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date: 22 January 2018


Negotiatores, the businessmen of the Roman world. In literary sources of the republican period, most notably Cicero, negotiatores, or people who negotia gerunt (‘conduct business deals’), are found as members of resident communities of Italian and Roman citizens in all the provinces of the empire, most frequently in the major urban centres and ports. The term is used very broadly and is rarely defined in any particular way. It is clear that many who are described by Cicero as negotiatores were of high equestrian status (see equites). There were close links and involvement with the work of the publicani (tax companies), bankers, landowners, and shipping. Indeed, one rhetorical remark of Cicero's (Font. 46) about ‘all the publicans, farmers, cattle-breeders, and the rest of the negotiatores’ suggests that the term negotia could cover all those activities. The considerable expansion of trade in the Mediterranean in the Roman period depended upon organization of markets, investment in shipping, and, in a world where the money-supply was uncertain, credit to facilitate deals (see also banks; maritime loans). This is what negotiatores provided. Such money-men invariably also had investments in land, which provided security. The scale and importance of the activities of the negotiatores was emphasized by Cicero in his speech on the command of Pompey (Leg. Man. 17 ff.; 66 bce) at the time of Mithradates VI's disruption of Asia. The term negotiator was rarely defined precisely, because most such money-men had investments in a whole range of property and activities. The term had an air of respectability, which mercator (‘trader’) did not (people prided themselves in inscriptions on being negotiatores, much more rarely on being mercatores). The distinction may be that, while the negotiator might invest in or own ships, he did not actually sail them. Given the social nuance of the term and its close connection with the financing of trade, it is no surprise to find it changing over time. So in the imperial period it came to be appropriated as the normal term for trader or merchant (see ILS 7273: ‘mercatores who negotiantur’). So for the first time specialist adjectives were regularly ascribed to the term (e.g. negotiatores vinarii, ‘wine-traders’).

Negotiatores, their families and their freed slaves, as Roman residents in the provinces, were significant vectors of Romanization, although, at least in the Greek east, the process of acculturation was importantly two-way (Errington). Their overall impact on the provinces is debated: that many—if well-connected enough—exploited Roman status to enrich themselves (especially in the late republic) at provincials' expense is clear (e.g. Chr. Le Roy, Ktèma1978); but some at least also used their wealth to support the cities in which they resided (e.g. T. Pomponius Atticus, a ‘super-negotiator’, at Athens) and—in the east—local (Greek) culture. The scale of the eventual fortunes of a few settler-families is shown by the return of descendants to Italy as provincial senators from the 1st cent. ce on (see senators, patterns of recruitment). See also trade, roman.


J. Hatzfeld, Les Trafiquants italiens dans l'orient hellénique (1919. pioneering and not yet superseded).Find this resource:

J. Rougé, Recherches sur l'organisation du commerce maritime en Mediterranée sous l'empire romain (1966).Find this resource:

A. J. N. Wilson, Emigration from Italy in the Republican Age of Rome (1966).Find this resource:

J. H. D'Arms, Commerce and Social Standing in Ancient Rome (1981).Find this resource:

P. Brunt, in The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (1988), 144 ff.Find this resource:

R. M. Errington, in Festschrift für K. Christ (1988), 140 ff.Find this resource:

C. Müller and C. Hasenohr (eds.), Les Italiens dans le monde grec (2002).Find this resource:

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