The Common People of Ancient Rome eBook

Frank Frost Abbott
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 203 pages of information about The Common People of Ancient Rome.
no heed to the needs of the many, ... it seems good to us, as we look into the future, to us who are the fathers of the people, that justice intervene to settle matters impartially, in order that that which, long hoped for, humanity itself could not bring about may be secured for the common government of all by the remedies which our care affords....  Who is of so hardened a heart and so untouched by a feeling for humanity that he can be unaware, nay that he has not noticed, that in the sale of wares which are exchanged in the market, or dealt with in the daily business of the cities, an exorbitant tendency in prices has spread to such an extent that the unbridled desire of plundering is held in check neither by abundance nor by seasons of plenty!”

If we did not know that this was found on tablets sixteen centuries old, we might think that we were reading a newspaper diatribe against the cold-storage plant or the beef trust.  What the Emperor has decided to do to remedy the situation he sets forth toward the end of the introduction.  He says:  “It is our pleasure, therefore, that those prices which the subjoined written summary specifies, be held in observance throughout all our domain, that all may know that license to go above the same has been cut off....  It is our pleasure (also) that if any man shall have boldly come into conflict with this formal statute, he shall put his life in peril....  In the same peril also shall he be placed who, drawn along by avarice in his desire to buy, shall have conspired against these statutes.  Nor shall he be esteemed innocent of the same crime who, having articles necessary for daily life and use, shall have decided hereafter that they can be held back, since the punishment ought to be even heavier for him who causes need than for him who violates the laws.”

The lists which follow are arranged in three columns which give respectively the article, the unit of measure, and the price.[89]

Centenum sive sicale  " "  "      {~ROMAN NUMERAL TEN~}{~COMBINING LONG STROKE OVERLAY~} sexa(ginta)
Mili pisti            " "  "      {~ROMAN NUMERAL TEN~}{~COMBINING LONG STROKE OVERLAY~} centu(m)
Mili integri          " "         {~ROMAN NUMERAL TEN~}{~COMBINING LONG STROKE OVERLAY~} quinquaginta’
The first item (frumentum) is wheat, which is sold by the K{~COMBINING MACRON~}M{~COMBINING MACRON~} (kastrensis modius=181/2 quarts), but the price is lacking.  Barley is sold by the kastrensis modius at {~ROMAN NUMERAL TEN~}{~COMBINING LONG STROKE OVERLAY~} centum (centum denarii = 43 cents) and so on.

Usually a price list is not of engrossing interest, but the tables of Diocletian furnish us a picture of material conditions throughout the Empire in his time which cannot be had from any other source, and for that reason deserve some attention.  This consideration emboldens me to set down some extracts in the following pages from the body of the edict: 

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The Common People of Ancient Rome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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