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(searched for: doi:10.3406/ahess.1945.3149)
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Frank William Walbank
The Cambridge Economic History of Europe from the Decline of the Roman Empire pp 71-131; https://doi.org/10.1017/chol9780521087094.004

Abstract:
In the year of our Lord 301, ‘aroused justly and rightfully by the abuse of immoderate prices and an uncurbed passion for gain, which is lessened neither by abundant supplies nor by fruitful years’, the Emperor Diocletian issued an edict in which, after analysing the evils of the times (in curiously pompous and tortuous Latin), he laid down for their improvement a tariff of maximum prices, to be observed on pain of death throughout the whole Empire. This edict is significant not so much for its results (which were trivial), but as a symbol of the change that had come over the life of the Mediterranean world since the setting up of the principate by Augustus three hundred years earlier. A world of free, private economic activity had given place to one of state control. Machinery had been devised for the organisation of production and trade. Forms of free association had been transmuted into organs of rigid regimentation. The imperial authorities, once content merely to provide facilities for the trader, to act as ‘night–watchman for the business–man’, now sought to direct his whole life and his very movements from place to place. The process of this transformation was involved. It had its ramifications in every branch of social and economic life; and it embraced the provinces no less than Italy, the original core of the Empire. Its beginnings can be traced in the earliest period of the principate; but unfortunately the critical time when the new outlines were solidifying is one of the most obscure in the whole history of Rome.
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