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  • James Mathews
    ... Men went hunting for the wild animals that were good food additions, and the women were responsible for the gathering of food staples from certain plants
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2014
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      >>>> Early Roman Living Off the Land, (On Grain, and Fruit) <<<<

      Men went hunting for the wild animals that were good food additions, and the women were responsible for the gathering of food staples from certain plants and fruit as were available in those early times.  In the early Roman world this was the organization of labor.  Therefore, it is not a big leap of determination that it was the women who were the first to have set up within the tribes the first idea of farming.  It was the women who, by close investigation and harvesting of these foodstuffs, were the first to notice that seeds of the various food plants planted in the ground, would, in fact, produce a much richer yield of such foods in the following seasons.  Of course, this was a mystery how such was accomplished, and so it became a miracle that was provided to the people by the gods that they worshipped.  The primary Goddess who was thought to produce such a beneficial harvest was the deity of fertility in all things.  The Romans named this lady and patron of the land food products, Ceres.  She was proclaimed as having responsibility for agriculture in general, and especially the cereals that the Romans were using as food staples.

      Over the centuries it slowly became clear that although the cereals May well keep for lengthy periods, there were significant downsides to this cultivated food source, preparing the land for planting, the planting of the seeds, the shielding of the planting from animals and birds, and finally the gathering of the foods.  Once gathered the food needed to be “ threshed” meaning that the edible parts of the gathered material had to be separated from the “chaff,” the inedible parts of the plant.  This was a significant task by itself and upon the founding of early Rome, it was determined by law that such work (grinding of the grains) should be the task of slaves only.  Pliney had indicated that such slaves, known as ‘pistors,’ should be a chained slaves.  The tools provided to the pistor, were simply a wooden dish or mortar, and a wooden hammer or pestle, which often would be reinforced by metal.

      The grain which supported the early Roman world was a grain called, ‘spelt,’ which was much more difficult to separate the edible parts of the material from the inedible.
      Spelt is similar to wheat but is a difficult grain to prepare properly for storage and for the table.  Such was made clear by Pliney (Plin. N. H. XVIII-72).  For the ‘pistor’, the necessary separation of the grain from the chaff was very difficult work for the pistor, and so in later years when wheat supplanted ‘spelt’, the relief must well have been significant of all, particularly the slaves who were chained to that task.


      P. Faas, “Around the Roman Table,” (University of Chicago, 1994)

      Respectfully Submitted;

      Marcus Audens     
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