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Food, poverty and patronage: the significance of the epigraphy of the Roman alimentary schemes in early imperial Italy1

  • Greg Woolf


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2 The most recent account of the alimentary schemes is that of Patterson (op. cit. n. 1). Older works include Ruggiero, E., Dizionario Epigrafico (1895–), (ad. loc); Veyne, P., ‘La Table des Ligures Baebiani et l'Institution Alimentaire de Trajan, 1’, MEFRA 69 (1957) 81135, continued in MEFRA 70 (1958) 177241, and expanded in ‘Les “Alimenta” de Trajan’, in Les Empéreurs romains d'Espagne (Colloque de Madrid-Italica, 1965) 162–79; Bourne, F. C., ‘The Roman Alimentary Program and Italian Agriculture’, TAPA 91 (1960) 4775; R. P. Duncan-Jones, ERE 2 chapter 7; Garnsey, P., ‘Trajan's Alimenta: some problems’, Historia 17 (1968) 367–81; Lo Cascio, E., ‘Gli Alimenta, l'Agricoltura Italica e l'Approvvigionamento di Roma’, Rend. Linc. 8.33 (1978) 311–52; and Eck, W., Die Staatliche Organisation Italiens in der hohen Kaiserzeit (1979), chapter 5.

3 I have used the list in Duncan-Jones, , ERE2 (p. 340) throughout. Eck (op. cit. n. 2) has a longer list. While I agree with some of Eck's readings, in particular the demonstration that there was an alimentary scheme at Tarracina, cf. Eck, W., ‘Traian als Stifter der Alimenta auf einer Basis aus Terracina’, AA 95 (1980) 266–70, on the whole I agree with Duncan-Jones' verdict (op. cit. p. 385) that most of his additions are implausible. Few would, in any case, make much difference to the totals of alimentary towns, as many of Eck's proposed new inscriptions are from towns already known to have had alimentary schemes. I have therefore decided to accept Duncan-Jones' figures rather than to discuss individual readings here.

4 Duncan-Jones, ERE 2, appendix 13.

5 Bourne (op. cit. n. 2) p. 57.

6 Lo Cascio (op. cit. n. 2).

7 Garnsey (op. cit. n. 2).

8 Veyne, , ‘Les “Alimenta” (op. cit. n. 2) p. 171.

9 On the crisis theory and its drawbacks, Purcell, N., ‘Wine and Wealth in Ancient Italy’, JRS 75 (1985) 119; Rathbone, D. W., ‘The Slave Mode of Production’, JRS 73 (1983) 160–8; Tchernia, A., Le Vin d'Italie romaine (1986). Carandini, A., ‘Sviluppo e crisi delle manifatture rurali e urbani’, in Società romana e produzione schiavistica II, eds. Giardina, A. and Schiavone, A. (1981) 249–60, presents the most up to date case for a crisis. Patterson, ‘Crisis’, provides a sound assessment.

10 Patterson, , ‘Crisis’ p. 129.

11 Ibid., p. 133.

12 Ibid., p. 129.

13 MacMullen, R., ‘The Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire’, AJPh 103 (1982) 232–46; Mann, J. C., ‘Epigraphic Consciousness’, JRS 75 (1985) 204–6.

14 Duncan-Jones, ERE 2, appendix 13.

15 Figures used for the graph and the statistical test are taken from Duncan-Jones, ERE2 (pp. 339–40). Duncan-Jones also tried to control the distribution of alimentary schemes in his Appendix 5, but used an estimate of the rate of epigraphic survival instead of using Epigraphic Density, which is admittedly vaguer but has the advantage of being easy to ascertain. He also used the density of towns and the number of inscriptions per town territory as measures. It is interesting that this does not seem to work, town density (no. of towns per 100 km2) having a coefficient of determination with Epigraphic Density of only 71%. In the Po Valley (regiones X and XI) the average town territory was 2354 km2 as compared to 404 km2 in the rest of the peninsula. The average number of inscriptions in each territory was 207 inscriptions against an average of 50 in the other regiones. The average Epigraphic Densities were of 9.3 and 12.37 respectively. Clearly urbanism was a rather different phenomenon in the north of Italy with one town dominating an area that would have supported four in the centre of the peninsula, and possibly with little trace of the Epigraphic Habit. This would make the Padane regions somewhat more similar to some of the provinces than were other parts of Italy. Jongman, W., The Economy and Society of Pompeii (1988) 6770 discusses epigraphic density in Italy and shows the relationship with urbanisation.

16 I have used Floud, R., An Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Historians (1973) for the statistical techniques. I am grateful to Dr Duncan-Jones for discussing the statistical aspects of these analyses with me.

17 Dr Duncan-Jones has pointed out to me that the use of the regio as the basic unit of analysis may mask anomalies in the distribution of alimentary inscriptions within the regiones. Alimentary schemes might thus have been set up within localised pockets of poverty, perhaps even within areas which were generally prosperous. Alimentary inscriptions might thus be expected in towns characterised by relatively few inscriptions and maybe by relatively poor natural resources. Such a conception of rural poverty strikes me as intuitively more likely than existing descriptions, but it remains to be shown that alimentary towns were relatively deficient in epigraphy. Some certainly were not.

18 Hopkins, K., ‘Economic Growth and Towns in Classical Antiquity’, in Towns in Societies, eds. Abrams, P. and Wrigley, E. A. (1978) 3577; cf. Patterson, , ‘Crisis’, pp. 142–4.

19 Figures from Duncan-Jones, , ERE2 (pp. 188200). Duncan-Jones' list is of costed sportulae. Many other uncosted examples may be gathered from Andreau, J., ‘Foundations privées et rapports sociaux en Italie romaine ler-3ième siècles’, Ktema 2 (1977) 157209; Mrozek, S., ‘Quelques remarques sur les inscriptions relatives aux distributions privées de l'argent et de la nourriture dans les municipes italiennes aux ler, 2ième et 3ième siècles de notre èra’, Epigraphica 30 (1968) 156–75; idem, ‘Les bénéficiaires des distributions privées de l'argent et de la nourriture dans les municipes italiennes à l'époque du haut empire’, Epigraphica 34 (1972) 30–54; idem, ‘Crustulum et mulsum dans les villes italiennes’ Athenaeum, 50 (1972) 294–300; idem, Distributions privées d'argent et de la nourriture dans les villes italiennes du haut empire romain (Collection Latomus vol. 198, 1987).

20 Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, pp. 138–44. Foxhall, L. and Forbes, H. A., ‘sitometria: The Role of Grain as a Staple Food in Classical Antiquity’, Chiron 12 (1982) 4190 assess the relationship between the subsistence needs of recipients and the size of payments in a number of similar cases.

21 Mrozek, Distributions (op. cit. n. 19); idem, ‘Zu der kaiserlichen und der privaten Kinderfürsorge in Italien im 2. und 3. Jh.’, Klio 55 (1973) 281–4.

22 Syme, R., Emperors and Biography. Studies in the Augustan History, (1971).

23 Garnsey, P. and Woolf, G., ‘Patronage of the Rural Poor in the Roman World’, in Patronage in Ancient Society, ed. Wallace-Hadrill, A. F. (1989) 152–70. On urban conditions Yavetz, Z., ‘The Living Conditions of the Urban Plebs in Republican Rome’, Latomus 17 (1958) 500–17; Brunt, P. A., ‘The Roman Mob’, Past and Present 35 (1966) 227 (reprinted in Studies in Ancient Society, ed. Finley, M. I. (1974) 74102); Scobie, A., ‘Slums, Sanitation and Mortality in the Roman World’, Klio 68 (1986) 399443.

24 Purcell, N., ‘Studying the Poor in Antiquity’, Paper read to a seminar in Oxford 1987.

25 CIL XI 4351 (Ameria), XL 5989 (Tifernum Mataurense), IX 5700 (Cupra Montana) XI 6002 (Sestinum), XI 5957 (Pitinum Mergens), XIV 4003 (Ficulea), XI 5956 (Pitinum Mergens), XI 5395 (Asisium).

26 Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, p. 78.

27 Ibid., pp. 300–3.

28 Patlagean, E., Pauvreté économique et pauvreté sociale à Byzance (1977)passim, for the poor as socially marginal (p. 424 for the security of slaves by contrast to the precarious existence of the free poor).

29 CIL IX 1455 (Ligures Baebiani), XI 1147 (Veleia).

30 Patlagean (op. cit. n. 28).

31 Pullen, B., Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice (1971).

32 CIL X 5056 (Atina Latii), X 6328 (Tarracina), XI 1602 (Florentia), XIV 4450 (Ostia). S. Mrozek, (op. cit. n. 21) discusses the relationship between imperial and private alimentary schemes.

33 CIL VIII 22904 (Leptis Minor), VIII 980 (Kurba), and VIII 1641 (Sicca), II 1174 (Hispalis) with Duncan-Jones, R. P., ‘Human Numbers in Towns and Town Organisations of the Roman Empire: The Evidence of Gifts’, Historia 13 (1964) 199208.

34 CIL V 5262 and Ep. 7.18.

35 Johnston, D., ‘Munificence and Municipia: Bequests to Towns in Classical Roman Law’, JRS 75 (1985) 105–25.

36 Eck (op. cit. n. 2).

37 Saller, R. P., Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (1982).

38 Garnsey and Woolf (op. cit. n. 23).

39 Finley, M. I., The Ancient Economy2 (1985) 201.

40 Veyne, , ‘Les “Alimenta”’, p. 167, together with his other works cited in n. 2 provide the best exegesis of the ideology of the alimenta available.

41 For a more detailed exposition of his views on this subject cf. Veyne, P., Le Pain et le Cirque (1976) 4467, especially pp. 58–62.

42 Hands, A. R., Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (1968) 91.

43 Ibid., p. 114.

44 Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, p. 141.

45 R. P. Duncan-Jones' review of Hands (op. cit. n. 42), JRS 58 (1968) 287–9, cf. ERE 2, pp. 300–3.

46 Food as a symbolic medium: Douglas, M., Purity and Danger (1966); Goody, J. R., Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology (1982); Lévi-Strauss, C. L., The Raw and the Cooked (translation 1970). King, H., ‘Food as Symbol in Classical Greece’, History Today 36 (September 1986) 35–9, applies some of these ideas to the ancient world.

47 Cf. Martial 3.60, 4.68.

48 Cloud, D. ‘The Client-Patron Relationship: Emblem and Reality in Juvenal's First Book’, in Patronage in Ancient Society, ed. Wallace-Hadrill, A. F. (1989) 205–18, discusses the difficulties in using Juvenal's satires in reconstructing the practice, as opposed to the theory, of patronage.

49 van Berchem, D., Les distributions de blé et d'argent à la plèbe romaine sous l'Empire (1939); Rickman, G. E., The Corn Supply of Ancient Rome (1980); Garnsey, P., Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World. Responses to Risk and Crisis (1988).

50 Carrié, J.-M., ‘Les distributions alimentaires dans les cités de l'empire remain tardif, MEFRA 87 (1975) 9951101.

51 On Oxyrhynchus, Rea, J., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 50 (1972); Lewis, N., ‘The Recipients of the Oxyrhynchus siteresion’, Chronique d'Egypte 49 (1975) 158–62; Turner, E. G., ‘Oxyrhynchus and Rome’, HSCP 69 (1975) 123; Rowland, R. J., ‘The Very Poor and the Grain Dole at Rome and Oxyrhynchus’, ZPE 21 (1976) 6972.

52 Rowland (op. cit. n. 51, especially pp. 72–3) has recently challenged accepted views on the basis of entitlement to the siteresion at Oxyrhynchus. His conclusions have been accepted by Finley (op. cit. n. 39, pp. 202–4). Rowland suggests that frumentationes were neither poor relief nor “middle-class perquisites”, but were distributed to rich and poor alike. Rowland argues that most recipients were not metropolites, and that although privileged, the metropolites were not necessarily rich. But the papyri he cites to demonstrate non-metropolites among the epikrithentes would only prove his case if it were true that applicants never mentioned more than one qualifying criterion. This assumption is demonstrably false, witness for example P.Oxy. 2899, an application that mentions the fulfilment of a liturgy and also the satisfaction of the epikrisis even though the liturgy alone would have guaranteed the place. P.Oxy. 2907ii may be a parallel. The applicant in P.Oxy. 2902 who mentions local birth as well as his having passed the epikrisis may well be doing so the emphasise his local ties despite a long absence with the army. Such claims may well be technically gratuitous, but they are easy to understand in human terms.

Rowland's case rests on the suggestion that the epikrisis mentioned in the archive is a separate test apart from the epikrisis known to have been used to ascertain metropolitan status. The epikrithentes who are the recipients of 3000 of the 4000 allocations of grain are contrasted on the one hand with homologoi, almost certainly poll tax payers as Lewis suggests, and on the other with the rhemboi, a group which is not completely identifiable, but included freedmen. Metropolites paid a lower rate of poll tax and could not legally be freedmen or their descendants. It is also difficult to see why, if entitlement had been assessed through a separate epikrisis, the final total should still have been divided into three groups. The arguments in favour of there being only one epikrisis involved seem overwhelming. It follows that the majority of the recipients had metropolitan status. Rowland is right to insist that the distributions were assigned in accordance with social status, not economic interest, and it is conceivable that there were impoverished metropolites, but metropolitan status was clearly regarded as desirable. I conclude that the siteresion was, as Rea et al. argued, the perquisite of already privileged groups.

53 On distributions of food and cash in Italian communities Duncan-Jones, ERE 2, and the works by Andreau and Mrozek cited in n. 19.

54 Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, pp. 138–44.

55 IGRRP III 800–3.

56 Ancient Greek Inscriptions in the British Museum III no. 481.

57 IGRRP IV 1127 (Rhodes); Newton, C. T., History of Discoveries at Halicarnassus, Cnidus and Branchidae (1862) II, p. 799, no. 101 (Lagina); Robert, L., Études Anatoliennes (1937) 342–50, no. 4 (Carian Sebastopolis).

58 Naour, Ch., ‘Inscription de Lycie’, ZPE 24 (1977) 265–71, no. 1; TAM II 2 578 (Tlos); Balland, A., Fouilles de Xanthos VII (1981) 185224 (Xanthos); ABSA 22 (19181919) 7281 (Lete).

59 ILS 2049, 6062–70.

60 ILS 9275.

61 ILS 6045.

62 Dumont, L., Homo Hierarchicus (1970).

63 Ward-Perkins, B., From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Urban Public Building in Northern and Central Italy A.D. 300–850 (1984) chapter 1; Duncan-Jones, ERE 2 On legal issues, Johnston (op. cit. n. 35), and the papers by Nicols, J. referred to in his ‘Pliny and the Patronage of Communities’, Hermes 108 (1980) 365–85 and Tabulae Patronatus: A Study of the Agreement between Patron and Client-Community’, ANRW 2.13 (1980) 535–61.

64 Warmington, B. H., ‘The Municipal Patrons of North Africa’, PBSR 9 (1954) 3655; Harmand, L., Le Patronat sur les collectivités publiques des origines au Bas-Empire (1957); Duncan-Jones, R. P., R., Patronage and City Privileges: The Case of Giufi’, Epigraphische Studien 9 (1972) 1216; Duncan-Jones, R. P., ‘The Procurator as Civic Benefactor’, JRS 64 (1974) 7985 and Nicols (op. cit. n. 63). Badian, E., Foreign Clientelae (1958) and Gelzer, M., The Roman Nobility (translation 1969) discuss Republican precedents.

65 Nicols' papers (cit. n. 63) and that of Andreau op. cit n. 19 are the only substantial recent contributions to the debate. On civic ideology and munificence, cf. Veyne (op. cit. n. 41); Brown, P., The Making of Late Antiquity (1978); Johnston (op. cit. n. 35). For recent work on personal patronage, cf. Saller (op. cit. 37) and the papers collected in Wallace-Hadrill, A. F., ed., Patronage in Ancient Society (1989).

66 Garnsey, P., ‘Aspects of the Decline of the Urban Aristocracy in the Empire, ANRW 2.1 (1974) 229–52.

67 Veyne (op. cit. n. 41) especially chapter 1. Cf. Gauthier, P., Les cités grecques et lews bienfaiteurs, BCH Suppl. XII (1985) for important corrections to Veyne's thesis which do not, however, reduce the utility of his definition of euergetism.

68 Saller (op. cit. n. 37) chapter 1; cf. also the studies cited in n. 64 by Gelzer (pp. 62–3 ) and Badian (pp. 2–7).

69 Badian (op. cit. n. 64) p. 10.

70 Ibid., passim, cf. now Brunt, P.A., ‘Patronage and Politics in the “Verrines”’, Chiron 10 (1980) 272–89.

71 Nicols, ‘Tabulae’ (op. cit. n. 63).

72 E.g. Bowersock, G. W., Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (1969); Millar, F. G. B., The Emperor in the Roman World (1977); Jones, C. P., The Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (1978); Champlin, E., Fronto and Antonine Rome (1980).

73 Harmand (op. cit. n. 64) “a majority”; Warmington (op. cit. n. 64) “increasing through time”; cf. Duncan-Jones (op. cit. 64).

74 Nicols, ‘Pliny’ (op. cit. n. 63).

75 Saller (op. cit. n. 37), contra Duncan-Jones (op. cit. n. 64).

76 Nicols, ‘Pliny’ (op. cit. n. 63/58).

77 Faller, L., ‘The Predicament of the Modern African Chief: An Instance from Uganda’, American Anthropologist 57 (1955) 290305; Silverman, S. F., ‘Patronage and Community-Nation Relationships in Central Italy’, Ethnology 4 (1965) 72183; Press, I., ‘Ambiguity and Innovation: Implications for the Genesis of the Cultural Broker, American Anthropologist 71 (1969) 205–17; Geertz, C., ‘The Javanese Kijaji: the changing role of a cultural broker’, Comp. Stud. Soc. Hist. 2 (1970) 228–49; Löffler, R., ‘The Representative Mediator and the New Peasant’, American Anthropologist 73 (1971) 1077–92; Boissevain, J., Friends of Friends. Networks, Manipulators and Coalitions (1974).

78 Dio, , Oration 50 is the best case, with Jones (op. cit. n. 72) pp. 101–3, cf. Philostratus, , VS 559 for accusations of tyranny against Herodes Atticus, Plutarch, , Political Precepts 27 on the dangers of philotimia (rivalry).

79 CIL VI 1492.

80 Nicols', ‘Tabulae’ (op. cit. n. 63).

81 Cf. CIL IX 338.

82 Eck (op. cit. n. 2).

83 CIL IX 2807.

84 CIL XI 3123.

85 CIL IX 5825 (Auximum), X 6310 (Tarracina) with Eck (op. cit n. 3).

86 CIL XI 4351 (Ameria). CIL IX 5700 (Cupra Montana), XI 5989 (Tifernum Mataurense) to Hadrian; XI 6002 (Sestinum) to Pius; XI 5957 (Pitinum Mergens) XIV 4003 (Ficulea) to Marcus: XI 5956 (Pitinum Mergens) fragmentary.

87 CIL XI 5395.

88 Patterson, Crisis’ pp. 129–32.

89 E.g. CIL X 5056.

90 Figures from Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, pp. 171–84.

91 CIL X 531 cf. Duncan-Jones, , ERE2, pp. 160–2.

92 Syme, R., Ammianus and the Historia Augusta (1968) and op. cit. n. 22. Honoré, T., ‘Scriptor Historiae Augustae’, JRS 77 (1987) 156–76, illustrates the complexity of the work without completely resolving the difficulties of its interpretation.

93 HA, Pertinax 2.2, 4.1.

94 Eck (op. cit. n. 2) does present a history of the institution. Apart from the references I have collected from the Historia Augusta, the only literary attestations are Dio 68.5.4 and Ps.-Aurelius Victor 12.4.

95 Price, S. R. F., ‘From Noble Funerals to Divine Cult: The Consecration of Roman Emperors’, in Cannadine, D. and Price, S. R. F., eds., Rituals of Royalty. Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies (1987) 56105 for another way of honouring members of the imperial family.

96 Levick, B. M., ‘Propaganda and the Imperial Coinage’, Antichthon 16 (1982) 104–16 above all but cf. also M. Sordi, ed., I canali della propaganda nel mondo antico (1976).

97 Levick (op. cit. n. 96) p. 107.

98 Crawford, M. H., ‘Roman Imperial Coin Types and the Formation of Public Opinion’, in Brooke, C. N. L. et al. eds., Studies in Numismatic Method presented to Philip Grierson (1985) 4764, points out how coinage, monumental building, stories in common circulation and public distributions all played a part in forming public perceptions of the emperor and his policy. Wallace-Hadrill, A. F., ‘The Emperor and his Virtues’, Historia 30 (1981) 298323, shows that this ideology was shared by people and rulers alike, and functioned to bridge that gap rather than to reinforce it.

99 Eck, W., ‘Senatorial Self-representation: Developments in the Augustan Period’, in Millar, F. G. B. and Segal, E., eds., Caesar Augustus. Seven Aspects (1984) 129–67, especially p. 132; cf. Wallace-Hadrill, A. F., ‘Image and Authority in the Coinage of Augustus’, JRS 76 (1986) 6687, on the unity of the message presented by both sides of a coin. For coins as monuments, see Belloni, G. G., ‘Significati storico-politici delle figurazioni e delle scritte delle monete de Augusto a Traiano (Zecche de Roma e imperatorie) ANRW 2.1 (1974) 9971144.

100 E.g. RIC II 459. Several lists of the relevant coin types exist. Strach, P. L., Untersuchungen zur römischen Reichsprägung des zweiten Jahrhunderts 3 vols. (1933) 188–90 illustrates a few and discusses their significance; Sherwin-White, A. N., The Letters of Pliny. A Historical and Social Commentary (1966) s.v. Ep. 7.18, lists issues from RIC II; and Eck (op. cit. n. 3), with discussion, refers to BMC III which has the largest selection of variants. I have only referred to representative examples.

101 E.g. BMC III 870.

102 Eg. RIC II 93.

103 Wallace-Hadrill, A. F., ‘Civilis Princeps: Between Citizen and King’, JRS 72 (1982) 3248, especially p. 32.

104 E.g. RIC II 470.

105 Hammond, M., ‘A Statue of Trajan Represented on the “Anaglypha Traiani”’, MAAR 21 (1953) 127–83; Torelli, M., Typology and Structure of Roman Historical Reliefs (1982) chapter 4.

106 Eck (op. cit. n. 3) on CIL X 6310.

107 Fittschen, K., ‘Das Bildprogramm des Trajansbogens zu Benevent’, AA 87 (1972) 742–88 with bibliography.

108 Ibid.; Kelly, C., Art, Epigraphy and Propaganda in the Principate of Trajan. A Semiotically Based Study. B.A. dissertation, Sydney University (1986). I am grateful to Mr Kelly for making his study available to me.

109 CIL X 6310 (Tarracina), VI 1492 (Ferentinum).

110 CIL XI 5395, 5956. HA, Hadrian 7.8.

111 CIL IX 5825

112 Ruggiero (op. cit. n. 2) ad loc.

113 Kelly (op. cit. n. 108). Indulgentia appears in the headings of the tables of Veleia, (CIL XI 1147) and Baebiani, Ligures (CIL IX 1455). For Indulgentissimus in alimenta inscriptions cf. CIL XIV 4003, VI 1492.

114 Patterson, ‘Crisis’, passim.

115 Tchernia, op. cit. n. 9, in chapter 4.

116 Opramoas at Xanthus: Balland, A., Fouilles de Xanthos VII, no. 67 (1981) 185224. Opramoas both educated and fed [paideuei te kai trephei) all the children of the citizens. He also fed penoumenoi but Balland ad loc. (pp. 206–8) cites Bolkestein, H., Wohltätigkeit und Armenpflege im vorchristlichen Altertum. Ein Beitrag zu Problem Moral und Gesellschaft (1939) 181–5 showing that this probably refers to the people as opposed to the nobles, rather than to an impoverished group. Menodora at Sillyon: IGRRP III, 800–2 with Bulletin Épigraphique (1967) n. 606. The gift seems only to have been substantial enough to have provided one year's subsistence. Another alimentary scheme, apparently directed towards all the children of citizen parents, was set up at Antinoopolis in Egypt by the emperor Hadrian (Bell, H. I., ‘Diplomata Antinoitica II’, Aegyptus 13 (1933) 518–22, and Antinoopolis: A Hadrianic Foundation in Egypt’, JRS 30 (1940) 132–47 especially p. 143). An inscription from Oenoanda, (IGRRP III 492) may refer to a fourth scheme, but the reading is difficult, and the children referred to as recipients may be those of the local town councillors taking part in a distribution of food and money to high ranking groups. Balland, (op. cit.) pp. 196–8 discusses the alimenta of the Hellenistic East. Jones, C. P., ‘Eastern Alimenta and an inscription of Attaleia’, JHS 109 (1989) 189–91 discusses another probable case and eastern schemes in general.

117 Cf. Epitome 13.1 “ex urbe Tudetina” but there is a textual crux.

118 Syme, R., Tacitus (1958) appendix 81.

119 Pliny, , Ep. 6.19. Cf. HA, Marcus 11.8.

120 Millar, op. cit. n. 72, chapters 7 and 8.

121 IG II–III2 2776, most recently discussed by Miller, S. G., ‘A Roman Monument in the Athenian Agora’, Hesperia 41 (1972) 5095.

122 Dio 69.16.2.

123 I have been unable to take full account of Bossu, C.'s recent paper “L'objectif de l'institution alimentaire: essai d'évaluation”, Latomus 48 (1989) 372–82, but I note that we are in agreement on a number of points and in particular on the need to go beyond interpretations of the alimenta purely in terms of “rational” imperial policies.

1 This paper could not have been written without two essential pieces of scholarship on the subject. Patterson's, J. R. paper ‘Crisis: what crisis? Rural change and urban development in imperial Appennine Italy’, PBSR 55 (1987) 115–46 provided the initial inspiration and Duncan-Jones, R. P., The Economy of the Roman Empire: Quantitative Studies2 (1982), in general, is the basis of much of this paper. Both scholars have been more than generous in the help they have given in the writing of this paper. I am also very grateful to R. P. Duncan-Jones, N. Purcell, C. R. Whittaker and Profs. M. H. Crawford, K. Hopkins and A. F. Wallace-Hadrill who all commented on earlier drafts of this paper and especially to Peter Garnsey from whose help I have benefited at all states of the project. Naturally, none of them should be held responsible for the finished product.

Food, poverty and patronage: the significance of the epigraphy of the Roman alimentary schemes in early imperial Italy1

  • Greg Woolf


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