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Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences$
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John Davies and John Wilkes

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265062

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265062.001.0001

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Epigraphy and Demography

Epigraphy and Demography

Birth, Marriage, Family, and Death

(p.101) 6 Epigraphy and Demography
Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences

Walter Scheidel

British Academy

This chapter uses evidence from all over the Graeco-Roman world. It shows that inscriptions are second only to papyri in providing the quantitative evidence without which the study of populations is futile, but require much care in interpretation because of cultural conventions. The chapter follows the life-cycle by reviewing the evidence for (1) fertility rates, especially seasonal; (2) the parameters of marriage customs, with notable variation between Christian and non-Christian documentation; (3) regional variations in family relationships, where (contrary to some recent theories) links within the nuclear family overwhelmingly predominate; (4) population size (where inscriptions offer little) and structures (where the gross under-representation of females reflect cultural convention, not demographic reality); and (5) mortality, especially its seasonal distribution.

Keywords:   Mediterranean demography, life-cycle, fertility rates, seasonal variations, nuclear family, gender bias, mortality, marriage customs

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