Oil for Rome during the second and third century AD: a confrontation of archaeological records and the Historia Augusta


It is well known that, according to the Historia Augusta, Septimius Severus introduced regular and official oil distributions in Rome. It is argued that this decision should not be interpreted to be a major change in economic policies, but merely an administrative reform to ease the shipment of oil amphorae. The archaeological evidence, inscriptions and legal texts clearly indicate that the imports peaked during the reign of the Antonines, suggesting that Severus neither started nor intensified the imports, but levelled out the structural differences between grain and oil traffic

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