Social and Economic Rigidity of Classes
In fact there was some social and economic mobility and vitality. One cannot make simplistic interpretation of social conditions from legal sources. The archaeological and epigraphic (inscriptions) testimony helps to qualify legal, narrative, and rhetorical ones. Better understanding of archaeological evidence helps to understand better the substantial commercial exchanges between Syria, North Africa, and Spain, in particular shipments of olive oil and wine and ceramics. Ramsay MacMullen wrote a major essay against the stereotype that social classes were frozen in late antiquity, "Social Mobility and the Theodosian Code." [See MacMullen, Ramsay. "Social Mobility and the Theodosian Code," Journal of Roman Studies 54 (1964): 49-53]
Hope, Valerie. “Social Pecking Order in the Roman World” BBC. Link to resource (accessed April 1, 2010).
Walter E. Kaegi
Professor of History, University of Chicago
1. Describe the distinguishing features of citizen and non-citizen in the Roman Empire and discuss the opportunities afforded to those of citizen status.
2. According to the author, what impact does wealth have on social status and how is it used to gain privilege and advantage?