Epigraphy and Demography

Walter Scheidel

in Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences

Published by British Academy

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265062
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754173 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Epigraphy and Demography

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This chapter uses evidence from all over the Graeco-Roman world. It shows that inscriptions are second only to papyri in providing the quantitative evidence without which the study of populations is futile, but require much care in interpretation because of cultural conventions. The chapter follows the life-cycle by reviewing the evidence for (1) fertility rates, especially seasonal; (2) the parameters of marriage customs, with notable variation between Christian and non-Christian documentation; (3) regional variations in family relationships, where (contrary to some recent theories) links within the nuclear family overwhelmingly predominate; (4) population size (where inscriptions offer little) and structures (where the gross under-representation of females reflect cultural convention, not demographic reality); and (5) mortality, especially its seasonal distribution.

Keywords: Mediterranean demography; life-cycle; fertility rates; seasonal variations; nuclear family; gender bias; mortality; marriage customs

Chapter.  12306 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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