
Mommsen, The History of Rome, vol. V, p.394
What had happened was disastrous to Italy, at least to the Latin stock. Italian land was in two general states: either vast areas were rendered completely unproductive through desolation and were worth very little in an agricultural sense, or, the areas that were fertile came to be in the hands of large land-owners and farmed by thousands of slaves. There was no place for the free-born. It is no wonder that the poor native Latin looked elsewhere for his fortune. There was little place for him in Italy by the 1st century B.C.E.
[because of desolation]."
"Riches and misery in close league drove the Italians out of Italy, and filled the peninsula partly with swarms of slaves, partly awful silence
Mommsen, The History of Rome, vol. V, p. 395
Huge masses of Latins left Italy for Spain and Gaul. This desire for the Roman of free-birth to migrate to other areas of the empire, is mentioned by Seneca. He shows how the Italian looked for every opportunity to leave his native country:
[the Romans], how many colonies has it sent to every province. Wherever the Roman conquers, there he dwells. With a view to this change of country, volunteers would gladly ascribe their name, and even the old man, leaving his home would follow the colonists overseas."
Seneca, Helvia on Consolation, VII, 7
Or, as Mommsen continued about this constant desire of the Latins to migrate out of Italy:
"The Latin stock of Italy underwent an alarming diminution, and its fair provinces were over spread partly by parasitic immigrants, partly by sheer desolation. A considerable portion of the population of Italy flocked to foreign lands. Already the aggregate amount of talent and of working power, which the supply of Italian magistrates and Italian garrisons for the whole domain of the Mediterranean demanded, transcended the resources of the peninsula, especially as the elements thus sent abroad were in great part lost for ever to the nation."
Mommsen, The History of Rome, vol. V, p.393
And what is equally important in explaining the loss of Latin stock is the thousands of soldiers in foreign countries (Augustus had over 100,000 in foreign garrisons alone). When retiring from their service careers, more often than not, the veterans chose for their pension lands, territory outside of Italy. Merivale shows that by the 1st century B.C.E., "there were no tracts of land of public domain left within the Alps for the state to distribute in public grants" (Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, vol. 2, p. 395). The veterans had to take provincial areas, especially those in Gaul, Spain and North Africa as their demobilization pay.
While most of this veteran settlement was in the west and north of the empire, there were even some cities in the east that were given them to colonize. As an example, Corinth in Greece had lain desolate (in complete ruins) from 146 B.C.E., but after a hundred years of desolation it was colonized and built up again by people from Italy.
The veterans did not mind leaving Italy because the homeland was not productive enough to live on, especially if the holding of the veteran was small (as it usually was). But it was more common for the veteran to normally choose the immediate area in which he had been stationed for his twenty some years service. Whatever the case, the veterans who were of Latin stock in most cases failed to return to Italy.
And note. When the various Caesars finally awoke to the disastrous effect that this draining of the Latin population was having to the native hold on Italy, the process of the unwitting de-Latinization of Italy had gone so far that it became impossible to do anything to stop it. Of course, the state tried to reverse the situation. Lands were even bought up in Italy and many veterans were forced to take up residence in their homeland. But this even backfired. The veterans, yearning for the better provincial areas, soon sold their lands to the large land owners and went back to the new provinces. In fact, all the emergency legislation regarding the strengthening of the Latin stock in the home country came to nothing. "They [the laws] fell in fact into immediate disuse, or rather were never acted upon at all" (Merivale, History of the Romans under the Empire, vol. 2, p.397).
In summing up, Professor Duff gives us a keen insight on what was happening in Italy and why the Latin race went under with new races taking their place.
"Among all the causes of the change of race (apart from manumission) war was the most important. The armies of the late Republic and civil wars had consisted largely of Italians, who, if they were not killed off, were at least deprived of domestic life during their prime. Meanwhile the freedmen, usually excluded from the army, and the freedman’s descendant, never a keen soldier, were allowed an uninterrupted family life and produced offspring with greater freedom. Moreover, after his twenty years’ service, it was frequently the case that the legionary never returned home, but joined his fellow veterans to found a colony in the province where he had served. ... The Roman thus gave away to the easterner in Italy, while he made a place for himself in the provinces."
Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, pp. 201–202
What a strange situation! By the 1st century B.C.E., Italy found itself stocked with slaves (Merivale says at least two-thirds were of servile origin at this time), and the natives were constantly leaving the country. And of those free-born who remained in Italy, the thought of propagation was not taken seriously while the slaves were producing many times the offspring. It can easily be seen how this slave population (the vast majority were from Asia Minor and Syria) replaced the old stock.
On top of this, there was a strong movement in the 1st century B.C.E. of freeing slaves. In freeing them it was common to let these ex-slaves take over the activities of the former free-born who had left or was leaving the country. The rate of emancipation was so high that laws were finally enacted to curtail the practice. For what was happening? Simply this: thousands of slaves were becoming freedmen and by virtue of this, they became the new Roman citizens. The emancipations or manumissions were not done in a corner, but were becoming the fashion of the day by the beginning of our era. When a slave-owner died, he often freed every slave in his household, and some households were upward of several thousand. These ex-slaves (now freedmen and consequently Roman citizens) were the most energetic of peoples in Italy. They were the ones, who, as slaves, had done the business, the teaching, the doctoring, the farming, the building, etc., while the rich Roman did nothing but amuse himself (this is not an exaggeration) and the poverty-stricken free-born was shifting for himself, more often than not on the dole and idle. Now, that thousands of these slaves were gaining their freedom, they continued their trading and business activities, but now as citizens. They then became the energetic stock of Italy. And they were able to transform the entire society.
In regard to these changes in the social system in most of Italy, the Cambridge Ancient History says,
[freeing of slaves]. Yet this proved but a slight check, and Tacitus records a significant remark that if freedmen were marked off as a separate grade, then the scanty number of free-born would be evident."
"With thoughtful citizens, partly owing to the Stoic doctrine of the fraternity of man, humane views gradually spread and made for amelioration in the lot of servitude, and for so much readiness in masters to liberate slaves that Augustus, recognizing the serious infiltration of alien blood into the body politic, introduced restrictions on manumission
This shows how very few native free-born were left in Italy by our era. Thus citizens were now freedmen (who were actually ex-slaves or their descendants). They were becoming the new population. The rise of successful freedmen to riches made a social change of the utmost moment, and the wealth amassed by a Narcissus or a Pallas gives point to Martial’s use of "wealthy freedmen" as something proverbial.
The ex-slaves, now freedmen, who made names for themselves were generally from Syrian or eastern extraction. It was the east that was transforming the west.
"It seems unquestionable that the slaves from the eastern provinces were numerically preponderant in Rome, and (what is still more significant) that they played a more important part in Roman life. ... The large population of slaves gave rise to a numerous class of foreign origin, the liberti, or freedmen, which came to play an important part in the life of the city. Rome’s policy of manumitting slaves was very liberal and the grant of freedom and citizenship made it possible for them to become merged in the citizen body of Rome. Former slaves and sons of slaves spread into trades and crafts that required civil standing, and in Cicero’s day it was these people who already constituted the larger element of the plebian classes."
La Piana, "Foreign Groups in Rome," pp.190–191
These freedmen from the east began to take over almost all of the active enterprises which govern society and commerce as a whole. By the 1st century, freedmen were beginning to be so powerful (their number was far more numerous than any Latin stock that remained) that even top governmental posts were being given to them.
"One thing which must, most of all, have shocked the aristocracy, even though of recent date, was the large number of easterns, especially freedmen, who had been given some of the highest posts in the empire."
- vol. X, p.727
Cambridge Ancient History,
The Cambridge Ancient History goes on and on showing personal incidents of ex-slaves from the east gaining posts that only the Latin aristocracy could previously hold in the Republic. In fact, these ex-slaves finally took over almost complete control. Tacitus complained that in Nero’s day most of the senators and members of the aristocracy were now men of ex-slave status, and most of these were of eastern origin. Ex-slaves became so powerful that in Nero’s time they were put in charge of the highest governmental offices. This was something that the rulers of ancient republican Roman would have gasped at.
[ex-slaves]. When Agrippina was accused of treason, freedman were present to hear her defense. One of Nero’s freedman, Polyclitus, was actually employed as an arbitrator between a senator and a knight; for when Suetonius Paullinus, the legate of Britain, had disputes with his procurator, Polyeritus was sent to settle their differences. He proceeded to the island [of Britain] with the gorgeous train of an eastern potentate, but the barbarians failed to comprehend why their conqueror should bow the knee to a slave. When Nero went on his theatrical tour to Greece he left the freedman, Helius, in charge of Rome. Twelve years before this menial had been employed by Nero to murder Silanus; and was now absolute master of the imperial city."
"The reign of Nero saw no abatement in the power of the imperial freedman
Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire, pp.178–179
These instances of freedmen taking over the government were not isolated cases. This was the general trend. Professor Duff gives examples of how in times after Nero, the descendants of these ex-slaves were the power behind the throne. In fact, by the 3rd century even many of the Emperors were actually descendants of the slaves of earlier centuries.
"The denationalized capital of the great empire, came to be ruled by the offspring of races which originally had come to the city only to serve."
La Piana, "Foreign Groups in Rome," p. 223
Let us not forget that by the 1st century B.C.E. almost all the urban populace of the cities in Italy were of slave or ex-slave extraction. These are the clear findings of the historians. The taking over the government by the descendants of these slaves was brought about because the major population, certainly by the end of the 1st century C.E., was of ex-slave extraction. The former Latin nobles disappeared almost completely. Professor Frank continues:
"But however numerous the offspring of the servile classes, unless the Romans had been liberal in the practice of manumission, these people would not have merged with the civil population. Now, literary and legal records present abundant evidence of an unusual liberality in this practice at Rome, and the facts need not be repeated after the full discussion of Wallon, Buckland, Freulander, Dill, Lemonnier, and Cicotti. If there were any doubt that the laws passed in the early empire for the partial restriction of manumission did not seriously check the practice, the statistics given at the beginning of this paper should allay it. When from eighty to ninety per cent of the urban population proves to have been of servile extraction, we can only conclude that manumissions were not seriously restricted."
Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," pp.698–699
By the 1st century, the vast majority of free Italians were now ex-slaves or descendants of ex-slaves. Frank concludes, "By far the larger part (perhaps ninety per cent) had eastern blood in their veins" (Frank, "Race Mixture in the Roman Empire," p.690). It was no slip of the pen when Paul stated to the Roman people of his time that the majority of them could then claim Abraham as their fleshly father (Romans 4:1). By the 1st century of our era, a change of race had taken place in Italy. Italy had, for all practical purposes, become a Semitic country. And this also applied, though to a lesser degree, to the regions of Spain, Gaul (France) and the southern areas of modern Germany. The 1st century B.C.E. and on to the 3rd century of our era saw great changes in the racial make-up in all areas of continental Europe and North Africa. People from the Near East swarmed into the regions of the west, and took over those areas for them selves and adopting the national names of the people who once lived there. These people from the east lost their former names (unless they adhered tenaciously to their national religions like the Jews) and they became ordinary Europeans with new names from the areas in which they settled. This adoption of new names and languages is a major factor in causing the historical records to forget them. They then became The People That History Forgot.
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