The Roman conquest of foreign nations in the East resulted in a dramatic increase of material wealth in Rome, brought back as the spoils of war from the conquered nations. This increase in wealth had a corruptive influence on Roman society, as it signified the advent of luxury, or extravagance, and of avarice into that society. The emergence of these negative values or vices in Roman society played a major causative role in the disintegration and decay of Roman society that eventuated in its decline and destruction. Rome was able to prosper only so long as it embodied the virtues and positive values that characterized its earlier history, and the introduction of luxury into Rome overwhelmed and eventually precluded Roman virtue as it seeped into all aspects of Roman life. Sallust addresses this topic in his works, The Conspiracy of Catiline and The Jugurthine War. Livy also treats the corruptive influence of wealth on morality and the resultant decline of Rome in his History of Rome.
[...] Those that are being oppressed are not as concerned with preserving their freedom as their oppressors are with increasing their power, and are conferring the favor and power on those who are the least deserving because of their lack of spirit and fear of those in power. These crimes of the powerful few must be suppressed and punished, for they will only increase, and the resultant indigence and loss of liberty visited on the people will also continue to worsen. [...]
[...] The inception of this lust for and worship of wealth and its attendant power, privilege, and recognition, which was a result of Rome's prosperity and the influx of wealth and luxury from foreign nations, resulted in the repudiation of poverty and the diminishment of honesty in favor of extravagant living and self-interest. Moneyed citizens began to display their wealth in an excessively decadent manner, “turn[ing] mountains upside down and deck[ing] over the (Cataline sec.13), making a sport of their assets by their eagerness to shamefully squander that which they might have enjoyed honorably. [...]
[...] Wealth has the power to influence those in power to make decisions that are not right or just, and to deny those that are truly in need in order to pander to those who have no need, as those are the ones with the means to fulfill the growing demand for material wealth. This has resulted in the oppression of those who are not wealthy by the few that are, and perpetuates the injustices of that oppression, further widening the gap between rich and poor. [...]
[...] He warns against believing that matters will revert to the way they were before the law restraining extravagance was passed, for just as it is safer for a guilty man to have never been accused of his crime in the first place than to be acquitted for it in trial, so would extravagance never checked be more tolerable than it is now (History XXXIV.4). Sallust and Livy have similar views on the corruption of Roman morality as a result of the introduction of foreign wealth into Rome, and the massive increase in avarice, acquisition, and extravagance that the influx of material wealth caused. [...]
[...] Sallust seems to be more concerned with the effect of luxury on Roman politics and politicians than is Livy, emphasizing the power of wealth to further the dishonorable interests of the few that are in power as it enables the oppression of the indigent masses. Sallust also emphasizes avarice and extravagance as vices that lead men to support the enemies of Rome and unjust causes in order to gain more private wealth; and he identifies the pursuit of luxury and the widespread indulgence in decadence as overshadowing the noble pursuits of the mind and the regard accorded to those who live with honor and virtue. [...]
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