Bakers and Bakeries in the Roman Empire: Production, Power, Prestige

Benton, Jared, History of Art and Architecture - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dobbins, John, Department of Art, University of Virginia

Bakers and Bakeries in the Roman Empire: Production, Power, and Prestige, proposes specialization and subsequent commercial production as two of the driving forces of urbanization, economic growth, and other forms of cultural change under the Roman Empire. At the heart of this study is a simple hypothesis: industrial architecture is shaped by the same social relationships that defined Roman domestic spaces, such as master and slave or patron and client. This study weaves the material evidence – and associated theory – with the literary, epigraphic, papyrological, and juridical evidence. The physical remains of the bakeries are visualized and analyzed in GIS, but assessed through network and viewshed analyses. Although GIS provides the basic framework for analysis, operating sequences (chaînes opératoires) provide the necessary interpretive link between the patterns in the material remains and the processes that defined them. The archaeological remains of bakeries suggest that bakers were fully capable of providing bread for entire cities, were making fairly large sums of money, and found themselves in the rather unique position (at least for the Roman world) of being neither elite, nor poor and destitute. The epigraphic and legal evidence indicates that the commercial success of Roman bakers earned them a degree of power, but their behavior, collectively, is more characterized by their restraint – or unwillingness – to implement that power.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Bakeries, Roman Archaeology, Ancient Economy, Roman Social Relations
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