Item description for Debating Roman Demography (Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava Supplementum) by Walter Scheidel...
This work is designed to introduce ancient historians to demographic perspectives. It includes four case studies that illustrate a variety of different approaches to the study of ancient population history. Issues addressed include the seasonal patterns of fertility and population pressure.
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Scheidel and Saller's Simplistic Suppositions Nov 14, 2005
Walter Scheidel has put together a well researched and erudite text on Roman demography, featuring work by some of the field's most eminent scholars; however, the endorsement by the pre-eminent Roman demographer in America of the erroneous thesis of Richard Saller (Patriarchy, Property & Death, Cambridge University Press, 1994), who is featured in this book, and Brent Shaw- that Roman males married on average at twenty-eight and females at age nineteen - is disappointing. As has been shown in The Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003), the ages at first marriages of Latin speakers were actually between fifteen and nineteen for males, twelve and sixteen for females: as almost everyone had assumed before Saller began to analyze dedications on epitaphs in 1983. (see: Friedlander, Ludwig. Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms in der Zeit von Augustus bis zum Ausgang der Antonine. 10th ed., 4 vols. Leipzig, 1922.)
What the epitaphs actually show is that by twenty-eight most husbands had in fact lost their fathers, who always commemorated sons as long as they could, with the result that their wives thereafter became their principal commemorators. Likewise by nineteen most wives had living children, so that their husbands, who therefore got to keep the dowry, overtook their wives' fathers as commemorators. Scheidel has challenged anyone disputing Saller's assertion to prove his claim, stating that the burden of proof rests on his shoulders, rather than on Saller's. Why should this be the case - whatever modern fertility transition theory argues - when it is Saller who has made the revisionist claims against the accepted demographic interpretation?