Chapter 24

Ancient Roman Finance

P. Temin

MIT Department of Economics, Cambridge, MA, USA


Ancient Rome had a financial system that included internal and informal external sources of capital. The interesting question is whether Roman investors could make use of financial intermediaries. Phrased differently, the question is whether or to what extent banks were present in the early Roman Empire.

To start with informal external sources of capital, it is known that Romans loaned money to each other with great frequency (Kehoe, 1997, pp. 45–54). And while some of these loans surely were to finance consumption, many more may well have been for production. Columella (3, 3, 7–11) advised people setting up vineyards to include the ...

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