Kalima, the translation initiative of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, published the Arabic translation of Jean Andreau’s book entitled “Banking and Business in the Roman World”.
The author gives a balanced and elaborate view of the ancient banking. He frankly explains the extent of its development and impact on the limits of banking institutions to encourage the flow of capital in the ancient economy in several specific manifestations.
The book shows how banking became a case involving individual bankers, who were providing loans and receiving deposits. This led to limiting the amount of money deposited in a bank, which hampered the continuity of any particular financial activity that was not legally possible to continue beyond the life of individuals. Moreover, most of the loans reported in Latin literature were for consumption and most of the banking documented in the sources consisted of short to medium term transactions, such as buying goods at auctions.
The author finds only few facts about the stories of productive loans. Andreau clearly declares that "the known examples of medium-or long-term productive loans are very scarce."
The Roman Empire formed a political and economic framework (long periods of peace, easy taxes and a complex legal system which protects property rights) which developed the economic activities. Sources of banking and financial activities vary. There is literature that reflects the attitude of the elite in financial transactions and legal texts that are subjected to the way of legislators’ thinking in legal financial matters such as deposits and loans, in addition to relying on loan documents which have emerged recently. These documents are related to the Murecine wooden tablets from southern Italy. The author also relied on a list of sources and almost 1997 references.
Andreau defines banking and financial activities as “all transactions related to money itself, independently from trade that is based on transactions related to the goods.” He focuses on the involvement of the elite financiers and lending and other financial activities spread across the Empire in a network is characterized by self-sufficiency. Furthermore, he discusses the work of professional bankers who were working on a small and regional scale. They were keeping bank accounts and making profits by lending other people's money.
Andreau also deals with financiers, including entrepreneurs, usurers and businessmen who were engaged in high-risk maritime loans.
The book also deals with the marginalized people who embody the primitive style of balance between the social class and the economic activity. It concludes that the economic life in the Roman World had benefited from the existence of slavery for many centuries as the Romans were able to adapt slavery to the needs of their economic life.
The author takes a closer look at Murecine tablets frm Pompeii, which refers to the wide financial activities of the large Sulpicii clan. He cites a lot of important numbers for readers who prefer to look at the economic activities and economic history over through modern numbers. Some of the important questions posed by the book are as follows: Is there an ancient comprehensive financial policy that is similar to the modern financial policies? Is there a political financial unit in ancient communities? How was the ancient Roman economy developing its financial techniques? What are relationships between the social class and the Roman financial practices for the sake of profit, reciprocity, solidarity and social issues related to them? Therefore, the book gives great examples of how to put forward hypotheses and discuss the differing views in order to reach certain conclusions. It also shows us the importance and impact of the emergence of new data, albeit modest, in the field of study as a whole.
Jean Andreau worked as Director of Studies and Research at L'École des hautes études en sciences sociales (the Institute of Graduate Studies in Social Sciences) of the Centre de Recherches Historiques (Center for Historical Research) in Paris. He specializes in social and economic studies of the ancient Roman World, especially the period from the third century BC until the third century AD. He also has several studies in the economy of the ancient world, and pre-industrial historical economies. He teaches “Markets and Business in the Roman World” at the University of Paris and has many publications, books and articles published in various media.
The book’s translator Dr. Abdellatif Al Hares is a lecturer at the Lebanese University since 1986 and head of the Department of History. He acquired a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in New York in 1985. He published many books and translated a collection of books and articles including "A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire" by Sevket Pamuk and "An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire" by Halil Inalcik. He also has articles and papers presented at several cultural conferences.