How Prosperous were the Romans? Evidence from Diocletian's Price Edict (AD 301)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter compares the standard of living of labourers in the Roman Empire in 301 AD with the standard of living of labourers in Europe and Asia from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Roman data are drawn from Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices. The real wage of Roman workers was like that of their counterparts in the lagging parts of Europe and much of Asia in the middle of the 18th century. Roman workers earned just enough to buy a minimal subsistence consumption basket. Real wages were considerably higher in the advanced parts of Europe in the 18th century, as they had been in Europe generally following the Black Death in 1348-9.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationQuantifying the Roman Economy
Subtitle of host publicationMethods and Problems
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191721458
ISBN (Print)9780199562596
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009



  • Labour
  • Real wages
  • Roman Empire
  • Standard of living
  • Subsistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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