Colin Elliott

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Classical Studies

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

In broad terms, I am interested in economic and social connectivity in the Roman Empire.

My first book, Economic Theory and the Roman Monetary Economy (Cambridge, in press), rethinks the way in which economic theory is introduced into the historiography of the Roman monetary system. The entrenched scepticism towards economic theory among historians of the Roman economy has all but vanished and studies using neoclassical and new institutional economics now dominate the field. This paradigm shift has been accompanied, perhaps unintentionally, by the idea that the Roman world was dominated by markets and market-based mentalities. My research argues that 1) Roman money was embedded in a historically unique cultural, social and political matrix, and 2) economic theory, in order to be usefully introduced in the study of the Roman economy, must be divorced from modernizing assumptions and ideologies. Alternative approaches to key theoretical concepts and propositions (rationality, the quantity theory of money, Gresham's Law) are explored through a number of case-studies (the Augustan monetary expansion, the credit crisis of A.D. 33, mid-second century A.D. Egypt, the currency debasement of Septimius Severus and the so-called ‘Third Century Crisis’).

While researching monetary phenomena in the Roman world, I become aware of some interesting connections between several key monetary reforms and the appearance of plagues and changing weather patterns in the Roman Mediterranean. How was the economic connectivity of the Roman world impacted by its ecological context? What might the impact of climatological and epidemiological factors tell historians about the structure of the Roman economy? Some of my intial work on this topic is found in 'The Antonine Plague, Climate Change and Local Violence in Roman Egypt’ (Past & Present). I continue to explore these connections in several forthcoming book chapters. I anticipate completing a monograph on the subject in the not-too-distant future.

Research Interests

  • Connectivity and integration in the Roman Mediterranean.
  • The meanings and uses of money in the Roman Empire.
  • The impact of disease and ecological change in the Roman world.
  • The application of economic theory to the Roman economy.


  • Economic Theory and the Roman Monetary Economy. Cambridge University Press (in press).
  • ‘The Role of Money in the Economy of Ancient Greece and Rome’. In Battilossi, Cassis & Yago (eds.), Handbook of the History of Money and Currency. Springer (forthcoming).
  • ‘The Antonine Plague, Climate Change and Local Violence in Roman Egypt’. Past & Present (2016).
  • ‘The Crisis of A.D. 33: Past and Present’. Journal of Ancient History (2015).
  • ‘The Acceptance and Value of Roman Silver Coinage in the Second and Third Centuries A.D.’ Numismatic Chronicle (2014).