emgrasso: (raptors logo)
[personal profile] emgrasso
I just finished reading The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor. A few months ago I read Debt: the First 5000 Years.

The life of Mithradates is very intereting from the perspective of Debt.

During Mithradates long lifetime there were about three cycles where the Romans invaded areas east of the Adriatic, directly enslaved a big chunk of the population, destroyed the renewables, carried off the valuables, and imposed burdensome taxes and horrible interest rates that wrecked what was left of the economy. Then Mithradates threw out the Romans, freed the slaves, and nullified the debts. (And then it happened again. And again.) And the Romans wondered why the local populations were very very loyal to Mithradates...

The really interesting thing is that Mayor repeatedly says that modern historians don't understand how the economics of Mithradates' kingdom worked: he never seemed to lack cash to pay HUGE armies and never collected general taxes until near the end when things were going really sour (and even then the tax rates were ridiculously low by Roman standards).

Some of his advantages may be due to more or less literally not killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, and partly to ruling what Mayor describes as an area previously ruled by Kings named Croesus and Midas. But there was clearly something about the way things worked that was different organizationally, too.

It seems like Mithradates was on the other side of the cultural Debt boundary.

Politically, Mithradates called himself Shah of Shahs for much of his life, when the Black Sea was Mithradates' lake. But he worked with alliances and coalitions not conquests (including with the Greek democracies -- the general defending Athens at its fall was employed by Mithradates).
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