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“‘However, is the planting of fruit trees another branch of agriculture?’ I continued.

“‘It is, indeed,’ answered Ischomachus.

“‘Then how can I understand all about sowing, and yet know nothing of planting?’ [2]

“‘What, don't you understand it?’

“‘How can I, when I don't know what kind of soil to plant in, nor how deep a hole to dig, nor how broad, nor how much of the plant should be buried, nor how it must be set in the ground to grow best?’ [3]

“‘Come then, learn whatever you don't know. I am sure you have seen the sort of trenches they dig for plants.’

“‘Yes, often enough.’

“‘Did you ever see one more than three feet deep?’

“‘No, of course not—nor more than two and a half.’

“‘Well, did you ever see one more than three feet broad?’

“‘Of course not, nor more than two feet.’

“‘Come then, answer this question too. [4] Did you ever see one less than a foot deep?’

“‘Never less than a foot and a half, of course. For the plants would come out of the ground when it is stirred about them if they were put in so much too shallow.’ [5]

“‘Then you know this well enough, Socrates, that the trenches are never more than two and a half feet deep, nor less than a foot and a half.’

“‘A thing so obvious as that can't escape one's eyes.’ [6]

“‘Again, can you distinguish between dry and wet ground by using your eyes?’

“‘Oh, I should think that the land round Lycabettus and any like it is an example of dry ground, and the low-lying land at Phalerum and any like it of wet.’ [7]

“‘In which then would you dig the hole deep for your plant, in the dry or the wet ground?’

“‘In the dry, of course; because if you dug deep in the wet, you would come on water, and water would stop your planting.’

“‘I think you are quite right. Now suppose the holes are dug; have you ever noticed how1 the plants for each kind of soil should be put in?’

“‘Oh, yes.’ [8]

“‘Then assuming that you want them to grow as quickly as possible, do you think that if you put some prepared soil under them the cuttings will strike sooner through soft earth into the hard stuff, or through unbroken ground?’

“‘Clearly, they will form roots more quickly in prepared soil than in unbroken ground.’ [9]

“‘Then soil must be placed below the plant?’

“‘No doubt it must.’

“‘And if you set the whole cutting upright, pointing to the sky, do you think it would take root better, or would you lay part of it slanting under the soil that has been put below, so that it lies like a gamma upside down?’ [10]

“‘Of course I would; for then there would be more buds underground; and I notice that plants shoot from the buds above ground, so I suppose that the buds under the ground do just the same; and with many shoots forming underground, the plant will make strong and rapid growth, I suppose.’ [11]

“‘Then it turns out that on these points too your opinion agrees with mine. But would you merely heap up the earth, or make it firm round the plant?’

“‘I should make it firm, of course; for if it were not firm, I feel sure that the rain would make mud of the loose earth, and the sun would dry it up from top to bottom; so the plants would run the risk of damping off through too much water, or withering from too much heat at the roots.’ [12]

“‘About vine2 planting then, Socrates, your views are again exactly the same as mine.’ too?’ I asked.

“‘Yes, and to all other fruit trees, I think; for in planting other trees why discard anything that gives good results with the vine?’ [13]

“‘But the olive—how shall we plant that, Ischomachus?’

“‘You know quite well, and are only trying to draw me out again. For I am sure you see that a deeper hole is dug for the olive (it is constantly being done on the roadside); you see also that all the growing shoots have stumps adhering to them; and you see that all the heads of the plants are coated with clay, and the part of the plant that is above ground is wrapped up.’ [14]

“‘Yes, I see all this.’

“‘You do! Then what is there in it that you don't understand? Is it that you don't know how to put the crocks on the top of the clay, Socrates?’

“‘Of course there is nothing in what you have said that I don't know, Ischomachus. But I am again set thinking what can have made me answer ‘No’ to the question you put to me a while ago, when you asked me briefly, Did I understand planting? For I thought I should have nothing to say about the right method of planting. But now that you have undertaken to question me in particular, my answers, you tell me, agree exactly with the views of a farmer so famous for his skill as yourself! [15] Can it be that questioning is a kind of teaching, Ischomachus? The fact is, I have just discovered the plan of your series of questions! You lead me by paths of knowledge familiar to me, point out things like what I know, and bring me to think that I really know things that I thought I had no knowledge of.’ [16]

“‘Now suppose I questioned you about money,’ said Ischomachus, ‘whether it is good or bad, could I persuade you that you know how to distinguish good from false by test? And by putting questions about flute-players could I convince you that you understand flute-playing; and by means of questions about painters and other artists—'

“‘You might, since you have convinced me that I understand agriculture, though I know that I have never been taught this art.’

“‘No, it isn't so, Socrates. [17] I told you a while ago that agriculture is such a humane, gentle art that you have but to see her and listen to her, and she at once makes you understand her. [18] She herself gives you many lessons in the best way of treating her. For instance, the vine climbs the nearest tree, and so teaches you that she wants support. And when her clusters are yet tender, she spreads her leaves about them, and teaches you to shade the exposed parts from the sun's rays during that period. [19] But when it is now time for her grapes to be sweetened by the sun, she sheds her leaves, teaching you to strip her and ripen her fruit. And thanks to her teeming fertility, she shows some mellow clusters while she carries others yet sour, so saying to you: Pluck my grapes as men pluck figs,—choose the luscious ones as they come.’”

1 There must be something wrong with the text here. The MSS. give ὁπηνίκα, “just when,” but that has nothing to do with the matter in hand. Is something lost?

2 The mention of the vine comes in so abruptly that one again suspects the loss of something in the text.

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