Slave Rations

Relative wine consumption in Rome

The drinking habits of Rome's 300,000-strong slave population is harder to assess. Andreas Tchernia opted to cite the seasonally varied rations considered appropriate for slaves on Campanian farms (see Cato, On Agriculture LVII). But in such rural settings, slaves were regarded as chattels scarcely to be separated from the beasts of burden. In the cities, many slaves were integrated more closely into the household and usually better cared for; others were owned by the city itself, to work on construction projects, clean the public baths and temples, and sometimes do basic clerical work. All these slaves most likely received a fairly steady wine ration, while some may have had an opportunity to enjoy the taverns.

The age structure of the Roman slave population is all but impossible to assess; the only certainty is that its life expectancy was lower even than that of the city's citizenry, maybe by as much as three or four years. If we assume minimal wine consumption for all young slaves and female slaves, and an adult male slave population of 75,000, each os which was given 1 sextarius a day, their annual consumption would amount to 3.9 million U.S. gallons per year (or 1.3 U.S. gallons per capita).