Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

Alan Bowman

in Settlement, Urbanization, and Population

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199602353
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731570 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy

Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

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This chapter reviews the evidence for the population of Roman Egypt and its distribution among different kinds and sizes of settlement — possibly 20 per cent of a (high count) population of 7.5 million lived in (large) cities; and indeed, settlements in Roman Egypt were remarkably large by comparison with those elsewhere, some villages apparently being larger than major towns in other provinces. There is good evidence for population increase from the Ptolemaic period through to the mid-second century, when the Antonine Plague seems to have had an important impact, but there appears to have been some recovery by the third century. In an empire composed of very diverse regions, the concept of ‘typicality’ is elusive and probably illusory, but the position here adopted is that analysis of Egypt's population structure and the economic relationships between ‘units’ of population (cities, villages, households) is significant for patterns of human behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean in classical antiquity.

Keywords: population distribution; settlements; Egyptian population; human behaviour

Chapter.  16207 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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