The Economic and Cognitive Impacts of Personal Benefaction in Hispania Tarraconensis

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Meyers, Rachel
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This chapter addresses the economic and cognitive roles of personal benefaction in Hispania Tarraconensis, a province of the Roman Empire encompassing a northeast region of modern Spain. During the Imperial period, in particular, individuals and families financed public works, buildings, statues, foundations, and various forms of entertainment such as games, banquets, and performances. As a way of assessing both the financial and cognitive impact of these benefactions over time, this paper analyzes a corpus of inscriptions from Hispania Tarraconensis dating from the Augustan period through the late second century. Assessing the financial impact of benefaction involves charting the cost outlays and whether the donation was a single or continuing occurrence, while analyzing the cognitive impact considers such factors as the function of the monument or activity funded and whether the benefaction might have encouraged competition among the wealthy to make even greater contributions.

[Testa]mento Cornelia[e P]roc[ulae ex rel]ictis HS(sestertium) N(ummis) XL et ad[iectis] HS(sestertium) [N(ummis) V(milia)[C]CCCXCV [de suo aedem] consum[mavit - - - l]ib(ertus). (IRC III, 36)1

This text informs us that in Emporiae in the first century, Cornelia Procula allocated 40,000 sesterces in her will for the construction of a temple, to which her freedman added 5,495 sesterces to complete the project. This inscription is an apt example to begin this chapter on civic munificence for it has several features shared with numerous other inscriptions. The text has been reconstructed from six disjointed fragments found through excavations carried out in the twentieth century, just as most inscriptions are fragmentary. It records the construction of a temple; architectural projects were one of the most common undertakings by benefactors. The benefaction was completed with funds bequeathed by the donor; posthumous donations are a small but significant number of the whole corpus of benefactions, which necessitate another individual—sometimes a family member or, as in this case, a freed person—to bring the project to fruition. Finally, the plaque would have been mounted on the temple proclaiming in large letters the donor’s name and her donation. The advertisement of one’s generosity is paramount to the discussion of civic munificence in the Roman Empire


This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter The Economic and Cognitive Impacts of Personal Benefaction in Hispania Tarraconensis published by Routledge in The Extramercantile Economies of Greek and Roman Cities New Perspectives on the Economic History of Classical Antiquity, on April 23, 2019, available online:

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2019