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Common Causes: the Social World of Guilds and Associations in Roman and Late Antique Egypt

Philip Venticinque, University of Chicago, Junior Fellow 2007/08

During my tenure as a junior fellow I engaged in the research and writing of what will be the final two chapters of my dissertation, tentatively titled Common Causes: The Social World of Guilds and Associations in Roman and Late Antique Egypt. I spent the fall term working towards producing a draft of the third chapter, one that probes the relationship between guilds (and craftsmen and merchants in general) and the local and imperial authorities as evidenced not only by the legal texts but also by the documentary evidence found inscribed on stone or written on papyrus. In this chapter I focused on two questions: the status of guilds as licit or illicit groups and the notion of the "bound" status of guild members during the Late Roman Period. Chapter 4 has occupied my time during much of the spring term. In this chapter I have set out to examine the economic activities of guilds and the ways that the rise of large estates, churches and monasteries as economic powers and the changing political and social landscape impacted individual craftsmen, traders and guilds as a whole. I intend that the dissertation project as a whole will engage in ongoing debates about the economy and society of the Roman and late antique periods by using guilds and those associated with them as a prism to focus on these larger questions. Dumbarton Oaks has provided an ideal setting and unparalleled access to editions of Greek and Coptic papyrological documents, Roman legal texts, and secondary sources which has resulted in an incredibly productive eight months and a much different, and better, dissertation than if I had not been afforded such access and freedom.

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