Emperor Domitian's Vineyards
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Emperor Domitian's Vineyards
(Revelation 6.5-6)
Page 126

"When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'Two pounds of wheat for a day's wages, and six pounds of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!'" (Revelation 6.5-6)✞

Wine Edict

Harvest of Wheat In 92 AD, a wine edict was issued by Emperor Domitian banning the planting of any new vineyards in what was called "Roman Italy." Roman Italy was created officially by the Roman Emperor Augustus with the Latin name "Italia," uniting the Italian Peninsula under the same name and government. Domitian (51-96 AD) was emperor from 81-96 AD which was one of the longest rules of any emperor. He was known as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Domitian's edict ordered the uprooting of half of the existing vineyards in the Roman provinces which were the largest territorial and administrative unit in the empire. This wine edict, as it was called, was a way of controlling taxation and production. Here, it was intended to encourage farmers to grow more cereals and came at the very time that John of Patmos was writing from his prison on Patmos Island. There was at that time a very serious shortage of grain with the prospect of a severe famine but also by coincidence a time of a great abundance of wine! Revelation 6 reflected certain events concerning famine and death in John of Patmos's day.✞

Rebellion Threatened

Vineyard in ItalyDomitian's edict however had the opposite effect than that intended as it came very near to causing a rebellion in the province of Asia in which John was writing. The vineyards were one of the principal sources of revenue. In view of the hostile reaction, Emperor Domitian rescinded his edict and in fact ordered the opposite that those who allowed their vineyards to go out of cultivation should be prosecuted. Here was the situation in which corn was scarce. Yet interference in the supply of wine from the Emperor's vineyards was forbidden and the price of wine and oil was protected.✞

"Emperor Domitian's Vineyards"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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