Massimiliano Bravi


In the XXI book of the "Esprit des lois", Montesquieu proposed an articulated reconstruction of the main events that marked the history of commerce in the ancient world, making conclusions in explicit contrast to those of his compatriot Pierre-Daniel Huet, who in 1716 had published a treatise titled "Histoire du commerce et de la navigation". In particular, Montesquieu tried to argue, in clear disagreement with Huet, that the total incompetence of the Romans in the art of commerce, which lasted from the Republican period to the Imperial epoch, led them to the establishment of extremely negative monetary and customs policies. He opined that this damaged the prosperity of the ancient world irreparably, and thus, aggravated the ruinous decline of the population that was caused by the destructive wars of conquest and by the subsequent “despotism” to which the enslaved peoples were subjected. Then, in the following centuries, the spread of Christianity led to the radication of the primacy of spiritual values, thereby bringing about the growth of a large clergy which contributed in a decisive manner to hindering the realisation of an effective and consistent demographic recovery. Instead, David Hume firmly refused the idea that the ancient world, even before Roman dominion, could be considered more populated than the modern world, dedicating to this matter the essay "Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations" (1752).


Montesquieu; Daniel Huet; David Hume; mondo antico; commercio; demografia

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2421-4124/7587


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