Full Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN. The Imperial Economy

David Mattingly


The Roman economy is often presented as underdeveloped and underachieving ( Garnsey and Sailer 1987 : 43–7). Such views are the legacy of the huge intellectual contribution of Moses Finley (1985) to the debate on the ancient economy. Key elements of what I shall term the Finleyite primitivist (minimalist) vision of the Roman economy are: an emphasis on subsistence agriculture; the role of towns as centers of consumption, rather than of trade and industry; the low social status of craft workers; retarded technological diffusion; and a lack of economic rationality, illustrated inter alia by the low level of non-agrarian capital investment ( Finley 1985 ; de Blois et al. 2002 ; Duncan-Jones 1982 : 1; Hopkins 1983a : x-xiv). Such views are not unchallenged, however, and there is also strong support for a vision of a more evolved and complex economy than Finley was prepared to admit (K Greene 1986 ; W. V. Harris 1993b ). Strong evidence has been adduced in favor of more rational economic accounting on Egyptian estates in the Fayum ( Rathbone 1991 ). Rather more surprising perhaps is the fact that similarly sophisticated accounting systems are to be found even in the remote oasis communities of the Egyptian desert ( Bagnall 1997 ). In several recent discussions an emerging strand is that the Roman economy contained elements of both achievement and underdevelopment ( de Blois ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top