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Roman Farm Management by Marcus Porcius Cato

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[Transcriber's note: The extensive and lengthy footnotes have been
renumbered and placed at the end of the book.]







The present editor made the acquaintance of Cato and Varro standing at
a book stall on the Quai Voltaire in Paris, and they carried him away
in imagination, during a pleasant half hour, not to the vineyards and
olive yards of Roman Italy, but to the blue hills of a far distant
Virginia where the corn was beginning to tassel and the fat cattle
were loafing in the pastures. Subsequently, when it appeared that
there was then no readily available English version of the Roman
agronomists, this translation was made, in the spirit of old Piero
Vettori, the kindly Florentine scholar, whose portrait was painted by
Titian and whose monument may still be seen in the Church of Santo
Spirito: in the preface of his edition of Varro he says that he
undertook the work, not for the purpose of displaying his learning,
but to aid others in the study of an excellent author. Victorius was
justified by his scholarship and the present editor has no such
claim to attention: he, therefore, makes the confession frankly (to
anticipate perhaps such criticism as Bentley's "a very pretty poem,
Mr. Pope, but don't call it Homer") and offers the little book to
those who love the country, and to read about the country amidst the
crowded life of towns, with the hope that they may find in it some
measure of the pleasure it has afforded the editor.

The texts and commentaries used have been those of Schneider and Keil,
the latter more accurate but the former more sympathetic.

Fauquier County,

December, 1912.


The call for a reprint of this book has afforded the opportunity to
correct some errors and to make several additions to the notes.

In withholding his name from the title page the editor sought not so
much to conceal his identity as to avoid the appearance of a parade in
what was to him the unwonted field of polite literature. As, however,
he is neither ashamed of the book nor essays the _role_ of

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye,

he now and here signs his name.


Christmas, 1917.



* * * * *



Introduction: Of the Dignity of the Farmer
Of Buying a Farm
Of the Duties of the Owner
Of Laying out the Farm
Of Stocking the Farm
Of the Duties of the Overseer
Of the Duties of the Housekeeper
Of the Hands
Of Draining
Of Preparing the Seed Bed
Of Manure
Of Soil Improvement
Of Forage Crops
Of Planting
Of Pastures
Of Feeding Live Stock
Of the Care of Live Stock
Of Cakes and Salad
Of Curing Hams






I. Introduction: the literary tradition of country life

Of the definition of Agriculture:
II. a. What it is not
III. b. What it is
IV. The purposes of Agriculture are profit and pleasure
V. The four-fold division of the study of Agriculture

_I deg. Concerning the farm itself_:
VI. How conformation of the land affects Agriculture
VII. How character of soil affects Agriculture
VIII. (A digression on the maintenance of vineyards)
IX. Of the different kinds of soils
X. Of the units of area used in measuring land

Of the considerations on building a steading:
XI. a. Size
b. Water supply
XII. c. Location, with regard to health
XIII. d. Arrangement

Of the protection of farm boundaries:
XIV. a. Fences
XV. b. Monuments
XVI. Of the considerations of neighbourhood

_2 deg. Concerning the equipment of a farm_:
& }Of agricultural labourers
XIX. }
& }Of draught animals
XX. }
XXI. Of watch dogs
XXII. Of farming implements

_3 deg. Concerning the operation of a farm_:
XXIII. Of planting field crops
XXIV. Of planting olives
XXV. }
& } Of planting vines

_4 deg. Concerning the agricultural seasons_:
& }Of the solar measure of the year, illustrated by

throughout the year, in eight seasons, viz:

XXIX. 1 deg. February 7-March 24
XXX. 2 deg. March 24-May 7
XXXI. 3 deg. May 7-June 24
XXXII. 4 deg. June 24-July 21
XXXIII. 5 deg. July 21-September 26
XXXIV. 6 deg. September 26-October 28
XXXV. 7 deg. October 28-December 24
XXXVI. 8 deg. December 24-February 7
XXXVII. Of the influence of the moon on Agriculture to which is added

with a commentary on their several occupations, viz:

_1 deg. Preparing time_:
Of tillage,
XXXVIII. Of manuring,

XXXIX. _2 deg. Planting time_:
Of the four methods of propagating plants, viz:

XL. a. Seeding and here of seed selection
b. Transplanting
c. Cuttage
d. Graftage, and
e. A "new" method, inarching
XLI. Of when to use these different methods
XLII. Of seeding alfalfa
XLIII. Of seeding clover and cabbage
XLIV. Of seeding grain

_3 deg. Cultivating time_:
XLV. Of the conditions of plant growth
XLVI. Of the mechanical action of plants
XLVII. Of the protection of nurseries and meadows
XLVIII. Of the structure of a wheat plant

XLIX. _4 deg. Harvest time_:
Of the hay harvest

L. Of the wheat harvest
LI. The threshing floor
LII. Threshing and winnowing
LIII. Gleaning
LIV. Of the vintage
LV. Of the olive harvest

_5 deg. Housing time_:
LVI. Of storing hay
LVII. Of storing grain
LVIII. Of storing legumes
LIX. Of storing pome fruits
LX. Of storing olives
LXI. Of storing amurca

LXII. _6 deg. Consuming time_:
LXIII. Of cleaning grain
LXIV. Of condensing amurca
LXV. Of racking wine
LXVL. Of preserved olives
LXVIL. Of nuts, dates and figs
LXVIII. Of stored fruits
LXIX. Of marketing grain

Epilogue: the dangers of the streets of Rome



Introduction:--the decay of country life

I. Of the origin, the importance and the economy of live stock husbandry
II. Of sheep
III. Of goats
IV. Of swine
V. Of neat cattle
VI. Of asses
VII. Of horses
VIII. Of mules
IX. Of herd dogs
N. Of shepherds
XI. Of milk and cheese and wool



I. Introduction: the antiquity of country life
II. Of the definition of a Roman villa
III. Of the Roman development of the industries of the steading
IV. Of aviaries
V. a. for profit
b. for pleasure (including here the description of Varro's own aviary)
VI. Of pea-cocks
VII. Of pigeons
VIII. Of turtle doves
IX. Of poultry
X. Of geese
XI. Of ducks
XII. Of rabbits
XIII. Of game preserves
XIV. Of snails
XV. Of dormice
XVI. Of bees
XVII. Of fish ponds




Quaecunque autem propter disciplinam ruris nostrorum temporum cum
priscis discrepant, non deterrere debent a lectione discentem. Nam
multo plura reperiuntur, apud veteres, quae nobis probanda sint,
quam quae repudianda.


The study of the Roman treatises on farm management is profitable to
the modern farmer however practical and scientific he may be. He will
not find in them any thing about bacteria and the "nodular hypothesis"
in respect of legumes, nor any thing about plant metabolism, nor even
any thing about the effects of creatinine on growth and absorption;
but, important and fascinating as are the illuminations of modern
science upon practical agriculture, the intelligent farmer with
imagination (every successful farmer has imagination, whether or not
he is intelligent) will find some thing quite as important to his
welfare in the body of Roman husbandry which has come down to us,
namely: a background for his daily routine, an appreciation that two
thousand years ago men were studying the same problems and solving
them by intelligent reasoning. Columella well says that in reading
the ancient writers we may find in them more to approve than to
disapprove, however much our new science may lead us to differ from
them in practice. The characteristics of the Roman methods of farm
management, viewed in the light of the present state of the art in
America, were thoroughness and patience. The Romans had learned many
things which we are now learning again, such as green manuring with
legumes, soiling, seed selection, the testing of soil for sourness,
intensive cultivation of a fallow as well as of a crop, conservative
rotation, the importance of live stock in a system of general farming,
the preservation of the chemical content of manure and the composting
of the rubbish of a farm, but they brought to their farming operations
some thing more which we have not altogether learned--the character
which made them a people of enduring achievement. Varro quotes one of
their proverbs "Romanus sedendo vincit," which illustrates my present
point. The Romans achieved their results by thoroughness and patience.
It was thus that they defeated Hannibal and it was thus that they
built their farm houses and fences, cultivated their fields, their
vineyards and their oliveyards, and bred and fed their live stock.
They seem to have realized that there are no short cuts in the
processes of nature, and that the law of compensations is invariable.
The foundation of their agriculture was the fallow[1] and one finds
them constantly using it as a simile--in the advice not to breed a
mare every year, as in that not to exact too much tribute from a bee
hive. Ovid even warns a lover to allow fallow seasons to intervene in
his courtship.

While one can find instruction in their practice even today, one
can benefit even more from their agricultural philosophy, for the
characteristic of the American farmer is that he is in too much of a

The ancient literature of farm management was voluminous. Varro cites
fifty Greek authors on the subject whose works he knew, beginning with
Hesiod and Xenophon. Mago of Carthage wrote a treatise in the Punic
tongue which was so highly esteemed that the Roman Senate ordered it
translated into Latin, but, like most of the Greeks,[2] it is now lost
to us except in the literary tradition.

Columella says that it was Cato who taught Agriculture to speak Latin.
Cato's book, written in the middle of the second century B. C, was the
first on the subject in Latin; indeed, it was one of the very first
books written in that vernacular at all. Of the other Latin writers
whose bucolic works have survived, Varro and Virgil wrote at the
beginning of the Augustan Age and were followed by the Spanish
Columella under Tiberius, and by Pliny (with his Natural History)
under Titus. After them (and "a long way after," as Mr. Punch says)
came in the fourth century the worthy but dull Palladius, who supplied
the hornbook used by the agricultural monks throughout the Dark Ages.

MARCUS PORCIUS CATO (B.C. 234-149), known in history as the elder
Cato, was the type of Roman produced by the most vigorous days of
the Republic. Born at Tusculum on the narrow acres which his peasant
forefathers had tilled in the intervals of military service, he
commenced advocate at the country assizes, followed his fortunes to
Rome and there became a leader of the metropolitan bar. He saw gallant
military service in Spain and in Greece, commanded an army, held all
the curule offices of state and ended a contentious life in the Senate
denouncing Carthage and the degeneracy of the times.

He was an upstanding man, but as coarse as he was vigorous in mind and
in body. Roman literature is full of anecdotes about him and his wise
and witty sayings.

Unlike many men who have devoted a toilsome youth to agricultural
labour, when he attained fame and fortune he maintained his interest
in his farm, and wrote his _De re rustica_ in green old age. It tells
what sort of farm manager he himself was, or wanted to be thought to
be, and, though a mere collection of random notes, sets forth more
shrewd common sense and agricultural experience than it is possible to
pack into the same number of English words. It remains today of much
more than antiquarian interest.

MARCUS TERENTIUS VARRO (B.C. 116-28) whom Quintilian called "the most
learned of the Romans," and Petrarch "il terzo gran lume Romano,"
ranking him with Cicero and Virgil, probably studied agriculture
before he studied any thing else, for he was born on a Sabine farm,
and although of a well to do family, was bred in the habits of
simplicity and rural industry with which the poets have made that
name synonymous. All his life he amused the leisure snatched from his
studies with intelligent supervision of the farming of his several
estates: and he wrote his treatise _Rerum Rusticarum_ in his eightieth

He had his share of active life, but it was as a scholar that he
distinguished himself.[4] Belonging to the aristocratic party, he
became a friend and supporter of Pompey, and, after holding a naval
command under him in the war against the Pirates in B.C. 67, was
his legatus in Spain at the beginning of the civil wars and there
surrendered to Caesar. He was again on the losing side at the battle
of Pharsalia, but was pardoned by Caesar, who selected him to be
librarian of the public library he proposed to establish at Rome.[5]
From this time Varro eschewed politics and devoted himself to letters,
although his troubles were not yet at an end: after the death of
Caesar, the ruthless Antony despoiled his villa at Casinum (where
Varro had built the aviary described in book Three), and like Cicero
he was included in the proscriptions which followed the compact of the
triumvirs, but in the end unlike Cicero he escaped and spent his last
years peacefully at his villas at Cumae and Tusculum.

His literary activity was astonishing: he wrote at least six hundred
books covering a wide range of antiquarian research. St. Augustine,
who dearly loved to turn a balanced phrase, says that Varro had read
so much that it is difficult to understand when he found time to
write, while on the other hand he wrote so much that one can scarcely
read all his books. Cicero, who claimed him as an intimate friend,
describes (_Acad_. Ill) what Varro had written before B.C. 46, but he
went on producing to the end of his long life, eighteen years later:
"For," says Cicero, "while we are sojourners, so to speak, in our own
city and wandering about like strangers, your books have conducted us,
as it were, home again, so as to enable us at last to recognize who
and whence we are. You have discussed the antiquities of our country
and the variety of dates and chronology relating to it. You have
explained the laws which regulate sacrifices and priests: you have
unfolded the customs of the city both in war and peace: you have
described the various quarters and districts: you have omitted
mentioning none of the names, or kinds, or functions, or causes of
divine or human things: you have thrown a flood of light on our poets
and altogether on Latin literature and the Latin language: you have
yourself composed a poem of varied beauties and elegant in almost
every part: and you have in many places touched upon philosophy in
a manner sufficient to excite our curiosity, though inadequate to
instruct us."

Of Varro's works, beside the _Rerum Rusticarum_, there have survived
only fragments, including a considerable portion of the treatise
on the Latin language: the story is that most of his books were
deliberately destroyed at the procurement of the Church (something
not impossible, as witness the Emperor Theodosius in _Corpus Juris
Civilis_. Cod. Lib. I, tit. I, cap. 3, Sec. I) to conceal St. Augustine's
plagiarism from them; yet the _De Civitate Dei_, which is largely
devoted to refuting Varro's pagan theology, is a perennial monument to
his fame. St. Augustine says (VI, 2): "Although his elocution has less
charm, he is so full of learning and philosophy that ... he instructs
the student of facts as much as Cicero delights the student of style."

Varro's treatise on farm management is the best practical book on
the subject which has come down to us from antiquity. It has not the
spontaneous originality of Cato, nor the detail and suave elegance of
Columella. Walter Harte in his _Essays on Husbandry_ (1764) says
that Cato writes like an English squire and Varro like a French
academician. This is just comment on Cato but it is at once too much
and too little to say of Varro: a French academician might be proud
of his antiquarian learning, but would balk at his awkward and homely
Latin, as indeed one French academician, M. Boissier, has since done.
The real merit of Varro's book is that it is the well digested system
of an experienced and successful farmer who has seen and practised all
that he records.

The authority from which Virgil drew the practical farming lore, for
which he has been extolled in all ages, was Varro: indeed, as a farm
manual the _Georgics_ go astray only when they depart from Varro. It
is worth while to elaborate this point, which Professor Sellar, in his
argument for the originality of Virgil, only suggests.[6]

After Philippi the times were ripe for books on agriculture. The Roman
world had been divided between Octavian and Antony and there was peace
in Italy: men were turning "back to the land."

An agricultural regeneration of Italy was impending, chiefly in
viticulture, as Ferrero has pointed out. With far sighted appreciation
of the economic advantages of this, Octavian determined to promote the
movement, which became one of the completed glories of the Augustan
Age, when Horace sang

Tua, Caesar, aetas
Fruges et agris rettulit uberes.

Varro's book appeared in B.C. 37 and during that year Maecenas
commissioned Virgil to put into verse the spirit of the times; just
as, under similar circumstances, Cromwell pensioned Samuel Hartlib.
Such is the co-incidence of the dates that it is not impossible that
the _Rerum Rusticarum_ suggested the subject of the _Georgics_, either
to Virgil or to Maecenas.

There is no evidence in the _Bucolics_ that Virgil ever had any
practical knowledge of agriculture before he undertook to write the
_Georgics_. His father was, it is true, a farmer, but apparently in a
small way and unsuccessful, for he had to eke out a frugal livelihood
by keeping bees and serving as the hireling deputy of a _viator_ or
constable. This type of farmer persists and may be recognized in any
rural community: but the agricultural colleges do not enlist such
men into their faculties. So it is possible that Virgil owed little
agricultural knowledge to his father's precepts or example. Virgil
perhaps had tended his father's flock, as he pictures himself doing
under the guise of Tityrus; certainly he spent many hours of youth
"patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi" steeping his Celtic soul with the
beauty and the melancholy poetry of the Lombard landscape: and so he
came to know and to love bird and flower and the external aspects of

wheat and woodland
tilth and vineyard, hive and horse and herd,

but it does not appear that he ever followed the plough, or, what is
more important, ever laid off a ploughgate. As a poet of nature no one
was ever better equipped (the highest testimony is that of Tennyson),
but when it came to writing poetry around the art of farm management
it was necessary for him to turn to books for his facts. He
acknowledges (_Geo_. I, 176) his obligation only to _veterum
praecepta_ without naming them, but as M. Gaston Boissier says he was
evidently referring to Varro "le plus moderne de tous les anciens."[7]
Virgil evidently regarded Varro's treatise as a solid foundation for
his poem and he used it freely, just as he drew on Hesiod for literary
inspiration, on Lucretius for imaginative philosophy, and on Mago and
Cato and the two Sasernas for local colour.

Virgil probably had also the advantage of personal contact with Varro
during the seven years he was composing and polishing the _Georgics_.
He spent them largely at Naples (_Geo_. IV, 563) and Varro was then
established in retirement at Cumae: thus they were neighbours, and,
although they belonged to different political parties, the young poet
must have known and visited the old polymath; there was every
reason for him to have taken advantage of the opportunity. Whatever
justification there may be for this conjecture, the fact remains that
Varro is in the background every where throughout the _Georgics_, as
the "deadly parallel" in the appended note will indicate. This is
perhaps the most interesting thing about Varro's treatise: instructive
and entertaining as it is to the farmer, in the large sense of the
effect of literature on mankind, Virgil gave it wings--the useful cart
horse became Pegasus.

As a consequence of the chorus of praise of the _Georgics_, there have
been those, in all ages, who have sneered at Virgil's farming. The
first such _advocatus diaboli_ was Seneca, who, writing to Lucilius
(_Ep_. 86) from the farm house of Scipio Africanus, fell foul of the
advice (_Geo_, I, 216) to plant both beans and millet in the spring,
saying that he had just seen at the end of June beans gathered and
millet sowed on the same day: from which he generalized that Virgil
disregarded the truth to turn a graceful verse, and sought rather to
delight his reader than to instruct the husbandman. This kind of
cheap criticism does not increase our respect for Nero's philosophic
minister.[8] Whatever may have been Virgil's mistakes, every farmer
of sentiment should thank God that one of the greatest poems in any
language contains as much as it does of a sound tradition of the
practical side of his art, and here is where Varro is entitled to the
appreciation which is always due the schoolmaster of a genius.


At the beginning of the first _Georgic_ (1-5) Virgil lays out the
scope of the poem as dealing with three subjects, agriculture, the
care of live stock and the husbandry of bees. This was Varro's plan
(R.R. I, I, 2, and I, 2 passim) except that under the third head Varro
included, with bees, all the other kinds of stock which were usually
kept at a Roman steading. Varro asserts that his was the first
scientific classification of the subject ever made. Virgil (G. I,
5-13) begins too with the invocation of the Sun and the Moon and
certain rural deities, as did Varro (R.R. I, I, 4). The passages
should be compared for, as M. Gaston Boissier has pointed out, the
difference in the point of view of the two men is here illustrated
by the fact that Varro appeals to purely Roman deities, while Virgil
invokes the literary gods of Greece. Following the _Georgics_ through,
one who has studied Varro will note other passages for which a
suggestion may be found in Varro, usually in facts, but some times
in thought and even in words, viz: Before beginning his agricultural
operations a farmer should study the character of the country (G. I,
50: R.R. I, 6), the prevailing winds and the climate (G. I, 51: R.R.
I, 2, 3), the farming practice of the neighbourhood (G. I, 52: R.R. I,
18, 7), "this land is fit for corn, that for vines, and the other
for trees," (G. I, 54: R.R. I, 6, 5). He should practise fallow
and rotation (G. I, 71: R.R. I, 44, 2), and compensate the land by
planting legumes (G. I, 74: R.R. I, 23); he should irrigate his
meadows in summer (G. I, 104: R.R. I, 31, 5), and drain off surface
water in winter (G. I, 113: R.R. I, 36). Man has progressed from
a primitive state, when he subsisted on nuts and berries, to the
domestication of animals and to agriculture (G. I, 121-159: R.R. II,
1, 3). The threshing floor must be protected from pests (G. I, 178:
R.R. I, 51). Seed should be carefully selected (G. I, 197: R.R. 40,
2); the time for sowing grain is the autumn (G. I, 219: R.R. I, 34).
"Everlasting night" prevails in the Arctic regions (G. I, 247: R.R.
I, 2, 5); the importance to the farmer of the four seasons (G.I. 258;
R.R. I, 27) and the influence of the Moon (G.I. 276: R.R. I, 37).

The several methods of propagating plants described (G. II, 9-34: R.R.
I, 39), but here Varro follows Theophrastus (H.P. II, 1); trees grow
slowly from seed (G. II, 57; R.R. I, 41, 4); olives are propagated
from truncheons (G. II, 63; R.R. I, 41, 6). "The praise of Italy" (G.
II, 136-176: R.R. I, 2, 6), where trees bear twice a year (G. II, 150:
R.R. I, 7, 6). Certain plants affect certain soils (G. II, 177: R.R.
I, 9). A physical experiment (G. II, 230; R.R. I, 7); the advantage of
the quincunx in planting (G. II, 286: R.R. I, 7). Fence the vineyard
to keep out live stock (G. II, 371: R.R. I, 14); the goat a proper
sacrifice to Bacchus (G. II, 380: R.R. I, 2, 19). Be the first to put
your vine props under cover (G. II, 409: R.R. I, 8, 6).

The points of cattle (G. III, 50: R.R. II, 5, 7); their breeding age
(G. III, 61: R.R. II, 5, 13); segregate the bulls before the breeding
season (G. III, 212: R.R. II, 5, 12). Recruit your herd with fresh
blood (G. III, 69: R.R. II, 5, 17). How to break young oxen (G. III,
163: R.R. I, 20).

Of breeding live stock, the males should be fat, the females lean (G.
III, 123-129: R.R. II, 5, 12).

The points of a horse (G. III, 79: R.R. II, 7, 5). Mares fecundated by
the wind (G. III, 273: R.R. II, 1, 19). The care of the brood mare (G.
III, 138: R.R. II, 7, 10). The bearing of a spirited colt in the
field (G. III, 75: R.R. II, 7, 6); the training of a colt, "rattling
bridles" in the stable (G. III, 184: R.R. II, 7, 12).

Supply bedding for the sheep (G. III, 298: R.R. II, 2, 8), the goat
stable should face southeast (G. III, 302: R.R. II, 3, 6). Goats'
hair used for military purposes (G. III, 313: R.R. II, 11, 11.) Goats
affect rough pasture (G. III, 314: R.R. II, 3, 6). A shepherd's daily
routine (G. III, 322; R.R. II, 2, 10-11). The life of shepherds in the
saltus (G. III, 340: R.R. II, 10, 6). Beware of a ram with a spotted
tongue (G. III, 387: R.R. II, 2, 4). Anoint sheep as a precaution
against scab (G. III, 448: R.R. II, 11, 7).

The location of the bee-stand: a drinking pool with stones in it (G.
IV, 26: R.R. III, 16, 27); planted round with bee plants (G. IV, 25:
R.R. III, 16, 13), and free from an echo (G. IV, 50: R.R. III, 16,
12). When saving a swarm sprinkle bees balm and beat cymbals (G. IV,
62: R.R. III, 16, 7 and 30). Bees at war obey their leaders 'as at
the sound of a trumpet,' but may be quelled by the bee-keeper (G. IV,
70-87: R.R. III, 16, 9 and 35). Keep the mottled king and destroy the
black one (G. IV, 90: R.R. III, 16, 18); the "old Corycian" and the
brothers Veiani (G. IV, 125: R.R. III, 16, 10): the bees' care of
their king (G. IV, 212: R.R. III, 16, 8). Take off the honey twice in
the season (G. IV, 221: R.R. III, 16, 34); the generation of bees from
the carcase of an ox (G. IV, 281: R.R. II, 5, 5) and cf. the wisdom on
this subject attributed to Varro by the _Geoponica_ (XV, 2).


_Introduction: of the dignity of the farmer_

The pursuits of commerce would be as admirable as they are profitable
if they were not subject to so great risks: and so, likewise, of
banking, if it was always honestly conducted. For our ancestors
considered, and so ordained in their laws, that, while the thief
should be cast in double damages, the usurer should make four-fold
restitution. From this we may judge how much less desirable a citizen
they esteemed the banker than the thief. When they sought to commend
an honest man, they termed him good husbandman, good farmer. This they
rated the superlative of praise.[9] Personally, I think highly of a
man actively and diligently engaged in commerce, who seeks thereby to
make his fortune, yet, as I have said, his career is full of risks and
pitfalls. But it is from the tillers of the soil that spring the best
citizens, the stanchest soldiers; and theirs are the enduring rewards
which are most grateful and least envied. Such as devote themselves to
that pursuit are least of all men given to evil counsels.

And now, to get to my subject, these observations will serve as
preface to what I have promised to discuss.

_Of buying a farm_

(I)[10] When you have decided to purchase a farm, be careful not to buy
rashly; do not spare your visits and be not content with a single tour
of inspection. The more you go, the more will the place please you,
if it be worth your attention. Give heed to the appearance of the
neighbourhood,--a flourishing country should show its prosperity.
"When you go in, look about, so that, when needs be, you can find your
way out."

Take care that you choose a good climate, not subject to destructive
storms, and a soil that is naturally strong. If possible, your farm
should be at the foot of a mountain, looking to the South, in a
healthy situation, where labour and cattle can be had, well watered,
near a good sized town, and either on the sea or a navigable river, or
else on a good and much frequented road. Choose a place which has
not often changed ownership, one which is sold unwillingly, that has
buildings in good repair.

Beware that you do not rashly contemn the experience of others. It
is better to buy from a man who has farmed successfully and built

When you inspect the farm, look to see how many wine presses and
storage vats there are; where there are none of these you can judge
what the harvest is. On the other hand, it is not the number of
farming implements, but what is done with them, that counts. Where you
find few tools, it is not an expensive farm to operate. Know that with
a farm, as with a man, however productive it may be, if it has the
spending habit, not much will be left over.[12]

_Of the duties of the owner._

(II) When you have arrived at your country house and have saluted your
household, you should make the rounds of the farm the same day, if
possible; if not, then certainly the next day. When you have observed
how the field work has progressed,[13] what things have been done, and
what remains undone, you should summon your overseer the next day, and
should call for a report of what work has been done in good season and
why it has not been possible to complete the rest, and what wine and
corn and other crops have been gathered. When you are advised on these
points you should make your own calculation of the time necessary
for the work, if there does not appear to you to have been enough
accomplished. The overseer will report that he himself has worked
diligently, but that some slaves have been sick and others truant,
the weather has been bad, and that it has been necessary to work the
public roads. When he has given these and many other excuses, you
should recall to his attention the program of work which you had
laid out for him on your last visit and compare it with the results
attained. If the weather has been bad, count how many stormy days
there have been, and rehearse what work could have been done despite
the rain, such as washing and pitching the wine vats, cleaning out
the barns, sorting the grain, hauling out and composting the manure,
cleaning seed, mending the old gear, and making new, mending the
smocks and hoods furnished for the hands. On feast days the old
ditches should be mended, the public roads worked, briers cut down,
the garden dug, the meadow cleaned, the hedges trimmed and the
clippings collected and burned, the fish pond cleaned out. On such
days, furthermore, the slaves' rations should be cut down as compared
with what is allowed when they are working in the fields in fine

When this routine has been discussed quietly and with good humour and
is thoroughly understood by the overseer, you should give orders for
the completion of the work which has been neglected.

The accounts of money, supplies and provisions should then be
considered. The overseer should report what wine and oil has been
sold, what price he got, what is on hand, and what remains for sale.
Security should be taken for such accounts as ought to be secured. All
other unsettled matters should be agreed upon. If any thing is needed
for the coming year, it should be bought; every thing which is not
needed should be sold. Whatever there is for lease should be leased.
Orders should be given (and take care that they are in writing) for
all work which next it is desired to have done on the farm or let to
contract. You should go over the cattle and determine what is to be
sold. You should sell the oil, if you can get your price, the surplus
wine and corn, the old cattle, the worn out oxen, and the cull sheep,
the wool and the hides, the old and sick slaves, and if any thing else
is superfluous you should sell that. The appetite of the good farmer
is to sell, not to buy.[14]

(IV) Be a good neighbour. Do not roughly give offence to your own
people. If the neighbourhood regards you kindly, you will find a
readier market for what you have to sell, you will more easily get
your work done, either on the place or by contract. If you build, your
neighbours will aid you with their services, their cattle and their
materials. If any misfortune should overtake you (which God forbid!)
they will protect you with kindly interest.[15]

_Of laying out the farm_

(I) If you ask me what is the best disposition to make of your estate,
I would say that should you have bought a farm of one hundred _jugera_
(about 66 acres) all told,[16] in the best situation, it should be
planted as follows: 1 deg. a vineyard, if it promises a good yield, 2 deg. an
irrigated garden, 3 deg. an osier bed, 4 deg. an olive yard, 5 deg. a meadow, 6 deg.
a corn field, 7 deg. a wood lot, 8 deg. a cultivated orchard, and 9 deg. a mast

(III) In his youth, the farmer ought, diligently to plant his land,
but he should ponder before he builds. Planting does not require
reflection, but demands action. It is time enough to build when you
have reached your thirty-sixth year, if you have farmed your land well
meanwhile. When you do build, let your buildings be proportioned to
your estate, and your estate to your buildings[18]. It is fitting that
the farm buildings should be well constructed, that you should have
ample oil cellars and wine vats, and a good supply of casks, so that
you can wait for high prices, something which will redound to your
honour, your profit and your self-respect.

(IV) Build your dwelling house in accordance with your means. If you
build well in a good situation and on a good property, and furnish the
house suitably for country life, you will come there more often and
more willingly[19]. The farm will then be better, fewer mistakes will
be made, and you will get larger crops. The face of the master is good
for the land.[20]

(VI) Plant elm trees along the roads and fence rows, so that you may
have the leaves to feed the sheep and cattle, and the timber will be
available if you need it. If any where there are banks of streams or
wet places, there plant reeds; and surround them with willows that the
osiers may serve to tie the vines.

(VII) It is most convenient to set out the land nearest the house as
an orchard, whence fire wood and faggots may be sold and the supply of
the master obtained. In this enclosure should be planted every thing
fitting to the land and vines should be married to the trees.[21]

(VIII) Near the house lay out also a garden with garland flowers and
vegetables[22] of all kinds, and set it about with myrtle hedges, both
white and black, as well as Delphic and Cyprian laurel.

_Of stocking the farm_

(X) An olive farm of two hundred and forty _jugera_ (160 acres) ought
to be stocked as follows: an overseer, a house keeper, five labourers,
three ox drivers, one swineherd, one ass driver, one shepherd; in all
thirteen hands: three pair of oxen,[23] three asses with pack saddles,
to haul out the manure, one other ass to turn the mill, and one
hundred sheep.[24]

_Of the duties of the overseer._[25]

(V) These are the duties of the overseer: He should maintain
discipline. He should observe the feast days. He should respect the
rights of others and steadfastly uphold his own. He should settle all
quarrels among the hands; if any one is at fault he should administer
the punishment. He should take care that no one on the place is in
want, or lacks food or drink; in this respect he can afford to
be generous, for he will thus more easily prevent picking and

Unless the overseer is of evil mind, he will himself do no wrong, but
if he permits wrong-doing by others, the master should not suffer
such indulgence to pass with impunity. He should show appreciation of
courtesy, to encourage others to practise it. He should not be given
to gadding or conviviality, but should be always sober. He should
keep the hands busy, and should see that they do what the master has
ordered. He should not think that he knows more than his master. The
friends of the master should be his friends, and he should give heed
to those whom the master has recommended to him. He should confine his
religious practices to church on Sunday, or to his own house.[27]

He should lend money to no man unbidden by the master, but what the
master has lent he should collect. He should never lend any seed
reserved for sowing, feed, corn, wine, or oil, but he should have
relations with two or three other farms with which he can exchange
things needed in emergency. He should state his accounts with his
master frequently. He should not keep any hired men or day hands
longer than is necessary. He should not sell any thing without the
knowledge of the master, nor should he conceal any thing from the
master. He should not have any hangers-on, nor should he consult any
soothsayer, fortune teller, necromancer, or astrologer. He should not
spare seed in sowing, for that is bad economy. He should strive to be
expert in all kinds of farm work, and, without exhausting himself,
often lend a hand. By so doing, he will better understand the point of
view of his hands, and they will work more contentedly; moreover, he
will have less inclination to gad, his health will be better, and he
will sleep more refreshingly.

First up in the morning, he should be the last to go to bed at night;
and before he does, he should see that the farm gates are closed, and
that each of the hands is in his own bed, that the stock have been
fed. He should see that the best of care is taken of the oxen, and
should pay the highest compliments to the teamsters who keep their
cattle in the best condition. He should see to it that the ploughs
and plough shares are kept in good repair. Plan all the work in ample
time, for so it is with farm work, if one thing is done late, every
thing will be late.

(XXXIX) When it rains try to find some thing to do indoors. Clean up,
rather than remain idle. Remember that while work may stop, expenses
still go on.

_Of the duties of the housekeeper_

(CXLIII) The overseer should be responsible for the duties of the
housekeeper. If the master has given her to you for a wife, you should
be satisfied with her, and she should respect you. Require that she
be not given to wasteful habits; that she does not gossip with the
neighbours and other women. She should not receive visitors either in
the kitchen or in her own quarters. She should not go out to parties,
nor should she gad about.[28] She should not practise religious
observances, nor should she ask others to do so for her without the
permission of the master or the mistress. Remember that the master
practises religion for the entire household. She should be neat in
appearance and should keep the house swept and garnished. Every night
before she goes to bed she should see that the hearth is swept and
clean. On the Kalends, the Ides, the Nones, and on all feast days, she
should hang a garland over the hearth. On those days also she should
pray fervently to the household gods. She should take care that she
has food cooked for you and for the hands. She should have plenty of
chickens and an abundance of eggs.[29] She should diligently put up all
kinds of preserves every year.

_Of the hands_

(LVI) The following are the customary allowances for food: For the
hands, four pecks of meal for the winter, and four and one-half for
the summer. For the overseer, the housekeeper, the wagoner, the
shepherd, three pecks each. For the slaves, four pounds of bread
for the winter, but when they begin to cultivate the vines this is
increased to five pounds until the figs are ripe, then return to four

(LVII) The sum of the wine allowed for each hand per annum is eight
quadrantals, or Amphora, but add in the proportion as they do work.
Ten quadrantals per annum is not too much to allow them to drink.

(LVIII) Save the wind fall olives as much as possible as relishes for
the hands. Later set aside such of the ripe olives as will make the
least oil. Be careful to make them go as far as possible. When the
olives are all eaten, give them fish pickles and vinegar. One peck of
salt per annum is enough for each hand.

(LIX) Allow each hand a smock and a cloak every other year. As often
as you give out a smock or cloak to any one take up the old one, so
that caps can be made out of it. A pair of heavy wooden shoes should
be allowed every other year.

_Of draining_

(XLIII) If the land is wet, it should be drained with trough shaped
ditches dug three feet wide at the surface and one foot at the bottom
and four feet deep. Blind these ditches with rock. If you have no rock
then fill them with green willow poles braced crosswise. If you have
no poles, fill then with faggots. Then dig lateral trenches three feet
deep and four feet wide in such way that the water will flow from the
trenches into the ditches.

(CLV) In the winter surface water should be drained off the fields.
On hillsides courses should be kept clear for the water to flow off.
During the rainy season at the beginning of Autumn is the greatest
risk from water. When it begins to rain all the hands should go out
with picks and shovels and clear out the drains so that the water may
flow off into the roads, and the crops be protected.

_Of preparing the seed bed_

(LXI) What is the first principle of good agriculture? To plough well.
What is the second? To plough again; and the third is to manure. When
you plough corn land, plough well and in good weather, lest you turn
a cloddy furrow. The other things of good agriculture are to sow seed
plentifully, to thin the young sprouts, and to hill up the roots with

(V) Never plough rotten land[30] nor drive flocks or carts across it.

If care is not taken about this, the land so abused will be barren for
three years.

_Of manure_

(V) Plan to have a big compost heap and take the best of care of the
manure. When it is hauled out see that it is well rotted and spread.
The Autumn is the time to do this.

(XXXVII) You can make manure of litter, lupine straw, chaff, bean
stalks, husks and the leaves of ilex and of oak.[31]

(XXX) Fold your sheep on the land which you are about to seed, and
there feed them leaves.[32]

_Of soil improvement_

(XXXVII) The things which are harmful to corn land are to plough the
ground when it is rotten, and to plant chick peas which are harvested
with the straw and are salt. Barley, fenugreek and pulse all exhaust
corn land, as well as all other things which are harvested with the
straw. Do not plant nut trees in the corn land. On the other hand,
lupines, field beans and vetch manure corn land.[33]

(VI) Where the soil is rich and fertile, without shade, there the corn
land ought to be. Where the land lies low, plant rape, millet, and
panic grass.

_Of forage crops_

(VIII) If you have a water meadow you will not want forage, but if not
then sow an upland meadow, so that hay may not be lacking.

(LIII) Save your hay when the times comes, and beware lest you mow too
late. Mow before the seed is ripe. House the best hay by itself, so
that you may feed it to the draft cattle during the spring ploughing,
before the clover is mature.

(XXVII) Sow, for feed for the cattle, clover, vetch, fenugreek, field
beans and pulse. Sow these crops a second and a third time.

_Of planting_

(XXXIV) Wherever the land is cold and wet, sow there first, and last
of all in the warmest places.

_Of pastures_

(L) Manure the pastures in early spring in the dark of the moon, when
the west wind begins to blow. When you close your pastures (to the
stock) clean them and root out all weeds.

_Of feeding live stock_

(XXX) As long as they are available, feed green leaves of elm, poplar,
oak and fig to your cattle and sheep.

(V) Store leaves, also, to be fed to the sheep before they have

(XXX) Take the best of care of your dry fodder, which you house for
the winter, and remember always how long the winter may last.

(IV) Be sure you have well constructed stables furnished with
substantial stalls and equipped with latticed feed racks. The
intervals between the bars of the racks should be one foot. If you
build them in this way, the cattle will not waste their food.

(LIV) This is the way that provender should be prepared and fed: When
the seeding is finished, gather mast and soak it in water. Feed a
measure of it every day to each steer; or if they have not been worked
it will be sufficient to let them pasture the mast beds. Another good
feed is a measure of grape husks which you shall have preserved in
jars. By day turn the cattle out and at night feed twenty-five pounds
of hay to each steer. If hay is short, feed the leaves of the ilex and
ivy.[35] Stack the straw of wheat, barley, beans, vetch and lupine,
indeed all the grain straws, but pick out and house the best of it.
Scatter your straw with salt and you can then feed it in place of hay.
When in the spring you begin to feed (more heavily to prepare for
work), feed a measure of mast or of grape husks, or a measure of
ground lupines, and fifteen pounds of hay. When the clover is ripe,
feed that first. Gather it by hand so that it will bloom a second
time, for what you harvest with the sickle blooms no more. Feed clover
until it is dry, then feed vetch and then panic grass, and after the
panic grass feed elm leaves. If you have poplar, mix that with the elm
so that the elm may last the longer. If you have no elm feed oak and
fig leaves.

Nothing is more profitable than to take good care of your cattle.

Cattle should not be put out to graze except in winter when they are
not worked; for when they eat green stuff they expect it all the time,
and it is then necessary to muzzle them while they plough.

_Of the care of live stock_

(V) The flocks and herds should be well supplied with litter and their
feet kept clean. If litter is short, haul in oak leaves, they will
serve as bedding for sheep and cattle. Beware of scab among the sheep
and cattle. This comes from hunger and exposure to rain.

(LXXII) To prevent the oxen from wearing down their hoofs, anoint
the bottom of the hoof with liquid pepper before driving them on the

(LXXIII) Take care that during the summer the cattle drink only sweet
and fresh water. Their health depends on it.

(XCVI) To prevent scab among sheep, make a mixture of equal parts of
well strained amurca,[36] of water in which lupine has been steeped,
and of lees of good wine. After shearing, anoint all the flock with
this mixture, and let them sweat profusely for two or three days. Then
dip them in the sea. If you have no sea water, make salt water and dip
then in that. If you will do this they will suffer no scab, they will
have more and better wool and they will not be molested by ticks.

(LXXI) If an ox begins to sicken, give him without delay a raw hen's
egg and make him swallow it whole. The next day make him drink from a
wooden bowl a measure of wine in which has been scraped the head of an
onion. Both the ox and his attendant should do these things fasting
and standing upright.

(CII) If a serpent shall bite an ox, or any other quadruped, take a
cup of that extract of fennel, which the physicians call smyrnean, and
mix it with a measure of old wine. Inject this through his nostrils
and at the same time poultice the wound with hogs' dung.[37] You can
treat a man the same way.

(CLX) If a bone is dislocated it can be made sound by this
incantation. Take a green reed four or five feet long, split it down
the middle and let two men hold the pieces against your hips. Begin
then to chant as follows:

"In Alio. S.F. Motas Vaeta,
Daries Dardaries Astataries Dissunapiter"

and continue until the free ends of the reed are brought slowly
together in front of you. Meanwhile, wave a knife above the reeds, and
when they come together and one touches the other, seize them in your
hand and cut them right and left. These pieces of reed bound upon a
dislocated or fractured bone will cure it.[38]

But every day repeat the incantation, or in place of it this one:

"Huat Hanat Huat
Ista Pista Sista
Domiabo Damnaustra"[39]

_Of cakes and salad_[40]

(LXXV) This is the recipe for cheese cake (_libum_): Bray well two
pounds of cheese in a mortar, and, when this is done, pour in a pound
of corn meal (or, if you want to be more dainty, a half pound of
flour) and mix it thoroughly with the cheese. Add one egg and beat it
well. Pat into a cake, place it on leaves and bake slowly on a hot
hearth stone under a dish.

(CXIX) This is the recipe for olive salad (_epityrum_): Select some
white, black and mottled olives and stone them. Mix and cut them up.
Add a dressing of oil, vinegar, coriander, cumin, fennel, rue and
mint. Mix well in an earthen ware dish, and serve with oil.

(CXXI) This is the recipe for must cake (_mustaceus_): Sprinkle a peck
of wheat flour with must. Add anise, cumin, two pounds of lard, a
pound of cheese and shredded laurel twigs. When you have kneaded the
dough, put laurel leaves under it and so bake.

_Of curing hams_

(CLXII) This is the way to cure hams in jars or tubs: When you have
bought your hams trim off the hocks. Take a half peck (_semodius_) of
ground Roman salt for each ham. Cover the bottom of the jar or tub
with salt and put in a ham, skin down. Cover the whole with salt and
put another ham on top, and cover this in the same manner. Be careful
that meat does not touch meat. So proceed, and when you have packed
all the hams, cover the top with salt so that no meat can be seen, and
smooth it out even. When the hams have been in salt five days, take
them all out with the salt and repack them, putting those which were
on top at the bottom. Cover them in the same way with salt and press
them down.

After the twelfth day remove the hams finally, brush off the salt and
hang them for two days in the wind. On the third day wipe them off
clean with a sponge and rub them with (olive) oil. Then hang them in
smoke for two days, and on the third day rub them with a mixture of
(olive) oil and vinegar.

Then hang them in the meat house, and neither bats nor worms will
touch them.[41]





_Introduction: the literary tradition of country life_


Had I leisure, Fundania, this book would be more worthy of you, but I
write as best I may, conscious always of the necessity of haste: for,
if, as the saying is, all life is but a bubble, the more fragile is
that of an old man, and my eightieth year admonishes me to pack my
fardel and prepare for the long journey.

You have bought a farm and wish to increase its fertility by good
cultivation, and you ask me what I would do with it were it mine. Not
only while I am still alive will I try to advise you in this, but I
will make my counsel available to you after I am dead. For as it befel
the Sibyl to have been of service to mankind not alone while she
lived, but even to the uttermost generations of men after her demise
(for we are wont after so many years still to have solemn recourse to
her books for guidance in interpretation of strange portents), so
may not I, while I still live, bequeath my counsel to my nearest and
dearest.[42] I will then write three books for you, to which you may
have recourse for guidance in all things which must be done in the
management of a farm.

And since, as men say, the gods aid those who propitiate them, I will
begin my book by invoking divine approval, not like Homer and Ennius,
from the Muses, nor indeed from the twelve great gods of the city
whose golden images stand in the forum, six male and as many female,
but from a solemn council of those twelve divinities who are the
tutelaries of husbandmen.

* * * * *

First: I call upon Father Jupiter and Mother Earth, who fecundate all
the processes of agriculture in the air and in the soil, and hence are
called the great parents.

_Second_: I invoke the Sun and the Moon by whom the seasons for sowing
and reaping are measured.

_Third_: I invoke Ceres and Bacchus because the fruits they mature
are most necessary to life, and by their aid the land yields food and

_Fourth_: I invoke Robigus and Flora by whose influence the blight is
kept from crop and tree, and in due season they bear fruit (for which
reason is the annual festival of the _robigalia_ celebrated in honour
of Robigus, and that of the _floralia_ in honour of Flora).[43]

_Next_: I supplicate Minerva, who protects the olive; and Venus,
goddess of the garden, wherefore is she worshipped at the rural wine

_And last_: I adjure Lympha, goddess of the fountains, and Bonus
Eventus, god of good fortune, since without water all vegetation is
starved and stunted and without due order and good luck all tillage is
in vain.

* * * * *

And so having paid my duty to the gods, I proceed to rehearse some
conversations[44] concerning agriculture in which I have recently taken
part. From them you will derive all the practical instruction you
require, but in case any thing is lacking and you wish further
authority, I refer you to the treatises of the Greeks and of our own

The Greek writers who have treated incidentally of agriculture are
more than fifty in number. Those whom you may consult with profit
are Hieron of Sicily and Attalus Philometor, among the philosophers;
Democritus the physicist; Xenophon the disciple of Socrates; Aristotle
and Theophrastus, the peripatetics; Archytas the pythagorean; likewise
the Athenian Amphilochus, Anaxipolis of Thasos, Apollodorus of Lemnos,
Aristophanes of Mallos, Antigonus of Cyme, Agathocles of Chios,
Apollonius of Pergamum, Aristandrus of Athens, Bacchius of Miletus,
Bion of Soli, Chaeresteus and Chaereas of Athens, Diodorus of Priene,
Dion of Colophon, Diophanes of Nicaea, Epigenes of Rhodes, Evagon
of Thasos, Euphronius of Athens, and his name sake of Amphipolis,
Hegesias of Maronea, the two Menanders, one of Priene, the other of
Heraclaea, Nicesius of Maronea, Pythion of Rhodes. Among the rest
whose countries I do not know, are Andiotion, Aeschrion, Aristomenes,
Athenagoras, Crates, Dadis, Dionysius, Euphiton, Euphorion, Eubulus,
Lysimachus, Mnaseas, Menestratus, Plentiphanes, Persis, and

All those whom I have named wrote in prose, but there are those also
who have written in verse, as Hesiod of Ascra and Menecrates of

The agricultural writer of the greatest reputation is, however, Mago
the Carthaginian[45] who wrote in the Punic tongue and collected in
twenty-eight books all the wisdom which before him had been scattered
in many works. Cassius Dionysius of Utica translated Mago into Greek
in twenty books (and dedicated his work to the praetor Sextilius), and
notwithstanding that he reduced Mago by eight books he cited freely
from the Greek authors whom I have named. Diophanes made a useful
digest of Cassius in six books, which he dedicated to Deiotarus, King
of Bithynia. I have ventured to compress the subject into the still
smaller compass of three books, the first on the husbandry of
agriculture, the second on the husbandry of live stock and the third
on the husbandry of the steading.

From the first book I have excluded all those things which I do not
deem to relate immediately to agriculture: thus having first limited
my subject I proceed to discuss it, following its natural divisions.
My information has been derived from three sources, my own experience,
my reading, and what I have heard from others.

_Of the definition of agriculture_

_a. What it is not_

II. On the holiday which we call Sementivae I came to the temple
of Tellus at the invitation of the Sacristan (I was taught by my
ancestors to call him _Aeditumus_ but the modern purist tells me
I must say _Aedituus_). There I found assembled C. Fundanius, my
father-in-law, C. Agrius, a Roman Knight and a disciple of the
Socratic school, and P. Agrasius, of the Revenue service: they were
gazing on a map of Italy painted on the wall. "What are you doing
here?" said I. "Has the festival of the seed-sowing drawn you hither
to spend your holiday after the manner of our ancestors, by praying
for good crops?" "We are here," said Agrius, "for the same reason that
you are, I imagine--because the Sacristan has invited us to dinner. If
this be true, as your nod admits, wait with us until he returns, for
he was summoned by his chief, the aedile, and has not yet returned
though he left word for us to wait for him."

"Until he comes then," said I, "let us make a practical application of
the ancient proverb that 'The Roman conquers by sitting down.'"

"You're right," cried Agrius, and, remembering that the first step of
a journey is the most difficult,[46] he lead the way to the benches
forthwith and we followed. When we were seated Agrasius spoke up.
"You who have travelled over many lands," said he, "have you seen any
country better cultivated than Italy?"

"I, for one, don't believe," replied Agrius, "that there is any
country which is so intensely cultivated. By a very natural division
Eratosthenes has divided the earth into two parts, that facing South
and that facing North: and as without doubt the North is healthier
than the South, so it is more fertile, for a healthy country is always
the most fertile. It must be admitted then that the North is fitter
for cultivation than Asia, and particularly is this true of Italy;
first, because Italy is in Europe, and, second, because this part of
Europe has a more temperate climate than the interior. For almost
everlasting winter grips the lands to the North of us. Nor is this to
be wondered at since there are regions within the Arctic Circle and at
the pole where the sun is not seen for six months at a time. Yea, it
is even said that it is not possible to sail a ship in those parts
because the very sea is frozen over."

"Would you think it possible," said Fundanius, "for any thing to grow
in such a region, and, if it did grow, how could it be cultivated? The
tragedian Pacuvius has spoken sooth where he says:

'Should sun or night maintain e'er lasting reign,
Then all the grateful fruits of earth must die,
Nipped by the cold, or blasted by the heat.'

Even here in this pleasant region, where night and day revolve
punctually, I am not able to live in summer unless I divide the day
with my appointed midday nap. How is it possible to plant or to
cultivate or to harvest any thing there where the days and nights are
six months long. On the other hand, what useful thing is there which
does not only grow but flourish in Italy? What spelt shall I compare
with that of Campania? What wheat with that of Apulia? What wine with
that of Falernum? What oil with that of Venafrum? Is not Italy so
covered with fruit trees that it seems one vast orchard? Is Phrygia,
which Homer calls [Greek: ampeloessa], more teeming with vines, or
is Argos, which the same poet calls [Greek: polupuros] more rich in
corn?[47] In what land does one jugerum produce ten, nay even fifteen,
cullei of wine, as in some regions of Italy? Has not M. Cato written
in his book of _Origines_ 'That region lying this side of Ariminium
and beyond Picenum, which was allotted to colonists, is called Roman
Gaul. There in several places a single jugerum of land produces ten
cullei of wine.' Is it not the same in the region of Faventia where
the vines are called _tre centaria_ because a jugerum yields three
hundred amphorae of wine," and, looking at me, he added, "indeed L.
Martius, your chief engineer, said that the vines on his Faventine
farm yielded that much.[48] The Italian farmer looks chiefly for
two things in considering a farm, whether it will yield a harvest
proportioned to the capital and labour he must invest, and whether the
location is healthy. Whoever neglects either of these considerations
and despite them proposes to carry on a farm, is a fool and should be
taken in charge by a committee of his relatives.[49] For no sane man is
willing to spend on an agricultural operation time and money which he
knows he cannot recoup, nor even if he sees a likely profit, if it
must be at the risk of losing all by an evil climate.

"But there are here present those who can discourse on this subject
with more authority than I, for I see C. Licinius Stolo and Cn.
Tremelius Scrofa approaching. It was the ancestor of the first of
these who brought in the law for the regulation of land-holding; for
the law which forbade a Roman citizen to own more than 500 jugera of
land was proposed by that Licinius who acquired the cognomen of Stolo
on account of his diligence in cultivating his land: he is said to
have dug around his trees so thoroughly that there could not be found
on his farm a single one of those suckers which spring up from the
ground at the roots of trees and are called _stolones_. Of the same
family was that other C. Licinius who, when he was tribune of the
people, 365 years after the expulsion of the Kings, first transferred
the Sovereign function of law making from the Comitium to the Forum,
thus as it were constituting that area the 'farm' of the entire
people.[50] The other whom I see come hither is Cn. Tremelius Scrofa,
your colleague on the Committee of Twenty for the division of the
Campanian lands, a man distinguished by all the virtues and considered
to be the Roman most expert in agriculture.[51]

"And justly so," I exclaimed, "for his farms are a more pleasing
spectacle to many on account of their clean cultivation than the
stately palaces of others;[52] when one goes to visit his country
place, one sees granaries and not picture galleries, as at the 'farm'
of Lucullus.[53] Indeed," I added, "the apple market at the head of the
Sacred Way is the very image of Scrofa's fruit house."

As the new comers joined us, Stolo inquired: "Have we arrived after
dinner is over, for we do not see L. Fundilius who invited us."

"Be of good cheer," replied Agrius, "for not only has that egg which
indicates the last lap of the chariot race in the games at the circus
not yet been removed, but we have not even seen that other egg which
is the first course of dinner.[54] And so until the Sacristan returns
and joins us do you discourse to us of the uses or the pleasures of
agriculture, or of both. For now the sceptre of agriculture is in your
hands, which formerly, they say, belonged to Stolo."

"First of all," began Scrofa, "we must have a definition. Are we to be
limited in discussing agriculture to the planting of the land or are
we to touch also on those other occupations which are carried on in
the country, such as feeding sheep and cattle. For I have observed
that those who write on agriculture, whether in Greek or Punic or
Latin, wander widely from their subject."

"I do not think that those authors should be imitated in that," said
Stolo, "for I deem them to have done better who have confined the
subject to the straitest limits, excluding all considerations which
are not strictly pertinent to the subject. Wherefore the subject of
grazing, which many writers treat as a part of agriculture, seems to
me to belong rather to a treatise on live stock. That the occupations
are different is apparent from the difference in the names of those we
put in charge of them, for we call one the farmer (_villicus_) and the
other the herdsman (_magister pecoris_). The farmer is charged with
the cultivation of the land and is so called from the _villa_ or farm
house to which he hauls in the crops from the fields and from which he
hauls them away when they are sold. Wherefore also the peasants say
_vea_ for _via_, deriving their word for the road over which they haul
from the name of the vehicle in which they do the hauling, _vectura_,
and by the same derivation _vella_ for _villa_, the farm house to and
from which they haul. In like manner the trade of a carrier is called
_vellatura_ from the practice of driving a _vectura_, or cart."

"Surely," said Fundanius, "feeding cattle is one thing and agriculture
is another, but they are related. Just as the right pipe of the
_tibia_ is different from the left pipe, yet are they complements
because while the one leads, it is to carry the air, and the other
follows, it is for the accompaniment."

"And, to push your analogy further, it may be added," said I, "that
the pastoral life, like the _tibia dextra_, has led and given the cue
to the agricultural life, as we have on the authority of that learned
man Dicaearchus who, in his _Life of Greece_ from the earliest times,
shows us how in the beginning men pursued a purely pastoral life and
knew not how to plough nor to plant trees nor to prune them; only
later taking up the pursuits of agriculture; whence it may be
said that agriculture is in harmony with the pastoral life but is
subordinate to it, as the left pipe is to the right pipe."

"Beware," exclaimed Agrius, "of pushing your musical analogy too far,
for you would not only rob the farmer of his cattle and the shepherd
of his livelihood but you would even break the law of the land in
which it is written that a farmer may not graze a young orchard with
that pestiferous animal which astrology has placed in the heavens near
the Bull."

"See here, Agrius," said Fundanius, "let there be no mistake about
this. The law you cite applies only to certain designated kinds of
cattle, as indeed there are kinds of cattle which are the foes and the
bane of agriculture such as those you have mentioned--the goats--for
by their nibbling they ruin young plantations, and not the least vines
and olives. But, because the goat is the greatest offender in this
respect, we have a rule for him which works both ways, namely: that
victims of his family are grateful offerings on the altar of one god
but should never come near the fane of another; since by reason of the
same hate one god is not willing even to see a goat and the other is
pleased to see him killed. So it is that goats found among the vines
are sacrificed to Father Bacchus as it were that they should pay the
penalty of their evil doing with their lives; while on the contrary
nothing of the goat kind is ever sacrificed to Minerva, because they
are said to make the olive sterile even by licking it, for their very
spittle is poison to the fruit. For this reason goats are never
driven into the Acropolis of Athens, except once a year for a certain
necessary sacrifice, lest the olive tree, which is said to have its
origin there,[55] might be touched by a goat."

"No kind of cattle," said I, "are of any use to agriculture except
those which aid in the cultivation of the land, as they do when they
are yoked to the plough."

"If this was so," said Agrasius, "how could we afford to take cattle
off the land, since it is from our flocks and herds that we derive the
manure which is of the greatest benefit to our purely agricultural

"On your argument of convenience," said Agrius, "we might claim that
slave dealing was a branch of agriculture, if they were agricultural
slaves which we dealt in. The error lies in the assumption that
because cattle are good for the land, they make crops grow on the
land. It does not follow, for by that reasoning other things would
become part of agriculture which have nothing to do with it: as for
example spinsters and weavers and other craftsmen which you might keep
on your farm."

"Let us then agree," said Scrofa, "to exclude live stock from our
consideration of the art of agriculture. Does any one want to exclude
any thing else?"

"Are we to follow the book of the two Sasernas," I inquired, "and
discuss whether the manufacture of pottery is more related to
agriculture than mining for silver or other metals? Doubtless the
material comes out of the ground in both cases, but no one claims
that quarrying for stone or washing sand has any thing to do with
agriculture, so why bring in the potter? It is not a question of what
comes out of the land, nor of what can be done profitably on a farm,
for if it were it might as well be argued that had one a farm lying
along a frequented road and a site on it convenient to travellers,
it would be the farmer's business to build a cross-roads tavern. But
surely, however profitable this might prove, it would not make the
speculation any part of agriculture. It is not, I repeat, whether the
business is carried on on account of the land, nor out of the land,
that it may be classed as a part of agriculture, but only if from
planting the land one gains a profit."

"You are jealous of this great writer," interrupted Stolo. "Because of
his unfortunate potteries you rebuke him captiously and give him no
credit for all the admirable things which he says about matters which
certainly relate to agriculture."

At this sally, Scrofa, who knew the book and justly contemned it,
smiled, whereupon Agrasius, who thought that he and Stolo alone knew
the book demanded of Scrofa a quotation from it.

"Here is his recipe for getting rid of bugs," said Scrofa. "'Steep a
wild cucumber in water and where-ever you sprinkle it the bugs will
disappear,' and again, 'Grease your bed with ox gall mixed with

Fundanius looked at Scrofa. "And yet Saserna gives good advice even if
it is in a book on agriculture," he said.

"Yes, by Hercules," said Scrofa, "and especially in his recipe for
removing superfluous hair, in which he bids you take a yellow frog and
stew it down to a third of its size and then rub the body with what is

"I would rather cite," said I, "Sasernas' prescription for the malady
from which Fundanius suffers, for his corns make wrinkles on his

"Tell me, pray, quickly," exclaimed Fundanius, "for I had rather learn
how to root out my corns than how to plant beet roots."

"I will tell you," said Stolo, "in the very words he wrote it, or at
least as I heard Tarquenna read it: 'When a man's feet begin to hurt
he should think of you to enable you to cure him.'"

"I am thinking of you," said Fundanius, "now cure my feet."

"Listen to the incantation," said Stolo.

'May the earth keep the malady,
May good health remain here.'

Saserna bids you chant this formula thrice nine times, to touch the
earth, to spit and be sure that you do it all before breakfast."

"You will find," said I, "many other wonderful secrets in Saserna, all
equally foreign to agriculture, and so all to be left where they are.
But it must be admitted that such digressions are found in many other
authors. Does not the agricultural treatise of the great Cato himself
fairly bristle with them, as for instance his instructions how to make
must cake and cheese cake, and how to cure hams?"

"You forget," said Agrius, "his most important precept: 'If you wish
to drink freely and dine well in company, you should eat five leaves
of raw cabbage steeped in vinegar, before sitting down to the table.'"

_b. What agriculture is_

III. "And so," said Agrasius, "as we have agreed upon and eliminated
from the discussion all those things which agriculture is not, it
remains to discuss what it is. Is it an art, and, if so, what are its
principles and its purposes?"

Stolo turned to Scrofa and said: "You are our senior in age, in
reputation and in experience, you should speak." And Scrofa, nothing
loath, began as follows:

"In the first place, agriculture is not only an art but an art which
is as useful as it is important. It is furthermore a science, which
teaches how every kind of land should be planted and cultivated, and
how to know what kind of land will produce the largest crops for the
longest time.[57]"

_The purposes of agriculture are profit and pleasure_

IV. The elements with which this science deals are the same as those
which Ennius says are the elements of the universe--water, earth,
air and fire. Before sowing your seed it behooves you to study these
elements because they are the origin of all growing things. So
prepared, the farmer should direct his efforts to two ends: profit and
pleasure,[58] one solid the other agreeable: but he should give the
preference to the pursuit of profit.[59] And yet those who have regard
for appearances in their farming, as for instance by planting their
orchards and olive yards in orderly array, often add not only to the
productiveness of the farm but as well to its saleability, and so
doubly increase the value of their estate. For of two things of equal
usefulness, who would not prefer to buy the better looking?

The farm which is healthiest is the most valuable, for there the
profit is certain. On the other hand, on an unhealthy farm, however
fertile it may be, misfortune dogs the steps of the farmer. For where
the struggle is against Death, there not only is the profit uncertain,
but one's very existence is constantly at risk: and so agriculture
becomes a gamble in which the farmer hazards both his life and his
fortune. And yet this risk can be diminished by forethought, for, when
health depends upon climate, we can do much to control nature and by
diligence improve evil conditions. If the farm is unhealthy by reason
of the plight of the land itself, or of the water supply, or is
exposed to the miasma which breeds in some localities, or if the farm
is too hot on account of the climate, or is exposed to mischievous
winds, these discomforts can be mitigated by one who knows what to do
and is willing to spend some money. What is of the greatest importance
in this respect is the situation of the farm buildings, their plan
and convenience, and what is the aspect of their doors and gates and
windows. During the great plague, Hippocrates the physician saved not
merely one farm but many cities because he knew this. But why should
I summon him as a witness: for when the army and the fleet lay at
Corcyra[60] and all the houses were crowded with the sick and dying,
did not our Varro here contrive to open new windows to the healthy
North wind and close those which gave entrance to the infected breezes
of the South, to change doors and to do other such things, and so
succeed in restoring his comrades safe and sound to their native land?

_The fourfold division of the study of agriculture_

V. I have rehearsed the elements and the purposes of agriculture, it
now remains to consider in how many divisions this science is to be

"I have supposed these to be without number," said Agrius, "when I
have read the many books which Theophrastus wrote on _The History of
Plants_ and _The Causes of Vegetation_.

"These books," said Stolo, "have always seemed to me to be fitter
for use in the schools of the philosophers than in the hands of a
practical farmer. I do not mean to say that they do not contain many
things which are both useful and practical. However that may be, do
you rather explain to us the divisions in which agriculture should be

"There are four chapters for the study of agriculture, of the highest
practical importance," resumed Scrofa, "namely:"

1 deg. What are the physical characteristics of the land to be cultivated,
including the constitution of the soil;

2 deg. What labour and equipment are necessary for such cultivation;

3 deg. What system of farming is to be practised;

4 deg. What are the season? at which the several farming operations are to
be carried out.

Each of these four chapters may be divided in at least two

The first into (_a_) a study of the soil, and (_b_) a survey of the
buildings and stabling.

The second into an enquiry as to (_c_), the men who will carry on the
farming operations, and (_d_) the implements they will require.

The third into (_e_) the kind of work to be planned, and (_f_) where
that work is to be done.

The fourth into what relates (_g_) to the annual revolution of the
sun, and (_h_) the monthly revolution of the moon.

I will speak of the four principal parts first, and then in detail of
the eight subdivisions.


_How conformation of the land affects agriculture_

VI. Four things must be considered in respect of the physical
characteristics of the farm: its conformation, the quality of
the soil, its extent, and whether it is naturally protected. The
conformation is either natural, or artificial as the result of
cultivation, and may be good or bad in either case. I will speak first
of natural conformation, of which there are three kinds: plain, hill
and mountain--although there is a fourth kind made up of a combination
of any two or all three of those mentioned, as may be seen in many
places. A different system of cultivation is required for each of
these three kinds of farms, for without doubt that which is suited for
the hot plain would not suit the windy mountain, while a hill farm
enjoys a more temperate climate than either of the other two kinds and
so demands its own system of cultivation. These distinctions are most
apparent when the several characteristic conformations are of large
extent, as for example the heat and the humidity are greater in a
broad plain, like that of Apulia, while on a mountain like Vesuvius
the climate is usually fresher and so more healthy. Those who
cultivate the lowlands feel the effects of their climate most in
summer, but they are able to do their planting earlier in the spring,
while those who dwell in the mountains suffer most from their climate
in winter, and both sow and reap at later seasons. Frequently the
winter is more propitious to those who dwell in the plains because
then the pastures are fresh there and the trees may be pruned more
readily. On the other hand the summer is more kindly in the mountains
for then the upland grass is rich when the pastures of the plains are
burnt, and it is more comfortable to cultivate the trees in a keen

A lowland farm is best when it is gently sloping rather than
absolutely flat, because on a flat farm water cannot run off and so
forms swampy places. But it is a disadvantage to have the surface too
rolling because that causes the water to collect and form ponds.

Certain trees, like the fir and the pine, flourish most in the
mountains on account of the eager air, while in this region where it
is more temperate the poplars and the willows thrive best. Again the
arbute and the oak prefer the more fertile lands, while the almond and
the fig trees love the lowlands.[61] The growth on the low hills takes
on more of the character of the plains, on the high hills that of the
mountains. For these reasons the kind of crops to be planted must be
suited to the physical characteristics of the farm, as grain for the
plains, vines for the hills and forests for the mountains.

All these considerations should be weighed separately with reference
to each of the three kinds of conformation.

VII. "It seems to me," said Stolo, "that, so far as concerns the
natural situation of a farm, Cato's opinion is just. He wrote, you
will recall, that the best farm was one which lay at the foot of a
mountain looking to the South."

Scrofa resumed: "So far as concerns the laying out of the farm, I
maintain that the more appearances are considered the greater will be
the profit, as, for instance, orchards should be planted in straight
lines arranged in quincunxes and at a reasonable distance apart. It
is a fact that, because of their unintelligent plan of planting, our
ancestors made less wine and corn to the acre than we do. The point is
that if each plant is set with due reference to the others they occupy
less land and are less likely to screen from one another the influence
of the sun and the moon and the air. This may be illustrated by an
experiment: you can press a parcel of nuts with their shells on into a
measure having only two thirds of the capacity of what is required to
contain them after they have been cracked, because the shells keep
them naturally compacted. When trees are planted in rows the sun and
the moon have access to them equally from all sides, with the result
that more raisins and olives are developed and then mature more
quickly, a double result with the double consequence of a larger crop
of must and oil and a greater profit."

_How character of soil affects agriculture_

"We will now take up the second consideration in respect of the
physical characteristics of a farm, namely: the quality of the soil,
which partly, if not entirely, determines whether it is considered a
good or a bad farm: for on this depends what crops can be planted and
harvested and how they should be cultivated, as it is not possible
to plant everything successfully on the same soil. For one soil is
suitable for vines, another for corn, and others for other things. In
the island of Crete, near Cortynia, there is said to be a plane tree
which does not lose its leaves even in winter--a phenomenon due
doubtless to the quality of the soil. There is another of the same
kind in Cyprus, according to Theophrastus. Likewise within sight of
the city of Sybaris (which is now called Thurii) stands an oak having
the same characteristic. Again at Elephantine neither the vines nor
the fig trees lose their leaves, something that never happens with
us. For the same reason many trees bear fruit twice a year, as do
the vines near the sea at Smyrna, and the apples in the fields of
Consentinium. The effect of soil appears also from the fact that those
plants which bear most profusely in wild places produce better fruit
under cultivation. The same explanation applies to those plants which
cannot live except in a marshy place, or indeed in the very water:
they are even nice about the kind of water, some grow in ponds like
the reeds at Reate, others in streams like the alders in Epirus, some
even in the sea like the palms and the squills of which Theophrastus
writes. When I was in the army, I saw in Transalpine Gaul, near the
Rhine, lands where neither the vine, nor the olive, nor the pear tree
grew, where they manured their fields with a white chalk which they
dug out of the ground:[62] where they had no salt, either mineral or
marine, but used in place of it the salty ashes obtained from burning
a certain kind of wood."

Stolo here interrupted. "You will recall," he said, "that Cato in
comparing the different kinds of soil, ranked them by their merit in
nine classes according to what they would produce, of which the first
was that on which the vine would grow a plentiful supply of good wine;
the second that fit for an irrigated garden; the third for an osier
bed; the fourth for an olive yard; the fifth for a meadow; the sixth
for a corn field; the seventh for a wood lot; the eighth for a
cultivated orchard, and the ninth for a mast grove."

"I know he wrote that," replied Scrofa, "but every one does not agree
with him. There are some who put a good pasture first, and I am among

Our ancestors were wont to call them not _prala_, as we do, but
_parata_ (because they are always ready for use). The sedile Caesar
Vopicus, in pleading a cause before the Censors, once said that the
prairie of Rosea was the nurse of Italy, because if one left his
surveying instruments there on the ground over night they were lost
next day in the growth of the grass.[63]

(_A digression on the maintenance of vineyards_)

VIII. There be those who assert that the cost of maintaining a
vineyard eats up the profit. What kind of vineyard? I ask. For there
are several: in one the vines grow on the ground without props, as in
Spain; in another, which is the kind common in Italy, the vines climb
and are trained either separately on props or one with another on a
trellis, which last is what is called marrying the vine. There are
four kinds of trellis in use--made out of poles, of reeds, of ropes
and of vines themselves, which are in use respectively in Falerum, in
Arpinum, in Brundisium and in Mediolanum. There are two methods of
training the vine on trellises, one upright, as is done in the country
of Canusium; the other crossed and interwoven, as is the practice
generally throughout Italy. If one obtains the material for his
trellises from his own land, the expense of maintaining that kind
of vineyard is negligible, nor is it burdensome if the material is
procured from the neighbourhood. Such trellis material, as has been
described, can be grown at home by planting willows, reeds and rushes,
or some thing of that kind; but if you propose to rely on the vines to
form their own trellis, then you must plant an _arbustum_ where the
vines can be trained on trees, such as maples, which the inhabitants
of Mediolanum use for that purpose; or fig trees, on which the people
of Canusium train their vines. Likewise there are four kinds of props
used for the cultivation of unwedded vines; first, the planted post,
which is called _ridicum_ and is best when fashioned out of oak or
juniper; second, poles cut in the swamp, and the more seasoned they
are the longer they will last, but it is the practice to reset them
upside down when they rot out in the ground; third, for lack of some
thing better, a bundle of reeds tied together and thrust into a
pointed tube of baked clay, which is then planted in the ground and
serves to preserve the reeds from water rot; the fourth is what may be
called the natural prop, when vines are swung from tree to tree. Vines
should be trained to the height of a man and the interval between the
props should be sufficient to give room for a yoke of oxen to plough.
The least expensive kind of a vineyard is that which brings wine to
the jug without the aid of any sort of prop. There are two of this
kind, one in which the earth serves as a bed for the grapes, as in
many places in Asia, and where usually the foxes share the crop with
man;[64] or, if mice appear, it is they who make the vintage, unless
you put a mouse trap in every vine, as they do on the island of
Pandataria. The other kind of vineyard, is that where each shoot which
promises to bear grapes is lifted from the earth and supported about
two feet off the ground by a forked stick: by this means the grapes,
as they form, learn to hang as it were from a branch and do not have
to be taught after the vintage; they are held in place with a bit of
cord or by that kind of tie which the ancients called a _cestus_. As
soon as the farmer sees the vintagers turn their backs he carries
these props under cover for the winter so that he may use them another
year without expense for that account. In Italy the people of Reate
practise this custom.

Thus there are as many methods of cultivating the vine as there are
kinds of soil. For where the land is wet the vine must be trained high
because when wine is being made and matured on the vine, it needs sun,
not water--as when it is in the cup! For this reason it was, I think,
that first the vine was made to grow on trees.

_Of the different kinds of soil_

IX. It is expedient then, as I was saying, to study each kind of soil
to determine for what it is, and for what it is not, suitable. The
word _terra_ is used in three senses: general, particular and mixed.
It is a general designation when we speak of the orb of the earth, the
land of Italy or any other country. In this designation is included
rock and sand and other such things. In the second place, _terra_ is
referred to particularly when it is spoken of without qualification or
epithet. In the third place, which is the mixed sense, when one speaks
of _terra_ as soil--that in which seeds are sown and developed; as for
example, clay soil or rocky soil or others. In this sense there are as
many kinds of earth as there are when one speaks of it in the general
sense, on account of the mixtures of substances in it in varying
quantities which make it of different heart and strength, such as
rock, marble, sand, loam, clay, red ochre, dust, chalk, gravel,
carbuncle (which is a condition of soil formed by the burning of roots
in the intense heat of the sun); from which each kind of soil is
called by a particular name, in accordance with the substances of
which it is composed, as a chalky soil, a gravelly soil, or what ever
else may be its distinguishing quality. And as there are different
varieties of soil so each variety may be subdivided according to
its quality, as, for example, a rocky soil is either very rocky,
moderately rocky or hardly rocky at all. So three grades may be made
of other mixed soils. In turn each of these three grades has three
qualities: some are very wet, some very dry, some moderate, These
distinctions are of the greatest importance in respect of the crops,
for the skilled husbandman plants spelt rather than wheat in wet
land, and on dry land barley rather than spelt, in medium land both.
Furthermore there are still more subtle distinctions to be made
in respect of all these kinds of soil, as for example it must be
considered in respect of loam, whether it is white loam or red loam,
because white loam is unfit for nursery beds, while red loam is what
they require. But the three great distinctions of quality of soil are
whether it is lean or fat, or medium. Fat soils are apparent from the
heavy growth of their vegetation, and the lean lie bare; as witness
the territory of Pupinia (in Latium), where all the foliage is meagre
and the vines look starved, where the scant straw never stools, nor
the fig tree blooms, while for the most part the trees are as covered
with moss as are the arid pastures. On the other hand, a rich soil
like that of Etruria reveals itself heavy with grain and forage crops
and its umbrageous trees are clean of moss. Soil of medium strength,
like that near Tibur, which one might say is rather hungry than
starved, repays cultivation in proportion as it takes on the quality
of rich land."

"Diophanes of Bithynia," said Stolo, "was very much to the point when he
wrote that the best indication of the suitability of soil for
cultivation can be had either from the soil itself or from what grows in
it: so one should ascertain whether it is white or black, if it is light
and friable when it is dug, whether its consistency is ashy, or too
heavy: or it can be tested by evidence that the wild growth upon it is
heavy and fruitful after its kind.[65] But proceed and tell us of your
third division, which relates to the measurement and laying out of the

_Of the units of area used in measuring land_

X. Scrofa resumed: "Every country has its own system for measuring
land. In Further Spain the unit of area is the _jugum_, in Campania
the _versus_, here in the Roman country and among the Latins it is
the _jugerum_. They call a _jugum_ the area which a pair of oxen
can plough in a day. The _versus_ is one hundred feet square: the
_jugerum_ is the area containing two square _actus_: the _actus
quadratus_ or _acnua_, as it is called by the Latins, measuring 120
feet in width and as much in length.[66] The smallest fraction of a
jugerum is called a _scripulum_ and is ten feet square. From this base
the surveyors some times call the butts of land which exceed a jugerum
_unciae_ (twelfths) or _sextantes_ (seventy seconds) or some other
such duodecimal division, for the jugerum contains 288 scripula, like
the ancient pound weight which was in use before the Punic wars. Two
jugera, which Romulus first made the headright and which thus became
the unit of inheritance, are called an _haeredium_:[67] later one
hundred haeredia were called a _centuria_, which is 2,400 _unciae_
square. Four centuriae adjoining, so that there are two on each side,
are called a _saltus_ in the distribution of the public lands."

_Of the considerations on building a steading_

_a. Size_

XI. As the result of faulty surveys of the farm it often happens that
the steading is constructed either too small or too large for the
farm, a mistake which in either case is of prejudice both to the
property and its revenue. If one builds too large or too many
buildings he is eaten up by the expense of maintenance, while if one
builds less than the farm requires the harvest is lost, for there is
no doubt that the largest wine cellar must be provided for that farm
on which the vintages are largest, or granary, if it is a grain farm.

_b. Water supply_

If possible, the steading should be so built that it shall have water
within the walls, or certainly near at hand: it is preferable that
this should be derived from a spring, or, if not, then from an
unfailing stream. If no running water is available a cistern should be
constructed within doors, and a pond in the open, the one for the use
of the men, the other for the use of the cattle.

_c. Location, with regard to health_

XII. When you plan to build, try your best to locate the steading at
the foot of a wooded hill where the pastures are rich, and turn it so
as to catch the healthiest prevailing breeze. The best situation is
facing the east so to secure shade in summer and sun in winter. But if
you must build on the bank of a river, take care that you do not let
the steading face the river, for it will be very cold in winter and
unhealthy in summer. Like precautions must be taken against swampy
places for the same reasons and particularly because as they dry,
swamps breed certain animalculae which cannot be seen with the eyes
and which we breathe through the nose and mouth into the body where
they cause grave maladies."[68]

"But," said Fundanius, "suppose I inherited a farm like that, what
should I do to avoid the malady you describe?"

"The answer to that question is easy," said Agrius. "You should sell
the farm for what you can get for it: and if you can't sell it, give
it away."

Scrofa resumed: "Take care to avoid having the steading face the
direction from which disagreeable winds blow, yet you should not build
in a hollow. High ground is the best location for a steading: for by
ventilation all noxious gases are dissipated, and the steading is
healthier if exposed to the sun all day: with the further advantage
that any insects which may be bred in or brought upon the premises are
either blown away or quickly perish where there is no damp. Sudden
rains and overflowed streams are dangerous to those who have their
steadings in low or hollow places, and they are more at the hazard of
the ruthless hand of the robber because he is able to take advantage
of those who are unprepared. Against either of these risks the higher
places are safer."

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