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There are two modes of human life, my dear Pinnius, which are manifestly as different in the time of their origin as they are in their habitat, that of the country and that of the town. Country life is much the more ancient, for time was when men lived altogether in the country and had no towns: indeed, the oldest town in Greece, according to the tradition, is the Boeotian Thebes, which was founded by King Ogyges, and in our own land that of Rome, founded by King Romulus of which now it may be affirmed with confidence, as was not possible when Ennius wrote:

"'Tis seven hundred years, or more or less, Since first illustrious Rome began her sway, With hallowed augury."

Now, if it is admitted that Thebes was founded before the deluge, which is known by Ogyges' name, its age is not more than about twenty-one hundred years: and if that period is compared with the lapse of time since men began to cultivate the land and to live in huts and hovels, knowing naught of city walls and gates, it is evident that life in the country preceded life in town by a tale of immemorial years. Nor is this to be wondered at since 'God made the country and man made the town.'[157] While the tradition is that all the arts were invented in Greece within a thousand years, there never was a time when the earth could not be cultivated. And, as life in the country is the more ancient, so it is the better life: for it was not without good reason that our ancestors were wont to plant colonies of citizens in the country, because by them they were both fed in times of peace and protected in times of war: nor was it without significance that they called both the Earth and Ceres by the common name of Mother and esteemed that those who worshipped her lead a life at once pious and useful and were the sole representatives left on earth of the race of Saturn. A proof of this is that the mysteries peculiar to the cult of Ceres were called Initia, the very name indicating that they related to the beginning of things.

A further proof that country life was earlier than that of town is found in the name of the town of Thebes, which was bestowed from the character of its situation rather than from the name of its founder: for in the ancient language, and among the Aeolians who had their origin in Boeotia, a small hill is called tebas without the aspirate; and in the Sabine country, where Pelasgians from Greece settled, they still have the same locution: witness that hill called Tebae which stands in the Sabine country on the via Salaria not far from the mile stone of Reate. At first agriculture was conducted on so small a scale that it had little distinction, since those who followed it, being sprung from shepherds, at once sowed their corn and pastured their flocks on the same land, but as later this art grew in importance the husbandry of live stock was separated, and it befel that some men were called farmers and others shepherds.

The art of feeding live stock should really be divided into two branches, as is not yet fully appreciated, one relating to the stock kept at the steading, the other to the stock pastured in the fields. The latter, which is designated by the name pecuaria, is well known and highly esteemed so that rich men, either lease or buy much pasture land in order to carry it on: the other, which is known as villatice, has, because it seemed to be of less importance, been treated by some as an incident of the husbandry of agriculture, when in fact it should be made a part of the husbandry of live stock: nor has it been described separately and at length by any one, so far as I know.

And so, as I think that there are three branches of farm management which are undertaken for profit, namely: agriculture, live stock and the industries peculiar to the steading, I have planned three books, of which I have already written two, the first concerning the husbandry of agriculture, which I dedicated to my wife Fundania, and the second concerning the husbandry of live stock to Turranius Niger: the third, relating to the profits of those industries which are carried on at the steading, I now send herewith to you; for the fact that we are neighbours and entertain a mutual affection seems to demand that it should be dedicated to you above all others.

Although you have a villa, which is remarkable for the beauty of its workmanship within and without, and for the splendour of its mosaic pavements, still you deem it to be bare unless you have the walls decorated also with books: so in like manner that your villa may be more distinguished by the profits you derive from it than by the character of its construction, and that I may be of assistance to that end, so far as may be, I have sent you this book, which is a summary of some conversations which we have had on the subject of what makes the perfectly equipped villa: and so I begin as follows:

Of the definition of a Roman villa

  1. The Senator Q. Axius, my fellow tribesman, and I had cast our votes at the comitia for the election of aediles, and, although it was the heat of the day, we wished to be on hand when the candidate whom we were supporting should go home. So Axius said to me: "What would you think of taking shelter in the _villa publica_[158] while the votes are being sorted rather than in the booth of our candidate." "I hold," said I, "not only with the proverb that bad advice is worst for him who gives it, but that good advice is good for both the giver and the taker."

And so we made our way to the villa publica, where we found Appius Claudius,[159] the Augur, seated on a bench waiting for any call for his services by the Consul: on his left was Cornelius Merula (blackbird) of the Consular family of that name, and Fircellius Pavo (pea-cock) of Reate, and on his right Minutius Pica (mag-pie) and M. Petronius Passer (sparrow). When we had approached them Axius, smiling, said to Appius: "May we come into your aviary where you are sitting among the birds?"

"By all means," replied Appius, "and especially you who set before me such birds as still make my mouth water, when I was your guest a few days ago at your Reatine villa on my way to lake Velinus to settle the controversy between the people of Interamna and Reate.[160]

"But" he added, "is not this villa, which our ancestors constructed, simpler and so better than that elaborate one of yours at Reate: do you see any where here any furniture of citrus wood or ormolu, any decorations of vermillion or blue, any tessellations or mosaic work, all of which on the other hand were displayed in your house? And while this is open to the entire people, yours is available to you alone: this is the resort for the citizens after the comitia in the Campus Martius, and for all alike, while yours is reserved for mares and asses. And furthermore it should be considered that this building is useful in carrying on the public business, for here the consuls review the army on parade, here the arms are inspected, here the censors enumerate the people."

"Tell me," retorted Axius, "which is useful, this villa of yours giving on the Campus Martius, more extravagantly arrayed with objects of art than all Reate put together, so bedizened is it with pictures and garnished with statues, or mine where there is no trace of the artists Lysippus or Antiphilus, but there are many of the farm hand and the shepherd?

"And since there can be no villa where there is no farm and that well cultivated, how can you call this house of yours a villa which has no land appurtenant to it and no cattle or horses? Again, tell me, pray, how does your villa compare with that of your grandfather and great grandfather, for one cannot see at yours, as one could always see at theirs, cured hay in the mows, the vintage in the cellar, and the harvest in the granary? Because, forsooth, a house is situated out of town, it is no more a villa for that reason than the houses of those who dwell beyond the Porta Flumentaria or in the Aemiliana suburb."

"Since it appears that I do not know what a villa is," replied Appius, smiling, "I wish you would be good enough to instruct me, so that I may not make a fool of myself, as I am planning to buy from M. Seius his villa at Ostia: for if a mere house is not a villa unless it is equipped with a jackass costing forty thousand sesterces ($2,000), like that you showed me at your place, I fear that I would be making a mistake in buying Seius' house on the shore at Ostia in the belief that it is a villa. But it was our friend Merula here who put me in mind of buying this house, for he told me that he had spent several days there and that he had never seen a more delightful villa, and yet he saw there no paintings, nor any bronze or marble statues, neither did he see any wine press, or oil mill, or oil jars."

"And what kind of a villa is this," said Axius, turning to Merula, "where there are neither the ornaments of a town house nor the utensils of a farm?"

"Do you consider," said Merula, "that your house on the bank of Velinus, which neither painter nor architect has ever seen, is any less a villa than the one you have in Rosea so elegantly decorated with the work of an architect and which you share with your famous jackass?"

Axius admitted, with a nod, that a simple farm house was as much entitled to be called a villa as any house which united the characteristics of both town and country, and asked what he deduced from this.

"What?" said Merula. "Why, if your estate in Rosea is to be approved by reason of the husbandry which you carry on, and is properly called a villa because there cattle are fed and stabled, then, by the same reasoning, all those houses should be called villas in which large profits are derived from husbandry: for what difference does it make whether you derive your profit from sheep or from birds? Is the income any sweeter which comes from cattle in which bees are generated, than from the bees themselves, such as work in their hives at the villa of Seius? Do you sell to the butcher the hogs which you raise at your farm for more than Seius sells his wild boars to the meat market?"

"Am I any less able," replied Axius, "to have these things at my farm at Reate: is Sicilian honey made at Seius' place and only Corsican honey at Reate,[161] and does the mast which he buys for his wild boars make them fat while that which I get for nothing from my woods makes mine lean?"

"But," said Appius, "Merula does not deny that you can carry on at your villa the kind of husbandry which Seius does at his, yet I myself have seen that you don't.

"For there are two kinds of husbandry of live stock: one in the fields, as of cattle; and the other at the steading, as of chickens and pigeons and bees and other such things which are usually kept at a villa.

"About the latter, Mago the Carthaginian, and Cassius Dionysius and others have treated specially in different parts of their books, and it would seem that Seius has read their precepts and so has learned how to make more profit from his villa alone by such husbandry than others make out of an entire farm."

"Certainly," agreed Merula, "for I have seen there great flocks of geese, chickens, pigeons, cranes and pea-cocks: also dormice, fish, wild boars and other such game.[162] The freedman who keeps his books which Varro has seen, assured me when he was doing the honours in the absence of his master, that Seius derives an income of more than fifty thousand sesterces ($2,500) per annum from his villa."

As Axius seemed astonished, I asked him: "Surely you know the estate of my aunt in the Sabine country which is at the twenty-fourth mile stone from Rome on the via Salaria."

"Of course, I do," Axius replied, "for it is there that I am wont to divide the day in summer on my way from Reate to town and to spend the night when I come thence in winter."

"Well," I continued, "in that villa there is an aviary from which I know that there were taken in one season five thousand thrushes, which, at three deniers apiece, means that that department of the establishment brought in a revenue of sixty thousand sesterces that year, or twice the yield of the entire two hundred jugera of your farm at Reate."[163]

"What, sixty thousand," exclaimed Axius, "sixty thousand: you are making game of me!"

"Sixty thousand," I affirmed, "but in order that you might realize such a lucky throw you will require either a public banquet or a triumph on the scale of that of Scipio Metellus, or club dinners, which indeed have now become so frequent as to raise the price of provisions of the market."

"You will perchance expect this return every year," said Merula, "so I trust that your aviary may not lead you into a loss. But surely in such good times as these it could not happen that you would fail, except rarely, for what year is there that does not see such a feast or a triumph, or club dinners, such as now-a-days consume victuals without number. Nay," he added, "it seems that in our habit of luxury such a public banquet is a daily occurrence within the gates of Rome."[164]

To supplement the examples of such profits: L. Albutius, a learned man and, as you know, the author of certain satires in the manner of Lucilius, has said that the returns from feeding live stock on his Alban farm are always less than his income from his villa, for the farm yields less than ten thousand sesterces and the villa more than twenty. He even maintains that if he should establish a villa near the sea in such a place as he might choose he could derive from it an income of more than a hundred thousand sesterces. Did not M. Cato recently sell forty thousand sesterces worth of fishes from the fish ponds of Lucullus after he had accepted the administration of his estate?"

"My dear Merula," exclaimed Axius, "take me, I beg of you, as your pupil in the art of the husbandry of the steading."

"I will begin," replied Merula, "as soon as you promise me a minerval in the form of a dinner."[165]

"You shall have it," said Axius, "both today, and hereafter as well, off those delicacies you will teach me to rear."

"I fear," replied Merula, "that what you may offer me at the beginning of your experience with villa feeding will be dead geese or deceased pea-cocks."

"And what difference will it make to you," retorted Axius, "if I do serve you fish or fowl which has come to an untimely end: for in no event could you eat them unless they were dead: but I beg you," he added, "matriculate me in the school of villa husbandry and expound to me the theory and the practice of it."

Merula accepted the invitation cheerfully.

Of the Roman development of the industries of the steading

  1. "In the first place," he said, "you should know what kind of creatures you may raise or feed in or about a villa, either for your profit or for your pleasure. There are three divisions for this study: poultry houses, warrens and fish ponds.

"I include under the head of poultry houses the feeding of all kinds of fowls which are usually kept within the walls of a steading: under the head of warrens not merely what our great grandfathers meant--places where rabbits were usually kept--but any enclosure adjoining a villa in which game animals are enclosed to be fed. In like manner I include under the head of fish ponds all those places in which fish are kept at a villa either in fresh or salt water.

"Each of these divisions may be separated into at least two parts: thus the first, that with respect to poultry houses, should be treated with reference to a classification of fowls as between those which are content on land alone, such as pea-cocks, turtle doves, thrushes; and those which require access to water as well as land, such as geese, widgeons and ducks. So the second division, that relating to game, has two different classifications: one which includes the wild boar, the roe buck and hares; the other bees, snails and dormice.

"The third, or aquatic division, likewise has two classifications, one including fresh water fish, the other salt water fish.

"In order to secure and maintain a supply of these six classes of stock it is necessary to provide a force of three kinds of artificers, namely: fowlers, hunters and fishermen, or else you may buy breeding stock from such men, and trust to the diligence of your servants to rear and fatten their offspring until they are ready for market. Certain of them, such as dormice, snails and chickens, may, however, be obtained without the aid of a hunter's net, and doubtless the business of keeping them began with the stock native to every farm: for the breeding even of chickens has not been a monopoly of the Roman augurs, to make provision for their auspices, but has been practised by all farmers from the beginning of time.[166] From such a start in the kind of husbandry we are now discussing, the next step was to provide masonry enclosures near the steading to confine game, and these served as well for shelter for the bee-stand, for originally the bees were wont to make their hives under the eaves of the farm house itself.

"The third division, that of keeping fish, had its origin in simple fresh water ponds in which fish taken in the streams were kept.

"There have been two steps in the development of each of these three conveniences; the earlier distinguished by the ancient simplicity, the later by our modern luxury. The earlier stage was that of our ancestors, who had but two places for keeping poultry: one the court yard of the steading in which chickens were fed and their profit derived from eggs and pullets, the other above ground, for their pigeons were kept in the dormers or on the roof of the farm house.

"Now-a-days, on the contrary, what our ancestors called hen-houses are known as ornithones, and serve to house thrushes and pea-cocks to cater to the delicate appetite of the master: and indeed such structures now have larger roofs than formerly sufficed to cover an entire farm house.

"Such has been the progress in respect of warrens also: your father, Axius, never saw any game but rabbits, nor did there exist in his time any such extensive enclosures as now are made, many jugera in extent, to hold wild boars and roe bucks. You can witness," he said, turning to me, "that you found many wild boars in the warren of your farm at Tusculum, when you bought it from M. Piso."

In respect of the third class, who was there who used to have any kind of a fish pond, except of fresh water, stocked merely with cat fish and mullets, while today our elegants declare that they would as soon have a pond stocked with frogs as with those fish I have named. You will recall the story of Philippus when he was entertained at Casinum by Ummidius: a pickerel caught in your river, Varro, was put before him, he tasted it and forthwith spat it out, exclaiming "May I perish, but I thought it was fish!"[167]

As the luxury of this age has enlarged our warrens, so has it carried our fish ponds even to the sea itself and has herded shoals of sea fish into them. Have not Sergius Orata (goldfish) and Licinius Murena (lamprey) taken their cognomens from fishes for this reason? And who does not know the fame of the fish ponds of Philippus, of Hortensius, and of the brothers Lucullus?

"Where, then, Axius, do you wish me to begin?"

Of aviaries

  1. "I prefer," replied Axius, "that you should begin with the sequel--postprincipia, as they say in the camps--that is, with the present day rather than with the past, because the profits from pea-cocks are greater than those from hens, I will not dissemble that I wish to hear first of ornithones because the thrushes which are kept in them make the very name sound like money: indeed, the 60,000 sesterces of Fircelina have consumed me with avarice."

"There are two kinds of ornithones," replied Merula; "one for pleasure, like that so much admired which our friend Varro here has at his villa near Casinum: the other for profit, such as are maintained commercially, some even indoors in town, but chiefly in the Sabine country which abounds in thrushes. There is a third kind, consisting of a combination of the two I have mentioned, such as Lucullus maintained at his Tusculan villa, where he contrived a dining room under the same roof as his aviary to the end that he might feast delicately, satisfying two senses, now by eating the birds cooked and spread on a platter, now by seeing them flying about the windows: but the truth is that he was disappointed, for the eyes did not take as much pleasure from the sight of the flying birds as the nostrils were offended by their odour."

a. For profit

  1. "But, as I gather you would prefer, Axius, I will speak of that kind of ornithon which is established for profit, whence, but not where, fat thrushes are served.

"For this purpose is built a dome, in the form of a peristyle, with a roof over it and enclosed with netting, sufficiently large to accommodate several thousand thrushes[168] and blackbirds; indeed, some also include other kinds of birds, such as ortolans and quail, which sell for a good price when fat. Into this enclosure water should be conducted through a conduit and so disposed as to wind through the aviary in channels narrow enough to be cleaned easily (for if the water spreads out it is quickly polluted and rendered unfit to drink) and draining like a running stream to find its vent through another conduit, so that the birds may not be exposed to the risk of mud. The door should be low and narrow and well balanced on its hinges like the doors they have in the amphitheatres where bulls are fought: few windows and so placed that the birds cannot see trees and wild birds without, for that makes the prisoners pine and grow thin. The place should have only so much light as may be necessary to enable the birds to see where they are to perch and to eat and drink. The doors and the windows should be lightly stuccoed round about to keep out rats and other such vermin.

"Around the wall of the building on the inside are fastened many perches where the birds can sit, and another such convenience should be contrived from poles set on the ground and leaning against the walls and tied together with other poles fastened transversely at regular intervals, thus giving the appearance of the rising degrees of a theatre. Down on the ground near the drinking water you should place the birds' food, which usually consists of little balls of a paste made out of figs and corn meal: but for twenty days before you intend to market your thrushes it is customary to feed them more heavily, both by giving them more food and that chiefly of finer meal.

"In this enclosure there should also be cages with wooden floors which may serve the birds as resting places supplementing the perches.

"Next to the aviary should be contrived a smaller structure, called the seclusorium, in which the keeper may array the birds found dead, to render an account of them to his master, and where he may drive the birds which are ready for market from the larger aviary: and to this end this smaller room is connected with the main cage by a large door and has more light: and there, when he has collected the number he wishes to market, the keeper kills them, which is done secretly, lest the others might despond at the sight and themselves die before they are ready for market.

"Thrushes are not like other birds of passage which lay their eggs in particular places, as the swan does in the fields and the swallows under the roof, but they lay anywhere: for, despite their masculine name (turdus) there are female thrushes, just as there are male blackbirds, although they have a purely feminine name (merula).

"All birds are divided as between those which are of passage, like swallows and cranes, and those which are domestic, like chickens and pigeons: thrushes are birds of passage and every year fly from across the sea into Italy about the time of the autumn equinox, returning about the spring equinox. At another season doves and quail do the same in immense numbers, as may be seen in the neighbouring islands of Pontia, Palmaria and Pandataria, for there they are wont to rest a few days on their arrival and again before they set out across the sea from Italy."

b. For pleasure

"So," said Appius to Axius, "if you enclose five thousand thrushes in such an aviary as Merula has described and there happens to be a banquet or a triumph, you will gain forthwith that sixty thousand sesterces which you so keenly covet and be able to lend the money out at good interest." And then, turning to me, he added, "Do you tell us of that other kind of ornithon, namely: for pleasure merely, for it is said that you have constructed one near Casinum which surpasses not only the original built by the inventor of such flying cages, our friend M. Laenius Strabo of Brundisium (who was the first to keep birds confined in the chamber of a peristyle and to feed them through the net), but also the vast structures of Lucullus at Tusculum."

"You know," I said, "that there flows through my estate near Casinum[169] a stream which is both deep and clear and fifty-seven feet wide between the masonry embankments, so that it is necessary to use bridges to get from one part of the property to the other. On the upper reach of this stream is situated my Museum[170] and at a distance of 950 feet below is an island formed by the confluence of another stream. Along the bank for this distance is an uncovered walk ten feet broad and between this walk and the field is the location of my aviary enclosed on both sides, right and left, with high masonry walls. The ornithon itself is built in the shape of a writing tablet with a capital on it, the main quadrangle being forty-eight feet wide and seventy-two feet long, the capital semi-circular with a radius of twenty-seven feet. To this a covered walk or portico is joined, as it were across the bottom of the page of the tablet, with passages leading on either side of the ornithon proper which contains the cages, to the upper end of the interior quadrangle [adjoining the capital]. This portico is constructed of a series of stone columns between which and the main outside walls are planted dwarf shrubs, a net of hemp being stretched from the top of the walls to the architrave of the portico, and thence down to the stylobate or floor. The exterior spaces thus enclosed are filled with all kinds of birds which are fed through the net, water being provided by a small running stream. On the interior sides of the porticos, and adjoining them at the upper end of the interior quadrangle, are constructed on both sides two narrow oblong basins. Between these basins a path leads to the tholus, or rotunda, which is surrounded with two rows of columns, like that in the house of Catulus, except that I have substituted columns for walls. Beyond these columns at the end is a grove of large transplanted trees forming a roof of leaves, but admitting light underneath, as that is entirely cut off by the high walls on the sides. Between the exterior row of columns of the tholus, which are of stone, and the interior row, which are of pine, there is a narrow space, five feet in width. The exterior columns are filled in with a transparent net instead of walls, thus permitting the birds to look out upon the grove and the wild birds there but without escaping: the interior columns being filled in with the net of the main aviary. The space between the two rows of columns thus enclosed is equipped with perches for the birds in the form of many rods let into all the columns in ascending array like the degrees of a theatre; and here are enclosed all kinds of birds, but chiefly singing birds, like nightingales and blackbirds, for whom water is conducted by means of a small canal and food is supplied under the net. [Under the lantern of the tholus is a basin of water: and around this] a foot and nine inches below the stylobate or pedestal of the interior row of columns, runs a stone platform. This is five feet in width and two feet above the level of the basin, thus affording a space on which my bird guests may hop about from the cushions to the little columns [which are there provided for them].[171]

"The basin is immediately surrounded with a quay a foot in width adjoining [but below the level of] the platform and has a little island in the middle. Around the platform and the quay are contrived docks for ducks. On the island is a little column arranged to turn on its axis and carrying a wheel-shaped table with hollow drum-like dishes fashioned at the ends of the spokes two and a half feet wide and a palm in depth. This is turned by a boy whose business that is, so that meat and drink is put before all my bird guests in turn. From the elevation of the platform, where mats are usually placed, the 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 candidate.

Of pea-cocks

  1. "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 sheep.[176]

"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

  1. 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 deniers."[179]

"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 country."

Of turtle doves

  1. "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

  1. "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° in regard to buying, what kind and how many he will keep: 2° in regard to breeding: 3° in regard to eggs, how they are set and hatched: 4° in regard to chicks, how and by whom they are reared, and 5°, 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 chickens.

"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 light.

"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 fowls.

"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: meleagrís].[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 day.

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

Of geese

  1. "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 difficulty.

"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

  1. "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 fresh.

"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

  1. 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

  1. 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 bucks."

"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

  1. 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 dead.

"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

  1. "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

  1. "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 dessert.

"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 market."

"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 bees.

"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 workmen.

"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 food.

"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 mentioned.

"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

  1. 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.

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