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From Caesar to Tacitus: changes in early Germanic governance circa 50 BC-50 AD

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  • Andrew Young

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Abstract

Julius Caesar and Cornelius Tacitus provide characterizations of early Germanic (barbarian) society around, respectively, 50 BC and 50 AD. The earlier date corresponds to expansion of Rome to the Rhine and Danube. During the subsequent century Germanic governance institutions changed in a number of ways. In particular, (1) temporary military commanders elected from the nobility gave way to standing retinues under the leadership of professional commanders, (2) public assemblies met more frequently and regularly, (3) councils made up of nobility gained agenda control in the assemblies, and (4) these councils relinquished their control over the allocations of land. I account for these constitutional exchanges in light of Rome’s encroachment. This encroachment brought new sources of wealth as well as constraints on the expansion of Germans into new lands. Incentives favored a reallocation of resources away from pastoralism and towards both sedentary farming and raids across the frontier. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Young, 2015. "From Caesar to Tacitus: changes in early Germanic governance circa 50 BC-50 AD," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 164(3), pages 357-378, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:164:y:2015:i:3:p:357-378
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-015-0282-7
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew T. Young, 2016. "What does it take for a roving bandit settle down? Theory and an illustrative history of the Visigoths," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(1), pages 75-102, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Self-governance; Economics of clubs; Constitutional exchange; Early Germanic peoples; The Roman Empire; Political economy; D72; N43; N93; P16;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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