Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Constantinople Home Page  

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


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

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 XI - The Old Republic and the New Monarchy


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 78

Reform of the Distribution of Corn

The corn-distributions in the capital had hitherto been looked on as a profitable prerogative of the community which ruled and, because it ruled, had to be fed by its subjects. This infamous principle was set aside by Caesar; but it could not be overlooked that a multitude of wholly destitute burgesses had been protected solely by these largesses of food from starvation. In this aspect Caesar retained them.

While according to the Sempronian ordinance renewed by Cato every Roman burgess settled in Rome had legally a claim to bread-corn without payment, this list of recipients, which had at last risen to the number of 320,000, was reduced by the exclusion of all individuals having means or otherwise provided for to 150,000, and this number was fixed once for all as the maximum number of recipients of free corn; at the same time an annual revision of the list was ordered, so that the places vacated by removal or death might be again filled up with the most needful among the applicants.

By this conversion of the political privilege into a provision for the poor, a principle remarkable in a moral as well as in a historical point of view came for the first time into living operation. Civil society but slowly and gradually works its way to a perception of the interdependence of interests; in earlier antiquity the state doubtless protected its members from the public enemy and the murderer, but it was not bound to protect the totally helpless fellow-citizen from the worse enemy, want, by affording the needful means of subsistence.

It was the Attic civilization which first developed, in the Solonian and post-Solonian legislation, the principle that it is the duty of the community to provide for its invalids and indeed for its poor generally and it was Caesar that first developed what in the restricted compass of Attic life had remained a municipal matter into an organic institution of state, and transformed an arrangement, which was a burden and a disgrace for the commonwealth, into the first of those institutions--in modern times as countless as they are beneficial--where the infinite depth of human compassion contends with the infinite depth of human misery.

Previous / First / Next Page of this Chapter

Do you see any typos or other mistakes? Please let us know and correct them

The History of Old Rome: Contents ||| The Medieval West | The Making of Europe | Constantinople Home Page

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Receive updates :

Learned Freeware

Reference address :