Ancient/Classical History/Greco-Roman Journeyman


Did the Greek guild or Roman collegia craft systems have the Journeyman status or was it a Medieval invention?


Actually there is no direct evidence for the existence of permanent associations of craftsmen in ancient Greece where much of the craftsmanship was part of the domestic sphere as the basic workshop was often family-operated and employed slaves rather than free workers who however  were paid by assignment, since the workshops could not guarantee regular work.

As for ancient Rome, we know that such associations have emerged in the later years of the Roman Republic, i.e. in the 1st century BC, and were called “collegia”, the plural nominative of the Latin neuter noun “collegium”  just meaning “association”, “guild”, “corporation” .

The “collegia”  were subject to the authority of the magistrates and from the reign of the emperor Diocletian onward, i.e. from 284 AD onward,the imperial government exploited these guilds in the interests of public authority & social order and tried to restrict the membership of the guilds to a hereditary caste of skilled artisans.

Anyway, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD the "collegia" disappeared from European society for more than six centuries.

It was only later, between the 11th and 16th centuries AD, that  guilds, aka gilds, i.e. the  associations of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and for the furtherance of their professional interests, revived and  flourished in Europe and formed an important part of the economic and social fabric in those times.

To conclude, the Journeyman status, that a member of a Medieval craft guild reached on completion of his apprenticeship, is definitely a Medieval invention, since it did not exist in ancient Greece and had a different character in ancient Rome, as I’ve already said.

Best regards,


Ancient/Classical History

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