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Oxford University Press
01 March 2017
History; European history; Ancient history: to c 500 CE; Economic history
The economy of ancient Rome, with its money, complex credit arrangements, and long-range shipping, was surprisingly modern. Yet Romans also exchanged goods and services within a robust system of gifts and favors, which sustained the supportive relationships necessary for survival in the absence of the extensive state and social institutions.

In Gift and Gain: How Money Transformed Ancient Rome, Neil Coffee shows how a vibrant commercial culture progressively displaced systems of gift giving over the course of Rome's classical era. The change was propelled the Roman elite, through their engagement in shipping, moneylending, and other enterprises. Members of the same elite, however, remained habituated to traditional gift relationships, relying on them to exercise influence and build their social worlds. They resisted the transformation, through legislation, political movements, and philosophical argument. The result was a recurring clash across the contexts of Roman social and economic life. 

The book traces the conflict between gift and gain from Rome's prehistory, down through the conflicts of the late Republic, into the early Empire, showing its effects in areas as diverse as politics, government, legal representation, philosophical thought, public morality, personal and civic patronage, marriage, dining, and the Latin language. These investigations show Rome shifting, unevenly but steadily, away from its pre-historic reliance on relationships of mutual aid, and toward to the more formal, commercial, and contractual relations of modernity.
By:   Neil Coffee (Associate Professor of Classics at the State University of New York Buffalo)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 240mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 26mm
Weight:   540g
ISBN:   9780190496432
ISBN 10:   0190496436
Series:   Classical Culture and Society
Pages:   312
Publication Date:   01 March 2017
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Neil Coffee is Associate Professor of Classics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. His interests include Latin poetry, Roman history, and digital humanities.

Reviews for Gift and Gain: How Money Transformed Ancient Rome

...brings in a range of interesting and provocative evidence. ... Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --R. M. Whaples, CHOICE In deceptively simple prose, Neil Coffee has provided a sweeping perspective on a major transformation in Roman society. Gift and Gain traces a long contest between two ways of conceptualizing exchange: as giving, where the underlying motive is generosity and the framework is affective; or as sale, where the motive is profit and the framework is commercial. The two frameworks support radically different visions of how people relate to one another. In charting their history, Coffee therefore provides a significant new lens on the social history of Rome. --Clifford Ando, University of Chicago For the ancient Romans, gifting behavior and 'commercial,' gain-oriented behavior were deeply entangled and interrelated. But in contemporary scholarship, the study of gifting behavior has generally fallen to anthropologically-inflected literary scholars, while commercial behavior has engaged economic historians. Neil Coffee's book brings these divergent scholarly discourses together, to provide a more comprehensive and persuasive overview of Roman exchange behavior than has previously been available. The result is a surprising new history of the middle to late Republic and early Empire, filled with eye-opening analyses that will engage and inform students of Latin literature and Roman history alike. --Matthew Roller, Johns Hopkins University

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