The Romans made of Europe, Asia, and Africa a vast empire ; the weak­ness of the peo­ples and the tyranny of com­mand uni­ted all the parts of this immense body. At that point the Roman policy was to sepa­rate itself from all nations that had not been sub­ju­ga­ted : for fear of brin­ging to them the art of conque­ring, they neglec­ted the art of enri­ching them­sel­ves. They made laws to pre­vent any com­merce with bar­ba­rians. “Let no one,” say Valens and Gratian, “send wine, oil or other liquors to the bar­ba­rians, even to taste them”1 ; “let no one take gold to them,” add Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius, “and even what they have of it should be slyly made off with.”2 The ship­ping of iron was for­bid­den on pain of death.

Domitian, a timid prince, had the vines pul­led up in Gaul,3 for fear, no doubt, lest that liquor attract bar­ba­rians there. Probus and Julian, who never fea­red them, had the vines replan­ted.

I quite rea­lize that, in the weak­ness of the empire, the bar­ba­rians obli­ged the Romans to esta­blish mar­ket pla­ces4 and to trade with them. But even that pro­ves that the spi­rit of the Romans was not to trade.

Law Ad Barbaricum, code Quæ res exportari non debeant.

Law 2, code De commerciis et mercatoribus.

Law 2, quæ res exportari non debeant, and Procopius, The Persian Wars, book 1.

See Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline, Paris, 1748.