Wine and Wealth in Ancient Italy
By Nicholas Purcell
Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 75 (1985)
Introduction: This account of viticulture in Italy during the period from the Punic Wars to the crisis of the third century AD is written in the conviction that the ‘economic’ history of the ancient world will remain unacceptably impoverished if it is written in isolation from the social and cultural history of the same period. The orthodoxy which sees a revolution in Italian agriculture in the age of Cato the Censor and a crisis in the time of the emperor Trajan seems to me to be an example of this. It is based on a traditional and limited selection of evidence, and is unable to answer many questions which are increasingly being asked about production and exchange in the ancient world, questions about the social background and cultural preferences which underlie production strategies and the evolution of demand. I hope that this study may show some other possibilities, which have still been only partly explored by researchers, of illuminating the changing patterns of Roman agriculture and trade, through the use of comparative evidence and the re-examination of the relevant literary texts for data that are more than simply ‘economic’ in the most restricted sense.