22 May 2021 at 11:00 AM
University of Stellenbosch
The Autumn Meeting (Western Cape) will be hosted by the University of Stellenbosch and will be held on 22 May 2021 from 11:00 AM.
The meeting is open to all members of the Association (find out more).
Dr Bart Danon (St Andrews), The distribution of wealth and the political economy of early-imperial Roman Italy
Abstract: Wealth and socio-political rank did not overlap perfectly in the Roman world; the many attestations to wealthy freedmen and women are a case in point. In this paper, I show how estimates of the extent of this structural non-overlap in early-imperial Roman Italy (c. 1–250 CE) leads to various new perspectives on its political economy. I use a new reconstruction of the top of the Italian wealth distribution to compare the number of households with the requisite wealth for political office with those with the corresponding rank. The results reveal that wealth was spread much wider among the elite than office or rank. This conclusion has wide ramifications for our understanding of early-imperial Italian society; I will focus on two points related to its political economy. Firstly, it suggests that competition for certain junior political offices might have remained high in this period. Secondly, interpreting the surplus of households with the requisite wealth for office but without the corresponding rank as the resilience of the timocratic system, the results point to the fragmented nature (both in time and space) of the political (‘curial’) crisis of the third century CE.
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