Friday, January 30, 2009

History's Lesson

In ancient Rome, the penalty for screwing up politically was to be thrown from the Tarpeian Rock, a cliff at the edge of Rome's Capitoline Hill.

Rome suffered economic reversals the same way we have recently. In 33 AD, Tiberius enfored a ceiling on interest rates which resulted in a severe credit crunch (Tacitus, The Annals - Book VI, 16-17). "Hence followed a scarcity of money, a great shock being given to all credit, the current coin too...a fall of prices, and the deeper a man was in debt, the more reluctantly did he part with his property and many were utterly ruined... The destruction of private wealth precipitated the fall of rank and reputation, till at last, the emperor interposed."

Tiberius accused Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, of incest (trumped up charge) and had him thrown from the Tarpeian Rock. He used Marius' money to, "distribute through the banks a hundred million sesterces, and allowing freedom to borrow without interest for three years."

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