Free Bread Kept The Roman Empire From Collapsing For Centuries

Free Bread Kept The Roman Empire From Collapsing For Centuries

As one of the first foods humanity ever made, bread has been a gigantic part of billions of human lives from the earliest points in human history.

Evidence of exceptionally early breadmaking has been dated to almost 30,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before the first civilisations, each of which had a long breadmaking tradition that lives on through speciality bread suppliers.

Because of this, there is a range of fascinating facts about bread that has spread throughout the years, and one of the most interesting is also the origin of a term that has been used in a range of contexts for centuries.

Whilst there are dozens of different sayings that relate to our love of bread, one of the most interesting is “bread and circuses”, a term that is used to explain that the two most important needs to fill to keep people happy and supportive is to ensure they have food and that they have entertainment.

The term was first used, rather derisively, in the Satires of the poet Juvenal, where he lamented that the Roman population have surrendered their investment in Roman society and politics, instead providing their vote to whomever can provide them with the basics of life and distractions from it.

The “circuses” part was a reference to Ludi, a growing series of public holiday circus events and games designed to unite the population in celebration.

However, the bread part was a longstanding programme of providing free or exceptionally low-cost grain (later extending to bread itself) known as Cura Annonae.

Initially an emergency measure used to help support farmers who had had their land seized from them, it quickly became a permanent institution where people who earned under a certain amount could buy grain under a certain price, eventually receiving it for free.

This was a measure to avoid violent revolts and lasted as late as the sixth century AD, aided in part by the fragmentation and collapse of the Roman Empire and a huge loss in population in the fifth century.

Share this page!
By | 2022-10-26T10:10:06+00:00 October 15th, 2022|Blog|Comments Off on Free Bread Kept The Roman Empire From Collapsing For Centuries

About the Author:

%d bloggers like this: