chapter  7
29 Pages

Publicans and Patriarchs: The Triumph of Roman Family Enterprise: 146 BCE–14CE

With the Persian Empire, the balance of power in the ancient Near East shifted away from Mesopotamia for the fi rst time. With the Roman Empire, the balance shifted for good.

In the Western Mediterranean, the seeds planted by the traders of Tyre and the merchants of Euboea germinated two mighty states, either of which, alone, could have dominated the next economy. These were Carthage and Rome. Carthage, chief colony of Phoenicia, inherited the western half of the Tyrian commercial empire. Its princes created an African version of naval capitalism that reached far back into the great continent, pioneered trade in the Atlantic and dreamt of bringing even Europe under its sway. It was not to be. Proud Carthage was supplanted by the citizen-warriors of Rome, whose resolute traders and soldiers successfully adapted the Hellenic market revolution to their own needs. In the process, they built the mightiest empire yet seen, incorporating Asia under its sway and laying the groundwork for the political economy of Western Europe.