Amphorarum Epigraphia Baeticarum : The Contextualization of the Olive Oil Trade Between Rome and Spain
Wright, Emily E.
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The author discusses the archaeological site of Monte Testaccio, an ancient pottery dump that was active between the first and third centuries CE; located in the southern part of modem-day Rome right next to the Tiber River. This government-run pottery dump was used specifically for amphorae that had contained olive oil imported into Rome from other provinces such as North Africa and Spain. The author uses her experience working at this site to develop an original research project based on trade relations between Rome and the Spanish province of Baetica during the reign of Roman Emperors Commodus (180-192 CE) and Septimius Severns (193-211 CE). During this period of Roman expansion, new olive oil markets were continually opening up, creating an increase in demand of Baetican olive oil. The author poses the question of why the archaeological record shows a gap of Baetican amphorae between 180 CE and 200 CE. Rome's borders were continually expanding due to military conquest, which brought more potential Roman citizens into Rome who would rely on the state-subsidized food doles. The professional legions permanently stationed on the limes of the Roman Empire would also rely on imported olive oil. Because these two key demographics were continually expanding, demand was also continually increasing. Based on archaeological evidence, only the olive oil market at Rome seems to indicate there was some internal disturbance at Baetica during the late second century CE. A logical conclusion could be that Baetican olive oil became the supplier of the Roman military abroad instead of being directly imported into Rome. At the same time, especially during the reign of Septimius Severns, North Africa began exporting olive oil on a larger scale. This is the result of the North African Emperor's patronage of his hometown. All of these complex factors contribute to the gradual disappearance of Baetican olive oil and replacement with North African olive oil in the Imperial city of Rome.