Ghent Database of Roman Guilds and Occupation-Based Communities


Eventually, the database will provide information on all documented collectives based on economic occupations, ranging from strongly organised collegia to loose communities of people sharing the same or similar professional activities. The launch version (v. 1.x) , however, contains only the information we have on the three collegia principalia: those of the fabri (tignuarii), the centonarii, and the dendrophori. Other types will be added gradually over the coming months and years.

Research aims

With this database we have a two proximate aims:

  1. To provide a heuristic device allowing scholars to find information on non-family collectives based on shared profession, ranging from informal communities (for instance foreign mercantile communities such as the cives Romani qui negotiantur) to highly formalised associations (for instance the corpora naviculariorum assisting/working for the annona).
    To achieve this we aim to provide:
    • links to other online resources
    • basic information on key characteristics of each group (for instance on their internal organisations, their geographical and chronological attestations, the deities they worshipped, …)

      Important to realise before using the GDRG is that it is not a digital publication of inscriptions. We provide basic transcriptions, usually taken from other online databases (EDCS, EDH, EDR, Lupa, ... (links to these are provided in the right menu)), sometimes with minor, exceptionally with major corrections. They are intended to give the reader an idea of the precise content of the inscription. In addition we provide a translation. Unless otherwise mentioned these translations are by Koenraad Verboven.
  2. To provide an analytical tool allowing scholars to study relations between the characteristics (attributes) of these collectives; for instance to study the relation between patronage over collegia by persons from the imperial elite, location and assets controlled by occupational groups. Some of these analyses can be done using the online version, but the data can also be downloaded in CSV format and we are happy to provide also the raw data in access.

In a later version, we hope also to provide visualisation tools. In the current version these are limited to distribution maps and histograps of the chronological spread of the groups, the sources documenting them, and the persons connected with them.

The ultimate aim of the designer of the GDRG (prof. dr. Koenraad Verboven) is to study institutions and resources for collective action available to these groups to co-ordinate cooperation, ranging from social norms (informal institutions) and relations (social capital) to formal statutes (the leges collegiorum) and material assets.

Given the shared professional identity, we take it for granted that these institutions and resources were compatible with the perceived professional interests of the members. However, there is no a priori assumption that they were designed to promote or defend professional interests or that the intended cooperation would have been of a professional nature.

By far the best documented type of collective action by occupation based collectives are various forms of symbolic participation in civic performance (for instance by setting up statues to public officials), and religious dedications. In part this is because our evidence is biased since most of it consists of public inscriptions. Collective actions directed to the promotion or defence of material interests are certainly under-represented in the empirical evidence. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to assume a priori that material interests were secretly dominant in every occupationally defined collective. We should, on the contrary, accept that some (many?) of the collectives we have on record were not (consciously) aimed towards economic interests. 

We trust, however, that the proximate aims of the GDRG will be suitable also to serve different ultimate aims as formulated in other research programmes.


The primary database is in MS Access with a Back-end / Front-end division. The Back-end is located on the server of the UGent Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. 

The MS Access database is linked to a GIS database in ArcGIS.

Software for the webversion: MySQL with periodic uploads from MS Access.

Exports from website are possible in csv with free usage under CC-BY licence.

In the future we hope to build a Resource Description Framework (RDF) on which the MySQL RDB can then be mapped, with SPARQLendpoints for each record to integrate them into Linked Open Data (LOD).