This is the first full-length treatment of food supply and food crisis in classical antiquity. Hunger was never far away in the world of Greece and Rome, yet ancient historians have generally left unexplored the role of the food supply in shaping the central institutions and practices of ancient society. This book demonstrates that a study of systems of food supply and their breakdown leads to a fuller understanding of political behaviour, social mechanisms and economic relationships in classical antiquity.
Dr Garnsey poses the following questions: What caused food crisis? Was it a common feature of the Mediterranean region in antiquity; how frequently did it assume the proportions of famine? What 'famine relief' measures developed in urban communities; did popular pressure play a role in their evolution? How adequate were those measures? Did different political systems find different solutions to the problems of supply and distribution of food? How did the peasantry, who made up the bulk of the population, cope in the face of the constraints imposed by nature and man?
The author provides detailed case studies of Athens and Rome, the best known states of antiquity, but also illuminates the responses to the problems of the food supply in the mass of ordinary cities and rural communities in the Mediterranean world between roughly 600 BC and AD 500.
The book will be of interest to ancient historians studying the politics, economy and society of classical antiquity; it will be of equal importance to social scientists of all kinds concerned with the problems of famine and food supply in other complex societies and those who have become attuned to the issue of world hunger and areseeking a longer perspective. It is written with the non-specialist in mind as well as the scholar.
"...accurate and stimulating interpretative account of several interconnected issues to do with the incidence of shortages, and the responses to them of rural dwellers, patrons or benefactors, and governments...Garnsey presents extremely complex, and interrelated, issues and problems, and advanced hypotheses, with exemplary clarity, coolness, and good sense...The book will function both as a reliable introduction to its issues, and as a contribution to them; both functions are ably supported by the full references throughout the book to the best of the literature on the subject." Greece & Rome