Managing the Classical urban economy
Pages 49

The economy often integrates social groups into wider society since although neighbourhoods or cities may aim for an internal autarky, economic realities frequently force people into a wider world. In the first century AD, guilds acted both as significant communities for individual traders and as a way in which traders acted on the civic stage (see pp. 208-14) and they probably retained these functions into the fourth century.113 The social power of guilds may be attested in a third-century marriage contract (P. Oxy. XLIX 3500) in which Aurelia Kyrilla, daughter of Isidoros and Sinthonis, gave herself in marriage to Aurelius Pasigonis. Both Kyrilla and Pasigonis were embalmers. The document is peculiar for several reasons. First, a woman appears to act as a member of a trade group and, second, that woman, Kyrilla, gave herself in marriage without the intervention of a legal guardian and without any mention of her right so to do. Embalming was a quasi-priestly task and intimate physical contact with the dead might be assumed to carry a ritual impurity that could have made Kyrilla and Pasigonis unattractive marriage prospects to those not in the profession. Embalmers may have been socially marginalized and thus unable to form ‘normal’ social relations outside the guild-group (Derda 1991). Such marginality might also account for Kyrilla’s avoidance of social and legal niceties in contracting her marriage. Nevertheless, although all guilds probably developed from temple associations, guilds were neither endogamous nor hostile to new members who had no family link with the trade (P. Fouad 37; P. Oxy. VII 1035; Whitehorne 1990), nor all-encompassing social organizations which limited the social and political activities of their members.114