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Examples of Romans’ dissatisfaction with authority

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman fresco showing the sale of bread in the market
Roman fresco showing the sale of bread in the market

In Roman historiography, there were not many events that could be described as rebellions of the population against the local elite or the emperor, in connection with, for example, problems with food supplies. This does not mean, however, that the rulers or aristocracy could remain indifferent to the voice of the people.

Certainly, the emperors in their palaces did not pay much attention to the fate of the poorest. Their attention was drawn to the people only when they had a chance to be with him, i.e. during games or processions. But surely the biggest catalyst for the unrest was problems with the supply of food, especially grain, which was a major part of the Roman diet.

We know a story from 51 CE when emperor Claudius was thrown at loaves of bread by upset people in the face of grain supply problems. The terrified emperor then had to run away from his back to the palace. It seems that this may not be the only case of this type in history, as Rome had to deal with the problem of grain supplies many times.

The anger of ordinary Romans could also be unloaded on ordinary officials. In the middle of the 1st century CE in Aspendos, southern Turkey, a local official was almost burned alive by the inhabitants. The reason was anger that the local authorities did not block the landowners’ gathering of grain and sending it for export when people were suffering from hunger.

  • Beard Mary, SPQR. Historia starożytnego Rzymu, Poznań 2016

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