Re: A moral zero-point?

Michael S. Lorrey (
Tue, 19 Jan 1999 14:43:30 -0500 wrote:

> Mike offers:
> >(...Crassus made his fortune in ancient Rome as the owner
> >of a fire company, he brought his pump and crew to the scene of a fire,
> >and wouldn't even set his pump up until the owner of the building had
> >paid him the negotiated price. Eventually he wound up owning most of Rome.
> Is this historical, or are you just pulling our legs? I'm an aficionado of
> Roman history, but I haven't encountered this story about Crassus before.
> He doesn't seem to have been a businessman of any sort.

Crassus was not born into a high aristocratic family. He began life as contractor in the construction business, and developed his early fire fighting technology to fight fires that erupted from time to time on the work site. From this he founded a fire fighting company (I just saw this in a documentary on firefighting on either the History Channel or the Discovery Channel). By the time he arrives on the scene politically in the big histories (written by aristocrats and mainly focused on the lives of other aristocrats) he was already the major land lord in Rome. Eventually he became part of the Triumverate with Pompey and Ceasar (but was killed at a battle in Persia (as I recall)) which broke up when Ceasar decided to cross the Rubicon River to march on Rome to declare himself Emperor (which originated in the term 'imperator', which was not a political position, but merely a recognition by the troops that a military leader is smart, blessed by the gods, lucky and has big balls).

> >This is where the term 'Crass commercialism' came from.).
> Ouch. :-) I think we've been set up again...

No, its supposedly the real source of the saying. I don't know if it originated in his era or was merely one of a later era which appreciated classical histories (much like how the Rubicon is synonymous with difficult fateful decisions.). Crassus was an up and comer, and was thus seen by his aristocratic contemporaries as an oaf, a usurper, with plebian tastes and habits. Being crass denotes the sort of ostentatious displays and rudeness that newly wealthy people display, as Robin Hansen described when he talked about the study on signaling/counter signaling. Likewize, his aristocratic contemporary, Pompey, is the source of the term pompous, presumably because of his stuffy manner.

Mike Lorrey