Log in to access the full article.
SUMMARY Rome was an exceedingly large city at the start of the Roman Empire, and it required massive grain imports to feed its population. We argue that Roman merchants organized these imports and that they used a variety of mechanisms to deal with the informational problems of long-distance trade at that time. They used general institutions of Rome, such as its legal and social structures, as well as specific mercantile institutions, such as contracts, companies, and invoices. They exploited information in the Roman social structure as well as in the facilities for trade. This combination of social and economic institutions enabled Roman merchants to operate on as large a scale as any other pre-industrial merchant group.