Friday, July 31, 2015


Catherine Apicella, Marie-Laurence Haack, François Lerouxel (ed.), Les affaires de Monsieur Andreau: économie et société du monde romain. Scripta antiqua, 61. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2014. Pp. 315. ISBN 9782356131089. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Dennis Kehoe, Tulane University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This collection of twenty-two essays is a tribute to Jean Andreau by his pupils, colleagues, and friends. Most of the essays concern topics in Roman social and economic history, which has been the focal point of Jean Andreau's research, but several deal with similar issues in Greek history, a field in which the honorand has also made significant contributions. The volume includes a brief introduction by François Lerouxel, as well as a bibliography of Jean Andreau's scholarly works. In the discussion that follows, I will mention all of the essays and discuss the main historical points that they make.

In the first section, on historiography and the structures of the Roman economy, Hinnerk Bruhns addresses the ongoing debate about the role of theory in the analysis of the ancient economy. He forcefully defends approaches to the ancient economy using the interpretive categories developed by Max Weber and M. I. Finley, rejecting the use of modern economic categories, as in the new institutional economics, championed recently by Alain Bresson in his work on the Greek economy and also by a growing number of historians in investigating the Roman economy. From a very different perspective, Jean-Yves Grenier examines the nature of markets in the Roman Empire by comparing the Roman government's concern with prices to that of early-modern France and the Qing dynasty in China (17th-18th centuries). Under the Qing dynasty, the government maintained public granaries, from which it released stockpiled stores on occasion to maintain the stability of prices. This may be comparable to the way in which the Roman administration managed the food supply for the city of Rome. Moreover, many cities in the empire maintained their own stores of grain as a protection against occasional shortages, but it is not likely that the Roman Empire could monitor grain prices as comprehensively as was apparently possible under the Qing dynasty. Also in this section, Peter Garnsey offers a survey of the basic characteristics of the later Roman economy, in which he emphasizes the role of fiscal policy in organizing, and, at least to some extent, integrating the empire's economy.

Four essays are included in the section on the agrarian economy. One area of intense interest remains the use of slave labor. Building on his recent work on the agrarian economy of the Republican Rome, Luigi Capogrossi argues against the idea that the late Republican villa was a kind of pre-capitalistic plantation. Instead, he emphasizes that there was a wide variation in types of land on estates and therefore in forms of cultivation. The villa economy involved two opposing but synergistic principles: the concentrated use of slave labor permanently on the property and the use of a wide range of free labor. Carlos García Mac Gaw extends this investigation by considering the overall contribution of slave labor to the economy of the Roman Empire, and whether it is possible to say that a 'slave mode of production' can be seen as characterizing the Roman economy. García Mac Gaw argues that tenancy was the most widespread form of exploiting land and labor throughout the empire. Agricultural production was largely based on small-scale cultivation, and slaves played a significant role in this, as servi quasi coloni or even as laborers in the employ of tenants. If the ownership of slaves helped to define the status of the elite, production by gangs of slaves represented a much smaller portion of the empire's GDP than is often argued. Philippe Leveau links the villa to a broader understanding of the economy of the Roman Empire. Building on his own work with villae in the region around Caesarea in North Africa as well as in Gaul, Leveau sees the establishment of villae as connecting the economy of a region with urbanization and an empire-wide commercialized agrarian economy. The significance of small-scale production to the Roman agrarian economy is the focus of Jérôme France's essay. He examines the Hadrianic law for promoting the cultivation of land on imperial estates in North Africa in the broader context of a concern in the Roman Empire to make lands not used for agriculture available to small-scale cultivators. France compares the Hadrianic regulation with efforts under the same emperor to regulate the use of land in Greece, as well as with the proposal attributed to the emperor Pertinax by Herodian (2.4.6) to offer vacant lands to cultivators who would enjoy a ten-year immunity from taxation.

The next section, on money, prices, and fiscal issues, offers four papers on diverse issues. Jean-Jacques Aubert provides an overview of how Roman law treated barter, or permutatio. Although it is certain that people in the Roman world commonly engaged in transactions involving barter, its definition within Roman law is problematic. Some Roman jurists, particularly those of the Sabinian school, did see barter as a form of sale, but in the late classical period the jurist Paul, in his commentary on the praetor's edict, and the Roman chancery distinguished barter from sale, which meant that the remedies litigants could use when disputes arose were quite different from those in sale. In late antiquity, however, the Germanic law codes recognized barter as sale. A major issue in understanding the role of credit in Roman commercial life concerns interest rates, whether they were typically as high as the legal limit of twelve percent, and the degree to which they varied in accordance with the creditworthiness of the borrower and economic conditions. Documents recording loans rarely record interest rates. Gilles Bransbourg analyzes a series of loans in the archive of the Sulpicii. Bransbourg makes a convincing argument that the lenders charged interest rates that varied as the borrower encountered financial difficulties, and that the interest rates varied between 7-7.5% and 9-10%. Cristiano Viglietti examines the use of money in the early Republic, before Rome minted coins, and he provides some interesting insights into the ways in which weights in bronze could be used to represent the value of various commodities. But his effort to determine the price of land in the Republic by examining the financial affairs of Cincinnatus, as reported by Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, is problematic because it assumes the historical accuracy of the precise details given by these sources about Cincinnatus' finances. An important paper in this section is Jean-Michel Carrié's discussion of the chrysargyron, or collatio lustralis, instituted by Constantine and abolished by Anastasius in 497. This was a tax imposed on merchants and artisans within cities. It stirred controversy for allegedly being catastrophically burdensome on the people liable to pay it. But in fact, as Carrié shows, the tax represented a much lighter burden for urban businessmen than the land taxes did on landowners. Its imposition represented an effort to broaden the empire's tax base beyond the agricultural sector, which bore the brunt of the empire's tax responsibilities.

In the section on commerce and markets, two papers focus on the role played by individual cities as entrepôts where products, notably oil and fish sauce from Spain, were stored for later shipment to markets in Gaul and along the Rhine. Maria-Luisa Bonsangue argues this case for Narbonne, particularly in the latter part of the first-century BCE and in the first century CE. Nicolas Tran examines the role of Arles in this economy, on the basis of a case discussed in the Digest (Ulp. D. 14.3.13. pr.) on the role of a slave in a business involving the buying and selling of oil in that city. These two papers demonstrate how archaeological and legal evidence can be used together to address significant problems in Roman economy history. Marta García Morcillo uses the works of Cicero to examine the role that auctions played as a social institution in the late Republic. She discusses the importance of auctions to public administration of the empire. In the private sphere, the property of a defaulting debtor might be auctioned off to cover unmet obligations, but this would involve great humiliation for the affected person. To turn to the Greek world, Raymond Descat uses a text from Aristotle's Nicomachaean Ethics (5.1135a 1-2) comparing laws based on social conventions to measures used in the buying and selling of grain as a starting point for examining the role that different measures played in markets, including fourth-century Athens. This discussion is important for understanding the efforts of certain states in antiquity to reduce "frictions" in the market to promote commerce.

In a section devoted to social and work status, Maria Cecilia D'Ercole offers a wide-ranging examination of leather workers in both Greece and Rome. These highly-skilled artisans produced a variety of products, including body armor and shoes. This paper demonstrates a continuing conflict in both Greece and Rome between upper-class scorn for such artisans and their own efforts to assert their own skills, accomplishments, and prestige. Julien Zurbach addresses another aspect of labor provided by free persons, namely, the extent to which people in classical Athens entered into long-term labor contracts to pay off debt. Zurbach admits, without endorsing the possibility that debt bondage existed in classical Athens, a position defended by Edward Harris ("Did Solon Abolish Debt-Bondage?" CQ 52 [2002]: 415–30). But even without debt bondage, there were nominally free laborers in classical Athens bound to wealthier employers by various ties, for example as clients. Two papers address the significant role that freedmen played in Roman society. Nicholas Laubry examines a funerary collegium established by the wealthy freedman C. Lusius Storax at Teate Marricinorum (Chieti). Storax provided many benefits for his town, including sponsoring gladiatorial games, but he also promoted the interests of freedmen and even slaves, who were included as members of the collegium and so were anticipating their manumission. Nicolas Monteix traces the rise of the Caii Iulii and the Marci Lucretii in political life at Pompeii to the two families' investment in urban real estate and urban businesses. This conclusion nuances our general understanding of town councils in the Roman Empire as consisting primarily of a landowning elite.

In the final section, on writing and demography, William Harris defends the conclusion in his 1989 book Ancient Literacy that the Roman world did not exceed the literacy rates of other pre-industrial societies. In this paper, Harris tests the contrary hypothesis of a high level of basic literacy by looking for primary teachers at the village level. There is some evidence for such teachers, much more from the eastern part of the Roman Empire than from the western, but not enough to support the argument that villages and towns generally had some system of basic education. From a very different perspective, Arnaldo Marcone emphasizes the fundamental importance of literacy to everyday life in the Roman world. It was important not just for business but for everyday communication, and writing was a skill used not only by the elites of towns and villages but by a much broader portion of society. Can the views of Harris and Marcone be reconciled? Finally, Walter Scheidel addresses his hypothesis, articulated in a number of papers, about the major role played by malaria in ancient mortality regimes in Rome and in other parts of the Roman Empire. Not only would malaria kill many people, but it would also weaken immune systems and make people more susceptible to other diseases. Scheidel argues that this hypothesis is to some extent confirmed by new evidence, particularly of skeletons that provide clues to broadly experienced health issues.

This volume presents many interesting essays on a broad range of topics, and it represents a fitting tribute to such a fine scholar and generous person.

Table des matières

Bibliographie des travaux de Jean Andreau: 11 François Lerouxel, Introduction: 25
Hinnerk Bruhns, Cambridge, Bordeau ou Heidelberg: à quoi servent les "classiques" ?: 29
Peter Garnsey, L'économie du Bas-Empire: 43
Jean-Yves Grenier, Qu'est-ce qu'une "économie de marché" ? Rome antique — Europe modern — Chine des Qing: 53
Luigi Capogrossi, I vari tipi di complessità nella società agrarian repubblicana: 67
Carlos García Mac Gaw, Esclavage et systemme économique à Rome: 78
Jérôme France, La lex Hadriana et les incitations publiques à la mise en valeur de terres ans l'Empire romain au IIe siècle p.C.: 89
Philippe Leveau, Villa, romanisation, développement économique entre idéal-type wéberien et modelisation territorial: 97
Jean-Jacques Aubert, For Swap or Sale? The Roman Law of Barter: 109
Gilles Bransbourg, Les taux d'interêt flottants des Sulpicii: 123
Jean-Michel Carrié, Les effets historiographiques d'une protestation fiscal efficacement orchestra: retour sur le chrysargyre: 137
Cristiano Viglietti, Prix de terre, census, virtualité de la monnaie à Rome pendant la Haute Republique: une hypothèse de travail: 159
Maria-Luisa Bonsangue, Narbonne, un 'port de stockage' de la Méditerranée occidentale sous le Haut-Empire: 177
Raymond Descat, Mesurer et peser le grain: Aristote, Éth.Nic., 5.1135a 1-2 et la loi athénienne de 374/373 a.C.: 195
Marta García Morcillo, Publicidad, transparencía y legitimidad; subastas en la obra de Cicerón: 209
Nicolas Tran, Un esclave préposé au commerce de l'huile dans le port d'Arles. À propos de Dig., 14.3.13pr. (Ulp. 28 ad ed. (): 223
Maria Cecilia D'Ercole, Skutotomos, sutor. Status et representations du métier de cordonnier dans les mondes grecs aet romains: 233
Nicholas Laubry, Sorax et "associés". Observations sur un complexe funéraire de Teate Marricinorum (Chieti): 251
Nicolas Monteix, Histoire politique des élites et histoire économique. L'exemple des Caii Iulii et des Marci Lucretii à Pompeii: 259
Julien Zurbach, Entre libres et esclaves dans l'Athènes classique: 273
William V. Harris, Literacy and Epigraphy II: 289
Arnaldo Marcone, Scrittura quotidiana e relazioni sociali nel mondo romano: 301
Walter Scheidel, "Germs for Rome" Ten Years After: 311

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