Population, Inequality, and the Urban Economy
This chapter discusses some of the basic parameters that underlay Pompeii’s economy, particularly focusing on the relationships between population, hinterland, and consumption. Starting from a critical analysis of Pompeii’s excavated housing stock, the chapter revaluates population estimates, suggesting a range between 7,500 and 13,500, and argues that Pompeii’s natural hinterland would only have been able to feed this population if they all lived at subsistence level, something that is at odds with the evidence for widespread consumption of domestic luxury and wall paintings. The city’s size and the degree to which sub-elite groups had structural access to elements of the elite lifestyle can only be understood from Pompeii’s ties with the outside world, whether through trade, such as wine export, or through capital flows resulting from the proximity of the Roman elite.
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