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Roman Economy - Prices in Ancient Rome:

Daily Life:

The bread consumption in ancient Rome was quite high. A average male roman ate about 2 pound bread a day.
The ultimate unit of measurement for wheat was the Modius (plural: modii).
One modius equals 20.7 libra (1 libra (roman pound) = 322.5 g) equals 6.67 kg.
For the average monthly bread consumption for one person about 4 modii (26.68 kg = 58.8 pound) were neccesary.
One modius was used to produce 16 - 20 one pound loaves.

Virtually no price information for meat, fruits and vegetables is handed down.

1 Denari = 4 Sestertii = 16 As

Monthly Income and Prices for 1 modius Wheat in the 1st century AD:

Job
Denari / month
Secretary
15
Lecturer
12
Messenger
9
Haruspex (fortune teller)
10
Legionary Soldier (Private)
20
Praetorian (guard in Rome)
60
Legionary Soldier (Centurion)
~300

6th century AD
laborer/semi-skilled worker
9 folles/day
10-20 solidi / year
Location
Price / As
Rome
up to 32
provincial Italy
16
Africa
9 - 16
Asia minor
8 - 16
Palestine
10 - 12
Egypt (bread basket)
7 - 9

Other Prices:

1st century AD
Price
1 modius wheat
see above and right
1 loaf bread
1 dupondius
(=2 As ; in Rome)
1 sextarius wine
(~0.5 liter)
1 - 5 as
1 sextarius fine wine
up to 30 as
a bath at a public bath
1/4 as
1 tunika (clothing)
15 sestertii
1 donkey
500 sestertii
1 slave
2000 sestertii = 500 denarii (up to 1500)
1 female slave
2000 - 6000 denarii
1 morgan land
1000 sestertii = 250 denarii

Average price in As for
1 Modius wheat:
(values of Rome and Italy
derived from Egypt)

 
Rome
Italy
Egypt
18BC-14AD
16
8
4
14 - 98
32
16
8
98 - 192
40
20
10
193 - 260
68
34
17

Pompeii 79 AD
Price
1 modii wheat
7 sestertii = 28 as
1 modii rye
3 sestertii = 12 as
1 litra (1/3 kg) oil
1 sestertii = 4 as
1 pound bread
1 as
1/2 liter tablewine
1 as
1/2 liter fine wine
2 - 4 as
1 pot
1 as
1 dish
1 as
1 oillamp
1 as
1 bucket
2 sestertii = 8 as
1 tunika (clothes)
15 sestertii = 3 den. 3 ses.
1 donkey
500 sestertii = 125 den.
1 slave
2500 sestertii = 625 den.
1 fine for a criminal action
25 sestertii = 6 den. 1 ses.

mid 3rd cent.
Price / Antoninianii
1 fishing net
14
1 fish trap
6
1 small fishing boat
186
1 cooking pot
3
1 oil lamp
1
1 loaf of bread (1 pound)
1 (province)
1 sextarius wine
4
1 soldiers winter-cape
75
camel-leather boots
20
light leather shoes
12
1 sword
60
1 donkey
145
1 horse
250
1 healthy & strong slave
800-1200

~ 6th cent.
Price
1 unskilled slave
20 solidi
vegetables per day
5 folles (10 solidii / year)
1 lb. fish
6 folles
1 loaf of bread
3 folles (= half a day's labor wages)
1 wool blanket
1/25 solidus
1 second-hand cloak
1 solidus
1 donkey
3-4 solidii
1 copy of the New Testament
3 solidii

501: famine in Edessa
Price
wheat
rose from 30 to 4 bushels / solidus
barley
rose from 50 to 6 bushels / solidus

40 bronze nummi = 1 copper follis
180 folles (7,200 nummi) = 1 solidus
72 solidi = half lb. of gold


Time Soldier Income / Day Price f. 1 Mod. Wheat
see note 3
211 - 210 BC see note 1   20 - 24 as
203 BC   4 as
200 - 150 BC 3 as 4 as
141 BC see note 2 5 as 6 as
123 BC   6.33 as
100 BC   8 as
73 BC 5 as 12 as
46 BC 10 as (unskilled labourer 12 As) 12 as
0 10 as 16 as = 1 den.
60 AD 16 as 32 as = 2 den.
170 AD 13 as 40 as = 2 den. 8 as
218 AD 16 as = 1 denar 68 as = 4 den. 4 as
305 AD   2 - 10 nummi see note 4

Note 1: Time of the devastation of Latinum by Hanibal.
Note 2: Retarification of the Denar: before 141 BC: 1 denarius = 10 As ; after 141 BC: 1 denarius = 16 As
Note 3: Average price in Rome (for provincial Rome half price ; for Egypt 1/4 price)
Note 4: After struggling with the economy and a money reform in 214 AD the nummi was introduced in 294.
It had the same buying power like the denari in early times. 2 nummi in Egypt ; 10 nummi in Rome.

Consumption of a family of 4 per year in Rome:

* in the Roman Republic (175 - 150 BC):

A family of 4 persons needed the following goods per year, where 40% were consumpted by the adult male in the family.

120 modii wheat (= 800 kg) 480 as
120 sextarii of oil (= 65 liter) 80 as
720 sextarii of wine (= 400 liter) 120 as
  680 as = 68 denari (see note 2)
Soldier Income: ~100 denari / year  

* in the Roman Empire (75 - 125 AD):

Rome : 200 denari for wheat, oil, wine (2 - 2.5 as per day)
Provincial regions: 100 denari



EXAMPLES:

Republic: 137 BC: 1 denarius paid a soldier for 3 days. Enough to buy wheat for one month.
1 As ~ 1 loaf of bread

Bibliography:

Duncan-Jones - The economy of the Roman empire
Kenneth W. Harl - Coinage in the Roman Empire

--------------

Adkins - Handbook to life in ancient Rome:

time payment comments
2nd century BC legionary: 1/2 denarius /day
centurion: 1 denarius / day
cavalryman: 1 1/2 denarii / day
soldiers also received an allowance of corn deducted from their pay
mid. 1st cent. BC legionary: 112.5 denarii / year  
time of Caesar legionary: 225 denarii / year  
time of Augustus legionary: 225 denarii / year
praetorian guard: 375 denarii / year
centurion: 3750 - 15000 denarii / year
at the end of Augustus reign:
praetorian guard: 750 denarii / year
83-84 AD (Domitian) legionary: 300 denarii / year
praetorian guard: 1000 denarii / year
centurion: 5000 - 20000 denarii / year
 
time of Sept. Severus legionary: 459 denarii / year
centurion: 8333 - 33333 denarii / year
 
time of Caracalla legionary: 675 denarii / year  

In general: early empire:
auxiliary infantry: 1/3 legionary pay
auxiliary cavalry: 2/3 legionary pay

Adkins - Handbook to life in ancient Greece:

time payment comments
late 5th cent. BC workman: 1 drachma / day
assistant: 3 obols / day
agricultural laborers: 4 obols / day + food for 2 obols / day
 
beginning 4th cent. BC foreman of a gang of bricklayers: 2 drachmas / day
12-15 drachmas / 1000 bricks
wages gradually became bases on piecework than on daily rate
mid. 4th cent. BC @Delphi plasterers 1 - 2.5 dra. / day
end 4th cent. BC @Eleusis: bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer 2.5 drachmas / day
17 drachmas / 1000 bricks

sawyer 2 drachmas / day
laborer 1.5 drachmas / day

   
Fee for attandance of the Assembly in Athens 4th cent. BC: 4 regular meetings in each prytany (40 per year); fee introduced in 400 BC; 1 obol per meeting initially; 6 obols in 327 BC with 9 obols for the main meeting in each prytany
payment for jurors at the law courts trials by juries instituted in the 5th cent. BC; payment introduced by Pericles; initially 2 obols / day; 425 BC 3 obols / day
military training for 18 year-old men 2 years training; after 305 BC ceased to be compulsory; 282 BC 1 year training
before 305 BC (compulsory): daily allowance of 4 obols / day


last updated: 15/NOV/2003

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