To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
This chapter assesses the extent, nature, and causes of economic change in Egypt in the first three centuries of Roman rule. It argues for significant aggregate and per capita growth in the first two centuries, attributable to the institutional, commercial, and behavioral impact of integration into the Roman world. Next, following the Antonine plague, some aggregate decline in production but renewed, if more differentiated, per capita growth is attributable to internal socioeconomic changes. Study of the extant census returns, the richest standardized source of demographic data from Roman Egypt, points to a high mortality and high fertility regime. Egypt was famed throughout antiquity for its amazing agricultural output, the result of the annual Nile inundation with its rich silt deposit, which, unlike the Euphrates and Tigris spates, conveniently coincided with the sowing season for arable crops. Urbanization was one of the main socioeconomic developments in Roman Egypt, as it was in most provinces of the Roman empire.
In the broad history of ancient poverty Roman Egypt is no exception. Christianisation in the fourth century made poverty prominent. In Christian literature from Egypt charity to the poor is a virtue preached constantly and generally, enacted by individuals and the church itself. For instance, a late antique pilgrim found the porch of a church in Oxyrhynchus crowded with poor people sleeping over in anticipation of the weekly hand-out on Sunday morning. When papyrus documents re-emerge in the late fifth century after their curious near disappearance during the previous hundred years, they too attest regular support by church organisations for the poor – widows especially, but also orphans, the old and the infirm – mainly in the form of provision of foodstuffs and clothing. In Roman Egypt of the first to third centuries ad, as elsewhere in the Roman world, there is no comparable literature of poverty, no comparable ideology of charity and no comparable documented institutions of poor-relief. The same seems largely true of Ptolemaic Egypt.
Three main hypotheses are on offer for this striking difference. All have been proposed for the Roman and Byzantine worlds in general rather than for Egypt in particular, but they are transferable as models.