2004
Volume 129, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163

Abstract

Abstract

Cities in Roman Italy offered work to many thousands of people in all kinds of sectors. Most of that work was more or less permanent, and much of it required skill and expertise. The urban economy was subjected to periods of expansion and contraction which were partly cyclical and seasonal, partly due to such external factors as imperial policy. As a result, the labour demand of the urban economy fluctuated, in part following a pattern of predictable and regular seasonal cycles, in part as a result of less predictable and less short-term trends that were primarily caused by imperial spending. Governed by their short-term and more long-term labour strategies, members of rural households sought wage-earning labour in the cities. The low opportunity cost of many members of rural households meant that they were prepared to work for low wages at least for short periods, which lowered the urban wage-levels for unskilled labour. If they had mules or oxen, they used animal labour besides their own. While in the city of Rome the grain dole shifted the balance somewhat in comparison with cities without such free hand-outs, it did not support a large group of city-dwellers who were unemployed in slump times. Hence at peak times many people from the countryside were hired to perform wage-labour in the cities, but when labour demand contracted, in winter or when a major building project was finished, many wage-earners returned to the countryside.

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2016-11-01
2021-10-21
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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): ancient Rome; construction; grain distribution; seasonal labour; seasonal migration
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