Political anarchy accelerated economic disintegration, and economic decline promoted political decay; each was the cause and effect of the other. Roman statesmanship had never found a healthy economic life for Italy; and perhaps the narrow plains of the peninsula have never provided an adequate base for the soaring aims of the Italian state. The production of cereals was discouraged by the competition of cheap grains from Sicily, Africa, and Egypt, and the great vineyards were losing their markets to provincial wines. Farmers complained that high taxes consumed their precarious profits and left them too little to keep the drainage and irrigation canals in repair; the canals filled up, the marshes spread, and malaria weakened the population of the Campagna and Rome. Large tracts of fertile land had been withdrawn from cultivation for residential estates. The absentee owners of the latifundia exploited labor and the soil to the limit of tolerance, and absolved themselves by philanthropies in the towns; urban architecture and games profited while the countryside grew desolate. Many peasant proprietors and free rural workers abandoned the farms for the cities, leaving Italian agriculture for the most part to latifundia manned by listless slaves. But the latifundia themselves were ruined by the Pax Romana, the dearth of wars of conquest in the first and second centuries, and the consequent fall in the supply, and rise in the cost, of slaves. Compelled to lure free labor back to the land, the great landlords divided their holdings into units which they leased to coloni, “cultivators”; they required from these tenants a small money rent or a tenth of the produce, and a period of unpaid labor in the owner’s villa or on his private domain. In many cases landlords found it profitable to emancipate their slaves and change them into coloni. In the third century the owners, harassed by invasion and revolution in the cities, took more and more to living in their villas; these were fortified into castles, and were gradually transformed into medieval chateaux. *03130