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Roman Farm Management by Marcus Porcius Cato

Part 4 out of 6

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ducks go out to swim in the basin, and from this streams flow into
the two basins I have already described, and little fish may be seen
darting from one to the other, while warm or cold water may be turned
on the guests from the circumference of the revolving table, which I
have described as equipped with spokes.

"Within the dome is an arrangement to tell the hours by marking the
position in the heavens of the sun by day and Hesperus by night: and
furthermore, as in the clock which [Andronicus] Cyrrestes constructed
at Athens, the eight winds are depicted on the dome, and, by means of
an arrow connecting with a vane, the prevailing wind is indicated to
those within."[172]

As we were talking an uproar was heard on the Campus Martius. While
this did not astonish old parliamentary hands[173] like ourselves, who
knew the enthusiasm of an election, yet we were anxious to know what
it meant, and at this moment Pantuleius Parra came up and told us that
while the votes were being sorted some one was caught stuffing the
ballot box[174] and had been haled before the consul by the supporters
of the rival candidate. Pavo rose to go, for it was understood that
he who had been arrested was the campaign manager of Pavo's own

_Of pea-cocks_

VI. "Now that Fircellius is gone you can speak freely of pea-cocks,"
said Axius, "for if you should say any thing to their disadvantage in
his presence, you might perchance have a crow to pluck with him on
account of his relationship."[175]

"Within my memory," said Merula, "the practice of keeping commercial
flocks of pea-cocks has largely developed and it has so developed
that M. Aufidius Lurco is said to derive an income of sixty thousand
sesterces per annum from them. If you keep them for profit it is well
to have somewhat fewer males than females; while the contrary is true
if you keep them for pleasure, for the pea-cock far surpasses his hen
in beauty. With us they are fed in the country, but abroad it is said
that they are kept on islands, as at Samos in the grove of Juno and at
Planasia, the island of M. Piso. In setting up a flock age and beauty
must be considered, for nature has given the palm of beauty to the
pea-cock among all the birds. The hens are not fit for breeding under
two years of age, nor when they are aged. They are fed all kinds of
grain but chiefly barley. Scius makes a practice of feeding them a
modius of barley apiece for the month before they begin to breed, his
purpose being to make them more productive. He expects his overseer to
raise three pea fowl for every hen, and he sells them when matured for
fifty deniers ($10) a piece, a price such as one never obtains for a

"Furthermore, he buys eggs and sets them under dunghill hens,
transferring the young pea fowls so hatched to the shelter set apart
for their kind. This house should be built large enough for the number
of pea fowl to be kept and should be equipped with separate roosting
places smoothly stuccoed, so that snakes and such vermin may not be
able to get into it: and, furthermore, it should have attached to it
a run in which the pea fowl may feed on sunny days, and both these
places should be kept clean, as this kind of fowl demands. The keeper
should make the rounds often with a shovel to collect and preserve
their manure, which is not only fit for use in agriculture but serves
also as bedding for your pea chicks.

"It is said that Q. Hortensius was the first to serve pea-cocks at
dinner, on the occasion of his inauguration as an augur, an evidence
of prodigality which was more approved by the luxurious than by good
men of simple manners: but many others quickly followed his example,
so that the price of pea fowl was raised until an egg sold for five
deniers ($1) and a pea fowl itself readily for fifty ($10), thus a
flock of an hundred of them easily yields an income of forty thousand
sesterces, ($2,000), or even sixty ($3,000), if, as Abuccius advises,
one obtains three chickens from every pea hen."

_Of pigeons_

VII. In the meanwhile an apparitor came to Appius from the Consul and
said that the augurs were summoned. As Appius went out from the _villa
publica_, a flock of pigeons flew in, whereupon Merula said to Axius:
"If you had established a [Greek: peristerogropheion] you would think
that these were your pigeons, although they are wild, for it is the
custom to keep both kinds in a [Greek: peristerotropheion]. One is the
wild dove (or, as some call them the rock dove, or _saxatilis_), such
as live in the towers and dormers (_columines_) of a farm house,
whence they get the name _columbae_, because, on account of their
natural timidity, they seek the highest places on the roof. On this
account wild doves usually frequent towers, to which they may fly
from the fields of their own accord, and return.[177] The other kind of
pigeons is tamer and are wont to seek their food at the very threshold
of a house. This kind is usually white in colour, the wild variety
being mottled but without any white. From these two stocks a third or
mixed variety has been developed for commercial profit and these are
collected in the place which some call a _peristereon_ (pigeon house),
and others a _peristerotropheion_ (place for raising pigeons), where
there are often confined as many as five thousand at a time.

"A pigeon house is made like a great dome, with arched roof, a narrow
entrance, and grilled windows or with wider lattices on all sides so
that the interior may be well lighted and yet no snake or other such
pest may have access. The walls and the dome within and the edges of
the windows without should be smeared with light stucco to keep out
rats and lizards, for nothing is so timid as a pigeon. A round nest
should be provided for each pair of pigeons and these should be
arranged in close order so that there may be established as many as
possible of them ranked from the ground to the very dome. Each nest
should have a door no bigger than necessary to enable the pigeons to
go in and out but within should be of three palms in diameter. Under
each rank of nests should be fastened planks two palms broad for the
use of the pigeons as a vestibule on coming out. Water should be led
into the pigeon house, both for them to drink and to bathe in, for
pigeons are very clean birds. For this reason the keeper of the
pigeons should sweep out the house several times a month, for that
which soils it has so great a. value in agriculture that some writers
even claim that it is the best of all manures. Furthermore, the keeper
in these rounds may tend any pigeon which is ailing, remove any which
are dead, and take out such squabs as are fit for market. Likewise,
those which are setting should be transferred to a particular place,
separated from the others by a net but from which the mothers may
be free to get out of doors: which is done for two reasons: first,
because if they become weary or decrepit from being cooped too long,
they will be refreshed by the free air when they go abroad: secondly,
because they serve as decoys for other pigeons, for their squabs will
always bring them home themselves unless they are struck down by a
crow or cut off by a hawk. Pigeon breeders rid themselves of the
last mentioned pests by planting in the ground two rods smeared with
birdlime and bent in one upon the other, and then tie on some bait
so disposed that when the hawk falls upon his prey he finds himself
entangled in the birdlime and is taken.

"It may be noted that the pigeon has a homing instinct, as is proved by
the practice of many in letting pigeons loose from their bosoms in the
theatre expecting them to return home, for if they did not return the
practice would not persist.

"The food for pigeons is placed in mangers fastened around the walls
and filled from the outside by means of conduits. They thrive on
millet, wheat, barley, peas, beans and vetch. This regimen should be
followed also, as far as possible, in the care of the wild pigeons,
which live on the towers and the roofs of the barn.

"In equipping a [Greek: peristereon] pigeons of good age should be
secured, neither squabs nor veterans, and as many males as females.
Nothing is more prolific than the pigeon, for in forty days they
conceive, lay, hatch and raise a brood, and they keep this up nearly
all the year, stopping only from the winter solstice until spring.
Squabs are hatched in pairs, and as soon as they have grown up and
have strength breed with their own mothers. Those who fatten squabs in
order to sell them dearer, make a practice of isolating them as soon
as they are covered with feathers, then they cram them with white
bread which has been chewed:[178] in winter this is fed twice a day, in
summer three times a day, morning, noon and night, the midday meal
being omitted in winter. Those which are just beginning to have
feathers are left in the nests, but their legs are broken, and, in
order that they may be crammed, the food is put before the mothers,
for they will feed themselves and their squabs on it all day long.
Squabs which are reared in this way become fat more quickly than
others and have whiter flesh.

"A pair of pigeons will commonly sell at Rome for two hundred _nummi_,
if they are well made, of good colour, without blemish, and of good
breed: some times they even bring a thousand _nummi_, and there is
a report that recently L. Axius, a Roman of the equestrian order,
declined that sum, refusing to sell for less than four hundred

"If I could procure a fully equipped [Greek: peristereon]," cried
Axius, "as readily as I have bought a supply of earthen ware nests, I
would have had it already on the way to my farm."

"As if," remarked Pica, "there were not many of them here in town. But
perhaps those who have pigeon houses on their roofs do not seem to you
to be justified in calling them [Greek: peristereonas] even though
some of them represent an investment of more than one hundred thousand
sesterces. I advise you to buy out one of them and learn how to pocket
a profit here in town, before you build on a large scale in the

_Of turtle doves_

VIII. "So much for that then," said Axius. "Proceed, please, to the
next subject, Merula."

"For turtle doves," said Merula, "in like manner a house should be
constructed proportioned to the number you intend to feed, and this,
like the pigeon house, I have described, should have a door and
windows and fresh water and walls and a vaulted roof, but in place of
breeding nests the mutules should be extended through the walls or
poles set in them in regular order with hempen mats on them, the
lowest rank being not more than three feet from the floor, the rest at
intervals of nine inches, the top rank six inches from the vault, and
of equal breadth as the mutule stands out from the wall. On these
the doves are fed day and night. For food they are given dry wheat,
usually a half modius for every one hundred and twenty doves. Every
day the house should be cleaned out, that they may not be injured by
the accumulation of manure, and because also it has its place in the
economy of the farm. The best time for fattening doves is about the
harvest, for then the mothers are in their best condition and produce
young ones not only in the largest number but the best for cramming:
so that is the time when they are most profitable."

_Of poultry_

IX. "Tell me now, if you please, Merula," said Axius, "what I should
know of raising and fattening poultry and wood pigeons, then we can
proceed to the discussion of the remainder of our programme."

"There are three kinds of fowls usually classed as poultry," replied
Merula, "dunghill fowl, jungle fowl and guinea fowl. The dunghill fowl
are those which are constantly kept in the country at farms.

"He who wishes to establish an [Greek: ornithoboskeion] from which, by
the exercise of intelligence and care, he can take large profits, as
the people of Delos do with such great success,[180] should observe five
principal rules: 1 deg. in regard to buying, what kind and how many he
will keep: 2 deg. in regard to breeding: 3 deg. in regard to eggs, how they
are set and hatched: 4 deg. in regard to chicks, how and by whom they are
reared, and 5 deg., which is a supplement of all the foregoing, how they
are fattened.

"The females of the dunghill fowl are called hens, the breeding males
cocks, and the males which have been altered capons. Cocks are
caponized by burning the spurs[181] with a hot iron until the skin is
broken, the wound being poulticed with potters' clay.

"He who wishes to have a model [Greek: ornithoboskeion] should equip it
with all three kinds of fowls, though chiefly the dunghill variety. In
purchasing these last it is important to choose fertile hens, which
are indicated by red feathers, black wings, unequal toes, large heads,
combs upstanding and heavy, for such hens are more likely to lay.

"A lusty cock may be known by his muscular carriage, his red comb, a
beak short, strong and sharp, eyes tawny or black, wattles a whitish
red, neck spotted or tinged with gold, the second joint of his legs
well covered with feathers, short legs long spurs, a heavy tail, and
profuse feathers, also by his spirit and his frequent crowing, his
readiness to fight, and that he is not only not afraid of such animals
as do the hens harm, but even goes out to fight them. You must be
careful, however, not to buy for breeding any fowls of the breeds
known as Tanagran, Medean and Chalcidean, for, while they are
beautiful to look at and are fit for fighting with one another, they
are practically sterile.

"If you wish to keep a flock of two hundred, choose an enclosed place
and there construct two large poultry houses side by side and looking
to the East, each about ten by five feet and a little less than five
feet in height, and furnished with windows three by four feet in which
are fitted shutters of wickerwork, which will serve to let in plenty
of fresh air and light and yet keep out such vermin as prey upon

"Between the two houses should be a door by which the _gallinarius_ who
takes care of them, may have access. Within the houses enough poles
are arranged to serve as roosts for all the chickens: opposite each
roost a nest should be set in the wall. In front of the house should
be an enclosed yard to which the fowls may have access in the day time
and where they can dust themselves,[182] and there should be constructed
the keeper's house, which should be equipped all about with nests,
either set into the walls or firmly fastened to them, for the least
disturbance injures eggs when they are setting.

"When the hens begin to lay, straw should be spread in their nests and
this should be renewed when they begin to set, for in such bedding
are bred mites and other insects which will not suffer the hen to be
quiet, with the result that the eggs are hatched unequally or rot.

"A hen should not be allowed to set on more than twenty-five eggs,
although such is her fecundity that she lays more than that in a
season. The best time for hatching is from the spring to the autumn
equinox. Eggs laid before or after this season, or the first eggs laid
by a pullet, should never be set. Hens used for setting should be
old rather than young, without sharp beaks and claws, for those so
equipped are better employed in laying than in setting. Hens a year or
two years old are better fitted for laying.

"If you set pea-cock eggs under a hen, you should wait ten days before
adding hen eggs to the nest, to insure them all hatching together, for
the period of incubation of chicken eggs is thrice seven days and that
of the eggs of pea-fowl is thrice nine. Sitting hens should be shut up
day and night, except for a time in the morning and evening, when they
are let out to eat and drink.

"The keeper should make the rounds every few days and turn the eggs,
so that they may be kept warm all over. It is said that you can tell
whether an egg is fertile or sterile by putting it in water: for if it
is sterile it will float, while if it is fertile it will sink. Those
who shake their eggs to ascertain this fact make a mistake for thereby
they destroy the germ in them. It is also said that you can tell a
sterile egg by the fact that it is transparent when held against the

"To preserve eggs they should be rubbed with fine salt or soaked for
three or four hours in brine, and then cleaned off or packed in chaff
or straw. Care should be taken to set eggs only in uneven numbers. The
keeper can tell whether an egg is fertile or not four days after it is
set, by holding it to the light, when he should throw it out if it is
found to be empty and substitute another for it.

"The new hatched chickens should be taken from every nest and given to
a hen who has only a few to care for. When in this way a setting hen
has less than half her eggs left unhatched, they should be taken from
her and put under another hen which has eggs still unhatched. It is
not well to give more than thirty chicks to a hen. Chicks should
be fed for the first fifteen days in the dust to protect them from
injuring their tender beaks on the hard ground: their diet being
crushed barley mixed with cress seed and soaked in wine, for prepared
in this way the grain is digestible. They should be kept away from
water in the beginning. When they begin to have feathers on their legs
the mites should be carefully picked off their heads and necks, for
these banes often destroy them. Deer's horn should be burnt around
their coops to keep snakes away, for the very smell of those vermin is
fatal to young chickens. They should be allowed to run in the sun and
to scratch in a dung heap, which serves to develop them. This rule
applies not only to young chickens but also to the entire [Greek:
ornithoboskeion], and should be practised all summer and even in
winter on mild and sunny days. A net should be stretched over the
chicken yard to keep the fowls themselves from flying out and to
protect them from hawks and other birds of prey. Fowls should be
protected from heat as well as cold, for both are harmful to them.
When the chicks have got their feathers it is best to accustom them to
follow one or two hens, leaving the other hens free to go to laying,
in which occupation they are more useful than in rearing chicks.

"A hen should be set after the new moon, for those which begin earlier
seldom hatch many chicks.

"They hatch usually in twenty days.

"And now since I have discussed the dunghill fowl at some length, I
will make up to you by brevity with respect to the other kinds of

"Jungle fowl are rarely seen at Rome, and then usually in cages. They
resemble guinea chickens more than dunghill fowls. When perfect in
form and appearance they are often carried in the public processions
with parrots and white blackbirds and other such rarities. They do not
usually lay or raise their chickens on a farm, but in the forests. The
island of Gallinaria, which lies in the Tuscan sea off the coast of
Italy, opposite the Ligurian mountains (and the towns of Intermelii
and Alba Ingannua) derives its name from them, though some maintain
that the name comes from dunghill fowl which were carried to that
island by sailors and have there run wild. Guinea fowl (_gallinae
africanae_) are large, mottled and have their humps in their backs.
The Greeks call them [Greek: meleagris].[183] They are the last fowls
which the culinary art has introduced to our dining tables, on account
of their gamy flavour.[184] By reason of their rarity they sell for a
high price.

"Of the three kinds of fowls, the ordinary dunghill fowl is used
chiefly for cramming. For this purpose they are shut up in a small
confined and darkened coop, because both exercise and light are
enemies of fat. Any large chickens may be selected for this operation,
not necessarily of that breed which the peasants call Melica
incorrectly, for as the ancients said Thelis when they meant Thetis,
so the country people still say Melica for Medica. This name was given
at first to the fowls which were imported from Medea on account of
their great size and then to all of that breed, but now the name is
given indiscriminately to all large fowls by reason of their general
resemblance. After the feathers have been pulled from their tails and
wings they are crammed with balls of barley paste, with which may be
mixed darnel meal, or flax seed soaked in soft water. They are fed
twice a day but care must be taken to see that the last meal is
digested before another is put before them. After they have been fed
and their heads have been cleaned of mites, they are shut up again.
This process is kept up for twenty-five days, when they will be fat.

"Some cram them on wheat bread soaked in water, or even in wine of
good flavour and bouquet, claiming that they are thereby made fat and
tender in twenty days.[185]

"If in the process of cramming the fowls lose their appetite from too
much food, the ration should be reduced daily during the last ten days
in the same proportion as it was increased during the first ten days,
so that the ration will be the same on the twentieth as on the first

"Wood pigeons are crammed and fattened in the same way."

_Of geese_

X. "Let us now pass," said Axius, "to that tribe which cannot live in
the barn yard all the time, or even on land, but requires access to
ponds. I mean those whom you philhellenes call amphibia. I understand
that you call the places in which geese are kept by the Greek name
[Greek: chaenoboskeion], and that Scipio Metellus and M. Seius have
several large flocks of geese."

"It is Seius' practice," said Merula, "to maintain his flocks of
geese[186] in accordance with the five rules I have laid down for
poultry, namely: with respect to choice of individuals, breeding,
eggs, goslings and the process of cramming.

"On the first point he requires the slave who buys his geese to select
them of good size and of white plumage, because they reproduce their
own qualities in their goslings. This is necessary for there is
another kind of geese of variegated plumage, which are called wild,
and do not flock freely with the other kind and are domesticated with

"The best time for breeding geese is at the end of winter and for
laying and hatching from the beginning of February or March until the
summer solstice. They breed usually in the water, diving to the bottom
of the stream or pond.[187] A goose lays only three times a year: and
each one should be furnished with a coop about two and a half feet
square and bedded with straw: each of their eggs should be marked for
identification, for they will not hatch any eggs but their own. They
are usually set on nine or eleven eggs, never more than fifteen, nor
less than five. In cold weather they set for thirty days, in warm
weather twenty-five. When they are hatched the goslings are suffered
to remain with their mother for five days, and then daily, when the
weather is fine, they are driven out to the meadows or to the ponds
or some swampy place. The gosling houses may be built either above or
below ground, but never more than twenty should be housed together and
care must be taken lest the floor be damp and that they are bedded on
chaff or some thing of that kind, and that the house is so constructed
as to keep out weasels and other beasts which prey on goslings. Geese
are fed in wet places and it is the practice to sow especially for
their food supply, using for this purpose any kind of grain, but
particularly that salad plant called endive[188] which keeps green
wherever there is water, freshening at the mere contact of water
however dry it may be. This is gathered to be fed to them, for if they
have access to the place where it is growing they will destroy the
plant by trampling on it, or else kill themselves by eating too much
of it, for they are greedy by nature. For this reason they must be
watched, as often in feeding their greediness leads them to seize a
root and to break their own necks in attempting to pull it from the
ground: for the neck is weak, as the head is soft.

"If there is none of this plant they should be fed barley or some other
grain. When the farrago season is on, feed that to them, but in the
same manner as I have described in respect of endive. While they are
setting they may be fed ground barley soaked in water. The goslings
may be fed for the first two days on barley cake (_pollenta_) or raw
barley, and for the next three days fresh water cress chopped fine in
a dish. When they are of an age to be kept by themselves in flocks of
twenty, in the kind of house I have described, they are fed on barley
meal or farrago or some kind of young herbage cut up.

"For cramming, goslings are picked out when they are about six months
old, and are shut up in the fattening pen and there are fed three
times a day as much as they will eat, of crushed barley and flour
dust mixed with water, and after meals they should be made to drink
copiously. Kept on this diet they will be fat in about two months.[189]
After every meal the feeding place must be cleaned, for, while geese
like a clean place, they never leave any place clean in which they
have been."

_Of ducks_

XI. "Whoever wishes to keep a flock of ducks and to establish a [Greek:
naessotropheion], should choose for it, above all others if it is
possible, a swampy location because that is most agreeable to the
ducks, but, if not, then a situation sloping to a natural lake or
pool, or to an artificial pond, with steps leading down to it,
practicable for the ducks. The enclosure where they are kept should
have a wall fifteen feet high, such as you saw at Seius' villa, with
only one door opening into it. All around the wall on the inside
should run a broad platform on which are built against the wall the
duck houses, fronting on a level concrete vestibule in which is
constructed a permanent channel in which their food can be placed in
water, for ducks are fed in that way. The entire wall should be given
a smooth coating of stucco to keep out polecats[190] and other animals
of prey, and the enclosure should be covered with a net of large mesh
to prevent eagles from pouncing in and the ducks themselves from
flying out.[191]

"For food they are given wheat, barley, grape marc, and some times even
lobsters and other such aquatic animals. The pond in the enclosure
should be fed with a large head of water so that it may be kept always

"There are other kinds of similar birds, like teals and coots which may
be fed in the same way.

"Some even keep partridges, which, as Archelaus writes, conceive
when they hear the voice of the male bird. By reason of the natural
abundance and the delicacy of their flesh, these last are not crammed
like those domestic fowls I have described, but they are fattened by
feeding in the ordinary way.

"And now, as I think that I have completed the first act of the drama
of the barn yard, I am done."

_Of rabbits_

XII. At this point Appius returned and, after an exchange of questions
and answers as to what had been said and done during his absence, he
said: "Here beginneth the second act of those industries which are
wont to be practised at a villa, namely of those enclosures which are
still known as _leporaria_ from their ancient special designation.
Today a warren no longer means an acre or two in which hares are kept,
but some times forests of vast extent in which troops of red deer
and roe deer are enclosed. Q. Fulvius Lippinus is said to have forty
jugera enclosed in the neighbourhood of Tarquinii[192] where he keeps
not only those animals I have named but wild sheep as well. Parks
of still larger extent are found in the territory of Statonia (in
Etruria) and in certain other places: indeed, in transalpine Gaul T.
Pompeius has so great a game preserve that the enclosure is about four
miles in extent.[193]

"It is the practice to keep in such enclosures not only the animals
I have named, but also snail houses and bee hives and jars in which
dormice are fed, but the care and the increase and the feeding of all
these things are easy, except in the case of bees. Who does not know
that a _leporarium_ should be enclosed with masonry walls which are
at once smooth and high the one to keep out wild cats and badgers and
other such beasts: the other to prevent wolves from getting over.
Within should be coverts where the hares may lurk in the day time
under bushes and grass, and trees with broad spreading branches to
ward off the attacks of the eagle.

"Who does not know also that if he introduces only a few hares of both
sexes in a short time the place will be full of them, for such is
the fecundity of this quadruped that two pair are enough to stock an
entire warren in a short time. Often a mother who has just had her
litter is found to be big with another: indeed, Archelaus says that if
you want to know how old a hare is you have only to count the number
of openings in her belly, for without doubt there is one for every
year of her life.

"It has recently become the practice to cram hares as well as poultry,
and for this purpose they are taken out of the warren and shut up in
small hutches where they are fattened. There are three kinds of hares:
the first, our common Italian kind, which has short front legs and
long hind legs, the upper part of the body dark coloured, the belly
white, and long ears. Some say that our hare conceives a second time
while it is still big. In transalpine Gaul and Macedonia they grow to
a great size, but in Spain and in Italy they are not so large. The
second kind is native in Gaul near the Alps, and is white all over the
body: these are brought to Rome, but rarely. The third kind is native
in Spain and is like our hare in every way except that it is smaller
and is called rabbit (_cuniculus_).[194] L. Aelius thinks that the hare
(_lepus_) gets his name from his swiftness, as it were that he is
light of foot (_levipes_), but I think the name is derived from the
ancient Greek, because the Aeolians of Boeotia call him [Greek:
leporis]. The rabbits derive their latin name of _cuniculi_ from the
habit of making underground burrows to hide in [for _cuniculus_ is a
Spanish word for mine]. If possible you should have all these three
kinds in your warren. I am sure you already have the first two kinds,"
Apius added, turning to me, "and, as you were so many years in Spain
doubtless some rabbits followed you home.""

_Of game preserves_

XIII. Then addressing himself again to Axius, Appius continued:

"You know, of course, that wild boars are kept in game parks, and that
those which are brought in wild are fattened with as little trouble as
the tame ones which are born in the park, for you have doubtless seen
at the farm near Tusculum, which Varro here bought from M. Pupius
Piso, wild boars and roe bucks assemble at the sound of the trumpet
to be fed at regular hours, when from a platform, the keeper scatters
mast to the wild boars and vetch or some such forage to the roe

"I saw this done," put in Axius, "more dramatically when I was a
visitor at the villa of Q. Hortensius in the country near Laurentum.
He has there a wood of more than fifty jugera in extent, all enclosed,
but it might better be called a [Greek: theriotropheion] than a
warren; there on high ground he caused his dinner table to be spread,
and while we supped Hortensius gave orders that Orpheus be summoned:
when he came, arrayed in his long robe, with a cithara in his hands,
he was desired to sing. At that moment a trumpet was sounded and at
once Orpheus was surrounded by a large audience of deer and wild boars
and other quadrupeds: it seemed to be not less agreeable a spectacle
than the shows of game, without African beasts, which the Aediles
provide in the Circus Maximus."

_Of snails_

XIV. And turning to Merula, Axius continued: "Appius has lightened
your task, my dear Merula, so far as concerns the matter of game, and
briefly the second act of our drama may be brought to an end, for I
do not seek to learn any thing about snails and dormice, which is all
that is left on the programme, for there can be no great trouble in
keeping them."

"It is not so simple as you seem to think, my dear Axius," replied
Merula, "for a place suitable for keeping snails[195] I must be not only
in the open air but entirely surrounded by water, otherwise you will
be kept running not only after the children but also the parents which
you have supplied for breeding."

"In other words," said I, "they must be enclosed by water to save the
maintenance of a slave catcher."

"A place which is not baked by the sun and on which the dew remains is
preferable," continued Merula. "If the place you use for your snails
is not supplied with dew naturally, as often is the case in sunny
situations, and there is no available shady recess, such as is found
under rocks or hills whose feet are laved by a lake or a stream, then
you must supply dew artificially. This may be done by leading into the
snailery a pipe on the end of which is fixed a rose nozzle, through
which water is forced against a rock so that it scatters in spray. The
problem of feeding snails is small, for they supply themselves without
help, finding what they require as they creep over the level ground
and also while clinging to the sides of a wall, if no running water
prevents their access to it. On the hucksters' stands they keep alive
a long time, as it were chewing their own cud, all that is done for
them being to supply a few laurel leaves and scatter a little bran
over them: so a cook never knows whether he is cooking them alive or

"There are many kinds of snails, such as the small white ones, which
come from Reate: the large variety which are imported from Illyricum,
and the medium size which come from Africa: but they vary in size in
certain localities of each of those countries. Thus, there is found in
Africa a variety which are called _solitannae_ of so great size that
their shells will hold ten quarts:[196] and so in the other countries
I have named they are found together of all sizes. They produce an
innumerable progeny, which at first are very small and soft but
develop their hard shell with time. If you have large islands in the
enclosure you may expect a rich haul from your snails.

"Snails are fattened by placing them in a jar smeared with boiled must
and corn meal, on which they feed, and pierced with holes to admit the
air, but they are naturally hardy."

_Of dormice_

XV. "Dormice[197] are preserved on a different systern than snails, for
while the one is confined by barriers of water, the other is kept in
by a wall which must be coated on the inside with smooth stone or
stucco to prevent their escape. Young nut trees should be planted in
the enclosure, and when these are not bearing, mast and chestnuts
should be thrown in to the dormice, for that is what makes them
fat. Roomy cages should be provided for them in which to rear their
young.[198] Little water is necessary, for dormice do not require much
water, but on the contrary affect dry places. They are fattened in
jars which are usually kept indoors. The potters make these jars in
different shapes, but with paths for the dormice to use contrived on
the sides and a hollow to hold their food, which consists of mast,
walnuts and chestnuts.[199] Covers are placed on the jars and there in
the dark the dormice are fattened."

_Of bees_

XVI. "It remains now," said Appius, "to rehearse the third and last
act of our drama of the husbandry of the steading and to discuss the
keeping of fishes."

"The third, indeed," exclaimed Axius, "shall we deprive ourselves of
honey because in your youth you never drank mead in your own house,
such was your practice of frugality?"

"He speaks the truth," said Appius, to us, "for I was indeed left a
poor orphan with two brothers and two sisters to provide for, and it
was not until I had married one of them to Lucullus without portion
and he had named me his heir that I began to drink mead in my own
house and to supply it to my household: but there never was a day when
I did not offer it to all my guests. But apart from that, it has been
my fortune, not yours,[200] Axius, to have known these winged creatures
whom nature has endowed so richly with industry and art, and that you
may appreciate that I know more than you do of their almost incredible
natural art, listen to what I am to say. It will then be for Merula
to develop the practice of the bee keeper, or, as the Greeks call it,
[Greek: melittourgia], as methodically as he has his other subjects.

"To begin then,[201] bees are generated partly by other bees and partly
from the decaying carcase of an ox: so Archelaus in one of his
epigrams calls them

'flitting offspring of decaying beef,'

and else where he says,

'wasps spring from horses, bees from calves.'

"Bees are not of a solitary habit like eagles, but are of a social
nature, like men, a characteristic they share with daws, but not for
the same reason, for bees live in colonies, the better to work and
build, while daws congregate for gossip. Thus the life of a bee is one
of intelligence and art, for man has learned from them to manufacture,
to build, and to store his food: three occupations which are not the
same but are diverse in their nature, for it is one thing to provide
food, another to manufacture wax and honey, and still another to build
a house. Has not each cell in a honey comb six sides, or as many as a
bee has feet, the art of which arrangement appears in the teaching of
the geometricians that of all polygons the hexagon covers the largest
area within a circle.[202] Bees feed out of doors, but it is at home
that they manufacture that which is the sweetest of all things,
acceptable to gods and men alike: for honey comb is offered on the
altars and honey is served at the beginning of a dinner and again at

"Bees have institutions like our own, consisting of royalty, government
and organized society. Cleanliness in all things is their aim: and so
they never alight in any place where there is filth or an evil odour,
or even where there is a strong savour of such an unguent as we may
consider agreeable. For the same reason if one who approaches them is
covered with perfume,[203] they do not lick him as flies do, but they
sting him, and by the same token no one ever sees bees crawling on
meat and blood and grease, as flies do. And so they only settle in
places of sweet savour. They do a minimum of damage because in their
harvesting they leave what they touch none the worse.[204] They are not
so cowardly as not to resist who ever attempts to disturb them, and
yet they are fully conscious of their own weakness. They are called
the Winged Servants of the Muses, because when they swarm they are
quickly brought together by the music of cymbals and the clapping of
hands: and as men assign Helicon and Olympus to be the haunts of the
Muses, so nature has attributed the flowery and uncultivated mountains
to the bees. They follow their king[205] wheresoever he goes, supporting
him when he is tired and even taking him upon their backs if he is
unable to fly, so do they wish to serve him.[206] As they are not idlers
themselves, so do they hate those who are, and thus driving out the
drones, they exclude them from the hive, because they are of no
service but merely consume honey: and it happens that a few bees,
buzzing with wrath, will drive out a number of drones.

"They smear every thing about the entrance to the hive with a gum which
is found between the cells which the Greeks call [Greek: erithakae].
They live under the discipline of an army, taking turns in resting and
all doing their equal share of work, and they send out colonies and
carry out the orders of their leaders, given with the voice, but as it
were with a trumpet: and in like manner they have signs of peace and
of war.

"But, Merula, now in my course I pass on the torch to you, as our
Axius here is doubtless languishing while he has listened to all this
natural history, for I have said nothing of profit."

"I do not know," said Merula, "whether what I can say on the subject
of the profit to be derived from bees will satisfy you, Axius, but I
have as my authorities not only Seius, who takes five thousand pounds
of honey every year from the hives he leases,[207] but also our friend
Varro here, for I have heard him tell of two brothers Veiani, from the
Falerian territory, whom he had under his command in Spain and who,
although their father left them only a small house with a curtilage of
not exceeding a jugerum in extent, nevertheless made themselves rich.
They set bee hives all about the house and planted part of the land
in a garden and filled up the rest with thyme and clover and that
bee plant known to us as _apiastrum_, though some call it [Greek:
meliphullon], others [Greek: mellissophullon] and still others
_melittaena_: and by this means they were wont to derive, as they
estimated, an average income of not less than ten thousand sesterces
per annum from honey; but they did this by being willing to wait until
they could sell at their own time and price rather than by forcing the

"Tell me," exclaimed Axius, "where and how I should establish a
bee-stand to make such a handsome profit."

"The apiary," replied Merula, "which some call by the Greek names
[Greek: melitton] and [Greek: melittotropheion], and others
_mellarium_, should preferably be placed near the house[208] in a
location where there is no echo (for such sounds are deemed to put
them to flight, as timid men are by the din of a battle) and where the
temperature is mild, exposed neither to the heat of summer nor the
cold of winter, giving preferably to the Southeast and near of access
to places where their food is abundant and there is a supply of fresh
water. If there is no natural supply of food available you should
plant such things as best serve bees for pasture, namely: roses,
thyme, bee balm,[209] poppies, beans, lentils, peas, basil, gladiolus,
alfalfa, and especially clover which is of great service to the bees
which are sick, for it begins to bloom at the vernal equinox and lasts
until that of autumn. As clover is the best food for sick bees, so
thyme is the best for making honey, and it is because Sicily abounds
in good thyme that it takes the palm for producing honey. On this
account some men bruise thyme in a mortar and mix warm water with it
and then spray all their nursery plants with it for the sake of the

"The hives should be set as near the house as convenient: some men even
put them under the very portico for greater safety. Hives are made in
various shapes and sizes and of different material;[210] thus some make
them round out of wicker work: others of frame covered with bark:
others use hollow tree trunks: others vessels of pottery: some even
build them square out of rods, allowing about three feet in length and
a foot in height, but these dimensions should be reduced where you
have not enough bees to fill a hive of that size, for fear that the
bees might become discouraged by too large an empty space.

"The bee hive derives its name _alvus_, which is the same as our word
for belly, from the fact that it holds food, that is to say, honey;
and it is on this analogy that hives are usually shaped to imitate the
form of the belly, small in the waist and bulging out below. When the
hives are made of wicker work they should be coated evenly within and
without with ox dung[211] so that the bees may not be driven away by
the roughness of their roof. The hives should be so ordered under the
shelter of a wall that they may not be disturbed nor touch one another
when arranged in ranks, for it is the practice to place hives in two
and some times three separated ranks, but the opinion is that it is
better to reduce the ranks to two than to increase them to four. In
the middle of the hive small openings are made on the right and the
left to serve as entrances for the bees, and on top is placed a
practicable cover, which may be removed to give access to the honey
comb. This is best when made of bark, and worst of pottery, because
that is strongly affected both by the cold of winter and the heat of
summer. In spring and summer the bee keeper should inspect each hive
at least three times a month, fumigating them lightly, cleaning
and throwing out dirt and worms. At the same time he should take
precautions to keep down the number of princes, for they keep the bees
from work by stirring up sedition. There are said to be three kinds of
royalties among the bees: the black, the red and the mottled, or, as
Menecrates writes, two: the black and the mottled: and as the latter
is the better it behooves the bee keeper, when he finds both kinds in
a hive, to kill the black one, as he is forever playing politics[212]
against the other king, whereby the hive must suffer, for inevitably
one of the kings will flee or be driven out, in either case taking his
party with him.

"Of working bees the small round mottled variety is considered the
best. The drone, or, as some call him, the thief,[213] is black with a
large belly. The wasp, which has some resemblance to a bee, is not,
however, a fellow labourer, but attacks the bees with his sting,
wherefore the bees keep him at a distance.

"Bees are themselves distinguished as wild and tame. I call those wild
which feed in the forests, and those tame which feed in cultivated
places. The forest bees are smaller in size and hairy but better

"In buying bees it behooves the purchaser to see whether they are
well or ailing. The signs of health are a thick swarm, well groomed
appearance and a hive being filled in a workmanlike manner. The signs
of lack of condition on the other hand are a hairy and bristling
appearance and a dusty coat, unless this last is caused by a pressure
of work, for under such circumstances they often wear themselves down
and become thin.

"If the hives are to be transferred from one place to another it is
necessary to choose a fit time to make the move and a suitable place
to receive them. As to time, spring is preferable to winter because in
winter they have difficulty in adjusting themselves to a new location
and so often run away, as they do also if you move them from a good
location to a place where proper pasture is not available. Nor is a
transfer from one hive to another in the same place to be undertaken
carelessly, but that to which the bees are to be transferred should be
rubbed with bee balm, which will serve as a bait for them, and
some pieces of honey comb should be placed in it, not far from the
entrances, for fear that the bees might run away if they found the
larder of their new home empty.

"Menecrates says that bees contract a malady of the bowels from their
first spring pasture on the blossoms of the almond and the cornel
cherry and are cured by giving them urine to drink.[214]

"That gummy substance which the bees use, chiefly in summer to
construct a sort of curtain between the entrance and the hive, is
called _propolis_, and by the same name is used by physicians in
making plasters: by reason of which use it sells in the Via Sacra for
more than honey itself. That substance which is called _erithacen_,
and is used to glue the cells together, is different from both honey
and _propolis_: it is supposed to have a quality of attraction for
bees and is accordingly mixed with bee balm and smeared on the branch
or other place on which it is desired to have a swarm light. The comb
is made of wax and is multicellular, each cell in it having six sides
or as many as nature has given the bee feet. It is said that bees do
not gather from the same plants all the materials which enter in these
four substances which they manufacture, namely: propolis, erithacen,
wax and honey. Thus from the pomegranate and the asparagus they gather
food alone, wax from the olive tree, honey from the fig, but not of
good quality: other plants like the bean, the bee balm, the gourd and
the cabbage serve a double purpose and yield both wax and food: while
the apple and the wild pear serve a similar double purpose but for
food and honey and the poppy again for wax and honey.

"Others again provide material for three purposes, food, honey and
wax, such as the almond and the charlock.[215] In like manner there
are flowers from each of which they derive a different one of these
substances, and others from which they derive several of them: while
they make distinctions in respect of plants according to the quality
of the product they yield,--or rather the plants make the distinction
for them--as with respect to honey, some yield liquid honey, like the
skirwort,[216] and others thick honey like the rosemary. So again honey
of insipid flavour is made from the fig, good honey from clover, and
the best of all from thyme.

"And since drink is part of a bee's diet and water is the liquid they
use, there should be provided near the stand a place for them to
drink, which may be either a running stream or a reservoir not more
than two or three fingers deep in which bricks or stones are placed
in such a way as to project a little from the water, and so furnish
a place for the bees to sit and drink; but the greatest care must be
taken to keep this water fresh, as it is of high importance to the
making of good honey.

"As the bees cannot go out to distant pasture in all weathers, food
must be prepared for them, as otherwise they will live on their supply
of honey and so deplete the store in the hive. For this purpose ten
pounds of ripe figs may be boiled in six congii of water and bits
of the paste thus prepared should be set out near the hives. Others
provide honey water in little dishes and float flocks of clean wool on
them through which the bees may suck without risk of either getting
more than is good for them or of being drowned. One such dish should
be provided for each hive and they should be kept filled. Others again
bray dried grapes and figs together and, mixing in some boiled must,
make a paste of which bits are exposed near the hives during such part
of the winter as the bees are still able to go forth in search of

"When a swarm is about to come out of the hive (which happens when a
number of young bees have matured, and the hive determines to send
their youth out to found a colony, as formerly the Sabines often were
compelled to do on account of the number of their children)[217] there
are two signs by which the intention may be known: one that for
several days before hand, and especially in the evening, many bees
weave themselves together and hang upon the entrance of the hive like
grapes: the other that when they are about to go forth or have already
begun to go they buzz together lustily, as soldiers do when they break
camp. Those who have come forth first fly about the hive waiting for
the others, who have not yet collected, to join them. When the bee
keeper notices this he has only to throw dust on them and at the
same time beat upon some copper vessel to collect them, thoroughly
frightened, where he desires in some nearby place on which he has
smeared erithacen and bees' balm and other things in which they
delight. When they have settled down he should place near them a hive
smeared within with the same baits, and then, by blowing a light smoke
around them, compel them to enter the hive. When thus introduced into
their new abode the swarm makes itself at home cheerfully, so that
even if placed next to the parent hive they will prefer their new
colonial settlement.

"And now, having told you all I know about the care of bees, I will
speak of that for which the industry is carried on, that is to say, of
the profit.

"The honey is taken off when the hive is full, as may be determined by
removing the cover of the hive, for if the openings of the combs are
seen to be sealed, as it were with a skin, then the hive is full
of honey: but the bees themselves give notice of this condition by
keeping up a loud buzzing within, by their agitation when they go in
and out and by driving out the drones.

"In taking off honey some say that you should be content with nine
parts, leaving the tenth, because if you take it all the bees will
desert the hive: others leave a still larger proportion than I have

"As those who crop their corn land every year obtain good yields only
at intervals, so it is with bee hives: you will have more industrious
and more profitable bees if you do not exact of them the same tribute
every year.

"It is considered that honey should be taken off for the first time at
the rising of the Pleiades, for the second time at the end of summer
before Arcturus has reached the zenith, and for the third time after
the setting of the Pleiades, but this last time beware not to take
more than one-third of the store even if the hive is full, leaving
the other two-thirds for the winter supply, but if the hive is only
partially filled nothing should be taken off. In any event, when a
large amount of honey is to be taken off a hive it should not be done
all at once or ostentatiously less the bees be discouraged. Those
combs which, on being taken off, are found to be partly unfilled with
honey or to be soiled, should be pared with a knife.

"Care must be taken that the weaker bees in a hive are not oppressed by
the stronger, for this diminishes the profit: to this end the minority
party[218] may be colonized under another king. When bees are given to
fighting with one another, you should sprinkle them with honey water,
upon which they will not only cease fighting but will crowd together
and kiss one another: and this will prove the case even more if they
are sprinkled with mead, for the savour of the wine in it will cause
them to apply themselves so greedily that they will fuddle themselves
in sucking it. If the bees seem lazy about coming out to work and any
part of them get the habit of remaining in the hive, they should be
fumigated and odoriferous herbs, like bees' balm and thyme, should be
placed near the hive. Watchful care is necessary to protect them from
ruin by heat or cold. If the bees are overtaken by a sudden rain or
cold while at pasture (which rarely happens for they usually foresee
such things) and are stricken down by the heavy rain drops and laid
low and stunned, you should gather them in a dish and place them under
cover in a warm place until the weather has cleared, when they should
be sprinkled with ashes of fig wood (making sure that the ashes are
rather hot than warm) the dish should then be shaken gently without
touching the bees with your hand, and placed in the sun. When the bees
feel this warmth they revive and get on their feet again, just as
flies do after they have been apparently drowned. This should be done
near the hive so that when the bees have come to themselves they may
return home and to work."

_Of fish ponds_

XVII. Here Pavo returned and said: "You may weigh anchor now if you
wish. The drawing of the lots of the tribes to determine a tie vote is
over and the herald is announcing the result of the election."

Appius arose without delay and went to congratulate his candidate, and
escort him home.

Merula said: "I will leave the third act of our drama of the husbandry
of the steading to you, Axius," and went out with the others, leaving
Axius with me to wait for our candidate whom we knew would come to
join us. Axius said to me: "I do not regret Merula's departure at this
point, for I am quite well up on the subject of fish ponds, which
still remains to complete our programme.

"There are two kinds of fish ponds, of fresh water and salt water. The
former are commonly maintained by farmers and without much expense,
for the Lymphae, the homely goddesses of the Fountains, supply the
water for them, while the latter, the sea ponds, are the play things
of our nobles and are furnished with both water and fishes, as it were
by Neptune himself: serving more the purposes of pleasure than of
utility, their accomplishment being rather to empty than to fill the
exchequers of their lords. For in the first place they are built at
great expense, then they are stocked at great expense, and finally
they are maintained at great expense.

"Hirrus was wont to derive an income of twelve thousand sesterces from
the buildings surrounding his fish ponds, all of which he spent
for food for his fishes: and no wonder, for I remember that on one
occasion he lent two thousand _murenae_ to Caesar[219] by weight
(stipulating for their return in kind), so that his villa (which
was not otherwise extraordinary) sold for four million sesterces on
account of the stock of fish.

"In sooth, the inland ponds of our farmer folk may well be called
_dulcis_, and those other _amara_.[220]

"A single fish pond suffices us simple folk, but those amateurs must
have a series of them linked together: for as Pausias and other
painters of his school have boxes with as many compartments as they
have different coloured wax, so must they fain have as many ponds as
they have different varieties of fish.

"These fish are furthermore sacred, more sacred, indeed, than those
fish which you, Varro, say you saw in Lydia, (at the same time that
you saw the dancing isles)[221] which came to the shore, where the altar
was erected for a sacrifice, in shoals at the sound of the Greek pipe,
because no one ever ventured to molest them; so no cook has ever been
known to have 'sauced' one of these fishes.[222]

"When our friend Hortensius had those fish ponds at Baulii, which
represented so large an investment, he was wont to send to Puteoli to
buy the fish he served on his table, as I have often seen when I was
visiting him. And it was not enough that his fishes did not supply
his table, but he was at pains to supply theirs, taking greater
precautions lest his mullets (_mulli_) should go hungry than I do for
my mules in Rosea, and it was not at less cost that he supplied meat
and drink to his stock than I do to mine. For I raise my asses, which
bring such fancy prices, at the cost of one servant, a little barley
and the water which springs from my land, while Hortensius must needs
maintain a fleet of fishermen to keep him supplied with small fry to
feed to his fish, or, when the sea runs high and such deep sea forage
is cut off by a storm, and it is not possible even to draw live bait
ashore in a net, he is fain to buy in the market for the delectation
of the denizens of his ponds the very salt fish which is the food of
the people."

"Doubtless," said I, "Hortensius would prefer to have you take the
carriage mules out of his stable than one of his barbel mules from the
fish pond."

"Yes, indeed," agreed Axius, "and he would rather have a sick slave
drink cold water than that his beloved fish should be risked in that
which is fresh. On the other hand, M. Lucullus was reputed to be so
careless and neglectful of his fish ponds that he did not provide any
suitable quarters for his fishes in hot weather, but permitted them to
remain in ponds which were unhealthy with stagnant water: a practice
very different from that of his brother L. Lucullus, who yielded
nothing to Neptune himself in his care of his fishes, for he pierced
a mountain at Naples, and so contrived that the sea water in his fish
ponds should be renewed by the action of the tides. Furthermore, he
has arranged that his beloved fishes may be driven into a cool place
during the heat of the day, just as the Apulian shepherds do when they
drive their flocks along the drift ways to the Sabine mountains: for
so great was his ardour for the welfare of his fishes that he gave a
commission to his architect to drive at his sole cost a tunnel from
his fish ponds at Raise to the sea, and by throwing out a mole
contrived that the tide should flow in and out of his fish ponds twice
a day, from moon to moon, and so cool them off."

At this moment, while we were talking, there was a sound of foot steps
on the right and our candidate came into the _villa publica_ arrayed
in the broad purple of his new rank as an aedile. We went to meet him
and, after congratulations, escorted him to the Capitol, whence he
departed for his home and we to ours.

So there, my dear Pinnius, is the brief record of our discourse on the
husbandry of the steading.


[Footnote 1: "The manner in which the ancients managed their fallow
is certainly most worthy of our attention: their care in ploughing,
according to the situation of the land, and nature of the climate, and
their manner of adapting the kind of ploughing to answer the purposes
intended by the operation, are also most worthy of our imitation.
Their exactness in these things exceeds any thing of the kind found
amongst the moderns, and is even beyond what any practical writer on
agriculture has proposed. This is an evidence that tillage is not even
in this age brought to that perfection of which it is capable: and
that, notwithstanding all the improvements lately introduced, we may
yet receive some instruction from a proper attention to the precepts
and practices of the ancients. I am desirous to add that this
attention may be useful by preventing improvers from running into
every specious scheme of agriculture produced by a lively imagination
and engaging them to study the great variety of soils and even
climates in this island, and to be careful in adapting to these their
several operations." Dickson _Husbandry of the Ancients_, XXIII.

The Rev. Andrew Dickson, who died in 1776, was minister of Aberlady in
the county of East Lothian, the son of a progressive and successful
Scots farmer, and had experience in practical agriculture, as well as
in scholarship, as his book shows.]

[Footnote 2: The compilation of rural lore, known as the _Geoponica_,
which exists in Greek, was made at Byzantium for the Emperor
Constantine VII about the middle of the tenth century A.D. It is very
largely a paraphrase of the Roman authors, and is useful principally
in elucidating their textual difficulties.]

[Footnote 3: Donald G. Mitchell made an interesting collation, in his
_Wet Days at Edgewood_, of the large number of books on agriculture
which have been written in old age and by men of affairs, in many
lands and many languages.]

[Footnote 4: It is interesting to record, however, that Varro received
the _Navalis Corona_ for personal gallantry in the war against the
pirates. This distinction was even more rare than our modern Medal of
Honor or Victoria Cross, and was awarded only to a commander who leapt
under arms on the deck of an enemies' ship and then succeeded in
capturing her.]

[Footnote 5: Caesar did not live to accomplish this, but some years
after his death a public library was established at Rome by Asinius
Pollio, which Pliny says (H.N. VII, 31) was the first ever built,
those at Alexandria and Pergamus having been private institutions of
the kings.

In a land where public libraries have been every where founded out
of the accumulations of Big Business, it is interesting to note that
Pollio derived the funds with which this the first of their kind was
endowed, from the plunder of the Illyrians!]

[Footnote 6: Cf. Sellar, _Roman Poets of the Augustan Age_. Virgil Ch.
V. Boissier, _Etudes sur M.T. Varron_, Ch. IX. Servius _Comm. in Verg.
Georg_. I, 43.

It does not appear that many of the commentators on Virgil have
taken the trouble to study Varro thoroughly. They are usually better
scholars than farmers.]

[Footnote 7: It is not remarkable that Virgil failed to make
acknowledgment to Varro in the _Georgics_ when he failed to make
acknowledgment to Homer in the _Aeneid_. See Petrarch's _Epistle to
Homer_ for a loyal but vain attempt to justify this neglect.]

[Footnote 8: _Cf_. W.H. Myers' _Classical Essays_, p. 110: "For in the
face of some German criticism it is necessary to repeat that in order
to judge poetry it is, before all things, necessary to enjoy it. We
may all desire that historical and philological science should push
her dominion into every recess of human action and human speech, but
we must utter some protest when the very heights of Parnassus are
invaded by a spirit which surely is not science, but her unmeaning
shadow; a spirit which would degrade every masterpiece of human genius
into the mere pabulum of hungry professors, and which values a poet's
text only as a field for the rivalries of sterile pedantry and
arbitrary conjecture."]

[Footnote 9: It was perhaps this encomium upon the farmer at the
expense of the banker which inspired Horace's friend Alfius to
withdraw his capital from his banking business and dream a delicious
idyl of a simple carefree country life: but, it will be recalled
(Epode II, the famous "Beatus ille qui procul negotiis") that Alfius,
like many a modern amateur farmer, recruited from town, soon repented
that he had ever listened to the alluring call of "back to the land"
and after a few weeks of disillusion in the country, returned to town
and sought to get his money out again at usury.

Columella (I, praef.) is not content with Cato's contrast of the
virtue of the farmer with the iniquity of the banker, but he brings
in the lawyer's profession for animadversion also. This, he says, the
ancient Romans used to term a canine profession, because it consisted
in barking at the rich.]

[Footnote 10: The Roman numerals at the beginning of the paragraphs
indicate the chapters of Cato from which they are translated. If
Cato had not pretended to despise every thing which smacked of Greek
literary art he might have edited and arranged his material, in which
event his book would have been easier to read than it is, and no less
valuable. Modern scholarship would not now venture to perform such an
office for such a result, because it involves tampering with a text
(as who should say, shooting a fox!) and yet modern scholarship
wonders at the decay of classical studies in an impatient age. At the
risk of anathema the present version has attempted to group Cato's
material, and in so doing has omitted most of those portions which are
now of merely curious interest.]

[Footnote 11: This, of course, means buying at a high price, except
in extraordinary cases. There is another system of agriculture which
admits of the pride of making two blades of grass grow where none was
before, and the profit which comes of buying cheap and selling dear.
This is farming for improvement, an art which was well described two
hundred years before Cato. Xenophon (_Economicus_ XX, 22) says:

"For those who are able to attend to their affairs, however, and
who will apply themselves to agriculture earnestly, my lather both
practised himself and taught me a most successful method of making
profit; for he would never allow me to buy ground already cultivated,
but exhorted me to purchase such as from want of care or want of means
in those who had possessed it, was left untilled and unplanted. He
used to say that well cultivated land cost a great sum of money and
admitted of no improvement, and he considered that land which is
unsusceptible of improvement did not give the same pleasure to the
owner as other land, but he thought that whatever a person had or
bought up that was continually growing better afforded him the highest

[Footnote 12: Every rural community in the Eastern part of the United
States has grown familiar with the contrast between the intelligent
amateur, who, while endeavoring earnestly to set an example of good
agriculture, fails to make expenses out of his land, and the born
farmer who is self-supporting in the practice of methods contemned
by the agricultural colleges. Too often the conclusion is drawn that
scientific agriculture will not pay; but Cato puts his finger on the
true reason. The man who does not depend on his land for his living
too often permits his farm to get what Cato calls the "spending
habit." Pliny (_H.N._ XVIII, 7) makes some pertinent observations on
the subject:

"I may possibly appear guilty of some degree of rashness in making
mention of a maxim of the ancients which will very probably be looked
upon as quite incredible, 'that nothing is so disadvantageous as to
cultivate land in the highest style of perfection.'"

And he illustrates by the example of a Roman gentleman, who, like
Arthur Young in eighteenth century England, wasted a large fortune in
an attempt to bring his lands to perfect cultivation. "To cultivate
land well is absolutely necessary," Pliny continues, "but to cultivate
it in the very highest style is mere extravagance, unless, indeed, the
work is done by the hands of a man's own family, his tenants, or those
whom he is obliged to keep at any rate."]

[Footnote 13: In this practice has been the delight of men of affairs
of all ages who turn to agriculture for relaxation. Horace cites it
with telling effect in the ode (III, 5) in which he describes the
noble serenity of mind with which Regulus returned to the torture
and certain death which awaited him at Carthage: and Homer makes an
enduring picture of it in the person of the King supervising his
fall ploughing, which Hephsestus wrought upon the shield of Achilles
(_Iliad_, XVIII, 540). "Furthermore, he set in the shield a soft fresh
ploughed field, rich tilth and wide, the third time ploughed, and many
ploughers therein drove their yokes to and fro as they wheeled about.
Whensoever they came to the boundary of the field and turned, then
would a man come to each and give into his hands a goblet of sweet
wine: while others would be turning back along the furrows, fain to
reach the boundary of the deep tilth, ... and among them the King was
standing in silence, with his staff, rejoicing in his heart."]

[Footnote 14: This advice to sell the worn out oxen and the sick slaves
justly excited Plutarch's generous scorn, and has been made the text
of a sweeping denunciation by Mommsen of the practice of husbandry by
men of affairs in Cato's time. "The whole system," says Mommsen, "was
pervaded by the utterly unscrupulous spirit characteristic of
the power of capital." And he adds, "If we have risen to that
little-to-be-envied elevation of thought which values no feature of
an economy save the capital invested in it, we cannot deny to the
management of the Roman estates the praise of consistency, energy,
punctuality, frugality and solidity." Without any desire to defend
Cato, one may suggest, out of an experience in a kind of farm
management not very different from that Cato pictures, that it is
doubtful whether even Cato himself was quite as economical and
efficient, and so as capitalistic in his farming, as he advises others
to be: certainly a whole race of contemporary country gentlemen was
not equal to it. It is much easier to write about business-like
farming than to practise it.]

[Footnote 15: Hesiod (W. & D. 338) had already given this same advice
to the Greek farmer:

"Invite the man that loves thee to a feast, but let alone thine enemy,
and especially invite him that dwelleth near thee, for if, mark you,
any thing untoward shall have happened at home neighbours are wont to
come ungirt, but kinsfolk gird themselves first." This agreement of
the Socialist Hesiod with the Capitalist Cato is remarkable only as
it illustrates that both systems when wisely expounded rest on human
nature. That upon which they here agree is the foundation of the
modern European societies for rural co-operative credit which
President Taft recommended to the American people. These societies,
says the bulletin of the International Institute of Agriculture
published at Rome in 1912, rest on three chief safeguards:

(a) That membership is confined to persons residing within a small
district, and, therefore, the members are personally known to one

(b) That the members, being mutually responsible, it will be to the
interest of all members to keep an eye upon a borrower and to see that
he makes proper use of the money lent to him;

(c) That in like manner, it is to the interest of all members to help
a member when he is in difficulties.]

[Footnote 16: This was an estate of average size, probably within
Virgil's precept, (_Georgic_ II, 412). "Laudato ingentia rura, exiguum
colito." Some scholars have deemed this phrase a quotation from Cato,
but it is more likely derived from Mago the Carthaginian who is
reported to have said: "Imbecilliorem agrum quam agricolam, esse
debere,"--the farmer should be bigger than his farm.]

[Footnote 17: The philosophy of Cato's plan, of laying out a farm is
found in the agricultural history of the Romans down to the time of
the Punic wars. Mommsen (II, 370) gives the facts, and Ferrero in his
first volume makes brilliant use of them. There is sketched the old
peasant aristocrat living on his few acres, his decay and the
creation of comparatively large estates worked by slaves in charge of
overseers, which followed the conquest of the Italian states about
B.C. 300. This was the civilization in which Cato had been reared,
but in his time another important change was taking place. The Roman
frontier was again widened by the conquest of the Mediterranean basin:
the acquisition of Sicily and Sardinia ended breadstuff farming as the
staple on the Italian peninsular. The competition of the broad and
fertile acres of those great Islands had the effect in Italy which the
cultivation of the Dakota wheat lands had upon the grain farming of
New York and Virginia. About 150 B.C. the vine and the olive became
the staples of Italy and corn was superseded. Although this was not
accomplished until after Cato's death, he foresaw it, and recommended
that a farm be laid out accordingly, and his scheme of putting one's
reliance upon the vine and the olive was doubtless very advanced
doctrine, when it first found expression.]

[Footnote 18: Pliny quotes Cato as advising to buy what others have
built rather than build oneself, and thus, as he says, enjoy the
fruits of another's folly. The _cacoethes aedificandi_ is a familiar
disease among country gentlemen.]

[Footnote 19: Columella (I,4) makes the acute observation that the
country house should also be agreeable to the owner's wife if he
wishes to get the full measure of enjoyment out of it. Mago, the
Carthaginian, advised to, "if you buy a farm, sell your house in town,
lest you be tempted to prefer the cultivation of the urban gods to
those of the country."]

[Footnote 20: According to German scholarship the accepted text of
Cato's version of this immemorial epigram is a model of the brevity
which is the test of wit, "Frons occipitio prior est." Pliny probably
quoting from memory, expands it to "Frons domini plus prodest quam
occipitium." Palladius (I, 6) gives another version: "Praesentia
domini provectus est agri." It is found in some form in almost every
book on agriculture since Cato, until we reach the literature in which
science has taken the place of wisdom--in the Byzantine _Geoponica_,
the Italian _Crescenzi_, the Dutch _Heresbach_, the French _Maison
Rustique_, and the English _Gervase Markkam. Poor Richard's Almanack_
gives it twice, as "the foot of a master is the best manure" and
"the eye of a master will do more work than both his hands." It is
perennial in its appeal. The present editor saw it recently in the
German comic paper _Fliegende Blaetter_. But the jest is much older
than Cato. It appears in Aeschylus, _Persae_, 171 and Xenophon employs
it in _Oeconomicus_ (XII, 20):

"The reply attributed to the barbarian," added Ischomachus, "appears
to me to be exceedingly to the purpose, for when the King of Persia
having met with a fine horse and wishing to have it fattened as soon
as possible, asked one of those who were considered knowing about
horses what would fatten a horse soonest, it is said that he answered
'the master's eye.'"]

[Footnote 21: The English word "orchard" scarcely translates
_arbustum_, but every one who has been in Italy will recall the
endless procession of small fields of maize and rye and alfalfa
through which serried ranks of mulberry or feathery elm trees, linked
with the charming drop and garland of the vines, seem to dance toward
one in the brilliant sunlight, like so many Greek maidens on a frieze.
These are _arbusta_.]

[Footnote 22: Cato was a strong advocate of the cabbage; he called
it the best of the vegetables and urged that it be planted in every
garden for health and happiness. Horace records (Odes. III, 21, 11)
that old Cato's virtue was frequently warmed with wine, and Cato
himself explains (CLVI) how this could be accomplished without loss
of dignity, for, he says, if, after you have dined well, you will eat
five cabbage leaves they will make you feel as if you had had nothing
to drink, so that you can drink as much more as you wish--"bibesque
quantum voles!"

This was an ancient Egyptian precaution which the Greeks had learned.
Cf. Athenaeus, I, 62.]

[Footnote 23: Henry Home, Lord Kames, a Scots judge of the eighteenth
century, whom Dr. Johnson considered a better farmer than judge and a
better judge than scholar, but who had many of the characteristics of
our _priscus_ Cato, argues (following an English tradition which
had previously been voiced by Walter of Henley and Sir Anthony
Fitzherbert) in his ingenious _Gentleman Farmer_ against the expense
of ploughing with horses and urges a return to oxen. He points out
that horses involve a large original investment, are worn out in farm
work, and after their prime steadily depreciate in value; while, on
the other hand, the ox can be fattened for market when his usefulness
as a draught animal is over, and then sell for more than his original
cost; that he is less subject to infirmities than the horse; can
be fed per tractive unit more economically and gives more valuable
manure. These are strong arguments where the cost of human labour is
small and economical farm management does not require that the time of
the ploughman shall be limited if the unit cost of ploughing is to be
reasonable. The ox is slow, but in slave times he might reasonably
have been preferred to the horse. Today Lord Kames, (or even old
Hesiod, who urged that a ploughman of forty year and a yoke of eight
year steers be employed because they turned a more deliberate and so a
better furrow) would be considering the economical practicability of
the gasolene motor as tractive power for a gang of "crooked" ploughs.]

[Footnote 24: Cato adds a long list of implements and other necessary

[Footnote 25: The Roman overseer was usually a superior, and often a
much indulged, slave. Cf. Horace's letter (_Epist._ I, 14) to his

[Footnote 26: This was the traditional wisdom which was preached also
in Virginia in slave times. In his Arator (1817) Col. John Taylor of
Caroline says of agricultural slaves:

"The best source for securing their happiness, their honesty and
their usefulness is their food.... One great value of establishing a
comfortable diet for slaves is its convenience as an instrument of
reward and punishment, so powerful as almost to abolish the thefts
which often diminish considerably the owner's ability to provide for

[Footnote 27: Reading "compitalibus in compito," literally "the cross
roads altar on festival days."]

[Footnote 28: It is evident that Cato's housekeeper would have welcomed
a visit from Mr. Roosevelt's Rural Uplift Commission. We may add to
this Sir Anthony Fitzherbert's description of the duties of a farmer's
wife in sixteenth century England:

"It is a wyues occupation to wynowe all maner of cornes, to make
malte, to wasshe and wrynge, to make heye, shere corne, and in tyme of
nede to helpe her husbande to fyll the mucke-wayne or dounge-carte,
dryue the ploughe, to loode hey, corne and suche other. And to go
or ride to the market, to sel butter, chese, mylke, egges, chekyns,
capons, hennes, pygges, gese, and all maner of cornes. And also to bye
all maner of necessarye thynges belongynge to houssholde, and to make
a trewe rekenynge and acompte to her husbande what she hath payed."

Sir Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538) was the English judge whose
law books are, or should be, known to all lawyers. His _Boke of
Husbandry_, published in 1534, is one of the classics of English
agriculture, and justly, for it is full of shrewd observation and
deliberate wisdom expressed in a virile style, with agreeable leaven
of piety and humour. Fitzherbert anticipated a modern poet, Henley, in
one of his most happy phrases: "Ryght so euery man is capitayne of his
owne soule". The Husbandry is best available to the modern reader in
the edition by Skeat published for the English Dialect Society in

[Footnote 29: Cato is careful not to undertake to say how this may be
assured; another evidence of his wisdom.]

[Footnote 30: In his instructive discourse on ploughing, Columella (II,
4) gives the key to Cato's warning against ploughing land when it is
in the condition he calls rotten (_cariosa_):

"Rich land, which holds moisture a long time, should be broken up
(_proscindere_) at the season when the weather is beginning to be warm
and the weeds are developing, so that none of their seed may mature:
but it should be ploughed with such close furrows that one can with
difficulty distinguish where the plough share has been, for in that
way all the weeds are uprooted and destroyed.

"The spring ploughing should be followed up with frequent stirring
of the soil until it is reduced to dust, so that there may be no
necessity, or very little, of harrowing after the land is seeded: for
the ancient Romans said that a field was badly ploughed which had to
be harrowed after the seed had been sown.

"A farmer should himself make sure that his ploughing has been well
done, not alone by inspection, for the eye is often amused by a smooth
surface which in fact conceals clods, but also by experiment, which is
less likely to be deceived, as by driving a stout stick through the
furrows: if it penetrates the soil readily and without obstruction, it
will be evident that all the land there about is in good order: but if
some part harder than the rest resists the pressure, it will be clear
that the ploughing has been badly done. When the ploughmen see this
done from time to time they are not guilty of clod hopping.

"Hence wet land should be broken up after the Ides of April, and, when
it has been ploughed at that season, it should be worked again, after
an interval of twenty days, about the time of the solstice, which is
the eighth or ninth day before the Kalends of July, and again the
third time about the Kalends of September, for it is not the practice
of experienced farmers to till the land in the interval after the
summer solstice, unless the ground shall have been soaked with a heavy
down-pour of sudden rain, like those of winter, as does some times
happen at this season. In that event there is no reason why the fallow
should not be cultivated during the month of July. But when you do
till at this season beware lest the land be worked while it is muddy:
or when, having been sprinkled by a shower, it is in the condition
which the country people call _varia_ and _cariosa_, that is to say,
when, after a long drought, a light rain has moistened the surface of
the upturned sod but has not soaked to the bottom of the furrow.

"Those plough lands which are cultivated when they are miry are
rendered useless for an entire year--they can be neither seeded nor
harrowed nor hoed--but those which are worked when they are in the
state which has been described as varia, remain sterile for three
years on end. We should, therefore, follow a medium course and plough
when the land neither lacks moisture nor yet is deep in marsh."]

[Footnote 31: Columella (II, 13) justly says about manure, "Wherefore
if it is, as it would seem to be, the thing of the greatest value to
the farmer, I consider that it should be studied with the greatest
care, especially since the ancient authors, while they have not
altogether neglected it, have nevertheless discussed it with too
little elaboration." He goes on (II, 14) to lay down rules about the
compost heap which should be written in letters of gold in every farm

"I appreciate that there are certain kinds of farms on which it is
impossible to keep either live stock or birds, yet even in such places
it is a lazy farmer who lacks manure: for he can collect leaves,
rubbish from the hedge rows, and droppings from the high ways: without
giving offence, and indeed earning gratitude, he can cut ferns from
his neighbour's land: and all these things he can mingle with the
sweepings of the courtyard: he can dig a pit, like that we have
counselled for the protection of stable manure, and there mix together
ashes, sewage, and straw, and indeed every waste thing which is swept
up on the place. But it is wise to bury a piece of oak wood in the
midst of this compost, for that will prevent venomous snakes from
lurking in it. This will suffice for a farm without live stock."

One can see in Flanders today the happy land smiling its appreciation
of farm management such as this, but what American farmer has yet
learned this kind of conservation of his natural resources.]

[Footnote 32: The occupants of the motor cars which now roll so swiftly
and so comfortably along the French national highway from Paris to
Tours, through the pleasant _pays de Beauce_, can see this admirable
and economical method of manuring still in practice. The sheep are
folded and fed at night, under the watchful eye of the shepherd
stretched at ease in his wheeled cabin, on the land which was ploughed
the day before.]

[Footnote 33: These of course are all legumes. The intelligent farmer
today sits under his shade tree and meditates comfortably upon the
least expensive and most profitable labour on his farm, the countless
millions of beneficent bacteria who, his willing slaves, are
ceaselessly at work during hot weather forming root tubercles on his
legumes, be it clover or cow peas, and so fixing for their lord the
free atmospheric nitrogen contained in the soil. As Macaulay would
say, "every school boy knows" now that leguminous root nodules are
endotrophic mycorrhiza,--but the Romans did not! Nevertheless their
empirical practice of soil improvement with legumes was quite as good
as ours. Varro (I, 23) explains the Roman method of green manuring
more fully than Cato. Columella (II, 13) insists further that if the
hay is saved the stubble of legumes should be promptly ploughed for he
says the roots will evaporate their own moisture and continue to pump
the land of its fertility unless they are at once turned over.

If the Romans followed this wise advice they were better farmers than
most of us today, for we are usually content to let the stubble dry
out before ploughing.]

[Footnote 34: Was this ensilage? The ancients had their silo pits, but
they used them chiefly as granaries, and as such they are described,
by Varro (I, 57, 63), by Columella (I, 6), and by Pliny (XVIII, 30,

[Footnote 35: The extravagant American farmer has not yet learned
to feed the leaves of trees, but in older and more economical
civilizations the practice is still observed.]

[Footnote 36: Amurca was the dregs of olive oil. Cato recommends its
use for many purposes in the economy of the farm, for a moth proof
(XCVIII), as a relish for cattle (CIII), as a fertilizer (CXXX), and
as an anointment for the threshing floor to kill weevil (XCI).]

[Footnote 37: There is a similar remedy for scratches in horses, which
is traditional in the cavalry service today, and is extraordinarily

[Footnote 38: Cf. Pliny _H.N._ XVII, 267 and Fraser, _The Golden
Bough_, XI, 177. The principle is one of magical homeopathy: as the
split reed, when bound together, may cohere and heal by the medicine
of the incantation, so may the broken bone.]

[Footnote 39: These examples will serve to illustrate how far Cato's
veterinary science was behind his agriculture, and what a curious
confusion of native good sense and traditional superstition there was
in his method of caring for his live stock. On questions of preventing
malady he had the wisdom of experience, but malady once arrived he was
a simple pagan. There was a notable advance in the Roman knowledge of
how to treat sick cattle in the century after Cato. Cf. Varro, II, 5.

The words of the incantations themselves are mere sound and fury
signifying nothing, like the "counting out" rhythms used by children
at their games.]

[Footnote 40: Cato gives many recipes of household as well as
agricultural economy. Out of respect for the pure food law most of
them have been here suppressed, but these samples are ventured because
Varro mentions them and the editor is advised that some enterprising
young ladies in Wisconsin have recently had the courage to put them to
the test, and vow that they ate their handiwork! As they live to tell
the tale, it is assumed that the recipes are harmless.]

[Footnote 41: Cf. the following traditional formula as practised in


"Rub each ham separately with 1/2 teaspoonful of saltpetre (use a small
spoon); then rub each ham with a large tablespoonfulof best black
pepper; then rub each ham with a gill of molasses (black strap is

Then for 1,000 lbs. of ham take
3-1/4 pecks of coarse salt,
2-1/2 lbs. of saltpetre,
2 qts. hickory ashes,
2 qts. molasses,
2 teacupfuls of red pepper.

"Mix all together on the salting table. Then rub each ham with this
mixture, and, in packing, spread some of it on each layer of ham. Use
no more salt than has been mixed. Pack skin down and let stand for
five weeks, then hang in the smoke house for five or six weeks, and
smoke in damp weather, using hickory wood.

"As a ham, however well cured, is of no use to civilized man until it
is cooked, and as this crowning mystery is seldom revealed out of
Virginia, it may not be out of place to record here the process."


Soak over night in cold water, having first scrubbed the ham with a
small brush to remove all the pepper, saltpetre, etc., left from the
curing process.

Put on to boil next morning in tepid water, skin downwards, letting
it simmer on back of stove, never to boil hard. This takes about four
hours (or until it is done, when the ham is supposed to turn over,
skin upwards, of its own accord, as it will if the boiler is large
enough). Set aside over another night in the water it has boiled in.

The _following_ day, skin and bake in the oven, having covered the ham
well with brown sugar, basting at intervals with cider. When it is
well baked, take it out of the oven and baste another ten to twenty
minutes in the pan on top of the stove. The sugar crust should be
quite brown and crisp when done.

To be thoroughly appreciated a ham should be carved on the table, by a
pretty woman. A thick slice of ham is a crime against good breeding.]

[Footnote 42: It is interesting that Varro has realized the hope,
here expressed, that his wisdom might survive for the benefit of the
"uttermost generations of men" chiefly in the case of this treatise
on Husbandry among the many monuments of his industry and learning.
Petrarch in his _Epistle to Varro_ in that first delightful book of
Letters to Dead Authors (_de rebus familiaribus_ XXIV, 6) rehearses
the loss of Varro's books and, adapting the thought here expressed in
the text, regrets for that reason that Varro cannot be included in
that company of men "whom we love even after their death owing to
the good and righteous deeds that live after them, men who mold our
character by their teaching and comfort us by their example, when
the rest of mankind offends both our eyes and our nostrils; men who,
though they have gone hence to the common abode of all (as Plautus
says in Casina), nevertheless continue to be of service to the
living." If Petrarch had been a farmer he might have saved some of his
regret, for Varro is surely, by virtue of the _Rerum Rusticarum_, a
member of the fellowship Petrarch describes.]

[Footnote 43: Varro was essentially an antiquary and it is amusing
to observe that he is unable to suppress his learning even in his
prayers. One is reminded of the anecdote of the New England minister,
who, in the course of an unctuous prayer, proclaimed, with magisterial
authority, "Paradoxical as it may appear, O Lord, it is nevertheless
true, etc."]

[Footnote 44: Following Plato and Xenophon and Cicero, Varro cast his
books into the form of dialogues to make them entertaining ("and what
is the use of a book," thought Alice in Wonderland, "without pictures
or conversations."): for the same reason he was careful about his
local colour. Thus the scene of this first book, which relates to
agriculture proper, is laid at Rome in the temple of Earth on the
festival of the Seed Sowing, and the characters bear names of punning
reference to the tilling of the soil. Varro was strong on puns,
avowing (Cicero _Acad_. I, 2) that that form of humour made it easier
for people of small intelligence to swallow his learning.]

[Footnote 45: The story is that when Scipio captured Carthage he
distributed the Punic libraries among the native allies, reserving
only the agricultural works of Mago, which the Roman Senate
subsequently ordered to be translated into Latin, so highly were they
esteemed. Probably more real wealth was brought to Rome in the pages
of these precious volumes than was represented by all the other
plunder of Carthage. "The improving a kingdom in matter of husbandry
is better than conquering a new kingdom," says old Samuel Hartlib,
Milton's friend, in his _Legacie_. It is a curious fact that as the
Romans derived agricultural wisdom from their ancient enemies, so did
the English. Cf. Thorold Rogers' _Six Centuries of Work and Wages_.
"We owe the improvements in English agriculture to Holland. From this
country we borrowed, at the beginning of the seventeenth century,
the cultivation of winter roots, and, at that of the eighteenth, the
artificial grasses. The Dutch had practised agriculture with the
patient and minute industry of market gardeners. They had tried
successfully to cultivate every thing to the uttermost, which could be
used for human food, or could give innocent gratification to a refined
taste. They taught agriculture and they taught gardening. They were
the first people to surround their homesteads with flower beds, with
groves, with trim parterres, with the finest turf, to improve fruit
trees, to seek out and perfect edible roots and herbs at once for man
and cattle. We owe to the Dutch that scurvy and leprosy have been
banished from England, that continuous crops have taken the place of
barren fallows, that the true rotation of crops has been discovered
and perfected, that the population of these islands has been increased
and that the cattle and sheep in England are ten times what they were
in numbers and three times what they were in size and quality."]

[Footnote 46: The Roman proverb which Agrius had in mind reminds one of
the witty French woman's comment upon the achievement of St. Denis in
walking several miles to Montmartre, after his head had been cut off,
(as all the world can still see him doing in the verrieres of Notre
Dame de Chartres): "en pareil cas, ce n'est que le premier pas qui

[Footnote 47: To this glowing description of agricultural Italy in
the Augustan age may be annexed that of Machiavelli on the state of
Tuscany in his youth: "Ridotta tutta in somma pace e tranquillita,
coltivata non meno ne' luoghi piu montuosi e piu sterili che nelle
pianure e regioni piu fertili...." It is our privilege to see the
image of this fruitful cultivation of the mountain tops not only in
Machiavelli's prose, but on the walls of the Palazzo Riccardi in
Gozzoli's _Journey of the Magi_, where, like King Robert of Sicily,
the Magi crossed

"Into the lovely land of Italy
Whose loveliness was more resplendent made
By the mere passing of that cavalcade."

It seems almost a pity to contrast with these the comment of a careful
and sympathetic student of the agricultural Italy of the age of
King Umberto: "To return to the question of the natural richness of
agricultural Italy," says Dr. W.N. Beauclerk in his _Rural Italy_
(1888), "we may compare the words of the German ballad: 'In Italy
macaroni ready cooked rains from the sky, and the vines are festooned
with sausages,' with the words today rife throughout the Kingdom,
'Rural Italy is poor and miserable, and has no future in store for
her.' The fact is that Italy is rich in capabilities of production,
but exhausted in spontaneous fertility. Her vast forests have been cut
down, giving place to sterile and malarious ground: the plains and
shores formerly covered with wealthy and populous cities are now
deserted marshes: Sardinia and other ancient granaries of the Roman
Empire are empty and unproductive: two-thirds of the Kingdom are
occupied by mountains impossible of cultivation, and the remainder is
to a large extent ill-farmed and unremunerative. To call Italy the
'Garden of Europe' under these circumstances seems cruel irony."]

[Footnote 48: As we may assume that the yields of wine of which
Fundanius boasts were the largest of which Varro had information in
the Italy of his time, it is interesting to compare them with the
largest yields of the most productive wine country of France today.
Fifteen cullei, or three hundred amphorae per jugerum, is the
equivalent of 2700 gallons per acre: while according to P. Joigneaux,
in the _Livre de la Ferme_, the largest yields in modern France are
in the Midi (specifically Herault), where in exceptional cases they
amount to as much as 250 hectolitres to the hectare, or say 2672
gallons per acre. It may be noted that the yields of the best modern
wines, like Burgundy, are less than half of this, and it is probable
that the same was true of the _vinum Setinum_ of Augustus, if not of
the Horatian Massic.]

[Footnote 49: The modern Italian opinion of farming in a fertile but
unhealthy situation is expressed with a grim humour in the Tuscan
proverb: "in Maremma s'arricchisce in un anno, si muore in sei mesi."]

[Footnote 50: This is Keil's ingenious interpretation of an obscure
passage. We may compare the English designation of a church yard as
"God's acre." What Licinius Crassus actually did was, while haranguing
from the rostra, to turn his back upon the Comitium, where the
Senators gathered, and address himself directly to the people
assembled in the Forum. The act was significant as indicating that the
sovereignty had changed place.]

[Footnote 51: Tremelius Scrofa was the author of a treatise on
agriculture, which Columella cites, but which has not otherwise

[Footnote 52: "It was a received opinion amongst the antients that a
large, busy, well peopled village, situated in a country thoroughly
cultivated, was a more magnificent sight than the palaces of noblemen
and princes in the midst of neglected lands." Harte's _Essays on
Husbandry_, p. 11. This is a delightful book, the ripe product of a
gentleman and a scholar. In the middle of the eighteenth century it
advocated what we are still advocating--that agriculture, as the basis
of national wealth, deserves the study and attention of the highest
intelligence; specifically it proposed the introduction of new grasses
and forage crops (alfalfa above all others) to enable the land to
support more live stock. It was published in 1764, just after France
had ceded to England by the Treaty of Paris all of her possessions in
America east of the Mississippi River; and not the least interesting
passages of Harte's book are those proposing an agricultural
development of the newly acquired territory between Lake Illinois
(Michigan) and the Mississippi, which he suggests may be readily
brought under cultivation with the aid of the buffaloes of the
country. He shrewdly says: "Maize may be raised in this part of Canada
to what quantity we please, for it grows there naturally in great
abundance." It happened, however, that a few years later, in 1778,
Col. George Rogers Clark of Virginia made a certain expedition through
the wilderness to the British outpost at Vincennes, which saved
England the trouble of taking Harte's advice, but that it has not been
neglected may be evident from the fact that less than a century and
a half later, or in 1910, the State of Illinois produced 415 million
bushels of maize, besides twice as much oats and half as much wheat as
did old England herself in the same year of grace.

Harte was the travelling governor of that young Mr. Stanhope, to whom
my lord Chesterfield wrote his famous worldly wise letters. He was the
author also of a _Life of Gustavus Adolphus_, which was a failure. Dr.
Johnson, who liked Harte, said: "It was unlucky in coming out on the
same day with Robertson's _History of Scotland_. His _Husbandry_,
however, is good." (_Boswell_, IV, 91). With this judgment of Dr.
Johnson there has been, and must be, general concurrence.]

[Footnote 53: Pliny records (H.N. XVIII, 7) that at Lucullus' farm
there was less ground for ploughing than of floor for sweeping.]

[Footnote 54: Eggs were the first course, as apples were the last, at a
Roman dinner, hence the saying "ab ovo usque ad mala."]

[Footnote 55: Cf. Gilbert Murray's version of Euripides' _Troades_,

In Salamis, filled with the foaming
Of billows and murmur of bees,
Old Telamon stayed from his roaming,
Long ago, on a throne of the seas;
Looking out on the hills olive laden,
Enchanted, where first from the earth.
The gray-gleaming fruit of the Maiden
Athena had birth.

The physical reason why the olive flourished in Attica, as
Theophrastus points out (C.P.V. II, 2), was because it craves a thin
soil, and that of Attica, with its out-croppings of calcareous rock,
suits the olive perfectly, while fit for little else agricultural.]

[Footnote 56: In the _Geoponica_ (XIII, 15) there has been preserved a
remedy for a similar evil, which, in all fairness, should be credited
to Saserna. In any event, it is what the newspapers used to call
"important, if true," viz: "If ever you come into a place where fleas
abound, cry Och! Och! ([Greek: och, och]) and they will not touch

[Footnote 57: The editor of an Iowa farm journal, who has been making
a study of agricultural Europe, has recently reported an interesting
comparison between the results of extensive farming as practised in
Iowa and intensive farming as practised in Bavaria. He begins with
the thesis that the object of agriculture is to put the energy of the
sun's rays into forms which animals and human beings can use, and,
reducing the crop production of each country to thermal units, he
finds "that for every man, woman and child connected with farming in
Iowa 14,200 therms of sun's energy were imprisoned, while for every
man, woman and child connected with farming in Bavaria only 2,600
therms were stored up. In other words, the average Iowa farmer is six
times as successful in his efforts to capture the power of the sun's
rays as the average Bavarian farmer. On the other hand, the average
acre of Iowa land is only about one-seventh as successful as the
average acre of Bavarian land in supporting those who live on it. If
we look on land as the unit, then the Bavarians get better results
than we in Iowa, but if we look on human labor as the unit, then the
Iowa farmers are far ahead of those of Bavaria."

It may be remarked that if the Iowa farmer, who gets his results by
the use of machinery, was to adopt also the intensive practice of the
Bavarian farmer, he would secure at once the greatest efficiency per
acre and per man, and that is the true purpose of agriculture.]

[Footnote 58: It is one of the charms of Varro's treatise that he
always insists cheerfully on the pleasure to be derived from the land.
It is the same spirit which Conington has remarked cropping out in
many places in Virgil's _Georgics_--the joy of the husbandman in his
work, as in the "iuvat" of

"iuvat Ismara Baccho
Conserere, atque olea magnum vestire Taburnum."

This is the blessed "surcease of sorrow" of which the crowded life of
the modern city knows nothing: but, as the practical Roman indicates,
it will not support life of its own mere motion. Cf. Dr. Johnson's
picture of Shenstone: "He began from this time to entangle his walks
and to wind his waters: which he did with such judgment and such fancy
as made his little domain the envy of the great and the admiration of
the skillful. His house was mean, and he did not improve it: his care
was of his grounds.... In time his expences brought clamours about
him, that overpowered the lambs' bleat and the linnets' song; and his
groves were haunted by beings very different from fawns and fairies."]

[Footnote 59: Walter of Henley, in thirteenth century England, drove
home a shrewd comment on the country gentleman who farms without
keeping accounts and thinks he is engaged in a profitable industry.
"You know surely," he says, "that an acre sown with wheat takes three
ploughings, except lands which are sown yearly, and that one with
another each ploughing is worth six pence, and harrowing a penny,
and on the acre it is necessary to sow at least two bushels. Now two
bushels at Michaelmas are worth at least twelve pence, and weeding a
half penny and reaping five pence, and carrying in August a penny: the
straw will pay for the threshing. At three times your sowing you ought
to have six bushels, worth three shillings; and the cost amounts to
three shillings and three half pence, and the ground is yours and not

Of Walter of Henley little is known, but it is conjectured that he was
the bailiff of the manors near Henley which belonged to the Abbey of
Canterbury. His curious and valuable _Dite de Hosebondrie_, which is
as original in its way as Cato's treatise, being entirely free from
mere literary tradition, is now available to the modern reader in
a translation, from the original barbarous English law French, by
Elizabeth Lamond, made for the Royal Historical Society in 1890.]

[Footnote 60: This was just before Pharsalia, and the army was that of
Pompey which Varro had joined after surrendering to Caesar in Spain.]

[Footnote 61: In this enumeration of trees Varro does not include the
chestnut which is now one of the features of the Italian mountain
landscape and furnishes support for a considerable part of the Italian
population, who subsist on _necci_, those indigestible chestnut flour
cakes, just as the Irish peasants do on potatoes. The chestnut was
late in getting a foothold in Italy but it was there in Varro's day.
He mentions the nuts as part of the diet of dormice (III, 15).

By the thirteenth century chestnuts had become an established article
of human food in Italy. Pietro Crescenzi (1230-1307) describes two
varieties, the cultivated and the wild, and quotes the Arabian
physician Avicenna to the effect that chestnuts are "di tarda
digestione ma di buono nuttimento." It is perhaps for this very reason
that chestnut bread is acceptable to those engaged in heavy labor.
Fynes Moryson says in his _Itinerary_ (1617) that maslin bread made
of a mixture of rye and wheat flour was used by labourers in England
because it "abode longer in the stomach and was not so soon digested
with their labour."

Crescenzi, who was a lawyer and a judge, says in his preface that he
had left his native Bologna because of the civil strifes, had taken
foreign service in several parts of Italy, and so had opportunity to
see the world. He wrote his book on agriculture because, as he says,
of all the things he learned on his travels there was nothing "piu a
bondevole, niuna piu dolce, et niuna piu degna de l'huomo libero," a
sentiment which Socrates had expressed sixteen hundred years earlier
and which was echoed six hundred years later by another far-sighted
Italian, the statesman Cavour.]

[Footnote 62: The white chalk which Scrofa saw used as manure in
Transalpine Gaul, when he was serving in the army under Julius Caesar,
was undoubtedly marl, the use of which in that region as in Britain
was subsequently noted by Pliny (H.N. XVII, 4).

There were no deposits of marl in Italy, and so the Romans knew
nothing of its use, from experience, but Pliny's treatment of the
subject shows a sound source of information. In England, where several
kinds of marl are found in quantities, its use was probably never
discontinued after the Roman times. Walter of Henley discusses its use
in the thirteenth century, and Sir Anthony Fitzherbert continues the
discussion in the sixteenth century. In connection with the history of
the use of marl in agriculture may be cited the tender tribute which
Arthur Young recorded on the tombstone of his wife in Bradfield
Church. The lady's chief virtue appears to have been, in the memory
of her husband, that she was "the great-grand-daughter of John
Allen, esq. of Lyng House in the County of Norfolk, the first person
according to the Comte de Boulainvilliers, who there used marl."

The Romans did not have the fight against sour land which is the
heritage of the modern farmer after years of continuous application
to his land of phosphoric and sulphuric acid in the form of mineral
fertilizers. What sour land the Romans had they corrected with humus
making barnyard manure, or the rich compost which Cato and Columella
recommend. They had, however, a test for sourness of land which is
still practised even where the convenient litmus paper is available.
Virgil (_Georgic_ II, 241) gives the formula: "Fill a basket with
soil, and strain fresh water through it. The taste of water strained
through sour soil will twist awry the taster's face."]

[Footnote 63: This sounds like the boast of the modern proprietor of an
old blue grass sod in Northern Virginia or Kentucky. On the general
question of pasture vs. arable land, cf. Hartlib's _Legacie_: "It is a
misfortune that pasture lands are not more improved. England abounds
in pasturage more than any other country, and is, therefore, richer.
In France, acre for acre, the land is not comparable to ours: and,
therefore, Fortescue, chancellor to Henry VI, observes that we get
more in England by standing still (alluding to our meadows) than the
French do by working (that is, cultivating their vineyards and corn

We may permit Montesquieu (_Esprit des Lois_ II, 23, 14) to voice the
French side of this question. "Les pais de paturage sont pen peuples.
Les terres a bled occupent plus d'hommes et les vignobles infiniment
d'avantage. En Angleterre on s'est souvent plaint que l'augmentation
des paturage diminuoit les habitans."

In the introduction to his Book Two (_post_, p. 179) Varro states the
sound conclusion, that the two kinds of husbandry should be combined
on the same land. Sir Anthony Fitzherbert knew this: "An housbande can
not well thryue by his corne without he haue other cattell, nor by his
cattell without corne. For els he shall be a byer, a borrower or a

[Footnote 64: This is the explanation of why Aesop's fox found the

Book of the day: