Trade and Taboo
Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean
Applies new methodological approaches to the study of ancient history
Trade and Taboo addresses the legal, literary, social, and institutional creation of disrepute in ancient Roman society. Tracking the shifting application of stigmas of disrepute between the Republic and Late Antiquity, it follows particular groups of professionals—funeral workers, criers, tanners, mint workers, and even bakers—asking how they coped with stigmatization.
In this book, Sarah E. Bond reveals the construction and motivations for these attitudes, and to show how they created inequalities, informed institutions, and changed over time. Additionally, she shows how political and cultural shifts mutated these taboos, reshaping economic markets and altering the status of professionals at work within these markets.
Bond investigates legal stigmas in the form of infamia and other marks of legal disrepute. She expands on anthropological theories of pollution, closely studying individuals who regularly came into contact with corpses and other polluting materials, and considering communication and network formation through the disrepute attached to town criers, or praecones. Ideas of disgust and the language of invective are brought forward looking at tanners. The book closes with an exploration of caste-like systems created in the later Roman Empire. Collectively, these professionals are eloquent about economies and changes experienced within Roman society between 45 BCE and 565 CE.
Trade and Taboo will interest those studying Roman society, issues of historiographical method, and the topic of taboo in preindustrial cultures.
Praise / Awards
"Books like Bond’s force us to reassess both how we think about the social valuation of professions in general and, by extension, our willingness to accept the professional commodification of different kinds of bodies. "
--The Daily Beast
“Bond asks excellent questions, writes engagingly, and has a good nose for the obscure but interesting source. Trade and Taboo is a valuable contribution to the field…”
--Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Bond does an fine job of tracing changing elite approaches and their repercussions for their despised fellow citizens. In carrying her analysis through into Late Antiquity, she offers a significant advance in our understanding of attitudes and reality throughout antiquity."
--American Journal of Philology
"This is an engaging book, and Bond ensures that students will know where she is coming from, with nice succinct conclusions and arguments clearly set out."
--Journal of Roman Studies
"A welcome addition to the growing body of literature dealing with those professionals and tradesmen who performed important roles within Roman society but who, on the whole, received scorn rather than gratitude from those members of Rome’s elite who considered themselves above such petty or unpleasant tasks."
--American Historical Review
"An attractive study that makes interesting observations and provides instructive questions for further research."
--New Historical Literature
"With this book, Bond has produced an indispensible resource for those who wish to further investigate the social and economic dynamics of the later Christian and/or Rabbinic ruling class. The evidence and arguments contained within will open up various conversations regarding how the day-to-day operations of ancient Jewish and Christian communities impacted—and were impacted by—the laborers tasked with their urban maintenance."
--Alexander D. Perkins, Ancient Jew Review
News, Reviews, Interviews
Read: Sarah Bond article in Forbes Link
Read: Trade & Taboo
cited in The Daily Beast Link
Read: Trade & Taboo
reviewed in The Daily Beast Link
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