The economy of the early Roman Empire

The economy of the early Roman Empire and the late Republic of Rome was driven primarily by trade. Although in modern times history the economic basis of the Roman Empire has been neglected and focus has been directed to the exploits of the Roman Legions and Lingua France of Latin, it is important to note that Rome had an estimated population of over a million and to sustain its population, the economy had to be centered on a central avenue and this avenue was trade.

Most of the Romans were traders and this ensured that the empire lasted a long time, probably one of the longest lasting empires the world will ever witness[1].

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Theoretically, there was a prohibition of the members of the senate to be indulged in business and this also applied to their family members. However, the Equestrian Order members were hugely involved in business not withstanding the fact they belonging to the upper class, the society expected them to be involved more in leisure and military activities and pursuits.
There were also a huge proportion of slaves who were responsible for doing most of the work while the Plebeians practically held shops and manned stalls around the vicinity of the markets.
The slaves were also involved in the commerce of the empire and they played a great role in giving the empire’s commerce a distinct flavor compared to other commerce in the world[2].
Thesis Statement
The study will focus on the Roman Empire involvement in the Mediterranean trade and how this trade was conducted and how it benefited the Roman Empire. The study will look in the Maritime routes that were present during the trade and how they helped in the development of trade among various regions in the world including Asia, India, Africa and Western Europe.
The study will also strive to look into the regions that benefited from the various commodities of the trade and how they came to be powerful empires as well. This study will look into the ancient Roman trade partners and what commodities were exchanged during the trade.
The Study will also look into the importance of certain commodities to the Roman Empire and chief among them will be marble.
Maritime Routes
Archaeological studies of the ancient maritime trends supported by manuscripts derived from Classical antiquity have proved that the Roman Empire was in possession of numerous fleets of ships. Also as a show of evidence of the maritime trade conducted by the Roman Empire are the ruins and remains of lighthouses, moles, harbors and warehouses which were found in the ports of Caesarea Maritima, Ostia, Civitavecchia, Leptis Magna and Portus.
As with other forms of technology, the Roman maritime technology was not as advanced as that of the Greeks. It is evidence that the Roman fleets were constructed with great concern about the security of the fleets.
This is because there was lead sheeting for hulls which were meant for protection. They used sailing ships which were round hulled. One of the factors that led to the success of the Roman Maritime Commerce was the continued policing that run over a number of centuries. This was necessitated by the fact that their ships had been an easy prey for the pirates[3].
The sea transport was widely used for transporting of commodities which were low valued yet very bulky. This mainly comprised of construction materials and grains. One of the reasons for this was that the sea transport was the cheapest mode of transport that the Roman Empire could afford. They used to import cereals and papyrus from Ptolemaic Egypt and this followed a continuous fashion[4].
The Roman Empire trade via the Indian Ocean blossomed in the first two centuries of CE. The Roman sailors would make use of the Monsoon winds to cross to such ports as Myos Hormos, Roman Egypt, Red Sea Muziris and Malabar Coast. The Tamil dynasties were their leading trade partners the region of Southern India and this can be evidenced by the numerous Roman artifacts that are found in India.
[1] Donkin, Robin A. (2003). Between East and West: The Moluccas and the Traffic in Spices Up to the Arrival of Europeans. Diane Publishing Company, p. 45, pp 65 – 94
[2] Carter, Mia; Harlow, Barbara (2004). Archives of Empire: From the East India Company to the Suez Canal. Duke University Press pp 54 – 96.
[3] Casson, L., Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1971. pp 12 – 59
[4] Rawlinson, Hugh George (2001). Intercourse Between India and the Western World: From the Earliest Times of the Fall of Rome. Asian Educational Services. pp. 87 – 198.

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