One small example

Yesterday I said that I would explore some of the faulty logic behind the modern tendency to dismiss the harsh assessment of Domitian by historians such as Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. But when I actually sat down to do it, I found it hard to figure out where to start and where to end.

There is just so much wrong with their logic that one has a hard time picking a starting point. At the same time, it is hard to explain what is wrong with their logic if you can’t assume that your audience has a passing knowledge of roman history. For example, this quote from the Wikipedia article struck me as being obviously stupid—

Upon his accession he revalued the Roman currency to the standard of Augustus, increasing the silver content of the denarius by 12%. An imminent crisis in 85 forced a devaluation to the Neronian standard of 65, but this was still higher than the level which Vespasian and Titus had maintained during their reign.

The authors of the article are trying to establish that Domitian was good economic manager (Needless to say, the ancient historians did not share this view) by contrasting the stability of his currency against those of his predecessors. In their view, the archeological findings of a more professionally manged currency helps refute the contemporary historians of the period.

The poor logic behind this assumption ought to be obvious to anyone who has a passing knowledge of Roman history.

You see, Vespasian took over after the civil war that followed the disastrous reign of Nero. He and Titus had to spend their time putting the Roman empire back together. The situation that faced Domitian was worlds apart from what they had to deal with.

Saying that Domitian was a good economic manager because his currency had a higher silver content then his predecessors is like saying that Stalin was good economic manager. After all, after World War I, The Russian Civil War, The Great Terror, and World War II were all over and done with the Russian economy started doing a lot better then it had previously. Surly that reflects great credit on Stalin?

Or maybe it is just a reflection of the fact that the Russian economy had nowhere to go but up after all the disasters that had come previously.

Context matters.

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