ANNONA (from Lat. annus, year), in Roman mythology, the personification of the produce of the year. She is represented in works of art, often together with Ceres, with a cornucopia (horn of plenty) in her arm, and a ship's prow in the background, indicating the transport of grain over the sea. She frequently occurs on coins of the empire, standing between a modius (corn-measure) and the prow of a galley, with ears of corn in one hand and a cornucopia in the other; sometimes she holds a rudder or an anchor. The Latin word itself has various meanings: (1) the produce of the year's harvest; (2) all means of subsistence, especially grain stored in the public granaries for provisioning the city; (3) the market-price of commodities, especially corn; (4) a direct tax in kind, levied in republican times in several provinces, chiefly employed in imperial times for distribution amongst officials and the support of the soldiery.
In order to ensure a supply of corn sufficient to enable it to be sold at a very low price, it was procured in large quantities from Umbria, Etruria and Sicily. Almost down to the times of the empire, the care of the corn-supply formed part of the aedile's duties, although in 440 B.C. (if the statement in Livy iv. 12, 13 is correct, which is doubtful) the senate appointed a special officer, called praefectus annonae, with greatly extended powers. As a consequence of the second Punic War, Roman agriculture was at a standstill; accordingly, recourse was had to Sicily and Sardinia (the first two Roman provinces) in order to keep up the supply of corn; a tax of one-tenth was imposed on it, and its export to any country except Italy forbidden. The price at which the corn was sold was always moderate; the corn law of Gracchus (123 B.C.) made it absurdly low, and Clodius (58 B.C.) bestowed it gratuitously. The number of the recipients of this free gift grew so enormously, that both Caesar and Augustus were obliged to reduce it. From the time of Augustus to the end of the empire the number of those who were entitled to receive a monthly allowance of corn on presenting a ticket was 200,000. In the 3rd century, bread formed the dole. A praefectus annonae was appointed by Augustus to superintend the corn-supply; he was assisted by a large staff in Rome and the provinces, and had jurisdiction in all matters connected with the corn-market. The office lasted till the latest times of the empire.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)