Front Page Titles (by Subject) (c) the genesis of the maritime state - The State
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(c) the genesis of the maritime state - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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(c) the genesis of the maritime state
In many cases, I believe, trade in the loot of piracy is the origin of those cities around which, as political centers, the city-states of the antique or Mediterranean civilization grew up; while in very many other cases, the same trade coöperated to bring them to the same point of political development.
These harbor markets developed from probably two general types: they grew up either as piratical fortresses directly and intentionally placed in hostile territory, or else as “merchant colonies” based on treaty rights in the harbors of foreign primitive or developed feudal states.
Of the first type, we have a number of important examples from ancient history which correspond exactly to the fourth stage of our scheme, where an armed colony of pirates plants itself down at a commercially and strategically defendable point on the seacoast of a foreign state. The most notable instance is Carthage; and in like manner, the Greek sea nomads, Ionians, Dorians and Achæans, settled in their sea castles on the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coasts of Southern Italy, on the islands of these seas, and on the gulfs of Southern Gaul. Phœnicians, Etruscans,∗ Greeks, and according to modern investigation, Carians, all about the Mediterranean, founded their “States” after the same type, with identical class division into masters and servile peasantry of the neighboring territory.79
Some of these states on the coast developed into feudal states of the type of the territorial states; and the master class then became a landed aristocracy. The factors in this change were: first, geographical conditions, lack of good harbors, and a wide stretch of hinterland cultivated by peaceful peasants; and secondly, very probably, the acquired organization into classes taken with them from their originial homes. In many cases, they were fugitive nobles, the vanquished of domestic feuds, or younger sons, sometimes an entire generation of youth of both sexes, who thus started “on the viking,” and having at home had lands and serfs, as petty lords, they again sought in foreign lands what they regarded as their due. The occupation of England by the Anglo-Saxons, and of Southern Italy by the Normans, are examples of this method; so too are the Spanish and Portuguese colonizations of Mexico and of South America. The Achæan colonies of Greater Greece in Southern Italy furnish additional and very important instances of this development of territorial feudal states by sea nomads: “This Achæan League of cities was a true colonization. The cities were without harbors—Croton only had a fair roadstead—and were without any trade of their own; the Sybarite could boast of his growing gray in his water town between his home bridges, while buying and selling were carried on by Milesians and Etruscans. On the other hand, the Greeks in this region not only controlled the fringe of the shore, but ruled from sea to sea; . . . the native agricultural inhabitants were forced into a relation of clientage or serfdom, and were required to work the farms of their masters or to pay tribute to them.”80 It is probable that most of the Doric colonies in Crete were similarly organized.
But in the course of universal history these “territorial states,” whether they arose more or less frequently, did not acquire any such importance as did those maritime cities which devoted their principal energies to commerce and to privateering. Mommsen contrasts in distinct and well chosen sentences the Achæan landed squire with the “royal merchants” of the Greek Colonies in Southern Italy: “In no way did they spurn agriculture or the increase of territory; the Greeks were not satisfied, at least not after they became powerful, to remain within the confined space of a fortified commercial factory in the midst of the country of the barbarians, as the Phænicians had done. Their cities were founded primarily and exclusively for purposes of trade, and unlike the Achæan colonies, were universally situated at the best harbors and landing places.”81 We are certain, in the case of the Ionic colonies, and may well assume it for the other cases, that the founders of these cities were not landed squires, but seafaring merchants.
But such maritime states or cities, in the strict sense, came into being not only through warlike conquest, but also through peaceable beginnings, by a more or less mixed pénétration pacifique.
Where, however, the Vikings did not meet peaceable peasants, but feudal states in the primitive stage, willing to fight, they offered and accepted terms of peace and settled down as colonies of merchants.
We know of such cases from every part of the world, in harbors and on markets held on shore. To take the instances with which Germans are most conversant, there are the settlements of North German merchants in countries along the German ocean and the Baltic Sea, the German Steel Yard in London, the Hansa in Sweden and Norway, on the Island of Schönen, and in Russia, at Novgorod. In Wilna, the capital of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, there was such a colony; and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice is another example of a similar institution. The strangers in nearly every instance settle down as a compact mass, subject to their own laws and their own jurisdiction. They often acquire great political influence, sometimes extending to dominion over the state. One would think the following tale of Ratzel, concerning the coast and islands of the Indian Ocean, were a contemporaneous narrative of the Phænician or Greek invasion of the Mediterranean at about 1,000 B. C.: “Whole nations have, so to say, been liquefied by trade, especially the proverbially clever, zealous, omnipresent Malays of Sumatra; as well as the treacherous Bugi of Celebes. These can be met with at every place from Singapore to New Guinea. Latterly, especially in Borneo, they have immigrated in masses on the call of the Borneo chieftains. Their influence was so strong that they were permitted to govern themselves according to their own laws, and they felt themselves so strong that repeatedly they attempted to achieve independence. The Achinese formerly occupied a similar position. Malacca had been made the principal mart by Malays from Sumatra, and after its decline, Achin became the most frequented harbor of this distant east, especially for the first quarter of the seventeenth century, the pivotal period of the development of that corner of the world.”82 The following, from among numberless instances, demonstrate the universality of this form of settlement: “In Urga, where they politically dominate, the merchants are crowded together into a separate Chinese Town.”83 In the Jewish States there were “small colonies of foreign merchants and mechanics, set apart in distinct quarters of the cities. Here, under the king’s protection, they could live according to their own religious customs.”84 We may also compare with this, First Kings XX, 34. “King Omri of Ephraim was forced by the military success of his opponent, the King of Damascus, to grant to the Aramaic merchants the use of certain parts of the city of Samaria, where under royal protection they could trade. Later, when the turn of war favored his successor, Ahab, the latter demanded the same privilege for the Ephraimitic merchants in Damascus.”85 “The inhabitants of Italy, wherever they were, held together as solid and organized masses, the soldiers as legionaries, the merchants of all large cities as corporations; while the Roman citizens domiciled or dwelling in the various provincial circuits, were organized as a ‘convention of Roman citizens’ with their own communal government.”86 We may recall the mediæval Ghettos, which, before the great persecution of the Jews in the Middle Ages, were similar merchant colonies. The settlements of Europeans in the ports of strong foreign empires at the present time show similar corporate organizations, having their own constitution and (consular) jurisdiction. China, Turkey and Morocco must continue to bear this mark of inferiority, while recently Japan has been able to rid herself of that badge.
The most interesting point about these colonies, at least for our study, consists in their general tendency to extend their political influence into complete domination. And there is good reason for this. Merchants have a mass of movable wealth, which is likely to be used as a decisive factor in the political upheavals constantly disturbing all feudal states, be it in international wars between two neighboring states, or in intra-national fights, such as wars of succession. In addition to this the colonists, in many cases, may rely on the power of their home state, basing their claim on ties of blood and on uncommonly strong commercial interests; while there is besides, the fact that in many cases they have in their warlike sailor-folk and their numerous slaves an effective and compact force of their own, capable of accomplishing much in a limited sphere.
The following story of the rôle played by Arab merchants in East Africa appears to me to show a historical type heretofore not sufficiently appreciated: “When Speke, as the first European, made this trip in 1857, the Arabs were merchants, living as aliens in the land. When in 1861 he passed the same way, the Arabs resembled great landed proprietors with rich estates and were waging war with the native territorial ruler. This process, repeatedly found in many other regions in the interior of Africa, is the necessary consequence of the balance of power. The foreign merchants, be they Arabs or Suaheli, ask the privilege of transit and pay tribute for it; they establish warehouses, which the chiefs favor, as these seem both to satisfy their vanity and to extend their connections; then incurring the suspicion, oppression and persecution of the chiefs, the merchants refuse to pay the rack tolls and dues, which have grown with their increased prosperity. At last, in one of the inevitable fights for the succession, the Arabs take the side of one pretender if he is pliable enough, and are thus brought into internal quarrels of the country and take part in the often endless wars.”87
This political activity of the merchant denizens (metoikoi) is a constantly recurring type. “In Borneo there developed from the settlements of Chinese gold diggers separate states.”88 Properly speaking, the entire history of colonization by Europeans is a series of examples of the law that, with any superior force, the factories and larger settlements of foreigners tend to grow into domination, unless they approximate to the primal type of simple piracy, such as the Spanish and Portuguese conquests, or the East India Companies, both the English and the Dutch. “There lies a robber state beside the ocean, between the Rhine and the Scheldt,” are the accusing words of the Dutch Multatuli. All East Asiatic, American and African colonies of all European peoples arose as one or the other of these two types.
But the aliens do not always obtain unconditional mastery. Sometimes the host state is too strong, and the newcomers remain politically powerless but protected aliens; as, for example, the Germans in England. Sometimes the host state, although subjugated, becomes strong enough to shake off the foreign domination; so, for instance, Sweden drove out the Hanseats who had imposed on her their sovereignty. In some cases, a conqueror overcomes both merchants and host state, and subjugates both; as happened to the republics of Novgorod and Pskov, when the Russians annexed them. In many cases, however, the rich foreigners and the domestic nobility amalgamate into one group of rulers, following the type of the formation of territorial states, in which we saw this take place whenever two about equally strong groups of rulers came into conflict. It seems to me that this last named situation is the most probable assumption for the genesis of the most important city states of antiquity, for the Greek maritime cities, and for Rome.
Of Greek history, to use the terms of Kurt Breysig, we know only the “Middle Ages,” of Roman history, only its “Modern Times.” For the matters that preceded, we must be extremely careful in drawing deductions from fancied analogies. But it seems to me that enough facts are proved and admitted to permit the conclusion that Athens, Corinth, Mycenæ, Rome, etc., became states in the manner already set forth. And this would follow, even if the data from all known demography and general history were not of such universal validity as to permit the conclusion in itself.
We know accurately from the names of places (Salamis: Island of Peace, equivalent to Market-Island), from the names of heroes, from monuments, and from immediate tradition, that in many Greek harbors there existed Phænician factories, while the hinterland was occupied by small feudal states with the typical articulation of nobles, common freemen, and slaves. It can not seriously be disputed that the development of the city states was powerfully advanced by foreign influences; and this is true, though no specific evidence can be adduced to show that any of the Phænician, or of the still more powerful Carian merchants were either allowed to intermarry with the families of the resident nobility, or were made full citizens, or finally even became princes.
The same applies to Rome, concerning which Mommsen, a cautious author, states: “Rome owes its importance, if not its origin, to these commercial and strategic relations. Evidence of this is found in many traces of far greater value than the tales of historical novels pretending to be authentic. Take an instance of the primæval relations existing between Rome and Cære, which was for Etruria what Rome was for Latium, and thereafter was its nearest neighbor and commercial friend; or the uncommon importance attributed to the bridge over Tiber and the bridge building (Pontifex Maximus) in every part of the Roman State; or the galley in the municipal coat of arms. To this source may be traced the prinitive Roman harbor dues to which, from early times, only those goods were subject which were intended for sale (promercale) and not what entered the harbor of Ostia, for the proper use of the charterer (usuarium), and which constituted therefore an impost on trade. For that reason we find the comparatively early use of minted money, and the commercial treaties of states oversea with Rome. In this sense, then, Rome may, as the story of its origin states, have been rather a created than a developed city, and among the Latin cities rather the youngest than the eldest.”89
It would require the work of a lifetime of historical research to investigate these possibilities, or rather these probabilities; and then to write the constitutional history of these preëminently important city states, and to draw thence the very necessary conclusions. It seems to me that along this path there would be found much information on many an obscure question, such as the Etruscan dominion in Rome, or the origin of the rich families of Plebeians, or concerning the Athenian metoikoi, and many other problems.
Here we can only follow the thread which holds out the hope of leading us through the labyrinth of historical tradition to the issue.
[∗]Whether the Etruscans were immigrants into Italy by land who took up piracy after having made war successfully on land, or whether as sea nomads they had already settled the country along the sea named after them, has not been determined.
[76.]Herodotus IV, 23, cited by Lippert, l. c. I, p. 459.
[77.]Lippert, l. c. II, p. 170.
[78.]Mommsen, l. c. I, p. 139.
[79.]Similar conditions may be observed among the islanders near India. Here the Malays are vikings. “Colonization is an important factor, as conquest and settlement oversea . . .reminding one of the great rôle played in ancient Hellas by the roving tribes . . .. Every strip of coast line shows foreign elements, who enter uncalled for and in most instances spreading damage among the natives. The right of conquest was granted by the rulers of Tornate to noble dynasts, who later on became semi-sovereign viceroys on the islands of Buru, Serang, etc.”
[80.]Mommsen, l. c. I, p. 132.
[81.]Mommsen, l. c. I, p. 134.
[82.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 160.
[83.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 558.
[84.]Buhl, l. c., p. 48.
[85.]Buhl, l. c., pp. 78-79.
[86.]Mommsen, l. c. II, p. 406.