Arbia Hilali, Rome et l’agriculture en Afrique. L’aménagement de l’espace et la gestion des ressources naturelles

(Professeur Histoire romaine à l'université de Sfax (Tunisie), membre de l'unité de recherche CRAHAM à l'université de Caen en France)

Avec la conquête romaine, l’ensemble du sol africain est devenu propriété du peuple romain (ager publicus populi romani). Ce sol a été distribué en trois parts : la première a été laissée aux autochtones, la seconde a été attribuée aux citoyens romains et la troisième qui constitue de grands domaines (fundi) est devenue la possession de membres de l’aristocratie romaine et le patrimoine de l’empereur. Du fait que ces terres continuent en principe d’appartenir à l’ager publicus, l’empereur a organisé leur exploitation par des règlements tels que la lex Maciana ou la lex Hadriana. Le paysage que laissa l’occupation romaine ne fut pas celui que Rome avait trouvé. Les Romains le marquèrent pour des siècles par l’établissement de centuriations plus intenses en Proconsulaire que partout ailleurs en Afrique. Ces opérations d’arpentage ont pour but de partager les terres, de préciser les droits et les limites des propriétaires, d’indiquer leur qualité et d’aménager le territoire. La maîtrise du milieu et le développement de l’agriculture passe par les travaux hydrauliques. Les Romains ont conservé les héritages des Libyens et des Puniques en matière hydraulique ; ils les ont singulièrement rationalisés, amplifiés et perfectionnés. Les ouvrages hydrauliques présentent une extraordinaire variété, qu’ils se trouvent en milieu urbain ou en milieu rural : citernes, captages de sources, aqueducs, barrages, puits, fontaines, etc. La photographie aérienne a révélé l’ampleur des travaux hydrauliques qui ont permis d’étendre singulièrement les zones de cultures. Les régions insuffisamment arrosées furent couvertes par des travaux qui permirent de retenir l’eau et de la distribuer dans des petites parcelles limitées par des murettes et des canaux d’irrigation. Tous ces aménagements ont permis de conquérir de nouvelles terres, d’augmenter les propriétés foncières de l’empereur et de certains grands propriétaires. Enfin, de nouveaux circuits économiques apparaissent pour l’Afrique, de mieux en mieux insérée dans le monde romain, afin de répondre aux demandes de Rome et des provinces en blé et en huile.

Alfred M. Hirt, The Roman Army, Imperial Quarries and the Emperor

(DPhil in Ancient History, University of Oxford, 2004) visiting fellow Wolfson College, Cambridge (UK).

The Roman army played a significant role in running imperial quarrying operations. Apart from guaranteeing the security of quarries particularly in the Eastern Egyptian Desert or guarding prisoners/damnati condemned to working at places like Simitthus/mod. Chemtou, soldiers and centurions could acquire experience in operating quarries for military or public building projects; the inscriptions discovered in the Brohltal quarries in Upper Germany or the papyri, ostraka and inscriptions of Roman Egypt regarding military matters tell of numerous occasions where military personnel were involved on different levels of stone exploitation.

This paper aims to outline possible functions and responsibilities allocated to military personnel in quarrying operations at Dokimeion/Bacakale, Simitthus, and the quarries of the Eastern Egyptian Desert (Mons Claudianus, Mons Porphyrites, Tiberiane, Mons Ophiates). It focuses in particular on military ‘experts’, mainly centurions like Annius Rufus (I.Pan 39), Sergius Longus (ILS 8717), or Tullius Saturninus and Aelius Antoninus who were transfered from legio XV Apollinaris in Carnuntum or XXII Primigenia in Mainz to their new postings at Mons Claudianus (Egypt), Karytsos (Greece), or Bacakale/Dokimeion (Turkey), respectively. The administrative procedure of their reassignment is addressed and their possible responsibilities at these quarries are outlined.

The military presence at extractive operations raises the question of their ownership and control; inscribed monuments, labels on quarried stones, ostraka, and papyri implicitly or explicitly point to the involvement of the provincial administration and, ultimately, the emperor and his Palatine bureaux in running and supplying marble quarries under his control. The role of the emperor in the allocation of military quarrying specialists in particular and vis-à-vis marble quarries in general is to be explored.

Julia Hoffmann-Salz, The local economy of Palmyra – Organizing agriculture in an oasis environment

University of Cologne (Germany)

The name Palmyra is generally associated with the city’s famous caravan trade that took its citizens to the Arabian Gulf and beyond in the quest for Indian spices, Chinese silk and other luxury goods that could be sold with enormous profits on the Mediterranean market. These profits allowed the local elite an impressive building programme that has left the oasis of Palmyra as one of the most spectacular ancient ruins of the entire Mediterranean world.

However, the oasis of Palmyra – and its surrounding hinterland - was also an agricultural system sustaining an increasing population as well as a large number of transport animals. Due to the particular environment of the oasis in the middle of the Syrian Desert, every piece of arable land and especially every water resource available had to be used to achieve this. Although we lack explicit sources, the oasis must have been drawn on as the main production area for fresh fruits and vegetables. Here, a wide variety of agricultural products could be obtained using simple techniques such as growing plants in different layers that offered a perfect use of land, water and shade. But agriculture was also practiced in more remote corners of the surrounding countryside, provided that water could be found. Livestock and especially the transport animals that were essential for the caravan trade and thus ultimately for the livelihood of Palmyra, also seem to have been kept in the hinterland of the oasis. Archaeological surveys of the late 1930s, for example, show what could be interpreted as camel outposts in the today rather barren hills to the Northwest of the city. Thus, the oasis and many parts of its hinterland allowed for an active agriculture in Palmyra and its territory that also testifies to the perfect adaptation of a society to its natural surroundings.

But how was this agriculture organized? How exactly was the oasis and its hinterland used for farming? Which products could be obtained and what sources do we have for them? Can the famous tax inscription be used as a source for local agriculture? Also, how were water resources managed? Was there a difference in management of the oasis spring and other water resources? And what about the soil? Who was allowed to use the land for agriculture and how were land rights organized? The paper will try to answer at least some of these questions by drawing on the ancient sources and also using examples of modern oasis societies and their agricultural organization as comparative evidence.

Daniel Hoyer, Diverse crop harvesting and the maghrebi agrarian economy

(PhD Student University of New York)

The Maghreb region of North Africa is widely considered an integral part of the Imperial Roman economy. This is because the area is often seen as one of Rome’s ‘bread baskets,’ namely where a good deal of the grain that was consumed at Rome and other urban centers around the Mediterranean was produced. This view of the Maghrebi economy, moreover, has its roots in antiquity; for many ancient authors, the richness of Africa's grain production and its importance in the diet of Roman citizens was proverbial. Recently, much archaeological work has been conducted in North Africa to test empirically this view. Although this work has, in part, confirmed the traditional account stressing the importance of large-scale, export-oriented grain production throughout the region, signs of olive harvesting and olive oil production appear in greater numbers than would be expected from the literary sources alone. This has had important ramifications for how the Maghrebi economy is conceived, notably in that scholars now tend to focus on the production of olives as much as, if not more than, grain.

While it is unmistakable that a great quantity of grain and oil were produced in the region, much of which was likely consumed in Rome, many studies focus exclusively on these aspects of agricultural exploitation. Doing so, unfortunately, they fail to give a complete picture of the Maghrebi agricultural economy. Crucially, such studies cannot explain how the people who lived in North Africa and worked on land producing goods which were exported and consumed elsewhere themselves attained subsistence. Put simply, our understanding of the diverse agricultural activities conducted in Roman North Africa and how they were integrated into the overall economic structure, activities ranging from large-scale, export-oriented grain and oil production to legume, vegetable, and fruit harvesting for local consumption, remains poor.

In this paper, therefore, I will explore the structure of Maghrebi agriculture in the Imperial period, using archaeological, literary, and epigraphic material in an attempt to discern the different agricultural goods being produced in the region, as well as exploring for what purpose and for whose benefit these resources were exploited. I hope to show that there is ample evidence suggesting that, alongside grains and olives, a significant quantity of other goods, notably legumes and fruits, were also being harvested. Moreover, I wish to suggest that a deeper understanding is needed of the region's overall economic structure in order to explain how this multifaceted agricultural exploitation developed and how the diverse interests of the inhabitants of North Africa were able to coexist. To this end, I will briefly explore some of the ways that the demands of Roman taxation, wealthy landowners seeking profit from the sale of their produce, and the subsistence requirements of peasant farmers and tenants were integrated into a single economic system. This, I believe, offers the most promising way to explain all of the evidence we currently possess concerning the Maghrebi agrarian economy, and will be the focus of my studies in the coming years.

Select Bibliography

  • Barker, G. (ed.) (1996) Farming the Desert: The UNESCO Libyan Valleys Archaeological Survey. UNESCO Publishing: London.
  • Böserup, E. (1965) The Conditions of Agricultural Growth. Aldine: Chicago Campbell, B. (2000) The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors. The society for the Promotion of Roman Studies: London.
  • Ørsted, P., Carlsen, J., Sabaï, L.L., & Ben Hassen, H. (eds.) (2001) Africa Proconsularis V.III: Regional Studies in the Segermes Valley of Modern Tunisia. Aarhus Unversity Press: Oakville.
  • De Ligt, L. (1993) Fairs and Markets in the Roman Empire. J.C. Gieben: Amsterdam.
  • Erdkamp, P. (2005) The Grain Market in the Roman Empire. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • Fentress, E. (2006) “Romanizing the Berbers” in Past and Present #190. 3-33.
  • Flach, D. (1989) “Die Verwaltung und Verpachtung kaiserlicher Ländereien in Nordafrika” in The Journal of Roman Archaeology, V.2. 262-6.
  • Garnsey, P. (1999) Food and Society in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • Hitchner, B. (1988) “The Kasserine Archaeological Survey, 1982-6” in Anitquités Africaines V.24. 7-42.
  • ____ (1990) “The Kasserine Archaeological Survey 1987” in Anitquités Africaines V.26. 231-59.
  • ____ (1995) “Historical Text and Archaeological Context in Roman North Africa: the Albertini Tablets and the Kasserine Survey” in Small, D.B. (ed.) Methods in the Mediterranean: Historical and Archaeological Views on Texts and Archaeology. E. J. Brill: New York. 124-142.
  • ____ (2002) “Olive Production and the Roman Economy: the Case for Intensive Growth in the Roman Empire” in Scheidel, W. & von Reden, S. The Ancient Economy. Routledge: New York. 71-86.
  • Hopkins, K. (2002) "Rome, Taxes, Rents and Trade" in Scheidel, W. & Von Reden, S. (eds.) The Ancient Economy. Routledge: New York. 190-230.
  • Kehoe, D. (1984) “Private and Imperial Management of Roman Estates in North Africa” in Law and History Review V.2, #2. 241-63.
  • ____ (1988) The Economics of Agriculture on Roman Imperial Estates in North Africa. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht: Göttingen.
  • ____ (1997) Investment, Profit, and Tenancy. The University of Michigan Press: Michigan.
  • ____ (2007) Law and Rural Economy in the Roman Empire. University of Michigan Press: Michigan.
  • Kolendo, J. (1991) Le Colonat en Afrique sous le Haut-Empire. Annales Littéraires de l'Université de Besançon: Besançon.
  • Leveau, P. (1984) Caesarea de Maurétanie: une ville Romaine et ses campagnes. L'École Française de Rome: Rome.
  • Manacorda, D. (1997) "testimonianze sulla produzione e il consumo dell' oilio Tripolitana" in Agricoltura Coloniale V.8. 421-51.
  • Mattingly, D. (1988) “The Olive Boom: Oil Surpluses, Wealth and Power in Roman Tripolitania,” in Libyan Studies V.19. 21-42.
  • ____ (1995) Tripolitania. The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor.
  • ____ (1996) “Romano-Libyan Settlement: Typology and Chronology” in Barker, G (ed.), Farming the Desert: The UNESCO Libyan Valleys Archaeological Survey. UNESCO Publishing: London. 111-158.
  • Mattingly, D., Stone, D., Stirling, L., & Ben Lazreg, N. (2001) “Leptiminus (Tunisia): a ‘Producer’ City?” in Mattingly, D. & Salmn, J. (eds.) Economies Beyond Agriculture in the Classical World. Routledge: New York. 66-89.
  • Morley, N. (1996) Metropolis and Hinterland. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • Panella, C. (1983) “la anfore di Cartagine: nuovi elementi per la riconstruzione dei flussi commerciali del Mediterraneo in età imperiale romana” in Opus V.2. 53-74.
  • Shaw, B. (1984). "Water and Society in the Ancient Maghrib" in Antiquités Africaines V.20. 121-173.
  • Thurston, T.L. & Fisher, C.T. (2007) “Seeking a Richer Harvest: An Introduction to the Archaeology of Subsistence Intensification, Innovation, and Change” in Thurston, T.L. & Fisher, C.T. (eds.) Seeking a Richer Harvest: the Archaeology of Subsistence Intensification, Innovation, and Change. Springer Scientific Publishing: New York.
  • Whittaker, C. (1978) "Land and Labor in North Africa" in Klio V.60. 331-62.

Eva Jakab, Property and profit in Roman law and economy

University of Szeged, Hungary

Ownership is a ’title’ in Roman law, which is sharply distinguished from possession (the fact of holding). Roman dominium is considered as almost absolute and highly protected by law. The full private ownership was a strict conception of the archaic ius civile. Peregrines (foreigners) could not own anything in this full sense. The most important kind of property in the Roman world was land. In the above mentioned full sense, however, ownership on land was restricted to Italy also for Roman citizens. Thus is the concept of property law highly accepted in casebooks for Roman law. Nevertheless, focusing on legal life and on the social and economic function of property rights we will get a slightly different picture.

To start with an ancient guide, Gaius opens the second book of his Institutiones with a complicated treatment of different categories of assets, res (3.2-11). At the first glance his system might look like a useless scholarly speculation. However, from the view of exploitation rights it can get a completely new sense.

Res divini iuris, res humani iuris, res communes omnium, res nullius: a lot of assets were susceptible of private ownership but other not at all. There were things belonging to the community and to private individuals, respective. There were goods belonging to all men and hence to no one individually (air, sea, rivers and most harbours, seashore and riverbanks) – thus determining the rights for fishing, towing and transporting on water routes. As we see, the legal concept set the basic limits for the exploitation of natural sources. Property situated beneath the surface of private land went on the vertical principle; this is important for minerals and mining.

Apart from ownership also servitutes grant economically important rights of exploitation (e.g. rights of way and water). Further iura in re aliena (ususfructus, emphyteusis, superficies) were essentially to the economic exploitation of landed property.

In the Roman Empire the most important kind of property was land. Every respectable man lived upon the rents of land. Land could be cultivated in own regime but rather it was lent out to tenants. Tenancy never transferred iura in rem, but rather it was based on a mere obligation, a contract of letting and hiring. Pliny the Younger let his land to tenants as a matter of course. Since archaic times it was a money rent, laying the whole risk of exploitation upon the tenants. Probably Pliny was among the first persons who taught of putting his tenants on to a metayage system (and sharing the risk of exploitation).

Legal documents on wooden tablets or papyrus, the works of the Roman jurists and the agricultural authors, and the decisions of the emperors can open an interesting view on the legal background of exploitation of land and natural resources in the Roman world.

Egbert Koops, Absentee landowners and bailiffs: the legal framework

In the late Republic, the Roman agricultural system had become marked by absentee landownership. City-dwelling landlords, so it is held, often did not have the time or the inclination to personally manage their estates, which could be far apart. This made it necessary to leave the supervision of production as well as actual farm labor to others. Two types of agricultural management can be distinguished [Aubert 1994]: tenancy, which is to say leasing the land to a farmer against a rent, usually paid to a representative of the landowner; or agency, the establishment of a bailiff (vilicus) to oversee the estate.

The latter mode of management is often identified with the so-called ‘slave mode of production’, though this has been contested. A vilicus may be a freedman or a slave; and he may employ others with a differing legal status. There is, however, a clear difference between a freedman bailiff and an enslaved bailiff from a managerial point of view. An absentee landlord could appoint a bailiff (free or enslaved) as his representative, much like a store owner could appoint a shopkeeper. At law, he was then liable for all contracts concluded within the terms of the praepositio. However, he could also entrust a slave with a peculium: an earmarked fund that was set apart for the use of the slave, though it technically remained part of the master’s patrimony,. The peculium, as a mode of management, had its advantages. It allowed for a less hands-on approach, as the master was liable only to the extent of the earmarked fund (plus any enrichment to his own patrimony). Moreover, it allowed slaves a measure of freedom since profits would flow into the peculium, and could in time be used to purchase liberty.

Aubert presents estate managers as being birds of a feather, agents for the landlord under the terms of a praepositio. This seems to be borne out by the available legal and literary sources. But some sources, notably Varro, show that this was not necessarily the case for herdsmen and lesser farm workers such as foremen, who regularly held a peculium. The question, then, is why a landowner would choose to appoint a bailiff to oversee agricultural operations, but endow a slave with an earmarked fund to manage animal husbandry. The lesser liability would make the latter course of action seem preferable for vilici as well. A possible answer is that absentee landlords were less absent than is often assumed, when it came to overseeing the overseers.

Select bibliography:

  • J.J. Aubert, Business managers in ancient Rome. A social & economic study of institores, 200 BC – AD 250, Leiden 1994.
  • J. Carlsen, Vilici and roman estate managers until AD 284, Rome 1995/2001.
  • C. Castello, ‘Sui rapporti tra ‘dominus’ e ‘vilicus’ desunti dal ‘De agri cultura’ di Catone’, in: R. Feenstra (ed.), Atti del seminario romanistico internazionale, Perugia 1972.
  • T.J. Chiusi, ‘Landwirtschaftliche Tätigkeit und actio institoria’, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung 108, 1991, p.155-186.
  • M.V. Durnovo, ‘Slave managers of roman agricultural estates under the principate: economic activities and legal status’, Vestnik drevnej istorii 2, 2004, p.101-124.
  • E. Maróti, ‘The vilicus and the villa system in ancient Italy’, Oikumene 1, 1976, p.109-124.
  • R. Martin, ‘Familia rustica’: les esclaves chez les agronomes latins’, in: M.A. Levi (ed.), Actes du colloque 1972 sur l’esclavage, Paris 1974, p.267-297.
  • J. Menner, ‘D. 33,7,18,4 – vilicus und vilica als Objekte eines Erbschaftsstreites’, in: Th. Finkenauer (ed.), Sklaverei und Freilassung im römischen Recht, Berlin 2006.
  • P.W. de Neeve, Colonus: privégrondpacht in Romeins Italië tijdens de Republiek en het vroege Principaat, Utrecht 1981.
  • di Porto, ‘Impresa agricola ed attività collegate nell’economia della villa. Alcune tendenze organizzative’, in: Sodalitas. Scritti in onore di A. Guarino VII, Naples 1984, p.3235-3277.
  • U. Roth, ‘Inscribed meaning: the vilica and the villa economy’, Papers of the British school at Rome 72, 2004, p.101-124.
  • W. Scheidel, ‘Free-born and manumitted bailiffs in the Graeco-Roman world’, The Classical Quarterly 40-2, 1990, p.591-593.

Kyle Harper, Patterns of Landed Wealth in the Long Term

Assistant professor University of Oklahoma, Phd Harvard 2007

In the broad sweep of Roman history, there are a handful of documentary sets which allow finely-resolved study of the structures of landholding in particular landscapes (e.g. the tables from Veleia and Ligures Baebiani, the Hermopolite land registers, the Greek census inscriptions), and these have been well-exploited by modern historians (e.g. Duncan-Jones 1990; Bagnall 1992; Harper 2008). The data provided by these documents are invaluable, but they are unfortunately limited and widely dispersed in time and space. Hence, it has been difficult to move from these detailed “snapshots” of the countryside to a more global image of landholding patterns.

The present paper will argue that important and too often implicit assumptions about the aggregate patterns of land tenure underlie some broadly-held metanarratives of Roman economic history. Consequently, models of Roman economic development contain assumptions about the scale of landownership that need more careful scrutiny. Particularly well-entrenched is the belief that the scale of aristocratic wealth increased under the empire (recently, Lo Cascio 2009). This narrative of linear accumulation is often based on egregious impressionism (a quote from Pliny the Elder, a mention of Melania the Younger). At times, important downstream effects (e.g. the decline of slavery, the impoverishment of peasants) have been attributed to these putative trends. Similarly, the decline of the Roman economy in late antiquity, esp. post-AD 400, has been framed, most recently by Chris Wickham (2005), a reversion to a “peasant mode of production,” in other words the disintegration of Roman-style aristocratic landholding. But no quantitative parameters for this process have been suggested, and it is worth asking at what threshold a “peasant mode” might be considered dominant.

The present paper tries to bring some quantitative discipline to bear on this admittedly vast problem. I will use (1) survey archeology (2) recent models of aggregate wealth (esp. Scheidel and Friesen 2009) and (3) a coded database of discrete individual properties which are known in order to establish plausible parameters for the overall distribution of landed wealth in the Roman empire. This step uncovers the assumptions that lurk in our stories of Roman economic development, and it allows us to test the limits of the possible. What this analysis suggests, I will argue, is that narratives describing long-term dynamism in the Roman economy are focused on a more limited part of the countryside than they have usually admitted. Narratives of progressive “latifundism” are built on particularly fragile foundations. This analysis coheres with a number of disparate indices that suggest smaller units of aristocratic landholding and a generally larger share of “peasant” wealth. The implications of this view are important for understanding the mobilization of resources by the state and the private market alike. An account of aggregate land tenure is a precondition, I will argue, to a robust assessment of Roman economic performance in the long-term, especially urgent now that the “primitivist-modernist” dichotomy has been replaced by more promising, quantitative approaches to the comparative study of pre-industrial economies.


  • Bagnall, Roger. 1992, “Landholding in Late Roman Egypt: The Distribution of Wealth,” JRS 82: 128-49.
  • Duncan-Jones, Richard. 1990, Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy, Cambridge.
  • Harper, Kyle. 2008, “The Greek Census Inscriptions of Late Antiquity,” JRS 98: 83-119.
  • Lo Cascio, Elio. 2009, Crescita e declino: Studi di storia dell’economia romana, Rome.
  • Scheidel, Walter and Friesen, Steve. 2009, “The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire,” JRS 99: 61-91.
  • Wickham, Chris. 2005, Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800, Oxford.

Fernando Lopez Sanchez, The mining, coining and obtaining of gold  in the Roman Empire

University Jaume I of Castellón (Spain)

The exploitation of the gold mines of north-western Spain from AD 60 to AD 240 was carried out with greater efficiency by the Roman authorities during periods of conflict with the Persian Empire. The fragmented nature of the Roman Empire after AD 240, and the preference of the various imperial houses for obtaining gold where it was available (i.e. temples and public and private stocks) made the exploitation of mines like those in Spain less important than before. The financing of Rome's elite troops and of the numerous client kingdoms was one of the main reasons for seeking gold during the Empire, and the construction of a sole financial system which could stand up to bitter competition with the Persian Empire was another reason for the vast increase in the minting of gold after AD 350. Our paper aims to explore the crucial role played by the Eastern half of the Mediterranean in the increase in the amount of gold minted in the Roman Empire: the flood of gold into the West almost always took place when the Roman authorities had to deal with revolts on the borders of the Empire. These distractions for the Roman authorities in the West did not, however, affect the predominantly Eastern-influenced pattern for the coining and circulation of gold in the Empire.

Michael MacKinnon, Changes in Animal Husbandry as a Consequence of Changing Social and Economic Patterns: Zooarchaeological Evidence from the Roman Mediterranean Context

University of Winnipeg, and American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Synthetic investigations using zooarchaeological data from the Mediterranean context reveal, as a consequence of Roman cultural influence, geographic and temporal changes in the principal domestic livestock exploited—cattle, sheep/goat, and pig—at both quantitative and qualitative levels. First, in terms of quantitative measures, animal husbandry operations escalate due to Roman economic and social demands, notably catalyzed by augmented human population pressures. Greater numbers of livestock are produced, with a push, in some areas, for keepers to specialize in large-scale herding of single species, as opposed to earlier ventures favouring smaller, generalized, farming and herding operations. Second, in a blend of quantitative and qualitative aspects, shifts in the ratios among these livestock taxa occur during the Roman period, with different patterns developing in response to varying cultural and natural factors. The frequency of pigs increases across many areas of the Roman Mediterranean world during the Imperial period, likely due to the key role pork fulfilled as a marker of “Romanized” and elite diets. Roman urban centers appear to advance this pattern most prominently, with sizeable jumps in the frequency of pigs seen at a variety of cities, even those in areas where pigs are not best adapted to local geographic and environmental conditions, such as towns in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Finally, on a more qualitative basis, Romans are instrumental in developing and manipulating, not to mention, importing and exporting, a vast array of ‘breeds’ of domestic livestock. General “improvements” and height increases occur among cattle, sheep/goat, and pig, but neither equally nor simultaneously across areas of the Mediterranean. Some regions, such as Italy, see larger gains in these measures, and from earlier times. Broader examination of these zooarchaeological metric data, however, reveals more complex and specialized patterns as regards animal ‘breeds’, with the Romans variously manipulating individual physical traits, such as height, weight, stamina, strength, among other characteristics, in their quest to breed livestock which best catered to the social and economic demands of various regions of the Empire. Zooarchaeological data underscore the shrewdness, efficiency, and innovation of the Romans, as regards animal husbandry and breeding tactics.

Yuri Marano, Management of water resources in Ostrogothic Italy (end of the 5th - first half of the 6th century A.D.)

Literary and archaeological evidence attest for the period a great interest of Theoderic and his successors to the maintenance and restoration of aqueducts, and the exploitation of natural springs and sources. Water was used for a wide range of uses, from the provisioning of towns and public baths to the grinding of mill. This required the mobilization of significant financial and technical resources, and the involvement of secular and religious authorities. Moreover, ancient authors (Cassiodorus in first place) do reveal the survival of a juridical tradition in the management of water resources dating to the imperial period and having a strong parallel, in the 5th/6th century, also in the eastern legal evidence, as the Codex Theodosianus and the Codex Justinianus

Antoni Ñaco del Hoyo & Dario Nappo
When the waters recede. Economic recovery and public policies after the AD 365 tsunami and some earlier precedents.

ICREA and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Dario Nappo, Oxford University

According to several historical sources a ‘big wave’, consequence of a rather colossal earthquake probably striking mainland Greece, Asia Minor and Crete, swept away some shores of the Eastern Mediterranean on July 21st AD 365, carrying its destructive effects at least to Alexandria in Egypt, and perhaps to some Aegean islands, Syria and reaching even the coasts as far as Italy (G.Kelly, ‘Ammianus and the Great Tsunami’, JRS 94, 2004, 141-167). Such a huge natural disaster left behind not only immediate damage for the people and towns directly hit by its most surprising arrival, but it may have also carried severe consequences for the next economic development of wider areas within the region. Surely, the invading waters got an immediate effect on crops and pasture lands, water technology such as draining systems and dams, fishing boats, maritime trade, and some other activities, all of them suddenly disrupted and perhaps discontinued enough time to jeopardize the economic evolution of an entire region of the Roman Empire. Precisely, the study of natural catastrophes has been a popular topic of modern scholarship of the Antiquity so far, particularly after the coincidence of similar disasters at present (A.M.Gunn, Encyclopedia of Disasters. Environmental catastrophes and human tragedies, vol.1, Wesport, Conn. – London 2008). However, this paper will not deal with the impact of tsunamis themselves. Having primarily in mind the AD 365 tsunami, we want to analyse on the one hand the measures undertaken by the public authorities, from local town councils to the imperial and provincial administration, both on the short-term and long-run basis. And, on the other, we will deal with the consequences faced by the affected regions regarding their eventual economic development, particularly focusing on the difficulties of access to the natural resources after the strike of the wave, but also the disruption of subsistence economy and spread of diseases, famine and social disorder. In order to do so, we will take into account some other relevant examples of Ancient tsunamis and earthquakes from the historical record of the Classical Antiquity, in which common features on the public policies eventually implemented to restore daily life and economic recovery might be compared with our primary study case. Last but not least, this paper proposal has its roots in two current research projects, funded by the Catalonian and Spanish governments, to undertake the study of the political management of humanitarian crises in the Antiquity.

Jordan Pickett, The construction and the Roman Economy: Five Logistical Case Studies from Roman and Late Antique Cappadocia in Comparison

 (University of Pennsylvania)

Well-studied and –preserved architectural remains offer under-utilized avenues for quantitative, integrative approaches to the investigation of the Roman economy in action. While textual sources describe or prescribe general conditions of patronage, ownership, wages, and contractual relationships, buildings themselves exist as specific instantiations of realized economic potentials, preserved in directly measurable physical fabrics; they are unique products of human action which have the potential to reveal distinct priorities and capacities for the organization and exploitation of resources and labor across a landscape. This paper presents a logistical analysis of five structures from across Late Antique Cappadocia, in order to compare the material needs and outlays of different classes of patrons, forms, functions, and styles of construction: masonry-built and rock-cut Roman tombs from Comana (3rd-4th centuries), a rock-cut basilica from Göreme (5th-6th c.), fortifications at Keçikalesi (4th-6th c.), and a masonry-built pilgrimage church at Güzelyurt (6th c). Comparison of the categories and quantities of construction materials and processes in different buildings expose a wide range of patterns of material demand and exploitation across Cappadocian landscapes in the Late Antiquity.

Janet Delaine famously (if with little attribution) borrowed an idea developed by New World anthropologists in the 1960s-1990s, “architectural logistics” or “energetics”, to investigate labor and construction at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.[1] This method entails the literal deconstruction of a building into its constituent volumes, in combination with anthropological and pre-industrial rates for the completion of various construction-related tasks, in order to estimate figures for labor and material/temporal cost in a structure. Given the comparatively rich documentary evidence for the economy of ancient Rome, Delaine was little interested in parsing out the social or economic consequences of building the Baths of Caracalla – her work is instead important for demonstrating the deep link between design and construction in the building process. Yet logistical case studies, particularly in dialogue with more American-style methodologies characterized by their attention to task- and land-scapes,[2] present an opportunity for buildings to be fit into conversation with broader frameworks of knowledge concerning activities and processes constituted in Roman economies and ideologies: rather than treat activities in isolation, logistics compels us to see that construction triggered and directed not only architects and artists, but also quarrymen and masons, brick and tile bakers, foresters, livestock-suppliers, farmers, and unskilled laborers.

Using AutoCAD models to determine the volumes of building materials, it becomes possible to project the time required for their extraction or production, processing and installation, in addition to requisite quantities of labor and the supplies and rations required for their maintenance. [3] The articulation of these activities with local conditions (topography, agriculture and demographics) can also be considered, through the GIS integration of building data with identified or hypothetical sites for materials extraction, as well as models for regional agricultural potentials (aided by the recent publication of detailed, palaeo-ecological data from annually laminated varves at Nar Gölu in central Cappadocia).[4] Comparing data worked up from individual buildings allows us to assess variable patterns of organization and exploitation; to weigh costs for patrons, workers, and their originary landscapes; and to measure such costs against practical and ideological returns in the form of finished buildings.

Adam Rogers, Controlling waterscapes: a study of water and towns in Roman Britain

(Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester)

There has now been considerable and important study of the exploitation and transformation of rural wetlands in the Roman period in Britain (e.g. Rippon 2000 The Transformation of Coastal Wetlands). In Roman Britain coastal wetlands were drained and the land reclaimed for agricultural purposes. Other wetlands such as the East Anglian Fenland, the largest wetland in Britain before modern drainage, were used partly for agriculture and partly as pasture for keeping cattle (Fincham 2002 Landscapes of imperialism: Roman and native interaction in the East Anglian Fenland). Many of the towns of Roman Britain also developed within or near wetlands and other watery contexts which has not received so much attention. This paper will consider the way in which towns adapted to, controlled, exploited and transformed the landscapes in which they were situated paying particular attention to water. It will examine evidence of the drainage of wetlands, the reclamation of land and the redirection of rivers for the purposes of developing and expanding the towns. Rivers were also increasingly controlled through timber revetments, embankments and wharfs (e.g. Milne 1985 The Port of Roman London), representing growing command of the landscape.

This exploitation of water in association with towns marked a significant contrast from the way in which these places were used before the Roman conquest. Many of the sites in which towns developed, such as Lincoln and Winchester, were already important in the late Iron Age (Stocker 2003 The City by the Pool; Qualmann 2004 Oram’s Arbour: Iron Age Enclosure at Winchester). In these cases the rivers, lakes and marshlands formed integral and meaningful parts of the settlements and they were not apparently altered in any major way by human action. Watery places were also imbued with religious meaning which would have had an impact on the importance attached to these sites. Transforming these locations through Roman urbanism would also have altered the way in which the landscapes were viewed, exploited and experienced and may well also have had religious connotations. It is possible that in some cases towns were deliberately placed in difficult areas that had to be transformed. This may have been as an act of domination over these pre-existing special places or as a sign of imperial power altering and exploiting the landscape.

Some of the landscape changes appear to have taken place at an official level, such as cases of river diversion around towns (as at Cirencester; Holbrook 1998 Cirencester: The Roman Town Defences, Public Buildings and Shops), whilst others were smaller in scale and may have taken place at an individual level, such as the gradual reclamation of land in wet areas for building purposes (e.g. Southwark, London; Cowan et al. 2009 Roman Southwark: Settlement and Economy). Through this evidence we can examine the organisation of land and water exploitation and the different motives connected with the actions that people took. The paper also has implications for considering changing attitudes to landscapes and the exploitation of natural resources and landscape features in Roman Britain over time.

Saskia T. Roselaar, The role of Italians in local economies of the late Roman Republic

(Newton International Fellow at the University of Manchester, working on a project called 'Integration and economy in republican Italy)

In scholarship on the economy of late Republican Italy the Italian peoples are often neglected. However, recent studies have indicated that they may have played a much more important role in the economy of Italy than is usually assigned to them.

On the one hand, it has been suggested that Italian allies were admitted into colonies founded by the Romans throughout Italy. Whereas the traditional reconstruction of colonization assumed that local inhabitants were expelled from their lands when a colony was established, archaeological and linguistic evidence has suggested that in many cases, such as Brundisium, Luceria, and Aesernia, Italians may have lived in colonies. Their legal status, however, is not clear; if Italians were admitted as official colonists and received a plot of land, this means that they were considered valuable citizens for the colonies. If, on the other hand, Italians were only allowed to live in colonies as unofficial inhabitants (incolae), and were not assigned land, their economic and social position was below that of the Romans living here, and they may have experienced difficulties in gaining access to land.

Furthermore, it is clear that Italians played a crucial role in overseas trade; Italian merchants are widely attested throughout the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, at the same time the idea that many areas of Italy in the late Republic suffered economic decline is still often repeated. It is difficult to reconcile these two assumptions: if Italians were active in trade, they must have gained considerable benefits from this, and it is likely that they invested this in Italy. Only recently it has been recognized that many cities and sanctuaries in Italy, such as Tibur and Pietrabbondante, were monumentalized in the late Republic, and it is suggested that much of the wealth to finance this came from overseas trade.

However, Italian investment in land has not yet received similar attention. On the one hand, most areas of Italy experienced unprecedented economic growth, instead of decline, in the last two centuries of the Republic; on the other, many local elites held on to their dominant local positions. If we combine these two developments, the conclusion presents itself that many local Italian elites invested their new-found wealth in Italian land, some of which they may have received when they were admitted officially into colonies founded by the Romans, while other land may have been Roman ager publicus.

In this paper I intend to shed light on Italian access to land in the late Republic and its correlation to overseas trade. I will study five colonies for which we have a reasonable amount of evidence, namely Aesernia, Ariminum, Brundisium, Luceria, and Paestum. I will investigate the evidence for the presence of locals in these colonies and trace their economic development throughout the late Republic. Thus it will become clear that the Italians played a crucial role in the Italian economy in the late Republic – indeed, the economic growth in this period could not have been achieved without the know-how of the Italians, who participated in long-established overseas merchant networks and had long played a dominant role in the exploitation of land and natural resources in Italy itself.

Laurens Tacoma, Imperial wealth in Roman Egypt. The Julio-Claudian ousiai

Universiteit Leiden

The fact that Roman rulers were extraordinarily rich is abundantly clear and hardly needs substantiation. But how rulers obtained and used their immense wealth is often less easy to determine. Obviously, the acquisition of the wealth of their predecessor, either through legitimate inheritance or through simple appropriation normally provided the basis of their fortunes. Once in possession, additions and alienations could be made in various ways. But the details of the process are hardly documented and the general trends are therefore difficult to discern. If, as is often thought, the process was a cumulative one by which emperors acquired ever more property, why are the emperors by Late Antiquity only in possession of roughly one fourth to one fifth of all property, and not of much more?[5]

Thanks to the survival of numerous references in the papyri, the documentation of imperial wealth in Egypt is fuller than elsewhere. Of course, as always in papyrology the evidence is fragmentary, and raises a host of technical problems about categories of land. The sources consist of scattered references to individual pieces of property and they are unevenly distributed geographically and chronologically. Nevertheless, the possibilities for an analysis of the way rulers acquired and passed on their property are much better than elsewhere.

The possibilities for analysis have not gone unnoticed, and a number of studies have been devoted to the subject. In particular the ousiai, the large estates of the Julio-Claudian period, have been studied. What has attracted most attention is the fact that the way these ousiai were treated by the Roman emperors seems to show similarities to the way the Ptolemaic kings handled the doreai, the gift-estates the Ptolemies handed out to their administrators. Quite naturally, this has sparked a debate over the question of continuity. The traditional interpretation held that the Julio-Claudian ousiai were gift-estates which the emperor handed out to family members and loyal friends, and which eventually would revert to the emperor. However, forceful reservations have been made against this view, in particular based on the argument that Roman attitudes to property were quite different from Ptolemaic ones. Ousiai, in this view, were nothing more than privately-owned estates, some of which happened to be owned by the emperor and other members of the imperial house, who owned them in a private capacity.

The debate what the Roman ousiai are and how they relate to Ptolemaic doreai has been unresolved. Although there is much that points in favour of private ownership of the Julio-Claudian ousiai, the problem remains that in the ousiai an element of redistribution seems to be at work. Many of the ousiai that were in non-imperial ownership eventually ended up in imperial hands. The known owners of ousiai belong to a fairly limited circle of friends and family of the emperor. In consequence, radically different opinions about the nature of the estates and the question of continuity have been given.

In my paper, I will argue that all these views are partially correct. The Julio-Claudian imperial ousiai were private estates, but they circulated in what might be called an indirect redistributive system. This need not cause surprise. Many systems in which a ruler redistributed property to loyal supporters occur in history, and the distribution of privileges and wealth is a recurrent characteristic of any autocratic regime. The crucial and more interesting fact is that the forms of such redistribution might differ substantially. Rather than focussing on the question of continuity between Ptolemaic and Roman practice the main question is how such a redistributive system worked in the case of the Julio-Claudian ousiai. I will argue that their circulation can be explained within the principles of Roman property devolution and imperial liberalitas. This created a system of indirect redistribution where property circulated with an a relatively high frequency between a limited number of people around the emperor. Although much property eventually ended up in imperial hands, the process was neither one-sided nor automatic.

Isabella Tsigarida, Salt in Asia Minor. An outline of Roman authority interest in the resource

Universität Zürich

Under the premise that the prosperity of pre-industrial societies strongly depended on agricultural productivity and access to natural resources, the question arises whether the Roman state or the imperator fostered exploitation of land and resource through targeted economic policies. Such political and administrational setting may have well stimulated economical thinking and acting in ancient Roman society.

This paper analyses the exertion of influence on the vital resource salt by roman authorities exemplarily for the province Asia. It also outlines structural indications of potential links between politics and economy pertaining to salt including relevant state regulations, state interests, property rights and administration of salt mines and deposits.

Sophia Zoumbaki, The exploitation of local resources of Western Greece by Romans and Italiot Greeks

Romans and Italiot Greeks are attested to have been active in various areas of the Western part of the Greek peninsula and on the islands of the Ionian Sea as early as the 3rd c. BC, long before the formation of the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. If we ignore Roman magistrates and a few proxenoi of Greek poleis, whose exact relationship with the poleis -beyond conventional diplomatic contact- is in most cases unclear, it is obvious that the motivation that drove these Westerners eastwards was economic. The nature of their activity is to be either seen in the context of commercial interchange between both sides of Adriatic, which is regularly attested as early as the Geometric period onwards, or it is to be connected with the exploitation of local resources, which were different in each of these regions. Yet tangible professions or occupations of these individuals are not often mentioned in the sources. Terms defining such occupations are sometimes more or less concrete, such as unguentarius, engaiountes, but in other cases they are general and include various capacities related to certain activities, as, for example, the term negotiatus or negotiator.  There are also cases in which the activities of the foreign settlers are totally unknown or have to be guessed at through indirect references in the sources. Futhermore, we attempt to trace possible occupations in the light of the economic opportunities available in each locality. All these cases are to be considered when studying the evidence from the area in question, that is, Western Greece from the Ambraciot Gulf to Cape Tainaron, including the adjacent islands. Research into such matters might function as a basis for a further study of the role of Roman and Italiot entrepreneurs in the economic and social life of the Greek poleis in the area in question and of their role in the economic network of western entrepreneurs located in the Eastern Mediterranean.

[1] J. Delaine, Baths of Caracalla: a study in the design, construction, and economics of large scale building projects in imperial Rome (Portsmouth, 1997).

[2] For the idea of the taskscape, see T. Ingold, "The Temporality of the Landscape", World Archaeology, 25.2 (1993): 24-174. For a critical review of the “energetic” method developed by American scholars, see E. M. Abrams, “Architecture and Energy: an Evolutionary Perspective” in Archaeological Method and Theory vol. 1 (Tucson, 1989): 47-87.  See also, more recently, John Haldon’s Medieval Logistics Project which has been concerned with the generation of quantitative data in order to refine issues of historical agricultural carrying capacities and land yields, the impact of moving troops across a landscape, and historical population densities. I have appreciated his guidance and support throughout this project. Cf J. F. Haldon ed., General Issues in the Study of Medieval Logistics (Leiden, 2006).

[3] My studies of Late Antique and Medieval building logistics are, to my knowledge, the first such investigations to integrate digital modeling of building processes and originary landscapes via GIS and AutoCAD.

[4] A. England, W. Eastwood, J. Haldon et al., “Historical landscape change in Cappadocia (central Turkey): a palaeoecological investigation of annually-laminated sediments from Nar lake” in The Holocene 18 (2008): 1229-1245.

[5] As MacMullen (1976) rightly asked.