Earning a Living: Baker, Banker, and Garum Maker

The Roman economy

Historians have argued for generations about the economic life of the Roman Empire, about its trades and industries, its financial institutions, credit systems and profit margins. On the one hand, are those who see the ancient economy in very modern terms. The Roman Empire was effectively a vast single market. There were fortunes to be made from the demand for goods and services, which also drove up productivity and stimulated trade to levels never seen before. A favourite illustration of this comes — unlikely as it may seem — from deep in the Greenland ice-cap, where it is still possible to find the residue of the pollution from Roman metal-working, not equalled again until the Industrial revolution. underwater archaeology tells much the same story. Many more shipwrecks have been discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean, from between the second century BCE and the second century CE, than from any period until the sixteenth century. This is not an indication of the poor quality of either boat-building or seamanship in the Roman period, but of the high volume of sea-borne traffic.



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