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CHAPTER FIFTEEN. Landlords and Tenants

Dennis P. Kehoe

Subject Roman History » Roman Empire
History » Social History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631226444.2006.00020.x


Agricultural wealth played a crucial role in the social and political structure of the Roman Empire. The elite classes that ruled the empire, including the emperor and the imperial family, the senatorial and equestrian orders, and the curial classes in the empire's many cities, depended on the production of their estates for the revenues that maintained their social and political privileges. The elite's share of the Roman agrarian economy was considerable, and it is likely that it only increased during the first three centuries ce as the aristocracy was increasingly recruited from across the empire as a whole instead of exclusively from Italy ( Duncan-Jones 1990 : 121–42; Hopkins 1995/6 ). We can appreciate the enormous disparities in agricultural wealth by comparing the fortunes of the empire's wealthier landowners with those of more modest landowners. The Roman senator Pliny the Younger (c.61–113), whose published correspondence includes a great deal of information about the financial concerns of upper-class Romans, owned estates worth perhaps 15–17 million sesterces ( Duncan-Jones 1982 : 17–32). This figure represents a multiple of the minimum property qualifications for senators and equestrians set by Augustus, which were one million and 400,000 sesterces, respectively. The minimum census requirement for members of the councils in many cities in Italy and the provinces was ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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