"The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. Itâ??s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42â??0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45.
Schiedel and Friesen arenâ??t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point thatâ??s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. â??Yet the disproportionate visibility of this â??fortunate decileâ?? must not let us forget the vast butâ??to usâ??inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.â??
In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. Itâ??s as though Romeâ??s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"