Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Household Consumption in Ancient Economies: Pompeii and the Wider Roman World

By Nicholas Martin Ray


This thesis draws upon modern consumption theory to provide an interpretive research framework for examining material culture and consumer behaviour in the Roman world. This approach is applied to data from twelve Pompeian households to identify patterns of consumption, materiality, and motivations for the acquisition of commodities.\ud Analysis of the assemblage data is performed at multiple levels comprising weighted ranking of goods and the application of Correspondence Analysis, with investigation performed on both functional categories and artefact types. Setting the results against theories of consumption and rationality, consumer choice in the ancient world is examined.\ud From this detailed examination of twelve Pompeian houses, ‘core’ and ‘fringe’ commodities and recurring suites of goods are identified. Non-luxury goods are given particular attention as they provide information concerning the consumption of everyday utility objects. This approach also allows the evaluation of statements about the state of occupation of houses in sites such as Pompeii. The results validate this form of analysis as an important tool for assessing the role of the consumer in economies of the ancient world, moving beyond concepts of conspicuous consumption and group values.\ud This research provides a structured interpretive framework upon which varied archaeological data can be superimposed to interrogate the motivations behind commodity acquisition. This research also raises the potential for future consumption modelling using multivariate statistics. Through the application of consumer theory to Roman data, discussion of ancient economies is shifted away from a focus on production to one of demand, choice, and sites of consumption

Topics: Consumption, material culture, household, Pompeii, materialism, correspondence analysis
Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2000). 112-24. Oxbow Books,
  2. (1996). 17/10: The small finds. Finds from the fortress. York Archaeological Trust and the Council for British Archaeology, doi
  3. (1982). 1982c Rational choice and the structure of the environment, Models of Bounded Rationality Vol. 2: Behavioural economics and business organisation:
  4. 1992a Consumption Norms for Durables: Evidence from the General Household Survey.
  5. 1992b Consumption Norms, Diffusion, and the Video/Microwave Syndrome. doi
  6. (1999). 8-21. Oxbow Books,
  7. (2002). 84-100. Oxbow Books,
  8. (2001). A comparison of eleven nineteenth-century sites.
  9. (2000). A globalizing society.
  10. (1967). A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C.: A study in economic history. L'Erma di Bretschneider,
  11. (2008). A longitudinal study of the effects of life status changes on changes in consumer preferences. doi
  12. (2008). Allison, P.M. 2006a Artefact distribution within the auxiliary fort at Ellingen: Evidence for building use and for the presence of women and children.
  13. (2006). Archaeological data and economic interpretation. doi
  14. (2007). Are consumer perceptions of brand affected by materialism?
  15. (1985). Artefacts as Categories: A study of ceramic variability in Central India. doi
  16. (2008). Athenaeus
  17. (2009). Atti della Pontificia accademia Romana di archeologia 51-2: 237-Sandlin, doi
  18. (1990). Behaviorally consistent optimal stopping rules. doi
  19. (1983). Ceramic supply in an economically isolated frontier community: Portage County of the Ohio
  20. (1987). Ceramics as Indicators of Status and Class in Eighteenth-Century New York. doi
  21. (1993). Changes in English and Anglo-American consumption from 1550-1800.
  22. (2007). Coefficients of correlation, alienation and determination.
  23. (1983). Colchester Archaeological Report 2: The Roman small finds from excavations in Colchester 1971-9. Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd.,
  24. (1985). Commodity flows and national market access.
  25. (2007). comparative history, models and institutions:
  26. (1995). Compositional variability in colourless Roman vessel glass. doi
  27. (1970). Consumer Behaviour. doi
  28. (2001). Consuming Morality.
  29. (2001). Consumption for Historians: An economist's gaze.
  30. (2004). Consumption, deposition and social practice: A ceramic approach to intra-site analysis in late Iron Age to Roman Britain. Internet Archaeology 21: Pitts, M. 2007b The Emperor's new clothes? The utility of identity in Roman archaeology. doi
  31. (1991). Contextual influences on the meanings ascribed to ordinary consumption objects. doi
  32. (2007). Correspondence analysis in R, with two- and three-dimensional graphics: The ca package. doi
  33. (2006). Domestic Life and Domestic Tragedy: The material life of the household. doi
  34. (2007). Electronic Statistics Textbook. StatSoft. Web:, Tulsa [Printed Version:
  35. (1987). Epilogue: Middle-range theory in historical archaeology.
  36. (1992). Functional and spatial analysis of wall painting: doi
  37. (2000). Globalisation and Roman imperialism: Perspectives on identities in Roman Italy.
  38. (2004). Glocommodification: How the global consumes the local – McDonald’s in Israel. Current Sociology 52(1): doi
  39. (1996). Governance of the Consuming Passions: A history of sumptuary regulation. doi
  40. (2003). High Consumption Volatility: The impact of natural disasters? World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2962 Ault, doi
  41. (1995). How consumers consume: A typology of consumption practices. doi
  42. (2008). Inconspicuous consumption: The sixth-century B.C.E. shipwreck at Pabu Burnu, Turkey. doi
  43. (2002). Introduction.
  44. (1988). Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society (2nd ed.). doi
  45. (1924). Library, London Valerius Maximus 1684 The Life of Valerius Maximus, London Velleius Patercus
  46. (2002). Machines, power and the ancient economy. doi
  47. (1990). Mapping the global condition: Globalization as the central concept. doi
  48. (2004). Marketing Heritage: Archaeology and the consumption of the past. doi
  49. (1992). Materialistic values, relative wealth and person perception: Social psychological belief systems from adolescents from different socio-economic backgrounds. Meaning, Measure, and Morality of Materiality(Special volume):
  50. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. doi
  51. (1990). Millett's The Romanization of Britain: An essay in archaeological interpretation Cambridge doi
  52. (2004). Models for the study of consumer behaviour. doi
  53. (1994). Money and Government in the Roman Empire. doi
  54. (1987). Nineteenth-century households and consumer behaviour doi
  55. (1995). Originally published as 'Modernism, economics, and the ancient economy'
  56. (1995). Painter-workshops or decorator's teams? Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome, Antiquity 54: 98-108 Allison, P.M. 1997a Artefact distribution and spatial function in Pompeian houses.
  57. (1980). Poenulus I, 2 and Roman women. doi
  58. (2004). Pompeian Households: An on-line companion.
  59. (1993). Pompeiana: Raccolta di studi per il secondo centenario degli scavi di Pompei:
  60. (1997). Production and consumption. In P.Jones and K.Sidwell (eds.), The World of Rome: An introduction to Roman culture,
  61. (1985). Reading the Popular. Routledge, London Fiske,
  62. (2007). Records of Social and Economic History, New Series XVII.
  63. (1997). Repopulating the Roman House.
  64. (1999). Roman glassblowing in a cultural context.
  65. (1979). Roman Pottery Lost en route from the Kiln Site to the User - A Gazetteer.
  66. (2006). Romanization in southern Epirus: A ceramic perspective.
  67. (1980). Satisfaction and happiness. Social Indicators Research 8: 385-Michalos, A.C. doi
  68. (2000). Social psychology of identities.
  69. (1980). Taxes and trade in the Roman Empire. doi
  70. (1965). Technical innovation and economic progress in the ancient world. doi
  71. (2001). Terra sigillata imitations' from Nyon (SW Switzerland): One of Fronto's workshops? doi
  72. (1995). The Archaeology of York. doi
  73. (2009). The art of piety and profit at Pompeii: A new interpretation of the painted shop faade at IX.7.1-2. Greece and Rome doi
  74. (2008). The Casa della Caccia Antica in Pompeii, Huser in Pompeji 11. Hirmer, Mnich Andreau,
  75. (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. doi
  76. (2004). The distribution of bars at Pompeii: Archaeological, spatial and viewshed analyses. doi
  77. (2001). The Early Roman Empire in the West: 35-41, doi
  78. (2005). The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii. Volume II: the decorations. Clarendon Press, doi
  79. (1994). The Location of Culture. Routledge,
  80. (2006). The making of Britain's first urban landscapes: the case of Late Iron Age and Roman Essex. doi
  81. (2004). The material values scale: Measurement properties and development of a short form. doi
  82. (1993). The meaning of consumer behaviour in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England. In
  83. (1990). The Medieval gold, silver, and copper-alloy objects from Winchester.
  84. (1980). The origins and early development of possessive behavior. doi
  85. (2001). The productive past. Economies beyond agriculture. doi
  86. (1985). The ritual dimension of consumption.
  87. (1990). The Romanization of Britain: An essay in archaeological interpretation. doi
  88. (1995). The sociology of consumption.
  89. (1996). Towards a theory of Roman urbanism: Beyond economics and ideal-types. In
  90. (1927). Trans.
  91. (2001). Tying up the Loose Ends in Simple Correspondence Analysis. doi
  92. (2005). Uncertainty-based competition between prefrontal and dorsolateral striatal systems for behavioral control. doi
  93. (2002). Urban Society in Roman Italy: doi
  94. (2008). Using and re-using Roman pottery: Identificatiton and implications.
  95. (1994). Valuing things: The public and private meanings of possessions. doi
  96. (2001). Veblen, Bourdieu, and conspicuous consumption. doi
  97. (1952). Vol. IV Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Papyri in the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. doi
  98. (1981). Volume II: The Empire (3rd ed.).
  99. (2007). When Death Do Us Part: Undestanding and interpreting the probate records of early modern England: 14-37. Leopard's Head Press,
  100. (1997). Wordly Goods: A new history of the Renaissance. Papermac,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.