The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



gratuitously: the latter class of persons were fur­nished with tickets, called tesserae nuinmariae or frumentariae. Thus we find it stated (Suet. Octav, 41) that Augustus, on one occasion, doubled the number of the tesserae frumentariae. If, therefore, the corn was, as a general rule, not given, but sold, we may conclude that every citizen was entitled to be enrolled in the 150,000 corn-receivers, inde­pendent of his fortune. The opposite opinion has been maintained by many modern writers ; but the arguments, which have been brought forward by Mommsen (Die RomiscJien Tribus, p. 187) and others, but into which our space will not allow us to enter, render the above supposition exceedingly probable.

The useful regulations of Caesar fell into neglect after his death, and the number of corn-receivers was soon increased beyond the limits of 150,000, which had been fixed by the dictator. This we learn from the Monumentum Ancyranum, in which Augustus enumerates the number of persons • to whom he had given congiaria at different times ; and there can be no doubt that the receivers of the congiaria and of the public corn were the same. Thus, in b. c. 44, and on the three following occa­sions, he distributed the eongiaria to 250,000 per­sons ; and in B. c. 5, the number of recipients had amounted to 320,000. At length, in b. c. 2, Augustus reduced the number of recipients to 200,000, and renewed many of Caesar's regula­tions. (Suet. Octav. 40 ; Diem. Cass. Iv. 10.) He had, indeed, thought of abolishing the system of corn-distributions altogether on account of their injurious influence upon Italian agriculture, but had not persevered in his intention from the con­viction that the practice would again be introduced by his successors. (Suet. Octav. 42.) The chief regulations of Augustus seem to have been: 1. That every citizen should receive monthly a cer­tain quantity of corn (probably 5 modii) on the payment of a certain small sum. As the number of recipients was fixed by Augustus at 200,000, there were consequently 12,000,000 modii distri­buted every year. Occasionally, in seasons of scarcity, or in order to confer a particular favour, Augustus made these distributions quite gratui­tous : they then became congiaria. [congiarium.] 2. That those who were completely indigent should receive, the corn gratuitously, as Julius Caesar had determined, and should be furnished for the pur­pose with tesserae nummariae or frumentariae^ which entitled them to the corn without payment. (Suet. Octav. 41.)

The system, which had been established by Augustus, was followed by his successors ; but as it was always one of the first maxims of the state policy of the Roman emperors to prevent any dis­turbance in the capital, they frequently lowered the price of the public corn, and frequently dis­tributed it gratuitously as a congiarium. Hence, the cry of the populace panem et drcenses. No emperor ventured to abolish the public distributions of corn: the most that he dared do, was to raise the price at which it was sold. When, therefore, we find it stated in Dion Cassius (Ixii. 18), that Nero did away with the distributions of corn after the burning of Rome, we cannot understand this literally, but must suppose that he either raised the price of the commodity or, what is more probable, pbliged those poor to pay for it, who had previously received it gratuitously. The care, which the


emperors took to keep Rome well supplied witli corn, is frequently referred to in their coins by the legends, Annona, Ubertas, Abundantia^ Liberalitas, &c. We find in a coin of Nerva the legend plebei urbanae frumento constittito. (Eckhel, vol. vi. p. 406.)

In course of time, the sale of the corn by the-state seems to have ceased altogether, and the distribution became altogether gratuitous. Every corn-receiver was therefore now provided with a tessera, and this tessera, when once granted to him, became his property. Hence, it came to pass, that he was not only allowed to keep the tessera for life, but even to dispose of it bv sale, and bequeath it by will. (Dig. 5. tit. 1. s. 52 ;"39. tit, 1. s. 49 ; 39. tit. L s. 87.) Every citizen was competent to hold a tessera with the exception of senators. Further, as the corn had been originally distri­buted to tli3 people according to the thirty-five tribes into which they were divided, the corn-receivers in each tribe formed a kind of corporation, which came eventually to be looked upon as the tribe, when the tribes had lost all political signi­ficance. Hence, the purchase of a tessera became equivalent to the purchase of a place in a tribe ; and, accordingly, we find in the Digest the ex­pressions emere tribum and emere tesseram used as synonymous. (Dig. 32. tit. 1. s. 35.)

Another change was also introduced at a later period, which rendered the bounty still more ac­ceptable to the people. Instead of distributing the corn every month, wheaten bread, called annona civica, was given to the people. It is uncertain at what time this change was introduced, but it seems to have been the custom before the reign of Aure-lian (a. d. 270—275), as it is related of this em­peror that on his return from his Eastern expedition, he distributed among the people a larger quantity of bread, and of a different form from that which had been usually given. (Vo])i&c.AureL 35 ; Zosim. i. 61.) The bread was baked by the Pistores, who delivered it to the various depots in the city, from which it was fetched away on certain da}rs by the holders of the. tesserae. (Orelli, Inscrip. No. 3358.) These depots had steps (gradus) leading to them, whence the bread was called panis gradilis; and there were the strictest regulations that the bread should only be distributed from these steps, and should never be obtained at the bakers. (Cod. Theod. 14. lit. 17. ss. 3, 4.) When Constantine transferred the seat of government to Constantinople, the system of gratuitous distribution of bread was also trans­ferred to that city ; and in order to encourage the building of houses, all householders were entitled to a share of the imperial bounty. (Zosim. ii. 32 ; Socrat. H. E. ii. 13 ; Sozom. iii. 7 ; Cod. Theod. 14. tit. 17.) The distribution of bread at Rome was, however, still continued ; and the care which the later emperors took that both Rome and Con­stantinople should be properly supplied with corn, may be seen by the regulations in the Cod. Theod. 14. tit. 15, De Canone Frumentario tirbis Romae^ and tit. 16, De Frumento Urbis Constantinopolitanae. The superintendence of the corn-market, under the emperors, belonged to the Praefectus Annonae.

Many points connected with this subject have been necessarily omitted in consequence of our limits. The reader who wishes for further in­formation is referred to: Contareni, De Frum. Rom. Largitione, in the Thesaurus of Graevius,. vol. viii. p. 923 ; Dirksen, Civilist. Abhandlungen^

About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of