The Civic World of Profesional Associations in the Roman East
Onno M. van Nijf
Nijf, Onno M. van The Civic World of Profesional Associations in the Roman East 1997
This study examines the mentalité of craftsmen and traders in the Greek cities of the Roman empire through the epigraphic evidence for their membership of private associations based on shared profession. It places these associations firmly in the context of the civic world of the cities in which they were active. The author argues that such inscriptions are not straightforward and unproblematic records of reality, but rather were important elements in the strategies of self-definition practised by these associations. Epigraphic commemoration was used to transform private activities into public events; epitaphs and honorific inscriptions spoke a public language which aimed to present the associations of craftsmen and traders as status groups alongside other, well-established groups. The author investigates how successful the members of professional associations were in this form of epigraphic self-fashioning, through a discussion of their role in public ceremonial. The associations were present in public banquets and distributions, they took part in public processions, and they had reserved seats in theatres and stadia of the cities. Professional associations can thus be seen as taking their place in the hierarchy of status groups which made up the Greek city under Roman rule. This book makes an important contribution to the study of private sociability in the ancient world; it sheds new light on the nature of civic life in the Greek cities of the Roman empire; and it proposes a new approach to reading epigraphy.