Common Causes: Craftsmen, Merchants, and Communities in Roman and Late Roman Egypt


ACLS Fellowship Program


Classical and Modern Languages


Agriculture, considered the only honorable and proper pursuit by the ancient elite, occupies a privileged position in ancient economic thought. Status concerns and a desire not for profit, but to appear honorable, informed elite and non-elite economic decisions. Models of the economy based on this ideological outlook contained in elite texts disregard the contributions of craftsmen, merchants, and guilds to the economic life of communities. This project investigates guilds in Roman Egypt (30 BCE - 642 CE) on the basis of documentary papyri, inscriptions, and legal texts. As such, it challenges these models and contend that non-elites approached the economic world differently than elites by examining these groups on their own terms, and not on the basis of elite texts alone.