previous next


We now come to a subject which has been hitherto deferred by us, and which requires our most careful attention—the proper times for sowing. This is a question that depends in a very great degree upon the stars; and I shall therefore make it my first care to set forth all the opinions that have been written in reference to the subject. Hesiod, the first writer who has given any precepts upon agriculture, speaks of one period only for sowing—the setting of the Vergiliæ: but then he wrote in Bœotia, a country of Hellas, where, as we have already stated,1 they are still in the habit of sowing at that period.

It is generally agreed by the most correct writers, that with the earth, as with the birds and quadrupeds, there are certain impulses for reproduction; and the epoch for this is fixed by the Greeks at the time when the earth is warm and moist. Virgil2 says that wheat and spelt should be sown at the setting of the Vergiliæ, barley between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, and vetches,3 kidney-beans, and lentils at the setting of Boötes:4 it is of great importance, therefore, to ascertain the exact days of the rising and setting of these constellations, as well as of the others. There are some, again, who recommend the sowing to be done before the setting of the Vergiliæ, but only in a dry soil, and in those provinces where the weather is hot; for the seed, they say,5 if put in the ground will keep, there being no moisture to spoil it, and within a single day after the next fall of rain, will make its appearance above ground. Others, again, are of opinion that sowing should begin about seven days after the setting of the Vergiliæ, a period which is mostly followed by rain. Some think that cold soils should be sown immediately after the autumnal equinox, and a warm soil later, so that the blade may not put forth too luxuriantly before winter.

It is universally agreed, however, that the sowing should not be done about the period of the winter solstice; for this very good reason—the winter seeds, if put in before the winter solstice, will make their appearance above ground on the seventh day, whereas, if they are sown just after it, they will hardly appear by the fortieth. There are some, however, who begin very early, and have a saying to justify their doing so, to the effect that if seed sown too early often disappoints, seed put in too late always does so. On the other hand, again, there are some who maintain that it is better to sow in spring than in a bad autumn; and they say that if they find themselves obliged to sow in spring, they would choose the period that intervenes between the prevalence of the west winds6 and the vernal equinox. Some persons, however, take no notice of the celestial phenomena, and only regulate their movements by the months. In spring they put in flax, the oat, and the poppy, up to the feast of the Quinquatria,7 as we find done at the present day by the people of Italy beyond the Padus. There, too, they sow beans and winter-wheat in the month of November, and spelt at the end of September, up to the ides of October:8 others, however, sow this last after the ides of October, as late as the calends of November.9

The persons who do this take no notice, consequently, of the phænomena of Nature, while others, again, lay too much stress upon them, and hence, by these refined subtleties and distinctions, only add to their blindness; for here are ignorant rustics, not only dealing with a branch of learning, but that branch astronomy! It must still, however, be admitted that the observation of the heavens plays a very important part in the operations of agriculture; and Virgil,10 we find, gives it as his advice, that before any thing else, we should learn the theory of the winds, and the revolutions of the stars; for, as he says, the agriculturist, no less than the mariner, should regulate his movements thereby. It is an arduous attempt, and almost beyond all hope of success, to make an endeavour to introduce the divine science of the heavens to the uninformed mind of the rustic; still, however, with a view to such vast practical results as must be derived from this kind of knowledge, I shall make the attempt. There are some astronomical difficulties, however, which have been experienced by the learned even, that ought to be first submitted for consideration, in order that the mind may feel some encouragement on abandoning the study of the heavens, and may be acquainted with facts at least, even though it is still unable to see into futurity.

1 In c. 8 of this Book.

2 Georg. i. 208.

3 Georg. i. 227.

4 See c. 74 of this Book.

5 Columella, B. ii. e. 8.

6 Favonius. See B. ii. c. 47.

7 The five days' festival in honour of Minerva. It begins on the fourteenth before the calends of April, or on the nineteenth of March. Virgil, Georg. i. 208, says that flax and the poppy should be sown in autumn.

8 Fifteenth of October

9 First of November.

10 Georg. i. 204.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (4 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: