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Poverty in the Roman World by Margaret Atkins, Robin Osborne

By Margaret Atkins, Robin Osborne

If terrible contributors have consistently been with us, societies haven't constantly noticeable the negative as a different social team. yet in the Roman international, from a minimum of the overdue Republic onwards, the bad have been a big strength in social and political lifestyles and the way to regard the terrible used to be a subject matter of philosophical in addition to political dialogue. This ebook explains what poverty intended in antiquity, and why the terrible got here to be a huge team within the Roman global, and it explores the problems which poverty and the bad raised for Roman society and for Roman writers. In essays which diversity commonly in area and time around the entire Roman Empire, the members deal with either the truth and the illustration of poverty, and think about the influence which Christianity had upon attitudes in the direction of and therapy of the negative.

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This also offers an opportunity to consider how far being poor in the metropolis may have differed from the experience elsewhere in the empire. (1) Vulnerability. To be poor was to be vulnerable, above all to food shortage. 42 However, this ubiquitous risk had the greatest impact on those who were closest to the margin of subsistence, whether because they had access to insufficient land or could count on only poorly paid and irregular employment. 43 Urban dwellers were almost wholly dependent on the market, and so their access to sufficient and affordable food might be disrupted by rumours as much as by actual harvest failure.

Anyone might fall into the latter condition as a result of accident – it will be argued below that ‘the poor’ would be particularly vulnerable to this – but in the absence of any social provision it is not a long-term prospect. If poverty is equated with destitution, the lack of any significant income, then ‘the poor’ cannot be a significant social group but only a collection of individuals in temporary distress, most of whom would either quickly recover or perish. 29 There is a question as to whether this scenario is demographically plausible, but it also leaves open the question of how one should label those whose poverty was not so extreme – precisely those who, if one distinguishes poverty from destitution, might be categorised as ‘the poor’.

23 There is no agreement on 21 22 23 Morstein-Marx (2004) 13–23, esp. 15–16; cf. Cic. Cat. 14–16. Omnino cuncta plebes novarum rerum studio Catilinae incepta probabat. Id adeo more suo videbatur facere. Nam semper in civitate quibus opes nullae sunt bonis invident, malos extollunt, vetera odere, nova exoptant, odio suarum rerum mutari omnia student. Cat. 36 represents adherence to Catiline in terms of disease, morbus and tabes. P. Alcock (1993) 3; Whittaker (1993) 2–7. 28 neville morley how ‘the poor’ as a social group should be identified; the choice of a particular set of criteria can always be criticised for its ideological assumptions and implications.

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