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Settlement, Urbanization, and Population$
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Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602353

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602353.001.0001

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Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

Population and Settlement

(p.317) 11 Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
Settlement, Urbanization, and Population

Alan Bowman

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews the evidence for the population of Roman Egypt and its distribution among different kinds and sizes of settlement — possibly 20 per cent of a (high count) population of 7.5 million lived in (large) cities; and indeed, settlements in Roman Egypt were remarkably large by comparison with those elsewhere, some villages apparently being larger than major towns in other provinces. There is good evidence for population increase from the Ptolemaic period through to the mid-second century, when the Antonine Plague seems to have had an important impact, but there appears to have been some recovery by the third century. In an empire composed of very diverse regions, the concept of ‘typicality’ is elusive and probably illusory, but the position here adopted is that analysis of Egypt's population structure and the economic relationships between ‘units’ of population (cities, villages, households) is significant for patterns of human behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean in classical antiquity.

Keywords:   population distribution, settlements, Egyptian population, human behaviour

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