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negōtiātōrēs


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The businessmen of the Roman world. In literary sources of the republican period, esp. Cicero, negotiatores, or people who negōtia gerunt (‘do business deals’), are found as members of resident communities of Italian and Roman citizens in all the provinces of the empire, esp. in the major urban centres and ports. The term is used very broadly. Many who are described by Cicero as negotiatores were clearly of high equestrian status. There were close links and involvement with the work of the publicani (tax companies), bankers, landowners, and with shipping. Indeed, one rhetorical remark of Cicero's about ‘all the publicans, farmers, cattle‐breeders, and the rest of the negotiatores’ suggests that the term negotia could cover all those activities. The considerable expansion of trade in the Mediterranean in the Roman period depended upon organization of markets, investment in shipping, and, in a world where the money‐supply was uncertain, credit to facilitate deals (see also banks; maritime loans). This is what negotiatores provided. Such money‐men always also had investments in land, which provided security. The scale and importance of the activities of the negotiatores was emphasized by Cicero in his speech on the command of Pompey (66 bc) at the time of Mithradates VI's disruption of Asia. The term negotiator was rarely defined precisely, because most such money‐men had investments in a whole range of property and activities. The term had an air of respectability, which mercātor (‘trader’) did not.

Negotiatores, their families and their freed slaves, as Roman residents in the provinces, brought Romanization, although, at least in the Greek east, the process of acculturation was importantly two‐way. Their overall impact on the provinces is debated: that many—if well‐connected enough—exploited Roman status to enrich themselves (esp. in the late republic) at provincials' expense is clear; but some at least also used their wealth to support the cities in which they resided (e.g. Atticus, a ‘super‐negotiator’, at Athens) and—in the east—local (Greek) culture. The scale of the eventual fortunes of a few settler‐families is shown by the return of descendants to Italy as provincial senators from the 1st cent. ad on. See also trade, roman.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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