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About the Book

About ROMAN PALESTINE 200-400 THE LAND


This volume surveys the agrarian history of Palestine during the third and fourth centuries CE. It describes the various phases of transition from a rural economy based primarily on small peasant proprietorship to one dominated by the large estate, owned by wealthy and often ruthless "barons," worked on a crop-sharing basis. The various factors contributing to this change are analysed, factors both climatic, economic, social and political. The character of the new class of nouveaux-riches is described, as is the plight of the poor farm-hand, and the relationship between them is examined. This study draws upon largely contemporary Palestinian Rabbinic sources, thus opening before the classicist a whole new body of material bearing upon almost every aspect of everyday life. It is demonstrated that the Rabbis, keenly aware of the economic pressures of the times, sought to alleviate the lot of the small peasant proprietor through a variety of legislative measures. And so too did the Emperors, though they were motivated mainly by an interest in protecting their own fiscal revenue. The various conclusions are, wherever possible, checked against the rich comparative material found in classical, patristic, papyrological and epigraphic sources. The result is not merely to write a new chapter in Palestinian agrarian history, but also to give new perspective to the social history of the Eastern Roman Empire during these two very crucial centuries.



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