Farmers and Agriculture in the Roman Economy: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Farmers and Agriculture in the Roman Economy

1st Edition

By David B. Hollander


132 pages

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Hardback: 9781138099883
pub: 2018-07-30
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Often viewed as self-sufficient, Roman farmers actually depended on markets to supply them with a wide range of goods and services, from metal tools to medical expertise. However, the nature, extent, and implications of their market interactions remain unclear. This monograph uses literary and archaeological evidence to examine how farmers – from smallholders to the owners of large estates – bought and sold, lent and borrowed, and cooperated as well as competed in the Roman economy. A clearer picture of the relationship between farmers and markets allows us to gauge their collective impact on, and exposure to, macroeconomic phenomena such as monetization and changes in the level and nature of demand for goods and labor. After considering the demographic and environmental context of Italian agriculture, the author explores three interrelated questions: what goods and services did farmers purchase; how did farmers acquire the money with which to make those purchases; and what factors drove farmers’ economic decisions? This book provides a portrait of the economic world of the Roman farmer in late Republican and early Imperial Italy.

Table of Contents



1. Problems and Sources

1.1 Introduction

1.2 The Problem with Self-Sufficiency

1.3 Sources for Roman Agriculture

1.3.1 Cato’s De agri cultura

1.3.2 Varro’s De re rustica

1.3.3 Columella’s De re rustica

1.3.4 Pliny the Elder’s Natural History

1.3.5 Archaeology

1.3.6 Art

1.4 Conclusion

2. The Parameters of Roman Agriculture

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Climate & Geography

2.3 Demography

2.4 Roman Crops

2.4.1 Cereals

2.4.2 Viticulture

2.4.3 Olives

2.4.4 Other Fruit Trees

2.4.5 Legumes (AKA Pulses)

2.4.6 Fiber Crops

2.4.7 Nuts

2.4.8 Vegetables and Tubers

2.4.9 Other Plants

2.5 Livestock

2.6 Conclusion

3. Buyers and Borrowers: the Rural Demand for Goods, Services, and Money

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Start-up Requirements

3.2.1 Building supplies

3.2.2 Metal agricultural tools

3.2.3 Wooden Tools

3.2.5 Storage

3.2.6 Clothing

3.2.7 Processing Equipment

3.2.8 Other Equipment

3.3 Seasonal Requirements

3.4 Maintenance Requirements

3.5 Extra-agricultural Expenses

3.6 Borrowing and Sharing

3.7 Rural Demand for Coinage

3.8 Conclusion

4. Vendors and Lenders: the Rural Supply of Goods and Services

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Animals and Animal Byproducts

4.2.1 Meat

4.2.2 Wool

4.2.3 Dairy Products

4.2.4 Apiculture

4.3 The Profitability of Plants

4.3.1 Grain

4.3.2 Viticulture

4.3.3 Olive Oil

4.3.4 Flowers

4.3.5 Vegetables

4.3.6 Other Produce

4.3.7 Linen

4.4 The Sale of the Superfluous

4.5 Working for Others

4.6 Moneylending

4.7 Conclusion

5. Farmers’ Markets, Farmers’ Networks

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Markets

5.3 Reciprocity

5.4 Redistribution

6. Farmers in Roman Economic History

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Degrees of Market Dependency

6.2.1 Elite Farmers

6.2.2 Moderately Wealthy Farmers

6.2.3 Smallholders

6.2.4 Landless Farmers

6.3 Farmers in the Roman Economy

6.3.1 The Second Century bce

6.3.2 The First Century bce Prior to the Reign of Augustus

6.3.3 The Early Empire



About the Author

David B. Hollander earned a PhD in Ancient History from Columbia University (2002). He published his monograph Money in the Late Roman Republic in 2007 and served as the economy editor for The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (2012). He is an associate professor in the History Department at Iowa State University, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General