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Article

maritime loans  

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

Muziris papyrus  

Dominic W. Rathbone

The “Muziris” papyrus (PVindob. G40822) provides unique details about the trade between Roman Egypt and India. It was purchased in 1980 for the Austrian National Library, and first published in 1985, and has been much discussed since then.1 Its provenance is unknown, but was probably middle Egypt. It preserves parts of two texts, one on its front (recto) and one on its back (verso), written in two different hands which have both been assigned to the middle decades of the 2nd century ce.The first text is part of a contract, from near the contract’s end, between a merchant (“I” in the text) and a financier (“you”), who was apparently based in Alexandria; this contract accompanied a separate contract between them for a maritime loan “to Muziris.”2 Muziris was a port in the Malabar region of soutwest India (Kerala), which Periplus of the Red Sea, ch.56, from the mid-1st-century ce, says was visited by large ships from Egypt to acquire pepper and malabathrum (a cinnamon-like plant, whose leaves were pressed to make a perfume), and also pearls, ivory, silk, nard, and gemstones.

Article

Monte Testaccio  

Janet DeLaine

Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill, 36 m. (118 ft.) high and covering roughly 22,000 sq. m. (26,300 sq. yds.), in the Emporium district of Rome south of the *Aventine near the *Tiber. It is composed entirely of broken *amphorae dating from the 1st to the mid-3rd century ce, mostly oil amphorae from *Baetica in Spain with a smaller amount from North Africa, analysis of which has contributed to debate on the Roman economy.

Article

markets and fairs, Greek  

David Tandy

The single Greek word for market, agora, did not originally refer to a place for exchange; rather, it was a place for the gathering of chattel (as early as Linear B, e.g., Knossos Co 903) and of people. In Homer, the agora is strictly a place of gathering for political action, including military muster. The heroes in epic do not buy and sell; there are no regular markets for the acquisition of food and other necessary things. Heroes take what they want from neighbouring communities by raids. On the fringes of the narratives, however, Homer reveals the presence of one-time or spot markets, most clearly at Iliad 7.467ff.:

Many ships from Lemnos filled with wine lay at anchor, which Jason’s son Euneos had sent … On the side Jason’s son gave the Atreidae Agamamnon and Menelaos a thousand measures of wine to carry off. There the flowing-haired Achaeans got wine, some with skins, others with whole cows, others with spear-captives. And they threw themselves a jolly feast.

Article

textile production  

Miko Flohr

Textile production was a central part of everyday life in the Greco-Roman world, both in cities and the countryside. In the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, increasing urbanization and acculturation transformed dress practices throughout the Mediterranean and created a more complex manufacturing economy, even if not all textile production was market oriented. Textiles were mostly of wool and linen, though other materials, including cotton and silk, also existed. Raw materials were prepared and then spun into yarn using simple, handheld tools. Weaving was mostly done on upright, weighted looms, but loom design began to show increasing variation in the Roman Imperial period, reflecting innovation that served to increase the quality of the output rather than productivity. While textile production had a strong basis in household production for personal needs, there are some signs of increasing professionalization, and it is clear that, particularly in the Roman imperial period, there was a significant (and unprecedented) trade in textiles over longer distances. At the same time, textile production, and particularly spinning and weaving, remained of enormous cultural significance and contributed enormously to the personal identities of men and, especially, women.

Article

slavery, Greek  

David Lewis

Our earliest glimpses of slavery in Greece are afforded by Linear B tablets from the Bronze Age. Following the collapse of the palatial institutions, slavery disappears from view; but when we catch sight of it again in the Homeric epics and in Hesiod’s Works & Days, it appears as an important and entrenched feature of society. Our evidence again becomes patchy for the late archaic period, before a mass of evidence pertaining to the classical era (mainly focused on Athens) affords us a much more granular knowledge of slavery and its role in society. Literary evidence for slavery becomes thinner as we move into the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but this deficiency is remedied by a profusion of inscriptions and papyri.Slavery is the status or condition of a person subjected to the powers of ownership by some person, persons, state, or institution.1 Slavery first comes into view in Greece in .

Article

economy, Roman  

Annalisa Marzano

The Roman economy was preindustrial, and most of the population was engaged in agricultural production. Agriculture and household production were salient features of the economy, along with urbanization, taxation, market exchanges, and slavery. Roman economic history is usually divided into three major chronological periods: the Republic (509 bce–31 bce), the principate (31 bce–c. 284 ce), and the late empire (late 3rd–6th centuries ce). The Republican period was characterized by significant territorial expansion and the acquisition of vast amounts of wealth in the form of booty. The principate is when one can consider economic developments in Roman Italy and the provinces and investigate the empire as an economic system. The late empire was marked by increasing state interventionism.By “Roman economy,” we refer to the economic system created by the geographical expansion of the political power of Rome in the Republican era and maintained until its gradual transformation in late antiquity. As in all other preindustrial economies, .

Article

pottery, Roman  

Kevin Greene

Roman pottery plays an essential role in dating and interpreting excavated sites. It also reflects changes in Roman society, in terms of its economy, religion, and consumption practices. In addition, pottery gives further insights into the workings of Roman industry and trade. Most pottery was manufactured in specialized workshops and fired in carefully constructed kilns. Standardized forms with wide distributions, and frequent use of stamps showing workshop names, suggest that much of it was traded commercially. Nevertheless, traditional local industries survived in many places, supplying smaller regions.Roman pottery comprises a full range of vessels for table and kitchen functions, as well as for use in storage and transportation. At the top of the quality scale was terra sigillata, a tableware with a smooth, red, glossy surface, and a suite of forms from cups to plates. Other kinds of fine, elaborately decorated cups and beakers were also used alongside dinner services. But the great majority of Roman pots were plain earthenware vessels designed for cooking and storage. Examples of more specialized forms include amphorae, used for transporting foodstuffs, and enormous globular dolia up to 2 m (6.

Article

amphorae, Roman  

J. Theodore Peña

Amphorae were large ceramic jars employed in the Roman world for the packaging and transport of a limited set of liquid and semi-liquid foodstuffs—chiefly wine, olive oil, and various kinds of fish preserves and processed fish products—and certain other substances. They were manufactured in a large number of distinct shapes—generally referred to as classes—linked to specific regions and employed for specific kinds of contents. For this reason amphorae are treated by scholars as proxy markers for the distribution of these categories of foodstuffs and, on account of their abundance and ubiquity in the archaeological record, they constitute one of the most important forms of material evidence for economic activity in the Roman world from the 3rd century bce down to the end of antiquity.We possess a wide range of evidence relating to amphorae. The remains of workshops in which amphorae were manufactured have been identified in many parts of the Roman world, and many of these have been subject to surface investigations and/or excavation. Amphorae occur in abundance on archaeological sites in most parts of the Roman world, most often in fragmentary condition, though in some cases more or less intact. These include amphora production workshops, sites relating to their filling or distribution (food processing/packaging facilities, .

Article

associations, Roman  

Koenraad Verboven

Voluntary associations are attested already in early republican times, but they became important especially during the late Republic. Their role in street politics in the 1st century bce led to a general ban and lasting imperial apprehension. Yet by the mid-2nd century ce, important collegia were an essential part of urban public life, participating in processions and ceremonies and having reserved seats in (amphi)theatres. The three central activities of all associations were shared dinners, religious cults, and funerary practices. Religious (and) neighbourhood-based collegia prevailed during the Republic. Professional associations became more important during the Principate as authorities began to use them to facilitate and supervise public works and provisions (particularly for the annona), and for levying taxes. Some collegia received privileges and had extensive funds and property. Professional collegia continued to be important at least until early Byzantine times. Imperial control intensified in late antiquity, but the overall legal framework hardly changed.

Article

agoranomoi, Greek  

Alain Bresson

The agoranomoi were the magistrates who, in the Greek cities, were in charge of policing and organizing the market. Their role was to make sure that transactions were conducted according to the laws of market, which primarily meant preventing cheating on the quality of the goods offered for sale and on the weights and measures used by sellers. Their tasks could also include watching over the nature and quality of the coins used as means of exchange. They were in charge of monitoring prices and, in some cases, they set prices of goods—some basic foodstuffs like fish or meat. They also had to make sure that the market supply of essential goods remained adequate. The number of agoranomoi decreased in the late Hellenistic period (in Athens, from ten in the Classical period to only two). Late Hellenistic and Roman period magistrates belonged to the well-to-do stratum of the population in the cities, and the agoranomoi were no exception.

Article

shops and shopping  

Claire Holleran

Almost all inhabitants of the ancient world were dependent to varying degrees on retailers to supply them with at least some food items, raw materials, or manufactured goods, and this was particularly true of urban inhabitants. While the amount of built commercial space increased in the Hellenistic period and was a particular feature of Roman urban centres, we cannot trace a simple linear development from periodic markets through to permanent shops. Instead the retail trade remained varied throughout antiquity, consisting of periodic and permanent markets, shops and workshops, and street stalls and ambulant hawkers, all of which performed complementary roles within an integrated network of distribution. The size of the local market, however, inevitably had an impact on the organisation of the retail trade, with increased specialisation and clustering of trades possible in larger urban centres, where a wider range of products was typically available to the consumer and capital investment in dedicated commercial space was encouraged by the level of demand for goods. Ancient shopping was an immersive and interactive experience. Prices fluctuated in response to market pressures and were very often arrived at through haggling and bargaining. Markets, shops, and streets were as much places of social interaction as they were of shopping, and men and women mixed freely as both buyers and sellers. Advertising and marketing may have been rudimentary, but the attempts by retailers to maximise sales contributed to the colorful and vibrant nature of the ancient commercial environment; the open doorways of shops and workshops facilitated interaction between those inside and outside, and goods, sellers, and customers often spilled out onto the street, while painted notices and signs displayed goods for sale, and the distinctive shouts of sellers competed loudly for the attention of potential customers.

Article

Oplontis  

Michael Thomas

Ancient Oplontis was a seaside area, located approximately five kilometers to the west of Pompeii. The name Oplontis appears in only one source, the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 12th-century copy of a Roman map. From that map, archaeologists have argued that ancient Oplontis lies under the modern town of Torre Annunziata. In the area of Torre Annunziata known as Le Mascatelle, excavations have revealed two major sites, Oplontis A and B. Although knowledge of the area dates back to the late 16th century, when the track of the Sarno Canal cut through the southern part of Oplontis Villa A, modern excavation at the villa did not begin until 1964. Work at Oplontis B began in 1974 when construction on a new school discovered evidence of the ancient structure. Though near to each other, the two sites represent very different buildings. Oplontis A was a luxury villa perched on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples with sophisticated architecture, spectacular wall painting, sculptures, manicured gardens, and a sixty-meter swimming pool. Oplontis B was a large commercial building that was used for the exportation of wine.

Article

auctions  

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

ships, Bronze Age  

Shelley Wachsmann

During the Bronze Age, ships and seafaring capabilities transformed the Mediterranean and Red Seas from insurmountable barriers to highways over which cultures communicated for a variety of reasons. Watercraft were essential to the development of maritime cultures in the Bronze Age. Our knowledge of these vessels derives primarily from contemporaneous iconography, but also from remains of the actual vessels and from texts. Each culture developed ships and boats that best suited their individual needs based on the availability of materials and local traditions.Ships and boats played a pivotal role in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, both on inland waterways and at sea. Virtually everything made or used by humans travelled in some way by watercraft, which allowed cultures to interact over vast distances through exploration, trade, warfare, piracy, and migration. Acquiring copper and tin was of primary importance, and in the late 2nd millennium bce the shape of some ingots, termed “oxhide ingots,” was particularly suited for ship transportation. Militarily, ships could be used as mobile fighting platforms during battles, but more commonly they served for coastal raiding and as naval transports for men and supplies. It is impossible to understand the Mediterranean Bronze Age world without taking into consideration the influence of .

Article

exploration  

Duane W. Roller

Exploration in antiquity was largely the result of commercial or military endeavours, rather than any pure quest for knowledge or scholarship. Nevertheless, from the first efforts of Greeks to move beyond the Greek heartland into the Black Sea and western Mediterranean, which began as early as the end of the Bronze Age, Greeks and Romans steadily explored around and beyond their world. By the late Roman period, almost all of the Eastern Hemisphere was known, with the exception of interior southern Africa and the far northeastern portions of Asia, and it was suggested that there might be other continents across the ocean. Despite an emphasis on trade and commercial contacts, there was also an increase in scientific and other scholarly knowledge. The beginnings of Greek exploration are apparent in the Odyssey of Homer and may go back to the latter part of the Bronze Age. By the latter 7th century bce, Greeks were moving outside of the Mediterranean to the Phoenician (later Carthaginian) trading cities such as Gadeira on the Atlantic. With the rise of the Persians, they began to learn about what lay to their east, and Alexander the Great created awareness of a world stretching as far as India. At the same time, Pytheas of Massalia explored the northern Atlantic as far as Iceland. The discipline of geography was invented by Eratosthenes of Cyrene in the latter 3rd century bce, and in the following century the explorer Polybius reached the Equator. Roman military operations in the north of Europe and the British Isles and trade journeys into central Africa meant those regions were brought into the sphere of knowledge of the Mediterranean world. Realization that the inhabited world, however vast, was only a small part of the total surface of the Earth led to theorization about other lands across the ocean, but there is no solid evidence that anyone from the ancient Mediterranean reached them and was able to report on them. By the latter 1st century bce traders became aware of Southeast Asia and China, and there were occasional contacts during the Roman period, but by the 2nd century ce the era of ancient exploration was at an end, and there was little further expansion of geographical knowledge until the Islamic period.