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AGRICULTU´RA agriculture.

Authorities.--When we remember that agriculture, in the most extended acceptation of the term, was for many centuries the chief, we may say almost the sole, peaceful occupation followed by any large portion of the free population in those European nations which first became highly civilised, we shall not be surprised to find that Varro (R. R. 1.1.7 foll.) was able to mention upwards of fifty Greek writers who had contributed to this science. But although the Homeric poems are filled with a series of the most charming pictures derived from the business of a country life; although Hesiod supplies abundance of wise saws and pithy aphorisms, the traditional wisdom accumulated during many successive generations; although Xenophon has bequeathed to us a most graceful essay on the moral beauty of rustic pursuits, interspersed with not a few instructive details; and although much that belongs to the Natural History of the subject will be found treasured up in the vast store-houses of Aristotle and Theophrastus, yet nothing which can be regarded in the light of a formal treatise upon the art, as exhibited in the pastures and cornfields of Hellas, has descended to us, except a volume, divided into twenty books, commonly known as the Geoponica (Γεωπονικά), whose history is somewhat obscure, but which, according to the account commonly received, was drawn up at the desire of Constantine VI. (A.D. 780-802) by a certain Cassianus Bassus, and consists of extracts from numerous writers, chiefly Greek, many of whom flourished in the second, third, and fourth centuries. This collection is systematically arranged, and comprehends all the chief branches; but it has never been considered of much value, except in so far as it tends to confirm or illustrate the statements found elsewhere. The information conveyed by it is, upon many points, extremely meagre, the materials were worked up at a late period by an editor with whose history and qualifications for his task we are altogether unacquainted, while the most important quotations are taken from authors of whom we know little or nothing, so that we cannot tell whether their precepts apply to the same or to different climates, whether they give us the fruit of their own experience, or, as we have great reason to suspect in many instances, were themselves mere compilers.

The Romans, during the brightest periods of their history, were devotedly attached to the only lucrative profession in which any citizen could embark with honour; and from the first dawn until the decline of their literature, rural economy formed a favourite theme for composition both in prose and verse. The works of the Sasernae, father and son, those of Tremellius Scrofa, of Julius Hyginus, of Cornelius Celsus, of Julius Atticus, and of Julius Graecinus, have perished; but we still possess, in addition to Virgil, four “Scriptores de Re Rustica,” two at least of whom were practical men. We have, in the first place, 162 chapters from the pen of the elder Cato (B.C. 234-149), a strange medley, containing many valuable hints for the management of the farm, the olive garden, and the vineyard, thrown together without order or method, and mixed up with medical prescriptions, charms for dislocated and broken bones, culinary receipts, and sacred litanies, the whole forming a remarkable compound of simplicity and shrewdness, quaint wisdom and blind superstition, bearing, moreover, a strong impress of the national character; in the second place, we have the three books of Varro (B.C. 116-28), drawn up at the age of eighty, by one who was not only the most profound scholar of his age, but likewise a soldier, a politician, an enthusiastic and successful farmer; in the third place, the thirteen books of Columella (A.D. 40 [?]), more minute than the preceding, especially in all that relates to the vine, the olive, gardening, and fruit-trees, but evidently proceeding from one much less familiar with his subject; and, lastly, the fourteen books of Palladius (a writer of the fourth century who closely copies Columella), of which twelve form a farmer's calendar, the different operations being ranged according to the months in which they ought to be performed. Besides the above, a whole book of Pliny and many detached chapters are devoted to matters connected with the labours of the husbandman; but in this, as in the other portions of that remarkable encyclopaedia, the assertions must be received with caution, since they cannot be regarded as exhibiting the results of original investigation, nor even a very correct representation of the opinions of others.

We ought not here to pass over unnoticed the great work of Mago the Carthaginian, who, as a native of one of the most fertile and carefully cultivated districts of the ancient world, must have had ample opportunities for acquiring knowledge. This production, extending to twenty-eight books, had attained such high fame that, after the destruction of Carthage, it was translated into Latin by orders of the senate; a Greek version, with additions from the Greek authorities and omissions, was executed by Cassius Dionysius of Utica, and published in twenty books during the century before the commencement of our era; and this, again, was a few years afterwards condensed into six books by Diophanes of Nicaea, and presented to King Deiotarus. In what follows, Cato, Varro, and Columella will be our chief supports, although references will be made to and illustrations drawn from the other sources indicated above. (Varr. R. R. 1.1; Col. R. R. 1.1; Plin. Nat. 18.9 foll.; Proleg. ad Geopon. in ed. Niclas; cf. Teuffel, Roman Lit. i. p. 73 foll.)

Division of the Subject.

Rural Economy may be treated of under two distinct heads--

A. Agriculture proper (Agricultura), or the art of tilling the soil.

B. The management of stock (Pastio.


Agriculture proper teaches the art of raising the various crops necessary for the sustenance and comfort of man and of the domestic animals, in such a manner that the productive energies of the soil may be fully developed but not exhausted or enfeebled, and teaches, further, how this may be accomplished with the least possible [p. 1.56]expenditure of capital. The crops to which the Greeks and Romans chiefly directed their attention were--
  • 1. Different kinds of grain, such as wheat and barley; leguminous vegetables cultivated for their seeds, such as beans, peas, and lupines; herbs cut green for forage, such as grass, tares, and lucerne ; and plants which furnished the raw material for the textile fabrics, such as hemp and flax.
  • 2. Fruit trees, especially the vine, the olive, and the fig.
  • 3. Garden stuffs.--For the second of these divisions we refer to the articles OLEA and VINEA; and we shall not touch at all upon gardening, since the minute details connected with this topic are of little or no service in illustrating the classics generally.

Agriculture in its restricted sense comprehends a knowledge--

  • I. Of the subject of our operations, that is, the farm (fundus, praedium), which must be considered: a. with reference to its situation and soil (quo loco et qualis), and b. with reference to the dwelling-house and steading (villa et stabula.
  • II. Of the instruments (instrumenta) required to perform the various operations (quae in fundo opus sint ac debeant esse culturae causa,) these instruments being twofold: a. men (homines); and b. the assistants of men (adminicula hominum), viz. domestic animals (boves, equi, canes, &c.), together with tools (instrumenta), properly so called, such as ploughs and harrows. (Varro, 1.18.)
  • III. Of the operations themselves, such as ploughing, harrowing, and sowing (quae in fundo colendi causa sint facienda), and of the time when they are to be performed (quo quidquid tempore fieri conveniat). (Varro, 1.5.)
  • IV. Of the object of these operations, viz. the different plants considered with reference to their species, varieties, and habits. Under this head we may also conveniently include what is termed the rotation of crops; that is, the order in which they ought to succeed each other upon the same ground.


a. Cognitio fundi., Knowledge of the Farm.

In selecting a farm, the two points which first demanded attention were: 1. The healthiness of the situation (salubritas), a matter of the greatest anxiety in Italy, where the ravages of malaria appear to have been not less fatal in ancient than they have proved in modern times; and, 2. The general fertility of the soil. It was essential to be fully satisfied upon both of these particulars; for to settle in a pestilential spot was to gamble with the lives and property of all concerned (non aliud est atque alea domini vitae et rei familiaris: Varro, 1.4, 5); and no man in his senses would undertake to till land which was not likely to yield a fair return for his outlay of money and labour (fructus pro impensa ac labore.) The next object of solicitude was a good aspect. The property was, if possible, to have a southerly exposure (Cato, 1.3), to be sheltered by a wooded hill from the sweep of boisterous and cutting winds (Varro, 1.12), and not to be liable to sudden misfortunes (ne calamitosum siet), such as inundations or violent hail-storms. It was highly important that it should be in the vicinity of a populous town (oppidum validum,) or, if not, that it should be readily accessible either by sea or by a navigable stream (amnis qua naves ambulant), or by a good well-frequented road (via bona celebrisque); that there should be an abundant supply of water (bonum aquarium) ; that it should be so situated that the proprietor, if he did not live upon the estate, might be able to give active and constant personal superintendence; and, finally, that it should be moderate in size, so that every portion might be brought into full cultivation (laudato ingentia rura, Exiguum colito: Verg. G. 2.412).


These preliminary matters being ascertained, the soil might be considered in reference: α. to its general external features (forma); β. to its internal qualities (qualis sit terra.

α. In so far as its external features were concerned it might be flat (solum campestre), or upland rolling ground (collinum), or high lying (montanum), or might comprise within its limits all three, which was most desirable, or any two of them. These variations would necessarily exercise important influence on the climate, on the description of crops which might be cultivated with advantage, and on the time chosen for performing the various operations, the general rule being that as we ascend the temperature falls, that corn and sown crops in general (segetes) succeed best on plains, vineyards (vineae) on gentle slopes, and timber trees (silvae) upon elevated sites, and that the different labours of the rustic may be commenced earlier upon low than upon high ground. When flat, it was better that it should incline gently and uniformly in one direction (aequabiliter in unam partem vergens) than be a dead level (ad libellam aequus), for in the latter case, the drainage being necessarily imperfect, it would have a tendency to become swampy; but the worst form was when there were converging slopes, for there the water collected into pools (lacunas). (Varro, 1.6.)

β. In so far as its internal qualities were concerned, soil might be classed under six heads, forming three antagonistic pairs:--

While the endless gradations and combinations of which the elementary qualities were susceptible produced all the existing varieties. These are named sometimes from their most obvious constituents: the stony (lapidosum), the gravelly (glareosum), the sandy (arenosum), the mortary (sabulosum), the chalky (cretosum), the clayey (argillosum); sometimes from their colour: the black (nigrum), the dark (pullum), the grey (subalbum), the red (rubicundum), the white (album); sometimes from their consistency: the crumbling (putre, friabile, cinericium), as opposed to the tenacious (densum, crassum, spissum); sometimes from their natural products: the grassy (graminosum, herbosum), the weedy (spurcum); sometimes from their taste: the salt (salsum), the bitter (amarum); rubrica seems to have been a sort of red chalky clay, but what the epithets rudecta and materina applied to earth (terra) by Cato may indicate it is hard to determine (Cato, 34; comp. Plin. H.N. 18.163 ff.), probably “poor” and “hard.” The great object of the cultivator being to separate the particles [p. 1.57]as finely as possible (neque enim aliud est colere quam resolvere et fermentare terram), high value was attached to those soils which were not only rich, but naturally pulverulent. Hence the first place was held by solum pingue et putre, the second by pinguiter densum, while the worst was that which was at once dry, tenacious, and poor (siccum pariter et densum et macrum). The ancients were in the habit of forming an estimate of untried ground, not only from the qualities which could be detected by sight and touch, but also from the character of the trees, shrubs, and herbage growing upon it spontaneously,--a test of more practical value than any of the others enumerated in the second Georgic (177-258).

When an estate was purchased, the land might be either in a state of culture (culta novalia), or in a state of nature (rudis ager.

The comparative value of land under cultivation, estimated by the crops which it was capable of bearing, is fixed by Cato (1), according to the following descending scale:--

The fact that, in the above scale, corn land is placed below meadows shows how, even in the time of Cato, the Sicilian slave-grown corn was lowering the profits of corn-growing in Italy. Varro (1.7, 10) places prata first of all (cf. Mommsen, Hist. 2.376).

When waste land was to be reclaimed, the ordinary procedure was to root out the trees and brushwood (fruteta) by which it might be encumbered, to remove the rocks and stones which would impede the labours of men and oxen, to destroy by fire or otherwise troublesome weeds, such as ferns and reeds (filices, junci), to drain off the superfluous moisture, to measure out the ground into fields of a convenient size, and to enclose these with suitable fences. The three last-mentioned processes alone require any particular notice, and we therefore subjoin a few words upon DRAINS, LAND-MEASURES, FENCES.

DRAINS (fossae, sulci alveati, incilia

Drains were of two kinds:--1. Open (patentes). 2. Covered (caecae.)
  • 1. Fossae patentes, open ditches, alone were formed in dense and chalky soil. They were wide at top, and gradually narrowed in wedge fashion (imbricibus supinis similes) as they descended.
  • 2. Fossae caecae, covered drains, or sivers as they are termed in Scotland, were employed where the soil was loose, and emptied themselves into the fossae patentes. They were usually sunk from three to four feet, were three feet wide at top and eighteen inches at bottom; one-half of the depth was filled up with small stones, sharp gravel (nuda glarea), or brushwood tied in bundles (sarmentis colligatis, Cato, 100.43), and the earth which had been dug out was thrown in above until the surface was level. Where stones or gravel could not readily be procured, green willow poles were introduced, crossing each other in all directions (quoquoversus), or a sort of rope was constructed of twigs twisted together so as to fit exactly into the bottom of the drain; above this the leaves of some of the pine tribe were trodden down, and the whole covered up with earth. To prevent the apertures being choked by the falling down of the soil, the mouths were supported by two stones placed upright, and one across (utilissimum est . . . ora earum binis utrimque lapidibus statuminari et alio superintegi, Plin. Nat. 18.47). To carry off the surface-water from land under crop, open furrows (sulci aquarii, elices) were left at intervals, which discharged themselves into cross furrows (colliquiae) at the extremities of the fields, and these again poured their streams into the ditches.

(Cat. 43, 155; Col. 2.2, 8-10, 8.3, 11.2; Pallad. 6.3; Plin. Nat. 18.179; Verg. Georg, 1.113


The measure employed for land in Latium was the jugerum, which was a double actus quadratus; the actus quadratus, anciently called acna, or acnua, or agnua, being a square whose side was 120 Roman feet. The subdivisions of the as were applied to the jugerum, the lowest in use being the scripulum, properly the twelfth part of an uncia: hence, when applied to land, a square whose side was ten feet. Two jugera formed a heredium, 100 heredia a centuria, a term which is said to have arisen from the allotments of land made by Romulus to the citizens; for these being at the rate of two jugera to each man, 200 jugera would be assigned to every hundred men. Lastly, four centuriae made a saltus. We thus have the following table:--

1 scripulum = 100 square ft., Roman measure.
144 scripula = 1 actus 14,400 square feet.
2 actus = 1 jugerum=28,800 square ft.
200 jugera = 1 centuria.
4 centuriae = 1 saltus.

Now, since three actus quadratus contained 4800 square yards, and since the English imperial acre contains 4840 square yards, and since the Roman foot was about three-fifths of an inch less than the imperial foot, it follows that the Roman juger was less than two-thirds of an imperial acre by about 500 square yards.

In Campania the measure for land was the versus quadratus, a square whose side was 100 feet, the words actus and versus marking the ordinary length of furrow in the two regions. (Varr. R. R. 1.10, L. L. 4.4; Col. 5.1; Plin. Nat. 18.10.)

FENCES (saepes, saepimenta

Fences (saepes, saepimenta) were of four kinds:--
  • 1. Saepimentum naturale, the quickset hedge (viva saepes.
  • 2. Saepimentum agreste, a wooden paling made with upright stakes (pali) interlaced with brushwood (virgultis implicatis), or having two or more cross-spars (amites, longuria) passed through holes drilled in the stakes, after the manner of what are now termed flakes (palis [p. 1.58]latis perforatis et per ea foramina trajectis longuriis fere binis aut ternis). (Varr. 1.14.)
  • 3. Saepimentum militare, consisting of a ditch (fossa) with the earth dug out and thrown up inside so as to form an embankment (agger), a fence used chiefly along the sides of public roads or on the banks of rivers.
  • 4. Saepimentum fabrile, wall (maceria), which might be formed either of stones, as in the vicinity of Tusculum, or of baked bricks as in the north of Italy, or of unbaked bricks as in Sabinum, or of masses of earth and stone pressed in between upright boards (in formis), and hence termed formacei. These last were common in Spain, in Africa, and near Tarentum, and were said to last for centuries uninjured by the weather. (Varr. 1.14; Plin. Nat. 35.169; comp. Col. 5.10, 10.3; Pallad. 1.34, 6.3.)

Finally, after the land had been drained, divided, and fenced, the banks which served as boundaries and the road-sides were planted with trees, the elm and poplar being preferred, in order to secure a supply of leaves for the stock and timber for domestic use. (Cat. 6.3.)


In erecting a house and offices, great importance was attached to the choice of a favourable position. The site selected was to be elevated rather than low, in order to secure good ventilation and to avoid all danger of exhalations from running or stagnant water; under the brow of a hill, for the sake of shelter; facing the east, so as to enjoy sunshine in winter and shade in summer; near, but not too near, to a stream, and with plenty of wood and pasture in the neighbourhood. The structures were to be strictly in proportion to the extent of the farm; for if too large, the original cost is heavy, and they must be kept in repair at a great expense; if too small, the various products would run the risk of being injured by the want of proper receptacles (ita aedifices ne villa fundum quaerat neve fundus villam, Cat. Agr. 3). The buildings were usually arranged round two courts, with a tank in the centre of each, and divided into three parts, named according to the purposes for which they were destined. 1. (Pars) Urbana. 2. (Pars) Rustica. 3. (ParsFructuaria.

1. Urbana. This comprehended that part of the building occupied by the master and his family, consisting of eating room (cenationes) and sleeping apartments (cubicula), with different aspects for summer and winter, baths (balnearia), and porticoes or promenades (ambulationes.) Columella recommends that this portion of the mansion should be made as commodious as the means of the proprietor will permit, in order that he himself may be tempted to spend more time there, and that the lady of the family (matrona) may be more willing to bear her husband company.

2. Rustica. This comprehended that part of the building occupied by the servants, consisting of a large and lofty kitchen (culina), to which they might at all times resort, baths (balnea) for their use on holidays, sleeping closets (cellae) for the servi soluti, a gaol (ergastulum) under ground for the servi vincti. In this division were included also the stables, byres, sheds, folds, courts, and enclosures of every description (stabula bubilia, saepta, ovilia, cortes) for the working oxen (domiti boves), and other stock kept at home, together with a magazine or storehouse (horreum) where all the implements of agriculture (omne rusticum instrumentum) were deposited; and within this, a lock--up room for the reception of the iron tools (ferramenta.) In so far as the distribution of rooms was concerned, the overseer (vilicus) was to have his chamber beside the main entrance (janua), in order that he might observe all who came in or went out; the book-keeper (procurator) was to be placed over the gate, that he might watch the vilicus as well as the others; while the shepherds (opiliones), oxherds (bubulci), and such persons were to be lodged in the immediate vicinity of the animals under their charge.

3. Fructuaria. This comprehended that part of the building where the produce of the farm was preserved, consisting of the oil cellar (cello olearia), the press-house (cella torcularia), the vault for wines in the cask (cella vinaria), the boiling-room for inspissating must (defrutaria,) all of which were on the ground-floor, or a little depressed below the level of the soil. Above were hay-lofts (faenilia), repositories for chaff, straw, leaves, and other fodder (palearia,) granaries (horrea, granaria), a drying-room for newly cut wood (fumarium) in connexion with the rustic bath flues, and store-rooms (apothecae) for wine in the amphora, some of which communicated with the fumarium, while others received the jars whose contents had been sufficiently mellowed by the influence of heat.

In addition to the conveniences enumerated above, a mill and bake-house (pistrinum et furnum) were attached to every establishment; at least two open tanks (piscinae, lacus sub dio), one for the cattle and geese, the other for steeping lupines, osiers, and objects requiring maceration; and, where there was no river or spring available, covered reservoirs (cisternae sub tectis) into which rain-water was conveyed for drinking and culinary purposes. (Cat. 3, 4, 14; Varr. 1.11-14; Col. 1.6; Geopon. 2.3.)


The instrumenta employed to cultivate the ground were two-fold: a. Persons (homines;) b. Aids to human toil (adminicula hominum,) namely, oxen and other animals employed in work; together with tools (instrumenta), in the restricted sense of the word.


Free and slave laborer.

The men employed to cultivate a farm might be either, 1. free labourers (operarii), or 2. slaves (servi.

1. Free labourers (operarii).

Cato considers the facility of procuring persons of this description as one of the circumstances that ought to weigh with a purchaser in making choice of a farm; for although a large proportion of the work upon great estates was, during the later ages at least of the Roman republic, always performed by slaves, it was considered advantageous to employ hirelings for those operations where a number of hands were required for a limited period, as in hay-making, the corn harvest, and the vintage, or, according to the cold-blooded recommendation of Varro (1.17, 2), in unhealthy situations where slaves would have died off fast, entailing a heavy loss on their owner. Operarii were [p. 1.59]usually hired in gangs (conducticiae liberorum operae), who entered into an engagement with a contractor (mercennarius), who in his turn bargained with the farmer for some piece of work in the slump, or else they were persons who had incurred debt which they paid off in work to their creditors. This, which was an ordinary practice in the earlier ages of the Roman republic, seems in later times to have been confined to foreign countries, being common, according to Varro, especially in Asia, Egypt, and Illyria. The mercennarius politor spoken of by Cato (100.5) was, according to Mommsen (Hist. 2.363 note, and 368), a reaper, or more strictly a thresher, who was paid for his labour by a certain share of the corn.

2. Slaves (servi).

Rustic slaves were divided into two great classes,--those who were placed under no direct personal restraint (servi soluti,) and those who worked in fetters (servi vincti) when abroad, and when at home were confined in a kind of prison (ergastulum), where they were guarded and their wants supplied by a gaoler (erqastularius). Slaves, moreover, in large establishments, were ranked in bodies according to the duties which they were appointed to perform, it being a matter of obvious expediency that the same individuals should be regularly employed in the same tasks. Hence there were the ox-drivers (bubulci), who for the most part acted as ploughmen also (aratores,) the stable-men (jugarii), who harnessed the domestic animals and tended them in their stalls, the vine-dressers (vinitores), the leaf-strippers (frondatores), the ordinary labourers (mediastini,) and many other classified bodies. These, according to their respective occupations, worked either singly, or in small gangs placed under the charge of inspectors (magistri operum). When the owner (dominus) did not reside upon the property, and in person superintended the various operations in progress, the whole farming establishment was under the control of a general overseer (vilicus), himself a slave or freedman, who regulated the work, distributed food and clothing to the labourers, inspected the tools, kept a regular account of the stock, performed the stated sacrifices, bought what was necessary for the use of the household, and sold the produce of the farm, for which he accounted to the proprietor, except on very extensive estates where there was usually a steward (not a slave) (procurator) who managed the pecuniary transactions, and held the vilicus in check. With the vilicus was associated a female slave (contubernalis mulier) called vilica, who took charge of the female slaves, and the indoor details of the family. The duties and qualifications of a vilicus will be found enumerated in Cat. 100.5, and Col. 1.8; comp. Geopon. 2.44, 45 ; Varro, 1.17, 3; Mommsen, 2.366.

Food of the household slaves.

The food of the slaves composing the household (familia) was classed under three heads: 1. Cibaria. 2. Vinum. 3. Pulmentarium.

1. Cibaria.

The servi compediti, being kept constantly in confinement, received their food in the shape of bread at the rate of 4 pounds (Roman pound=11 4/5 oz. avoirdupois) per diem in winter, and 5 pounds in summer, until the figs came in, when they went back to 4 pounds. The servi soluti received their food in the shape of corn, at the rate of 4 modii (pecks) of wheat per month in winter, and 4 1/2 in summer. Those persons, such as the vilicus, the vilica, and the shepherd (opilio), who had no hard manual labour to perform, were allowed one-fourth less if Cato's text is (100.56) sound; but cf. Wordsworth's Specimens of early Latin, p. 617.

2. Vinum.

The quantity of wine allowed varied much according to the season of the year and the severity of the toil imposed, but a servus solutus received about 8 amphorae (nearly 48 imperial gallons) a year, and a servus compeditus about 10 amphorae, besides lora [see VINUM] at discretion for three months after the vintage, (Cato, 57.)

3. Pulmentarium.

As pulmentaria they received olives which had fallen from the trees (oleae caducae), then those ripe olives (oleae tempestivae), from which the least amount of oil could be expressed, and, after the olives were all eaten up, salt fish (halec), and vinegar (acetum). In addition to the above, each individual was allowed a sextarius (very nearly an imperial pint) of oil per month, and a modius of salt per annum, rather more than the allowance in the Bengal jails at present.

Clothing (vestimenta.

The clothing (vestimenta) of the rustic labourers was of the most coarse description, but such as to protect them effectually from cold and wet, enabling them to pursue their avocations in all weathers. It consisted of thick woollen shirts (tunicae) 3 1/2 ft. long, skin coats with long sleeves (pelles manicatae), cloaks with hoods (saga cucullata, cuculiones), patch-work wrappers (centones) made out of the old and ragged garments, together with strong sabots or wooden shoes (sculponeae). A tunic, a sagum, and a pair of sculponeae were given every other year.

Number of hands required.

The number of hands required to cultivate a farm depended almost entirely on the nature of the crops.

An arable farm of 200 jugers, where the ordinary crops of corn and leguminous vegetables were raised, required two pairs of oxen, two bubulci and six ordinary labourers, if free from trees; but if laid out as an arbustum, three additional hands.

An olive-growing farm of 240 jugers required three pairs of oxen, three asses for carrying manure (asini ornati clitellarii), one ass for turning the mill, five score of sheep, a vilicus, a vilica, five ordinary labourers, three bubulci, one ass-driver (asinarius), one shepherd (opilio), one swineherd (subulcus); in all twelve men and one woman.

A vineyard of 100 jugers required one pair of oxen, one pair of draught asses (asini plostrarii,) one mill ass (asinus molaris), a vilicus, a vilica, one bubulcus, one asinarius, one man to look after the plantations of willows used for withes (salictarius), one subulcus,ten ordinary labourers; in all fifteen men and one woman. Varro points out that the number in some instances need not be increased in proportion to the increased size of the farm; e. g. one vilicus and one vilica will suffice for a much larger estate. (Cat. 5, 10, 11; Varr. 1.19; Col. 1.7, 8,.2.12.)

Rented land.

The proprietor was usually himself the farmer, but occasionally, quite as the exception, land was let (locare) to a tenant, who paid his rent either in money (pensio; ad pecuniam numeratam conduxit), as seems to have been the [p. 1.60]practice when Columella wrote, or by making over to the landlord a fixed proportion of the produce (non nummo sed partibus locare), according to the system described by Cato, and alluded to by the younger Pliny. These coloni sometimes tilled the same farm from father to son for generations (coloni indigenae), and such were considered the most desirable occupants, since they had a sort of hereditary interest in the soil, while on the other hand frequent changes could scarcely fail to prove injurious. The worst tenants were those who did not cultivate in person, but, living in towns (urbanus colonus), employed gangs of slaves. Upon the whole Columella recommends the owner of an estate to keep it in his own hands, except when it is very barren, the climate unhealthy, or the distance from his usual place of abode so great that he can seldom be upon the spot. Cato gives a table of the proportion which the partiarius ought to pay, according to the nature of the crop and the fertility of the region; but as he says nothing with regard to the manner in which the cost of cultivation was divided between the parties, his statement gives us no practical insight into the nature of these leases (Cat. 136, 137; Col. 1.7; Plin. Ep. 9.37, cf. iii, 19; Mommsen, 2.364 n.).


The domestic animals employed in labour and their treatment will be considered under the second great division of our subject, Pastio, or the management of stock.

The tools (instrumenta) chiefly used by the farmer were the plough (aratrum), the grubber (irpex), harrows (crates, crates dentatae), the rake (rastrum), the spade (ligo, pala), the hoe (sarculum, bidens), the mattock (marra), the spud or weeding-hook (runco), the scythe and sickle (falx), the thrashing-machine (plostellum Poenicum, tribulum), the cart (plostrum), the axe (securis, dolabra). These will be described as we go along in so far as may be necessary to render our observations intelligible, but for full information the reader must consult the separate articles devoted to each of the above words.


The most important operations performed by the husbandman were:--

The Flamen who offered sacrifice on the Cerealia to Ceres and Tellus, invoked twelve celestial patrons of these labours by the names Vervactor; Reparator; Imporcitor; Insitor; Obarator; Occator; Saritor; Subruncator; Messor; Convector; Conditor; Promitor,--significant appellations, which will be clearly understood from what follows. The functions of the last deity alone do not fall within our limits; but we shall add another to the list in the person of Stercutius or Sterculius (Serv. ad Verg. G. 1.21; Plin. Nat. 17.50; Lactant. 1.20; Macrob. Sat 1.7, 25; Prudent. Peristeph. 2.449; Augustin. de Civ. Dei, 18.15).

1. Ploughing (aratio.

The number of times that land was ploughed, varying from two to nine, as well as the season at which the work was performed, depended upon the nature of the soil and the crop for which it was prepared. The object of ploughing being to keep down weeds, to pulverise the earth as finely as possible (Verg. G. 2.204), and to expose every portion of it in turn to the action of the atmosphere, the operation was repeated again and again (Verg. G. 1.47), until these objects were fully attained. When stiff low-lying soil (campus uliginosus) was broken up for wheat, it was usual to plough it four times: first (proscindere or vervagere) as early in spring as the weather would permit (Verg. G. 1.63), after which the land was termed vervactum, and hence the god Vervactor; for the second time (offringere, iterare, vervacta subigere), about the summer solstice, under the patronage of the god Reparator, and on this occasion the field was cross-ploughed (Verg. G. 1.97); for the third time (tertiare), about the beginning of September; and for the fourth time, shortly before the equinox, when it was ribbed (lirare) for the reception of the seed, the ribbing being executed under favour of the god Imporcitor (from porca, the ridge between the furrows), by adding two mouldboards to the plough (aratrum auritum), one on each side of the share. (Varr. 1.29; Pallad. 1.43.) Rich soil on sloping ground was ploughed three times only, the ploughing in spring or at the beginning of September being omitted; light (exilis) moist soil also three times, at the end of August, early in September, and about the equinox; whilst the poorest hill soil was ploughed twice in rapid succession, early in September, so that the moisture might not be dried up by the summer heat. (Verg. G. 1.70; Col. 2.4.)

The greatest care was taken not to plough ground that had been rendered miry by rain, nor that which after a long drought had been wetted by showers which had not penetrated beyond the surface (Col. 2.4, 5; Pallad. 2.3); but whether this last is really the terra cariosa of Cato, as Columella seems to think, is by no means clear. (Cat. 5, 34; comp. Plin. Nat. 17.34.)

With regard to the depth to which the share was to be driven, we have no very precise directions ; but Columella recommends generally for Italy deep ploughing (2.2, 23; comp. Plin. Nat. 18.170) in preference to mere scratching (scarificatio) with light shares (exiguis vomeribus et dentalibus), which is proper for Numidia or Egypt.

The plough was almost invariably drawn by oxen, although Homer (Hom. Il. 10.351; Od. 8.124) prefers mules, yoked close together in such a manner as to pull by their necks and not by the horns, guided and stimulated chiefly by the voice. The lash was used very sparingly, and the young steer was never pricked by the goad (stimulus,) since it was apt to render him restive and unmanageable. The animals were allowed to rest at the end of each furrow, but not to stop in the middle of it: when unharnessed, they were carefully rubbed down, allowed to cool, and watered, before they were tied up in the stall, their mouths having been previously washed with wine. (Col. 2.2, 22-28.)

The ploughman (bubulcus) was required to make perfectly straight and uniform furrows (sulco [p. 1.61]vario ne ares, Cat. 61), so close to each other as altogether to obliterate the mark of the share, and was particularly cautioned against missing over any portion of the ground, and thus leaving scamna ; that is, masses of hard unstirred earth (necubi crudum solum et immotum relinquat, quod agricolae scamnum vocant, Col. 2.2, 25). The normal length of a furrow was 120 feet; any greater length was considered to try the oxen too much. A distinction is drawn between versus and versura, the former being properly the furrow, the latter the extremity of the furrow, or the turning point; but this is far from being strictly observed. (Col. 2.2, § § 27, 28.)

Four days were allowed for the four ploughings of a juger of rich low-lying land (jugerum talis agri quatuor operis expeditur, Col. 2.4, 8). The first ploughing (proscissio) occupied two days, the second (iteratio) one day, the third (tertiatio) three-fourths of a day, and ribbing for the seed one-fourth of a day (in liram satum redigitur quadrante operae, ib.). The same time is allowed for the three ploughings of rich upland soil (colles pinguis soli) as for the four ploughings of the uliginosus campus, the fatigue being much greater, although the difficulties presented by the acclivity were in some measure relieved by ploughing hills in a slanting direction, instead of straight up and down. (Varr. 1.27, 29; Col. 2.2, 4; Plin. Nat. 18.178; Pallad. 1.6, 2.3, 8.1, 10.1; Geopon. 2.23; and comp. Hom. Il. 13.704, 18.370, 540; Od. 5.127.)

2. Manuring (stercoratio.)

Manure (fimus, stercus). This was of three kinds: (1) the dung of birds (stercus columbinum); (2) of the ordinary domestic animals (bubulum, ovillum, caprinum, suillum, equinum, asininum, &c.); (3) human excrements. These differed considerably in quality, and hence those who raised different kinds of crops are enjoined to keep the different sorts of dung separate, in order that each might be applied in the most advantageous manner. That derived from pigeon-houses (columbariis), from aviaries where thrushes and blackbirds were fattened (ex aviariis turdorum ac merularum, Varro, 1.38), and from birds in general, except water-fowl, was considered the hottest and most powerful, and always placed apart, being sown by the hand exactly as we deal with guano at the present moment. The dung of swine was considered of the least value (Col. 2.38). The ancient writers very emphatically point out the necessity of procuring large supplies of manure, which the Romans regarded under the special patronage of Stercutius, and farmers were urged to collect straw, weeds, leaves of all sorts, hedge-clippings, and tender twigs, which were first used to litter the stock, and then, when mixed with ashes, sweepings of the house, road-scrapings, and filth of every description, served to swell the dunghills (sterquilinia). These were at least two in number, one being intended for immediate use, the other for the reception of fresh materials, which were allowed to remain for a year (Varro, 1.13); dung, when old and well rotted, being accounted best for all purposes, except for top-dressing of meadows, when it was used as fresh as possible. The dunghills were formed on ground which had been hollowed out and beaten down or paved, so that the moisture might not escape through the soil, and they were covered over with brushwood or hurdles to prevent evaporation. In this way the whole mass was kept constantly moist, and fermentation was still further promoted by turning it over very frequently and incorporating the different parts. (Col. 2.14.)

The particular crops to which manure was chiefly applied will be noticed hereafter; but in so far as regards the time of application it was laid down in September or October, on the ground that was to be autumn sown; and in the course of January or February, on the ground that was to be spring sown. A full manuring (stercoratio) for a juger of land on an upland slope (quod spissius stercoratur) was 24 loads (vehes,) each load being 80 modii or pecks; while for low-lying land (quod rarius stercoratur) 18 loads were considered sufficient. (Col. 2.5.) The dung was thrown down in small heaps of the bulk of five modii, it was then broken small, was spread out equally and ploughed in instantly that it might not be dried up by the rays of the sun, great care being taken to perform these operations when the moon was waning, and if possible with a west wind. According to the calculations of Columella (2.14), the live-stock necessary for a farm of two hundred jugers ought to yield 1440 loads per year; that is, enough for manuring 60 jugers at the rate of 24 loads to the juger. In what proportions this was distributed is nowhere very clearly defined, and must necessarily have varied according to circumstances. If we take two statements of Cato in connexion with each other, we shall be led to conclude that he advises one-half of the whole manure made upon a farm to be applied to the raising of green crops used as fodder (pabulum), one-fourth to the top-dressing of meadows, and the remaining fourth for the olives and fruit-trees. Columella recommends the manuring of light soil (exilis terra) before the second ploughing; but when rich lands were summer fallowed previous to a corn crop, no manure was considered requisite. (Hom. Od. 17.297; Theophrast. Caus. Phys. 3.25; Cat. 5, 7, 29, 36, 37, 61; Varr. 1.13, 38; Col. 2.5, 14, 15, 11.2; Pallad. 1.33, x. i.; Cic. de Senect. 15, § § 51, 54; Plin. Nat. 17. § § 50-55, 18. § § 192-194; Geopon. 2.21, 22.)

The system of manuring by penning and feeding sheep upon a limited space of ground was neither unknown nor neglected, as we perceive from the precepts of Cato (30), Varro (2.2, 12), and Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.194), all of whom recommend the practice.

The ashes obtained by burning weeds, bushes, prunings, or any sort of superfluous wood, were found to have the best effect (Verg. G. 1.81 ; Col. 2.15, 4; Plin. Nat. 17.49; Geopon. 12.4),. and sometimes, as we know from Virgil (Georg. 1.84), it was deemed profitable to set fire to the stubble standing in the fields (Plin. Nat. 18.300). Caustic lime was employed as a fertiliser by some of the tribes of Transalpine Gaul in the time of Pliny, but in Italy its application seems to have been very limited and to have been confined to vines, olives, and cherry-trees. (Cat. 38; Pallad. 1.6; Plin. Nat. 17.53.)

Marl also (marga) of different kinds was known to the Greeks, was applied by the Megarenses to wet cold lands, and was extensively employed in Gaul and Britain; but not being found in Italy, [p. 1.62]did not enter into the agricultural arrangements of the Latins. Pliny devotes several chapters to an elaborate discussion upon these earths, of which he describes various sorts which had been made the subject of experiment, classifying them according to their colour, their constitution, and their qualities: the white (alba), the red (rufa), the dove-coloured (columbina), the clayey (argillacea), the sandy (arenacea), the tufaceous (to-facea), which was either fat (pinguis) or rough (aspera). Some of them we recognise at once, as, for example, the fat white clayey marl chiefly used in Britain, the effects of which were believed to endure for eighty years. (Plin. Nat. 17. § § 42, 45; comp. Varro, 1.7, In Gallia Transalpina intus ad Rhenum aliquot regiones accessi. . . ubi agros stercorarent candida fossicia creta.) Daubeny believes (p. 134) that the virtue ascribed to marl as a manure, which he says is worthless as such, is due to the large quantity of phosphate of lime found in some soils which bear that name.

Somewhat analogous to the use of marl was the system strongly recommended by Theophrastus and Columella, but condemned by Pliny, of combining soils in which some quality existed in excess, with those possessing opposite characters--dry gravel with chalky clay, or heavy wet loam with sand,--the object being frequently attained to a certain extent by subsoil ploughing, which was greatly approved of as a means of renovating fields exhausted by severe cropping. (Theophrast. Caus. Phys. 3.25; Col. 2.15; Plin. Nat. 17.41.)

When ordinary manures could not be procured in sufficient quantity, a scheme was resorted to which was at one time pursued in this country, and is still adopted with considerable success in many parts of Italy and in the sandy tracts of southern France. The field was sown about the middle of September with beans or lupines, which were ploughed into the ground the following spring, in all cases before the pod was fully formed, and at an earlier stage of their growth on light than on stiff soils. Nay, many crops, such as beans, peas, lupines, vetches, lentils (ervilia, cicerula), even when allowed to come to maturity, were supposed to exercise an ameliorating influence, provided their roots were immediately buried by the plough, although perhaps in this case the beneficial effect may have resulted from the manure applied before they were sown. On the other hand, corn in general, poppies, fenugreek, and all crops pulled up by the roots, such as cicer and flax, were supposed to exhaust (urere) the soil, which then required either repose or manure to restore its powers. (Theophrast. Caus. Phys. 8.9; Cat. 37; Varr. 1.23; Verg. G. 1.77; Col. 2.13-15, 11.2; Pallad. 1.6, 6.4, 10.9; Plin. Nat. 17.56, 18.182.)

3. Sowing (satio

May be considered under three heads. 1. The time of sowing. 2. The manner of sowing. 3. The choice, preparation, and quantity of the seed.

1. Time of sowing.

The seed-time (sementis), κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, commenced at the autumnal equinox, and ended fifteen days before the winter solstice. Few, however, began before the setting of the Pleiades (23rd October), unless on cold wet ground, or in those localities where bad weather set in soon; indeed, it was an old proverb that, while a late sowing often disappointed the hopes of the husbandman, an early one never realised them (maturam sationem saepe decipere solere, seram numquam quin mala sit); and the Virgilian maxim is to the same purpose (Georg. 1.219). Spring sowing (trimestris satio) was practised only in very deep stiff land, which would admit of being cropped for several years in succession (restibilis ager), or where, from peculiar circumstances connected with the situation or climate, such as the great inclemency of the winters, it was impossible for the farmer to sow in autumn; and hence, generally speaking, was resorted to very sparingly, and for the most part from necessity rather than inclination.

2. The manner of sowing.

We can infer from incidental notices in agricultural writers, that the seed was committed to the ground in at least three different modes.

a. The seed was cast upon a flat surface finely pulverised by the plough and harrow, and then covered up by ribbing the land (tertio cum arant, JACTO SEMINE, boves lirare dicuntur). (Varr. 1.29; comp. Col. 2.13.)

b. The land was ribbed, the seed was then dropped upon the tops of the lirae or elevated ridges, according to our fashion for turnips, LIRAS autem rustici vocant easdem porcas cum sic aratum est, ut inter duos latius distantes sulcos, medius cumulus siccam sedem frumentis praebeat. (Col. 2.4.8.) This plan was followed on wet land to secure a dry bed for the seed, which would probably be covered up by hand-rakes (rastris.

c. The land was ribbed as in the former case; but the seed, instead of being dropped upon the ridge of the lira, was cast into the depression of the furrow, and might be covered up either by the harrow or by ploughing down the middle of the lira. This was practised on light, sloping, and therefore dry, land (neque in lira sed sub sulco talis ager seminandus est, Col. 2.4.11).

Vetches, fenugreek, and some other crops, as will be noticed below, were frequently thrown upon land unprepared (cruda terra), and the seeds then ploughed in. The seed seems to have been cast out of a three-peck basket (trimodiam satoriam, sc. corbem), which from superstitious motives was sometimes covered over with the skin of a hyaena (Col. 2.9, 9). Pliny points out how necessary it was that the hand of the sower should keep time with his stride, in order that he might scatter the grains with perfect uniformity.

3. The choice, preparation, and quantity of the seed.

The points chiefly attended to in the choice of seed corn were, that it should be perfectly fresh and free from mixture or adulteration, and of an uniform reddish colour throughout its substance. When the crop was reaped, the largest and finest ears were selected by the hand, or, where the produce was so great as to render this impossible, the heaviest grains were separated by a sieve (quidquid exteratur capisterio expurgandum erit, Col. 2.9, 11) and reserved. In addition to these precautions it was not unusual to doctor seeds of all sorts (medicare semina) by sprinkling them with an alkaline liquor (nitrum, i.e. probably carbonate of soda), or with the deposit left by newly-expressed oil (amurca), or by steeping them in various preparations, of which several are enumerated by Columella and Pliny (cf. Verg. G. 1.193); the object being twofold, in the first place to increase the quantity [p. 1.63]and quality of the produce, and in the second place to protect it from the ravages of vermin, especially the little animal called curculio, probably the same insect with our weevil.

The quantity of seed sown varied according to the soil, the situation, the season, and the weather, the general rule being that less was required for rich and finely pulverised (pingue et putre), or light and sharp (gracile), or thin poor soil (macrum, exile) than for such as was stiff and heavy (crassum, cretosum), or moderately tenacious; less for an open field than for an arbustum, less at the beginning of the season than towards the close (although this is contradicted by Pliny, Plin. Nat. 18.196), and less in rainy than in dry weather, maxims which are fully explained by the authorities quoted below. The average amount of seed used for the three principal species of grain--wheat, spelt, and barley--was respectively five, ten, and six modii per juger, which Daubeny (p. 129) shows to correspond pretty nearly with our own practice. (Xenoph. Oecon. 17; Theophrast. 2.6, and 3.25; Cat. 34, 35; Varr. 1.29, 34, 40, 44, 52; Col. 2.2, 3, 8-10, 13, 12.2; Pallad. 1.6, 34, 10.2; Verg. G. 1.193, 212, 225; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 198 ff., 304 ff.; Geopon. 2.15-20.)

4. Harrowing (occatio

Might be performed at two different periods: after the first or second ploughing, in order to powder the soil completely; and after sowing, in order to cover up the seed. When the land was encumbered with roots and deep-seated weeds, a grubber (irpex, Cat. 10; Varr. L. L. 5.136) formed of a strong plank set with iron spikes was employed, but in ordinary cases wicker hurdles (vimineae crates), sometimes fitted with teeth (dentatae), were dragged over the ground; or the clods were broken with hand-rakes (rastra.) The seed, as we have seen above, being for the most part ploughed in, and the operation for that reason placed under the patronage of a god Obarator, the second harrowing (iteratio) was omitted, except where the surface still rose in lumps (Verg. G. 1.104); but since it was the duty of a good farmer to have his fields in the best order before he began to sow, the older Roman writers considered harrowing after sowing as a proof of bad husbandry.--“Veteres Romani dixerunt male subactum agrum, qui satis frugibus occandus sit.” (Col. 2.4, 13, 11.2, 82; Plin. Nat. 18.180; Verg. G. 1.94, 104.)

5. Hoeing (saritio.

The next care, after covering up the seed, was to loosen the earth round the roots of the young blades, in order that air and moisture might gain free access and enable them to send forth more numerous and more vigorous shoots and fibres (ut fruticare possint). This process was termed σκαλεία, saritio, or sarculatio, and was carried on by hand with an instrument called sarculum, the form of which is not known. Corn was usually hoed twice, for the first time in winter, as soon as it fairly covered the ground (cum sata sulcos contexerint), provided there was no frost; and for the second time in spring, before the stalk became jointed (antequam seges in articulum eat); great care being taken at all times not to injure the root. On the first occasion, and then only, where the ground was dry and the situation warm, the plants, in addition to a simple hoeing (plana saritio), were earthed up (adobruere). Columella recommends saritio for almost all crops, except lupines; but authorities differed much as to the necessity or propriety of performing the operation in any case, and those who advocated its expediency most warmly, agreed that the periods at which it ought to be executed, and the number of times that it ought to be repeated, must depend upon the soil, climate, and a variety of special circumstances. (Cat. 37; Varr. 1.18, 29, 36; Col. 2.11, 11.2; Plin. Nat. 18.184; Geopon. 2.24: comp. Plaut. Capt. 3.5, 3; Verg. G. 1.155

6. Weeding (runcatio.

Hoeing was followed by weeding (βοτανισμός, runcatio), which in the case of grain crops took place immediately before they began to blossom, or immediately after the flower had passed away. The weeds were either pulled up by the roots (evulsis inutilibus herbis), or cut over with a bill-hook, which Palladius terms runco. (Cat. 37; Varr. 1.30; Col. 2.11, 11.2; Pallad. i. sub fin.; Plin. Nat. 18.185; Geopon. 2.24.)

But after the farmer had laboured with unremitting zeal in cleaning and pulverising the soil, in selecting and medicating the seed, in hoeing the young blades, and in extirpating the common noxious weeds (lolium, tribuli, lappae, cardui, rubi, avena), the safety of the crop was threatened by a vast number of assailants (tum variae illudant pestes, Verg. G. 1.181); such as worms of various kinds (vermiculi) attacking both root and ear, caterpillars (uricae), spiders (phalangia,) snails (limaces, cocleae), mice (mures), moles (talpae), and the whole race of birds, besides which each kind of plant was believed to have its own special vegetable enemy, which, if not carefully watched, would spring up, choke, and destroy it. But the foe dreaded above all others in the vineyard and the cornfield was a peculiar blight or mildew termed robigo, which wrought such havoc in damp low-lying situations that it was regarded as a manifestation of wrath on the part of a malignant spirit, whose favour the rustic sought to propitiate by the annual festival of the Robigalia. [ROBIGALIA] (Plin. Nat. 18.154; Verg. G. 1.151

Another danger of an opposite description arose from the grain shooting up so rapidly that the stalk was likely to become immoderately long and weak. The danger in this case was averted by pasturing down the too luxuriant herbage with sheep (luxuriem segetum tenera depascit in herba), or by dragging over it an iron-toothed harrow (cratis et hoc genus dentatae stilis ferreis,) by which it was said to be combed (pectinari). (Verg. G. 1.112; Plin. Nat. 18.186.)

7. Reaping (messio.

The corn was reaped as soon as it had acquired a uniform yellow tint, without waiting until it had become dead ripe, in order to avoid the loss sustained by shaking, and by the ravages of animals. The necessity of pursuing this course with regard to barley is especially insisted upon; but it is quite at variance with modern practice. There was a saying that it was better to reap two days too soon than two days too late. (Col. 2.9; Plin. Nat. 18.298.) [p. 1.64]

Varro (1.50) describes three distinct methods of reaping (tria genera messionis.

  • 1. That followed in Umbria, where the stalk was shorn close to the ground with a hook (falx.) Each handful was laid down; and when a number of these had accumulated, the ears were cut off, thrown into baskets (corbes), and sent to the threshing-floor, the straw (stramentum) being left upon the field, and afterwards gathered into a heap.
  • 2. That followed in Picenum, where they used a small iron saw (serrula ferrea) fixed to the extremity of a crooked wooden handle (ligneum incurvum batillum); with this they laid hold of a bundle of ears which were cut off, the straw being left standing to be mown subsequently.
  • 3. That followed in the vicinity of Rome and most other places, where the stalks were grasped in the left hand and cut at half their height from the ground, the whole of the portion detached being conveyed in baskets to the threshing-floor, and the part left standing being cut afterwards.
The last two methods only are particularly noticed by Columella, who describes the instruments employed in the second under the names of pectines and mergae (multi mergis, alii pectinibus spicam ipsam legunt); and those employed in the third as falces veruculatae (multi falcibus veruculatis, atque iis vel rostratis vel denticulatis medium culmum secant); for which comp. Paul. ex Fest. p. 124, Müll. and Schneider's note on Col. 2.20; Ven. 1.51, 2. In addition to the above, Pliny and Palladius describe a reaping-machine worked by oxen, which was much used in the extensive plains of Gaul. Pliny also describes another kind of reaping: stipulae alibi mediae falce praeci-duntur atque inter duas mergites spica destringitur, where mergites seems to be the same as Columella's mergae. Daubeny supposes that inter duas mergites = “by a pair of shears,” which can hardly be right. Virgil (Georg. 1.316), perhaps, alludes to binding up the corn in sheaves; but his words are not so clear upon this point as those of Homer in the charming picture of a harvest-field contained in the eighteenth book of the Iliad. (Varr. 1.50; Col. 2.20; Plin. Nat. 18.296; Pallad. 7.2; Geopon. 2.25; comp. Hom. Il. 11.67, 18.550.)

8. Threshing (tritura.

After the crop had been properly dried and hardened (torrefacta) by exposure to the sun, it was conveyed to the threshing-floor (ἅλως, ἀλωή, or ἁλωή, area). This was an open space, on some elevated spot over which the wind had free course, of a circular form, slightly raised in the centre to allow moisture to run off. The earth was compressed by heavy rollers (gravi cylindro, molari lapide), pounded with rammers (paviculis,) and reduced to a solid consistency with clay and chaff, so as to present an even unyielding surface; or, better still, paved with hard stones. Here the corn was spread out and beaten with flails (baculis excutere, fustibus cudere, perticis flagellare); or more commonly, except when the ears alone had been brought from the field, trodden out (exterere) by the feet of a number of men or horses, who were driven backwards and forwards within the ring. To produce the effect more easily and more perfectly, the cattle were frequently yoked to a machine (tribulum, tribula, trahea, traha), consisting of a board made rough by attaching to it stones or pieces of iron, and loaded with some heavy weight; or what was termed a Punic wain (plostellum Poenicum) was employed, being a set of toothed rollers covered with planks, on which sat the driver who guided the team.

Attached to the area was a huge shed or half-enclosed barn (nubilarium), of sufficient dimensions to contain the whole crop. Here the corn was dried in unfavourable seasons before being threshed, and hither it was hurriedly conveyed for shelter when the harvest work was interrupted by any sudden storm. (Cat. 91, 129; Varr. 1.13, 51, 52; Col. 1.6, 2.19; Pallad. 1.36, 8.1; Plin. Nat. 18.298; Hom. Il. 13.588, 20.495, 21.77; Verg. Georg 1.178; Geopon. 2.26.)

9. Winnowing (ventilatio.

When the grain was mixed with chaff, it was laid down in small piles upon the area, in order that the lighter particles might be borne away by the passing breeze; but when the wind was not sufficiently strong, it became necessary to winnow (eventilare) it. This was effected by a labourer (λικμητήρ, ventilator), who tossed it up from a broad basket (vannus), sieve (capisterium) or shovel (πτύον, ventilabrum), when the heavy portion fell down in a heap, and the chaff floated off through the air. When it was intended to keep the corn for any length of time, it was common to repeat the process (repurgare, repolire), that it might be thoroughly cleaned. (Varr. 1.52; Col. 2.9, 20; cf. Hom. Il. 5.499, 13.588.)

10. Preservation of Corn (de frumento servando).

After the corn had been threshed out and winnowed, or at least the ears separated from the stalk, the next care was to store up (condere) the grain in fitting repositories (granaria, horrea). The great object in view being to preserve it from becoming mouldy or rotten, and to protect it from the ravages of vermin, especially the weevil (curculio), we find that very great diversity of opinion existed as to the means by which those ends might best be attained. By some the store-houses were built with brick walls of great thickness, for the purpose, it would seem, of securing a uniform temperature, and had no window or aperture, except a hole in the roof, through which they were filled. Others, again, raised these structures aloft on wooden columns,, and allowed currents of air to pass through on all sides and even from below; while others admitted particular winds only,--such, namely, as were of a drying character. Many plastered the walls with a sort of hard stucco, worked up with amurca, which was believed to act as a safeguard against vermin, while others considered the use of lime under any form as decidedly injurious. These and many different opinions, together with receipts for various preparations wherewith to sprinkle the corn, will be found detailed in the authorities cited below, among whom Pliny very sensibly observes that the principal consideration ought to be the condition of the grain itself when housed; since, if not perfectly dry, it must of necessity breed mischief. In many countries, as in Thrace, Cappadocia, Spain, and Africa, the corn was laid up in pits (scrobibus) sunk in a perfectly dry soil and well [p. 1.65]lined with chaff, a practice now extensively adopted in Tuscany. Wheat in the ear (cum spica sua) might, according to Varro, if the air was excluded, be preserved in such receptacles for fifty years, and millet for a hundred. Modern experiments (comp. British Association Reports for 1850) have shown that seeds very rarely retain their vitality for as much as forty years. (Cat. 92; Varr. 1.57; Col. 1.6 ; Pallad. 1.19; Plin. Nat. 18.307; Geopon. 2.27-31.)


Crops, as already remarked, may be divided into four classes :--
  • 1. Grain or corn crops.
  • 2. Leguminous crops, or pulse.
  • 3. Crops cut green for forage.
  • 4. Crops which supplied the raw materials for the textile fabrics.
We might extend the number of classes did we purpose to treat of certain plants, such as poppies (papavera) and sesamum, raised to a small extent only, and confined to particular localities ; but our limits do not permit us to embrace so wide a field of inquiry.

In addition to the above, much attention was devoted to what may be termed secondary crops; those, namely, which did not afford directly food or clothing for man or beast, but which were required in order to facilitate the cultivation and collection of the primary crops. Thus, beds of willows (salicta) for baskets and withes, and of reeds (arundineta) for vine-props, were frequently in favourable situations very profitable, just as land in certain districts of Kent yields a large return when planted with young chestnuts for hop-poles.

1. Corn Crops (frumenta).

The word applied in a general sense to denote what we now call “the cereal grasses” was frumenta; but of these wheat being by far the most important, it is not wonderful that the term in question should be employed frequently to denote wheat specially, and occasionally in such a manner as to exclude other kinds of grain, as when Pliny remarks, “calamus altior frumento quam hordeo,” meaning “in wheat the stalk is longer than in barley.” The only frumenta which it will be necessary for us to consider particularly in this place are--

a. Triticum and Far; b. Hordeum; c. Panicum and Milium.

a. Triticum and Far. No one entertains any doubt that triticum (πυρὸς in Greek, and in the later writers σῖτος) is the generic name for the grain which we denominate wheat; but when we proceed to examine the different species or varieties, we are involved in many difficulties, for the botanical descriptions transmitted to us by the ancients are in all cases so imperfect, and in many instances so directly at variance with one another, that it becomes almost impossible to identify with certainty the objects to which they refer, with those familiar to ourselves. Columella (2.6; comp. Dioscorid. 2.107 ; Theophr. H. P. 8.1, 4), who attempts a systematic classification, assigns the first place among “frumenta” to Triticum and Semen adoreum, each of which contained several species or varieties. Among many different kinds of triticum he deems the following only deserving of particular notice:--

Among the different kinds of Semen adoreum, the following are particularly noticed:--

Now, with regard to the three kinds of triticum enumerated above, we shall have little difficulty in deciding that they were not distinct species, but merely varieties of the same species; for we are assured by Columella (2.9), that triticum, when sown in wet land, passed in the course of three years into siligo, and by Pliny (l.c.) that siligo, in most parts of Gaul, passed, at the end of two years, into triticum; again, Columella, in describing trimestre, admits (although contradicted by Plin. Nat. 18.70) that it is a variety of siligo, while modern experience teaches us that winter and spring wheats are convertible by subjecting them to peculiar modes of cultivation. Hence we conclude that robus and siligo were varieties of what is now termed by botanists Trilicum hibernum, and that trimestre was a variety of our Triticum aestivum, which is itself a variety of the hibernum.

The question with regard to Far, Ador, Semen adoreum, Semen, Adoreum, names used indifferently by the Latin writers, does not admit of such an easy solution. But after a careful examination of the numerous, vague, perplexing, and contradictory statements scattered over the classics, the discussion of which separately would far exceed our limits, we may with considerable confidence decide that far was a variety of the Greek ζέα or ζεία, and of the modern Triticum spelta, if not absolutely identical with one or both. Spelt, which is fully recognised by botanists as a distinct species of triticum, is much more hardy than common wheat, succeeding well in high exposed situations where the latter would not ripen, and its chaff adheres with singular firmness to the grain, both of which circumstances were prominent characteristics of far. (Col. 2.8; Plin. Nat. 18.83.) Indeed, it was found impossible to get rid of the thick double case in which it was enclosed, by the ordinary modes of threshing; therefore it was stored up with the chaff attached (convenit cum palea sua condi et stipula tantum et aristis liberatur); and when used as food it was necessary to pound it in a mortar, or rub it in a mill of a peculiar construction, in order to separate [p. 1.66]the tenacious husks--a process altogether distinct from grinding, and indicated by the words pinsere, pistura, pistores. (Varr. L. L. 5.138; Plin. Nat. 18.97 ff.) The idea entertained by some commentators, that the distinction between triticum and far consisted in the circumstance that the latter was awned while the former was beardless, is altogether untenable; for not only does Pliny say expressly in one passage (18.92), far sine arista est, and in another (18.298) as distinctly that far had aristae, but it is perfectly clear from Varro (1.48; compare Plin. Nat. 18.53) that ordinary triticum had a beard, and from Pliny that siligo was generally, although not uniformly, without one--a series of assertions whose contradictory nature need occasion no surprise, since it is now well known that this, like colour, is a point which does not amount to specific difference, for white, red, awned, and beardless wheats are found to change and run into each other, according to soil, climate, and mode of culture. Another fact noticed by Pliny, to which, if correct, botanists seem not to have given due attention, is, that triticum had four joints in its stalk, far six, and barley eight.

All agree that triticum (we shall use the word hereafter in the restricted sense of common winter-wheat) succeeded best in dry, slightly elevated, open ground, where the full influence of the sun's rays was not impeded by trees, while siligo and far were well adapted for low damp situations and stiff clayey soils (Cato, 34, 35; Varr. 1.9; Col. 2.6; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 94, 95).

The finest Italian wheat weighed from twenty-five to twenty-six pounds the modius, which corresponds to upwards of seventy English pounds avoirdupois to the imperial bushel, the Roman pound being very nearly 11.8 oz. avoird., and the modius .99119 of an imperial peck. The lightest was that brought from Gaul and from the Chersonese. It did not weigh more than twenty pounds the modius. Intermediate were the Sardinian, the Alexandrian, the Sicilian, the Baetican, and the African, the two last approaching most nearly in excellence to the Italian. (Plin. Nat. 18.75.)

The proportion which the produce bore to the seed sown varied, when Cicero and Varro wrote, in the richest and most highly cultivated districts of Sicily and Italy from 8 to 10 for 1; 15 for 1 was regarded as an extraordinary crop obtained in a few highly favoured spots only, while in the age of Columella, when agriculture had fallen into decay, the average return was less than 4 for 1. Parts of Egypt, the region of Byzacium in Africa, the neighbourhood of Gadara in Syria, and the territory of Sybaris were said to render a hundred or even a hundred and fifty fold; but these accounts were in all likelihood greatly exaggerated. (Cic. in Verr. 3.47, § 112: Varr. 1.44; Col. 3.3.4; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 89-92.)

Far is uniformly represented as having been the first species of grain ever cultivated in Italy, and as such was employed exclusively in religious ceremonies. Hence also farina became the generic term for flour or meal whether derived from far, from triticum, or from any other cereal. Thus we read of triticea farina, siliginea farina, hordeacea farina, even avenacea farina (Plin. Nat. 18.88, 20.135, 22.122). In the expressions far triticeum, far hordeaceum, found in Columella (8.5, 11), far is evidently used for farina, and we shall see that even siligo is in like manner used to denote, not only the solid grain, but the flour produced by grinding it. This being premised, we may proceed to examine the meaning of the terms pollen, similago s. simila, cibarium, siligo, flos, alica, amylum, granea, &c., several of which have never been clearly explained. Here again we can give the result only of an investigation, in the course of which we are obliged to thread our way through statements at once obscure and irreconcilable. Regarding triticum and siligo as two well distinguished varieties of wheat, their products when ground were thus classed by millers:--

It would appear that Celsus (2.18), considering wheat generally as triticum, called the finest and purest flour siligo; ordinary flour, simila; the whole produce of the grain, bran, and flour mixed together, αὐτόπυρος. (Plin. Nat. 18. § § 89 ff., 138.)

Alica is placed by Pliny among the different kinds of corn (18.50), and is probably the same with the Halicastrum, Alicastrum, or spring-sown far of Columella (2.6). But alica is also used to denote, not only the grain, but a particular preparation of it, most clearly described in another passage of Pliny (18.109). The finest was made from Campanian zea, which was first rubbed in a wooden mortar to remove the husk, and then (excussis tunicis) the pure grain (nudata medulla) was pounded. In this manner three sorts were produced and classed according to their fineness,--the minimum, the secundarium, and the coarsest or aphaerema,--and each was mixed with a kind of fine white marl (creta,) found between Naples and Puteoli, which became intimately amalgamated with it (transit in corpus, coloremque et teneritatem adfert). This compound was the principal ingredient in a sort of porridge also called alica, while alicarius, signifying properly one who pounded alica, sometimes denotes a miller in general. (Plin. Nat. 18.109, 22.124; Cat. 76; Cels. 6.6; Mart. 2.37, 13.6; Geopon. 3.7.)

Amylum is starch, and the modes of preparing it are described by Cato (87), and Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.76). It was used both in medicine and for the kitchen.

Granea was wheat, not ground, but merely divested of its husk, and made into a sort of porridge by boiling it in water and then adding milk. (Cat. 86.) Pliny (18.116) speaks of it as an inferior kind of alica.

b. Hordeum s. Ordeum (κριθαί; κρῖ, Hom.). Next in importance to triticum and adoreum was hordeum or barley, which was a more appropriate food for the lower animals than wheat, was better for man when made into polenta than [p. 1.67]wheat of an indifferent quality, and furnished excellent straw and chaff (stramentum, palea.

The species most generally cultivated, termed hexastichum or cantherinum, was, we can scarcely doubt, identical with the hardy species, now almost confined to Scotland, which we now call bere or bigg, the Hordeum hexastichon or six-rowed barley of botanists. It was sown after the vernal equinox (hence called τρίμηνος, Theophr. H. P. 8.1), upon land that had been twice ploughed, at the rate of five modii to the juger; succeeded best in a dry, loose, rich soil; and being an exhausting crop, the land from which it had been reaped was summer fallowed, or recruited by manure. It was cut as soon as it was ripe; for the stalk being brittle, was liable to be beaten down; and the grain not being enclosed in an outer husk, was easily shaken.

Another species, termed Galaticum or distichum, the same apparently with the modern Hordeum vulgare, or with the Hordeum distichum, varieties of the common two-rowed barley, was remarkable for its weight and whiteness, and answered well for mixing with wheaten flour in baking bread for slaves. It was sown in autumn, winter, or early spring, at the rate of six modii to the juger. Five modii of seed hordeum required six days and a half of labour to bring it to the threshing-floor; viz. ploughing three days, harrowing (occatoria opera) one, hoeing (sarritoria) one and a half, reaping (messoria) one.

Pliny speaks of hordeum as the lightest of all frumenta, weighing only 15 pounds to the modius (Roman pound=11.8 oz. avoird.). In mild climates it might be sown early in autumn. (Theophr. H. P. 8.1; Cat. 35; Varr. 1.34; Col. 2.9, § § 14-16; Verg. G. 1.210; Plin. Nat. 18.62; Geopon. 2.14.)

c. Panicum and Milium are commonly spoken of together, as if they were only varieties of the same grain. The first is in all probability the Panicum miliaceum or common millet of botanists, the ἔλυμος or μελίνη of the Greeks: the second is perhaps the Setaria Italica or Italian millet, which corresponds to the description of κέγχρος; while the large-grained species noticed by Pliny as having been brought from India less than ten years before the period when he wrote is, we can scarcely doubt, the Sorghum vulgare, or Doora of the Arabs. (H. N. 18.55.)

Panicum and milium were sown in spring (Verg. G. 1.216), towards the end of March, at the rate of four sextarii (pints) only to the juger, but they required repeated hoeing and weeding to keep them clean. They succeeded well in light loose soil, even on sand if well irrigated; and as soon as the ears were fairly formed, they were gathered by the hand, hung up to dry in the sun, and in this state would keep for a longer period than any other grain. Milium was baked into bread or cakes, very palatable when eaten hot; and both panicum and milium made good porridge (puls). Although not much used by the population of Italy, except perhaps in Campania, they formed a most important article of food in the Gauls, in Pontus, in Sarmatia, and in Ethiopia. (Cat. 6; Col. 2.9.17; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 100, 101; Pallad. 4.3; Geopon. 2.38; Theophr. C, P, ii, 17, H. P. 8.3; Dioscor. 2.119.)

Secäle, rye, the Secale cereale of botanists, is not mentioned by any of the Greek writers unless it be the βρίζα described by Galen (de Aliment Facult. 1.2) as cultivated in Thrace and Macedonia (but this, in all probability, was a coarse variety of spelt), nor by Cato, Varro, Columella, nor Palladius. Pliny alone (H. N. 18.141) speaks of it, and in the following terms:--“Secale Taurini sub Alpibus Asiam vocant, deterrimum, sed tantum ad arcendam famem: fecunda sed gracili stipula, nigritia triste, pondere praecipuum. Admiscetur huic far ut mitiget amaritudinem ejus; et tamen sic quoque ingratissimum ventri est. Nascitur qualicunque solo cum centesimo grano, ipsumque pro laetamine est.” In the previous chapter he makes it identical with silicia (fenugreek) and farrago; that is, corn sown for the purpose of being cut green as fodder. See remarks upon Farrago below.

Avena, the oat (βρόμος s. βρῶμος, Theophr. H. P. 8.4; Dioscorid. 2.16), the Avena sativa of botanists, need scarcely be noticed in this place, since it cannot be raised as a grain with any advantage in a climate so warm as that of Greece or of Italy. Columella (2.10.9) and Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.143, Avena Graeca) recommended that it should be sown for green fodder; and the latter, who considers it a degenerate kind of hordeum, remarks that it became a sort of corn (frumenti fit instar) in Germany, where it formed a regular crop, and where oatmeal porridge was a national dish (neque alia pulte vivant, H. N. 18. § § 44, 149). In another passage (H. N. 22.137) the same author prescribes oatmeal (avenacea farina) steeped in vinegar as a remedy for spots on the skin. The Avena condemned as a troublesome weed by Cato (Cat. Agr. 36.5) and Virgil (steriles avenae, Georg. 1.154) is probably the Avena fatua of botanists, although Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.149) makes no distinction between this and the cultivated kind.

Other cereals we may dismiss very briefly.

Oryza (ὄρυζα, ὄρυζον), rice, was imported from the East, and was much esteemed for making gruel (ptisana). Pliny's description of the plant is quite incorrect.

Zea (ζέα, ζεῖα), Olyra (ὄλυρα), Tiphe (τίφη) and Arinca, of which the first two are named by Homer, must be regarded as varieties of the Triticum Spelta or Far (Hdt. 2.36; Theophr. H. P. 2.5, 8.9; Dioscorid. 2.110; Galen. de Aliment. Facult. 1.2, 13). The statements found in the eighteenth book of Pliny's Natural History in reference to these four are altogether unintelligible when compared with each other. He evidently copied, as was too often his custom, from a number of discordant authorities without attempting to reconcile or thinking it necessary to point out their contradictions. In one place (18.92) he says distinctly that Arinca is the Olyra of Homer, and in another he seems to say (18.62) that Olyra in Egypt became Far (far in Ægypto ex olyra conficitur). Herodotus (2.36) asserts that Olyra and Zea were synonymous, and that these exclusively were cultivated by the Egyptians, but Sir J. G. Wilkinson has proved this to be incorrect. He holds that olyra was doora. The wheat which has been raised recently from the seeds discovered in the mummy cases is probably Triticum monococcum. [p. 1.68]

With regard to Irio and Horminum, of which the former seems to have been called ἐρύσιμον by the Greeks, both enumerated by Pliny among frumenta, although he afterwards somewhat qualifies this assertion, we do not hazard a conjecture. (Plin. Nat. 18.49; 22.158.)

We may conclude this section with an enumeration of the technical terms employed to denote the different parts of an ear and stalk of corn.

The whole ear was named spica; the beard or awn, arista; the ear, when beardless, spica mutica; the white solid substance of the grain, intimum solidum--nudata medulla--granum; the husk which immediately envelopes the granum, gluma, with which cortex, tunica, folliculus, are used as synonymous; the outer husk, acus; the outer husk with the short straw attached, palea; the stem, stipula, culmus, to which scapus, caulis correspond in leguminous plants; the knots or joints in the stem, geniculi, articuli; the sheath-like blade in the stem from which the ear issues forth, vagina.

2. Leguminous Crops (χέδροπα, Legumina).

The vegetables falling properly under this head, chiefly cultivated by the ancients, were: a. Faba; b. Lupinus; c. Lens s. Lenticula; d. Cicer; e. Cicercula; f. Phaseolus; g. Pisum; to which, in order to avoid multiplying subdivisions, we may add Napi and Rapa, since in common with the legumina they served as food both for men and cattle.

a. Faba. The ancient faba, the κύαμος of the Greeks, notwithstanding all that has been urged to the contrary, was certainly one of the varieties of our common field bean, the Vicia Faba, or Faba vulgaris arvensis of botanists. It required either rich and strong, or well-manured land. If sown upon moist low-lying ground that had remained long uncropped (veteretum), no previous preparation was necessary, but the seed was scattered and at once ploughed in; the field was then ribbed and finally harrowed (cum semen crudo solo ingesserimus, inarabimus, imporcatumque occabimus), the object being to bury the seed as deep as possible. But if beans were to be sown upon land from which a corn crop had been just reaped (restibilis ager), after the stubble was cleared away, manure was spread at the rate of twenty-four vehes to the juger, and then the remaining operations were the same as above. Rich land required from four to six modii to the juger, poorer soil somewhat more. A portion of the seed was committed to the ground about the middle (media sementi), the remainder at the end of the corn-sowing season (septimontialis satio.) Virgil (Georg. 1.215), indeed, following the practice of his own district, directs that beans should be sown in spring; but this was disapproved of in the rest of Italy because the stalks (caules--fabalia), the pods (siliquae), and the husks (acus fabaginum), all of which were of great value as food for cattle, were less luxuriant in the spring-sown (trimestris faba) than in the autumnal crop. Columella recommends that beans should be hoed three times, in which case they required no weeding. When they had arrived at maturity, they were reaped close to the ground, were made up into sheaves (fasciculi), were threshed by men who tossed the bundles with forks, trampled them under foot, and beat them with flails (baculis), and finally were cleaned by winnowing. The harvest took place in Central Italy about the end of May, and hence the first of June was named Calendae Fabariae, because on that day new beans were used in sacred rites. From four to six modii of seed required two days' work of the ploughman, if the land was newly broken up, but only one if it had been cropped the previous season; harrowing occupied one day and a half, the first hoeing one day and a half, the second and third each one day, reaping one day; in all seven or eight days.

Bean meal (lomentum, σμῆγμα) was baked into bread or cakes (ἄρτος κυάμινος), especially if mixed with the flour of wheat or millet; when made into porridge (fabacia, puts fabata), it was accounted an acceptable offering to the gods and termed Refriva,--a name properly applied to the beans brought home and set apart for holy purposes. (Hom. Il. 13.589; Cat. 35; Varr. 1.44; Col. 2.10, 12; Pallad. 2.9, 7.3; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 117, 119; Geopon. 2.35; Dioscorid. 2.127 ; Theophr. H. P. 4.2, 7.3, 8.1: comp. Fest. s. v. Refriva; Gel. 4.11, 10.15; Macr. 1.12; Cic. de Div. 1.3. 0, § 62; Ov. Fast. 5.436.)

b. Lupinus, the θέρμος of the Greeks, seems to include the Lupinus albus, the L. luteus, and the L. pilosus of botanists, the common white, yellow, and rose lupines of our gardens. The first of the above species was that chiefly cultivated by the Romans, and is pronounced by Columella to be the most valuable of the legumina, because it demanded very little labour, was a sure crop, and, instead of exhausting, actually refreshed and manured the land. Steeped in water and afterwards boiled, it formed an excellent food for oxen in winter, and might be used even for man during periods of scarcity. It could be sown as soon as threshed, might be cast upon ground unprepared by ploughing or any other operation (crudis novalibus), and was covered up anyhow, or not covered up at all, being protected by its bitterness from the attacks of birds and other animals.

The proper season for sowing was early in autumn, in order that the stalks might acquire vigour before the cold weather set in; the quantity of seed was ten modii to the juger, and the crop was reaped after it had remained a year in the ground. It succeeded well in any dry light land, especially in reddish soil, but not in wet tenacious soil. Ten modii required in all only three days' work; one for covering up, one for harrowing, and one for reaping, and of these operations, the two first might, if there was a press of work, be dispensed with. (Cat. 34; Col. 2.10, 16, 11.2; Pallad. 1.6, 2.9, 6.3, 7.3, 9.2; Plin. Nat. 18.135; Geopon. 2.39; Verg. G. 1.75

c. Lens s. Lenticula, the (φακός of the Greeks, the modern Ervum Lens, Vicia Lens, or Lentile, was sown twice a year, late in autumn (per mediam sementim) and early in spring, on dry light soil, in the proportion of rather more than a modius to the juger. It was recommended to mix the seed with dry manure, and, after leaving it in this state for four or five days, then to scatter it. A modius and a half required eight days' work--ploughing, three; harrowing, one; hoeing two; weeding, one; pulling, one. (Cat. 35; Verg. G. 1.228; Col. 2.10, 12, [p. 1.69]11.2; Plin. Nat. 18.123; Pallad. 12.11; Theophr. H. P. 8.3; Dioscorid. 2.129; Geopon. 2.37: comp. Martial, 13.9, 1; Gel. 18.8.)

d. Cicer, the ἐρέβινθος of the Greeks. The Cicer arietinum (κριός) and the Cicer Punicum, varieties of our common chick-pea, were sown in rich soil, during the month of March, in the proportion of three modii to the juger, the seeds having been previously steeped to make them germinate more readily. The crop was considered injurious to the soil, and therefore avoided by prudent husbandmen. Three modii of Cicer required four days for ploughing and sowing, two days for harrowing, one day for hoeing, one day for weeding, and three days for pulling (velluntur tribus). (Col. 2.10, 12; Plin. Nat. 18.124; Dioscorid. 2.126; Theophr. 8.1, 3, 5, 6; Geopon. 2.36.)

e. Cicercula, the λάθυρος of the Greeks, the Lathyrus sativus of botanists, which Pliny seems to regard as a small variety of the Cicer, was sown in good land either at the end of October or at the beginning of the year, in the proportion of three modii to the juger. None of the legumina proved less hurtful to the ground, but at was rarely a successful crop, for it suffered most from the dry weather and hot winds which usually prevailed when it was in flower. Four modii of Cicercula required six days' work--ploughing, three; harrowing, one; weeding, one ; pulling, one. (Col. 2.10, 12; Plin. H. N. xviii. l.c.; Pallad. 2.5, 3.4; Theophr. H. P. 8.3; comp. Plutarch. Quaest. Rom.

f. Phaselus s. Phaseolus (φασήλος; φασήολος; φασίολος), the common kidney-bean, succeeded best in rich land regularly cropped, and was sown towards the end of October in the proportion of four modii to the juger. These four modii required three or four days' work,--ploughing, one or two, according to the soil; harrowing, one; reaping, one. The pods of the phaselus were sometimes eaten along with the seeds, according to our own custom. (Verg. G. 1.227; Col. 2.10, 12, 11.2; Plin. Nat. 18.125; Pallad. 9.12, 10.1.)

g. Pisum (πίσον; πίσος; πισσος), the common field pea, succeeded best in a loose soil, a warm situation, and a moist climate. It was sown immediately after the autumnal equinox, in the proportion of rather less than four modii to the juger, and cultivated exactly in the same manner as the phaselus. (Col. 2.10, 13; Plin. Nat. 18.123; Theophr. H. P. 3.27, 8.3, 5.)

Napus, the βουνιάς of Dioscorides, is the modern Rape, the Brassica rapa of botanists. Rapum, the γογγυλίς of Theophrastus, is the modern Turnip, the Brassica Napus of botanists. The value of these plants was in a great measure overlooked by the earlier Roman writers, while the Greeks regarded them too much in the light of garden herbs; but Pliny enlarges upon their merits, and by the Gauls beyond the Po, who wintered their oxen upon them, their culture was deemed next in importance to that of corn and wine. They were highly useful as food for man, for cattle, and even for birds; both the leaf and bulb were available; being very hardy, they could be left in the ground, or would keep well if stored up, and thus one crop might be made to hold out until another came in. They required loose, well-pulverised, and highly-manured soil. Rapa succeeded best in low, moist situations, and were sown at the end of June after five ploughings (quinto sulco); napi, which were more adapted for dry sloping land, at the end of August or the beginning of September, after four ploughings (quarto sulco); both, however, in warm and well-watered spots, might be sown in spring. A juger required four sextarii (about four imperial pints) of turnip seed and five of rape seed, because the napus does not, like the rapum, expand into an ample bulb (non in ventrem latescit), but sends a thin root straight down (sed tenuem radicem deorsum agit). Columella, however, distinctly states that the rapum and napus passed into each other, under the influence of a change of soil or climate. Rapina is the term for a bed or field of turnips. (Daubeny, p. 118 foll.; Dioscorid. 2.134, 136; Cat. 5.35; Col. 2.10; Plin. Nat. 18.131.)

3. Green Forage Crops (Pabula.

This term included all those crops which were cut green and employed exclusively as forage for the lower animals. The most important were:--a. Medica. b. Faenum Graecum. c. Vicia. d. Cicera. e. Ervum, Ervilia. f. Farrago, Ocinum. g. Faenum. The description of the last will involve an account of the system pursued in the management of meadows.

a. Medica (Μηδική s. πόα), the modern lucerne.

The most important of all the plants cultivated for stock exclusively was Medica, so called because introduced into Greece during the Persian wars. When once properly sown, it would last many years, might be cut repeatedly during the same season, renovated rather than exhausted the soil, was the best fattener of lean cattle, the best restorative for those that were sick, and so nourishing that a single juger supplied sufficient food for three horses during a whole year. Hence the greatest care was bestowed upon its culture.

The spot fixed upon, which was to be neither dry nor spongy, received a first ploughing about the beginning of October, and the upturned earth was allowed to be exposed to the weather for the winter; it was carefully ploughed a second time, at the beginning of February, when all the stones were gathered off, and the larger clods broken by the hand; in the month of March it was ploughed for a third time and harrowed. The ground thus prepared was divided into plots or beds (areae) as in a garden, each fifty feet long and ten feet broad, so that ready access might be gained by the walks between for supplying water and extirpating the weeds. Old dung was then spread over the whole, and the sowing took place at the end of April, a cyathus (about 1/12 of an imperial pint) of seed being allowed for each bed of the dimensions described above. The seed was immediately covered in with wooden rakes (ligneis rastellis,) and the operations of hoeing and weeding were performed repeatedly with wooden implements. It was not cut for the first time until it had dropped some of its seed, but afterwards might be cut as tender as the farmer thought fit. After each cutting it was well watered, and, as soon as the young blades began to sprout, every weed was sedulously removed. Managed in this manner, it might be cut six times a year for ten [p. 1.70](Pliny says thirty) years. It was necessary to use caution in giving it at first to cattle, since it was apt to inflate them, and make blood too rapidly, but when they were habituated to its use it might be supplied freely. It is very remarkable that this species of forage, to which so much importance was attached by the Romans, has altogether disappeared from Italy. We are assured by M. Chateauvieux that not a single plant of it is now to be seen. In England it is almost confined to Kent and the Channel Islands. (Varr. 1.42; Col. 2.10, 28; Verg. G. 1.215; Pallad. 3.6, 5.1; Plin. Nat. 18.144 ff.; Dioscorid. 2.177; Theophr. H. P. 8.7.)

b. Faenum Graecum,

Variously termed τῆλις, βούκερως s. βούκερας, κεπαΐτις and αἰγόκερως, the Trigonella faenum Graecum, or common Fenugreek of botanists, was called Siliqua by country people, Silicia by Pliny, and succeeded best when totally neglected, care being taken in the first place not to bury the seed deep (scarificatione seritur). Six or seven modii, which was the allowance for a juger, required two days for sowing, and one for reaping. (Cat. 35; Col. 2.10, 11.2; Plin. Nat. 18.140, 24.184 ; Dioscorid. 2.124; Theophr. H. P. 3.17, 8.6.)

c. Vicia

σάρακον, the βικιόν of Galen), some one of the varieties of the Vicia sativa, the Vetch or Summer (or Winter) Tare of botanists. It might be sown on dry land at different periods of the year, usually about the autumnal equinox when intended for green fodder; in January or later when raised for seed. (But see Plin. Nat. 18. § § 137, 138.) The quantity required in the former case was seven modii to the juger, in the latter six. Particular care was taken not to cast the seed when there was dew or moisture of any sort upon the surface of the ground; the period of the day selected for the operation was therefore some hours after sunrise, and no more was scattered than could be covered up before night. It required little labour--ploughing two days, harrowing one, reaping one; in all, four days' work for six or seven modii. (Cat. 35; Varr. 1.31; Verg. G. 1.75; Col. 2.10, 29; 12, 3; Plin. Nat. 18. § § 137, 138; comp. Or. Fast. 5.267.)

d. Cicera,

The ὦχρος of Theophrastus, the Lathyrus Cicera of botanists, was sown after one or two ploughings (primo vel altero sulco), in the month of March, the quantity of seed varying, according to the richness of soil, from two and a half to four modii for the juger. In southern Spain it was given to the cattle crushed (cicera fresa), steeped in water, and then mixed with chaff. Twelve pounds of ervum were considered equivalent to sixteen of cicera, and sufficient for a yoke of oxen.

Cicera was cultivated for its seed also, and formed a not unpalatable food for man, differing little if at all in taste from the cicercula, but being of a darker colour. (Col. 2.11.1, 12; Pallad. 4.6; Theophr. H. P. 4.2.)

e. Ervum, Ervilia,

The ὔροβος of Dioscorides, are apparently varieties of the Ervum Ervile, or Wild Tare of botanists. Ervum succeeded best in poor dry land; might be sown at any time between the autumnal equinox and the beginning. of March, at the rate of five modii to the juger, and demanded little care. The above quantity required six days' labour--ploughing and sowing two, harrowing one, hoeing one, weeding one, reaping one. (Varr. 1.32; Verg. Ecl. 3.100; Col. 2.10, 34; 2.12, 3; 2.13, 1; 6.3; 11.2; Pallad. 2.8; Plin. Nat. 18.139 ; Theophr. H. P. 9.22; Dioscorid. 2.131; comp. Plaut. Mostell. 1.1.)

f. Farrago, Ocinum.

On comparing the various authorities quoted at the end of this paragraph, although they abound in contradictions, we shall be led to conclude--
  • 1. That farrago was the general term employed to denote any kind of corn cut green for fodder. The name was derived from far, the refuse of that grain being originally sown for this purpose (farrago ex recrimentis farris praedensa seritur, Plin.), but afterwards rye (secale), oats (avenae,) and barley were employed; the last-mentioned, used especially in Africa, being, in the estimation of Columella, the best; and these grains were not always sown alone, but frequently with an admixture of the vetch and various legumina. Hence farrago is used by Juvenal to denote a confused medley of heterogeneous topics.
  • 2. That as farrago properly denoted corn cut green for fodder, so ocinum was the name given to plants of the bean kind, when used in the same manner, before they came to maturity, and formed pods. Mamilius Sura (quoted by Pliny) gives the proportions of ten modii of beans, two of vetches, and two of erviliae to the juger; and this combination was said to be improved by the addition of Avena Graeca, sown in autumn. Of the three forms ocinum, ocimum, ocymum, the first, is the most accurate; the name was, according to Varro, given on account of the rapidity of its growth in spring. From the expression of Pliny, “Apud antiquos erat pabuli genus quod Cato Ocinum vocat,” and the silence of Columella, who mentions the garden herb ocinum (basil) only, we infer that this sort of pabulum was little used after the time of Varro. The notion of Gesner that ocinum is clover, the ὠκύθοον τριπέτηλον of Callimachus, is directly at variance with the statements of Pliny, who mentions trifolium as a distinct plant. (Cat. 27, 53, 54; Varr. 1.23, 31; Col. 2.10, § § 31, 35, 11.3.29; Plin. Nat. 18.143.)

g. Faenum, Prata.

So much importance was attached to stock, that many considered a good meadow as the most valuable species of land, requiring little trouble or outlay, subject to none of the casualties to which other crops were exposed, affording a sure return every year, and that twofold, in the shape of hay and pasture. The meadows were of two kinds, the Dry Meadow (siccaneum pratum) and the Irrigated or Water Meadow (pratum riguum). The hay produced from a meadow whose own rich natural moisture did not require an artificial stimulus was the best. Any land which declined with a gentle slope, if either naturally rich and moist, or capable of irrigation, might be laid down as a meadow, and the most approved method of procedure was the following:--The land having been thoroughly ploughed and well laboured in summer, was in autumn sown with rapa, or napi or beans, the following year with wheat, and in the third year, all trees, bushes, and rank weeds having been extirpated, with the vetch (vicia) mixed with grass seeds. The clods were broken [p. 1.71]down with rakes, the surface accurately levelled by wicker hurdles, so that the scythe of the mower (faeniseca) might nowhere encounter any obstacle. The vetches were not cut until they had arrived at maturity and begun to drop their seed; and after they had been removed, the grass, when it had attained to a proper height, was mown and made into hay. Then the irrigation commenced, provided the soil was stiff, for in loose earth it was necessary to allow the grass roots to obtain a firm hold. For the first year no stock were permitted to graze, lest their feet should poach up the soft ground, but the young blades were cut from time to time. In the second year, after the hay-making was over, if the ground was moderately dry and hard, the smaller animals were admitted, but no horses or oxen until the third. About the middle of February in each year, an abundant top-dressing of manure mixed with grass-seeds was applied to the upper part of the field, the benefit of which was extended to the lower portions by the flow either of natural rain or of artificial streams. When old meadows became mossy, the best remedy was to sprinkle ashes copiously, which in many cases killed the moss; but when this failed, the most sure plan was to break up the land afresh, which, having lain long undisturbed, was certain to afford abundant crops.

In making hay, the grass was to be cut (falcibus subsecari) before the stem had begun to lose its natural moisture, while the seed was not yet perfectly ripe; and in drying, it was essential to avoid the two extremes of exposing it for too long or too short a time to the sun and air. In the former case, the juices were sucked out, and it became little better than straw; in the latter, it was liable to ferment, heat, and take fire. After being properly turned over with forks (furcillis versari) it was collected and laid in regular swathes (coartabimus in strigam), and then bound into sheaves or bundles (atque ita maniplos vinciemus). The loose stalks were next raked together (rastellis eradi) and the whole crop (faenisicia) carried home and stored in lofts, or, if this was not convenient, built up in the field into conical ricks (in metas extrui conveniet.) Lastly, the inequalities passed over by the mowers (quae faeniseces praeterierunt) were cut close and smooth (sicilienda prata, id est, falcibus consectanda, an operation termed sicilire pratum); the gleanings thus obtained, which formed a sort of aftermath, being called faenum cordum, or sicilimenta. (Cat. 5, 8, 9, 29, 50; Varr. 1.7, 49; Col. 2.16-18, 22, 3; Pallad. 2.2, 3.1, 4.2, 10.10.)

4. Crops affording Materials for textile Fabrics.

Of these the most important were, a. Cannabis; b. Linum.

a. Cannabis (κάνναβις, κάνναβος), the Cannabis sativa, or Common Hemp of botanists, required rich, moist, well-watered, deeply trenched, and highly manured land. Six grains were sown in every square foot of ground during the last week in February, but the operation might be delayed for a fortnight if the weather was rainy. Columella is unable to give any details with regard to the amount of time and labour necessary for raising a crop of hemp. (Varr. 1.23; Col. 2.10, 12, 21; Plin. Nat. 19.173; Dioscorid. 3.165.)

b. Linum (λίνον), the Linum usitatissimum, or Common Flax of botanists, being regarded as a very exhausting crop, was altogether avoided, unless the soil happened to be peculiarly suitable, or the price which it bore in the district very inviting (nisi pretium proritat, Col.). It was sown from the beginning of October until the end of the first week in December, in the proportion of eight modii to the juger, and sometimes in February at the rate of ten modii. On account of its scourging qualities (Verg. G. 1.77), it was generally grown upon rich land, such being less liable to be seriously injured, but some sowed it very thick upon poor land, in order that the stalks might be as thin, and therefore the fibres as delicate as possible. (Verg. G. 1.212; Col. 2.10, 14; Plin. Nat. 19.2 ff.; Pallad. 11.2; Geopon. 2.10; Dioscorid. 2.125; Theophr. H. P. 8.7.)

Succession or Rotation of Crops.

It is evident from the instructions given by Columella (2.4) for ploughing the best land, that a summer fallow usually preceded a corn crop. For since the first ploughing was early in spring, the second in summer, and the third in autumn, it is impossible that a crop could have been raised upon the ground during any portion of the period here indicated; and the same author expressly states elsewhere (2.9), in accordance with the Virgilian precept (Georg. 1.71), that the land upon which wheat (far, siligo) was grown ought to repose every other year; in which case, however, manure might be dispensed with. Nor did this plan apply to corn alone, for it would seem to have been the general practice to permit nearly one half of the farm to remain at rest, while the productive energies of the other moiety were called into action. It will be seen from the calculations with regard to time and labour for an arable farm containing 200 jugers (Col. 2.12), that 100 jugers only were sown in autumn, 50 with wheat, 50 with leguminous or green crops; and, if spring sowing was resorted to, which was by no means general, 30 more, so that out of 200 jugers, at least 70, and more frequently 100, were left fallowed.

There were, indeed, exceptions to this system. Some land was so peculiarly deep and rich that it might be cropped for two or more years in succession (terra restibilis); but in this case it was relieved by varying the crop, the field from which winter wheat (far) had been reaped being highly manured and sown immediately with beans, or the ground which had borne lupines, beans, vetches, or any renovating crop, was allowed to lie fallow during winter, and then sown with spring wheat (far) (Verg. G. 1.73; comp. Plin. Nat. 17.56, 18.184 ff.), while a third rotation, still more favourable, was to take two leguminous or renovating crops after one exhausting or corn crop. In Campania, the extraordinary fertility of the soil allowed them to tax its energies much more severely, for there it was common to sow barley, millet, turnips (rapa), and then barley or wheat again, the land receiving manure before the millet and turnips, but never remaining vacant; while that peculiarly favoured district near Naples, called the Campi Laborini, or Terrae Laboriae, now the Terra di Lavoro, yielded an uninterrupted series [p. 1.72]of corn crops, two of far, and one of millet, without a moment of repose (seritur toto anno, panico semel, bis farre). (Cat. 35; Varr. 1.44; Verg. G. 1.71, &c.; Col. 2.9, 10, 12; Plin. Nat. 18.186 ff.)

It will be proper, before bringing this part of the subject to a close, to explain a word which may occasion embarrassment in consequence of its signification being variously modified by the Roman agricultural writers. This is the adjective novalis, which frequently appears as a substantive, and in all the three genders, according as ager, terra, or solum is understand.

    1. The original meaning of novalis or novale, looking to its etymology, must have been land newly reclaimed from a state of nature; and in this sense it is used by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 17.39), Talis (sc. odor) fere est in novalibus caesa vetere silva. (Comp. Callistr. in Dig. 47, 21, 3.)
    2. Varro, in his treatise De Lingua Latina (5.39; comp. 6.59, ed. Müller), places novalis ager, land which is allowed occasionally to repose, in opposition to restibilis ager, land which is cropped unceasingly,--Ager restibilis qui restituitur ac reseritur quotquot annis; contra qui intermittitur a novando novalis,--and hence Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.176), Novale est quod alternis annis seritur.
  • 3. Varro, in his treatise De Re Rustica (1.29), defines Seges to mean a field which has been ploughed and sown; arvum, a field ploughed but not yet sown; novalis ubi saturn fuit antequam secunda aratione renovetur,--ambiguous words, which may be interpreted to denote a field which has borne a crop, but which has not been ploughed for a second crop; in which case it will be equivalent to a fallow, field.
  • 4. Columella, in one passage (vi. praef. § 1), employs novale solum for new or virgin land untouched by the plough; for in contrasting the tastes of the agriculturist and the grazier, he remarks that the former delights quam maxime subacto et puro solo, the latter novali graminosoque; and Varro (ii. praef. § 4) in like manner places novalis as pasture land, in opposition to seges, as corn land,--bos domitus causa fit ut commodius nascatur frumentum in segete et pabulum in novali.
  • 5. Columella, in another passage, places culta novalia, land under tillage in a general sense, in opposition to rudis ager, land in a state of nature; and thus we must understand the haec tam culta novalia in Virgil's first Eclogue (5.71), and tonsas novales, the cultivated fields from which a crop has been reaped,--a phrase which forms the connecting link between this meaning and that noticed above under 3. Hence the force in Juv. 14.148 = segetes. (Comp. Pallad. 1.6, 2.10.)


The second great department of our subject is Pastio, s. Res Pastoricia, s. Scientia Pastoralis, these terms being all alike understood to denote the art of providing and feeding stock so as to yield the most ample profit.

But Pastio must be considered under the two-fold forms of

  • α. Pastio Agrestis s. Res Pecuaria, and
  • β. Pastio Villatica, the former comprehending the management of cattle, sheep, horses, &c.; the latter of poultry, game, fish, bees, and some other animals to be noticed hereafter.


Contains three heads (Varro, Book ii.):
    I. Minores Pecudes, including,
    • 1. Sheep;
    • 2. Goats;
    • 3. Swine.
    II. Majores Pecudes, including,
    • 1. Kine;
    • 2. Horses;
    • 3. Asses;
    • 4. Mules.
    Varro indeed, for no reason apparently except to preserve a sort of numerical symmetry, places mules in the third division; but as they evidently belong to the same class as horses and asses, we have to this extent departed from his arrangement.
    III. Animals provided not for the profit which they yield directly in the market, but necessary for the proper maintenance of the foregoing: these are--

Again, in each of these nine subdivisions (with the exception of mules, who do not breed) attention must be directed to nine different circumstances, of which four are to be considered in the purchase of stock (in pecore parando), four in the feeding of stock (in pecore pascendo), while the ninth, of a more general character, relates to number (de numero).

The four circumstances which demand attention in purchasing stock are:

The four circumstances to be considered after a breeding stock has been acquired are:

  • e. The mode of feeding (pastio), in answer to the questions where, when, and with what (in qua regione, et quando et queis).
  • f. The impregnation of the female, the period of gestation, and her treatment while pregnant, all of which are embodied in the word fetura..
  • g. The rearing of the young (nutricatus).
  • h. The preservation of their health, and treatment when diseased (de sanitate.
  • i. The ninth and last inquiry (de numero) relates to the number of flocks and herds which can be maintained with advantage in a given space, the number of individuals which it is expedient to combine into one flock or herd, and the proportions to be observed with regard to the sex and age of the members of each flock and herd.

In following the divisions and topics indicated above, we omit the discussions on the diseases of stock and their remedies, which abound in the agricultural writers, and which form the subject of an elaborate treatise (Mulo-medicina s. De Arte Veterinaria), bearing the name of Vegetius, which is probably a translation or compilatiou from the works of the Greek ἱππίατροι, or veterinary surgeons, executed at a late period.

I. Minores Pecudes.

1. Sheep

Sheep (pecus ovillum s. oviarium) were divided into two classes with reference to their wool.

(1.) Pecus hirtum, whose fleeces were not protected artificially.

(2.) Pecus Tarentinum s. Pecus Graecum s. [p. 1.73]Oves pellitae s. Oves tectae, whose fleeces were protected from all external injury by skin jackets. Their wool being thus rendered finer, and being more easily scoured and dyed, brought a higher price than any other.

Sheep were likewise divided into two classes according as they were home-fed or reared in extensive and distant pastures; we will first consider them under this point of view.

Home-fed sheep (greges villatici) were allowed to pasture in the fields around a farm during a portion of the year, wherever the nature of the country and the system of cultivation pursued rendered this practicable, or, more frequently, were kept constantly confined in sheds (stabula--saepta-ovilia), built in warm and sheltered situations, with hard floors sloping outwards to prevent the accumulation of moisture, which was regarded as particularly injurious to both the feet and the fleece. They were fed upon cytisus, lucerne, barley, and leguminous seeds, or, when such rich and succulent food could not be obtained, on hay, bran, chaff, grape husks, and dry leaves, especially those of the elm, oak, and fig, being at all times plentifully supplied with salt. They were littered with leaves and twigs, which were frequently changed, and the pens were kept carefully clean.

The more numerous flocks, which were reared in extensive pastures (qui in saltibus pascuntur,) usually passed the winter in the low plains upon the coast, and were driven by regular drift roads (calles publici) in summer to the mountains of Central Italy, just as in modern times vast droves pass every autumn from the Abruzzi to seek the more genial climate of Puglia or the Maremma. Those who were employed to watch them (opiliones), being often at a great distance from home, were furnished with beasts of burden for transporting the materials required in the construction of folds and huts, at their halting-places, and all the stores necessary for themselves and their charge. The sheep were usually collected every night to secure them against robbers and beasts of prey; in summer they fed in the morning and evening, and reposed during the noontide heat in sheltered spots, while in winter they were not allowed to go out until the frost was off the ground. The flocks were often very numerous, containing sometimes 15,000 head, one shepherd (opilio) being allowed to every five or six score.

The breeds most prized by the early Romans were the Calabrian, the Apulian, which were short-woolled (breves villo), the Milesian, and, above all, the Tarentine; but in the time of Columella those of Cisalpine Gaul from the vicinity of Altinum (Mart. 14.153), and those from the Campi Macri round Parma and Mutina were especially esteemed. The system of crossing was by no means unknown ; for M. Columella, the uncle of the author, produced an excellent variety by crossing the tectae oves of Cadiz with some wild rams from Africa, and again crossing their progeny with the Tarentines. In purchasing stock attention was always paid to the localities where they were to be maintained: thus sheep of large size (procerae oves) were naturally deemed best fitted for rich plains, stout compact animals (quadratae) for light hilly soils, and the smaller kinds (exiguae) for mountainous regions; just as in this country the Leicesters are kept with greatest advantage in the low-lying luxuriant pastures of Lincolnshire, Cheviots in the grass hills from which they derive their name, and the black-faced on the lofty mountains of Wales and Scotland. As to colour, pure white was most sought after; but certain natural tints, such as the dark grey (pullus), which distinguished the flocks of Pollentia in Liguria (fuscique ferax Pollentia villi, Silius, 8.599), the yellowish brown (fuscus) in those of Corduba (so often celebrated by Martial, 5.37, 8.2. 8, 9.62, 14.188; comp. Juv. 12.40), and the red brown (ruber) in some of the Asiatic varieties, were highly prized.

The points characteristic of a good animal and the warranty usually required of the seller will be found fully detailed in Varro (2.2) and Columella (7.2, 3).

Those which were smooth and bare under the belly (ventre glabro), anciently called apicae, were always rejected, and particular care was taken that the fleece of the ram should be perfectly pure, or at least uniform in colour, his tongue also being examined in order to ascertain that it was not black or spotted, since such defects would have been transmitted to his progeny. (Verg. G. 3.387; Col. 7.3.)

Ewes were not considered fit for breeding until they were two years old, and they continued to produce until they had reached the age of seven; rams (arietes) were believed to be in vigour from three years old until eight. The most favourable period for impregnation in the case of ewes that had not previously brought forth was the latter end of April, about the Palilia (21st April); for others, from the setting of Arcturus (13th May) to the setting of the Eagle (23rd July); and, since the period of gestation was about 150 days, the earliest lambs (agni, agnae) would be yeaned in September, the latest about the middle of December, these being, as was remarked by Celsus, the only animals produced with advantage in midwinter. Ewes when about to lamb (incientes) were placed apart, constantly watched, and assisted in parturition. As soon as they had brought forth, the first milk, or beestings, which was of a thick consistence, and called colostra, was carefully withdrawn, being considered injurious in all animals, and productive of a disease named colostratio. The lambs were now tended with the greatest solicitude, were generally kept in the house near a fire for some days, were not allowed to go forth to pasture for a considerable time, but were partially reared by the hand on the most tender and nourishing food, being finally weaned at the age of four months. Those lambs which were carried in the womb longer than the regular time were termed chordi; those born late in the season, serotini; those which, in consequence of their mothers being unable to supply milk, were suckled by others, subrumi. Castration was not performed upon such as were intended for wethers (verveces) until five months old. The males set apart to supply the deficiencies in the breeding flock (quos arietes submittere volunt) were selected from the progeny of such ewes as usually gave birth to twins, those which were polled (mutili) being preferred on the whole to those with horns (cornuti).

The management of oves pellitae differed from that of the ordinary greges villatici merely in the [p. 1.74]amount of care with which they were tended. They were furnished with an ample supply of the most nutritious food, each individual receiving daily in winter three sextarii (pints) of barley or of beans crushed in their pods (fresae cum suis valvulis fabae), in addition to hay, lucerne, dry or green cytisus, and other fodder. Their stalls were usually paved with stone, and kept scrupulously clean; they seldom left the house, and, when allowed to pasture, it was looked upon as essential that the ground should be free from bushes and briars of every description which might tear their fleece or its covering. The jackets were frequently taken off to cool the animals, the wool was combed out at least thrice a year, and well washed and anointed with oil and wine. The wethers were killed at two years old, their skin being then in perfection.

Sheep-shearing (tonsura) commenced in warm districts in April; but in cold situations was deferred until the solstice. A fine day was chosen, and the operation was performed before the sun had attained to its full power, in order that the sheep might not be hot and the wool not moist. The most careful placed a rug under the animal (tegeticulis subjectis oves tondere solent, Varr.) that no portion of the clip might be lost or damaged (ne qui flocci intereant). The wool, when fresh shorn, and still impregnated with the sweat of the animal, was called lana sucida; the fleeces when rolled up were termed vellera, or velumina. Oves hirtae, when shorn, were immediately smeared with wine and oil, to which white wax and hog's lard were occasionally added; while the jackets of the oves, pellitae were anointed with the same mixture, and then replaced on the animals. Instead of this, some rubbed in a wash composed of equal parts of boiled lupine juice, lees of old wine, and amurca. Any wound inflicted during the process was dressed with tar (pix liquida). On the fourth day they were bathed, if possible, in the sea; if not, in rain-water mixed with salt. In Spain and some other places it was customary to shear the sheep twice a year, under the belief that the additional labour was more than compensated by the increased quantity of wool. The ancient practice of plucking the wool instead of shearing it still lingered in certain districts even when Pliny wrote. Varro derives the name vellus from this, but incorrectly. (Varr. 2.1.5, 16. 20, 2.2; Colum. i. Praef. § 26, 7.2-4, 11.2.14; Plin. Nat. 8.187 ff.; Pallad. 2.16, 5.7, 6.8, 7.6, 8.4, 12.13.)

2. Goats

Goats (pecus caprinum) were divided into two classes, the genus mutilum et raripilum, the polled and thin-haired, and the genus cornutum et setosum, the horned and shaggy; but there does not appear to have been any difference in the mode of rearing them, nor indeed do they seem to have been kept distinct; but it was considered advisable that the old he-goat, the dux gregis, should be mutilus, because he was then less troublesome and pugnacious.

The points characteristic of a good animal will be found enumerated in Varro (2.3.2-5) and in Columella (7.6). The most high-bred had always two long flaps of skin (verruculae, laciniae) depending from the throat. One peculiarity connected with the sale of goats was that they were never warranted in good health, for they were believed to be always more or less labouring under fever.

The management of goats was in most respects the same as that of sheep, except that, although intolerant of frost and cold, they throve better in mountainous craggy ground or among copsewood, where they browsed with great eagerness on the young twigs, than in open grassy plains. Both from their wandering nature and their liability to contract disease when crowded in pens, not more than fifty were kept together in a flock under the charge of the same goatherd (caprarius), the proportion of one male (caper, hircus) to about fifteen females (caprae, capellae) being commonly observed.

When in stalls (caprilia), the sloping floor was usually formed out of the native rock or paved with smooth stones, for no litter was placed be-neath their feet. The houses were swept out daily; and it was deemed essential to their health that no moisture or dirt of any kind should be allowed to accumulate. The she-goat was capable of breeding from one year old until eight; but the progeny of a mother under three years old were not worth keeping permanently, but sold off. The best time for impregnation was the end of autumn; for, the period of gestation being five months, the kids (haedi) were thus born in spring. If the dam was of a good stock, she generally produced two or even three at a birth, which were weaned at the end of three months, and then transferred at once to the flock (submittuntur et in grege incipiunt esse.

The hair (pili) of goats was shorn or plucked (capras vellere is the technical phrase) out regularly, and used in the manufacture of coarse stuffs, Verg. G. 3.313; Varro, 2.11 (usum in castrorum et miseris velamina nautis,--pilos ministrant ad usum nauticum et ad bellica tormenta). The cloths woven from this material were termed Cilicia, because the goats in the southern and central provinces of Asia Minor, like the modern Angora species, were remarkable for the length of their hair. (In Cilicia circaque Syrtes villo tonsili vestiuntur, are the words of Pliny, who here alludes to the goats from the Cinyps in Libya, the “Cinyphii hirci” of Virgil, l.c.) (Colum. i. praef. § 26, 7.6; Plin. Nat. 8.203; Pallad. 12.13; Varr. 2.3, 2.1, § § 5, 28.)

3. Swine

Swine (pecus suillum) were divided into two classes,--the sues densae, usually black in colour, thickly covered with bristles; and the sues glabrae, generally white, and comparatively smooth; but there seems to have been little difference in the management of the two breeds, except that the former was the more hardy.

The points characteristic of a good animal, and the warranty usually required by the purchaser, will be found in Varro (2.4), Columella (7.9), and Palladius (3.26).

During a great portion of the year, wherever it was practicable, they were driven out to feed early in the morning, in woods where acorns, beech-mast, wild fruits, and berries abounded; and in the middle of the day they reposed, if possible, in swampy ground, where they had not only water but mud also wherein to wallow; in the cool of the evening they fed again, were taught to assemble when the swineherd (subulcus) sounded his horn, and were then driven home to the farm. In winter they were not [p. 1.75]allowed to go forth when frost was hard upon the ground. When kept in the house their chief food was acorns, or, when the supply of these failed, beans, barley, and other kinds of grains and pulse. The number in each herd varied from 100 to 150, or even more, according to circumstances and the means of the proprietor, and the proportion of one boar to ten sows was usually observed.

The sows were not considered fit for breeding until upwards of a year old, and continued prolific to the age of seven; boars (verres) were in full vigour from one year old till four; the best time for impregnation was from the middle of February up to the vernal equinox, the period of gestation was four months, and, the pigs being weaned at the end of two, a double farrow might be procured in a year.

Each breeding sow (scrofa) brought up her pigs (porcus, porca, porcellus) in a separate stye (hara), constructed in such a manner that the superintendent (custos, porculator) might easily see into the interior and thus be prepared to relieve the progeny, which were in constant danger of being crushed by the weight of the mother, who was supposed to bring forth as many young as she had teats, and was capable of suckling eight at first; but when they increased in size, it was deemed advisable to withdraw one half of that number. Sucking pigs (lactentes) when ten days old were accounted pure for sacrifice, and hence were anciently termed sacres; after the suckling time (nutricatus, porculatio), which lasted two months, was over, they were denominated delici, and sometimes nefrendes, because not yet able to crunch hard food. The males not reserved for breeding were castrated when from six to twelve months old, and were then termed majales. (Varr. 2.4; Col. 7.9, praef. 1.26; Plin. Nat. 8.206 foll.; Pallad. 4.26.)

II. Majores Pecudes.

1. Kine

Kine (pecus bubulum, armentum bubulum) were divided into classes, according as they were kept at home and employed in the labours of the farm (boves domiti), or pastured in large herds (armenta).

Boves domiti, wherever the nature of the soil and the mode of culture pursued permitted, were allowed to pasture; since growing grass (viride pabulum) was considered the most suitable of all food; when this could not be supplied, it became necessary to stall-feed them (alere ad praesepia); but they were allowed to stand in the open air during the hot weather, while in winter they were kept in spacious byres (stabula, consacpta) built with a southerly aspect, so as to be sheltered from cold winds, the floors being hard and sloping to prevent moisture from being absorbed, and to allow it to run off freely, while, to promote the warmth and comfort of the animals, they were bedded with abundance of litter (stramentum pecori et bubus diligenter substernatur, Cat. 5), usually straw, or leaves, such as those of the ilex, which were supposed to yield little nourishment. Their staple food from the middle of April until the middle of June was vetches, lucerne, clover, and other fodder cut green; from the middle of June to the beginning of November the leaves of trees, those of the elm, the oak, and the poplar being regarded as the best; from the beginning of November until April meadow hay (faenum pratense), and, where hay could not be procured, chaff, grape husks, acorns, and dry leaves were substituted, mixed with barley, or with some of the leguminous seeds, such as beans, lupines, or chick-peas previously steeped in water (maceratae), or crushed (fresae). When an ox was fed upon hay, from 30 to 40 pounds weight (Roman pound=113/5 oz. avoird.) was an ample allowance, except during the months of November and December, that is, during the ploughing and sowing season, when they received from the feeder (pabulatorius) as much food of the most nutritious kind as they could consume. Lumps of salt placed near the consaepta proved very attractive to the animals and conduced to their health.

Large herds were pastured chiefly in woods where there was abundance of grass, leaves, and tender twigs, shifting to the coast in winter and to the cool shady hills in summer, under the charge of herdsmen (armentarii), a class altogether distinct from the bubulci, or hinds, who worked and tended the boves domestici. The common number in a herd was from 100 to 120, the animals were carefully inspected every year, and the least promising (rejiculae) weeded out. The proportion of two bulls, a yearling and a two-year old, to 60 or 70 cows was usually observed, but Columella doubles the number of males. The Umbrian oxen, especially those on the Clitumnus, were the largest and finest in Italy; those of Etruria, Latium, and Gaul were smaller, but strongly made and well adapted for labour; those of Thrace were valued for sacrificial purposes in consequence of being for the most part pure white; but the cattle of Epirus, the most important pastoral district of the Roman world, were superior to all others.

The points characteristic of a good animal, and the warranty usually demanded by the buyer, will be found fully detailed in Varro (2.5), in Columella, who here copies the description of the Carthaginian Mago (6.1, 20, 21), and in Palladius (4.11, 12).

Cows (vaccae) were not fit for breeding until they were upwards of two years old, and they continued to produce until they had reached the age of ten. Considerable variation is to be found in the agricultural writers as to the age at which the bulls arrived at full vigour, Varro considering that they might be employed when a year old, Columella and Pliny recommending that they should be kept until four. The former, however, is the precept of the practical man, and is consonant with modern experience. The time of gestation being nearly ten (lunar) months, the most favourable period for impregnation was from the middle of June to the end of July, for thus the calves (vituli) would be born when spring was well advanced (maturo vere). When parturition was approaching, the pregnant cow (horda vacca) was carefully watched, fed richly, and protected from the assaults of the gad-fly and other tormenting insects; the calf for some time after its birth was allowed to suck freely, but as it increased in strength was tempted with green food, in order that it might in some degree relieve the mother, and after six months had elapsed, was fed regularly with wheat bran, barley-meal, or tender grass, and gradually weaned entirely, [p. 1.76]Castration was performed at the age of two years. The vituli intended for labour were to be handled (tractari) from an early age to render them tame, but were not to be broken in to work (domari) before their third, nor later than their fifth year. The method of breaking (domitura) those taken wild from the herd is fully described by Columella (6.2), and Palladius fixes the end of March as the time most appropriate for commencing the operation. The members of a herd, according to age and sex, were termed, Vitulus, Vitula; Juvencus, Juvenca; Bos novellus, Bucula; Bos vetulus, Taurus, Vacca; a barren cow was named Taura. (Cat. 5, 30; Varr. 2.1, 5; Column. 6.1-3, 20-24; Plin. Nat. 8.176 if.; Pallad. 4.11, 12, 6.7, 8.4.)

2. Horses

Horses (pecus equinum s. equitium, armentum equinum) are divided by Columella into Generosi, blood horses; Mulares, horses adapted for breeding mules; Vulgares, ordinary horses.

The points of a horse, the method of ascertaining his age up to seven years old, and the warranty usually given by the seller, are detailed in Varro (2.7, § § 4-6), in Columella (6.29), and in Palladius (4.13).

Horses either pastured in grass fields or were fed in the stable upon dry hay (in stabulis ac praesepibus), to which barley was added when the animal was required to undergo an extraordinary fatigue. Brood mares were frequently kept in large troops which shifted, like sheep and oxen, from the mountains to the coast, according to the season; two mounted men being attached to each herd of fifty. The mare (equa) was considered fit for breeding at two years old, and continued prolific up to the age of ten; the stallion (admissarius) remained in vigour from three years old until twenty, but when young was limited to twelve or fifteen females. The period of gestation being twelve lunar months and ten days, the best time for impregnation was from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice, since parturition would then take place during the most favourable season. High-bred mares were not allowed to produce more than once in two years. Ten days after birth the foal (pullus equinus, equuleus) was permitted to accompany its dam to pasture; at the age of five months, it was customary to begin feeding them with barley-meal and bran, and when a year old, with plain unground barley: but the best colts were allowed to continue sucking until they had completed two years, and at three years they were broken in for the toil to which they were destined, whether for racing (ad cursuram), for draught (ad redam,) for carrying burthens (ad vecturam), or for military service (ad ephippium), but they were not regularly worked until four off.

Race and war horses were not castrated; but the operation was frequently performed on those destined for the road, from the conviction that the gelding (canterius), while less bold and spirited, was more safe and tractable (in viis habere malunt placidos, Varr.).

It is to be observed that horses were, and indeed are, very little used for agricultural purposes in Italy and Southern Europe, the ordinary toils being carried on almost exclusively by oxen, and hence they never were by any means objects of such general interest to the farmer as among ourselves.

We may remark that Varro, Columella, and many other writers repeat the absurd story embellished by the poetry of Virgil, that mares in some districts of Spain became pregnant by the influence of a particular wind, adding that the colts conceived in this manner did not live beyond the age of three years. (Varr. i. praef. § 26, 2.1.18, 7.7; Col. 6.27, 29; Plin. Nat. 8.166; Pallad. 4.13.)

3. Asses

Asses (asinus, asina) were divided into two classes, the Genus mansuetum, or common domestic quadruped (asinus, asellus), and the Genus ferum, the wild ass (onager, onagrus), which was common in Phrygia and Lycaonia, was easily tamed and made an excellent cross.

The most celebrated breeds were those of Arcadia and of Reate. The latter was so highly esteemed in the time of Varro, that a single individual of this stock had been known to fetch sixty thousand sesterces (about 500l. sterling), and a team of four, as much as four hundred thousand (upwards of 3300l. sterling). Such animals were of course delicately nurtured, being fed chiefly upon far and barley bran (furfures hordeacei). The inferior description of asses (minor asellus) were valued by farmers because they were very hardy, not subject to disease, capable of enduring much toil, required little food, and that of the coarsest kind, such as the leaves and twigs of thorny shrubs, and might be made serviceable in various ways, as in carrying burdens (aselli dossuarii), turning corn mills, and even in ploughing where the soil was not stiff. The time of impregnation, the period of gestation, and the management of the foals (pulli), were the same as in horses. They were seldom kept in sufficient numbers to form a herd. (Varr. 2.1.14, 2.6; Col. 7.1; Plin. Nat. 8.167 ff.; Pallad. 4.14.)

4. Mules.

Mules. Mulus and Mula were the general terms for the hybrid between a horse and an ass, but in practice a distinction was drawn between Muli and Hinni. Hinni were the progeny of a stallion and a she-ass, Muli of a male ass and a mare. The latter were larger in proportion, and more esteemed than the former. A cross sometimes was formed between the mare and the onager as a matter of curiosity.

Uncommon care was taken by breeders of mules in the selection of parents. A strong large-boned mare, powerful rather than swift, was usually chosen. The male asses at their birth were removed from their mother, suckled by mares, reared upon the most nourishing food (hay and barley), and attained to full vigour when three years old. A good admissarius from Arcadia or Reate was worth from thirty to forty thousand sesterces (250l. to 330l. sterling). The period of gestation was observed to be a little longer than in the case of the pure horse or ass, extending to thirteen lunar months; in all other respects their management, habits, and mode of sale were the same.

The great use of mules was in drawing travelling carriages (hisce enim binis conjunctis omnia vehicula in viis ducuntur, Varr.); they were also employed, like asses, in carrying burdens upon pack saddles (clitellae), and in ploughing light, land. The finer kinds, when kept in herds, were driven in summer from the rich plains of Rosea on the Velinus to the Montes Gurgures. (Varr. [p. 1.77]2.1.16, 2.8; Col. 6.36, 37; Plin. Nat. 8.171 if.; Pallad. 4.14.)


1. Dogs (canes).

1. Dogs (canes) were divided into three classes:
  • a. Canes Villatici, watch-dogs, whose office was to guard farm-houses against the aggressions of thieves.
  • b. Canes Pastorales s. Canes Pecuarii, to protect the flocks and herds from robbers and wild beasts. Each opilio was generally attended by two of these, equipped with spiked collars (mellum), to serve as a defence in their encounters with wolves and other adversaries.
  • c. Canes Venatici. Sporting dogs.

Varro and Columella describe minutely the points of the first two classes, with which alone the former was concerned, and these seem to be identical with the animals employed for the same purpose at the present day in the Abruzzi. They were fed upon barley-meal and whey, or, in places where no cheese was made, on wheaten bread moistened with the warm liquor in which beans had been boiled. (Varr. 2.9; Col. 7.12.)

2. Herdsmen (pastores).

The flocks and herds which fed in the immediate neighbourhood of the farms were usually tended by old men, boys, or even women; but those which were driven to distant and mountainous pastures were placed under the care of persons in the vigour of life, who always went well armed and were accompanied by beasts of burden (jumenta dossuaria), carrying all the apparatus and stores required during a protracted absence; the whole body of men and animals being under the command of an experienced and trustworthy individual, styled Magister Pecoris, who kept all the accounts and possessed a competent knowledge of the veterinary art.

Dairy produce

We may conclude this part of the subject with a few words upon the management of dairy produce, which was treated as a distinct science (τυροποιΐα by the Greeks, who wrote many treatises upon the topic.

Cheese-making commenced in May, and the method followed by the Romans was substantially the same as that now practised. The milk unskimmed was used as fresh as possible, was slightly warmed, the rennet (coagulum) was then added; as soon as the curd formed, it was transferred to baskets (fiscellae, calathi) or wooden chessets (formae) perforated with holes, in order that the whey (serum) might drain off quickly, and was pressed down by weights to hasten the process. The mass was then taken out of the frame, sprinkled with salt, and placed upon a wicker crate or wooden board in a cool dark place; when partially dried, it was again pressed more powerfully than before, again salted and again shelved,--operations which were repeated for several days until it had acquired a proper consistency. It might be flavoured with thyme, with pine cones, or any other ingredient, by mixing the condiments with the warm milk.

The rennet or coagulum was usually obtained from the stomach of the hare, kid, or lamb (coagulum leporinum, haedinum, agninum), the two former being preferred to the third, while some persons employed for the same purpose the milky juice expressed from a fig-tree branch, vinegar, and a variety of other substances.

The cheeses from cows' milk (casei bubuli) were believed to contain more nourishment, but to be more indigestible, than those from ewes' milk (casei ovilli); the least nourishing and most digestible were those from goats' milk (casei casprini), the new and moist cheeses in each case being more nourishing (magis alibiles) and less heavy (in corpore non resides) than those which were old and dry.

Butter (butyrum) is mentioned by Varro (2.2.16), but seems to have been scarcely used as an article of food (Varr. 2.1.28, 11; Col. 7.8; Plin. Nat. 11.239, 28.133; Pallad. 6.9).


Villaticae Pastiones, from which many persons towards the close of the republic and under the empire derived large revenues, were separated into two departments, according to the names given to the buildings or enclosures adapted to the different animals:--

I. Overview of Aviaria

Aviaria s. Ornithones, in the most extended acceptation of the term, signified receptacles for birds of every description, whether wild or tame, terrestrial or amphibious, but it is frequently and conveniently employed in a more limited sense to denote the structures formed for birds caught in their wild state by the fowler (auceps), from whom they were purchased, and then shut up and sold at a profit after they became fat.

In this way we may distinguish between,

    a. Cohors in plano was the poultry-yard, including the houses and courts destined for those domestic fowls which were bred and fed on the farm, and which were not able or not permitted to fly abroad. Of these the chief were,
  • b. Columbarium, the dove-cote.
  • c. The Ornithon proper, the inmates of which were chiefly:
    • 1. Thrushes and blackbirds (turdi, merulae), especially the former.
    • 2. Quails (coturnices).
    • 3. Turtledoves (turtures).
    • 4. Ortolans (miliariae), all of which are in Italy birds of passage arriving in great flocks at particular seasons.

II. Overview of Vivaria

In like manner the term Vivaria, which may be employed to denote all places contrived for the reception of animals used for food or which supplied articles of food and did not fall under the denomination of pecudes or aves, must be separated into those designed for the reception of land animals and those for fishes.

a. Leporaria, Apiaria, Coclearia, Gliraria, and Β. Piscinae.

We commence then with a description of the inhabitants of the Cohors in plano and their dwelling.


a. Cohors in plano.

In the science of rearing poultry (Ratio Cohortalis, ὀρνιθοτροφία), three precepts were of general application. The birds were to be kept scrupulously clean, were to be abundantly supplied with fresh air and pure water, and were to be protected from the attacks of weasels, hawks, and other enemies. The two former objects were attained by the choice of a suitable situation; and by incessant attention upon the part of the superintendents (curatores, custodes); the latter was effected by overlaying the walls of the houses and courts, both inside and out, with coats of smooth hard plaster or stucco, and by covering over the open spaces with large nets.

Again, the attention of those who desired to rear poultry with profit was chiefly occupied by five considerations: 1. The choice of a good breeding stock (de genere). 2. The impregnation of the hens (de fetura). 3. The management of the eggs during incubation (de ovis). 4. The rearing of the pullets (de pullis). 5. Fattening them for the market (de fartura), this last process being, however, frequently conducted not by the farmer (rusticus), but by persons who made it their sole occupation (fartores).

1, 2. Chickens (gallinae).

Of the different species of domestic fowls, the most important were gallinae, which were divided into three classes: a. Gallinae Villaticae s. Cohortales, the common chicken; b. Gallinae Africanae s. Numidicae, the same probably with the μελεαγρίδες of the Greeks, the distinctions pointed out by Columella scarcely amounting to a specific difference; and c. Gallinae Rusticae. The last were found in great abundance in the Insula Gallinaria, but it is so difficult to determine from the descriptions transmitted to us what they really were, that we know not whether we ought to regard them as pheasants, as red-legged partridges, as wood-grouse, or as some species of game different from any of these. The Africanae, always scarce and dear, were treated almost exactly in the same manner as peacocks, and never became of importance to the farmer; the Rusticae are little spoken of except as objects of curiosity, and Columella declares that they would not breed in confinement (in servitute non fetant). We therefore confine our observations to the Villaticae.

Among the breeds celebrated for fighting were the Tanagrian, the Rhodian, and the Chalcidian; but these were not the most profitable for the market. The points of a good barn-door fowl are minutely described by Varro, Columella, and Palladius, who all agree in recommending the breeder to reject such as were white, for they were more delicate and less prolific than those whose plumage was darker. Some were permitted to roam about (vagae) during the day, and pick up what they could, but the greater number were constantly shut up (clausae) in a poultry yard (gallinarium, ὀρνιθοβοσκεῖον), which was an enclosed court (saeptum) with a warm aspect, strewed with sand or ashes wherein they might wallow, and covered over with a net. It contained hen-houses (caveae) to which they retired at night and roosted upon poles stretched across (perticae) for their convenience, nests (cubilia) for the laying hens being constructed along the walls. The whole establishment was under the control of a poultry man (aviarius custos s. curator gallinarius), who occupied an adjoining hut, usually assisted by an old woman and a boy, for the flocks were often very large, containing upwards of two hundred. The proportion of one cock (gallus) to five hens was commonly observed, the males not required for breeding being killed young or made into capons (capi). Their food consisted of barley with the husk removed (hordeum pinsitum), millet, vetches, and lentils, when these articles could be procured cheap, but when too dear they were supplied with the refuse of wheat, bran with a little of the flour adhering, the seeds of cytisus, and the like.

The laying season began in January and continued until the autumnal equinox. From twenty-five to thirty eggs, the number being increased or diminished according as the weather was hot or cold, were placed beneath a clucking hen (gallina glociens) from one to two years old, who was kept constantly shut up except at feeding time, or even furnished with food while on the nest. The curator made his rounds regularly during the twenty days of incubation, turning the eggs, that they might all receive equal heat, and rejecting those which upon examination were found to contain no embryos. Such as were not required for hatching were preserved by rubbing them with strong brine, and then storing them up in chaff or bran. The chicks for fifteen days were fed by hand on polenta mixed with nasturtium (cress) seed.

Chickens, when fattened for sale, were shut up in dark narrow cribs, light and motion being unfavourable to the process; or each bird was swung separately in a basket, with a small hole at each end, one for the head, the other for the rump, and bedded upon the softest hay or chaff, but so cramped in space that he could not turn round. In this state they were crammed with wheat, linseed, barley-meal kneaded with water into small lumps (turundae), and other farinaceous food, the operation requiring from twenty to twenty-five days. (Varr. 3.9; Col. 8.2, &c., 12; Plin. Nat. 10.46 ff.; Pallad. 1.27, 29.)

3. Pheasants (phasiani

Pheasants are not mentioned among domestic poultry by Varro or Columella, but find a place in the compilation of Palladius, who directs that young birds, that is, those of a year old, should be selected as breeders in the proportion of one cock to two hens, and that the eggs should be hatched by barn-door fowls. The chicks were to be fed for the first fortnight on cold boiled barley lightly sprinkled with wine, afterwards upon bruised wheat, locusts, and ants' eggs, and were to be prevented from having access to water. They became fat in thirty days if shut up and crammed with wheat flour made up into small lumps (turundae) with oil. (Pallad. 1.29.) [p. 1.79]

4. Peacocks (pavones, pavi, pavae

Peacocks are said to have been first introduced as an article of food by Q. Hortensius at a banquet on his installation as an augur (augurali aditiali cena). They speedily became so much in request that soon afterwards a single full-grown bird sold for fifty denarii (upwards of a guinea and a half), and a single egg for five (upwards of three shillings), while one breeder, M. Aufidius Lurco, derived an income of 60,000 sesterces (about £500 sterling) from this source alone. The most favourable situations for rearing peacocks were afforded by the small rocky but well-wooded islets off the Italian coast, where they roamed in freedom without fear of being lost or stolen, provided their own food, and brought up their young. Those persons who could not command such advantage kept them in small enclosures roofed over, or under porticoes, perches (perticae) being supplied for them to roost upon, with a large grassy court in front, surrounded by a high wall and shaded by trees. They were fed upon all kinds of grain, but chiefly barley; did not arrive at full maturity for breeding until three years old, when one cock was allowed to five hens, and care was taken to supply each bird with a separate nest (discreta cubilia). The hatching process was most profitably performed by common barndoor fowls, for in this way the pea-hen laid three times in a season, first five eggs (ova pavonina), then four, and lastly two or three, but if allowed to incubate herself could rear only one brood. In the time of Varro, three chicks (pulli pavonini) for each full-grown bird were considered a fair return. (Varr. 3.6; Col. 8.11; Pallad. 1.28; Plin. Nat. 10.43; comp. Juv. 1.143.)

5. Geese (anseres

Geese were easily reared, but were not very profitable and somewhat troublesome, for a running stream or a pond with a good supply of herbage was essential, and they could not be turned out to graze in the vicinity of growing crops, which they tore up by the roots, being supposed at the same time, by a vulgar error, to injure vegetation by their dung. (Verg. G. 1.119; Pallad. 1.30.) Birds for breeding were always selected of a large size and pure white, the grey variety (varii vel fusci) being regarded as inferior on the supposition that they were more nearly allied to the wild species. Their food consisted of clover, fenugreek, lettuce, together with leguminous plants, all of which were sown for their use, and especially a herb called σέρις by the Greeks, which seems to have been a sort of endive. Impregnation took place about mid-winter, one gander being allowed to three females, who, when the laying season, which was early in spring, approached, were shut up in a structure (χηνοβοσκεῖον) consisting of a court (cohors), surrounded by a high wall with a portico inside containing receptacles (harae, cellae, speluncae), from two to three feet square, built of hewn stone or brick, well lined with chaff for the eggs. Incubation, according to the weather, lasted from twenty-five to thirty days, during which period the mothers were supplied by the custos with barley crushed in water. The goslings remained in the house for about ten days, and were fed upon polenta, poppy seed, and green cresses (nasturtium) chopped in water, after which they were taken out in fine weather to feed in marshy meadows and pools. It was found in practice most advantageous to employ barn-door hens to hatch the eggs, since they made more careful mothers; and in this case the goose would lay three times in a season, first five eggs, then four, and lastly three.

Goslings, when from four to six months old, were shut up to fatten in dark warm coops (saginarium), where they were fed with barley pottage and fine flour moistened with water, being allowed to eat and drink three times a day as much as they could swallow. In this way they became fit for the market in two months or less. A flock of geese furnished not only eggs but feathers also, for it was customary to pluck them twice a year, in spring and autumn, and the feathers were worth five denarii (about three shillings and fourpence) a pound. (Varro, 3.10; Col. 8.13; Plin. Nat. 10.51 ff.; Pallad. 1.30.)

6. Ducks (anates).

The duck-house (νησσοτροφεῖον) was more costly than the chenoboscium, for within its limits were confined, not only ducks, but querquedulae, phalerides, boscades (whatever these may have been), and similar birds whick seek their food in pools and swamps. A flat piece of ground, if possible marshy, was surrounded by a wall fifteen feet high, well stuccoed within and without, along the course of which upon an elevated ledge (crepido) a series of covered nests (tecta cubilia) were formed of hewn stone, the whole open space above being covered over with a net or trellis work (clatris superpositis). A shallow pond (piscina) was dug in the centre of the enclosure, the margin formed of opus signinum, and planted round with shrubs; through this flowed a small stream which traversed the court in a sort of a canal, into which was thrown food for the inmates, consisting of wheat, barley, millet, acorns, grape-skins, small crabs or cray-fish, and other water animals. The eggs were generally hatched by common hens, the precautions taken during incubation and the rearing of the ducklings being the same as in the case of pullets. (Varr. 3.11; Col. 8.15.)

b. Columbarium.

Pigeons (columbus, columba). Varro distinguishes two species or varieties: the one, Genus saxatile s. agreste, probably the Columba livia of naturalists, which was shy and wild, living in lofty turrets (sublimes turriculae), flying abroad without restraint, and generally of a darkish colour dappled, and without any admixture of white; the other kind more tame (clementius), feeding about the doors of the farm, and for the most part white. Between these a cross breed (miscellum) was usually reared for the market in a lofty edifice (περιστεροτροφεῖον, περιστερεών), constructed for the purpose. These buildings, placed under the charge of a columbarius, were frequently large enough to contain 5000, were vaulted or roofed in with tiles, and furnished with one small entrance, but well lighted by means of large barred or latticed windows (fenestrae Punicanae, s. reticulatae). The walls, carefully stuccoed, were lined from top to bottom with rows of round-shaped nests with a single small aperture (columbaria), often formed of earthenware (fictilia), one being assigned to every pair, while in front of each row a plank was placed upon which the birds alighted. A [p. 1.80]copious supply of fresh water was introduced for drinking and washing; their food, consisting of the refuse of wheat (excreta tritici), millet, vetches, peas, kidney-beans, and other leguminous seeds, was placed in narrow troughs ranged round the walls, and filled by pipes from without. The pigeons kept in the country supported themselves for a great part of the year upon what they picked up in the fields, and were regularly fed (acceptant conditiva cibaria) for two or three months only; but those in or near a town were confined in a great measure to the περιστεροτροφεῖον, lest they should be snared or destroyed. They were very fruitful, since one pair would rear eight broods of two each in the course of a year, and the young birds (pulli) very speedily arrived at maturity, and began forthwith to lay in their turn. Those set aside for the market had their wing feathers plucked out and their legs broken, and were then fattened upon white bread previously chewed. Columella says that some preferred to tie their legs, thinking that the pain arising from breaking them could hinder this fattening; but he denies that this is the case.

A handsome pair of breeding pigeons of a good stock would fetch at Rome, towards the close of the republic, two hundred sesterces (upwards of a guinea and a half); if remarkably fine, as high as a thousand (nearly eight guineas); and as much as sixteen hundred (more than thirteen pounds) was a price sometimes asked, while Columella speaks of four thousand (upwards of thirty pounds) having been given in his time; and some persons were said to have a hundred thousand (nearly a thousand pounds sterling) invested in this kind of property. The instinct which teaches pigeons to return to the place where they have been fed was remarked by the ancients, who were wont, for the sake of amusement, to bring them to the theatres and there let them loose. (Varr. 3.7; Col. 8.8; Plin. Nat. 10.147; Pallad. 1.24.)

c. Ornithon, Aviarium (ὀρνιθοτροφεῖον).

Ornithones, in the restricted sense, were divided into two classes: 1. Those constructed for pleasure merely, being designed for the reception of nightingales and other singing birds. 2. Those for profit, in which thousands of wild birds were confined and fattened. Varro gives a very curious and minute description of an ornithon belonging to the first class, which he himself possessed, and Lucullus endeavoured to combine the enjoyment of both, for he had a triclinium constructed in his Tusculan villa inside of an ornithon, delighting to behold one set of birds placed upon the table ready for his repast, while others were fluttering at the windows by which the room was lighted. Ornithones of the second class, with which alone we are at present concerned, were kept by poulterers (macellarii), and others in the city, but the greater number were situated in Sabinum, because thrushes were most abundant in that region. These huge cages were formed by enclosing a space of ground with high walls and covering it in with an arched roof. Water was introduced by pipes, and conducted in numerous narrow channels; the windows were few and small, that light might be excluded as much as possible, and that the prisoners might not pine from looking out upon the open country, where their mates were enjoying freedom. Indeed, so sensitive were thrushes, and so apt to despond when first caught, that it was the practice to shut them for some time with other tame individuals of their own kind (veterani), who acted as decoys (allectores) in reconciling them to captivity. In the interior of this building numerous stakes (pali) were fixed upright, upon which the birds might alight; long poles also (perticae) were arranged in an inclined position resting against the walls with spars nailed in rows across, and lofts were constructed, all for the same purpose. Two smaller apartments were attached, one in which the superintendent (curator) deposited the birds which died a natural death, in order that he might be able to square accounts with his master; the other, called the seclusorium, communicating with the great hall by a door, into which those birds wanted for the market were driven from time to time, and killed out of sight, lest the others might droop on witnessing the fate of their companions.

Millet and wild berries were given freely, but their chief food consisted of dry figs carefully peeled (diligenter pinsita) and kneaded with far or pollen into small lumps, which were chewed by persons hired to perform this operation. The birds usually kept in an ornithon have been mentioned above, but of these by far the most important were thrushes, which made their appearance in vast flocks about the vernal equinox, and seem to have been in great request; for out of a single establishment in Sabinum, in the time of Varro, five thousand were sometimes sold in a single year at the rate of three denarii a head, thus yielding a sum of 60,000 sesterces, about £500 sterling.

The manure from ornithones containing thrushes and blackbirds was not only a powerful stimulant to the soil, but was given as food to oxen and pigs, who fattened on it rapidly.

Turtle-doves (turtures, dim. turturillae) belonged to the class which did not lay eggs in captivity (nec parit nec excludit), and consequently, as soon as caught, were put up to fatten (volatura ita ut capitur farturae destinatur, Col.). They were not however confined. in an ordinary ornithon, but in a building similar to a dove-cote, with this difference, that the interior, instead of being fitted up with columbaria, contained rows of brackets (mutulos), or short stakes projecting horizontally from the wall and rising tier above tier. Over each row, the lowest of which was three feet from the ground, hempen mats (tegeticulae cannabinae) were stretched, on which the birds reposed day and night, while nets were drawn tight in front to prevent them from flying about, which would have rendered them lean. They fattened readily in harvest time, delighting most in dry wheat, of which one-half modius per day was sufficient for 120 turtles, or in millet moistened with sweet wine. (Varr. 3.8; Col. 8.9; Plin. Nat. 10.104 ff.; comp. Plaut. Mostell. 1.1, 44; Juv. 6.36.)


a. Leporaria.

Leporaria anciently were small walled paddocks, planted thickly with shrubs to give [p. 1.81]shelter; and intended, as the name implies, for the reception of animals of the hare kind: viz. 1. The common grey hare (Italicum hoc nostrum, sc. genus). 2. The mountain or white hare from the Alps, seldom brought to Rome (toti candidi sunt). 3. Rabbits (cuniculi), believed to be natives of Spain. These, at least the first and third, bred rapidly, were caught occasionally, shut up in boxes, fattened and sold. In process of time, the name leporarium was changed for the more appropriate term θηριοτροφεῖον, since a variety of wild animals, such as boars (apri), stags (cervi), and roe deer (capreae), were procured from the hunter (venator), and shut up in these parks, which now embraced several acres even in Italy, while in the provinces, especially Transalpine Gaul, they frequently comprehended a circuit of many miles of hill and swamp, glade and forest. This space was, if possible, fenced by a wall of stone and lime, or of unburnt brick and clay, or, where the extent rendered even the latter too costly, by a strong paling (vacerra) formed of upright stakes (stipites) drilled with holes (per latus efforantur) through which poles (amites) were passed horizontally, the whole of oak or cork-tree timber, braced and, as it were, latticed by planks nailed diagonally (seris transversis clatrare), much in the fashion of wooden hurdles. Even in the largest enclosures it was necessary to support the animals in winter, and in those of moderate size they were frequently tamed to such an extent that they would assemble at the sound of a horn to receive their food. (Varr. 3.12; Col. 9.1; Plin. Nat. 8.217 ff.)

Bees (apes

Bees (apes). The delight experienced in the management of these creatures is sufficiently proved by the space and care devoted to the subject in Virgil, and by the singularly minute instructions contained in the agricultural writers, especially in Columella, who derived his materials from the still more elaborate compilations of Hyginus and Celsus, the former being the author of a regular bee calendar, in which the various precepts for the guidance of the bee fancier (mellarius, apiarius ; μελιτουργὸς, meliturgus) were arranged in regular order according to the seasons and days of the year. The methods which the ancients describe differ little, even in trifling details, from those followed by ourselves, although in some respects our practice is inferior, since they never destroyed a hive for the sake of its contents, but abstracted a portion of the honey only, always leaving a sufficient supply for the support of the insects in winter; and the same swarm, occasionally reinforced by young recruits, might thus continue for ten years, which was regarded as the limit. Our superior knowledge of natural history has however enabled us to determine that the chief of the hive is always a female, not a male (rex), as was the general belief; to ascertain the respective duties performed by the queen, the working bees, and drones (fuci s. fures), which were unknown or confounded; and to reject the absurd fancy, to which however we are indebted for the most charming episode in the Georgics, which originated with the Greeks, and is repeated with unhesitating faith by almost every authority, that swarms might be produced by spontaneons generation from the putrescent carcase of an ox (ex bubulo corpore putrefacto; and hence they were commonly termed βοηγενέες by the poets, and by Archelau βοὸς φθιμένης πεποτημένα τέκνα).

The early Romans placed the hives in niches hollowed out of the walls of the farm-house itself, under the shelter of the eaves (subter subgrundas), but in later times it became more common to form a regular apiary (apiarium, alvearium, mellarium; μεγιττοτροφεῖον, μελιττώνη), sometimes so extensive as to yield 5000 pounds of honey in a season. This was a small enclosure in the immediate vicinity of the villa, in a warm and sheltered spot, as little subject as possible to great variations of temperature, or to disturbances of any description from the elements or from animals; and carefully removed from the influence of fetid exhalations, such as might proceed from baths, kitchens, stables, dunghills, or the like. A supply of pure water was provided, and plantations were formed of those plants and flowers to which they were the most attached, especially the cytisus and thyme, the former as being conducive to the health of bees, the latter as affording the greatest quantity of honey (aptissimum ad mellificium, Varr.). The yew was carefully avoided, not because in itself noxious to the swarm, but because the honey made from it was poisonous. (Sic mea Cyrneas fugiant examina taxos, Verg. Ecl. 9.30) The hives (alvi, alvei, alvearia, κυψέλαι), if stationary, were built of brick (domicilia lateribus facta) or baked dung (ex fimo); if moveable, and these were considered the most convenient, were hollowed out of a solid block, or formed of boards, or of wicker-work, or of bark, or of earthenware, the last being accounted the worst, because more easily affected by heat or cold, while those of cork were accounted best. They were perforated with two small holes for the insects to pass in and out, were covered with moveable tops to enable the mellarius to inspect the interior, which was done three times a month, in spring and summer, for the purpose of removing any filth which might have accumulated, or any worms that might have found entrance; and were arranged, but not in contact, in rows one above another, care being taken that there should not be more than three rows in all, and that the lowest row should rest upon a stone parapet, elevated three feet from the ground, and coated with smooth stucco to prevent lizards, snakes, or other noxious animals from climbing up.

When the season for swarming arrived, the movements which indicated the approaching departure of a colony (examen) were watched unremittingly; and when it was actually thrown off, they were deterred from a long flight by casting dust upon them, and by tinkling sounds, being at the same time tempted to alight upon some neighbouring branch by rubbing it with balm (apiastrum, μελισσόφυλλον, s. μέλινον, s. μελίφυλλον), or any sweet substance. When they had all collected, they were quietly transferred to a hive similarly prepared, and, if they showed any disinclination to enter, were urged on by surrounding them with a little smoke.

If quarrelsome, their pugnacity was repressed by sprinkling them with honey water (mella) or dust; if lazy, they were tempted out by placing the sweet-smelling plants they most loved, chiefly apiastrum or thyme, in the immediate vicinity of [p. 1.82]the hive, recourse being had at the same time to a slight fumigation. If distracted by sedition in consequence of the presence of two pretenders to the throne, the rivals were caught, examined, and the least promising put to death. In bad weather, those stricken down and disabled by cold or sudden rain were tenderly collected, placed in a spot warmed by artificial heat, and as they revived laid down before their hives. When the weather for any length of time prevented them from going abroad, they were fed upon honey and water, or upon figs boiled in must and pounded into a paste.

The honey harvest (mellatio, mellis vindemia, castratio alvorum, dies castrandi, μελίτωσις), according to Varro, took place three times a year, but more usually twice only, in June and October; on the first visitation four-fifths, at the second two-thirds of the honey was abstracted; but these proportions varied much according to the season and the strength of the particular hive. The system pursued was very simple; the moveable top was taken off, or a door contrived in the side opened, the bees were driven away by a smoking apparatus, and the mellarius cut out with peculiarly formed knives as much of the contents as he thought fit.

The comb (favus, κηρίον), which was the product of their industry, was composed of wax (cera, κηρὸς), formed into hexagonal cells (sexangulis cella), the geometrical advantages of which were soon discovered by mathematicians, containing for the most part honey (mel, μέλι), but also the more solid sweet substance commonly called bee-bread (propolis, πρόπολις), the classical name being derived, it is said, from the circumstance that it is found in greatest abundance near the entrance. The combs were cemented together, and the crevices in the hive daubed over with a glutinous gum, or bee-glue, the erithace (ἐριθάκγ) of Varro and his Greek authorities, which seems to be the same with what is elsewhere termed melligo (μελίτωμα). But cf. Conington and Keightley on Verg. G. 4.39

Columella and Palladius describe ingenious plans for getting possession of wild swarms (apes silvestres, ferae, rusticae, as opposed to urbanae, cicures); and Pliny notices the humble-bees, which constructed their nests in the ground, but seems to suppose that they were peculiar to a district in Asia Minor. The marks which distinguish the varieties of the domestic species will be found detailed by the different authorities quoted below. (Aristot. HA 9.40 ff.; Aelian. de Anim. 1.59, 60, 5.10, 11; Varr. 2.5, 3.3, 16; Verg. Georg. iv.; Col. 9.3, &c., 11.2; Plin. Nat. 11.11 ff.; Pallad. 1.37-39, 4.15, 5.8, 6.10, 7.7, 9.7, 11.13, 12.8.)

Snails (cocleae).

Snails (cocleac). Certain species of snails were favourite articles of food among the Romans, and were used also medicinally in diseases of the lungs and intestines. The kinds most prized were those from Reate, which were small and white; those from Africa, of middling size, and very fruitful ; those called solitana, also from Africa, larger than the former; and those from Illyria, which were largest of all. The place where they were preserved (coclearium) was sheltered from the sun, kept moist, and not covered over nor walled in, but surrounded by water, which prevented the escape of the inmates, who were very prolific, and required nothing except a few bay leaves and a little bran. They were fattened by shutting them up in a jar smeared with boiled must and flour, and perforated with holes to admit air. It has been recorded that an individual named Fulvius Hirpinus constructed, near Tarquinii, the first coclearium ever formed in Italy, a short time before the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. (Varr. 3.14; Plin. Nat. 9.173, 30.44; comp. Sallust. Jug. 93.)

Dormice (glires

Dormice were regarded as articles of such luxury that their use as food was forbidden in the sumptuary laws of the more rigid censors ; but, notwithstanding, a glirarium became a common appendage to a villa. It was a small space of ground surrounded with a smooth wall of polished or stuccoed stone, planted with acorn-bearing trees to yield food, and containing holes (cavi) for rearing the young. They were fattened up in earthen jars (dolia) of a peculiar construction, upon chestnuts, walnuts, and acorns. (Varr. 3.15; Plin. Nat. 8.223 f.: cf. Martial, 3.58, 13.59; Petron. 31; Amm. Marc. 28.4.)

b. Piscinae.

Lastly, we may say a few words upon artificial fish-ponds, which were of two kinds--fresh-water ponds (piscinae dulces), and salt-water ponds (piscinae salsae s. maritimae).

The former, from an early period, had frequently been attached to ordinary farms, and proved a source of gain; the latter were unknown until the last half century of the republic, were mere objects of luxury, and were confined for the most part to the richest members of the community, to many of whom, such as Hirrius, Philippus, Lucullus, and Hortensius, who are sneeringly termed piscinarii by Cicero, they became objects of intense interest. These receptacles were constructed at a vast cost on the sea-coast, a succession being frequently formed for different kinds of fish, and the most ingenious and elaborate contrivances provided for the admission of the tide at particular periods, and for regulating the temperature of the water; large sums were paid for the stock with which they were filled, consisting chiefly of mullets and muraenae; and a heavy expense was incurred in maintaining them, for fishermen were regularly employed to catch small fry for their food, and when the weather did not permit such supplies to be procured, salt anchovies and the like were purchased in the market. For the most part they yielded no return whatever, during the lifetime at least of the proprietors, for the inmates were regarded as pets, and frequently became so tame as to answer to the voice and eat from the hand. When sales did take place, the prices were very high. Thus Hirrius, who on one occasion lent Caesar 6,000 muraenae, at a subsequent period obtained 4,000,000 sesterces (upwards of 30,000l.) for an ordinary villa, chiefly in consequence of the ponds and the quantity of fish they contained.

A certain Sergius Orata, a short time before the Marsic War, formed artificial oyster-beds (vivaria ostrearum) from which he obtained a large revenue. He first asserted and established the superiority of the shell-fish from the Lucrine Lake, which have always maintained their [p. 1.83]celebrity, although under the empire less esteemed than those from Britain. (Varr. R. R. 3.17; Col. 8.16, 17; Plin. Nat. 9.168; Cic. Att. 1.1. 9

Of modern treatises connected with the subject of this article the most important is Dickson's Husbandry of the Ancients, 2 vols. 8vo. 1788, the work of a Scotch clergyman, who was well acquainted with the practical details of agriculture, and who had studied the Latin writers with great care, but whose scholarship was unfortunately so imperfect that he was in many instances unable to interpret correctly their expressions. Many useful and acute observations will be found in the Économie Politique des Romains, by Dureau de la Malle, 2 tomes, 8vo. Paris, 1840, but he also is far from being accurate, and he is embarrassed throughout by very erroneous views with regard to the rate of interest among the Romans, and by the singular misconception that from the expulsion of the kings until the end of the Second Punic War the law forbade any Roman citizen to possess more than 7 jugers of land (vol. ii. p. 2).2 Those who desire to compare the agriculture of modern Italy with ancient usages will do well to consult Arthur Young's Travels in Italy, and the Appendix of Symonds; the Agriculture Toscane of J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi, the historian, 8vo. Génève, 1801 ; and Lettres écrites d'Italie à Charles Pictet par M. Lullin de Châteauvieux, 8vo., Paris, 2nd ed. 1820.

[W.R] [A.S.W]

1 This name was given to fields planted with trees in regular rows. Upon these vines were trained, and the open ground cultivated for corn or leguminous crops in the ordinary manner, an arrangement extensively adopted in Campania and many other parts of Italy in modern times, but by no means conducive to good husbandry.

2 Useful remarks will also be found in the notes to the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil by Keightley, a sound scholar, and familiar with modern Italian husbandry, and in Dr. Daubeny's Lectures on Roman Husbandry (Oxford, 1857.).

hide References (145 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (145):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.36
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.370
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.589
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.550
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.499
    • Homer, Odyssey, 17.297
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.124
    • Homer, Iliad, 10.351
    • Homer, Iliad, 11.67
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.588
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.704
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.540
    • Homer, Iliad, 20.495
    • Homer, Iliad, 21.77
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.127
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.3.112
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.104
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.113
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.151
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.178
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.193
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.210
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.215
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.216
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.227
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.228
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.63
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.73
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.75
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.81
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.94
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.97
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.204
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.412
    • Vergil, Georgics, 4.39
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.112
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.119
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.155
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.181
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.21
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.212
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.225
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.47
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.70
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.71
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.77
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.313
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.387
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 10.46
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 10.51
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.39
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.41
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.10
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.47
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.49
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.76
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.83
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 10.104
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 10.43
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 11.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.34
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.49
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.50
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.53
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.56
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.109
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.116
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.123
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.124
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.125
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.53
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.62
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.70
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.75
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.85
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.88
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.9
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.97
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.2
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 9.37
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 15
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.3
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 10.15
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 18.8
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.11
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 1.6
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 1.7
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 1.8
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.1
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.10
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.11
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.11.1
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.12
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.13
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.14
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.15
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.16
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.18
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.19
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.2
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.20
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.21
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.3
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.4
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.4.11
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.4.8
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.5
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.6
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.8
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.9
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.9.13
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.9.17
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 3.3.4
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 6.27
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 6.29
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 6.3
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 6.36
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 6.37
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.1
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.12
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.3
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.8
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.9
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.11
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.13
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.15
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.16
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.17
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.2
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.8
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 8.9
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 9.1
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 9.3
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.1
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.59
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.153
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 2.37
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.58
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.37
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.2
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
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