In the Roman Empire, the first emperor Augustus provided the 'congiaria' or corn dole for citizens who could not afford to buy food. Social welfare was enlarged by the Emperor Trajan. When Trajan returned to Rome in 99, he behaved with respect and affability toward the Senate. He was generous to the populace of Rome, to whom he distributed considerable cash gifts, and increased the number of poor citizens who received free grain from the state. For Italy and the provinces, he remitted the gold that cities had customarily sent to emperors on their accession. He also lessened taxes and was probably responsible for an innovation for which Nerva is given credit—the institution of public funds (alimenta) for the support of poor children in the Italian cities. Such endowments had previously been established in Italy by private individuals, notably by Trajan’s close friend, the orator and statesman Pliny the Younger, for his native Comum (modern Como) in northern Italy.
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