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Journal Article

The Edict of Diocletian Fixing Maximum Prices

Roland G. Kent
University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register
Vol. 69, No. 1 (Nov., 1920), pp. 35-47
DOI: 10.2307/3314009
Stable URL:
Page Count: 13
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Notes and References

This item contains 8 references.

  • This reference contains 4 citations:
    • Three passages at most. There is an important passage in the De Mor- tibus Persecutorum, which passes under the name of Lactantius, but is of doubt- ful authorship;
    • The Fasti Idatiani (printed in Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 5i, pp. 89I ff.),
    • a list of consuls with an occasional historical note, remarks to the year 302 A. D.: "his cos. vilitatem iusserunt imperatores esse"-"when these were consuls the emperors ordered a cheapness of goods to exist";
    • it has been proven conclusively by the date in the edict itself that this date is one year too late. It is just possible that there is an allusion to these events in Aurelius Victor, de Caesaribus, 39, 45, "annone urbis ac stipendiorum salus anxie solliciteque habita"-"the price of grain in the city and the safety of the taxes were a matter of anxiety and worry."
  • This reference contains 6 citations:
    • Th. Mommsen, Berichte der sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, plilologisch-historische Klasse, III (1851), pp. 1-80;
    • W. H. Waddington, Edit de Diocletien etablissant le maximum dans 1'empire romain (1864)
    • Th. Mommsen, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, III (1873), pp. 801-84I
    • III SuppI. (I892), I909-53.
    • J. C. Rolfe and F. B. Tarbell, A New Fragment of the Preamble to Diocletsan's Edict, "De Pretiis Rerum Venalium," in Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, V (1892), pp. 233-244.
    • Th. Mommsen and Hugo Bliimner, Der Maximaltarif des Diocletian (1893).
  • 4
    The text of this important passage is as follows: "Idem (Diocletianus) cum variis iniquitatibus immensam faceret caritatem, legem pretiis rerum venalium statuere conatus est. Tunc ob exigua et vilia multus sanguis effusus, nec venale quicquam metu apparebat et caritas multo deterius exarsit, donec lex necessitate ipsa post multorum exitum solveretur."
  • 5
    Such seems to be the most natural interpretation of "tunc ob exigua et vilia multus sanguis effusus," but two other meanings are possible: (I) That many dealers, even in wares of low value, were executed in accord with the pro- visions of the law for its infraction; or (2) that the tradesmen forcibly resisted, even to the point of bloodshed and loss of life, the attempt of the government officials to enforce the price limits.
  • 6
    This reference contains 2 citations:
    • Weights were measured in the pondo or libra, the pound, which was equal to .722 lbs. avoirdupois and to .875 lbs. troy;
    • and in the uncia, the ounce, which was one-twelfth of the Roman pound, or .963 oz. avoirdupois and .875 oz. troy.
  • Lengths were measures by the cubitus, the ell, or 17.46 inches; and by the digitus, the finger, one twenty-fourth of the ell, or .73 inches.
  • This reference contains 3 citations:
    • Dry commodities sold in bulk were measured by the Italicus modius, the Italian peck, which equaled 7.95 dry quarts, or almost precisely one peck;
    • the castrensis modius, the military peck, had double the capacity of the Italian peck. The Italicus sextarius, the Italian pint, was one-sixteenth of the Italicus modius, and was therefore a trifling decimal under one dry pint;
    • it was, however, employed mainly for liquids and equaled .578 liquid quarts.
  • 7
    It is regrettable that the price of wheat is lost on the record; when it is mentioned at other times in Roman history, it is chiefly in times of scarcity or of over-abundance. Thus in 2IO B. C., during the second Punic War, wheat rose to $I.67 per bushel (Polybius, History IX, 45.3), while the poet Martial, in IOI A. D., speaks of a harvest so plentiful that wheat sold at 17 cents per bushel (Martial, Epigrams, XII, 76). But the real interest in these prices is not in their absolute value, but in their relation to wages paid at that time.