Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XV.: Of the Commerce of the Romans with the Barbarians. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XV.: Of the Commerce of the Romans with the Barbarians. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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Of the Commerce of the Romans with the Barbarians.
THE Romans having erected a vast empire in Europe, Asia, and Africa; the weakness of the people and the tyranny of their laws united all the parts of this immense body. The Roman policy was then to avoid all communication with those nations whom they had not subdued: the fear of carrying to them the art of conquering, made them neglect the art of enriching themselves. They made laws to hinder all commerce with barbarians. “Let nobody, said* Valens and Gratian, send wine, oil, or other liquors to the barbarians, though it be only for them to taste. Let no one carry gold to them,† adds Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius: rather, if they have any, let our subjects deprive them of it by stratagem.” The exportation of iron was prohibited on pain of death.
Domitian, a prince of great timidity, ordered the‡ vines in Gaul to be pulled up; from a fear, no doubt, lest their wines should draw thither the barbarians. Probus and Julian, who had no such fears, gave orders for their being planted again.
I am sensible, that upon the declension of the Roman Empire, the barbarians obliged the Romans to establish staple towns,* and to trade with them. But even this is a proof that the minds of the Romans were averse to commerce.†
[* ]Leg. ad barbaricum cod. Quæ res exportari non debeant.
[† ]Leg. 2. cod. de commerc. & mercator.
[‡ ]Leg. 2. Quæ res exportari non debeant, and Procopius, war of the Persians, book 1.
[* ]See the Chronicles of Eusebius and Cedrenus.
[† ]See the Considerations on the causes of the rise and declension of the Roman grandeur.