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The Scale of Production

Left: Dressel 1A amphora
Capacity: 48 sextarii [6.8 U.S. gallons]

Right: Egloff 172 amphora
Capacity: 4 choes [5.0 U.S. gallons]

One cannot but help but be struck by the scale of amphora production in Roman times. It has been reckoned that 40,000 amphorae of wine were being imported into Gaul every year during the middle decades of the 1st century B.C., in part to support the standing armies, in part to be used in barter with the Celts for slaves, ores of silver and copper, clothstuffs, and smoked hams.

The amphorae produced by way of the Oxyrhynchus lease alone would have held about 81,000 U.S. gallons of wine. If the land area committed to wine production in Roman Aegyptus was roughly what it has been in recent years in modern Egypt (about 19,800 acres) and if the yield was close to what was typical for ancient Italy (about 220 U.S. gallons per acre [1 culleus per iugera]) estate-owned potteries along the Nile will have been making close to 0.9 million amphorae every year.