Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name

Imperial Romans

Culture Description

The Imperial Romans period ranges over a time span of nearly 500 years, from 27 BC to AD 476, with a primary focus on the city of Rome, and secondarily on the Roman Empire at the height of the Imperial period (first to second centuries AD). By the middle of the second century AD the Roman Empire had conquered most of the then known world – North Africa (Morocco, Egypt), Gaul, Spain, parts of Germany, Britain, Central Europe, and parts of western Asia. Government in the Empire was centered in the city of Rome under the emperor, his advisers and personal staff in the administration. At its height the Roman Empire consisted of approximately 40 provinces and an aggregate of cities and towns enjoying varying degrees of self government according to the status granted to each by the central government.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Europe --Southern Europe



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Collection Information

Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The EI09 Imperial Romans collection consists of fifteen documents, all of which are in English. Historically the majority of documents in this collection focus on the first century AD, particularly from the death of Augustus in 14 AD to the accession of Trajan in 98 AD, with less emphasis on the principate of Augustus itself and on the period of 99-192 AD.

Probably the most comprehensive studies for an overall understanding of Imperial Roman history and ethnography are: Carcopino, 1940, no. 1; Rostovtsev, 1926, no. 2; Lewis & Reinhold, 1966, no. 4; and Pellisson, 1897, no. 18. Both Carcopino and Pellisson are chiefly concerned with the daily life of the citizens of Rome, while Rostovtsev deals with the social and economic history of the empire, and Lewis & Reinhold with imperial policies and administration, economic life, society and culture, life in the municipalities and provinces, the Roman army, law, and religion (particularly with the rise and eventual triumph of Christianity). The works by Columella (1960, 1968, 1968, nos. 6, 7, and 8) present perhaps one of the most comprehensive and systematic of all treatises by a Roman writer on agricultural affairs and animal husbandry. Loane (1938, no. 10)presents a detailed study of the provisioning of the city of Rome (50 BC-200 AD), including data on various aspects of trade, manufacturing, and other associated commercial activities. Rivenburg, 1939, no. 11, gives an account of what Seneca thought about the fashionable life and manners of this day (i. e., 35-65 AD). While coverage in this document is broad rather than deep, this study is valuable for its insights into the moral judgments of the time. Tanzier (1939, no. 12), written by an archaeologist, is an attempt to study the life of the common people of Pompeii as revealed through their graffiti, friezes, and wall paintings which were preserved in the ashes resulting from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD The documents by Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus) in this collection (1967, 1969, 1969, 1966, 1968, nos. 13-17), are all from his Natural History, an encyclopedic inventory of the knowledge about natural history held by the Romans of that time. The contents deal with ethnometeorology and ethnogeography (no. 13), ethnosociology, ethnopsychology and ethoanatomy (no. 14), the medicinal use of plants (nos. 15 and 16, and a study of metals, minerals and a history of art (no. 17).

The collection of documents in this unit centers primarily on the city of Rome, and secondarily on the Roman Empire at the height of the Imperial period. Although the collection is generally well balanced, especially for the first century AD, there are some areas of coverage which are poorly represented, if at all. These areas are in the study of the language itself, Roman kinship and kin groups, Roman religion (excluding Christianity which is fairly well covered), and sex. With the exception of Tanzer (1939, no. 12), most of the cultural data found in the collection deal with the middle or upper classes of Roman society, with very little information on the lower classes.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citation preceding each document.

This culture summary, including the synopsis and indexing notes, were written by John Beierle in August 2006.

Collection Indexing Notes

Athlete’s guilds (a form of union) - use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)" and "SPECTACLES (541)"

Bailiffs – farm overseers - use "TILLAGE (241)" and "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Cenacula –flats of the upper stories of an apartment building - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Christianity in Rome - use "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"

Claques – hired applauders - use "OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION (463)"

Clepsydra – a water clock composed of a transparent vessel of water with a regular intake placed near a sundial - use "ORDERING OF TIME (805)"

“corporations” or trade guilds - use "LABOR ORGANIZATION (467)"

Domus – a private house - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Feriae – public games - use "ATHLETIC SPORTS (526)" and "SPECTACLES (541)"

“Greek games” – use "SPECTACLES (541)"

Honestiores – a class of Roman citizens including senators, knights and their families, soldiers and veterans and municipal office holders with their descendents - use "CLASSES (565)"

Hoplomachia – gladiatorial combat - use "SPECTACLES (541)"

Horologium – the Roman sundial - use "ORDERING OF TIME (805)"

Horrea – warehouses - use "WAREHOUSING (488)"

Humiliores – the working classes of Roman citizens, not included under honestiores - use "CLASSES (565)"

Ingénue – free born men - use "CLASSES (565)"

Insulae – apartment houses - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Iugerum – a land measurement equivalent to about three-fifths of an acre - use "WEIGHTS AND MEASURES (804)"

Ius civile – law applied to the Roman citizens - use "LEGAL NORMS (671)”

Ius gentium – the law applying to foreign nations - use "LEGAL NORMS (671)" and "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS (648)"

Librarii – publishers - use "PUBLISHING (214)"

Ludi – public holidays - use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)"

Maeniana - balconies - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Manes – spirits of the dead - use "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

Obsequium – obligation of respect - use "ETIQUETTE (576)" and "ETHICS (577)"

Ornatrix – hair-dressers for women - use "BEAUTY SPECIALISTS (305)"

Persecution of Christians - use "RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND MARTYRS(798)"

Pergulae – loggias of a house - use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Recitation – public readings - use "LITERATURE (538)"

Sesterces – a unit of money equal to about 4 U.S cents - use "MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE (436)"

Solaria – pocket sundials - use "ORDERING OF TIME (805)"

Sportula- the distribution of food or money by a patron to his client - use "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)" and "GIFT GIVING (431)"

Tabernae – booths and shops - use "BUSINESS STRUCTURES (347)"

The “three-children privilege” - use "POPULATION POLICY (168)" and "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Tonsor – barbers; hair-dressers for men - use "BEAUTY SPECIALISTS (305)"

Vestal virgins – a maiden or virgin consecrated to the Roman goddess Vesta and to the service of watching that the sacred fire on her altar is kept perpetually burning - use "PRIESTHOOD (793)"

Vici – quarters within the fourteen regions of Rome, separated from each other by the streets which bounded them - use "CITIES (633)"

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