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Demography in Roman History: Facts and Impressions Author(s): W. den Boer Source: Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol.

26, Fasc. 1 (1973), pp. 29-46 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: . Accessed: 17/10/2011 14:25
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W. den


At the end of the ninefor definite results. is craving History in a rude way. Historical it its lesson was teenth taught century from the evidence be different to evidence fundamentally appeared its own position in and others vindicated sciences. Dilthey I think, how many and proved, irrefutably the scholarly disciplines differences there are between the results of an historical investigation Time and again, howresearch. and those of, say, mathematical have come forward to declare proudly ever, new forms of positivism of the that history is a science in the same sense as the natural sciences. of historical data seems to return to the quantification not of classical only under the urge of neoposihistory antiquity of the impressive the results which but also under tivism, challenge of for later periods different methods of quantification attained Presently, history, eminent A warning in the field of demography. by an especially A. Momigliano modern scholar is not out of place, however. "The negative in recent research as follows: sketches the situation more and more fact [is] that full-blooded social history is becoming and complications. intractable refinements owing to its increasing Anyone Section who follows ?cole with des admiration Hautes the activities wonders of the whether Sixi?me such a of the ?tudes

microscopic definitely" on Italian

can be pursued inof social analysis developments and of Professor Brunt The learned book masterly *). with this renewed manpower 2) is in accordance quantiin historiography. however, prove that Dilthey was right. History, as a

fying tendency The results,

?) The Development of Greek Biography (Cambridge, Mass. 1971), 6. 2) P. A. Brunt, Italian Manpower 225 B.C.-14 A.D. Oxford University Press, 1971. xxi, 750 p. Pr. ? 9.

30 scholarly


does not get the clear results which are so enterprise, In many cases it is better to speak of impressions sought. eagerly than of facts. This explains the title of my small and reflections be aroused to the discussion which will certainly by a this important landmark in Roman book, scholarship. to modern research B. clearly marks his position and its relation contribution

in the studies been early

of his introduction following passage (p. 4): "Demographic have now become and new techniques have fashionable, to reconstruct evolved trends and in medieval population modern

and to supply the lack of explicit history, contempois whether This is perfectly true, but the question rary statistics". this statement as well. Brunt is fully holds for Ancient History kind he says: "Unfortunately, data of the the ascertain and to population exploited successfully in deaths sixteenth the rate of births, and marriages, century of Rome. But to the historian France or England are not available aware of this problem now material state Roman All in the census does exist, figures of the size of armies". and in evidence trustworthiness obtained of the by the This is also true. we figures is problematic of the tendency and


on the however, depends, find in our sources. The evidence in this of the minimize of the often fore respect. ancient

of the size of armies

It is problematic not only because or to to exaggerate who gives the figures author the number of the soldiers or the crews, but also because is not always unanimous. Very has been tampered with. Therescholars are inclined many modern

which tradition manuscript of numbers the transmission

that astonishing This is studies in Greek and Roman history. demographic of of of but lack not the disinterest perhaps consequence mostly It must such task. face a in the who historian may hopeless courage for it; in any case he has to admire the be he should be blamed to avoid courage of fellow scholars who spend their time, energy and consideris One in this category on demographic able knowledge problems. the admiration and thanks of all. Professor Brunt who deserves others who dealt with so-called As many problems unpopular of his own enterprise, not only he is inclined to look for supporters but in modern times (Beloch, of course, being his main forerunner) not he that Romans did holds "the also in antiquity. Accordingly

it is not



in the size of their in his eyes] disinterest [disreputable, modern scholars" is evinced citizen (4-5). by many body which he quotes passages from Livy, Polybius And as proof of this attitude and This evidence, the Younger however, supports Pliny. hardly in war depends on the abundance That success of his statement. soldiers, towns with the abundance of citizens that provides Gracchus in 133 B.C. that the agrarian reform of Tiberius strength, was partly due to the fear that a decline had begun in the number was prompted that Augustus' of Roman citizens, by legislation as was the alimenta system of Nerva and Trajan the same anxieties ?these have that That and other us believe. military interest do not prove what Brunt would of history to a general awareness of the truism testify of soldiers. has to number a great power rely upon in the size of the citizen body is common to all military facts They

Modern who do not stress this point are not historians powers. in the problems most of them take this of manpower; disinterested for granted. interest Brunt decisive. has, however, one more the "Characteristically, in an inof their state found expression power was the strength the census, which from an early date was taken or supstitution, I do not know any source posed to be taken every five years". from antiquity which endorses this statement. Beloch had a different view. In the first chapter of his masterly book Die Bev?lkerung Welt (1886), he says (p. 1) : "Bei den grossen der griechisch-r?mischen die ?berall der Besitz des B?rgerrechtes Privilegien, gew?hrte, sich zun?chst die Notwendigkeit musste den machen, geltend der Berechtigten Kreis durch festzuUrkunden unzweifelhafte stellen". with not to Beloch the census was primarily connected According the rights and, above all, the obligations of citizenship. As far as I can see this political goal of the census was always paramount, "a consciousness The tributum state". was the strength of their manpower one of the main motives, and the pater above the military age, was the legal owner of was He old was assessable this and service. view. had for military supports The to be registered, in distribution that which argument consciousness Roman seems that to be man-

familias, quite often the taxable income. although classes according he was too

to wealth

It is in accordance

32 with all we know

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY about that Beloch, about speaking ist der "Das letzte Census, 30): (p. worden ist. Seit Italien von directer Steuer census the

Vespasian's der ?berhaupt gehalten befreit war, hatte diese Aufnahme ihre und von der Conscription in den Provinzen die verloren; Bedeutung praktische ans?ssigen dem Provinzialcensus ohnehin unterworfen. waren F?r B?rger blosse Dauer Karl wards has statistische nicht Zwecke an verbundenen Opfer durchf?hrbar". Zeit die mit dem Census aber der B?rgerschaft und Geld zuzumuthen, war auf die



of hypercriticism towas the great founder Julius Beloch With all due respect to his genius one the sources of history. has been disastrous. to admit that sometimes his influence book The History of the Athenian Constitution by to scholars can only be recommended

I mention one example: C. Hignett (1952). This in who are interested formation enormous about the difference

not for inthe history of hypercriticism, an There is, however, Athenian constitution. the is an with in quality. Hignett ep?gonos

of a leader, Beloch is a real leader and his 'Greek History' pretension on the sources is full of the most interesting and shrewd remarks This was which he regarded, all of them, with doubt and suspicion. of in this stimulating course of conduct his consistent masterpiece "Der Historiker his opinion as follows: bewiesen wenn wird, dass es nur, Quellen of nineteenth-cenrichtig ist" l). This was the clear pronouncement that Beloch did not adhere We can only be thankful tury positivism. scholarship, glaubt was and he worded in den steht to this that; more than (For his words are nothing imitator his do the with to 'higher things' they in that without so every hisrealizing despised Hignett proudly of of the work torical background philosophical any importance confession have of faith. much author is revealed to have the We are fortunate mercilessly.) to his he was more lenient in which youth


of his masterpieces if Beloch would never have been written, His Bev?lkerung sources. that he could prove the census numbers had waited till the moment never will come. given in the sources to be right. This moment Brunt's of citizens is endless. The discussion about the number ?) ?. J. Beloch, Griechische Geschichte2, I, 2 (1916), 16.

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY runs taken as follows: "To over the extent that



census) with itself roughly

is a gistered I do not wish second, point of controversy. hardly less important, in a review of Brunt's book. The discusto go into these questions it will never come to a result that satisfies sion is endless because all parties. Chapter 5 is therefore There the author gives the reasons numbers of the sources results problematic work the words which (as Beloch of all his labour Brunt himself of the book. important why he accepts, in the main, the did before him). He is aware of the the most

together other evidence, they the numbers the numbers registered" (26). Whether the whole population useful to estimate are effectively and

a period

the figures (of the a consistent picture present to represent may be deemed re-

applies to part of it: "As usual our impressions go further than sharpening that there It is about these impressions said. The historian modern demographic with Beloch. progress as compared books which for me more inspiring not known to the author (although of mediocre scholars who of antiquity research. is now In this

; one can apply to this enormous in his fair and disarming modesty we cannot nor hope for statistics of what occurred" more is something able to derive Brunt's (294). to be

try came given above) read). Impressions (as meant in the quotation two des to me from books. E. Naraghi, L'?tude dans les populations ? statistique Contribution incomplete. m?thodologique pays (Paris for pratique and other methods regarding population demography probA History lems. The second is J. T. Noonan, Contraception. of its and Canonists Treatment l), especially by the Catholic Theologians ?tudes', new Part One classical parallels which is of the utmost for (50-450 A.D.) importance scholars who deal with population Moreover the problems. from medieval than the modern history are more illustrative in Brunt's not. the Here pocket book, and which somealso one cannot blame a book edition of Mentori960), '?cole one of the des remarkable hautes fruits of the to whom sixth section of the we owe so much

and perhaps he does not belong to the herd to enumerate all books they have

respect I missed, however, are not mentioned

profit from book marks some of the

which lavishly occur parallels times are relevant, sometimes ?) Repeatedly reprinted. Omega Books (1967). Mnemosyne XXVI I used

34 modern historian

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY for taking illustrations the

of his own reading, and for advantage which clarify his own results in this choosing striking I myself shall field even from the last war and in different countries. in this advance social review that follow all these same method. But one has to confess and a different in period our impression of how only help to strengthen times, and do not give any proof things went in Roman Republican at all. This has been realized by Brunt and M. K. Hopkins on whom he environment relies in this part of his work (131 ff.), but I doubt whether even by themselves. are always taken seriously, their warnings raised by reading Let me start with two problems, Naraghi's heavily in under-developed He says: "Generally, countries, marriage In Moslem counoccurs at a for women, very early age. especially and Social is non-existent. tries, particularly, celibacy virtually book. forbid religious customs life. In Iran, at twenty, rural areas) are married. women to lead an isolated nearly 90% of the Men marry a little later, but by the age of only 5% are bachelors" (p. 91). I think nobody will deny forty-five, ancient that from a social and economic Italy can be viewpoint compared polygamy say that with and independent women (even more in 'facts' from a different

an under-developed country. (Let us not bring in in Naraghi's because of the Moslem examples studies, and That for an increase of the population. it was responsible

in and proved irrefutably this was not the case has been explained and of Brunt about contraception All the speculations his study.) and in the late Republic the undeniable decrease of the population There is no have to do with this comparison. the early Empire late. Let married that a Roman woman reason at all to presume first follow the author and assume that many Romans us, however, have been Would the effect on fertility late marriages. practised The birth it to be seems ? On first sight very plausible. significant on the proas Brunt rightly out, primarily points depends, and to some exwhile who of women reproductive, marry portion other hand, the On at which tent on the average they marry. age rate of in death results a the female of higher very early marriage rate women dying in childbirth l). i) As has been pointed out recently by U. M. Cowgill in the Scientific American, Jan. 1970, 109-no; "The risks of infant and maternal mortality,



It may well be asked whether the period of average reproductivity was greater for women married at the minimum legal age of marriage becomes than for women who married ten years later. This question even not more been consummated Ireland important before answered about women force. the for those cases in which the unions were menarche. I doubt who However trends As long as these questions have one whether from modern example that in at 20, 25 and 30 respectively, may be, further studies, partichuman are painfully fertility


has conclusive ularly wanting


x). it is my impression, but no more, that in the societies Secondly, in which girls marry very young, the sexual taboos are enormously to fertility. Not only polygamy was responsible for prohibitive "As this: for the of these taboos. Naraghi supports practice polygamy among the peoples of sexual taboos which effective" connection (92). One between of black Africa, why explains must realize firstly that there exists a close rites domestic fertility concerning crops, farmers themselves in a rural society (people between his properties of the neighbour are closely man and : the connected it is subjected to a number their fertility is low and in-

and the animals, make no distinction

ox and in

and the wife the donkey, the Ten Commandments and I feel sure that characteristic of Jewish law and communal doubts about Brunt's conclusions

this is not exclusively I have life). Therefore

my greatest concerning marriage, infanticide and contraception which are, in my opinion, childbirth, treated too much from the heights of modern and comfortable celibacy 2). It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly disagree with on population, his chapters on 'reproductivity in Italy' especially His for a in case view that new, unorthodox, plea (chapter XI). any the social habits of the wealthy?who according to all the evidence

prematurity and stillbirth are particularly high when the mother is very young or in her forties". i) See also Cowgill, op. cit., 112. 2) An important incidental fact is that we are not able to distinguish between male and female sterility. For this and connected problems, see G. Hawthorn, The Sociology of Fertility (Londen 1970), especially the Appendix on 'Components of natural fertility' (120 ff.).

36 we have Even married less

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY early (Brunt does not deny that)? astonishingly habits of the poor differed widely, is unwarranted. is the assumption that the founders until of the they they that poor girls only (who supported until they were 18) did not know what "It seems then to have been expected

and the social

13 or 14 and that their upkeep would cease to was But it may be that the expectation be a charge on the parents. the social that and based on the founders' unrealistic, presumption of other to their own. In default habits of the poor corresponded we cannot prove that this was not the case, but we may evidence if there was ask whether it is probable" (137). This is hypercriticism shows evidence Brunt a thing! agrees that epigraphic of first marriages was contracted that the largest number by girls the ages of 12 and 15, and it is very hard to assume that between ever such this evidence "The looked poor for man to the upper and middle social strata. is only restricted have ... He should therefore needed a helpmate the unlike active a fully grown, woman, physically who But girl and was also had able

alimentary were 13 or 14, and boys were doing. Brunt says: the girls would marry at

probable foundations

Roman wealthy what really took

on slaves for labour" (138). depended to the heart lost his man the is that poor place with her before next door, often had intercourse marriage followed. The neighbourhood (I would conjecture) pregnancy his to had alert and the young man teenage girl. There is marry because of her youth, another factor. The girl, still unmarried would not be to marry early, because her parents or guardian to have an extra consumer household of food in the house, an adult contribution to the


with what was not in keeping to be filled. many mouths One

her mother) helping (for instance, too she cost. There were sometimes

was so frequently infanticide whether also wonder might from H. Bolkeknow We us believe. would have Brunt as practised stein's studies, in this respect followed by A. W. Gomme and G. van from what had was different N. Viljoen x), that the Greek situation ?) H. Bolkestein, C. P. 17 (1922), 222-39; A. W. Gomme, The Population of Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C. (1933); G. van N. Viljoen, Acta Class. 2 (1959), 58-69 (with extensive bibliography). Although these authors deal with the exposure of children, infanticide,

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY been assumed about before Bolkestein doubt


I have speaking


my the Romans

his illuminating article. published whether the?not so many?sources and infanticide bear witness to a

general custom. The conjecture that women (in the upper class) were married so with the of female infanticide, because, young, prevalence they were in short supply is also to me. The basis is a (138), unacceptable in Cassius Dio passage (LIV 16, 2) that there were fewer females than that in 18 B.C. *). The fact among the free-born population is mentioned of the rarity of might be the consequence the phenomenon. From what follows it will appear that I do not endorse this view. However that may be, what Dio says has to be this statistics modern respect give us a very good based on experiences in many countries. If the so-called guidance, law' does not manifest 'natural itself from the population census, explained. modern cedure anthropologists can be trusted. have What their doubts whether law? the whole Here one is this natural procan In this males

so closely connected with exposure, gets considerable attention too. That for Roman society the situation was totally different from that in the Greek is doubtful. Miss Treggiari is right in expressing her different city-states, view in Roman Freedmen during the Late Republic (Oxford 1969), 214: "I am not convinced that the treatment of a pair of alleged bastards in the imperial house justifies Hopkins in thinking exposure was common, and the prevalence of abortion may be similarly disputed". W. L. Langer, Checks on Population Growth: 1750-1850, Scientific American, February 1972, gives, however, much evidence that the checks were, during these years, the widespread practice of celibacy and infanticide. Whether this can be applied to pagan antiquity on the basis of the well-known passages from Plato and Aristotle (see the exemplary treatment by A. W. Gomme) is highly questionable. Also the terminology which speaks of "population growth in precontraceptive times" is dangerous. It is based on a superficial belief in proto a contraceptive gress from a precontraceptive period in the history of mankind. Noonan rightly drew attention to the apparently frequent use of in Greek and Roman antiquity. In many cases the idea of contraceptives 'progress' will have to exclude the ancient Greeks and Romans in this respect. 1) I am only referring to the words epe?d? te p??? p?e??? t? ???e? t?? the same ???e?? t?? e??e???? ??. That Dio was wrong in other statements?in been pointed out very clearly by A. Watson, The Law of Persons passage?has in the Later Roman Republic (Oxford 1967), 33 ff. (I owe this reference to J. A. Crook). These errors, however, are not my concern at the moment. Like in the question of the census numbers (Ch. V), I follow here also Brunt's interpretation of the Greek words quoted: "According to Dio there were fewer females than males among the free-born population in 18 B.C." (151).

38 refer to the

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY us that in teaches of Naraghi: "Demography in terms of the ratio of men measured dominance, with the end of the of the same age, varies, beginning words male

any people to women first

is middle age) when a balance year until an age (generally sexes the the between of in ratio variation The process attained. cannot be altered by the upheavals is a natural law whose mechanism us to That is why this law enables caused by war and migration. in the censuses" and errors occurring imperfections are than born true more It that is girls, but it is boys (p. 108) x). than boys" survived not true that "more girls normally infancy "Demois confirmed by Naraghi: (Brunt, 151). The first statement detect the of male that the number statistics... agree in affirming graphic over 100, but does not births is generally births per 100 female exceed this figure very much: 101 to 107. This fact applies to the as soon as reliable as well as to live births, on all latitudes, still-born of demographers number Thus a certain are available. statistics have developed ares, Joaqu?n Communication Sept. 1954). where civil the result of a census (Moof controlling de naissance, la masculinit? sur Notes Jos? Pasos, Mondial de la Population, au Congr?s Rome, a method no reason to believe

a priori that in countries the sufficient does not furnish statistics, government where from that of countries ratio of male births is any different for a long time. The few has been functioning civil government issued by African and Asiatic countries reliable statistics prove that as is constant at birth of male sex the this numerical superiority We have soon fluctuations. as a sufficiently large sample Thus male dominance of government of the figures as soon is available at birth to avoid becomes accidental an indication

of the validity the accuracy is not close The


or censuses. as the percentage is,

We can question of male birth

to 105" (p. 109). of Brunt statement second

"more girls not confirm not manifest sees

more important: however, does than boys". survived Naraghi infancy normally rate does that. The effect of the higher male mortality life. Roughly in human itself so quickly speaking, the 'law' that in normal circumstances as a general (Paris 1949).


?) Cf. ?. Landry, Treatise on Demography



till the age of forty: are numerically "Up to predominant of the male sex from then there is a numerical ; superiority age 40, and the gap widens rapidly; on the female sex prevails among old people over 90 one counts He gives as an illustration Number five women for every two men" (p. 109). : in France 1928-1933 a list of mortality

of Women per 1,000 Men o- 9 yrs. 980 50-59 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 yrs- 980 yTS- 9^2 yrs? 992 yrs. 1,021 (art. 60-69 7?-79

yrs. yrs.

1,086 1,187

yrs? I>393 80-89 y^? t>8io 90 yrs. and over confirm in York

2,506 Brunt's the conclusion survival rate

Miss either. was


of the people "Evidently took better care of their boys than York in those times (1538-1812) nonin certain of their girls". This seems to be still true today the the of author them nations. Some scholars industrial (among than for females. more precarious for found that life is generally just quoted) from York to the written sources for than boys, according girls the age of three and four. between particularly to Roman research are relevant from modern If these results article Dio stated was not I think they are?what as well?and society in different the situation at all. What made, however, abnormal at this 18 B.C. from that in other periods was that, apparently had suffered the females of the free-born population very moment, so much which from childbirth have been between must terrible male of the civil wars and from the consequences that the for the Roman countryside, and female was more conspicuous than we pay too much respect to Dio's true it bears If it is historically 'total war' was not a modern invention.

According higher for males

cit., 106) does not to her investigations

disproportion was the case statement testimony

Perhaps normally. alone. which stands that from

to the fact suffered

from the suffered it also. Italy especially Antiquity Italian males of upward of 100,000 wars so badly that the absence not in the army (probably for the most unmarried part) should is of women, for the shortage have compensated which, if Naraghi

40 right, in itself al' law which There and

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY must have been already outx). there to the 'natur-


he tried

to point

is another an older

late, not the wealthy. The reasons just the poor which have big families, for that are many. One of them is that the man of wealth is always with his property, he makes his he sees to the future; concerned for doing so. Therefore The poor man has no reason accounts. he lives young delay much than

objection against the idea that the poor married that. at Modern studies teach us that it is girl

'carelessly' (as the upper classes say). But there is more. If a of his poor financial was forced to man, because position,

his marriage, while on the other hand the son of his squire, than he, could marry a girl when he and she were younger still adolescents, of the poor would have been louder the complaints ever. If this had occurred we should have found the echo of the protest comprehensible completely poor classes in our sources. As far as from silence is a course, an argument collected however, by Brunt himself have been down to us handed poor, and the the of the I know about male from the young we do not find them. Of the social complaints, of the position This particular, sexual before been urge of his eyes recorded.

weak one. The bitter

example spectacular, moreover normal young adult male?who of his betters?would customs marriage

by the sources. of neglecting the normal saw have

not of historical Here also one is only allowed to speak of impression, to illustrate have modern we and here also evidence, only parallels in the name of our choice. I have before me on my desk a complaint Bolivian that these poor people to their poor do not want It is quite obvious government. alcontrol and contraception, I am allowed to use this are appalling. own birth

though their living conditions manifesto as an argument against Brunt, because he holds that the one of reasons for economic marriage (see above), poor postponed ? ) How uncertain all results of this kind are, was brought home to me by Chester G. Starr, who offered me (per litter as) additional, warning evidence which should not be neglected: "In modern societies the females eventually are more numerous than aging males; but this does not seem at all to have been true in early societies. Cf. H. V. Vallois, Social Life of Early Man No. 31, New York, 1961), in Anthropology, (Viking Fund Publications 214-235, who states that of all material from Neanderthal through Mesolithic only two of sixteen who were aged 41 -50 were women ; and none of aged 51 -60".



children at an age on being the wish not to have legitimate them. The Bolivians would have said : he could not maintain

be deprived "It is very simple to demand that a majority of having can enjoy in abundance what is being rechildren while a minority Of course, that would have been masses". fused to the impoverished an exaggeration, the minority because might also have its reasons for birth control; is that, what in this situation but the difference of the Roman nepoor and of the Bolivian poor is an inevitable in both situations, is the free choice of the wealthy in cessity, antiquity demagogues people's realize that and in modern who demands times. as populares would have would said: I am quite have "The sure that the the and Roman lower workers supported

peasants the prosperity towards and they are not advancing from having seek by refraining and they children, they justice realize faster that they are hereby increasing the prosperity of the others". And they would have been right. Perhaps would not they was as far as the attitude unjust their common slaves are concerned. These were, in most cases, prevented from having families and mostly for reasons given by Brunt himself. But what realized can one slave history, that slaves considerable, supply normally were allowed to have children. slaves was very expensive Rearing and hazardous. did not expect that Meno's slave was an Socrates agree, from the markets was the view that slave breeding did ?????e??? x). I do not maintain not exist ; we know of examples of it. But it must have been a rare and therefore a factor in economic life which hardly phenomenon, childlessplayed a role 2). In the personal life of the slaves, however, ness must have been a bitter experience, but it was, as it were, a of the institution natural of slavery as such 3). That consequence freedman, in general, wished to have very small families, as Brunt where slaves in a society expect for the classical period of Roman are common? when I do not the have how

? ) Plato Meno 82 ?. American parallel does not 2) The often mentioned nineteenth-century prove anything for the Roman Republic. Perhaps the evidence from the Empire is more useful for a comparison concerning slave breeding. The category of slave women who gave birth to children must have been very small, especially in the period covered by Brunt's book. 3) Cf. Noonan, op. cit., 36, and esp. note 20.



would have us believe, seems unlikely to me. For a freedman, as for the poor farmer (in Italy, in modern Bolivia and elsewhere) the a symbol of status *). having of children was, I conjecture, This last 'impression' takes me to another important subject: the census of Augustus. The question is notorious. himself Augustus gives in the Res Gestae the following 28 B.C. 8 B.C. A.D. Beloch tried that 14 to reconcile 4,063,000 4,233,000 4>937?ooo these figures women with and the some data Republican or all children. census returns:

assuming Brunt supports interpretation follow both objections that

they comprise this view, although with a different and attractive of Pliny ? H 33, 16 (p. 113 ff.) I am prepared to on the women and children, but I have great scholars idea that the infants would were have left made out on the the totals

to Brunt's

the great infant mortality ground too favourable. My reason for objection

is, as in all earlier instances, I cannot imagine a proud Italian, father of a only from 'impression'. to healthy child of, say, one year old, willing to follow an instruction his when had of his child he to members enumerate the 'forget' There were also healthy citizens. children born to Roman family. In several of relative his work stresses the Brunt, parts rightly, of the numbers even with from our sources, sometimes reliability an inaccuracy rate of 25 to 35%. I could tell him from experiences of civil servants in the former Dutch Indies, how proud the population was of their big families, even if they were nearly starving 2). adconditions Nature is sometimes herself very good at treating ?) S. M. Treggiari (op. cit., ch. VI) gives a more convincing explanation: "The smallness of freedmen's families gives the impression that the childbearing years after manumission tended to be short" (p. 214). for instance by Duncan-Jones mentioned 2) The other possibility, (OCD2 [1970], 863) : "The discrepancy was probably due mainly to the much greater efficiency with which the new census was carried out", has much to say for it, if only that the terminology of Res Gestae seems to imply that the here also we touch upon a question total was one of adult male citizens.?But the definite answer to which will never be given.

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY verse Indies to fertility. is relevant. Here When also an illustration from the former liberated

43 Dutch the


Asia had been


Japanese, women's

all sorts of goods were sent by plane, first of all to the where women and small children had suffered camps, much. in One of the first commodities, dropped great quantities, were hygienic towels for the women. They did not need them, however. In the period of detention the normal menstruation had gradually for most of the women. After having had disappeared food for a while the normal returned. Of cycle gradually this is not to suggest that only women who get the proper are fertile. There are women, for generations acquainted has not been affected by the general and But that is not my point. In the Indian women of the and colonial

proper course, nourishment

to hunger, whose fertility miserable food conditions. concentration upperUnder and these

hunger poverty. of a totally different way that in the very fertile plains conjecture of Italy sudden calamities of continuous and rain, storms, drought bad harvest, and epidemic disease among the cattle, consequently caused starvation which many times could not be remedied properly. It is a truism to say that ancient which hardly knew such society, circumstances, of Ufe is immense. I also the influence as proper planning and reservation, was very weak in its things economic I basis. that the average after woman, suggest peasant had periods of plenty of food, in which her children were conceived, to live through other periods of extreme which hardship during Nature the lack of food in a special way as she did compensated later to her sisters in the concentration and in countries camps starved vincing the death by occupying than Beloch's forces. from I think France that and Italy as upon these conjectures the conditions averse to fertility to say for ancient society my analogy from modern is more conabout

camps none of these western middle class had ever known

rate of the male.

I do not look

but I think that among worthless, this modern has something experience also. only the master children from them but, Not of a slave as Noonan

would not be so happy with to puts it: "It seems reasonable conclude that to want a large number of children in a slave existence would at least be an unlikely desire, and that slaves would often

44 have told had motives


for practicing We have been contraception". also "There is no to the Brunt: and repeatedly, by testimony in pagan Italy, and comparative eviof coitus interruptus adoption method of contraception, effective dence shows that this fairly though well known to some barbarous peoples, is not to be regarded can be simply assumed". as so natural and obvious that its prevalence

however and he rightly adds to the former is very cautious from talking of such things, if men abstained statement: "equally, of all our sources is conbe certain that the silence we cannot Brunt this most striking omission who also mentions clusive" *). Noonan, works of the Greco-Roman in the scientific authors, puts the followor method too evident to need description ing question : Was this too Its emphasize the women. Failure to describe it may, arguably, fertility through in the techniques also reflect confidence 2). The given as adequate one when relevant seems only last of the two suggestions conjectures information that contraceptive (which came down to us mainly for many persons. And this is was available from medical literature) must have been of the prostitutes not so strange, as "the methods with slaves must have both promoted widely known, and concubinage of contrathe knowledge and the use of contraception spread 35-36). risk of childbearing by what he had Sexual and from his neighbours. seen around him, in his family, as a in and control was absolutely protection part justified necessary was never popular among a rural popuof life. Sexual promiscuity it was as it was in securing life. Sometimes lation, more interested ceptive The techniques" poor farmer (Noonan, knew the better wives, to secure so when But that or abortion. life by infanticide The had failed. such as danger contraception was only for their unacceptable does absence to be recommended? that the main He gives two alternatives. effort was to control

will have made small landowners their helpmates, mostly be This has to careful. stressed, in my opinion, against Noonan's very too much, basing itself on few book which generalizes illuminating ?) Brunt, 146-7; cf. M. K. Hopkins, Comparative Studies in Society and Hist. 8, 1965. Modem parallels (seventeenth century) of the same silence are given by P. Laslett, The world we have lost. 2nd ed. London 1971, 106-107. 2) Noonan, op. cit., 32.

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY from Latin literature, examples upper social classes or notorious


situations either in the illustrating to him 1) "the According exceptions. on fetal and infant life was strikingly Roman attitude conventional or weakly children of abnormal callous. Seneca refers to the drowning as commonplace action". This certainly the same conclusion facts exposure But these normal decided tried their of children a Roman would can and as a reasonable phenomenon have been true. From Greek civilization

2). And it is also true that the on the will of the parents. depended entirely to conclude that the drowning are not enough of be drawn was a commonplace, child. their newborn confronted with circumstances, and also that many nor the that parents happily I would that they presume and that, in situation, would stood have tried to for them


to expose to avoid being




prevent pregnancy; and that the techniques, belief would sometimes belief that children

ways open as said already, were well known. Common have helped to prevent pregnancy, e.g. the in menstruation conceived were born sickly,

or dead (Pliny ? H VII 15, 67). The last instance is serupurulent so he all the but shares Noonan himself; evidence, given by presents in this respect the prejudices of the theologians and canonists whose In Roman he describes so admirably. had society position cruelty its roots in precarious circumstances. As soon as the economic poor seemed prosperity is the main was As soon as their they multiplied. protected, That stable, they tried to avoid big families. from That is a literature and impression epigraphy. more to be

of 'the family of man'. I do not think that a hisgeneral attitude torian can say more about it. The poor and the rural population were hardly affected The governmental by Augustus' legislation. interest in population seemed confined to encouraging reproduction to what a parent did with his of the upper classes and indifference was general (cf. Noonan, offspring 112). In small the part I have restricted remarks to a very foregoing myself of Brunt's fascinating and learned work. It was only my

i) Op. Cit., 112. 2) See my article Greeks and the Greeks, in Intern. Rev. of Social History 4 (1959), 91-110.

46 intention common fluence in which them, to

DEMOGRAPHY IN ROMAN HISTORY with the author and on which of are?with in-


agreement?uncertain, for an evaluation of his work. he is more collected certain in the

points therefore



of his results.

are many other points I agree with many of

superb appendices (pp. 515-699). contributions are, in my opinion, 5 Enfranchisement Outstanding in the Italian Roman and Later Colonies, in Early 8 Violence 18 Malaria in Ancient articles Italy, and the technical Countryside, Roman 'How the about Levy was Conducted' (and the (19-29) with the census as such). Here next appendices, closely connected we over have his main contributions work. which Brunt constitute in the in which Beloch's masterly he does not is more flexible progress in his argunotorious style of politeness among real


mentation, Beloch?which scholars Leiden,

sear his opponent is also an asset, in a time self-evident*). 15 b

is no longer De Laat

de Kanterstraat

? ) It is pleasant duty to thank Chester G. Starr, John W. Eadie and Clayton Li bolt for reading, and correcting the style of, this article. This is not the only nor the most important help they offered me during a happy year of fruitful cooperation (1971-1972) in the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.