(E2) Lesson 1.2 Roman Jobs

Roman civilization spanned over a thousand years and spread across many territories. Its timeline can be divided into three distinct periods: the time of kings, the republican rule, and the age of emperors. In comparison, the United States has only been a country for close to 250 years. If we think about the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries alone, we can better appreciate all of the changes that can take place for a group of people over time.

Let’s consider all the different and popular jobs of the Romans throughout the Empire and how they changed throughout the eras.

During the time of rēgēs (kings), most Romans were agricolae (farmers). They also had to know how to fight as mīlitēs (soldiers). This is not so different from the early days of the American colonies. The early Roman people were considered industrious and devoted farmer-warriors.

During the Republican Period, Rome was no longer ruled by kings. The Romans expanded their territory throughout the Italian peninsula and all over the Mediterranean. As the Romans conquered more territories, they captured and enslaved many people to work in agriculture or in their households. Other people began to specialize in more diverse trades. For example, pistōrēs (bakers) did not even exist in early Rome!

Eventually as farmers cultivated methods for how to grow wheat, bakeries exploded in popularity, selling cakes and leavened bread. Likewise, the garum industry expanded as fishing expanded. As did so many other jobs, even builders, butchers, and barbers.

In addition to traders and merchants, government offices grew as cities developed. Statesmen, accountants, and tax collectors were necessary in the busy Roman world. Most city officials worked, perhaps as a tabulārius (accountant), in the Tabulārium, a records office located in the Forum.

By the Imperial age, the entertainment industry had grown. Gladiators and charioteers were added to the mix of possible jobs. Although many servī (enslaved people) were forced into entertainment work in the gladiatorial rings, some Romans chose this line of work, seeking fame and glory.

Women were traditionally in charge of running a Roman household. Some women were able to have jobs outside of the home. Midwives were known as obstetrīcēs or sometimes even fēminae medicae, i.e. women doctors. Likewise there are records of female mercātōrēs (merchants), hairdressers, and magistrae (teachers). The most surprising of all jobs for women may be that of female gladiators. One ancient relief depicts women without helmets battling in the arena!