Skip to main content

Roman bazaar or market economy? Explaining tableware distributions through computational modelling

  • Tom Brughmans (a1) (a2) and Jeroen Poblome (a3)

How closely integrated were the commercial centres of the Roman world? Were traders aware of supply and demand for goods in other cities, or were communities of traders in cities protectionist and working opportunistically? Widely traded commodities such as terra sigillata tablewares in the Eastern Mediterranean provide an ideal opportunity to explore the economic processes that underlie the archaeological evidence. Agent-based computational modelling allows various such processes to be explored, and also identifies areas for further investigation.

Hide All
Abadie-Reynal, C. 1989. Céramique et commerce dans le bassin Egéen du IVe au VIIe siecle, in Kravari, V., Lefort, J. & Morrisson, C. (ed.) Hommes et richesses dans l'empire byzantin. Tome I, IVe-VIIe siècle: 143–59. Paris: Éditions P. Lethielleux.
Bang, P.F. 2008. The Roman bazaar, a comparative study of trade and markets in a tributary empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bes, P. 2015. Once upon a time in the East. The chronological and geographical distribution of Terra Sigillata and Red Slip Ware in the Roman East (Roman and Late Antique Mediterranean Pottery 6). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Bes, P. & Poblome, J.. 2008. (Not) see the wood for the trees? 19,700+ sherds of sigillata and what we can do with them. . . Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum Acta 40: 505–14. Bonn: Dr Rudolf Habelt.
Brughmans, T. & Poblome, J.. 2015. MERCURY: an ABM of tableware trade in the Roman East. CoMSES Computational Model Library. Available at: (accessed 7 January 2016).
Brughmans, T. & Poblome, J.. 2016a. Pots in space: understanding Roman pottery distribution from confronting exploratory and geographical network analyses, in Barker, E., Bouzarovski, S., Pelling, C. & Isaksen, L. (ed.) New worlds from old texts: revisiting ancient space and place: 255–80. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brughmans, T. & Poblome, J.. 2016b. MERCURY: an agent-based model of tableware trade in the Roman East. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 19 (1). Available at:
Davies, J.K. 2005. Linear and nonlinear flow models for ancient economies, in Manning, J.G. & Morris, I. (ed.) The ancient economy: evidence and models: 127–56. Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press.
Fentress, E. & Perkins, P.. 1988. Counting African Red Slip Ware, in Mastino, A. (ed.) L'Africa Romana: Atti del V Convegno di studio Sassari, 11–13 dicembre 1987: 205–14. Sassari: Dipartimento di storia, Università degli studi di Sassari.
Graham, S. & Weingart, S.. 2015. The equifinality of archaeological networks: an agent-based exploratory lab approach. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22: 248–74.
Hayes, J.W. 1972. Late Roman pottery. London: British School at Rome.
Hayes, J.W. 1985. Sigillate orientale, in Carratelli, G.P. (ed.) Enciclopedia dell'arte antica. classica e orientale. Atlante della forme ceramiche II: ceramica fine romana nel bacino mediterraneo (tardo ellenismo e primo imperio): 196. Rome: Enciclopedia Italiana.
Jin, E.M., Girvan, M. & Newman, M.E.. 2001. Structure of growing social networks. Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics 64: 046132.
Lewit, T. 2011. Dynamics of fineware production and trade: the puzzle of supra-regional exporters. Journal of Roman Archaeology 24: 313–32.
Meyer-Schlichtmann, C. 1988. Die pergamenischen Sigillata aus der Stadtgrabung von Pergamon. Mitte 2. JH v. Chr.—Mitte 2. JH n. Chr. Berlin & New York: de Gruyter.
Morris, I., Saller, R.P. & Scheidel, W.. 2007. Introduction, in Scheidel, W., Morris, I. & Saller, R.P. (ed.) The Cambridge economic history of the Greco-Roman world: 112. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Poblome, J. 2013. Money makes pottery go round, in Poblome, J. (ed.) Exempli Gratia. Sagalassos, Marc Waelkens and interdisciplinary archaeology: 8195. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Poblome, J., Bes, P. & Willet, R.. 2012. Thoughts on the archaeological residue of networks. A view from the East, in Keay, S. (ed.) Rome, Portus and the Mediterranean (Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome 21): 393401. London: British School at Rome.
Reynolds, P. 1995. Trade in the Western Mediterranean, AD 400–700: the ceramic evidence (British Archaeological Reports international series 604). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Scheidel, W. 2014. The shape of the Roman world: modelling imperial connectivity. Journal of Roman Archaeology 27: 732.
Schneider, G. 2000. Chemical and mineralogical studies of late Hellenistic to Byzantine pottery production in the Eastern Mediterranean. Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum Acta 36: 525–36.
Silver, M. 2009. Historical otherness, the Roman Bazaar and primitivism. Journal of Roman Archaeology 22: 421–40.
Temin, P. 2013. The Roman market economy. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.
Willet, R. 2014. Experiments with diachronic data distribution methods applied to Eastern Sigillata A in the eastern Mediterranean. HEROM : Journal on Hellenistic and Roman Material Culture 3: 3969.
Recommend this journal

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

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material
Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material 2

 Unknown (14 KB)
14 KB
Supplementary materials

Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material
Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material 1

 Unknown (73 KB)
73 KB
Supplementary materials

Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material
Brughmans and Poblome supplementary material 3

 Unknown (5 KB)
5 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 49
Total number of PDF views: 522 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 784 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.