Simulating Patronage & Resource Extraction: An Agent Based Roman Economic Model

International conference

Land and natural resources in the Roman World

Brussels, 2011, Thu. 26th – Sat. 28th May

My contribution bears the provisional title – ‘Simulating Patronage & Resource Extraction: an agent-based Roman economic model’

“Starting with the idea that the Roman economy was socially and politically embedded in networks of patronage, this paper explores the ramifications of that understanding for natural resource extraction, using an agent-based model. Agent models employ hundreds of autonomous, individual software agents, interacting in a digital environment, according to the rules we specify. In this case, the rules are drawn from our understanding of how patronage worked in Roman society. The initial pattern of interactions is based on resource-extraction networks visible in the archaeological record. The environment is one in which the agents extract a scarce, yet renewable, resource (coppiced woodland). Under what circumstances is such a system sustainable? When – and how – can it break down? The patterning of results suggests a framework for understanding archaeological patterns of resource exploitation in the Roman world.”