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date: 29 November 2020

food supply, Romanlocked

  • Dominic W. Rathbone


The growth of Rome to a city of perhaps 250,000 inhabitants in the time of the *Gracchi and of up to one million under *Augustus, far outstripping the productive capacity of her hinterland, created an unprecedented demand for imported foodstuffs. The supplying of Rome was always left mainly to private enterprise, and the main source was always Italy (including Sicily and Sardinia), but the political pressure on the Roman government to deal with actual or feared shortages led to some institutionalized public underpinning of the mechanisms of supply, which were enabled by exploitation of Rome's imperial revenues. In the early and middle republic individual magistrates competed either to win popular favour by securing extra supplies from subject or allied states where they had some personal influence, or to win noble approval by quashing popular complaints. C. *Sempronius Gracchus took the momentous step of establishing a regular public distribution of a set monthly ration of grain (frumentatio) at a set price to adult male citizen residents, which P.

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