There are certain types of crises that you can only have with money. One of the interesting things about Roman history is that soon after the Gallic invasion we have one of these crises. Livy attributes the crisis to the ambition of the centurion Marcus Manlius. The crisis concerned a centurion who was prosecuted for debt, 'as he was led off to prison Manlius saw him, hurried up in mid forum with a party of his supporters and held forth about the arrogance of the senators, the cruelty of the moneylenders, the miseries of the people, the merits and misfortune of the man.' (VI 14) Manlius does something here which I consider interesting- he contrasts the visible misfortunes of the people and bravery of the man against the invisible power of money. The injustice of the way that money operates- seemingly without any relation to the merit or demerit of the person involved- is for Manlius a political driver.
It is that operation that Manlius is focussed upon- how can someone who was a brave soldier end up in debt. In a sense the invisibility and incomprehensibility of the situation is something that creates a political opportunity. Money also creates inequality- further inequality because it allows people to store resources in a way that is not possible in a barter economy in perishable goods. You have a medium for the storage of wealth- but also a medium for the storage of debt because it is easier to create a concept of interest as well as to ennumerate a universal concept of what someone owes. What Manlius does is to create a political opportunity out of the latter issue. He uses the first development though to imply that the whole situation is the responsibility of a senatorial conspiracy: 'he declared amongst other things that the patricians were concealing treasure hoards of gallic gold and were no longer content with possessing State lands unless they could also appropriate State money; if the facts were made public the people could be freed from debt'.
Manlius's explanation for Rome's situation is clever but inaccurate- there are many reasons why debt would grow after a war, and increasing monetisation would definitely create increased inequality- but this is an interesting episode in Roman history. It is interesting because it reflects something about the way that money affects politics: it allows for further developments in the quantification of debt, allows for increased inequality and also it moves the value society puts on something from the intrinsic value of an item. Instead of a rabbit being worth seven candlesticks, both rabbits and candlesticks are translated into a conventional measure of value. Money ultimately is a civic abstraction. These developments- debt, inequality and abstraction all create a new type of politics- something I think we see in Livy's account of Manlius's debtor's revolt. Simply put, the Manlian moment could not have occured without a monetary moment preceding it.