gifts and giving, Roman

Neil Coffee

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online December 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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  • Economic History
  • Ancient Roman History


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Romans not only gave gifts to express emotion and build relationships; a long-standing tradition of mutual aid gave rise to more intensive exchange of gifts and services (or reciprocity), among relatives, friends, and business associates; from the wealthy to the public in the form of public benefactions; and in legally sanctioned relationships between patrons and clients. Roman gift culture, distinctive among its contemporary Mediterranean societies, became increasingly transactional from the middle Republic to early Empire.

Keywords: benefactions; bribery; favours; friendship; gift exchange; hospitium; liberalitas; patronage; reciprocity

Article.  2822 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic History ; Ancient Roman History

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