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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 126‑134

This webpage reproduces a section of
De Agricultura

Cato the Elder

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1934

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapters 142‑155

Marcus Cato
on Agriculture

 p117  [link to original Latin text] 135 1 Tunics, togas, blankets, smocks, and shoes should be bought at Rome; caps, iron tools, scythes, spades, mattocks, axes, harness, ornaments, and small chains at Cales and Minturnae; spades at Venafrum; carts and sledges at Suessa and in Lucania; jars and pots at Alba and at Rome; and tiles at Venafrum. 2 Roman ploughs will be good for heavy soil, Campanian for black loam. Roman yokes are the best made. You will find detachable ploughshares the best. The following cities are the best markets for the articles named: oil mills at Pompeii, and at Rufrius's yard at Nola; nails and bars at Rome; pails, oil-urns, water-pitchers, wine-urns, other copper vessels at Capua and at Nola; Campanian baskets from Capua will be found useful; 3 pulley ropes and all sorts of cordage at Capua; Roman baskets at Suessa and Casinum; . . . at Rome will be found best.

Lucius Tunnius, of Casinum, and Gaius Mennius, son of Lucius Mennius, of Venafrum, make the best press-ropes. Eight good native hides, freshly tanned, should be used for these, and should have very little salt; they should be tanned, rubbed down with fat, and then dried. 4 The rope should be laid down 72 feet long, and should have 3 splices, with 9 leather thongs, 2 fingers wide, at each splice. When twisted it will be 49 feet long; 3 feet will be lost in the fastening, leaving 46 feet; when stretched, 5 feet will be added, and the length will be 51 feet. 5 The press-rope96 should be 55 feet long for the largest presses and 51 for the smaller when stretched. Proper length of thongs for the cart 60 feet, cords 45 feet, leather reins for the cart 36 feet and for the plough 26 feet; traces 27½ feet; yoke straps for the  p119 cart 19 feet, lines 15; for the plough, yoke straps 12 feet and line 8 feet.

6 The largest mills are 4½ feet in diameter; the stones 3½ feet, the centre (when quarried) a foot and a palm thick. Interval between the column and the basin 1 foot, 2 fingers; basin 5 fingers thick. Those of the second size are 4 feet and a palm in diameter, interval between column and basin 1 foot, 1 finger, basin 5 fingers thick; stones 3 feet, 5 fingers in diameter, 1 foot, 3 fingers thick. Cut a hole ½ foot square in the stones. Those of the third size are 4 feet in diameter, interval between column and basin 1 foot, thickness of basin 5 fingers; stones 3 feet, 3 fingers in diameter, 1 foot, 2 fingers thick. Assemble and adjust the press after it has been brought to the place where you wish to set it up.

[link to original Latin text] 136 1 Terms for letting the tending of the land to a share tenant: In the district of Casinum and Venafrum, on good land he should receive one-eighth of the unthreshed grain,97 on fairly good land one-seventh, on land of third quality one-sixth; if the threshed grain is shared, one-fifth. In the district of Venafrum the division is one-ninth of the unthreshed grain on the best land. If they mill in common, the caretaker shall pay for the milling in proportion to the share he receives. He should receive one-fifth of threshed barley and one-fifth of shelled beans.

[link to original Latin text] 137 1 Terms for letting the care of the vineyard to a share tenant: he must take good care of the estate, the orchard, and the grain land. The share worker is to have enough hay and fodder for the cattle on the place; everything else is in common.

 p121  [link to original Latin text] 138 1 Oxen may be yoked on feast days for these purposes: to haul firewood, bean stalks, and grain for storing. There is no holiday for mules, horses, or donkeys, except the family festivals.

[link to original Latin text] 139 1 The following is the Roman formula to be observed in thinning a grove: A pig is to be sacrificed, and the following prayer uttered: "Whether thou be god or goddess to whom this grove is dedicated, as it is thy right to receive a sacrifice of a pig for the thinning of this sacred grove, and to this intent, whether I or one at my bidding do it, may it be rightly done. To this end, in offering this pig to thee I humbly beg that thou wilt be gracious and merciful to me, to my house and household, and to my children. Wilt thou deign to receive this pig which I offer thee to this end."

[link to original Latin text] 140 1 If you wish to till the ground, offer a second sacrifice in the same way, with the addition of the words: "for the sake of doing this work." So long as the work continues, the ritual must be performed in some part of the land every day; and if you miss a day, or if public or domestic feast days intervene, a new offering must be made.

[link to original Latin text] 141 1 The following is the formula for purifying land: Bidding the suovetaurilia98 to be led around, use the words: "That with the good help of the gods success may crown our work, I bid thee, Manius,99 to take care to purify my farm, my land, my ground with this suovetaurilia, in whatever part thou thinkest best for them to be driven or carried around." 2 Make a prayer with wine to Janus and Jupiter, and say: "Father Mars, I pray and beseech thee that thou be gracious and merciful to me, my house, and my household; to which intent I have  p123 bidden this suovetaurilia to be led around my land, my ground, my farm; that thou keep away, ward off, and remove sickness, seen and unseen, barrenness and destruction, ruin and unseasonable influence; 3 and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards, and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue, preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, and give good health and strength to me, my house, and my household.100 To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm, my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, as I have said, deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims; Father Mars, to the same intent deign to accept the offering of these suckling offering." 4 Also heap the cakes101 with the knife and see that the oblation cake be hard by, then present the victims. When you offer up the pig, the lamb, and the calf, use this formula: "To this intent deign to accept the offering of these victims." . . .102 If favourable omens are not obtained in response to all, speak thus: "Father Mars, if aught hath not pleased thee in the offering of those sucklings, I make atonement with these victims." If there is doubt about one or two, use these words: "Father Mars, inasmuch as thou wast not pleased by the offering of that pig, I make atonement with this pig."

The Editor's Notes:

96 Used for the windlass which raised and lowered the press.

97 Unthreshed grain was measured by the basket (corbis), threshed grain by the peck (modius).

98 Three victims of three kinds were offered, a swine, a ram, and a bull (sus, ovis, taurus).

99 Variously taken as a slave, an overseer, a sooth-sayer, or our "John Doe."

100 Norden, Antike Kunstprosa, p157, calls attention to the metrical character of the passage.

101 See note 2, page 114.

102 For the lacuna, see critical note above.

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