Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Accounting and Auditing in Roman Society

This dissertation approaches its topic from the pathbreaking dual perspective of a historian and of an accountant. It contributes to our understanding of Roman accounting in several notable ways. The style and approach of Roman documents are now categorized to reflect differing levels of complexity and sophistication. With the aid of this delineation, and by comparison with the practices of various other premodern societies, we can now more readily appreciate the distinct attributes present at each level in Roman accounting practices. Additionally, due to the greater accessibility of Roman accounting documents in recent years - in particular, through John Matthews' work on the Journey of Theophanes, Dominic Rathbone's study of the Heroninos archive, and the reading of the Vindolanda tablets -- it becomes easier to appreciate such differences among the few larger caches of accounting documents. Moreover, the dissertation seeks to distinguish varying grades of accountant. Above all, it emphasizes the need to separate the functions of accounting and auditing, and to gauge the essential characteristics and roles of both. In both regards, it is claimed, the Roman method showed competency. The dissertation further shows how economic and accounting theory has influenced perceptions about Roman accounting practices. In particular, double-entry accounting has been overvalued in accounting theory. Early 20th century works by Werner Sombart and Max Weber heavily influenced historians of Rome. Typically, they accepted that the Romans' failure to develop double-entry accounting served as a structural flaw which deprived them of the impetus for economic rationalism and profit-seeking behavior. Roman historians, however, have not kept abreast of advances in accounting theory. Today, its practitioners reject the arguments upon which Roman historians have relied, opting to emphasize instead the worth the contributions made by the accountants and managers of accounting data themselves, which have never been adequately assessed in the Roman context. Altogether, the dissertation taps an enlarged body of ancient testimony (still pitifully small, nonetheless) together with scholarship in two disciplines that had lost touch with one another, in order to place our appreciation of accounting and auditing in Roman society on a fresh, more realistic footing.