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p618 Horreum

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p618 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

HORREUM (ὡρεῖον, σιτοφυλακεῖον, ἀποθήκη) was, according to its etymological signification, a place in which ripe fruits, and especially corn,º were kept, and thus answered to our granary (Virg. Georg. I.49; Tibull. II.5.84; Hor. Carm. I.1.9;º Cic. de Leg. Agr. II.83). During the empire the name horreum was given to any place destined for the safe preservation of things of any kind. Thus we find it applied to a place in which beautiful works of art were kept (Plin. Epist. VIII.18); to cellars (horrea subterranea, horrea vinearia, Dig. 18 tit. 1 s76); to depôts for merchandise, and all sorts of provisions (horreum penarium, Dig. 30 tit. 9 s3). Seneca (Epist. 45) even calls his library a horreum. But the more general application of the word horreum was to places for keeping fruit and corn; and as some kinds of fruit required to be kept more dry than others, the ancients had besides the horrea subterranea, or cellars, two other kinds, one of which was built like every other house upon the ground; but others (horrea pensilia or sublimia) were erected above the ground, and rested upon posts or stone pillars, that the fruits kept in them might remain dry (Colum. XII.50, I.6; Vitruv. VI.6.4).

From about the year 140 after Christ, Rome possessed two kinds of public horrea. The one class consisted of buildings in which the Romans might deposit their goods, and even their money, securities, and other valuables (Cod. 4 tit. 24 s9), for which they had no safe place in their own houses. This kind of public horrea is mentioned as early as the time of Antoninus Pius (Dig. 1 tit. 15 s3), through Lampridius (Alex. Sev. c39) assigns their institution to Alexander Severus (compare Dig. 10 tit. 4 s5). The officers who had the superintendence of these establishments were called horrearii. The second and more important class of horrea, which may be termed public granaries, were buildings in which a plentiful supply of corn was constantly kept at the expense of the state, and from which, in seasons of scarcity, the corn was distributed among the poor, or sold at a moderate price. The first idea of building such a granary arose with C. Sempronius Gracchus (lex Sempronia frumentaria); and the ruins of the great granary (horrea populi Romani) which he built were seen down to the sixteenth century between the Aventine and the Monte Testaceo. (Appian, de Bell. Civ. I.21; Plut. C. Gracch. 5; Liv. Epit. 60; Vell. Pat. II.6; Cic. pro Sext. 24.)

The plan of C. Gracchus was followed out and carried further by Clodius, Pompey, and several of the emperors; and during the empire we thus find a great number of public horrea which were called after the names of their founders, e.g., horrea Aniceti, Vargunteii, Seiani, Augusti, Domitiani, &c. The manner in which corn from these granaries was given to the people differed at different times. [Comp. Frumentariae Leges.]


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