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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

Of the definition of agriculture

a. What it is not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, by Hercules," said Scrofa, "and especially in his recipe for removing superfluous hair, in which he bids you take a yellow frog and stew it down to a third of its size and then rub the body with what is left."[56]

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

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

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

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

"Listen to the incantation," said Stolo.

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

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

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

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

b. What agriculture is

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

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

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

The purposes of agriculture are profit and pleasure

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

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

The fourfold division of the study of agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

2° What labour and equipment are necessary for such cultivation;

3° What system of farming is to be practised;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How conformation of the land affects agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

How character of soil affects agriculture

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

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

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

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

(A digression on the maintenance of vineyards)

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

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

Of the different kinds of soil

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

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

Of the units of area used in measuring land

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

Of the considerations on building a steading

a. Size

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

b. Water supply

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

c. Location, with regard to health

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

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

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

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

d. Arrangement

  1. In arranging the steading, see that the cattle are put where they will be warm in winter. Such crops as wine and oil should be housed below ground in cellars, or rather in jars placed in such cellars, while dry crops like beans, and hay, are best stored on high board floors. A rest room should be provided for the comfort of the hands where they can gather after the day's work or for protection from cold or heat and there recruit themselves in quiet. The room of the overseer should be near the entrance to the farm house so that he may know who comes in and who goes out during the night, and what they bring in or out, especially if there is no gate-keeper. The kitchen also should be near the overseer's room because there in winter is great activity before daylight when food is being prepared and eaten. Good sized sheds should be built in the barn yard for the wagons and other implements which might be damaged by the rain. For while they may be kept safe from the thief within the gates, yet if they are exposed to the weather they will be lost nevertheless. It is better to have two barn yards for a large farm. The inner court should contain a cistern like a little fish pond into which the drainage from the eaves may collect: as here the cattle and swine and geese can drink and bathe in summer when they are driven in from work or pasture. In the outer court there should be another pond where you can handle lupines and such other things as must be soaked in water. This exterior court yard should be strewn thick with straw and chaff, which, by being trampled under the feet of the cattle, becomes the handmaid of the farm by reason of the service it renders when it is hauled out. Every farm should have two manure pits, or one divided into two parts; into one division should be put the new manure from the barn, in the other the old manure which is ready for use on the farm: for new manure is not as good as that which is well rotted.[69] The manure pit is more serviceable when its sides and top are protected from the sun by leaves and branches, for the sun draws out from the manure those elements which the land requires; for this reason experienced farmers sprinkle water on their manure pits, and so largely preserve its quality: here too some establish the privies for the slaves. One should build a barracks (what we call a nubilarium because it affords protection from the weather) and it should be large enough to contain under its roof the entire crop of the farm: this should be placed near the threshing floor and left open only on the side of the threshing floor, so that while threshing you may conveniently throw out the corn and if it begins to cloud up then quickly throw it back again under shelter. There should be windows in this barracks on the side most fitted for ventilation."

"A farm would be more of a farm," said Fundanius, "if the buildings were constructed with reference to the diligence of our ancestors rather than the luxury of their descendants. For they built for use, while we build to gratify an unbridled luxury. Their barns were bigger than their houses, but the contrary is often the case today. Then a house was praised if it had a good kitchen, roomy stables and a cellar for wine and oil fitted, according to the custom of the country, with a floor draining into a reservoir, into which the wine can flow when, as often happens after the new wine has been laid by, the fermentation of the must bursts both Spanish butts and our own Italian tuns. In like manner our ancestors equipped a country house with whatever other things were necessary to agriculture, but now on the contrary it is the effort to make such a house as vast and as elegant as possible, and we vie with those palaces which men like Metellus and Lucullus have built, to the detriment of the very state itself: in them the effort is to contrive summer dining rooms fronting the cool east, and those designed for use in winter facing the western sun, rather than, as the ancients did, to adjust their windows with regard chiefly to the cellars, since wine in casks keeps best when it is cool, while oil craves warmth. For this reason also it would seem that the best place to put a house is on a hill, if nothing obstructs it."

Of the protection of farm boundaries

a. Fences

  1. "Now," resumed Scrofa, "I will speak of fences, which are constructed for the protection of the farm or for dividing the fields. There are four kinds of such barriers: natural, dead wood, military and masonry. The first is the natural fence of live hedge, consisting of planted shrubs or thorns, and, as it has roots, runs no risk from the flaming torch of the passing traveller who may be inclined to mischief. The second kind is built of the wood of the country, but is not alive. It is made either of palings placed close together and wattled with twigs, or posts placed at some distance apart and pierced to receive the ends of rails, which are generally built two or three to the panel, or else of trunks of trees laid on the ground and joined in line. The third, or military fence, consists of a ditch and a mound: but such a ditch should be so constructed to collect all the rain water, or it should be graded to drain the surface water off the farm. The mound is best when constructed close adjoining the ditch, or else it should be steep so that it will be difficult to scale. It is customary to construct this kind of fence along the public roads or along streams. In the district of Crustumeria one can see in many places along the via Salaria ditches and mounds constructed as dikes against damage by the river (Tiber).[70] Mounds are some times built without ditches and are called walls, as in the country around Reate. The fourth and last kind of fence is of built up masonry. There are usually four varieties: those of cut stone, as in the country around Tusculum; those of burned brick, as in Gaul; those of unburned brick as in the Sabine country; those of gravel concrete,[71] as in Spain and about Tarentum."

b. Monuments

  1. Lacking fences, the more discreet establish the boundaries of their property, or of their sowings, by blazed trees, and so prevent neighbourhood quarrels and lawing about corners. Some plant pines around their boundaries, as my wife did on her Sabine farm, or cypresses, as I have on my property on Vesuvius.[72] Others plant elms, as many have done in the district of Crustumeria: indeed, for planting in plains where it flourishes there is no tree which can be set out with such satisfaction or with more profit than the elm, for it supports the vine and so fills many a basket with grapes, yields its leaves to be a most agreeable forage for flocks and herds, and supplies rails for fences and wood for hearth and oven.

"And now," said Scrofa, "I have expounded my four points upon the physical characteristics of a farm, which were, its conformation, the quality of the soil, its extent and layout, its boundaries and their protection."

Of the considerations of neighbourhood

  1. It remains to discuss the conditions outside the farm itself, for the character of the neighbourhood is of the utmost importance to agriculture on account of the necessary relations with it. There are four considerations in this respect also, namely: whether the neighbourhood bears a bad reputation; whether it affords a market to which our products can be taken and whence we can bring back what we may require at home; whether there is a road or a river leading to that market, and, if so, whether it is fit for use; and fourth whether there is in our immediate vicinity any thing which may be to our advantage or disadvantage. Of these four considerations the most important is whether the neighbourhood bears a bad reputation: for there are many farms which are fit for cultivation but not expedient to undertake on account of the brigandage in the neighbourhood, as in Sardinia those farms which adjoin Oelium, and in Spain those on the borders of Lusitania.

On the second point those farms are the most profitable which have opportunities in the vicinity for marketing what they raise and buying what they must consume: for there are many farms which must buy corn or wine or what ever else they lack, and not a few which have a surplus of these commodities for sale. So in the suburbs of a city it is fitting to cultivate gardens on a large scale, and to grow violets and roses and many other such things which a city consumes, while it would be folly to undertake this on a distant farm with no facilities for reaching the market. So, again, if there is nearby a town or a village or even the well furnished estate of a rich man where you can buy cheap what you require on the farm, and where you can trade your surplus of such things as props and poles and reeds, your farm will be more profitable than if you had to buy at a distance; nay, more profitable even than if you were able to produce all you require at home: because in this situation you can make annual arrangements with your neighbours to furnish on hire the services of physicians, fullers and blacksmiths to better advantage than if they were your own: for the death of a single such skilled slave wipes out the entire profit of a farm. In carrying on the operation of a vast estate, the rich can afford to provide such servants for every department of the work: for if towns and villages are far distant from the farm, they supply blacksmiths and all other necessary craftsmen and keep them on the place, in order to prevent the hands from leaving the farm and spending working days in going leisurely to and from the shop when they might more profitably be engaged on what should be done in the fields. So Saserna's book lays down the rule that "No one may leave the farm except the overseer, the butler, or such a one as the overseer sends on an errand. If any one disobeys this rule, he shall be punished for it, but if he disobeys a second time the overseer shall be punished." This rule may be better stated that no one should leave the farm without the approval of the overseer, and, without the consent of the master, not even the overseer, for more than a day at a time, but in no event more frequently than the business of the farm requires.

On the third point, conveniences of transportation make a farm more profitable, and these are whether the roads are in such condition that wagons can use them smoothly, or whether there are rivers nearby which can be navigated. We know that each of these means of transportation is available to many farms.

The fourth point, which is concerned with how your neighbour has planted his land, also relates to your profits: because if he has an oak forest near your boundary, you cannot profitably plant olives in that vicinity, for the oak is so perverse in its effect upon the olive that not only will your trees bear less but they will even avoid the oaks and bend away from them until they are prostrate on the ground, as the vine is wont to do when planted near vegetables. Like the oak, a grove of thickly planted full grown walnut trees renders sterile all the surrounding land.


  1. I have spoken of the four points of husbandry which relate to the land to be cultivated and also of those other four points which have to do with the outside relations of that land: now I will speak of those things which pertain to the cultivation of the land. Some divide this subject into two parts, men and those assistants to men without which agriculture cannot be carried on. Others divide it into three parts, the instruments of agriculture which are articulate, inarticulate and mute: the articulate being the servants,[73] the inarticulate the draught animals, and the mute being the wagons and other such implements.

Of agricultural labourers

All men carry on agriculture by means of slaves or freemen or both. The freemen who cultivate the land do so either on their own account, as do many poor people with the aid of their own children, or for wages,[74] as when the heaviest farm operations, like the vintage and the harvest, are accomplished with the aid of hired freemen: in which class may be included those bond servants whom our ancestors called obaerati, a class which may still be found in Asia, in Egypt and in Illyricum. With respect to the use of freemen in agriculture, my own opinion is that it is more profitable to use hired hands than one's own slaves in cultivating unhealthy lands, and, even where the country is salubrious, they are to be preferred for the heaviest kind of farm work, such as harvesting and storing grapes and corn. Cassius has this to say on the subject: 'Select for farm hands those who are fitted for heavy labour, who are not less than twenty-two years of age and have some aptitude for agriculture, which can be ascertained by trying them on several tasks and by enquiring as to what they did for their former master.' Slaves should be neither timid nor overconfident. The foreman should have some little education, a good disposition and economical habits, and it is better that they should be some what older than the hands, for then they will be listened to with more respect than if they were boys. It is most important to choose as foremen those who are experienced in agricultural work, for they should not merely give orders but lend a hand at the work, so that the labourers may learn by imitation and may also appreciate that it is greater knowledge and skill which entitles the foreman to command. The foreman should never be authorized to enforce his discipline with the whip if he can accomplish his result with words.

Avoid having many slaves of the same nation, for this gives rise to domestic rows.

The foremen will work more cheerfully if rewards are offered them, and particularly pains must be taken to see that they have some property of their own, and that they marry wives among their fellow servants, who may bear them children, some thing which will make them more steady and attach them to the place.[75] On account of such relationships families of Epirote slaves are esteemed the best and command the highest prices.

Marks of consideration by the master will go far in giving happiness to your hands: as, for instance, by asking the opinion of those of them who have done good work, as to how the work ought to be done, which has the effect of making them think less that they are looked down upon, and encourages them to believe that they are held in some estimation by the master.

Those slaves who are most attentive to their work should be treated more liberally either in respect of food or clothes, or in holidays, or by giving them permission to graze some cattle of their own on the place, or some thing of that kind. Such liberality tempers the effect of a harsh order or a heavy punishment, and restores the slaves' good will and kindly feeling towards their master.

  1. On the subject of the number of slaves one will require for operating a farm, Cato lays down the two measures of the extent of the farm and the kind of farming to be carried on. Writing about the cultivation of olives and vines he gives these formulas, viz.:

For carrying on an olive farm of two hundred and forty jugera, thirteen slaves are necessary, to-wit: an overseer, a housekeeper, five labourers, three teamsters, an ass driver, a swineherd and a shepherd: for carrying on a vineyard of one hundred jugera, fifteen slaves are necessary, to-wit: an overseer, a housekeeper, ten labourers, a teamster, an ass driver and a swineherd.

On the other hand Saserna says that one man is enough for every eight jugera,[76] as a man should cultivate that much land in forty-five days: for while one man can cultivate a jugerum in four days, yet he allows thirteen days extra for the entire eight jugera to provide against the chance of bad weather, the illness or idleness of the labourer and the indulgence of the master.[77]

At this Licinius Stolo put in.

"Neither of these writers has given us an adequate rule," he said. "For if Cato intended, as he doubtless did, that we should add to or subtract from what he prescribes in proportion as our farm is of greater or less extent than that he describes, he should have excluded the overseer and the housekeeper from his enumeration. If you cultivate less than two hundred and forty jugera of olives you cannot get along with less than one overseer, while if you cultivate twice or more as much land you will not require two or three overseers. It is the number of labourers and teamsters only which must be added to or diminished in proportion to the size of the farm: and this applies only if the land is all of the same character, for if part of it is of a kind which cannot be ploughed, as for example very rocky, or on a steep hillside, there is that much less necessity for teams and teamsters. I pass over the fact that Cato's example of a farm of two hundred and forty jugera is neither a fair nor a comparable unit.[78] The true unit for comparison of farms is a centuria, which contains two hundred jugera, but if one deducts forty jugera, or one-sixth, from Cato's two hundred and forty jugera, I do not see how in applying this rule one can deduct also one-sixth of his thirteen slaves; or, even if we leave out the overseer and the housekeeper, how one can deduct one-sixth of eleven slaves. Again, Cato says that one should have fifteen slaves for one hundred jugera of vineyard, but suppose one had a centuria half in vines and half in olives, then, according to Cato's rule, one would require two overseers and two housekeepers, which is absurd. Wherefore it is necessary to find another measure than Cato's for determining the number of slaves, and I myself think better of Saserna's rule, which is that for each jugerum it suffices to provide four days work of one hand. Yet, if this was a good rule on Saserna's farm in Gaul, it might not apply on a mountain farm in Liguria. In fine you will best determine what number of slaves and what other equipment you will require if you diligently consider three things, that is to say, what kind of farms are there in your neighbourhood, how large are they, and how many hands are engaged in cultivating them, and you should add to or subtract from that number in proportion as you take up more or less work. For nature gave us two schools of agriculture, which are experience and imitation. The most ancient farmers established many principles by experiment and their descendants for the most part have simply imitated them. We should do both these things: imitate others and on our own account make experiments, following always some principle, not chance:[79] thus we might work our trees deeper or not so deep as others do to see what the effect would be. It was with such intelligent curiosity that some farmers first cultivated their vines a second and a third time, and deferred grafting the figs from spring to summer."

Of draught animals

  1. In respect of those instruments of agriculture which are called inarticulate, Saserna says that two yokes of oxen will be enough for two hundred jugera of arable land, while Cato prescribes three yokes for two hundred and forty jugera in olives: thus if Saserna is correct, one yoke of oxen is required for every hundred jugera, but if Cato is correct a yoke is needed for every eighty jugera. My opinion is that neither of these standards is appropriate for all kinds of land, but each for some kind: for some land is easy and some difficult to plough, and oxen are unable to break up some land except by great effort and often they leave the ploughshare in the furrow broken from the beam: wherefore in this respect we should observe a triple rule on every farm, when we are new to it, namely: find out the practice of the last owner; that of the neighbours, and make some experiments of our own.

"Cato adds," resumed Scrofa, "that on his olive farm there are required three asses to haul out the manure and one to turn the mill, and on his hundred jugera vineyard a yoke of oxen and a pair of asses for the manure, and an ass for the wine press."

In respect of cattle kept for all these purposes, which it is customary to feed in the barn yard, it should be added that you should keep as many and only as many as you need for carrying on the work of the farm, so that more easily you can secure diligent care of them from the servants whose chief care is of themselves. In this connection the keeping of sheep is preferable to hogs not only by those who have pastures but also by those who have none, for you should keep them not merely because you have pasture, but for the sake of the manure.

Watch dogs should be kept in any event for the safety of the farm.

  1. The most important consideration with respect to barn yard cattle is that the draft oxen should be fit for their work: when bought unbroken they should not be less than three years old nor more than four, strong, but well matched, lest the stronger wear out the weaker: with large horns, black rather than any other color, broad foreheads, flat noses, deep chests and heavy quarters. Old steers which have worked in the plains cannot be trained to service in rough and mountain land; a rule as applicable when reversed. In breaking young steers it is best to begin by fastening a fork shaped yoke on their necks and leaving it there even when they are fed; in a few days they will become used to it and disposed to be docile. Then they should be broken to work gradually until they are accustomed to it, as may be done by yoking a young ox with an old one, so that he may learn what is expected of him by imitation. It is best to work them first on level ground without a plough, then with a light plough, so that their first lessons may be easy and in sand and mellow soil.

Oxen intended for the wagon should be broken in the same way, at first by drawing an empty cart, if possible through the streets of a village or a town, where they may become quickly inured to sudden noises and strange sights. You should not work an ox always on the same side of the team, for an occasional change from right to left relieves the strain of the work.

Where the land is light, as in Campania, they do not plough with heavy steers but with cows or asses, as they can be driven more easily to a light plough. For turning the mill and for carrying about the farm some use asses, some cows and others mules: a choice determined by the supply of provender. For an ass is cheaper to feed than a cow, though a cow is more profitable.[80]

In the choice of the kind of draft animals he is to keep, a farmer should always take into consideration the characteristics of his soil: thus on rocky and difficult land the prime requirement is doubtless strength, but his purpose should be to keep that kind of stock which under his conditions yields the largest measure of profit and still do all the necessary work.

Of watch dogs

  1. It is more desirable to keep a few dogs and fierce ones than a pack of curs. They should be trained to watch by night and to sleep by day chained in the kennel [so that they may be the more alert when set loose.]

It remains to speak elsewhere of unyoked cattle, like the flocks, but if there are meadows on the farm and the owner keeps no live stock, it is the business of a good farmer after he has sold his hay to graze and feed another's cattle on his land.

Of farming implements

  1. Concerning the instruments of agriculture which are called mute, in which are included baskets, wine jars and such things, this may be said: Those utensils which can be produced on the farm or made by the servants should never be bought, among which are what ever may be made out of osiers or other wood of the country, such as hampers, fruit baskets, threshing sledges, mauls and mattocks, or what ever is made out of the fibre plants like hemp, flax, rushes, palm leaves and nettles, namely: rope, twine and mats. Those implements which cannot be manufactured on the farm should be bought more with reference to their utility than their appearance that they may not diminish your profit by useless expense, a result which may be best secured by buying where the things you need may be found at once of good quality, near at hand and cheap. The requirement of the kind and number of such implements is measured by the extent of the farm because the further your boundaries lie apart the more work there is to do."

"In this connection," put in Stolo, "given the size of the farm, Cato recommends with respect to implements as follows: he who cultivates 240 jugera in olives should have five sets of oil making implements, which he enumerates severally, such as the copper utensils, including kettles, pots, ewers with three spouts, etc.; the implements made out of wood and iron, including three large wagons, six ploughs with their shares, four manure carriers, etc. So of the iron tools, what they are and how many are needed, he speaks in great detail, as eight iron pitch forks, as many hoes and half as many shovels, etc.

"In like manner he lays down another formula of implements for a vineyard, viz.: if you cultivate 100 jugera you should have three sets of implements for the wine press and also covered storage vats of a capacity of eight hundred cullei, as well as twenty harvesting hampers for grapes and as many for corn, and other things in like proportion.

"Other writers advise a smaller quantity of such conveniences, but I believe Cato prescribed so great a capacity in order that one might not be compelled to sell his wine every year, for old wine sells better than new, and the same quality sells better at one time than another. Cato writes further in great detail of the kind and number of iron tools which are required for a vineyard, such as the falx or pruning hook, spades, hoes. So also several of these instruments are of many varieties, as for instance the falx, of which this author says that there must be provided forty of the kind suitable for use in a vineyard, five for cutting rushes, three for pruning trees and ten for cutting briers."

So far Stolo, when Scrofa began again. "The owner should have an inventory of all the farm implements and equipment, with a copy on file both at the house and at the steading, and it should be the duty of the overseer to see that everything is checked against this inventory and is assigned its appropriate keeping place in the barn. What cannot be kept under lock and key should be kept in plain sight, and this is particularly necessary in respect of the utensils which are used only at intervals, as at harvest time, like the grape baskets and such things, for what ever one sees daily is in the least danger from the thief."


  1. "And now," interposed Agrasius, "as we have discussed the two first parts of the four-fold division of agriculture, namely: concerning the farm itself and the implements with which it is worked, proceed with the third part."

Of planting field crops

"As I hold," said Scrofa, "that the profit of a farm is that only which comes from sowing the land, there are two considerations which remain for discussion, what one should sow and where it is most expedient to sow it, for some lands are best suited for hay, some for corn, some for wine and some for oil. So also should be considered the forage crops like basil, mixed fodder, vetch, alfalfa, snail clover and lupines. All things should not be sown in rich land, nor should thin land be left unsown, for it is better to sow in light soil those things which do not require much nourishment, such as snail clover and the legumes, except always chick peas (for this also is a legume like the other plants which are not reaped but from which the grain is plucked) because those things which it is the custom to pluck (legere) are called legumes. In rich land should be sown what ever require much nourishment, such as cabbage, spring and winter, wheat and flax. Certain plants are cultivated not so much for their immediate yield as with forethought for the coming year, because cut and left lying they improve the land. So, if land is too thin it is the practice to plough in for manure, lupines not yet podded, and likewise the field bean, if it has not yet ripened so that it is fitting to harvest the beans.[81]

"Not less should you make provision for cultivating what yields you profit in mere pleasure, like arbours and flower gardens: and those plantations which do not serve either for the support of man or the delight of the senses, but are not the less useful in the economy of the farm. Thus suitable places must be set aside for growing willows and reeds and other such things which affect wet places. On the other hand, you should sow field beans as much as possible in your corn land. There are other plants which seek dry places, and still others demand shade, like asparagus, both when wild and cultivated: while violets and garden flowers, which flourish in the sun should be set out in the open.

"So other things demand other planting conditions, like the osiers from which you derive your material for making basket ware, for wagon frames, winnowing baskets and grape hampers. Elsewhere you might plant and cultivate a forest for cut wood and a spinney for fowling.

"So you should reserve ground for planting hemp, flax, rush and Spanish broom (spartum) which serve to make shoes for the cattle, thread, cord and rope. Other situations are suitable for still other kinds of planting, as, for example, some plant garden truck and some plant other things, in a nursery, or between the rows of a young orchard before the roots of the trees have spread far out, but this should never be done when the trees have grown lest the roots be injured."

"In this respect," said Stolo, "what Cato says about planting is in point, that a field which is rich and in good heart and without shade should be planted in corn, while a low lying field should be set in turnips, radishes, millet and panic grass."

Of planting olives

  1. Scrofa resumed: "The varieties of olives to plant in rich and warm land are the preserving olive radius major, the olive of Sallentina, the round orchis, the bitter posea, the Sergian, the Colminian, and the waxy albicera: which ever of these does best in your locality, plant that most extensively. An olive yard is not worth cultivating unless it looks to the west wind and is exposed to the sun; if the soil is cold and thin there you should plant the Licinian olive, for if you set out this variety in a rich and warm soil it will never make a hostus and the tree will exhaust itself in bearing and will become infected with red moss. (Hostus is the country name for the yield of oil from a single tree at each factus or pressing: some claim this should amount to 160 modii, while others reduce it to 120 modii, and even less in proportion to the size and number of their storage vats.)

"Cato advises you to plant elms and poplars around the farm so as to obtain from them leaves to feed the sheep and cattle as well as a supply of lumber: while this is not necessary on all farms, nor in some for the forage alone, it may be done with advantage as a wind break against the north where the trees will not shut out the sun."

Stolo added the following advice from the same author: 'If you have a piece of wet ground there plant cuttings of poplars, and also reeds which are set out as follows: having turned the sod with a hoe plant the scions of reed three feet one from the other. Wild asparagus (from which you may cultivate garden asparagus) should also be set out in such a place because the same kind of cultivation is suitable for it as for reeds. You should set out Greek willows around the reed bed to supply ties for your vines.'

Of planting vines

  1. "In respect of planting vines," resumed Scrofa, "it should be observed that the varieties fitted for the best land and exposure to the sun are the little Aminean, the twin Eugeneam and the little yellow kind: while on rich or wet land the best varieties are the large Aminean, the Murgentine, the Apician and the Lucanian. Other vines, and especially the mixed varieties, do well in any kind of land."

  2. "In all vineyards care is taken that the prop should shelter the vine against the north wind. And if live cypresses are used as props they are planted in alternate rows and are not allowed to grow higher than is necessary for use as a prop. Cabbages are never planted near vines because they do each other damage."

"I fear," said Agrius, turning to Fundanius, "that the Sacristan may get back before we have reached the fourth head of our subject, that of the vintage, for I am looking forward thirstily to the vintage."

"Be of good cheer," said Scrofa, "and prepare the grape baskets and the ewer."


  1. We have two standards of time, the first that of the revolution of the year, because in it the sun completes his circuit, the other the measure of the month, because it includes the waxing and the waning of the moon.

Of the solar measure of the year

First I will speak of the sun, whose recurring journey is divided with reference to the pursuits of agriculture into four seasons of three months each, or more accurately into eight seasons of a month and a half each. The four seasons are Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In Spring certain crops are sown and the sod fields are broken up,[82] so that the weeds in them may be destroyed before they have seeded themselves again, and the clods, by drying out in the sun, may become more accessible to the rain and when broken down by its action easier to cultivate. Such land should be ploughed not less than twice, but three times is better.[83] The Summer is the season of the grain harvest; the Autumn, when the weather is dry, that of the vintage: and it is also the fit time for thinning out the woods, when the trees to be removed should be cut down close to the ground and the roots should be dug up before the first rains to prevent them from stooling. In Winter the trees may be pruned, provided this is done at a time when the bark is free from frost and rain and ice.

  1. Spring begins when the sun is in Aquarius, Summer when it is in Taurus, Autumn when it is in Leo, and Winter when it is in Scorpio. Since the beginning of each of the four seasons is the twenty-third day after the entrance of the sun in these signs respectively, it follows that Spring has ninety-one days, Summer ninety-four, Autumn ninety-one and Winter eighty-nine: which, reduced to the dates of our present official calendar,[84] makes the beginning of Spring on the seventh day before the Ides of February (February 7), of Summer on the seventh day before the Ides of May (May 9), of Autumn on the third day before the Ides of August (August 11), and of Winter on the fourth day before the Ides of November (November 10).

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