Moving Romans. Urbanisation, migration and labour in the Roman Principate
The aim of the Moving Romans project is to study the correlation between urbanisation, migration and labour opportunities in Roman Italy in the first two centuries A.D.
The relationships between urbanisation, migration and labour in the Roman world were complex. During the first two centuries A.D. the cities of the empire blossomed and had flourishing populations. The urban network was strongly hierarchical, levels of urbanisation were relatively high, and some cities were astonishingly large. Measured by preindustrial standards the Roman urban network was unique. It is often argued that cities could only maintain their populations thanks to an influx of outsiders. However, who these migrants were and how they were absorbed by the urban labour market are questions which have hardly been studied.
The aim of the Moving Romans project is to study the correlation between urbanisation, migration and labour opportunities in Roman Italy in the first two centuries A.D. To what extent was labour-induced migration important to the functioning of the towns and cities of Roman Italy? One of the central assumptions underlying the project is that each of the three constituent elements cannot be studied in the absence of the other two; but also that the interrelationship between the three is in urgent need of conceptualisation. Whereas the shape of the urban network of Roman Italy and the balance between slave labour and free labour lack a formal synthetic analysis, migration and the urban labour market have not received much scholarly attention at all.The project starts from the working hypothesis that the dominance of slavery in some sectors of the urban economy, especially in the domestic sector, reduced labour opportunities for free women. If this basic idea is correct, most free migrants must have been men, and cities must have been characterised by a skewed sex ratio. Since this would have made it impossible for urban populations to reproduce themselves, it would follow that large-scale migration was a vital prerequisite for the continued existence of the Roman cities.