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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XII - The Management of Land and of Capital


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Page 16

This however was the least part of the mischief. The government had long, as was reasonable, kept a watchful eye on the price of grain, and, when there was a threatening of dearth, had interfered by well-timed purchases abroad; and now, when the corn-deliveries of its subjects brought into its hands every year large quantities of grain--larger probably than were needed in times of peace--and when, moreover, opportunities were presented to it of acquiring foreign grain in almost unlimited quantity at moderate prices, there was a natural temptation to glut the markets of the capital with such grain, and to dispose of it at rates which either in themselves or as compared with the Italian rates were ruinously low. Already in the years 551-554, and in the first instance apparently at the suggestion of Scipio, 6 -modii- (1 1/2 bush.) of Spanish and African wheat were sold on public account to the citizens of Rome at 24 and even at 12 -asses- (1 shilling 8 pence or ten pence).

Some years afterwards (558), more than 240,000 bushels of Sicilian grain were distributed at the latter illusory price in the capital. In vain Cato inveighed against this shortsighted policy: the rise of demagogism had a part in it, and these extraordinary, but presumably very frequent, distributions of grain under the market price by the government or individual magistrates became the germs of the subsequent corn-laws. But, even where the transmarine corn did not reach the consumers in this extraordinary mode, it injuriously affected Italian agriculture.

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