Ancient Rome was an agrarian and slave based economy whose main concern was feeding the vast number of citizens and legionaries who populated the Mediterranean region. Agriculture and trade dominated Roman economic fortunes, only supplemented by small scale industrial production. The staple crops of Roman farmers in Italy were various grains, olives, and grapes. Olive oil and wine , outside of direct food stuffs, were among the most important products in the ancient civilized world and led Italy's exports.
Romans did use a limited form of two tier crop rotation, but crop production was largely low output and required a vast number of slaves to operate at any volume.
Farmers could donate surplus crops to the government in lieu of a monetary tax. This system allowed both Republican and Imperial rulers to gain popularity with the masses through free grain distribution and also help to feed the legions at no direct monetary cost. Unfortunately it also left farmers with little incentive to increase productivity or output, since more crop translated to more taxes and more free grain distributions.
Citizens grew dependent on these grain doles and the large volume of trade that ensued. The need to secure grain providing provinces was one of many important factors that would lead to the expansion and conquests of the Roman State. These areas were of vital importance in the processing and shipment of grain to Rome. Grain was shipped directly to Ostia, the official port of Rome, and penalties for disruption of the most direct route included deportation or execution.
Once delivered to Ostia the grain was weighed, checked for quality, and then sent up the Tiber River on barges to Rome, where it would be repacked for distribution throughout the Empire. While the production and transportation of foods dominated the trading industry, there was also a vast exchange of other goods from all parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The prosperity of the Empire and many of it citizens generated a need for luxurious and exotic imports. Silks from China and the Far East, cotton and spices from India, Ivory and wild animals from Africa, vast amounts of mined metals from Spain and Britain, fossilized amber gems from Germany and slaves from all over the world discovered that all roads did indeed "lead to Rome.
The importance of industry and manufacturing was comparatively light to that of agriculture. The growth and influence of the Empire can not be underestimated, however.
The largest industry in ancient Rome was mining, which provided the stones for the enormous building projects and metals for tools and the weapons that conquered the western world. Greece and northern Italy provided marble for the buildings that awed the ancients and modern people alike. My Content 1 Recently viewed 1 Money in the ancient e Show Summary Details.
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Economic Structures of Antiquity. Open Preview See a Problem? Please read our Copyright Information page for important copyright information. All those who had been enslaved for debt were freed and those sold into slavery in foreign lands were brought back at the expense of the state. Mattingly, David J.
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