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port; and Commodus took care to call the attention of the public to his provision of a new African fleet. One of the commonest of imperial coin-types, that of Equitas, seems to bear directly on the supply of corn; for Equitas represents the fairness of the emperor in distributing what is due from him, and her attributes, scales and measuring-rod, look to the maintenance of fair weight and measure. The sestertius of Titus, that shows Annona holding a statuette of Æquitas, leaves no doubt about the general nature of the conception.
But why, we may well ask, should the emperors have been willing to accept such a heavy permanent charge on their exchequer and to be compelled to court the favour of a thankless mob, which was only too ready to resent any irregularity in its supplies? The problem was, of course, a legacy from the Republic—the emperors had the poor always with them. It may have seemed a hopeless task to draft that feckless multitude into profitable employment. For, even granted that a clearance might once be made, the immense attractiveness of life in Rome would have continued to draw in fresh immigrants who, under the conditions of life in an ancient great city, would find it hard to earn an honest livelihood. The emperors chose to accept this urban pauperism as a necessary evil, and simply set limits to it by restricting the number of recipients of the dole.
There were other considerations that had also to be taken into account. The system of clientage had been indigenous in Rome from a very early date. It was only natural, to the Roman mind, that the great man should have his retinue of clients, attached to him by material as well as by moral bonds and pledged in return to his support. As dispenser of the public charity the emperor had a huge body of clients on his side; and, even if the Roman populace might occasionally show a nasty temper, their favour always seemed an object worthy of the emperor's seeking. The prestige of Rome was enormous and it was represented, however unworthily, by the crowds that gathered to see the shows in circus or arena. The Republic had developed the idea that Rome had the right to live on her Empire, and the emperors were slow to give up that conception. Gradually it became evident that a world-empire could not be run for the benefit of a small section of it, and by the time of Diocletian Rome and Italy had lost almost all their privileges; but for more
than three centuries the pleasure-and leisure-loving poor of Rome successfully maintained their right to live on the labour of others.
Private charity was not entirely superseded by the charity of the State, but, under the Empire, it was confined within fairly narrow limits. The old noble families were outshone by the dazzling lustre of the imperial families; nor was it always safe to be too conspicuous. The system of clientage was, however, too deeply rooted to die quickly. The poems of Martial and Juvenal bring before us the crowds of hangers-on, many of them men of letters, whose means of earning a living were precarious, and who were glad to eke out their earnings by paying court to some rich patron. The main duty of the client was to salute his patron at his early morning levée and sometimes to attend him on his business in Rome or on journeys into the country. The natural return for such services was free board, and the client would expect frequent invitations to dinner. There, however, he would often have the mortification of seeing far better food served up to the master and his more honoured guests. In the time of Domitian we find that the allowance of rations, the sportula, had come to be commuted for a fixed sum of money— 100 quadrantes, or a little more than a shilling a day. Curiously enough, even visitors of rank who attended a levée seem to have received the normal allowance. Later on the system of giving rations was re-introduced.
This whole scheme of patrons and clients has, perhaps, more importance in the history of literature than in that of social life; but its relevance to the present subject cannot be ignored. In particular, the fluctuation which we have just remarked between gifts in money and gifts in kind by private patrons led naturally to the largitiones, or largesses of the emperors; for, as a general principle, the emperors wished to keep this dangerous privilege of buying the popular favour in their own hands.
These gifts of money to the people were introduced much later than gifts of corn. The model could, of course, be found in the donatives paid to the troops at the end of a successful campaign. Julius Cæsar was the first to distribute to the poor on a large scale. Augustus, on a number of occasions, made considerable presents. He could find many good reasons for so doing he had immense sums of money at his command, derived
from the fortunes left him, as well as from the wars; he could readily find cases of deserving poverty, where men had lost their all in the civil strife, and he had to found a new dynasty on the affections of the people. During the first century the largesse remained a common-but not universal-device for winning favour. Tiberius, so far as we know, gave none. Galba fell largely through his omission to do so; Otho and Vitellius had no time or fortune to spend on such objects. The other emperors, down to Trajan, gave on a scale that seems sparing in comparison to that of Augustus or of the following emperors.
The recipients of these largesses (liberalitates, congiaria) were almost certainly the same as the recipients of State corn, namely the general body of public pensioners. When a largesse was given, special "money tickets" were issued to all who were on the roll and instructions were issued as to where and when they were to draw their money. The right to give largesse was jealously guarded by the emperor, but he would, on occasion, extend it, as he might his right of portraiture on the coins, to members of his household and give a largesse in the name of a son or other close relative. It was a common practice for the emperor to preside at the distribution, either at the opening only or, it might be, for several days continuously, either in his own person or by a personal representative. Nothing could show more clearly how well the effect of such popular measures on public opinion was appreciated.
The constant recurrence of the theme on coins is another evidence of the same fact. A common coin-type is the representation of a distribution-scene, with the emperor sitting on a platform, extending his hand in a gesture of friendliness; while in front of him stands an attendant, who distributes to a citizen standing at the foot of the platform. A figure of the goddess, Minerva, which is often shown in the background, probably indicates the place of distribution near a well-known temple of the goddess. In the background, too, is often seen Liberalitas, the spirit of the imperial bounty, holding the cornucopiae, the symbol of plenty, and an object like an oblong board with a handle, which has usually been described as a ticket, but which is more probably an abacus, or reckoning-board. Later, this figure of Liberalitas was often used to serve as a type by itself. At first the occasional largesses were covered by the one general conception of Aequitas, the fairness of the emperor. In the second
century, with the increasing importance of these gifts, this special type of Liberalitas was evolved. The usual description, both for scene and single figure, is "Liberalitas Augusti," and a number is often added to mark the series in a reign. It is probable that what was actually given at the formal distribution was not the money itself, but a ticket entitling to later payment.
The occasions of a largesse were very varied-sometimes undefined, but usually connected with such important events as an accession to the throne, the adoption of an heir, a marriage in the imperial house, the return of the emperor from abroad, the celebration of the fifth or tenth years of a reign, or some specially notable victory. We have a large material to draw on-references in the historians, a special list drawn up by a writer of 354 A.D., the coins and, further, the little tessera, or tickets, which have come down to us in great numbers and which give valuable evidence on many points, especially on the close connection between largesse and corn-dole. It would not, however, be an easy matter to draw up from this material a complete and uniform picture of the largesses of the emperors, for the tesseræ preserve the memory of many largesses, which are unrecorded on any other document. In the reign of Nero, for example, quite a number of otherwise unknown largesses are recorded on tessera: they are associated with historical events which we can easily identify and they fit in perfectly with all we know of Nero's spendthrift habits and passion for popularity. The probability is that there were two classes of largesse, the great official ones, in which the whole body of State pensioners shared, and smaller ones, of a less formal nature, in which very many fewer participated. An emperor might well wish at times to make presents in money without going to the immense expense which a full official largesse implied.
The enormous development of the system begins with the reign of Trajan. Augustus had given 420 denarii per head; no other emperor before Trajan had given more than 225. Under Trajan the number rose to 650, under Hadrian to 1000, under Septimius Severus to 1100, under Gallienus to 1250 and two gold pieces. The average per reign is higher for the second century than for the third; but, owing to the constant change of emperor, the total is distinctly bigger in the later period. But, when we have made allowance for the decrease in the purchasing power
of money, due to the debasement of the coinage, we are justified in selecting the age of the Antonines, the happiest and best period of the Empire, as the culminating point in the care of the Roman State for its poor citizens. Two questions challenge us: how did these largesses affect the State, and why did the best emperors so strongly support them?
If we may judge from what we hear of the taxes paid by the provinces, of the not infrequent remissions of arrears of debt, and of the difficulty in finding money to maintain a sufficiently large standing army, we may safely assume that the Roman budget was run on very narrow margins. Careful emperors might amass a considerable reserve; but such reserves melted away when a serious war had to be waged or a wasteful successor ascended the throne. If we are still in any doubt we have only to look at the coinage. Debasement of the denarius began under Nero; it reached dangerous proportions under Septimius Severus and ended in something like a State bankruptcy under Gallienus, when the silver coin came to be little better than a copper piece. This was, surely, no innocent inflation, protected by an adequate gold reserve. It has all the appearance of a piecemeal borrowing from the future to pay the debts of the present, until at last a payment in almost valueless money gave the State a clean sheet.
Nor are we at a loss to account for the unfavourable turn taken by finance. Wars, foreign and civil, became increasingly prevalent. The revenues of the State were not capable of indefinite expansion, whilst it became more and more customary to waste vast sums on presents to the troops. The normal pay of the army rose to perhaps more than three times what it had been under Augustus. It is possible, of course, to regard this advance in the light of a bonus to cover the increased cost of living, and there is, undoubtedly, truth in this point of view. But the process was, clearly, a double one. Increased expenditure led to inflation, and inflation to a fall in the purchasing power of money; the growing dearness led to increasing demands for pay. It was the vicious circle of unsound finance, which we can recognize to-day only too well. To this evil the lavish expenditure on largesses contributed its part, though perhaps, in comparison with the waste on the army, it was not a very important one.
Yet we come back to the established fact that it was the best of the Roman emperors who were primarily responsible for the