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Some thoughts on the nature of the demographic 'crisis' of the second century B.C

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Chapter Summary

One of the most interesting debates conducted by ancient historians in recent years concerns the development of the Italian population during the last two centuries of the Republic. On the one hand, there are the so-called low-counters, who reckon with a free Italian population of roughly 4 million in the time of Augustus. On the other hand, we have the high-counters, who think that there were more than 13 million people of citizen status in 28 B.C. and who estimate the free and unfree population of early-imperial Italy at approximately 15 million. Since these two rival scenarios imply very different interpretations of the demographic and agrarian 'crisis' lying behind the Gracchan land reforms, the importance of this debate for those who are interested in the history of second-century B.C. This chapter evaluates some of the strengths and weaknesses of the high count and the low count models.

Keywords: agrarian crisis; Augustus; demographic crisis; Gracchan land reforms; Italian population; second-century B.C



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