Dupondius Domitian - Annona
DOMITIAN. Æ As. Rome, January-April 85 AD.
Obv. IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG GERM COS XI Radiated head right with aegis
Rev. ANNONA AVG SC Annona seated right, holding open cloth containing grain ears; before, small boy standing left, holding other ends of cloth; ship's poop in background.
Cohen 11 (3 F)
By the second century BC, since Italy could no longer supply the grain (represented by the Roman goddess Ceres) necessary to supply Rome, the city was importing sizeable annual amounts of grain to feed its growing urban population. Initially coming from Sicily, by the late first century BC, North Africa and, especially, Egypt became the chief suppliers. In order to prevent the populace from starving, the government began subsidizing handouts in the form of daily loaves of bread. Known as the annona, the grain dole became an important political and social issue. Any temporary cessation of the supply could result in urban riots and later politicians used this fact to buy votes; emperors were quick to demonstrate their attention to the matter, as on this coin. Although Caesar made drastic cuts in the number of recipients, he nevertheless recognized the political importance of the annona and drew up plans to build a harbor at Ostia to facilitate the incoming deep-draft grain freighters (represented by the ship's poop), a plan prevented by his assassination. Following up on Caesar's earlier plans, the emperor Claudius went one step further to facilitate the process and instituted the office of praefectus annonae, an equestrian position designed to oversee the distribution. While Septimius Severus and Aurelian later included additional commodoties, including olive oil, wine, and pork to the list, bread remained the most important handout. [CNG]