The Roman Republic’s Debt Crisis

QUESTION: You said that Imperial Rome did not have a national debt nor central banks. Did Rome ever have debts that were not private?

ANSWER: Yes. In all honesty, it was the Debt Crisis that ended the Roman Republic. There was a Sovereign Debt Crisis during the Roman Republic period resulted in a dictatorship and a debt default. The Roman Debt Crisis of the 1st century BC has left behind a vivid account of what took place. The volume of gold and silver in Italy had increased dramatically during the late 2nd century BC following the Punic Wars. We have the first real gold coins issued by the Roman Republic at that time.

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Richard Duncan-Jones
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However, this concentration of wealth, which was akin to the United States after World War I and II, was absorbed by commercial expansion and investment in Gaul and Asia. A period of excessive concentration of money and large profits came to an end with the rise of the Social War of 91-88BC which was a war waged between the Roman Republic and several of the other cities in Italy (no taxation without representation), which prior to the war had been Roman allies for centuries. The war was begun by the Picentes because the Romans did not want to afford them Roman citizenship, thus leaving the Italian groups with fewer rights. The war resulted in a Roman victory and genocide against the Samnites. However, Rome granted Roman citizenship to almost all of its Italian allies, including the Samnites, to avoid another war. Therefore, we find that the debt crisis was correlated with a separatist movement – which we are beginning to see worldwide starting in Europe, but will eventually become a contagion in the United States as the conflict…

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