Roman Wealth and Wealth Inequality in Comparative Perspective

14 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2019

Date Written: September 22, 2019


Reflecting current concerns about economic inequality, scholars who study the pre-modern past are increasingly addressing this issue. The obstacles to measuring the distribution of income or wealth in the ancient Roman world are formidable. Only a few highly localized datasets are available. Any appraisal of conditions in the Roman empire as a whole therefore requires parametric modeling. Building on earlier work by Scheidel and Friesen (2009), this paper explores new ways of establishing plausible parameters for a probabilistic reconstruction of the total size of Roman wealth and the share held by the top tier of society.

Keywords: Inequality, History of Inequality, Economic Inequality, Wealth Inequality, Income Inequality, Roman History, Roman Empire

JEL Classification: N30, P51

Suggested Citation

Scheidel, Walter, Roman Wealth and Wealth Inequality in Comparative Perspective (September 22, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Walter Scheidel (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2145
United States

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