Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2011

3 - Oikonomia: households, consumption, and production

Summary

THE ECONOMY OF THE ROMAN HOUSEHOLD

Contemplating ascetic withdrawal from the material world, Basil of Caesarea reflected on the burdens of ordinary adulthood: “Once a man is united by marriage, he takes on another welter of cares: if he does not have children, the desire for progeny. If children are born to him, anxiety about their upbringing, the surveillance of his wife, the care of the house, the management of the slaves, suits over contracts, fights with the neighbors, the complications of the law courts, the risks of business, and the tiring work of farming.” For Basil, care of the slaves was a standard element of household life, on the indistinct border between the human and proprietary sides of the family. The letter of Basil is a reminder that Roman slavery was essentially economic, in the root, semantic sense of oikonomia, household management. Basil's ascetic letter described, in an unusually pessimistic tone, the typical worries of that class of “gentlemen landowners,” who had been the target audience of economic discourse for nearly a millennium. But conversations about sound and efficient housecraft resonated widely across the social scale – and Basil's householder, we should note, knew the exhausting work of farm labor.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275–425
  • Online ISBN: 9780511973451
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511973451
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
×