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the problem. Rome, during the wars of Hannibal, had learnt to depend largely on foreign corn, from Sicily and Egypt. It was not easy, after victory had made such supplies more readily accessible, to renounce so convenient a resource. Moreover, the continuous series of wars drew off the Italian yeomen to service in Liguria, in Spain, in Macedon and Asia, and did not allow the agricultural class to reconsolidate its strength. Wealth, too, flowed into Rome with the growth of Rome's political prestige; the attractions of city life became more alluring and new prospects of quicker gain than agriculture could offer opened out to the Roman in the newly-acquired provinces. Those conditions, in fact, were present which lead to serious disturbances of the economic balance of a State and incidentally produce the evil of urban unemployment.
How was it that causes which began to operate before 200 B.C. should have had little effect on politics till seventy years later? We may allow some credit to the attempts of the government to resettle Italy. We can also see that a succession of wars, while aggravating rather than alleviating the evil, may yet have provided a temporary solution. But something still remains to be explained, and we can hardly acquit the senate of keeping the mischief suppressed, until it finally grew too great to be kept within bounds. The rapidity of the disintegrating process in the Republic, when it had once been begun by the Gracchi, gives us the impression of the release of a spring which has been too long forced back. The age of the Gracchi ended in a victory for the conservative forces; but it was a victory that could give little comfort to a good conservative. Where the victory was most decisive, it had been won over the best features of the opposition policy; where ground had been lost, it was at the expense of the best principles of the old system. The depopulation of Italy was not for long arrested and the presence of a class of poor in Rome, partially unemployed and ready to sell their votes for a bribe, became a permanent abuse.
The history of the corn-dole in the last century of the Republic is complicated and, in its details, obscure. The opposition party aimed at an extension of the principle of the dole and at the gradual removal of any payment. Such attempts to reduce the price of the corn provided by the State were made by Saturninus in 100 B.C. and by Livius Drusus in 91. Sulla
for a time restored the senate to its former powers and abolished the dole entirely. But it was reintroduced almost immediately after his death and in the year 73 B.C., a Lex Terentia Cassia apparently provided for the supply of corn gratis to a limited number of citizens. Finally, after a short-lived reform by Cato, P. Clodius, the unprincipled tribune, abolished any kind of payment. The number of recipients was, it seems, determined by a fixed register; but unauthorised persons contrived to share in the benefits, and Julius Cæsar, when he became master of Rome, found no fewer than 320,000 persons drawing free corn. There was no longer any question of uprooting the evil, only of restricting its scope. Cæsar reduced the list to 150,000.
Before we proceed to discuss the dole under the Empire, let us pause to look back on the Republican development. Ancient observers saw in the breakdown of the Republic a moral decline, due to the corrupting influence of excessive wealth. The importance of this point of view must not be minimized. If the later senate failed, where the earlier senate had succeeded, in maintaining a high political morality, it could not lay all the blame on changed circumstances. The governing classes were the first to profit by the easy gains brought by empire. Governors of provinces expected to reap a fortune from their term of office, and their numerous retinue shared in the profits. The knights, too, the second order of Roman society, had their fingers in the pie. They made fortunes by farming the provincial taxes or by lending out money at exorbitant rates of interest. Rome was guilty of the crime of living on her empire; and how could a governing class, so deeply committed to questionable gains itself, find the moral authority to enforce a higher standard on the people of Rome? The corn-dole might be regarded as a natural corollary from the proposition that Rome had the right to live on her empire. And how few Romans had the courage to question that proposition?
But the problem was economic as well as moral. A rapid rise to world-power involved radical changes in a State that had been at first almost entirely agricultural. There was no great development of industry to absorb the population, cut loose from the land; and the best available remedy, the drafting of the surplus population into colonies in Italy or the provinces, was not pushed with sufficient determination. The idle poor were not to
be so readily enlisted in such schemes; and, although the democrats showed a praiseworthy interest in colonization, the senate was too often definitely hostile. The motives for this hostility are not quite easy to fathom. Party considerations seem to have played too large a part. The senate distrusted a scheme sponsored by its rivals and may have feared that solid bodies of Roman citizens in the provinces might prove a thorn in the side of the provincial governors.
Under the Empire, the problem acquired a new and more settled form. Many of the emperors took a keen interest in Italian agriculture; some were concerned to settle Italians in the provinces. But the presence in the capital of the world of a large population which could not be entirely self-supporting was a permanent factor in the equation and measures had to be taken to deal with it. Rome and Italy were at first assigned to the care of the senate, and on the senate fell the responsibility for the supply of corn to the capital. The task was a serious one: for it involved not only the provision for the doles, but also for the supply of corn to the whole urban population. As early as 23 B.C., Augustus was called in to lend a hand. One of the main cornlands of the Empire, Egypt, was under his control, and he was better able than the senate to organize the whole system and also to make very necessary contributions to expenses out of his own purse. Special officers, præfecti frumenti dandi, were appointed to superintend the distribution. A revision of the list of free recipients, made in the year 2 B.C., fixed the total at about 200,000. Estimates of the population of Rome can only be based on somewhat uncertain criteria and naturally differ very widely. But in any case, even if the population was, as some hold, over a million, the free list comprises a very substantial proportion of the total. Claudius made great improvements in the method of distribution, elaborately organizing it from the many ostia, or gates, of the Porticus Minucia, and probably placed the whole service under an imperial officer, the præfectus annonæ. A little later we find a special treasury, the fiscus frumentarius, to administer the funds. Septimius Severus added a ration of oil to that of corn and, finally, Aurelian substituted for the corn a supply of bread.
The corn of Rome came mainly from two great transmarine provinces, Egypt and Africa, while smaller amounts came from
Sicily and Sardinia. The supply was therefore at the mercy of the uncertain sea; and it was a constant aim of imperial policy to encourage the merchants who equipped the fleets and to provide safe harbourage for the incoming ships. Claudius, in particular, built a grand new harbour at Ostia, which was completed by his successor, Nero, and its completion was celebrated by him on a famous sestertius. In time of war the vulnerability of Rome through the difficulties of food supply was strikingly revealed. Vespasian, in 69 A.D., had taken such effective measures for the starving out of the capital that, when his armies actually entered the city, only some few days' supply remained. Commodus greatly improved the organization of the supply from Africa and as a result Septimius Severus, through the possession of that province, was able to surmount his difficulties, even while his rival, Pescennius Niger, was holding Egypt.
Although the emperors definitely committed themselves, as they were compelled to do, to the provisioning of Rome from over-seas, the problem of the welfare of rural Italy, which was poorly served by that policy, certainly lay very near their hearts. In the reign of Tiberius we find that senators were required by law to invest two-thirds of the interest on their loans in Italian land. Coins of Vespasian and Domitian point clearly to attempts to re-invigorate life on the land in Italy. Domitian's abortive attempt to encourage agriculture by forbidding the land in Italy to be left fallow gives us a hint of the ways in which a remedy for the decline of corn-growing might be sought. Trajan's famous institution for the education of poor orphans, the alimenta Italia, was cleverly designed to encourage Italian agriculture at the same time. Money was advanced on mortgage on estates in Italy at low rates of interest and out of the revenues the alimenta were financed. The whole of the second century witnessed a deliberate encouragement of the interests of Italy by the emperors. But any partial good that they may have succeeded in effecting was probably soon lost in the confusions of the third century, when the constant struggles for imperial power and the increasing menace of foreign enemies pushed all constructive legislation into the background. We know too little of the details of the measures taken in this sphere to be able to judge them fairly; but, in general, we may safely say that partial attempts to revive Italian agriculture were doomed to failure from the outset as long as cheap corn could
be imported from abroad. Of any serious modification of this policy there seems to have been no question. Presumably the foreign supplies were too cheap and too convenient to be dispensed with.
Augustus, we have seen, fixed the number of recipients of free corn at about 200,000. The qualifications for receipt seem to have been free birth and Roman citizenship, and-as a rule, at any rate adult age. But not all who were qualified to receive were on the active list. The total number was fixed and admission could only be secured as vacancies occurred. A special department under an official, the a libellis fisci frumentarii, dealt with appeals for enrolment. Tickets could, it appears, be sold; for, even if the recipient was registered by name, it was impossible to prevent him from sending a representative to draw his monthly ration of five modii (pecks). To the recipients, incisi frumento publico, i.e., " engraved on the public corn (list) " as they were called, tickets (tessera) were issued, on presentation of which the ration of corn was dealt out. After Claudius had opened the Porticus Minucia elaborate arrangements could be made, so that every man could know at what time and at what gate of the portico he was to draw his ration.
Juvenal has made a permanent mark on the imagination of the world with his famous caustic phrase, panem et circensessuggesting that gratuitous bread and circus-races were the only interests of the mob that claimed to rule the earth. A vision of hungry generations " clamouring for the dole rises before our eyes. The importance attached by the emperors to the punctual discharge of this charity to the populace is amply attested by the elaborate organization of which we have spoken. Claudius, on one occasion, was almost mobbed in the streets of Rome, when there was some apprehension of a famine, and it sometimes happened that the absence of the emperor from Rome was resented by the people out of fear that the corn supply might suffer. The coins offer a striking commentary on the public interest in the matter. Ceres, the goddess of the earth, often appears, as does the spirit of the corn-supply, Annona herself, with ears of corn and bushel-measure as attributes, and the prow of a ship to mark the transit overseas. Antoninus Pius celebrates, on a beautiful sestertius, the rebuilding of the lighthouse of Alexandria to give additional safety to the corn-fleets leaving the