Bringing in the Sheaves: Economy and Metaphor in the Roman World

By Brent D. Shaw

© 2015

The annual harvesting of cereal crops was one of the most important economic tasks in the Roman Empire. Not only was it urgent and critical for the survival of state and society, it mobilized huge numbers of men and women every year from across the whole face of the Mediterranean. In Bringing in the Sheaves, Brent D. Shaw investigates the ways in which human labour interacted with the instruments of harvesting, what part the workers and their tools had in the whole economy, and how the work itself was organized.

Both collective and individual aspects of the story are investigated, centred on the life-story of a single reaper whose work in the wheat fields of North Africa is documented in his funerary epitaph. The narrative then proceeds to an analysis of the ways in which this cyclical human behaviour formed and influenced modes of thinking about matters beyond the harvest. The work features an edition of the reaper inscription, and a commentary on it. It is also lavishly illustrated to demonstrate the important iconic and pictorial dimensions of the story.

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Product Details

  • Series: Robson Classical Lectures
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 478 pages
  • Illustrations: 98
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP003386

  • PUBLISHED APR 2015

    From: $35.21

    Regular Price: $46.95

    ISBN 9781442629226
  • PUBLISHED FEB 2013

    From: $35.96

    Regular Price: $47.95

Quick Overview

The work features an edition of the reaper inscription, and a commentary on it. It is also lavishly illustrated to demonstrate the important iconic and pictorial dimensions of the story.

Bringing in the Sheaves: Economy and Metaphor in the Roman World

By Brent D. Shaw

© 2015

The annual harvesting of cereal crops was one of the most important economic tasks in the Roman Empire. Not only was it urgent and critical for the survival of state and society, it mobilized huge numbers of men and women every year from across the whole face of the Mediterranean. In Bringing in the Sheaves, Brent D. Shaw investigates the ways in which human labour interacted with the instruments of harvesting, what part the workers and their tools had in the whole economy, and how the work itself was organized.

Both collective and individual aspects of the story are investigated, centred on the life-story of a single reaper whose work in the wheat fields of North Africa is documented in his funerary epitaph. The narrative then proceeds to an analysis of the ways in which this cyclical human behaviour formed and influenced modes of thinking about matters beyond the harvest. The work features an edition of the reaper inscription, and a commentary on it. It is also lavishly illustrated to demonstrate the important iconic and pictorial dimensions of the story.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Robson Classical Lectures
  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 478 pages
  • Illustrations: 98
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    ‘The volume is incredibly rich in content with almost one hundred illustrations in black and white, more than a thousand endnotes, and thirty-five pages of bibliography…  Shaw’s book advances our understanding of agricultural society and is an important contribution to the study of late antiquity.’


    Jesper Carlsen
    The Historian vol 77:01:2015

    ‘How wonderful to read a book written by a true scholar, which brims with humor, critique, insight, and expansiveness… Highly recommended.’


    S. Hammer
    Choice Magazine vol 51:01:2013

    ‘Fascinating study of harvest and harvesting in the Roman world…Not only is this the most wide-ranging study of the harvest in antiquity that I am aware of, it should be read by all who are interested in the link between life and thought in the Roman world.’
    Paul Erdkamp
    American Historical Review, vol 119:02:2014

    “I have really enjoyed reading Bringing in the Sheaves. Both the subject and its handling are outstandingly original.  Brent D. Shaw pulls out a single vital aspect of ancient agriculture and shows how it reverberates through society and culture. Bringing to bear a huge range of comparative illumination, from the New Testament to the Prairies in the age of mechanization, he shows that the paroxysm of human effort involved every year in the cereal harvest has a historical centrality that goes far beyond understanding life on the land. Along the way, he deploys his new insights to solve some of the conundrums of social unrest in late Roman Africa. But with its vast historical scope and its ground-breaking melding of cultural metaphor with social and economic data, Bringing in the Sheaves will have a place of its own in debate in large-scale, long-period, comparative and interdisciplinary history-writing.


    Nicholas Purcell, Faculty of Classics, Oxford University

    Bringing in the Sheaves provides a persuasive case for the centrality of the harvest to the life of the Roman Empire and a broad, panoramic discussion of the harvest’s role in this society. Throughout the book, Brent D. Shaw demonstrates the depth and breadth of his learning about the ancient world, drawing expertly on an amazing range of comparative evidence in such a way that few can match. His book is ground-breaking, highly original, and a significant contribution to scholarship.”


    Dennis Kehoe, Department of Classics, Tulane University
  • Author Information

    Brent D. Shaw is Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics at Princeton University.

  • Table of contents

    List of Illustrations

    Preface/Introduction

    1. Under the Burning Sun

    2. Primus in Arvis / First in the Fields

    3. Sickle & Scythe / Man & Machine

    4. The Grim Reapers

    5. Blade of Vengeance

    Appendix 1: Harvesting Contracts from Roman Egypt and Italy

    Appendix 2: The Maktar Harvester Inscription: Text and Commentary

    Appendix 3: The Gallo-Roman Reaping Machines: Iconographic Data

    Map 1.1: Africa of the Maktar Harvester

    Map 2.1: Roman Mactaris (Maktar) and Region

    Map 3.1: Northern Gaul: Heartland of the Reaping Machine

    Map 3.2: Distribution of Sickle and Scythe Finds in Late Prehistoric and Roman Gaul

    Table 1.1: Survey of Modern/Post World War II Land Use Patterns in the Maghrib

    Table 1.2: Pre-World War II Cereal Grain Production in the Maghrib

    Table 1.3: Survey of Modern/Post World War II Cereal Grain Production in the Maghrib

    Table 1.4: Pre World War I Indigenous Cereal Grain Production in Algeria

    Abbreviations of Sources

    Bibliography

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