The Economy of the Early Roman Empire
Many inhabitants of ancient Rome lived well. Tourists marvel at the temples, baths, roads and aqueducts that they built. Economists also want to understand the existence of a flourishing and apparently prosperous economy two millennia ago. Market institutions and a stable government appear to have been the combination that produced this remarkable result. This essay provides an economist's view of the Roman economy that emphasizes the role of markets. I focus on the early Roman Empire, from 27 BCE to around 200 CE. I begin with some indications suggesting that the standard of living in ancient Rome was similar to that of early modern period of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, an extraordinary achievement for any economy in the ancient world. I then argue that ancient Rome managed to achieve this high standard of living through the combined operation of moderately stable political conditions and markets for goods, labor and capital, which allowed specialization and efficiency. After surveying the labor and financial markets in turn, I return to the broad questions of how the Romans prospered and the economy appears to have grown.
Volume (Year): 20 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Temin, Peter, 2004. "Financial Intermediation in the Early Roman Empire," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(03), pages 705-733, September.
- Temin, Peter, 2002. "Price Behavior in Ancient Babylon," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 46-60, January.
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- Goldsmith, Raymond W, 1984. "An Estimate of the Size and Structure of the National Product of the Early Roman Empire," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 30(3), pages 263-88, September.
- Peter Temin, 2001. "A Market Economy in the Early Roman Empire," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _039, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
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- Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
- Peter Temin, 2001. "A Market Economy in the Early Roman Empire," Economics Series Working Papers 2001-W39, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
- Temin, Peter, 1980. "Modes of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 175-195, June.
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