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CX260 - Slaves, Gold and Fish Sauce: The Roman Economy

  • Module code: CX260
  • Module name: Slaves, Gold and Fish Sauce: The Roman Economy
  • Department: Classics and Ancient History
  • Credit: 30

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

Nothing is more likely to provoke furious debate among Roman archaeologists and historians than ideas about the nature of the Roman economy. Did the Roman Empire experience economic growth? Did slavery contribute to increased productivity, or did it stifle innovation? Did the empire run out of gold and silver? Why was there long distance trade in the Mediterranean, and beyond the boundaries of the empire? Was there a market economy, and was there an important merchant class in the Roman world? To these simple questions there are no easy answers, as we will discover through an examination of the textual and archaeological evidence.

Principal learning outcomes

How can we reconstruct economic activity without any hard figures? Students learn how the material evidence and literary sources can be used in conjunction with theory, and how wider trends in economic history can affect approaches to antiquity. Topics covered include modelling the ancient economy, ancient technology, pottery, coinage, the role of the army, and case studies of provinces.

Timetabled teaching activities

There will be two 1 hour classes a week, plus two seminars a term.

Departmental link

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
30 CATS (Module code: CX260-30)
C (Assessed/examined work) Assessed Course Work 25%
Assessed Course Work 25%
Examination - Main Summer Exam Period (weeks 5-9) 50%
Assessed Course Work 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core


  • Undergraduate Italian and Classics (RQ38) - Year 3
  • Undergraduate Ancient History and Classical Archaeology (Part-Time) (VV17) - Year 2