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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

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 .

Article

S. Douglas Olson

The Deipnosophistai (“Learned Banqueters”) of Athenaeus of Naucratis (fl. c. 200 ce)—nominally an account of a great dinner party or series of dinner parties in Rome—preserves an enormous number of fragments of otherwise lost Greek literature. On a superficial level, the text is concerned with luxury, and it accordingly offers rich anecdotal treatments of banqueting customs, fish, cakes, cups, sexuality, and the like, along with a wealth of detailed philological observations. Its larger interest is in recalling the extraordinary wealth of the Greek literary and cultural tradition, and in using that tradition to discuss contemporary intellectual, literary, and social issues. The text is preserved in a single manuscript whose gaps can be partially filled from an ancient epitome.Athenaeus was the author of the Deipnosophistai (“Dinner-sophists,” i.e. “Learned Banqueters”), a massive compendium of ancient Greek literature in the guise of a report of events at a great dinner party or series of dinner parties. His .

Article

villa  

Michael L. Thomas

Villa was the Latin word for a rural dwelling associated with an estate, and villas ranged in character from functional farmhouses to luxurious country seats for the élite (Varro, Rust. 1.11.1–1.12.4; 3.2.1–18).1 Most of the literary evidence for villas relates to Italy and primarily describes farms run for the benefit of urban-based proprietors (e.g., Vitr. De arch. 6.6.1), though the most opulent seaside villas of the Roman aristocracy were sometimes built solely for pleasure. Aristocratic enjoyment of rural retreats and pride in creating architectural splendours there are well attested (e.g., Plin. Ep. 2.17), but the classic Italian villa, comprising not only a luxurious dwelling for the use of the owner on visits to the estate (pars urbana) but also working farm buildings (pars rustica) and storage buildings and barns (pars fructuaria), is perfectly illustrated by the excavations at Settefinestre, which have uncovered an aristocratic domus (mansion), baths, slave quarters, wine and olive presses, a piggery, a substantial granary, and formal gardens (cf.