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Article

Carlos Machado

The annona was the imperial service responsible for overseeing the supply of key food items to the city of Rome and the army. Primarily concerned with grain, the service became increasingly involved in the provisioning of other commodities, such as olive oil, wine, and pork. By the end of the 3rd century, the annona was a complex machinery involving private and public agents in different parts of the empire, overseen by the prefect of the annona, based in Rome. The operation of this system is documented in literary texts, administrative documents such as papyri and writing tablets, inscriptions, and a rich archaeological record, in Rome and in the provinces. However, the precise working of the system and the degree to which it was controlled by the Roman state remain open to debate. The annona was also involved in the supply of the army, especially with regards to provisions brought from distant producing centres. During the later empire, the system became more centralised, being overseen by the praetorian prefecture.

Article

Jean Andreau

An auction is a type of sale consisting of a public competition between several buyers; whoever bids the highest price obtains the object being sold. Such auctions existed in the Greek as well as in the Roman world. Some were organized by the public authorities, while others were organized by individuals selling some of their goods at auction. In Roman Italy, these private auctions served a commercial function. In addition, they facilitated the sale of guarantees for unrepaid loans; likewise, they facilitated the management of private inheritance and estates. Between the 2nd century bce and the 3rd century ce, professional bankers regularly participated in these private auctions by providing credit to the buyers.An auction is a procedure consisting of a public competition between several potential buyers. It was a common practice in Greco-Roman antiquity. The object being sold was awarded to the highest bidder, and he alone paid the object’s full price to the seller. Scholars do not know when auctions first began. They are well attested in the Classical Greek period, as well as in the Hellenistic world and in Rome. In Roman Italy, Plautus and Cato the Elder (in .

Article

Saskia Hin

People’s life courses are shaped by the complex interactions of contextual factors, of individual behavior, and of opportunities and constraints operating at the macro level. Demography studies these processes with a focus on particular transitions in the life course: birth, leaving home, marriage, and other transitions in civil status (divorce, remarriage, and transitions into widowhood), the birth and survival of offspring, migration, and finally the end of the life cycle—death.

Initial work on the ancient world focussed primarily on macro-level data, trying to establish overall trends in population development on the basis of census figures and other population estimates. This approach has received further impetus with the advent of survey demography (see Population Trends). More recently, attention has turned to single events in the life course. Core demographic studies have attempted to establish patterns and rates of marriage, fertility, migration, and mortality. Others have taken a complementary approach with a stronger focus on qualitative data. These support investigation of sociological, cultural, and economic aspects of demographic phenomena. The remainder of this article focusses on a concise evaluation of current understanding of marriage, fertility, migration, mortality, and population trends in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

Article

Arjan Zuiderhoek

Euergetism is the modern scholarly term, derived from the ancient Greek euergetes (benefactor), to denote the phenomenon of elite gift-giving to cities (or to groups within them) in Greek and Roman societies. The term encompasses benefactions by Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors, but is mostly used to refer to the munificence of local civic elites. Recent scholarship stresses the transactional character of euergetism: benefactors donated or contributed to public buildings (including temples), festivals, and games, or they gave distributions of food or money or organized public banquets in exchange for publicly awarded honours: usually including an honorific inscription recording the benefaction and the accolades awarded to the donor in return, often accompanied by a statue of him or her. In Archaic and 5th-century bce Greece, cities mostly honoured foreign benefactors in this way, but from the 4th century bce onward, it became more and more normal for wealthy citizens to donate to their own city in exchange for public honours awarded by their fellow-citizens. Civic euergetism of this type became increasingly common in Greek cities during the Hellenistic period. Its greatest proliferation, however, was under Roman imperial rule during the 1st, 2nd and early 3rd centuries ce, when we have more inscriptions for benefactors in cities in both East and West than ever before.

Article

Arising from the agrarian and domestic contexts of classical antiquity, the notion of “frugality” (frugalitas) was a positive, desirable, and in many respects distinctively Roman concept that generally refers to a set of practices, ethical principles, and cultural and moral values pertaining to the production and consumption of resources. Closely related to this more general category is the concept of “parsimony” (parsimonia), which, as one type of frugalitas, is properly concerned with the prudent and judicious management of property and wealth. Both concepts tend to be associated with temperance and moderation (moderatio; cf. Gk. sophrosyne) and are often framed in opposition to “luxury” (luxuria) and “greed” (avaritia). Partly as a response to perceived increases in social ills and partly under the influence of Greek philosophy, the moral connotations of frugalitas and parsimonia become increasingly pronounced over time and are variously embraced by later Christian writers. Prominent historical exempla for these important Roman concepts include L.

Article

Neil Coffee

Romans not only gave gifts to express emotion and build relationships; a long-standing tradition of mutual aid gave rise to more intensive exchange of gifts and services (or reciprocity), among relatives, friends, and business associates; from the wealthy to the public in the form of public benefactions; and in legally sanctioned relationships between patrons and clients. Roman gift culture, distinctive among its contemporary Mediterranean societies, became increasingly transactional from the middle Republic to early Empire.

Reciprocity, understood as the exchange of gifts and favours, was far more pervasive and consequential in Roman society than in the contemporary West. Romans lacked the social infrastructure of the modern state: insurance and social welfare systems. They were therefore more reliant on an ethic of sharing within the extended family (where everything was in spirit held in common) (communia omnia, Cic. Off. 1.54). Outside of the family, Romans also depended on reciprocity, a practice deeply rooted as essential for survival and flourishing.

Article

Dominic W. Rathbone

In the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, centred as they were on the Mediterranean, maritime transport was far more practical than land transport for long- and even medium-distance trade. Most ships seem to have been of medium size (around 70 tonnes burden) and to have been owned and run by a shipper who both carried goods as freight and traded on his own account. There were also many individual merchants who hired shipping as needed for their ventures. Then as now, the major expense in trading was the investment in purchasing goods; roughly, one cargo of wheat was worth as much as the ship. Hence a merchant, whether or not also a shipowner, often needed third-party finance, for which, because of the peculiar risks involved, a special type of loan was used. This was the maritime loan—nautikon daneion in Greek, nauticum faenus or mutua pecunia nautica in Latin.The maritime loan is first attested in 4th-century bce Athens, in four speeches attributed to Demosthenes, of which the most informative is the prosecution of the brother of a pair of merchants for fraudulent default on a loan (Dem.

Article

Arnaldo Momigliano and Tim Cornell

In the time of the *Gracchi (c.133–121 bce) the senate was a body of around 300 wealthy men of aristocratic birth, most of them ex-magistrates. Although the sources tend to assume that this state of affairs had always existed, in fact it was the product of historical development and change. Since in the early republic there were very few magistrates, and iteration of office was common, it follows that there was a time when either the majority of senators had never held a magistracy, or their number was considerably less than 300. Probably both conclusions are true for the 5th cent. This must cast doubt on the notion that the number 300 is connected with the three tribes and thirty curiae (see curia(1)); in fact there is no basis for this theory in the ancient sources, and tradition itself implicitly denies it in maintaining that *Romulus, who founded the tribes (see tribus) and curiae, chose 100 men to form the first senate.

Article

Gloria Vivenza and Neville Morley

Roman attitudes to wealth were complex and sometimes ambivalent. Wealth was an essential basis for political and social life, but also a topic of extensive debate, which focused on the proper uses of wealth and the proper ways of attaining it. These moral, philosophical, and literary debates had practical implications for how the Romans spent their wealth and how they acquired it.Wealth was a central theme in Roman politics and society. The citizen body was divided between different census classes on the basis of property holding, and access to political office and status depended on a formal assessment of personal wealth.1 Furthermore, winning election to office required considerable resources. Neither a long family tradition of public service nor individual political genius was enough, and Julius Caesar’s debt problems, partly due to his political campaigns, are well known. Conversely, a homo novus like Cicero, with no political tradition in his family, could engage in politics if he had .