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Prolegomena to a Study of the Economics of Roman Art

Prolegomena to a Study of the Economics of Roman Art

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This article proposes a series of fundamental questions concerning the economic aspects of the production of works of art in the Roman world, focusing chiefly on “high-end” production. The first and last of the five questions addressed serve as a chronological framework: (1) When did war booty and extortion cease to be important sources of the supply of works of art and give way to “normal” markets? (2) In what sense did clients provide artists with patronage? (3) What were the market mechanisms for meeting the demand for works by well-known artists, and what were the effects of the demand for works by famous artists of the past? (4) Was there an integrated empire-wide market in works of art or in the more or less precious materials that artists used? (5) When the Roman economy began its slow fragmentation and disintegration in the third century—a process that was still going on 400 years later—what were the effects on the production and distribution of works of art? Answering these questions with the normal methods of economic history helps show where some of the biggest challenges are for historians of Roman art.

Prolegomena to a Study of the Economics of Roman Art

By W.V. Harris

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 3 (July 2015), pp. 395–417

DOI: 10.3764/aja.119.3.0395

© 2015 Archaeological Institute of America

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