Annalisa Marzano

Capital Accumulation and Production: A View from the Roman world


The different perspectives brought by disciplines such as economics, sociology, and history have emphasized different aspects and characteristics as essential components of what makes “capitalism.” This variety of definitions has, in turn, raised the question of whether “capitalism” can be identified in past historical periods, including classical antiquity. This paper will be largely informed by the archaeological evidence from the Roman world and will explore two key components of capitalism: accumulation of capital and production.

The aim of the paper is to discuss the motivations behind the desire to accumulate wealth in the Roman early imperial period as revealed by archaeological examples. By focusing on case-studies, the paper will investigate the mechanisms behind the accumulation of capital in connection to the development of viticulture in Gaul and in Hispania Tarraconensis in the early imperial period; the growth in investment related to large-scale fishing and processing of fish products; and the intensification and growth of horticulture and arboriculture attested for the early first century AD. The key questions the paper will investigate concern who was able to accumulate capital in the Roman world and if, and to what degree, social mobility impacted on capital accumulation; and whether capital accumulation allowed for investment in innovation and improvements in production or was largely used for conspicuous consumption, which characterized the highly-competitive behavior of the Roman elite.



Coming Autumn 2019.