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Centonarii And The Roman Textile Economy

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Chapter Summary

The siphonarius among the Vigiles of Rome was the operator of the fire-fighting engine (siphon) rather than a builder of that machine. In the case of centonarius, however, the difficulty of an interpretation is substantially increased by the different understandings of the word cento, the etymological root for centonarius. Based on a close investigation of the legal, etymological, literary and epigraphic material, this chapter intends to establish the centonarius as an occupational title for craftsmen and tradesmen of woolen fabrics and clothing. The chapter serves to suggest that we are missing an important aspect of the Roman textile economy-in fact, the Roman economy in general-if we dismissed the centonarii as unrelated to the textile sector. It shows that at least in northern Italy and southern Gaul, raw-material production and clothing manufacture were both significant.

Keywords: centonarius; clothing manufacture; fire-fighting engine; Roman textile economy; Vigiles of Rome



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