The Danger of Living on Bread and Circuses: Alice Schroeder
In the first two centuries A.D. Rome faced a yawning gulf between rich and poor. The mighty empire built on tribute reached its geographic limits. Its economy created few exportable goods. Slaves acquired by conquest built most of its bridges, roads and aqueducts and took jobs in farming, mining and construction. As this cheaper labor replaced Roman citizens, idle, unemployed people filled the capital.
The Caesars created make-work and part-time jobs, subsidized housing and doled out grain. Even more, they found, was needed. “A people that yawns is ripe for revolt,” wrote Jerome Carcopino in “Daily Life in Ancient Rome.