Farming in the Roman economy
Some owned their own land, but most people had to rent their land from a richer person.
What did Roman farmers grow?
Roman markets and Roman taxes
Mostly they sold what they grew in markets in the towns, and bought food in the market to eat, as most farmers do today. And they paid taxes, as farmers do today. Roman farmers paid their taxes partly in money and partly in food.
Buying stuff in Roman stores
With the money they got from selling their crops, these Roman farmers also bought clothes and furniture and tools. They bought flip-flops and baskets, clothes, glass drinking cups, pottery dishes, and animals to sacrifice to the gods.
Walking to work
A lot of these farmers lived in small villages or on isolated farms, but a lot of them also lived in bigger towns, and walked out to their fields every day.
Roman businesses – textile factories and working women
Rich people and their slaves also lived in the towns. Most of these rich people owned a lot of land, and rented it out to poorer farmers, or made their slaves farm it. Some of the rich people ran businesses, making clothes or tools in factories.
Some poorer men in the towns taught school, or were doctors, or carried water, or ran bakeries, or begged. Women in the towns sold things in stores, or worked as wet-nurses or waitresses, or begged. Women didn’t generally teach school in ancient Rome.
The Roman Empire and international trade
Even ordinary farmers could afford a lot of these things.
Roman trade with Africa, India and China
Some traders went even further, into the Indian Ocean or across West Asia, and traded with people in India or in West Asia to get Indian cotton, pepper, cinnamon and medicines, and even silk that came all the way from China.
These things were more expensive than they are now, but most people were able to have them occasionally, or in small amounts.
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