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FRUMENTA´RII

FRUMENTA´RII sc. negotiatores, corn-dealers or corn-merchants (Cic. de Off. 3.13.57; Liv. 4.12). The latter passage shows their unpopularity in times of scarcity; they were liable to the same charges of “forestalling and regrating” as the Athenian σιτοπῶλαι, and, we may be reminded, as the corn-dealers of modern Europe, England included, until the present century [SITOS]. On the Frumentarii of the legions, see EXERCITUS p. 793 a; on the commissariat in general, p. 812 a. A few further particulars may be given here. The frumentarii mentioned by Caesar, or rather Hirtius (B. G. 8.35), are not, as sometimes stated, Roman legionary officers, but Gauls supplying the enemy; and it is uncertain when they were first introduced into the Roman armies. The earliest notice of their employment as spies occurs under Hadrian (Spart. Hadr. 11); not only in the provinces, but in Rome itself, they were constantly sending private reports to the emperor (Capitolin. Macrin. 12, Commod. 4, Max. et Balb. 10; Trebell. Poll. Claud. 17). This led naturally to false accusation and blackmailing (cuncta foede diripiebant, Aurel. Vict. de Caes. 39.44); and their office was at length abolished by Diocletian. (Cf. Marquardt, Staatsverw. ii.2 492-3 = ii.1 476-7; Henzen, in Bull. dell' Inst. 1884, pp. 21-29.)

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