Mentality, motivation, and economic decision‐making in Ancient Rome: Cicero and Tullia's shrine

Marta García Morcillo
Published Online:
15 Dec 2019
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 73 Issue 3

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Abstract Cicero's letters to his friend Atticus are an invaluable source for the study of the financial and economic activities pursued by Late Republican upper‐class Romans. Beyond the information concerning the diversity, scale, and impact of their businesses, these extraordinary documents give enlightening testimonies to the psychological factors that affected economic behaviour and the process of decision‐making. The case of Tullia's shrine, a complex operation that concerned the search for and purchase of a garden‐estate in one of the most exclusive areas of the Roman suburbs, became Cicero's most personal challenge and obsession. An accurate study of this affair through the orator's own voice allows us to explore the concept of ancient rationality, as well as the psychological and environmental mechanisms that led to economic strategies and performances. The study also tests the applicability of ideas and methodologies from the field of behavioural economics in the context of the first‐century BC real estate market, a fluctuating and speculative business sector highly informed by credit culture, social status, and unstable politics.

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