Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.08.34

Jean Andreau, Véronique Chankowski (ed.), Vocabulaire et expression de l'économie dans le monde antique. Études, 19.   Pessac:  Ausonius, 2007.  Pp. 463.  ISBN 9788910023920.  €35.00.  



Reviewed by Giovanni Geraci, Department of Ancient History, University of Bologna (giovanni.geraci@unibo.it)
Word count: 1640 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book is the product of a joint research effort which has been going on since 2000, the first installment of which was the volume "Mentalités et choix économiques des Romains", published in 2004.1 Its ultimate aim is both to enlarge and to deepen our present understanding of economic behaviour and attitudes in the ancient Near East, Greece and Rome. The stress is on how the Ancients saw what we call economics and economic activity. The editors in their 'Introduction' insist that they do not claim that a vocabulary specifically devoted to economic matters ever existed in antiquity. That is why they chose to enlarge the investigation field to social structures, identities, hierarchies and ideologies.

The first part ('Identité sociale et expression de l'économie') deals mainly with the vocabulary of commerce, trade and related occupations.

Laetitia Graslin ('Le vocabulaire des échanges dans les textes mésopotamiens d'époque néo-babylonienne ') considers the written sources of the second half of the first millennium B.C. , the period which offers the best comparison with other periods of antiquity. The accounts and receipts from temple archives are studied for mentions of both local and long-distance commerce and for expressions of purchase, exchange and price. The author stresses that these are not yet clearly distinct from notions like barter or gift.

Paul Karvonis ('Le vocabulaire des installations commerciales en Grèce aux époques classique et hellénistique') scrutinizes the meaning and functions of place names linked to commerce, like 'agora' (with the particular locations where specific products were sold), 'kukloi', 'deigma', 'ergasterion', 'apotheke' and so on, ending with very general designations like 'stoa' or 'oikema' or 'oikia'. Lastly he draws up a list of terms connected to craft or trade activities on the one hand or storage on the other hand.

Jean-Baptiste Yon ('Les commerçants du Proche-Orient: désignation et vocabulaire') gathers together and discusses representations of Oriental traders in literary sources and then compares them with epigraphical dossiers from Athens, Delos and the Roman West. Secondly, he studies the small traders of Roman and protobyzantine Syria, ending with the large and long-distance trade of Dura and Palmyra.

Koenraad Verboven ('Ce que negotiari et ses dérivés veulent dire') scrutinizes in depth the meaning of 'negotiari' and 'negotiator' in the various fields of economic activities: 'mercatura', 'faeneratio' and finance, agriculture, industry, services and taxation. He then considers the social implications of using these terms.

Nicolas Tran ('La mention épigraphique des métiers artisanaux et commerciaux dans l'épigraphie de l'Italie centro-méridionale') looks for the economic, social or personal reasons that induced people to mention occupations in the epigraphical sources of Central and Southern Italy.

The second part of the book ('La manifestation des hiérarchies sociales dans le vocabulaire et ses enjeux idéologiques') is mainly centred on the question of how social hierarchies are reflected in vocabulary, in order also to stress the links between this particular aspect and economic matters in general.

Sylvie Pittia ('L'invisible hiérarchie censitaire romaine') runs through the census organisation of Rome, the attribution of Roman citizens to census classes and the use of contrasting 'classicus' and 'adsiduus' with 'proletarius' or 'capite census'. She underlines the difficulty in understanding why such an archaic division was mantained in later times and also stresses the impossibility of finding it in daily Roman life.

Along similar lines, Jean-Manuel Roubineau ('Les hektémores') attempts to understand the specific meaning of the technical word 'hektemoroi'. He concludes that the 'hektemoroi' are agricultural workers who are compelled to be in service by their creditors, who keep part of their salary in repayment of their debts.

Clara Berrendonner ('Mercennarius dans les sources littéraires') sketches the ethical and economic implications of the term 'mercennarius', exploring its juridical connections and also looking at manual labour in large-scale agricultural activities (like vintage, crop harvesting or oil making within the villa system), where the boundaries among juridic categories are often slight.

Jean Andreau ('Remarques sur le quaestus') goes through the economic and social aspects of three different meanings of 'quaestus' (the first two much more 'social' -- as related to one's milieu -- and less 'economic' then the third): 1) the behaviour of common people to earn their daily bread; 2) the supplementary income of the nobility's estate; 3) the sums gained from the selling of products. The last issue appears only in the early imperial period.

André Tchernia ('Le plebiscitum Claudianum') develops some further reflections on the plebiscitum of 219-218 B.C., which forbade senators to own a sea-going vessel bringing more than 300 amphoras. Returning to the meaning of 'quaestus', Tchernia puts the measure within the political and social framework of the polemical struggle towards the Punic (commercial and 'chrematistic') maritime way of enrichment and looks at the moral necessity to prevent senators participating in contracts for transporting government grain.

Monique Dondin-Peyre ('La place de l'économie dans l'expression épigraphique des notables des trois Gaules') scrutinizes the epigraphic habit of Gallic provinces in order to discover the ways to express nobility and/or richness and the relation between the two.

The third and last part of the book focuses on fiscality. Its aim is not to describe in detail the taxation systems of the Greek and Roman world, but to analyze through fiscal vocabulary the economic thought and logic that lie over and beyond them. That is why in particular the first two papers (by Chankowski and France) were conceived in fully similar terms ('Les catégories du vocabulaire de la fiscalité dans les cités grecques' and 'Les catégories du vocabulaire de la fiscalité dans le monde romain').

Véronique Chankowski starts by underlining the distinctions between 'prosodoi' and 'poroi', and then contrasts 'phoroi' and 'tele', and goes on to develop a very clever sketch of tax categories and tax systems, addressing also the problem of the interrelations between royal and civic taxation. She ends by considering whether it is useful and proper to apply to such a field the vocabulary and categories used to describe and class modern taxation systems.

In his parallel essay on Roman fiscality Jérôme France shows the transition from the 'imperial republic' to 'tributary empire' and discusses concepts like 'stipendium' and 'tributum', 'vectigal', 'stipendiarius' and 'vectigalis' in their evolution from their republican meaning to their imperial development. Very interesting also in this paper is the attempt to compare modern vocabulary and ancient tax categories, with examples drawn from modern French historiography and classifications, which leads to a very useful proposal for classifying Roman contributions.

Isabelle Pernin ('L'impôt foncier existait-il en Grèce ancienne?') scrutinizes the sources in order to check Boeckh's claim that there existed in Ancient Greece no form of direct taxation and in particular no example of taxes on real property. She identifies the majority of impositions quoted as taxes on land products and tries to connect the very few (and much discussed) cases of taxes on land with exceptional contributions due to some exceptional reasons.

The paper of Jean-Jacques Aubert ('Le vocabulaire de la fiscalité en Égypte gréco-romaine') is just a brief sketch of the taxation system in Roman Egypt and its wording, mostly in order to show how a difficult and complex task it is to study it through the richness of the papyrological sources.

Laurianne Martinez-Sève ('L'expression de la fiscalité chez Flavius Josèphe') shows Flavius Josephus' interest in the fiscality of the different periods treated in his works, going from taxes connected with cult or religion, through the categories of 'phoroi' and 'tele', to Roman tributes. A very useful summary table of the different taxation types with reference to the relevant passages is appended.

Roland Delmaire ('Le vocabulaire de l'exemption fiscale dans la législation du bas-empire romain') looks at the vocabulary of exemption from taxes in Late Roman Empire, exploring issues like 'immunitas', 'relevatio', 'absolutio', 'excusatio', 'relaxatio', 'remissio' and 'vacatio'.

The book is enriched by many useful and detailed indexes (references to literary, juridical, epigraphic and papyrological sources; Greek and Latin words; topics) which are a precious aid to the reader.

To sum up, this is a very good work of interest both for facing theoretical and technical issues and for showing how the ancient 'economic' theories are deeply embedded and rooted in societies' schemes and conceptions.

Table of Contents:

J. Andreau / V. Chankowski: Introduction (I-V).
1. Identité sociale et expression de l'économie:
- L. Graslin: Le vocabulaire des échanges dans les textes mésopotamiens d'époque néo-babylonienne (11-33);
- P. Karvonis: Le vocabulaire des installations commerciales en Grèce aux époques classique et hellénistique (35-49);
- J.-B. Yon: Les commerçants du Proche-Orient: désignation et vocabulaire (51-87);
- K. Verboven: Ce que negotiari et ses dérivés veulent dire (89-118);
- N. Tran: La mention épigraphique des métiers artisanaux et commerciaux dans l'épigraphie de l'Italie centro-méridionale (119-141).
2. La manifestation des hiérarchies sociales dans le vocabulaire et ses enjeux idéologiques:
- S. Pittia. L'invisible hiérarchie censitaire romaine (145-175);
- J.-M. Roubineau: Les hektémores (177-209);
- C. Berrendonner: Mercennarius dans les sources littéraires (211-231);
- J. Andreau: Remarques sur le quaestus (233-251);
- A. Tchernia: Le plebiscitum Claudianum (253-278);
- M. Dondin-Payre: La place de l'économie dans l'expression épigraphique des notables des trois Gaules (279-293).
3. Le vocabulaire fiscal: terminologie et classifications:
- V. Chankowski: Les catégories du vocabulaire de la fiscalité dans les cités grecques (299-331);
- J. France: Les catégories du vocabulaire de la fiscalité dans le monde romain (333-368);
- I. Pernin: L'impôt foncier existait-il en Grèce ancienne? (369-383);
- J.-J. Aubert: Le vocabulaire de la fiscalité en Égypte gréco-romaine (385-397);
- L. Martinez-Sève: L'expression de la fiscalité chez Flavius Josèphe (399-421);
- R. Delmaire: Le vocabulaire de l'exemption fiscale dans la législation du bas-empire romain (423-431).
Index des sources (433-452).
Index des mots grecs et latins (453-455).
Index des matières (457-463).

Notes:


1.   It is worth noting that in Italy in the same year appeared A. Storchi Marino (ed.), Economia, amministrazione e fiscalità nel mondo romano. Ricerche lessicali, Bari 2004, a work that is fruitful to compare and to read together with the book here reviewed.

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