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date: 06 December 2023

mobility, economiclocked

mobility, economiclocked

  • Claire Holleran


Whilst the enforced movement of enslaved workers was by far the largest example of economic mobility in the ancient world, there is also plenty of evidence for more voluntary economic movement. This relates particularly to traders and skilled workers, for whom mobility could provide specific economic benefits, opening up new markets, enabling further training, increasing prestige, and maximizing income by moving to wherever their skills or goods were most in demand. Less positively, mobility could also be a necessity when work such as construction was episodic and, to a certain extent, seasonal. Other economic opportunities, such as agricultural labour at harvest time, or porterage in maritime and riverine harbours and cities, were also seasonal, with demand for labour following a relatively predictable annual schedule, whilst extractive industries such as mining and quarrying typically had to bring in workers from elsewhere. Much of this movement was temporary in nature, and so is best thought of as mobility rather than migration, although movement likely ranged from permanent migration at one extreme to near-constant itinerancy at the other.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Ancient Geography

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