Guide Urban Society In Roman Italy

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These relationships indicate that the population of the settlement will expand faster than its total functional diversity; but the overall division of labour will still expand, such that the number of distinct tasks performed by the population will increase [ 11 ]. It is important to stress, however, that these relationships will be a reflection of average conditions, since there will always be fluctuations in the exact number of contacts and range of functions from individual to individual and from settlement to settlement due to a variety of geographically- and historically-contingent factors.

Note that there is also a relationship between the division of labour and productivity. Studies of the division of labour tend to recognize two different forms of division: horizontal and vertical. The first normally refers to the diversity of activities related to production and exchange in an economy; whereas the second typically refers to the organization into different tasks within specific activities or crafts and trades [ 24 ]. Although this distinction is useful for some purposes, here we emphasize that horizontal and vertical divisions are actually related. As settlements grow in population, individuals tend to concentrate on a narrower range of tasks, even as the overall set of possible socio-economic tasks expands.

Individual-level specialization presupposes and in turn induces specialization at the level of production, transportation, and distribution of goods and services a distinction not restricted to modern economies. Due to these relationships, and the fact that functional diversity and division of labour are opposite sides of the same coin, it is feasible to measure the total functional diversity of a settlement in terms of the total number of tasks within the community.

We apply this logic here in a study of the division of labour in settlements in a pre-modern context, in this case cities in the Roman Empire. In reality, answering this question is difficult even for contemporary societies. One influential definition was offered by the sociologist Louis Wirth [ 25 ] who noted that a city is a permanent settlement of heterogeneous individuals. They are proximity, density, closeness' [ 27 , p. These characterizations encompass the perspective, prevalent among many who study contemporary urbanism, that the essence of urban life is frequent and intense social interactions among a diversity of individuals and institutions.

Settlement scaling theory is similarly premised on seeing cities and settlements across the whole of the urbanization experience as social networks embedded in built environments. Operationalizing a view of cities as settings for social interactions, which is to say assembling a set of spatial units of analysis which capture the relevant social aspects of settlements, requires choices about the use of existing data, the assignation of data to locations and periods, and the delineation of the spatial boundaries of inhabited areas, all of which are far from trivial even for data-rich modern urban systems [ 7 ].


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To identify and characterize Roman cities, we have followed the definition used by Hanson in his recent account of the urbanism of the Roman world in the Imperial period [ 28 ]. As he notes, although it is notoriously difficult to define urbanism, one can come up with a working definition by concentrating on sites that are more likely to have engaged in secondary and tertiary activities than primary activities, and this can be gauged by whether they had a certain population such as , or more individuals or offered certain non-subsistence functions such as historical, social, cultural, religious, political, administrative, juridical and economic roles.

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Although we do not have direct evidence for these features, we can approximate them by looking at the size of inhabited areas, monumentality and civic status in ancient sources. This provides us with a number of criteria, which include not only whether sites conform to thresholds of 10 or 50 hectares a reflection of their numbers of inhabitants , but also whether they had monuments, such as public spaces, associated public buildings, urban grids, leisure and entertainment structures, and religious, sanitary, and defensive structures, and whether they had civic statuses, such as roles as provincial capitals, conventus capitals, metropolis capitals, nome capitals, coloniae , municipia , civitates , and poleis , or various other rights and privileges.

These features do not necessarily coincide, as there are a small number of sites that do not meet the criteria for size, but nonetheless have significant monumentality or civic status. Due to these complexities, we have restricted our investigation to the catalogue of cities considered by Hanson based on the criteria above.

This catalogue encompasses the region covered by the Roman Empire at its maximum extent in A. We use three different datasets to examine the relationship between urban populations and their levels of functional diversity. The first is Waltzing's lists of associations, usually known as collegia , which identify the number of distinct craft and trade organizations that are known to have been active in a given settlement [ 29 ].

These can be converted into estimates of the numbers of inhabitants in these settlements based on densification effects [ 16 ]. We combine these three data sources to create an index suitable for testing the expectations of settlement scaling theory regarding the relationship between population and functional diversity.

Below we discuss the details surrounding each data source. The cities of the Roman world in the Imperial period, adapted from [ 28 ]. Although there has been a lot of work done on occupations in the ancient world, such studies have tended to focus on examining the range of occupations across settlements rather than instances of specific occupations in specific settlements. As a result, although it is feasible to count the total number of occupations, it is not feasible to determine which ones occurred where.

This issue stems from a tension between the sheer mass of evidence that might provide references to occupations, such as texts, inscriptions, papyri , and even graffiti and dipinti , versus the disconnected nature of historical and archaeological research that has been done on individual sites, regions, or classes of material. As a result, scholars are able to identify around occupations for the Roman Empire as a whole, but are only able to count the numbers of occupations in specific settlements in a handful of cases, such as Rome and a few other sites [ 24 , 30 — 32 ].

Although it is not currently possible to quantify individual occupations across settlements, it is possible to quantify functional diversity at a more general level by tracking the number of associations mentioned in various sources, most notably inscriptions. These associations were voluntary organizations of craftsmen or traders that were referred to using various terms, the most familiar of which is collegia [ 33 ].


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  • They were modelled after the local governments of cities and towns; had their own magistrates, councils, and assemblies; and even had their own premises and treasuries. Associations were open to nearly all classes of men including slaves and ex-slaves , but did not allow women or children. Having said this, some associations were more influential than others, leading to intense competition between associations for status, as well as to the setting up of alliances between associations or to the drawing of distinctions among their own members.

    In addition, associations might have had an important function in helping to orientate newcomers to settlements, including helping them find colleagues, source materials, share labour, and identify customers, so some scholars have seen the growth of associations as a symptom of the boom of urban life, the expansion of settlements, and their reliance on migration to maintain or increase their numbers of inhabitants [ 34 ]. Overall, associations were a conspicuous feature of settlements that played an important role in the social life of the community [ 35 ].

    There has been significant debate among classical archaeologists and ancient historians concerning the extent to which associations were intended to foster or defend their members' economic interests. The traditional view has been that these bodies were mainly set up for social reasons and had limited economic consequences [ 36 ].

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    However, in recent years there has been a shift in opinion and an increasing appreciation of the roles of institutions in shaping economies under the influence of New Institutional Economics [ 37 — 39 ]. This work has emphasized the extent to which associations created networks of trust, which were only feasible because of their closed nature, internal traditions, and enforcement mechanisms built on the status and reputations of their members [ 33 ]. One would therefore expect these networks to have had economic implications, since they helped to strengthen alliances between members, disseminate information, and lead to the sharing of knowledge and skills.


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    As a result, most recent scholars have emphasized the multi-dimensional roles of these associations, including: attaining and maintaining social standing; enhancing status and demonstrating wealth; taking part in convivial activities such as drinking and feasting; offering surrogate familial environments to orphans, foreigners, and resident aliens; observing religious rituals, ceremonies, and festivals; ensuring that members had a suitable burial and looking after their memories such as maintaining their tombs or performing certain rituals after their death ; taking part in group attendance at events although any suspicion of incitement was quickly supressed ; offering legal rights and privileges; and perhaps extending financial assistance to their members.

    There is also evidence that associations were involved in the following areas: the arrangement of collective work; control of wages; organization of strikes; creation of monopolies; management of their own funds; extension of loans; inhibiting competition; regulating prices; creating and enforcing weights and measures; and taking care of the election and training of apprentices [ 40 ].

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    Based on this work, we expect most crafts and trades to have formed an association, meaning that it is reasonable to treat association diversity as a proxy for the overall diversity of socio-economic activities that occurred within settlements. There are two concerns, however, that need to be addressed before using associations in this manner. The first is whether the epigraphic record evidence concerning associations is more or less abundant than evidence concerning specific occupations. We expect references to the former to be preserved more frequently than the latter due to the relative size, status, and wealth of associations; and the fact that associations regularly set up identifiable memorials for their deceased members.

    Moreover, even if associations were only related to certain sectors of the local economy, association diversity should still be a reasonable proxy for relative functional diversity across settlements. The second issue is whether evidence for associations is consistently preserved across the length and breadth of the Roman Empire. The available information concerning associations is clearly structured by affordances, such as divergences in the epigraphic habits of different times and places as a result of differences in wealth, education, fashion, local language, acculturation, etc.

    The provinces of the Roman Empire at the death of Trajan in A. The most relevant information is contained in one detailed list of associations in Rome, Ostia, and Portus and another for the other cities and towns, totalling references to associations across settlements [ 29 ], volume IV: 4—49 and 49—, along with volume II: — However, since these lists were mainly based on epigraphic material, it is somewhat skewed towards the west rather than the east.

    In addition, there is also some information about the numbers of more informal bodies which are usually called societas , as well as associations that had an overtly religious or military character. We have not included these because they do not relate to crafts and trades. Although there is an ongoing attempt to update Waltzing's database of associations by other researchers, it will be some time before these new resources are available.

    In the meantime, we have attempted to deal with the most serious issues surrounding Waltzing's data [ 41 — 47 ], but have not reviewed them in detail.

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    We have divided references to associations whose titles encompass more than one craft or trade into separate references for each one of which the most common are fabri , centonarii and dendrophori. One would expect the number of associations that have been identified in each settlement to be a function, not only of the underlying functional diversity of that settlement, but also the amount of material that has been preserved, recovered and examined from that settlement.

    It should be noted that this resource only includes texts in Latin, rather than in Greek or any other languages , meaning that it is also skewed towards the west rather than the east. Since it is difficult to link each inscription to a specific settlement using a name or a region, we linked inscriptions to settlements by associating the find spot of each inscription to the nearest settlement using their coordinates and a 5 km buffer in a GIS.

    The size of the buffer reflects the relative accuracy and precision of the coordinates for both these settlements and the find spots of inscriptions. Having said this, the ratio of associations to inscriptions should provide a better sense of the diversity of associations in a given settlement than the raw count of associations with no attempt to control for sample size see below.

    We therefore divide the number of associations by the number of inscriptions for each settlement, generating a ratio, R , which effectively provides a measure of the diversity of associations per inscription. There are clearly errors between the sample ratios of associations to inscriptions and their actual, but unknown, population ratios. We would expect these errors to be independent of the populations of settlements, however, such that they would influence the dispersion of the data around the central tendency of the relationship as opposed to changing the relationship between population and functional diversity itself.

    To estimate the sizes and populations of ancient settlements we have drawn on existing estimates of their inhabited areas. These estimates are based on a number of features, including the area enclosed by walls, the extents of urban grids, the locations of monumental structures, the sizes of residential zones, the situation of cemeteries, and even the character of natural features, such as changes in relief and the courses of rivers and coastlines.

    We then incorporate our recent work on the average relationship between inhabited area and population density in Greek and Roman settlements to convert these areas into population estimates [ 16 ]. To establish this relationship, we counted the number of residential units in excavated areas in a selection of settlements and combined this with the average size of a household which we assumed averaged about 5 to estimate the population density of each excavated area.

    Using this approach, we were able to estimate the population density of 52 sites, which are scattered throughout the settlement hierarchy and across the Greek and Roman world from the fourth century B. This material suggests there is a strong relationship between the population density and inhabited areas of these settlements. In addition, population estimates deriving from this relationship accord well with the small number of sites where we can gauge population using other means [ 16 ]. The result of this work is a regression equation that allows one to estimate the number of inhabitants in an ancient settlement from its built-up area.

    This can be expressed as:. It is important to note that these estimates differ slightly from those in Hanson [ 28 ], as the latter are based on density classes correlated with size classes, rather than discrete figures for each site. Also note that this relationship implies that settlements grew denser, on average, as their built areas increased.

    The estimated numbers of inhabitants in cities in the Roman world during the Imperial period, after [ 16 ].

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    For each settlement in our analysis we have a total number of distinct associations, a total number of inscriptions that have been documented, and an estimated population. We assume that all three values reflect average conditions during the occupation of each settlement, and that inscriptions accumulated for comparable lengths of time across settlements.

    We develop an index of functional diversity for these settlements in two stages.