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Quantifying the Roman Economy$
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Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562596

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562596.001.0001

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Urbanization as a Proxy of Demographic and Economic Growth

Chapter:
(p.87) 2 Urbanization as a Proxy of Demographic and Economic Growth
Source:
Quantifying the Roman Economy
Author(s):

Elio Lo Cascio

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562596.003.0002

Even if it is obviously impossible to give an estimate of the populations of the urban centres of the empire, numbering perhaps as many as 2000, the sheer number of those with several hundred thousands of inhabitants would suggest that either the rate of urbanization must have been higher than 10% for the empire at large, a figure often proposed, or the total population of the empire must have been larger than 50–60 million, the figure advocated by most ancient historians. Perhaps the most plausible solution is to think that both values must be higher than estimated. This conclusion is suggested by what we know about the two regions for which we have the best set of data, Egypt and Italy, apparently exhibiting an astonishing rate of urbanization. This high level of urbanization must be thought to be evidence of the high level of per capita income reached in an ‘advanced organic economy’.

Keywords:   urbanization, population, Roman Empire, Egypt, Italy, income

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