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AD 33

Financial crisis in Rome

In ancient Rome, wealthy indi­viduals and espe­cially members of the imperial elite (sen­ators and knights), fre­quently granted loans at interest to members of the public. In AD 33, these loans became increas­ingly scarce, leading to a severe crisis.

We still only have a partial explan­ation for why these loans became harder to find: land prices fell and bor­rowers found it harder to sell their property to pay back their loans; and, in order to boost the property market, a measure was intro­duced requiring sen­ators to invest 2/​3 of their wealth in real estate located on the Italian pen­insula. This rule had pre­vi­ously been imple­mented by Julius Caesar but had since been aban­doned; its revival proved dis­astrous for the credit market, as sen­ators had to ask bor­rowers to pay back their loans.

In order to increase the amount of liquidity in the economy and restore con­fidence, the Emperor Tiberius granted an interest-​​free loan of one hundred million ses­terces from his own per­sonal fortune.

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