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The Romans and Trade$
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André Tchernia

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198723714

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198723714.001.0001

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Traders’ Fortunes

Traders’ Fortunes

(p.38) 2 Traders’ Fortunes
The Romans and Trade

André Tchernia

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on those who used commerce as an honourable way of making a fortune when such wealth was not inherited. Using the case of Cornelius Senecio, a protégé of Seneca of modest origins who became a great businessman-cum-trader and a Roman eques, the author goes on to describe other traders and merchant dynasties, especially those engaged in trade with the East and the oil trade from Baetica. The examples reveal this commercial elite as an extremely diverse group, whose fortunes, fate, and ambitions varied greatly. Yet their wealth differed from that of the great landowners, and because the empire did not need to borrow from them they did not gain the influence of merchant dynasties such as the Medici or the Fugger. The pax romana and the unity of the empire promoted trade and increased the fortunes of the merchants but did not enhance their political power.

Keywords:   eques, Cornelius Senecio, trade with the East, oil trade, Medici, Fugger, Baetica, pax romana, commercial elite, merchant dynasties

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