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WE now pass on to the Natural History of the various grains, of the garden plants and flowers, and indeed of all the other productions, with the exception of the trees and shrubs, which the Earth, in her bounteousness, affords us—a boundless field for contemplation, if even we regard the herbs alone, when we take into consideration the varieties of them, their numbers, the flowers they produce, their odours, their colours, their juices, and the numerous properties they possess—all of which have been engendered by her with a view to either the preservation or the gratification of the human race.

On entering, however, upon this branch of my subject, it is my wish in the first place to plead the cause of the Earth, and to act as the advocate of her who is the common parent of all, although in the earlier1 part of this work I have already had occasion to speak in her defence. For my subject matter, as I proceed in the fulfillment of my task, will now lead me to consider her in the light of being the producer of various noxious substances as well; in consequence of which it is that we are in the habit of charging her with our crimes, and imputing to her a guilt that is our own. She has produced poisons, it is true; but who is it but man that has found them out? For the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, it is sufficient to be on their guard against them, and to keep at a distance from them. The elephant, we find, and the gurus, know how to sharpen2 and renovate their teeth against the trunks of trees, and the rhinoceros against rocks; wild boars, again, point their tusks like so many poniards by the aid of both rocks and trees; and all animals, in fact, are aware how to prepare themselves for the infliction of injury upon others; but still, which is there among them all, with the exception of man, that dips his weapons in poison? As for ourselves, we envenom the point of the arrow,3 and we contrive to add to the destructive powers of iron itself; by the aid of poisons we taint the waters of the stream, and we infect the various elements of Nature; indeed, the very air even, which is the main support of life, we turn into a medium for the destruction of life.

And it is not that we are to suppose that animals are ignorant of these means of defence, for we have already had occasion to point out4 the preparations which they make against the attacks of the serpent, and the methods they devise for effecting a cure when wounded by it; and yet, among them all, there is not one that fights by the aid of the poison that belongs to another, with the sole exception of man. Let us then candidly confess our guilt, we who are not contented even with the poisons as Nature has produced them; for by far the greater portion of them, in fact, are artificially prepared by the human hand!

And then besides, is it not the fact, that there are many men, the very existence of whom is a baneful poison, as it were? Like that of the serpent, they dart their livid tongue, and the venom of their disposition corrodes every object upon which it concentrates itself. Ever vilifying and maligning, like the ill-omened birds of the night, they disturb the repose of that darkness which is so peculiarly their own, and break in upon the quiet of the night even, by their moans and wailings, the only sounds they are ever heard to emit. Like animals of inauspicious presage, they only cross our path to prevent us from employing our energies or becoming useful to our fellow-men; and the only enjoyment that is sought by their abominable aspirations is centred in their universal hatred of mankind.

Still, however, even in this respect Nature has asserted her majestic sway; for how much more numerous5 are the good and estimable characters which she has produced! just in the same proportion that we find her giving birth to productions which are at once both salutary and nutritious to man. It is in our high esteem for men such as these, and the commendations they bestow, that we shall be content to leave the others, like so many brakes and brambles, to the devouring flames of their own bad passions, and to persist in promoting the welfare of the human race; and this, with all the more energy and perseverance, from the circumstance that it has been our object throughout, rather to produce a work of lasting utility than to ensure ourselves a widely-spread renown. We have only to speak, it is true, of the fields and of rustic operations; but still, it is upon these that the enjoyment of life so materially depends, and that the ancients conferred the very highest rank in their honors and commendations.


Romulus was the first who established the Arval6 priesthood at Rome. This order consisted of the eleven sons of Accra Placentia, his nurse,7 together with Romulus himself, who assumed the appellation of the twelfth of the brotherhood. Upon this priesthood he bestowed, as being the most august dis- tinction that he could confer upon it, a wreath of years of corn, tied together with a white fillet; and this in fact, was the first chaplet that was ever used at Rome.This dignity is only ended with life itself, and whether in exile or in captivity, it always attends its owner. In those early days, two jugera of land were considered enough for a citizen of Rome, and to none was a larger portion than this allotted. And yet, at the present day, men who but lately were the slaves of the Emperor Nero have been hardly content with pleasure-gardens that occupied the same space as this; while they must have fishponds, forsooth, of still greater extent, and in some instances I might add, perhaps, kitchens even as well.

Numa first established the custom of offering corn to the gods, and of propitiating them with the salted8 cake; he was the first, too, as we learn from Hemina, to parch spelt, from the fact that, when in this state, it is more wholesome as an aliment9 This method, however, he could only establish one way: by making an enactment, to the effect that spelt is not in a pure state for offering, except when parched. He it was, too, who instituted the Fornacalia,10 festivals appropriated for the parching of corn, and others,11 observed with equal solemnity, for the erection and preservation of the "termini," or boundaries of the fields: for these termini, in those days, they particularly regarded as gods; while to other divinities they gave the names of Seia,12 from "sero," "to sow," and of Segesta, from tile "segetes," or "crops of standing corn," the statues of which goddesses we still see erected in the Circus. A third divinity it is forbidden by the rules of our religion to name even13 beneath a roof. In former days, too, they would not so much as taste the corn when newly cut, nor yet wine when just made, before the priests had made a libation of the first-fruits.


That portion of land used to be known as a "jugerum," which was capable of being ploughed by a single "jugum," or yoke of oxen, in one day; an "actus"14 being as much as the oxen could plough at a single spell, fairly estimated, without stopping. This last was one hundred and twenty feet in length; and two in length made a jugerum. The most considerable recompense that could be bestowed upon generals and valiant citizens, was the utmost extent of land around which a person could trace a furrow with the plough in a single day. The whole population, too, used to contribute a quarter15 of a sextarius of spelt, or else half a one, per head.

From agriculture the earliest surnames were derived. Thus, for instance, the name of Pilumnus was given to him who invented the "pilum," or pestle of the bake-house, for pounding corn; that of Piso was derived from "piso," to grind corn; and those of Fabius, Lentulus, and Cicero, from the several varieties16 of leguminous plants in the cultivation of which respectively these individuals excelled. One individual of the family of the Junii received the name of "Bubuleus,"17 from the skill he displayed in breeding oxen. Among the sacred ceremonials, too, there was nothing that was held more holy than the marriage by confarreation,18 and the woman just married used to present a cake made of spelt.19 Careless cultivation of the land was in those times an offence that came under the cognizance of the censors; and, as we learn from Cato,20 when it was said that such and such a man was a good agriculturist or a good husbandman, it was looked upon as the very highest compliment that could be paid him. A man came to be called "locuples," or "rich," from being "loci plenus," or "full of earth." Money, too, received its name of "pecunia,"21 from "pecus," "cattle." At the present day, even, in the registers of the censors, we find set down under the head of "pascua," or "pasture lands," everything from which the public revenues are derived, from the fact that for a long period of time pasture lands were the only sources of the public revenue. Fines, too, were only imposed in the shape of paying so many sheep or so many oxen; and the benevolent spirit of the ancient laws deserves remark, which most considerately enjoined that the magistrate, when he in- flicted a penalty, should never impose a fine of an ox before having first condemned the same party to the payment of a sheep.

Those who celebrated the public games in honour of the ox received the name of Bubetii.22 King Servius was the first who impressed upon our copper coin23 the figures of sheep and oxen. To depasture cattle secretly by night upon the unripe crops on plough lands, or to cut them in that state, was made by the Twelve Tables24 a capital offence in the case of an adult; and it was enacted that the person guilty of it should be hanged, in order to make due reparation to the goddess Ceres, a punishment more severe, even, than that inflicted for murder. If, on the other hand, the offender was not an adult, he was beaten at the discretion of the prætor; a penalty double the amount of the damage was also exacted.

The various ranks, too, and distinctions in the state had no other origin than the pursuits of agriculture. The rural tribes held the foremost rank, and were composed of those who possessed lands; while those of the city, a place to which it was looked upon as ignominious to be transferred, had the discredit thrown upon them of being an indolent race. Hence it was that these last were only four in number, and received their names from the several parts of the City which they respectively inhabited; being the Suburran, the Palatine, Colline, and Exquiline tribes. Every ninth day25 the rural tribes used to visit the city for the purpose of marketing, and it was for this reason that it was made illegal to hold the comitia upon the Nundinaæ; the object being that the country people might not be called away thereby from the transaction of their business. In those days repose and sleep were enjoyed upon straw. Even to glory itself, in compliment to corn, the name was given of "adorea."26

For my own part, I greatly admire27 the modes of expression employed in our ancient language: thus, for instance, we read in the Commentaries of the Priesthood to the follow- ing effect:—"For deriving an augury from the sacrifice of a bitch,28 a day should be set apart before the ear of corn appears from out of the sheath,29 and then again before it enters the sheath."


The consequence was, that when the Roman manners were such as these, the corn that Italy produced was sufficient for its wants, and it had to be indebted to no province for its food; and not only this, but the price of provisions was incredibly cheap. Manius Marcius, the ædile30 of the people, was the first who gave corn to the people at the price of one as for the modius. L. Minutius Augurinus,31 the same who detected, when eleventh tribune of the people, the projects of Spurius Mælius, reduced the price of corn on three market days,32 to one as per modius; for which reason a statue was erected in honour of him, by public subscription, without the Trigeminian Gate.33 T. Seius distributed corn to the people, in his ædileship,34 at one as per modius, in remembrance of which statues were erected in honour of him also in the Capitol and the Palatium: on the day of his funeral he was borne to the pile on the shoulders of the Roman people. In the year,35 too, in which the Mother of the Gods was brought to Rome, the harvest of that summer, it is said, was more abundant than it had been for ten years before. M. Yarro informs us, that in the year36 in which L. Metellus exhibited so many elephants in his triumphal procession, a modius of spelt was sold for one as, which was the standard price also of a congius of wine, thirty pounds' weight of dried figs, ten pounds of olive oil, and twelve pounds of flesh meat. Nor did this cheapness originate in the wide-spread domains of individuals encroaching continually upon their neighbours, for by a law proposed by Licinius Stolo, the landed property of each individual was limited to five hundred jugera; and he himself was convicted under his own law of being the owner of more than that amount, having as a disguise prevailed upon his son to lend him his name. Such were the prices of commodities at a time when the fortunes of the republic were rapidly on the increase. The words, too, that were uttered by Manius Curius37 after his triumphs and the addition of an immense extent of territory to the Roman sway, are well known: "The man must be looked upon," said he, "as a dangerous citizen, for whom seven jugera of land are not enough;" such being the amount of land that had been allotted to the people after the expulsion of the kings.

What, then, was the cause of a fertility so remarkable as this? The fact, we have every reason to believe, that in those days the lands were tilled by the hands of generals even, the soil exulting beneath a plough-share crowned with wreaths of laurel, and guided by a husbandman graced with triumphs: whether it is that they tended the seed with the same care that they had displayed in the conduct of wars, and manifested the same diligent attention in the management of their fields that they had done in the arrangement of the camp, or whether it is that under the hands of honest men everything prospers all the better, from being attended to with a scrupulous exactness. The honours awarded to Serranus38 found him engaged in sowing his fields, a circumstance to which he owes his surname.39 Cincinnatus was ploughing his four jugera of land upon the Vaticanian Hill—the same that are still known as the "Quintian Meadows,"40 when the messenger brought him the dictatorship—finding him, the tradition says, stripped to the work, and his very face begrimed with dust. "Put on your clothes," said he, "that I may deliver to you the mandates of the senate and people of Rome." In those days these messengers bore the name of "viator," or "wayfarer," from the circumstance that their usual employ- ment was to fetch the senators and generals from their fields.

But at the present day these same lands are tilled by slaves whose legs are in chains, by the hands of malefactors and men with a branded face! And yet the Earth is not deaf to our adjurations, when we address her by the name of "parent," and say that she receives our homage41 in being tilled by hands such as these; as though, forsooth, we ought not to believe that she is reluctant and indignant at being tended in such a manner as this! Indeed, ought we to feel any surprise were the recompense she gives us when worked by chastised slaves,42 not the same that she used to bestow upon the labours of warriors?


Hence it was that to give precepts upon agriculture became one of the principal occupations among men of the highest rank, and that in foreign nations even. For among those who have written on this subject we find the names of kings even, Hiero, for instance, Attalus Philometor, and Archelaüs, as well as of generals, Xenophon, for example, and Mago the Carthaginian. Indeed, to this last writer did the Roman senate award such high honours, that, after the capture of Carthage, when it bestowed the libraries of that city upon the petty kings of Africa, it gave orders, in his case only, that his thirty-two Books should be translated into the Latin language, and this, although M. Cato had already compiled his Book of Precepts; it took every care also to entrust the execution of this task to men who were well versed in the Carthaginian tongue, among whom was pre-eminent D. Silanus, a member of one of the most illustrious families of Rome. I have already indicated,43 at the commencement of this work, the numerous learned authors and writers in verse, together with other illustrious men, whose authority it is any intention to follow; but among the number I may here more particularly distinguish M. Yarro, who, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, thought it his duty to publish a treatise upon this subject.

(4.) Among the Romans the cultivation of the vine was introduced at a comparatively recent period, and at first, as indeed they were obliged to do, they paid their sole attention to the culture of the fields. The various methods of cultivating the land will now be our subject; and they shall be treated of by us in no ordinary or superficial manner, but in the same spirit in which we have hitherto written; enquiry shall be made with every care first into the usages of ancient days, and then into the discoveries of more recent times, our attention being devoted alike to the primary causes of these operations, and the reasons upon which they are respectively based. We shall make mention,44 too, of the various constellations, and of the several indications which, beyond all doubt, they afford to the earth; and the more so, from the fact that those writers who have hitherto treated of them with any degree of exact- ness, seem to have written their works for the use of any class of men but the agriculturist.


First of all, then, I shall proceed in a great measure according to the dicta of the oracles of agriculture; for there is no branch of practical life in which we find them more numerous or more unerring. And why should we not view in the light of oracles those precepts which have been tested by the infallibility of time and the truthfulness of experience?

(5.) To make a beginning, then, with Cato45—"The agricul- tural population," says he, "produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers,46 and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs.—Do not be too eager in buying a farm.— In rural operations never be sparing of your trouble, and, above all, when you are purchasing land.—A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.—Those who are about to purchase land, should always have an eye more particularly to the water there, the roads, and the neighbourhood." Each of these points is susceptible of a very extended explanation, and replete with undoubted truths. Cato47 recommends, too, that an eye should be given to the people in the neighbourhood, to see how they look: "For where the land is good," says he, "the people will look well-conditioned and healthy."

Atilius Regulus, the same who was twice consul in the Punic War, used to say48 that a person should neither buy an unhealthy piece of land in the most fertile locality, nor yet the very healthiest spot if in a barren country. The salubrity of land, however, is not always to be judged of from the looks of the inhabitants, for those who are well-seasoned are able to withstand the effects of living in pestilent localities even. And then, besides, there are some localities that are healthy during certain periods of the year only; though, in reality, there is no soil that can be looked upon as really valuable that is not healthy all the year through. "That49 is sure to be bad land against which its owner has a continual struggle." Cato recommends us before everything, to see that the land which we are about to purchase not only excels in the advantages of locality, as already stated, but is really good of itself We should see, too, he says, that there is an abundance of manual labour in the neighbourhood, as well as a thriving town; that there are either rivers or roads, to facilitate the carriage of the produce; that the buildings upon the land are substantially erected, and that the land itself bears every mark of having been carefully tilled—a point upon which I find that many persons are greatly mistaken, as they are apt to imagine that the negligence of the previous owner is greatly to the purchaser's advantage; while the fact is, that there is nothing more expensive than the cultivation of a neglected soil.

For this reason it is that Cato50 says that it is best to buy land of a careful proprietor, and that the methods adopted by others ought not to be hastily rejected—that it is the same with land as with mankind—however great the proceeds, if at the same time it is lavish and extravagant, there will be no great profits left. Cato looks upon a vineyard as the most51 profitable investment; and he is far from wrong in that opinion, seeing that he takes such particular care to retrench all superfluous expenses. In the second rank he places gardens that have a good supply of water, and with good reason, too, supposing always that they are near a town. The ancients gave to meadow lands the name of "parata," or lands "always ready."

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