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Rome's Imperial EconomyTwelve Essays$
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W. V. Harris

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595167

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199595167.001.0001

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Poverty and Destitution in the Roman Empire*

Poverty and Destitution in the Roman Empire*

Chapter:
(p.27) 2 Poverty and Destitution in the Roman Empire*
Source:
Rome's Imperial Economy
Author(s):

W. V. Harris

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199595167.003.0003

This chapter examines poverty in the Roman world. After some essential scene-setting (Italy contrasted with the provinces, towns contrasted with the countryside), it discusses subsistence needs and then argues that both the nature of the labour market and inheritance patterns make it likely that the Roman provinces suffered from a serious level of endemic destitution. The evidence on child abandonment supports the view that the direness and horror of Roman destitution has generally been underestimated. Finally, it is argued that no counter-measures significantly diminished the impact of Roman destitution prior to the advent of mass Christianity.

Keywords:   Rome, Roman Empire, poverty, poor, destitute, subsistence, labour market, inheritance, child abandonment

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