Influence of Roman Thought

Influence of Roman Thought

While it must be admitted that, their legal contributions excepted, the Romans added little to the stream of economic thought, their importance as a medium for such thought is great. The mystery of antiquity, the sonorous tongue, the prestige of military and political pre­eminence all combined to spread the writings of Roman orators, essayists, and philosophers; and with them were disseminated the Stoic philosophy and the ideas of the Greeks. With them, too, went the practical maxims of the people, and incidentally the advice of the father or the meditation of the statesman conveyed ideas of economic significance.

These writings were read, nay, studied, by men of a later day, in Germany, France, and England, whose veneration for them gave them a weight which we can hardly realize. More­over, the relative development in economic thought of the early moderns was not great, and their economics and ethics were not untangled. Thus it is that this seeming commonplace of Cicero's or that of Seneca's had much greater influence than was war­ranted by its intrinsic economic worth, and greater than it could have with ourselves. Though the Romans did not directly develop economic theory, a knowledge of their writings is essential to an understanding of the continuity of the history of economic thought.