Settlement and Population

Laurens E. Tacoma

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571451
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Settlement and Population

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology of the Near East
  • Egyptian Archaeology



This article is based on two simple assumptions: first, that Roman Egypt had a relatively large population, and secondly, that it had a large number of settlements. The aim is then to analyse how the population was distributed over these settlements, and by what methods we may perform such an analysis. The article is organized as follows. The first section discusses the validity of the standard typology of dividing Egyptian settlements into cities, towns, and villages. The second section discusses the various population estimates that have been put forward. It argues that, despite the uncertainties involved, they imply that levels of urbanization were relatively high. The third section considers in more detail the criteria that have been employed to determine what constitutes a city. They show that instead of a clear-cut dichotomy between city and village, a spectrum of settlements existed. The fourth section discusses the implications of this spectrum for the study of population structure. To what extent is it legitimate to differentiate demographically between rural and urban populations? The fifth and last section discusses several broader theories that may be helpful in analysing settlement patterns.

Keywords: Roman Egypt; settlements; population distribution; population estimates; urbanization; cities; population structure; demography

Article.  7662 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of the Near East ; Egyptian Archaeology

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