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Classical demography refers to the study of human demography in the Classical period. It often focuses on the absolute number of people who were alive in civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea between the Bronze Age and the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but in recent decades historians have been more interested in trying to analyse demographic processes such as the birth and death rates or the sex ratio of ancient populations. The period was characterized by an explosion in population with the rise of the Greek and Roman civilizations followed by a steep decline caused by economic and social disruption, migrations, and a return to primarily subsistence agriculture. Demographic questions play an important role in determining the size and structure of the economy of Ancient Greece and the Roman economy.
- 1 Ancient Greece and Greek colonies
- 2 Ancient Phoenicia and Phoenician colonies
- 3 Demography of the Hellenistic kingdoms
- 4 Demography of the Roman Empire
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Ancient Greece and Greek colonies
Beginning in the 8th century BC, Greek city-states began colonizing the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. Whether this sudden phenomenon was due to overpopulation, severe droughts, or an escape for vanquished people (or a combination) is still in question.
The population of the entire Greek civilization (Greece, the Greek-speaking populations of Sicily, the coast of western Asia Minor, and the Black Sea) in the 4th century BC was recently estimated to be 500,000 to 600,000.
The geographical definition of Greece has fluctuated over time. While today the ancient kingdom of Macedonia is always considered part of the Greek world, in the Classical Period it was a distinct entity and even though Macedonians spoke Greek, they were not considered as a part of Greece by some Athenian writers. Similarly, almost all modern residents of historical Ionia, now part of Turkey, speak the Turkish language, although from the 1st millennium BC Ionia was densely populated by Greek-speaking people and an important part of Greek culture.
Estimates of the population of Greek speakers in the coast and islands of the Aegean Sea during the 5th century BC vary from 800,000 to over 3,000,000. The city of Athens in the 4th century BC had a population of 60,000 non-foreign free males. Including slaves, women, and foreign-born people, the number of people residing in the city state was probably in the range of 350,000 to 500,000 people, of which 160,000 normally resided inside the city and port.
The population of Sicily is estimated to range from about 600,000 to 1 million in the 5th century BC. The island was urbanized, and its largest city alone, the city of Syracuse, having 125,000 inhabitants or about 12% to 20% of the total population living on the island. With the other 5 cities probably having populations of over 20,000, the total urban population could have reached 50% of the total population.
Other Greek colonization
The ancient Roman province of Cyrenaica in the eastern region of present-day Libya was home to many hundreds of thousands of Greek, Latin and native communities. Originally settled by Greek colonists, five important settlements (Cyrene, Barca, Euesperides, Apollonia, and Tauchira) formed a pentapolis. The fertility of the land, the exportation of silphium, and its location between Carthage and Alexandria made it a magnet for settlement.
Ancient Phoenicia and Phoenician colonies
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Phoenicia also established colonies along the Mediterranean, including Carthage.
Demography of the Hellenistic kingdoms
Greek historian Diodorus Siculus estimated that 7,000,000 inhabitants resided in Egypt during his lifetime before its annexation by the Roman Empire. Of this, he states that 300,000 citizens lived within the city of Alexandria.
Demography of the Roman Empire
There are many estimates of the population for the Roman Empire, that range from 45 million to 120 million with 55-65 million as the classical figure.
|Region||Population (in millions)|
|North African part||11.2|
|Region||Population (in millions)|
|North African part||11.5|
Russell's 1958 estimate for the population of the empire in 1 AD:
|Region||Population (in millions)|
|North African part||8.7|
|European areas outside the Empire||7.9|
Russell's 1958 estimate for the population of the empire in 350 AD:
|Region||Population (in millions)|
|North African part||5|
|European areas outside the Empire||8.3|
The total population of Roman Italy (south of the Po Valley) was estimated[by whom?] to be around 4 million before the Second Punic War. The figure is approximate: the Romans carried out a regular census of citizens eligible for military service (Polybius 2.23), but for the population of the rest of Italy at this time we have to rely on a single report of the military strength of Rome's allies in 227 BC - and guess the numbers of those who were opposed to Rome at this time. The citizen count in the second century B.C. hovered between 250-325,000 presumably males over the age of 13.
The census of 70/69 B.C. records 910,000 presumably due to the extension of citizenship to the allies after the Social War of 91-88. Still, even if only males this seems like an undercount. For the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, historians have developed two radically different accounts, resting on different interpretations of the figures of 4,036,000 recorded for the census carried out by Augustus in 28 BC, 4,233,000 in 8 BC, and 4,937,000 in 14 AD. and almost 6 million during the reign of Claudius, not all of whom lived in Italy. Many lived in Spain, Gaul and other parts of the Empire. If this only represents adult male citizens (or some subset of adult male citizens those over age 13 as the census traditionally did not count children until they were formally enrolled as citizens early in pubertz), then the population of Italy must have been around 10 million, not including slaves and foreigners, which was a striking, sustained increase despite the Romans' losses in the almost constant wars over the previous two centuries. Others find this entirely incredible, and argue that the census must now be counting all citizens, male and female over the age of 13 - in which case the population had declined slightly, something which can readily be attributed to war casualties and to the crisis of the Italian peasantry. The majority of historians favour the latter interpretation as being more demographically plausible, but the issue remains contentious.
Estimates for the population of mainland Italia, including Gallia Cisalpina, at the beginning of the 1st Century AD range from 6,000,000 according to Beloch in 1886, 6,830,000 according to Russell in 1958, less than 10,000,000 according to Hin in 2007, and 14,000,000 according to Lo Cascio in 2009.
Evidence for the population of Rome itself or of the other cities of Roman Italy is equally scarce. For the capital, estimates have been based on the number of houses listed in 4th-century AD guidebooks, on the size of the built-up area, and on the volume of the water supply, all of which are problematic; the best guess is based on the number of recipients of the grain dole under Augustus, 200,000, implying a population of around 800,000-1,200,000. Italy had numerous urban centres - over 400 are listed by Pliny the Elder - but the majority were small, with populations of just a few thousand. As much as 40% of the population might have lived in towns (25% if the city of Rome is excluded), on the face of it an astonishingly high level of urbanisation for a pre-industrial society. However, studies of later periods would not count the smallest centres as 'urban'; if only cities of 10,000+ are counted, Italy's level of urbanisation was a more realistic (but still impressive) 25% (11% excluding Rome).
- Historical demography
- Medieval demography
- Colonies in antiquity
- Roman agriculture
- Deforestation during the Roman period
- List of states by population in 1 CE
- Joseph, Brian D. "GREEK, Ancient". Ohio State University Department of Linguistics.
- Lendering, Jona. "Cyrene and the Cyrenaica". Archived from the original on 2008-12-31.
- Grant, Michael (1990). The Hellenistic Greeks: From Alexander to Cleopatra. History of Civilisation. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 21-24. ISBN 0-297-82057-5.
- Grant, Michael (1990). The Hellenistic Greeks: From Alexander to Cleopatra. History of Civilisation. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 48. ISBN 0-297-82057-5.
- Delia (1988)
- Durand (1977)
- Beloch (1886), p. 507
- Russell (1958)
- Brunt (1971), pp. 44-60
- Brunt (1971), pp. 121–130
- cf. Morley (2001) and Scheidel (2001)
- Hin (2007)
- Lo Cascio (2009)
- Morley (1996), pp. 33–39
- Morley (1996), pp. 174–183
- Beloch, Karl Julius (1886). Die Bevölkerung der griechisch-römischen Welt.
- Brunt, P. A. (1971). Italian Manpower, 225 B.C.- A.D. 14. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Delia, Diana (1988). "The population of Roman Alexandria". Transactions of the American Philological Association. 118: 275–292. JSTOR 284172.
- Durand, John D. (1977). "Historical estimates of world population: an evaluation". Population and Development Review. 3 (3): 253–296. JSTOR 1971891.
- Hin, Saskia (2007). Counting Romans (PDF). Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics.
- Lo Cascio, Elio (2009). "Urbanization as a proxy of growth". In Bowman, Alan; Wilson, Andrew. Quantifying the Roman Economy: Methods and Problems. OUP Oxford. pp. 87–106. ISBN 978-0-19-956259-6.
- Morley, Neville (1996). Metropolis and Hinterland: the City of Rome and the Italian Economy, 200 BC–AD 200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521560061.
- Morley, Neville (2001). "The transformation of Italy, 225–28 B.C.". Journal of Roman Studies. 91: 50–62. doi:10.1017/s0075435800015847. JSTOR 3184769.
- Scheidel, Walter, ed. (2001). Debating Roman Demography. Mnemosyne. 211. Leiden: Brill. pp. 139–60. ISBN 90-04-11525-0.
- Russell, J. C. (1958). "Late ancient and medieval population". Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society.
Roman Republic and Empire
- Bagnall, Roger S.; Frier, Bruce W. (2006). The Demography of Roman Egypt. Cambridge Studies in Population, Economy and Society in Past Time. 23. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-02596-6.
- Fenoaltea, Stefano (1984). "Slavery and Supervision in Comparative Perspective: A Model" (PDF). Journal of Economic History. 44 (3): 635–668. doi:10.1017/S0022050700032307. JSTOR 2124146.
- Frank, Tenney (1975). Rome and Italy of the Republic. An economic survey of ancient Rome. 1. Octagon Books. ISBN 978-0-374-92848-3.
- Frier, Bruce W. (2001). "More is Worse: Some Observations on the Population of the Roman Empire". In Scheidel, Walter. Debating Roman Demography. Brill. pp. 139–60. ISBN 90-04-11525-0.
- Kron, Geoffrey (2005). "The Augustan Census Figures and the Population of Italy". Estratto da Athenaeum: Studi di Letteratura e Storia dell'Antichita. 93 (2): 441–495. ISSN 0004-6574.
- Lo Cascio, Elio (2001). "Recruitment and the Size of the Roman Population From the Third to the First Century BC". In Scheidel, Walter. Debating Roman Demography. Brill. pp. 139–60. ISBN 90-04-11525-0.
- Rosenstein, Nathan (2005). Rome at War: Farms, Families, and Death in the Middle Republic. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-6410-4.
- Scheidel, Walter (2001). "Progress and Problems in Ancient Demography". In Scheidel, Walter. Debating Roman Demography. Brill. pp. 139–60. ISBN 90-04-11525-0.
- Scheidel, Walter; Morris, Ian; Saller, Richard P., eds. (2007). The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-78053-7.
- Scheidel, Walter (July 2007). "Roman Population Size: The Logic of the Debate". Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics.
- Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics: Walter Scheidel on Roman demography and population history
- "Roman Empire Population". UNRV History.