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Document Details :
Title: Social Status and Economic Behavior
Subtitle: A Hidden History of the Equites?
Author(s): SHAW, Brent D.
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 50 Date: 2020
The following investigation into the role of social status and economic behavior in the ‘ancient economy’ is focused on the problem of values that are claimed to have had a determinant impact on economic outlooks and actions. The ideals set by the political class of Roman senators, for example, are often asserted to have been so influential that they were widely imitated and shared by persons of even modest wealth and ambition. My argument unpacks the historiographical and ‘archival’ nature of this claim in order to demonstrate how biased and distorted a view it is of the usual economic behaviors of most persons of equestrian status (and, a fortiori, of other non-senators). Even a modest inquiry into persons sharing this status easily reveals the wide scope of their concerns that extended far beyond land holding and closely allied activities. In fact, their economic interests were highly varied. They ranged from ones that emphasized stability and low-risk portfolios to others that were devoted to research and investment in development, more efficient means of production and exchange, and the making of commercial and other profits. The evidence suggests the need for a different kind of economic model that postulates the values themselves as more limited and contingent in nature.