IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)


  • Robert Allen
  • Robert C. Allen


The paper compares the standard of living of labourers in the Roman Empire in 301 AD with the standard of living of labourers in Europe and Asia from the middle ages to the industrial revolution. Roman data are drawn from Diocletian`s Price Edict. The real wage of Roman workers was like that of their counterparts in the lagging parts of Europe and much of Asia in the middle of the eighteenth century. Roman workers earned just enough to buy a minimal subsistence consumption basket. Real wages were considerably higher in the advanced parts of Europe in the eighteenth century, as they had been in Europe generally following the Black Death in 1348-9.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian`s Price Edict (301 AD)," Economics Series Working Papers 363, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:363

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Koepke, Nikola & Baten, Joerg, 2005. "The biological standard of living in Europe during the last two millennia," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(01), pages 61-95, April.
    2. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
    3. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2005. "The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 546-579, June.
    5. 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 263-288, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. links for 2010-02-11
      by Brad DeLong in Grasping Reality with the Invisible Hand on 2010-02-11 14:05:21


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Orley Ashenfelter, 2012. "Comparing Real Wage Rates: Presidential Address," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 617-642, April.
    2. Ashenfelter, Orley, 2012. "Comparing Real Wage Rates," IZA Discussion Papers 6500, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Baomin Dong & Jiong Gong & Kaixiang Peng & Zhongxiu Zhao, 2015. "Little Divergence: Evidence from Cotton Textiles in Japan and China 1868–1930," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 776-796, November.
    4. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2011. "Technology and the Great Divergence," Economics Series Working Papers 548, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Standard of Living; Real Wage; Roman Empire; Long Run Economic Growth;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:363. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Anne Pouliquen). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.