How many?

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Feb 14, 2004 8:47 pm

Salve Corunciani,

Needless to say that exact numbers will be impossible to discover. Rough estimates, perhaps. I don't know if any studies have been published on this subject already (I could look it up at university though) but if I'd have to do the job (interesting subject for a dissertation perhaps !), I'd try to look at inscriptions drafted by the different professional corporations in Roman cities (fabri ferarii, corarii, pelliones ...) to see if any quantitative material could be used to deduce the size of such a corporation, primarily sums found in foundations. Then, one should estimate the population of the place in which the inscription was found to see what was their relative importance.

Take for example the following, haphazardly chosen, inscription from Ostia :

Belegstelle: AE 1987, 00198
Provinz: Latium et Campania / Regio I Ort: Ostia
C(aius) Iul(ius) C(ai) f(ilius) Cocil(ius) Hermes / patr(onus) et q(uin)q(uennalis) / p(er)p(etuus) col(legii) / den(drophorum) Ost(iensium) / signum M(atris) M(agnae) ex argent(o) p(ondo) III et |(sectans) et SS / VI m(ilia) n(ummum) d(onum) d(edit) ut VI / Kal(endas) Iun(ias) die natalis sui de / |(denariis) CLXXX usuras eorum epu/lentur et discumbentes / sportulas partiantur / quot(!) is observatum non / erit tunc s(ummas) s(upra) s(criptas) honoratis / coll(egii) fabr(um) tig(nuariorum) Ost(iensium) dari / volo sub condicione s(upra) s(cripta) / stipulatus est Cocilius / Hermes ispepond(it!) plebs / dedicat(um) Idib(us) Ianuari(i)s / Maximo et Glabrione / co(n)s(ulibus) ob cuius d(edicationem) d(ecurionibus) dedit ispor(tulas!) |(denarios) II

If we assume that the meal ('epulentur') and the pecuniary gift ('sportulas') both comprised 1 denarius (4 HS or €), which is a common value, this corporation would have counted 90 members. The problem with common values however is that they have less common values as their antipodes ... If in this case however, we would assume that the sportula amounted to 2 denarii (= 8 HS or €), the corporation would only count 15 members, which would be rather low. 90 therefore, I believe, is a good guess for a sizeable city as Ostia was.

In Ostia, by chance, professional corporations are well attested epigraphically, and I guess it must be possible to estimate its population as well, so a study like the one I suggested could be possible for this city, although the classical historian must always be extremelycarefull, critical and most of all modest when doing quantitative studies.

A second possibility, to get at a more general view of the relative importance of different professions, would be to look at and compare the kind of workshops and shops found in Pompeii.

Valete,

Atticus
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"Ars longa, vita brevis" - Hippocrates
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:10 am

Salve Corunciane,

I did not find the population density figures of Ostia on the internet, but they were surely much higher than the common rates, seen the large number of insulae and the great commercial importance of Rome's harbour.

Population estimates for Italy as a whole varry from 24-28 inhabitants/km² (Beloch & Brunt) to 56 inh/km² (Nissen & Frank). Generally, it is accepted that a population of 36 inh/km² is the maximum that can be maintained in a pre-industrial economy without regular import of grain. Ostia and Rome e.g. did import large amounts of grain and their population must've been much higher, perhaps up to the double of the limit afforementioned. But in the countryside, population would've been much, much lower, knowing that app. 3/4 of its population were farmers and agricultural workers.

That was a very brief and sketchy answer. For a really reliably and thorough one, I should have a quick look at the literature on the subject, which I could perhaps do next week.

Vale,

Q. Pomponius Atticus
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