Is there any information extant of the cost one would pay for silk in the Roman Empire. Was it difficult for one to find silk to even buy?

If that value fluctuated, and if it can be known, I am interested in the times around 200 AD in Alexandria, Egypt.

  • 5
    Well, the Edict of Diocletian set the price for white silk to be 12,000 denarii. That's about 0.25 pound of gold per pound of silk, or about 240 day's worth of an average craftsman's earnings.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 29, 2015 at 19:34
  • FYA: Edict of Diocletian
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 30, 2015 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


Just to follow up on Semaphore's comment. The price of silk was highly variable during Roman times and it was considered the ultimate luxury item.

In both the Rhodian maritime laws and in accounts of the reign of Aurelian (270-275 AD) it is implied that silk was worth its weight in gold. So, for example, the silk in a garment weighing one pound might be 14 troy ounces of gold or about $16,000 in modern dollars. Note that 1 pound of gold = 12,000 denarii.

By the reign of Ammianus Marcelinus (c. 380) silk was said to be much more affordable and the upper middle class could wear it.

  • Semaphore says 12,000 denarii is 1/4 lb, you say it's 1 lb....
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 30, 2015 at 13:21
  • 1
    @CGCampbell It varied a lot because the denarius got debased but the aureus did not, so the ratio between the two changed, quite rapidly in the later empire. Oct 30, 2015 at 13:50

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