City of Rome | Dispatching the dole: the seaborne transport of staples between Tunisia and Italy through literary and archaeological evidence

City of Rome | Dispatching the dole: the seaborne transport of staples between Tunisia and Italy through literary and archaeological evidence

Alice Poletto (BSR)
Alice Poletto (BSR)

The supply of food staples to a specific segment of Rome’s population—whose income or property were below a certain amount—was a prime concern in the late-Republican and imperial period, as it could earn vast numbers of votes and keep the potentially dangerous lower-class citizens at bay. Most of the subsidised foodstuffs were imported from Africa: the logistics of transporting the staples to Rome was extremely elaborate, but the efficient control of the food supply was a key to the control of Rome itself.

Despite the risks of seaborne transport, shipping goods by sea was much cheaper than by land. Ancient navigation rarely involved direct sailing on the open sea: ships and sailors were often constrained to coastal journeys. Sailing routes in the ancient Mediterranean have been compared to beaded strings, the beads being the manifold harbours and anchorages where ships could find shelter along their journeys. Building on the archaeological evidence of a group of maritime imperial villas on the coast of southern Etruria, and combining it with literary sources relevant to navigation routes in the central Mediterranean, the lecture will seek to reconstruct the logistics of the transport of the dole between Tunisia and Italy.

This event will be in English.

CITY OF ROME LECTURE SERIES


Alice Poletto is Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome. After reading Archaeology at Sapienza University of Rome, where she earned her BA (2014) and MA (2016), she  obtained a DPhil in Classical Archaeology from the University of Oxford (2022), where she examined the functions and usage patterns of post-Hadrianic imperial villas in Italy. For her Rome Fellowship she is following in the same line of research, looking at maritime imperial villas and investigating their functions as intermediate ports the routes between Africa and Rome. Her primary interest is the architecture of the  Roman imperial period, with a focus on domus and uillae, of which she investigates space-usage patterns.

Alongside academic research, Alice is an active field archaeologist. She has participated in excavations in Italy, Turkey, Morocco, and Kosovo, and since 2017 she is a member of the APAHA Tibur Project carried out by Columbia University at Hadrian’s Villa.


The event will be held both in-person and online. No registration is required to attend in person, to attend online please register on zoom. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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