Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Elizabeth Greene


The involvement of women in commerce has been a common feature of most economies. However, Roman authors tend to obscure the function of women within the Roman economy. This thesis seeks not only to understand the roles women played in commerce in ancient Rome but also the impact that their social status had on their ability to contribute in a meaningful way to the economy.

Epigraphic and literary evidence is drawn on to provide a complete understanding of the roles women played. It is apparent that social status affected the way a female was able to interact with the economic culture of Roman society. Elite women were much more restricted in their ability to gain financial success. Ideological expectations for women in Roman society were more often upheld in order to preserve family prestige. Non-elite women had also internalized these traditions but were financially unable to abide by them and so they are often represented in commemorative inscriptions and reliefs engaging with the Roman workforce.