Standardisation and Localism in the Legal and Economic world of the Romans

Brussels and Ghent 8-10 June 2023

A conference of the international network ‘Structural Determinants of Economic Performance in the Roman World’ , organised under the auspices of the Committee for Legal History (KVAB)
by Emilia Mataix (Bilbao, Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU), Koenraad Verboven (Ghent University), Paul Erdkamp (Brussels, VUB)



The adoption of standards in the Roman world is manifested in the production of objects, the use of measuring units, the construction of infrastructure, but also in symbolic representations of power by means of material culture, as well as in the use of standard contracts or reproducing legal formulaic writings. The effective use of these standards shows that individual beliefs, cultural norms, and formal institutions were aligned so as to reinforce trust among parties. Rome saw a proliferation of such abstract systems of trust, for example, by using standard weights and measures, which profoundly affected people’s lives from the most public settings to the most intimate.
However, one of the paradoxes of the Roman world is that, while standard objects or practices echoing Roman influences spread along different areas, the extension of these involved in many cases the further development or assimilation of foreign practices, objects or concepts, mixing cultural traditions or instead, reinforcing self-identity at a local level. One key example are the weights employed at different eastern Mediterranean ports, which translated Roman imperial units into local ones.
This international conference will be devoted to the study of the manifestations of standardisation and localisms in law and the economy of the Roman world, and consequently, their impact in diverse phenomena such as symbols, legal culture or commercial practices, but also in material culture, infrastructure and landscapes. The event also aims to recontextualize standards not only as echoes of Roman domination but as evidence of diverse socioeconomic practices and cross-cultural encounters, and how these are materially reflected echoing issues such as integration, assimilation, resilience, or a combination of imperial and provincial practices.

  • The conference focuses on six research questions:
    What is imperial and what local in the use of standards in different contexts? What does that imply about scale and integration in the Roman world?
  • How did people in the empire negotiate and integrate “Roman” standards in their society, economy, and culture? And vice versa?
  • What are the ethnic, cultural economic, legal or political reasons behind the attribution of specific names to phenomena or items linked with numeracy metrology or scale (e.g. pecunia from pecus, sheep)? Vice versa, what is the impact of a standard’s “identity” on how people perceive phenomena such as numeracy or scale?
  • How idiosyncratic or diverse could local adaptations of standards be in order to be understood by different economic agents?
  • How accurate were standards in the Roman world expected to be?
  • How did Roman standardised objects (e.g. amphorae or coins) or practices (e.g. legal procedures) and their particularities relate to their descriptions in textual sources?


Day 1. Thursday 8th of June, 2023
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts (

9:30 Registration

9:45 Welcome: Emilia Mataix (organizer)

Session 1. Law and Legal Symbols
Chair: Emilia Mataix Ferrándiz

  • 10:00 Keynote Kaius Tuori (University of Helsinki), The emergence of legal standards and the Roman expansion from the Republic to the Principate
  • 10:45 Questions and discussion

10:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 11:15 Jakub Urbanik (University of Warsaw & Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Münster), ´The so-called Gnomon of the Idioslogos. Towards standardization of law in Roman Egypt?
  • 11:45 Lucia Colella (University of Naples. ‘Federico II’), ´Latin and bilingual petitions to the prefect of Egypt´
  • 12:15 Peter Candy (University of Edinburgh), ´Standard form contracts in long-distance trade
  • 12:45 general recap and discussion

Lunch break. 13:15-14:30

Session 2. Numeracy, Money, and Coinage
Chair: Paul Erdkamp (Vrije Universiteit Brussels)

  • 14:30 Keynote Serafina Cuomo (Durham University), Trust me, I’m a banker: trust, numeracy and money in the ancient Roman world
  • 15:15 Questions and discussion

15:25 Coffee & tea break

  • 15:45 Merav Haklai (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev),  Interest-bearing deposits in the Roman empire: A triple comparison
  • 16:15 Gianluca Mandatori (CSIC-Escuela Española de historia y arqueología, Roma), Identity, Integration and Markets: Roman monetary production between localism and standardization´
  • 16:45 General recap and discussion

Day 2. Friday 9th June, 2023
Ghent, Culture and Convention Het Pand, Priorzaal

Session 3. Infrastructure: From Buildings and institutions to Socio-Economic Phenomena
Chair: Arjan Zuiderhoek (Ghent University)

  • 10:00 Keynote Astrid Van Oyen (Radboud University Nijmegen), Whose Standard?
  • 10:45 Questions and discussion

10:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 11:15 Kevin Woram (University of Virginia),  Probus Agoranomus: Greek Influence on the Aedileship and Marketplace Standardization at Rome in the Third Century BCE. ´
  • 11:45. Marine Lépée (Univ-Lyon 2-Univ Lausanne), Commercial buildings in Lugdunum and Vienna: between Roman models and local specificities (1st century BC – 3rd century AD)´
  • 12:15: Nicolas Solonakis (Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne), Roman standards and Greek traditions in the shaping of ancient agriculture
  • 12:45 general recap and discussion

Lunch break. 13:15-14:30

Session 4. Material culture: Objects, Metrology and Technology
Chair: Arjan Zuiderhoek (Ghent University)

  • 14:30 Keynote Andrew Riggsby (University of Texas at Austin), Standardization and standardizations
  • 15:15 Questions and discussion

15:25 Coffee & tea break

  • 15:45 Charles Doyen (Université Catholique de Louvain), Glocalisation of weight standards: The adoption of the Roman libra in the Eastern Mediterranean (1st c. BCE – 3rd c. CE)
  • 16:15 Mariagrazia Rizzi, Clara Bosi e Elena Ferrari (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca), Standardization: Overcoming trade barriers while preserving local traditions in IG II2 1013´
  • 16:45 Jordi Pérez González, Javier Heredero Berzosa y Antonio Aguilera Martín (CEIPAC Barcelona), Quantifying Hispanic Numerals. Capacities and weights under control
  • 17:15 general recap and discussion

19:30. Conference dinner

Day 3- Saturday 10th of June
Ghent, Culture and Convention Het Pand, Priorzaal

Session 5: Landscape, Space and Scale
Chair: Emilia Mataix Ferrándiz

  • 9:00 Keynote Miko Flohr (Leiden University), Standardizing Encounter: Architecture and Economic Interaction in Roman urban landscapes
  • 9:45 Questions and discussion (10 min)

9:55 Coffee & tea break

  • 10:15 Alexandru Martalogu (University of Oxford), Centuries in the Making? Augustan City Foundations, Legal Denominations, and the Integration of ‘Roman’ Standards
  • 10:45 Filippo Incontro (Universitâ di Trento), Legal standardisation and localism in Africa Romana. Sufetes Africae as ‘good’ romanisation?
  • 11:15 Mateo González Vázquez (Universität Trier), Amphorae as a Proxy for Standardized Consumption and Market Integration: A Case Study from the Roman Province of Upper Germania
  • 11.45 general recap and discussion
  • 12:15 Closing remarks: Nicholas Purcell (Brasenose college Oxford).
  • 12.45 final comments

13.00 Closure of the workshop


Kaius Tuori (University of Helsinki),
Was legal pluralism the standard of Roman Empire? Remarks on a theoretically misplaced discussion

The purpose of this paper is to explore the ramifications of the conflict between two evolving theoretical frameworks in understanding law and community in the Roman worlds. Within the legal sphere, a new strand of research that has sought to distance itself from the earlier state-centered approach, has argued that Roman policy from the Republic to the Principate was that of legal pluralism, allowing local communities to use their own laws. In studies on Roman urbanism, new work has rejected the traditional narrative of Romanization, that the spread of a Roman model of community was the work of colonists sent out from Rome and the willing adaptation of the dominant Roman culture, seeking instead to highlight provincial agency in a globalizing environment. By using examples of the legal implications of Roman expansion, the paper seeks to highlight issues such as applying post-colonial theories to the ancient world, seeking agency from the margins and overcoming the silence of the traditional sources. In doing so, it argues for the situationalizing of narratives and discussions on how actors and groups would frequently talk past each other in what may only be described as creative misunderstanding that would have important consequences for the Roman legal world.

Jakub Urbanik (University of Warsaw),
The so-called Gnomon of the Idioslogos. Towards standardization of law in Roman Egypt?

The legal order of Roman Egypt is a paramount example of legal pluralism in Antiquity. Already the Ptolemies governing their multicultural and diverse subjects applied local Egyptian law alongside various prescriptions of Hellenic and other provenances (i.a. Jewish law, as it seems). Upon conquering the province, the Romans thus encountered a network of norms stemming from different legal traditions, on which their own legal order and practice was interposed. A question of standarization of the legal order(s) seems to have been vital for the proper functioning of the province. And yet, interestingly enough, the Romans themselves hardly ever turned to the tools typical for such process in the later epochs: i.e. acts of ordering, as codifications or collections of general applications. The notable exception in that field is the so-called Gnomon of the Idios Logos: excerpts from the imperial instructions on the applicable legal norms issued for the supervisor of the Private Domain, who played a chief role in issuing orders of confiscation (to the benefit of the fiscus), as well as the recipient of payments from the priestly offices. The prologue of the text presents it as stemming from the original mandatum of Augustus, yet the version preserved chiefly in BGU V 1210 was updated with the posterior developments (including later imperial orders, resolutions of the senate, and judicial decisions of the Roman officials in the province), and then abridged by an unknown individual to make a practical guide of semi-official–semi-private character, designed perhaps to aid day-to-day work of lower administration. My hitherto research suggests that the core of that work happen under the reign of Hadrian (even if the BGU version is most probably datable to the reign of Antoninus Pius). The questions I would like address in my proposed paper will focus thus on the Gnomon and standardization of the law in Egypt:

  • to what extent was the Gnomon consciously used as a tool of standardization (first by its eponymic maker, and then by the Roman administration);
  • why were there attempts to standardize certain areas of law-application, while other were left – seemingly – untouched;
  • was the process of standardization more of collection or innovative procedure and, finally, whether our understanding of ‘standardization’ as such is really applicable to Gnomon, and to Roman Egypt at large.

The conference Standardisation and Localism in the Legal and Economic world of the Romans will coincide with the conclusion of my fellowship at Käte Hamburger Kolleg Unity and Plurality of Law in Münster where I shall focus on the study of the Gnomon with the context of standarisation of the law. I hope therefore to be able to present the primary results of my findings.

Lucia Colella (University of Naples. ‘Federico II’),
Latin and bilingual petitions to the prefect of Egypt

Latin petitions to the prefect of Egypt include requests for guardians and for agnitio bonorum possessionis. They were both addressed to the provincial governor by Roman citizens. Despite the different object of the requests, the two documentary types attest a similar practice and share common patterns. This is probably due to the status civitatis of the petitioners and to the related use of the Latin language in the body of the document. As most Roman citizens in Egypt were unfamiliar with Latin, on the one hand, in most Latin requests the petitioner (and the proposed guardian, in petitions for the appointment of a tutor mulieris) subscribes in Greek; on the other, there was a need for Greek translations, preserved (alone or together with the Latin text) in P.Oxy. XII 1466 (AD 245); ChLA XI 486 (AD 249); P.Oxy. IX 1201 (AD 258); P.Oxy. XXXIV 2710 (AD 261)). Copies of the requests, with a checkmark and a reference to the sheet of the roll in which the original petition was to be found, were authenticated with the prefectural decision and probably returned to the petitioners. The paper aims to investigate to what extent these ‘standardisierte Petitionen’ (Haensch 1994: 503) were standardised and to examine request with a peculiar format. There is indeed still uncertainty about the identification of the hands in the single documents and, consequently, about the whole process of submitting the petitions (Thomas 1983; Haensch 1994; Mascellari 2016). Moreover, two texts exceptionally record the presence of witnesses. One is ChLA XXVIII 865 (AD 223), a request for agnitio bonorum possessionis in which the witnesses’ names are listed in the genitive case at the bottom. A new case to be discussed is P.Oxy. XII 1466, a petition for a tutor mulieris unique in its kind: it is in the form of a Roman double document, written transversa charta, with an extract of the Latin petition and a full Greek translation on the recto, and the witnesses’ signatures on the verso (where former editors recognised traces of an earlier expunged document; see Colella forthcoming).

Peter Candy (University of Edinburgh,
Standard form contracts in long-distance trade

This contribution will examine the role of standard form contracts in the long-distance trade in commodities that flourished in the Mediterranean basin from about the seventh century BC. By the Roman period there were three principal standard form contracts that were used in connection with overseas trade: the ‘maritime contract’ (nautika syngraphe), concerned with financing; the ‘contract of affreightment’ (naulotike syngraphe), concerned with the carriage of goods; and warehousing contracts, concerned with the storage of goods on land. The original standard form contract, that was likely the first syngraphe to be written out in extenso and which was the life-blood of emporia from its inception, was the ‘maritime contract’. Though the evidence is sparse, we have enough to be able to identify its basic anatomy, which remained remarkably stable through to the Middle Ages, when it was only finally superseded by the contract of marine insurance. What makes maritime contracts interesting from the point of view of standardisation in the Roman world is that these contracts were already well-established before Rome expanded her influence into the Mediterranean sphere. Rome’s contact with emporia and the standard form contracts that sustained it therefore provides a rare opportunity to examine how commercial actors adapted their standard forms to the new realities of (e.g.) Roman law and, equally, how Roman legal forms were slowly adapted to accommodate the needs of long-distance trade, which continued to be conducted on terms that had their origins in an eastern Mediterranean (particularly Greek) context. They also provide an insight into how standard forms were adapted and applied to new trades, that had their own special context and scale (for example, the India trade, with the necessity of transporting goods between the Red Sea Coast and Alexandria). By examining the fragmentary evidence for the documents, themselves together with the indirect evidence supplied by speeches in the Athenian law courts and Roman juristic texts, we can situate maritime contracts within their wider contractual, commercial, and legal context, throwing light on their interrelation with other standard form contracts and the mental and legal frameworks within which they operated. Finally, maritime contracts provide important insights into the economics of long-distance trade and the significance of standard forms in that context. Economists frequently point to standard form clauses as reducing transaction costs and promoting stability for the purposes of legal interpretation and certainty. Although I do not intend to embark upon a full examination of maritime contracts through the lens of economic theory (particularly NIE), I would like to make some observations about the tensions at work in negotiating standard form contracts, especially between bespoke elements of the agreement and ‘boilerplate’, and the documentary practices that accommodated the parties in finding this balance.

Serafina Cuomo (Durham University),
Trust me, I’m a banker: trust, numeracy and money in the ancient Roman world.

With a famous turn of phrase, Isocrates dubbed bankers πιστοὶ διὰ τὴν τέχνην. While often quoted, it seems to me that the key notions (trust and expertise) have been insufficiently explored to the extent that they are closely connected. Most views of the ancient economy present a rather stark contrast between personal trust, grounded in personal knowledge and social capital, and impersonal trust, guaranteed by standardisation, including coined money, and the use of writing.

My main claim is that numeracy (a key component of the expertise/techne of banking) affected the relationship between personal and impersonal trust in fundamental ways. Numeracy was (is) situation-specific – thus, it participated in inter-personal transactions. For instance, coined money, which was counted, assayed (which often involved weighing), calculated and exchanged, while ‘impersonal’ as part of a system, was also embedded in social relationships. Or again, measuring something, while ‘impersonal’ thanks to the use of standardised vessels, was in fact a collective, distributed, cognitive act. Thus, standardisation and quantification did not eliminate the need for personal trust. Rather, numerate expertise could help the socially disadvantaged gain social capital by making them trustworthy – knowledge capital could facilitate and support social capital. Trust was key to the representation and self-representation of bankers and traders; denied to them when described by others, we find it enhanced and emphasised in sources that reflect their own perspective.

Merav Haklai (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev),
Interest-bearing deposits in the Roman empire: A triple comparison

The question of whether or not monetary deposits can yield interest may hold far-reaching economic implications. In cultures where it is customary that money deposits regularly yield interest, deposits are given not just for safekeeping but offer an investment channel with the potential of leveraging other economic activities and affecting money supply. In ancient societies, deposits were entrusted firstly for safekeeping. A depositor-depositary relationship was perceived in terms of trust and was viewed as a moral obligation that was protected by divine force. In Rome, initially, deposits were considered to be a favour, entrusted not for use but in order to be guarded; and officially, were not supposed to yield any interest. Despite legal formalities, in the Roman empire deposits could and did yield interest, as it is evident in several references in the Roman legal sources; a practice which came to be known in the scholarship as depositum irregulare.

The suggested paper offers a comparison between three legal systems that operated under Roman regime: 1 Roman Law, Greek-Hellenistic Law as practiced in Roman Egypt, 2 and Jewish Law during the Tannaic period. Although each of the three systems had its own formal institutions and legal standards in reproducing formulaic procedures, they all show that Romans as well as locals were debating how to accommodate interest-bearing deposits within legal standards. Inconsistencies in each of the legal traditions strongly support the claim that cultural norms reinforced trust among parties and allowed the existence of interest-bearing deposits as a widespread phenomenon. Diverse socioeconomic practices and cross-cultural encounters are reflected in the attempts of both legal specialists and users of legal formulaic procedures to reconcile juridical standards with cultural norms in each of the three systems. The adoption of standards in the Roman world, indeed, affected legal formulaic procedures. I argue that, in the case of interest-bearing deposits, more than being a question of integrating “Roman” standards into local practices and laws, or vice versa, it was common economic practices and mixing cultural traditions that enabled people in the empire to negotiate their economic needs whilst reinforcing self-identity at a local level. Thus, manifestations of standardisation and localisms in law and the economy of the Roman world are fundamental to understanding the phenomenon of interest-bearing deposits; and consequently, its impact on both legal culture and financial practices. Studying interest-bearing deposits as a combination of imperial and provincial legal standardisations contributes to debates on integration, assimilation, and resilience of both “Roman” and “local” legal standards and the self-identities which they manifested.

Gianluca Mandatori (CSIC-Escuela Española de historia y arqueología, Roma),
Roman Monetary Production between Localism and Standardisation

Monetary production and circulation in the Roman world were affected, on the one hand, by local particularities and, on the other, by a natural tendency towards standardisation, which was indispensable to fulfil the functions of money on a large scale. This tendency, of course, has even more implicit and profound connotations, if one considers currency as a vector capable of conveying political and ideological messages in a rapid and capillary manner. This paper offers a wide-ranging, diachronic overview of the dynamics of what might be called the “Romanization of money”, with all the complications that the concept of Romanization brings with it.

In detail, after examining the issues of local communities and their political and economic relationship with Rome, we will examine the introduction of the denarius and how it became the official currency of the Roman state, until it became – as pointed out by the studies of Elio Lo Cascio – the reference currency for inter-Mediterranean exchanges. In this regard, specific cases of coin hoards will be examined, based on whose content it is possible to reconstruct the dynamics of a circulation, at first mixed and then increasingly monopolised by the Roman currency. Particularly interesting, moreover, are the attestations of foreign money in the areas of circulation of Roman coins, such as the numerous finds of Ebusitan (and pseudo-Ebusitan) coins in Central Italy and in Pompeii. In this sense, it will be interesting to understand how and to what extent foreign types influenced the evolution of Roman money. The issue of coins characterised by local specificities, however, did not cease completely with the introduction of the denarius, but continued for a long time in a non-systematic way, sometimes for celebratory or identity purposes, as in the case of Paestum, or because they were reserved for an exclusively regional market. The two motivations are not easily separable and indeed often overlap, as in the case of coins issued by various Iberic and African communities. Alongside these low volume productions, there are other more substantial ones, such as those from the provinces of Greece and Asia Minor, which last throughout the empire. The peculiarity (and the problematic nature) of these issues lies not only in the adoption of their own iconography, but above all in the fact that they were sometimes produced based on weight standards different from those adopted in Rome.

The research that will be presented at the conference aims to investigate how these opposing drives – localism and the tendency towards standardisation – were handled by the Roman state and what their impact was both on small markets and on long-distance trade.

George Watson (Lancaster University, UK),
Denominational standardisation in the Roman provincial coinage of southern Asia Minor

The Roman provincial coinage is an area where local very obviously meets imperial. The coins commonly show a local image and ethnic on one side and on the other a portrait of the emperor. The same is true of the systems of value within which these coins were produced. For many cities these coins were a continuation of a minting tradition that began in the pre-Roman period, and they were thus tariffed in Greek denominations such as chalchoi and obols. During the second century AD, however, a gradual shift occurred as more and more cities began to use denominations based on the Roman monetary system, tariffing their coins in assaria. Yet the assarion was only based on—but not the same as—the Roman as; for example, the weight standard of the assarion differed from city to city.

Recent scholarship has made great strides in both tracing the shift from Greek to Roman standards (e.g., RPC III (2015), pp. 813–28) and in identifying the multitude of different denominational systems in place at different cities (e.g., A. Johnston, Greek Imperial Denominations, ca 200–275 (London, 2007)). What is lacking is a detailed investigation of how these changes played out at a local level. This paper therefore traces the evolution of the denominational systems of a group of cities on the southern coast of Asia Minor (in Pamphylia and western Cilicia) from the first to the third century AD. It seeks to ask when and why changes to local coin denominations occurred, and what this says about the relationship of these cities to the imperial power. Particular stress will be laid upon the issue of regional integration. If cities wished for their coins to be easily convertible with those of neighbouring cities, they would have had to pay attention to local denominational choices and would thus have been constrained in their ability to adopt Roman-style denominations. What is revealed is both increasing homogenisation, as more cities tariff their coins in assaria, and increasing regionalisation, as groups of cities follow each other’s lead while other groups make different choices.

Astrid Van Oyen (Radboud University),
Standards and the shape of empire

This paper asks how standards relate to state- and empire-making. Standardization creates conditions of comparability, accountability, and scalability, which historically play an important role in state-making. The model that is traditionally proposed to link standardization and the state or empire (as a scaled-up version of state) is that of a pyramid, in which each level exerts control over the one further down by reducing its complexities. An inquiry into different Roman storage practices shows this mechanism of state-making through standardization at work, for instance charting the link between above-ground grain storage and its propensities for standardization on the one hand and colonization and taxation on the other. Yet it also demonstrates 1) that standardization was a practice that extended from farmer to empire, and was thus not restricted to imperial agencies, and 2) that standardizing tendencies never became hegemonic. These two observations strongly suggest that the link between standardization and the traditional pyramidal model of state-making needs reconsidering as far as the Roman empire is concerned. Extending the analysis of storage practices to consider the mechanisms and infrastructure of warehousing in Rome’s main river ports, this paper proposes an alternative model for the shape of the Roman empire: the kaleidoscope. In a kaleidoscopic model, there is no reduction of complexity on different levels or in different settings; and, as a result, different scales cannot easily be subsumed one under the other. Instead, a pervasive logic provides the connective tissue between different actors and settings. In the case of storage, I propose that this logic is one of family business, which informs the practices and ideologies both of the individual farmer and of the emperor as head of familia and empire.

Kevin Woram (University of Virginia),
Probus Agoranomus: Greek Influence on the Aedileship and Marketplace Standardization at Rome in the Third Century BCE.

By the end of the third century BCE, the aediles of the city of Rome had great power over its marketplaces: with fines and floggings they enforced their commercial edicts, instilling standardization by ensuring both quality control of products and the use of correct weights and measures. When, however, did the aediles become the masters of the Roman marketplace? Some have argued that the aediles came to oversee marketplaces in the archaic period as an extension of their duties to the temple of Ceres, where aediles policed the merchants who came to periodic festivals (Drummond 1989; Jakab 1997; Becker 2017). Others contend that the duty to oversee the marketplaces stemmed from the aediles’ responsibilities to ensure the grain supply (Daguet-Gagey 2016). According to this theory, the aediles monitored the importation and selling of grain in the marketplace, which developed into permanent oversight of all the marketplace’s transactions. I contend, however, that the aediles took on the duties of marketplace oversight in the third century BCE, when Rome became a major node in the network of Mediterranean commerce. During this period the aediles came to enforce standardization, both quantitative (weights and measures) and qualitative (product quality). I argue, moreover, that this came about because of indirect influence from the agoranomoi of the Greek east, knowledge of whom was brought to the city by both foreign and Roman traders.

My paper will have three parts. First, I will explore the evidence for increased Roman commerce in the third century. This includes the spread of the Roman, black-glazed ware throughout Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily, the construction of the port of Ostia, and the renewed treaty with Carthage in 279, which secured trading rights in Sicily and Libya. I will then discuss the construction of new building types in Roman marketplaces at the end of the third century, namely the macellum, and how its architecture was modelled on buildings in Greek marketplaces. These Greek architectural models came from areas where Roman commerce and agoranomoi are attested, making it plausible that the Greek model of the marketplace overseer could also have been transmitted along with architectural influence. Lastly, I will discuss how, amid the growing commercial activity in Rome, the aediles were, because of their existing responsibilities, the magistrates on the spot poised to claim authority. The aediles then added to their magisterial powers the ability to enforce standardization, much like the agoranomoi, as I will demonstrate in a discussion of five Greek inscriptions (IG XII, 5 129; V, 1 1390; ID 509, 12-43; CID IV 127; I.Erythrai 15). Yet the aediles retained their traditional Roman duty of combatting immoral behavior: hence their portrayal in Plautus as symbols of moral authority in the marketplace. This comparison makes clear that the differences between the aediles and agoranomoi predate the third century, while the similar marketplace duties appear during this period specifically, a time of greater commercial contact with the east. The primary Roman institution for commercial standardization, therefore, was a product of Greek influence.

Marine Lépée (Univ-Lyon 2-Univ Lausanne),
Commercial buildings in Lugdunum and Vienna: between Roman models and local specificities (1st century BC – 3rd century AD)

Retail trade shaped profoundly the ancient city, especially through the buildings that hosted sales and production activities and that became part of the street networks and the urban plots. If the shops (tabernae), as places dedicated to commercial transactions, seem to be characterised by their multi-functionality (sales, production, storage, etc.), they are also defined by the adoption of a regular plan that is largely open to the main thoroughfares. They can be either integrated with other constructed units or form independent complexes with an explicit economic purpose. Architectural models, particularly observed in the Vesuvian cities or in Ostia for example (to quote only the most recent studies, see Monteix 2010, Schoevaert 2018, Ellis 2018), seem to apply to the commercial premises of the Roman world and to spread, stimulated by the modular and standardised shape of the taberna. Archaeological data from the urban contexts of Roman Gaul provide a particularly rich corpus of street-side or house-front shop lines, which find consistent parallels elsewhere in the Roman world. However, the precise and diachronic study of the commercial landscape of the roman colonies of Lugdunum and Vienna, whose economic role within the long-distance trade networks of the Rhone Valley is well known, has made it possible to highlight local particularities in the design of the commercial buildings, the layout of the shops inside and their architectural developments.

Beyond the application of models — which will also be discussed —, what criteria can explain these local choices? To what extent can the role of topography and the traditions of domestic architecture, which are closely linked to shops, be considered? What consequences for commercial practices, ownership and management of the workplace can these different forms of commercial buildings bring? Specific attention will be paid to the layout of the shops, their access points as well as their storeys and their integration into the urban blocks. This paper will rely on the results of a current dissertation on retail trade in the Rhone Valley between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD.

Francesco Cassini (Columbia university),
Serial honors: public spaces and honorific practices in Republican Italy (2nd-1st century BCE)

This paper aims to look at the topic of standardization from a double perspective, material and ideological. The establishment of Roman hegemony over the Italian peninsula in the centuries 3rd to 1st BCE and the intertwined phenomena of urbanization, colonization, and change in settlements’ patterns profoundly modified Italy’s social and economic fabric. One of the more significant transformations related to urban growth is the refurbishment and monumentalization of public spaces, whose importance is testified by their attractiveness to local élites, desiring to leave their mark with the euergetic sponsoring of buildings and with the honors they would receive in return. Statues and monuments that honor and recognize the social and economic standing of civic élites become distinctive features of Italian municipal realities in the centuries 2nd and 1st BCE, growing in their level of standardization not only in the administrative procedures for decreeing the honors but also in the visual realm, with a serialization of monuments, inscriptions, statues that points to the creation of consistent and unified civic culture and civic practices. Such phenomenon – which cannot be studied without its socio-economic and political roots – is crucial in understanding the visual language through which ancient public spaces communicate from the repetition of similar building typologies in the fora (comitia, basilicae, porticus, etc.), to the patronage and creation of honorary statues and monuments and the ‘politics of space’ to which they belong. This, in turn, relates to a yet another topic, which is the possible transmission of models, cultural and stylistic stimuli from the center to the periphery; a debate often stuck between polar concepts of localism and ‘romanization’ and that could benefit from the perspective ‘from below’ of the archaeology of public spaces. Also, the same serial and standardized pattern seems to extend beyond the system of honors for living individuals to the creation of civic memory and tradition. In fact, contrary to the vulgata that interprets it as an Augustan phenomenon, the selective formation of civic memory and its visualization in public settings (especially with the creation of ‘galleries of clarissimi viri’, ‘serial monuments’, and elogia) is a trend that can be ascribed to the Republican age (from the end of the 2nd century), as testified by the cases of Tusculum, Terracina, Aquileia, and others. My paper aims to re-examine these case studies to prove how phenomena of visual and cultural serialization and standardization should be ascribed to the decades before the Augustan cultural revolutions and the establishment of unified systems of social and cultural values propagated from the imperial center to Italy and the provinces, best described in the seminal works of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (Rome’s Cultural Revolution) and Paul Zanker (Augustus und die Macht der Bilder). Methodologically, I wish to offer a perspective on the topic that can bridge a material and visual perspective and a more historical one, centered on the relationship between economy, politics, society, and artistic expression.

Andrew Riggsby (University of Texas at Austin),
Standardization and Standardizations

While the general notion of “standardization” is clear enough to help gather relevant work together (as at this conference, for instance), fruitful conversation and further progress will be facilitated by deeper analysis of what turns out to be a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon. Both objects and procedures can be thought of as subject to standardization (with, of course, many cases of intersection). Interaction between formal standards and the space/time distribution of the communities of use produces what might be thought to amount to different standards. Standardization regimes can address multiple quantitative dimensions and or a combination of quantitative and qualitative ones, and these combinations typically involve trade-offs. Standardization regimes can also depend as much on what they choose not to standardize as what is normalized. Even in notionally simple instances of quantitative standardization, implicit or explicit notions of ranges of tolerance introduce contextual complexity.

This paper builds on and extends the archaeological data set collected in Riggsby (2019) then reconsiders it in light of both comparative evidence and selected theoretical models. The goal is not to introduce a novel, universal definition of standardization, but to establish a set of parameters for researchers to consider and to begin discussion of how they interact with one another.

Charles Doyen (UCLouvain),
Glocalisation of weight standards: The adoption of the Roman libra in the Eastern Mediterranean (1st c. BCE – 3rd c. CE)

Although it was assumed for a long time that Roman weights and measures had been introduced in Athens as early as the end of the 2nd century BCE, at the time of the adoption of the metrological decree (IG II² 1013), this transition certainly did not take place before the second half of the 1st century BCE. From the 1st century CE onwards, Roman denominations were used in the daily life of the Imperial Greek communities of the provinces of Thrace, Lower Moesia, Bithynia and Pontus, Asia and Syria. In Syria and in Bithynia and Pontus, weights dated by local eras or in reference to the reigning emperor allow us to follow the chronological development of this new weight system with great precision, from the 1st to the 3rd century CE. In Thrace, Lower Moesia and Asia, this chronology has yet to be defined thanks to archaeological contexts and prosopography, and by comparing weights and coins. Weight systems are sometimes structured around the monetary libra (326 g) and uncia (27 g) (e.g., in Lower Moesia and Asia), and sometimes based on a much heavier libra (from 350 g to 550 g). Certified denominations range from ¼ uncia (7 g) to 10 libras (ca. 3250–5000 g). It is also noteworthy that the Greek mina survived in Imperial times in small fractions (⅟₁₆ mina; ⅟₃₂ mina) or multiples of a libra. In all likelihood, the dichotomy that was already observed in Hellenistic times between a standard that used monetary weights (λίτρα ἰταλική, “Roman libra”) and a standard that used heavier commercial weights (λίτρα ἀγοραία, “commercial libra”) has continued in Imperial times. Until now, this fundamental aspect has been completely overlooked. It is therefore necessary to understand the exact articulation of these two weight systems in each province and their development over time.

Mariagrazia Rizzi (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca),
Standardization: Overcoming trade barriers while preserving local traditions in IG II2 1013

Douglass C. North´s work on New institutional economics and transaction costs has broadened the economic view towards an extended institutional, i.e. legal perspective, which makes his approach particularly suited for studies in legal history. Taking as an example a rather well-known Hellenistic decree regarding weights and measures (IG II2 1013), we will analyze the impact of metrological reforms on these costs. This psephisma contains a series of provisions aimed at the regulation of commercial relations in Athens regarding the quantification of traded goods by both volume and weight. The manufacture and use of particular weights and measures is ordered; the competences and punitive powers towards private individuals and magistrates are identified by the various bodies in charge; the metrological reforms of the choinix and the commercial mine are introduced, resulting in a metrological standardization and also – as we will see – harmonization. On one hand, these legislative interventions demonstrate the importance, recognized by the authorities, of a comprehensive regulation of all the subjects involved in measuring goods (magistrates with duties concerning weights and measures, judicial bodies, traders, free citizens as well as slaves, public slaves assigned to the conservation of weights and measures) and to all its essential aspects (from the production and distribution of copies, to the identification of the functions of the bodies responsible for controlling the correct use of weights and measures in the markets, to the provision of sanctions against the various private actors, magistrates and public slaves), in order to ensure fairness and trust in the markets of Athens, Piraeus and Eleusis. On the other hand, through the reforms of the choinix and the commercial mine, the decree aims at a metrological harmonization with the Roman system, enabling easy convertibility and thereby facilitating commerce not only among Rome and Athens themselves, but among all territories familiar with either notation throughout the Mediterranean. By leaving a mere local dimension, the legislative effort of one city aims at gaining usefulness on an interregional scale.

Nicolas Solonakis (Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne),
Roman standards and Greek traditions in the shaping of ancient agriculture

It has become widely acknowledged by ancient history scholarship that the progressive integration of the Mediterranean into the imperium Romanum had a noticeable and durable impact on society, institutions, economic trends and culture. Yet, both its extent and the precise elements in which this “impact of Empire” is manifested are still a matter of debate. In particular, the substantial economic growth of the 1st and 2nd c. AD has triggered interest on the ability of Roman productive structures to standardize products. Which in return raises the question of the respective influence of local contexts and Roman institutions sensu largo on such standardization.

Following a stream of scholars who postulate that intensive economic is usually preceded by agricultural changes (Braudel, Bairoch), this paper intends to focus on the development and diffusion of Roman standards in agricultural production, most specifically in the South-Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Asia Minor and the Aegean basin), focusing on two aspects: (a) metrics & tools, since standardization usually requires uniform units of measurement (and thus instruments) (b) farming practices. It centres in on the two following questions: (i) what was the impact of the integration of Greece and Asia Minor on the standardization of units of measurement and farming tools (if any) – especially in the context of the spread of Roman forms of land tenure ? ; (ii) to what extent is the practice of convertible husbandry, now recognized as a major innovation of ancient agriculture, as well as a driver of rural growth, a Roman innovation, and what does it owe to pre-Roman, Greek practices? These topics are addressed through an interdisciplinary methodology combining written sources (scriptores rei rusticae the one hand, inscriptions on the other hand), and archaeology.

Jordi Pérez González, Javier Heredero Berzosa y Antonio Aguilera Martín (CEIPAC Barcelona),
Quantifying Hispanic Numerals. Capacities and weights under control.

Our proposal has the objective of going beyond the traditional framework of data accumulation of the epigraphic bases originated in the eighties-nineties of the last century, the first to be able to give a new focus to their research, through the analysis of Big Data. At this point, it is already impossible for a single person to rationally reflect with these large data sets simultaneously, being necessary the instruments provided by digital humanities. Today we know that the rise of data science opens the door for all types of structured information to be the object of the application of a variety of statistical and machine learning techniques that allow the extraction of patterns and propose classifications in order to select the peculiarities of the data. For this, it is essential to obtain correct visualizations of our information to easily observe patterns that help us understand certain historical processes that we should not confuse with apophenia or pareidolia. Along these lines, we wish to share our experience acquired within the framework of the EPNet project to streamline analytical processes through the use of specialized software for the visualization of large datasets.

For this we will pay special attention to the epigraphy linked to containing the olive oil produced in Baetica. Thus, in order to regulate the oleic interprovincial traffic in all the phases of its traceability, the imperial administration proposed a labeling of a uniform mercantile character on a single amphoric type. The olive oil amphoras we are talking about are the Dressel 20 type, produced in more than one hundred potteries between the Genil and Guadalquivir rivers between the 1st to 3rd centuries AD. Our research focuses on the numerals that were part of this complex labeling system, especially alpha, gamma and gamma, which are believed to be the tare of the amphora and the net weight of the olive oil respectively. To know the evolution of these tituli picti we have gathered a corpus of more than 10,000 inscriptions where alphas, gammas and deltas are almost 60% of the sample (adding the figures in delta to cover the gap in gamma of the figures between 223 and 285 pounds) [Data source: CEIPAC. 54,000 records]. While most of the information is sourced from surveys at the Monte Testaccio state landfill (Rome), we have included epigraphy found elsewhere to cover the widest possible time spectrum. The fact that we only lack information from a few decades – fortunately, not consecutive – means that we can recompose these texts in detail and evaluate their evolution over time.

In short, we will put special interest in making known the methodological aspects derived from the epigraphic study on the instrumentum domesticum, pointing out the analytical optimization processes and the problems that arose during its study. The review of the data allows us to detect the processes of simplification of the capacities of these amphorae and the adequacy of the typical typological changes of this control.

Miko Flohr (Leiden University),
Standardizing Encounter? Architecture and Economic Interaction in Roman Urban Landscapes

Everyday economic practice in the Roman Empire tended to operate on the interface between the known and the unknown (and the knowable and the not knowable). While the unprecedented combination of concentrated wealth and sharply increased interaction over longer distances in many places created all kinds of economic opportunities at a variety of economic scales, they also presented economic actors with a paradigm of communicative and coordinative challenges, as many opportunities depended on interactions outside the everyday living environment or involving (relative) strangers.

This paper starts from the idea that the very shape of the urban environment, and thus architecture, presented a range of opportunities to mitigate these challenges, and to facilitate encounter, and it will argue that several developments in urban architecture essentially had the effect of opening up and standardizing urban environments to such an extent that encounters between relative strangers became increasingly straightforward, thus lowering transaction costs in many spheres of economic practice.

Alexandru Martalogu (University of Oxford),
Centuries in the Making? Augustan City Foundations, Legal Denominations, and the Integration of ‘Roman’ Standards

The increased presence of Roman coloniae and other types of city foundations in the Greek East after the battle of Actium highlights the arrival, imposition and adoption of a wide scale of ‘Roman standards’: from new legal denominations and civic offices, to new infrastructure to support these, to colonial coinage, to the reorientation of popular trade and exchange routes, and even to changes in the landscape itself with the attested presence of centuriation. The foundation of Actian Nikopolis is a case in point of this. Its legal status remains debated and controversial. It was founded as a synoecism of neighbouring cities and populations that were forcibly dislodged by Augustus to inhabit a new city that was built with the very infrastructure of these older settlements. It minted its own (albeit non-Latin) coinage. It reoriented all regional major exchanges to now pass through its premises, and it reveals traces of centuriation across its territory. Thus, by using Actian Nikopolis and the (many) coloniae that surrounded it as a starting point, I propose to re-examine the legal denominations and expectations of Augustan city foundations, which will in turn demonstrate their malleability and adaptability based on individual local and regional contexts and needs – a far cry from Aulus Gellius’ description of a Roman colony as a simulacrum of Rome itself.

Nikopolis is described in our sources variably as urbs Achaiae, Colonia Augusti, Nicopolis Romana colonia, or a συνοικισμός. This disparity has led Purcell, and later Ruscu, to argue that the city in fact housed a double community, namely the Greek city and a Roman colonia. While this may be seen as controversial, a brief comparison with neighbouring Buthrotum, Patras, or Dyme, and even farther settlements such as Dyrrhachium, Philippi, or Knossos will all reveal a general confusion in our sources regarding the nomenclature of Augustan foundations that were superimposed upon pre-existing cities with centuries of history and habitation. As such, their histories and previous connectivity with their surroundings and with Rome all shaped how they were portrayed in our literary accounts, who could hardly pick up on the numerous local and regional technicalities that we now have access to.

Thus, this paper will be divided into three main sections. (1) In the first instance, we will establish the evidence and controversies surrounding the legal denominations of Augustan city foundations in Greek and Latin sources: from colonia, to civitas libera, to urbs, to victory city, to synoecism and everything in between. (2) From here, we will turn towards the recent history of connectivity (both regional and with Rome) of the cities upon whose territories these foundations were placed. This will allow us to demonstrate both the extensive knowledge the Romans possessed of local and regional needs and undertakings, and the locals’ familiarity with Roman institutions and standards, well before the imposition of coloniae – see for instance Atticus’ ties to Buthrotum, to name but one major example. (3) Lastly, we will re-examine the evidence of the early Augustan days in light of this discussion in order to showcase both how the locals had incorporated the aforementioned sets of standards imposed upon them, and how their distinct localism shaped this outcome.

As such, this paper will serve a twofold purpose in highlighting the necessity for a revision of the nomenclature surrounding Augustan city foundations, while also revealing how the very confusion surrounding these terms is indicative of their malleability and of the importance that the past played in the mutual understanding of local customs and needs, and of ‘Roman’ institutions and standards that had developed long before Augustus’ victory at Actium.

Filippo Incontro (Università degli Studi di Trento),
Legal standardisation and localism in Africa Romana. Sufetes Africae as ‘good’ romanisation?

To talk about phenomena of standardisation in Roman world means to talk more generally about the much-debated concept of ‘romanisation’ and therefore to deal with the different interpretations of this concept. According to its long-predominant interpretation as an even violent imposition of different habits to local inhabitants, the term ‘romanisation’ supposedly describes roman colonialism as a totalizing imperialism, comparable to contemporary ones. The debate has been particularly intense regarding Rome’s first province outside Italic soil, the province of Africa (with all of its different configurations throughout the centuries), since the publication of the revolutionary La resistance africaine à la romanisation by Marcel Benabou in 1976, which not by chance appeared in the same moment that saw the flourishing of Postcolonial Studies and which has shaped the debate on ‘romanisation’ for the subsequent twenty years at least.

On the verge of the 21th century, the debate originated from the critique toward this interpretation took two different directions: the first one, which maintained a clear separation between local people subjected to roman colonialism and the romans, has gone toward a substitution of the term ‘resistance’ with ‘persistence’, concerning cultural indigenous traits that may have survived to roman domination; the second one has been more about a radical substitution of the term ‘romanisation’ with ‘creolization’ et similia, in order to better show the mutual contamination that took place in colonies and provinces, assuming ‘romanisation’ to be outdated and compromised. It is time to come to a synthesis of this dispute: the term ‘romanisation’ can be used without implying an imperialistic view of roman colonialism and rather employ it to refer to a mutual integration; and understand it as a form of ‘standardisation’ can help to strip ‘romanisation’ of any reference to some will of cultural domination.

If it is Africa that this debate has been more intense about, it is also Africa – especially the territory around Carthago – where we can probably find the most numerous phenomena of romanisation, starting from the juridical sphere. Here is where we can see the roman legal pluralism applied for the first time: the Romans organized the territory in pagi, castella, municipia and civitates depending on who lived there and what importance the site had to Rome, following nevertheless the general rule to allow the previous local institutions to remain operative, adding only if and what was necessary, especially for roman citizens. This kind of legal pluralism might seem the exact opposite of a ‘standardisation’ process but if we look at the sufetes, the magistrates left in charge in many of the civitates around Carthago (e.g. Uthica, Thugga) – heritage of the Carthaginian administration – we can see that, throughout the centuries, they acquired roman traits such as eligibility, repeatability, onerousness and distinguished ornamenta: they became part of a proper cursus honorum, that is something uniquely roman. All things considered, this kind of ‘romanisation’, that goes deeper than mere appearance, can be considered a kind of standardisation because it managed to align different political and institutional organizations without changing their form into something purely roman but creating nonetheless a system that could smoothly run together. This work intends to study the particular phenomenon of the sufetes Africae to show how they are the result of a cross-cultural encounter in which roman and local elements merged completely; and therefore, to show how this could help to redefine the way we understand ‘romanisation’ toward a more inclusive meaning.

Mateo González Vázquez (Universität Trier),
Amphorae as a Proxy for Standardized Consumption and Market Integration: A Case Study from the Roman Province of Upper Germania

The increasing need to supply the Roman army stationed in the German limes and the city of Rome itself, is one of the main drivers traditionally associated with the phenomenon of standardization of certain sizes and types of amphorae. This trend reached a moment of consolidation with the resulting reduction in the variety of amphorae types throughout the first century A.D. Thanks to the findings in their places of consumption, such as Augst (Augusta Raurica) or Mainz (Mogontiacum), we know more about the morphological evolution of many of these containers than we do from the places of production themselves, although this imbalance in our knowledge has gradually been redressed. As a result of the study of the large number of amphorae that these sites offer, we have attained better knowledge of how these products were produced and their morphological and chronological evolution. Nonetheless, there are still many open questions about the organization of the commercial agents in charge of importing exogenous products in northern Europe, as well as the degree of homogenization in terms of consumption practices between military settlements and other settlements where the civilian population was more present. For example, the extent to which the large presence of salted fish during the 1st century A.D. responds to the dietary needs of the local populations or to the logistical needs of the army stationed on the Rhine, as well as if its presence results from free or directed trade. Even though we have recent works for the lower Rhine with the aim of obtaining an overview of the degree of standardization of consumption (i.e. H. González Cesteros 2015), we do not have quantitative studies for the Roman province of Upper Germania (Germania Superior); although some of the best published materials and detailed studies (especially those carried out by S. Martin-Kilcher and U. Ehmig) are included in this geographical area. Given all of the above, we will be looking at the information provided by the distribution of the amphorae, their associated epigraphy (i.e. post cocturam graffiti), their metrology and capacities, and the local choices on the imitation of certain types as evidence of the widespread nature of certain consumption habits. With this, our aim is to obtain a clearer picture of to what extent the standardization of amphora types also reflects a certain uniformity of consumption habits, as well as to obtain a better understanding of the system of distribution of these containers and the commercial agents involved.