The annona was the imperial service responsible for overseeing the supply of key food items to the city of Rome and the army. Primarily concerned with grain, the service became increasingly involved in the provisioning of other commodities, such as olive oil, wine, and pork. By the end of the 3rd century, the annona was a complex machinery involving private and public agents in different parts of the empire, overseen by the prefect of the annona, based in Rome. The operation of this system is documented in literary texts, administrative documents such as papyri and writing tablets, inscriptions, and a rich archaeological record, in Rome and in the provinces. However, the precise working of the system and the degree to which it was controlled by the Roman state remain open to debate. The annona was also involved in the supply of the army, especially with regards to provisions brought from distant producing centres. During the later empire, the system became more centralised, being overseen by the praetorian prefecture.
People’s life courses are shaped by the complex interactions of contextual factors, of individual behavior, and of opportunities and constraints operating at the macro level. Demography studies these processes with a focus on particular transitions in the life course: birth, leaving home, marriage, and other transitions in civil status (divorce, remarriage, and transitions into widowhood), the birth and survival of offspring, migration, and finally the end of the life cycle—death.
Initial work on the ancient world focussed primarily on macro-level data, trying to establish overall trends in population development on the basis of census figures and other population estimates. This approach has received further impetus with the advent of survey demography (see Population Trends). More recently, attention has turned to single events in the life course. Core demographic studies have attempted to establish patterns and rates of marriage, fertility, migration, and mortality. Others have taken a complementary approach with a stronger focus on qualitative data. These support investigation of sociological, cultural, and economic aspects of demographic phenomena. The remainder of this article focusses on a concise evaluation of current understanding of marriage, fertility, migration, mortality, and population trends in the ancient Greco-Roman world.
Romans not only gave gifts to express emotion and build relationships; a long-standing tradition of mutual aid gave rise to more intensive exchange of gifts and services (or reciprocity), among relatives, friends, and business associates; from the wealthy to the public in the form of public benefactions; and in legally sanctioned relationships between patrons and clients. Roman gift culture, distinctive among its contemporary Mediterranean societies, became increasingly transactional from the middle Republic to early Empire.
Reciprocity, understood as the exchange of gifts and favours, was far more pervasive and consequential in Roman society than in the contemporary West. Romans lacked the social infrastructure of the modern state: insurance and social welfare systems. They were therefore more reliant on an ethic of sharing within the extended family (where everything was in spirit held in common) (communia omnia,