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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 135‑141

This webpage reproduces a section of
De Agri Cultura

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.
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Chapters 156‑157

Marcus Cato
on Agriculture

[link to original Latin text] 142 1 Those things which are the duty of the overseer, the instructions which the master has given, all those things which should be done on the farm and what should be bought or brought in, and how food and raiment should be issued to the servants — the same I warn that he do and perform, and that he hearken to the master's instructions. Furthermore, he must know how to manage the  p125 housekeeper and how to give her directions, so that the master, at his coming, will find that all necessary preparations and arrangements have been made with care.

[link to original Latin text] 143 1 See that the housekeeper performs all her duties. If the master has given her to you as wife, keep yourself only to her. Make her stand in awe of you. Restrain her from extravagance. She must visit the neighbouring and other women very seldom, and not have them either in the house or in her part of it. She must not go out to meals, or be a gadabout. She must not engage in religious worship herself or get others to engage in it for her without the orders of the master or the mistress; let her remember that the master attends to the devotions for the whole household. She must be neat herself, and keep the farmstead neat and clean. She must clean and tidy the hearth every night before she goes to bed. On the Kalends, Ides, and Nones, and whenever a holy day comes, she must hang a garland over the hearth, and on those days pray to the household gods as the opportunity offers. She must keep a supply of cooked food on hand for you and the servants. She must keep many hens and have plenty of eggs. She must have a large store of dried pears, sorbs, figs, raisins, sorbs in must, preserved pears and grapes and quinces. She must also keep preserved grapes in grape-pulp​103 and in pots buried in the ground, as well as fresh Praenestine nuts kept in the same way, and Scantian quinces in jars, and other fruits that are usually preserved, as well as wild fruits. All these she must store away diligently every year. She must also know how to make good flour and to grind spelt fine.

 p127  144[link to original Latin text]104 Terms for letting the gathering of olives: The contractor will gather the whole harvest carefully, according to the directions of the owner or his representative or the purchaser of the crop. He will not pick or beat down olives without the orders of the owner or his representative. If anyone violates this rule, no one will pay or be liable for what he has picked that day. All gatherers will take an oath before the owner or his representative that they have not stolen olives, nor has anyone with their connivance stolen olives from the estate of Lucius Manlius​105 during that harvest; if any refuse to take the oath, no one will pay or be liable for what he has gathered. He must give security for the proper harvesting of the olives, satisfactory to Lucius Manlius. Ladders are to be returned in as good condition as when they were issued, except those which have been broken because of age; if they are not returned, a fair deduction will be made by arbitration of an honest man. Whatever damage is done the owner through the fault of the contractor the latter will make good, the amount to be deducted after arbitration by an honest person. The contractor will furnish as many gatherers​106 and pickers as are needed; and if he fails to do so, a deduction will be made of the cost of hiring or contracting, and the total will be less by that amount. He is not to remove firewood or olives from the farm; and if any of his gatherers carry them off, a deduction will be made of 2 sesterces for each load, and that amount will not be  p129 due. All olives will be measured clean in an olive measure. He is to furnish fifty active workmen, two-thirds being pickers. No one shall form a combination for the purpose of raising the contract price for harvesting and milling olives, unless he names his associate at the time; in case of a violation of this rule, if the owner or his representative wish, all the associates shall take an oath, and if anyone refuses so to swear, no one will pay or be liable for pay for the gathering or milling of the olives to one who has not so sworn. Bonuses: The extra allowance for a harvest of 1200 modii will be 5 modii of salted olives, 9 pounds of pure oil, 5 quadrantals of vinegar for the whole harvest; for that part of the salted olives which they do not take during the harvesting, an allowance of 5 sesterces per modius of the aforesaid will be made.107

[link to original Latin text] 145 1 Terms on which contracts are to be made for the milling of olives: Mill them honestly, to the satisfaction of the owner or his representative in charge of the work. If necessary, supply six complete equipments.​108 Furnish workmen to the satisfaction of the representative of the owner or the one who has bought the olives. If a mill is necessary, set it up. If labourers are hired, or the work has to be sublet, settle for this, or let it be deducted. Do not touch any oil by way of use or pilfering beyond what the owner or his representative issues; if he takes it, 40 sesterces will be deducted for each offence, and that amount will not be due. All hands engaged in the manufacturing will take an oath before the owner or his representative that neither they nor anyone with their connivance has stolen oil or olives from the farm  p131 of Lucius Manlius. If any one of them will not take such an oath, his share of the pay will be deducted, and that amount will not be due. You will have no partner without the approval of the owner or his representative. Any damage done to the owner through the fault of the contractor will be deducted on the decision of an honest person. If green oil is required, make it. There will be an allowance of a sufficient quantity of oil and salt for his own use, and two victoriati as toll.109

[link to original Latin text] 146 1 Terms for the sale of olives on the tree: Olives for sale on the tree on an estate near Venafrum. The purchaser of the olives will add one per cent. of all money more than the purchase price; the auctioneer's fee of 50 sesterces; and pay 1500 pounds of Roman oil, 200 pounds of green oil, 50 modii of windfall olives, 10 modii of picked olives, all measured by olive measure, and 10 pounds of lubricating oil; and pay 2 cotylae​110 of the first pressing for the use of the weights and measures of the owner. Date of payment: within ten months​111 from the first of November he will pay the contract price for gathering and working up the olives, even if the purchaser has made a contract, on the Ides. Sign a contract and give bond to the satisfaction of the owner or his representative that such payments will be made in good faith, and that all will be done to the satisfaction of the owner or his representative. Until payment is made, or such security has been given, all property of the purchaser on the place will be held in pledge, and none of it shall be removed from the place; whatever is so removed becomes the property of the owner. All presses, ropes, ladders, mills, and whatever else has been furnished by the owner, will be returned in the  p133 same good condition, except articles broken because of age; and a fair price will be paid for all not returned. If the purchaser does not pay the gatherers and the workmen who have milled the oil, the owner may, if he wishes, pay the wages due; and the purchaser will be liable to the owner for the amount, and give bond, and his property will be held in pledge as described above.

[link to original Latin text] 147 1 Terms for the sale of grapes on the vine: The purchaser will leave unwashed lees and dregs. Storage will be allowed for the wine until the first of October next following; if it is not removed before that time, the owner will do what he will with the wine. All other terms as for the sale of olives on the tree.

[link to original Latin text] 148 1 Terms for the sale of wine in jars: Forty-one urns to the culleus will be delivered, and only wine which is neither sour nor musty will be sold. Within three days it shall be tasted subject to the decision of an honest man, and if the purchaser fails to have this done, it will be considered tasted; but any delay in the tasting caused by the owner will add as many days to the time allowed the purchaser. The acceptance will take place before the first of January next following; and in default of the acceptance by the purchaser the owner will measure the wine, and settlement will be made on the basis of such measurement; if the purchaser wishes the owner will take an oath that he has measured it correctly. Storage will be allowed for the wine until the first of October next following; if it is not removed before that date, the owner will do what he wishes with the wine. Other terms as for olives on the tree.

 p135  [link to original Latin text] 149 1 Terms for the lease of winter pasturage: The contract should state the limits of pasturage. The use of the pasturage should begin on the first of September, and should end on dry meadows when the pear trees begin to bloom, and on water meadows when the neighbours above and below begin irrigating, or on a definite date fixed for each; on all other meadows on the first of March. The owner reserves the right to pasture two yoke of oxen and one gelding while the renter pastures; the use of vegetables, asparagus, firewood, water, roads, and right of way is reserved for the owner. All damage done to the owner by the renter or his herdsmen or cattle shall be settled for according to the decision of an honest man; and all damage done to the renter by the owner or his servants or cattle shall be settled for according to the decision of good man. Until such damage is settled for in cash or by security, or the debt is assigned, all herds and servants on the place shall be held in pledge; and if there arises any dispute over such matters, let the decision be made at Rome.

[link to original Latin text] 150 1 Terms for the sale of the increase of the flock: The lessee will pay per head 1½ pounds of cheese, one-half dry; one-half of the milking on holy days; and an urn of milk on other days. For the purpose of this rule a lamb which lives for a day and a night is counted as increase; the lessee will end the increase on the first of June, or, if an intercalation​112 intervene, on the first of May. The lessor will not promise more than thirty lambs; ewes which have borne no lambs count in the increase two for one. Ten months after the date of the sale of wool and lambs he shall receive his money from the collector.  p137 He may feed one whey-fed hog for every ten sheep. The lessee will furnish a shepherd for two months; and he shall remain in pledge until the owner is satisfied either by security or by payment.

[link to original Latin text] 151 1 As to cypress seed, the best method for its gathering, planting, and propagation, and for the planting of the cypress bed has been given as follows by Minius Percennius of Nola: The seed of the Tarentine cypress should be gathered in the spring, and the wood when the barley turns yellow; when you gather the seed, expose it to the sun, clean it, and store it dry so that it may be set out dry. Plant the seed in the spring, in soil which is very mellow, the so‑called pulla, close to water. First cover the ground thick with goat or sheep dung, then turn it with the trenching spade and mix it well with the dung, cleaning out grass and weeds; break the ground fine. Form the seed-beds four feet wide, with the surface concave, so that they will hold water, leaving a footway between the beds so that you may clean out the weeds. After the beds are formed, sow the seed as thickly as flax is usually sowed, sift dirt over it with a sieve to the depth of a half-finger, and smooth carefully with a board, or the hands or feet. In case the weather is dry so that the ground becomes thirsty, irrigate by letting a stream gently into the beds; or, failing a stream, have the water brought and poured gently; see that you add water whenever it is needed. If weeds spring up, see that you free the beds of them. Clean them when the weeds are very young, and as often as necessary. This procedure should be continued as stated throughout the summer. The seed, after  p139 being planted, should be covered with straw, which should be removed when they begin to sprout.

[link to original Latin text] 152 1 Of brush-brooms, according to the directions of the Manlii: At several times during the thirty days of the vintage, make brooms of dry elm twigs bound around a stick. With these scrape continually the inner surfaces of the wine jars, to keep the wine dregs from sticking to the sides.

[link to original Latin text] 153 1 To make lees-wine: Keep two Campanian olive baskets for the purpose; fill them with lees, place them under the press-beam, and force out the juice.

[link to original Latin text] 154 1 A convenient method of measuring wine for buyers: Take for this purpose a cask of culleus size, with four handles at the top for easy handling; make a hole at the bottom, fitting into it a pipe so that it can be stopped tight, and also pierce near the top at the point where it will hold exactly a culleus. Keep it on the elevation​113 among the jars, so that the wine can run from the jar into the cask; and when the cask is filled close it up.

[link to original Latin text] 155 1 Land ought to be drained during the winter, and the drain-ditches on the hillsides kept clean. The greatest danger from water is in the early autumn, when there is dust. When the rains begin, the whole household must turn out with shovels and hoes, open the ditches, turn the water into the roads, and see that it flows off. You should look around the farmstead while it is raining, and mark all leaks with charcoal, so that the tile can be replaced after the rain stops. During the growing season, if water is standing anywhere, in the grain  p141 or the seed-bed or in ditches, or if there is any obstruction to the water, it should be cleared, opened and removed.

The Editor's Notes:

103 Cf. Chap. 7, Sec. 2, and Columella, XII, 45.

104 Keil remarks in his commentary that it is clear that many points in Chapters 144‑150 are confused, and that some passages are corrupt because of the loss of words; that all the passages cannot have been written by Cato as we have them now, but that passages were changed or added by other users of the book. He has therefore attempted only to restore the reading of the archetype. Mommsen, in the appendix to Bruns, Fontes Iuris Romani Antiqui, 6th edition, has made certain conjectures and interpretations, some of which have been incorporated in the text and translation.

105 Lucius Manlius is our "John Doe."

106 The leguli harvested the wind-fall olives, while the strictores picked olives from the trees.

107 The whole topic is discussed by Mommsen, History of Rome, Book III, Chapter 12.

108 In Chapter 12 the usual number is given as five.

109 Vasarium is the amount paid for the use of the mill. The victoriatus was one-half a denarius.

110 See Glossary.

111 This old formula is supposed to be based on an original year of ten months; but it is denied by some scholars that the year was ever one of ten months.

112 In the years when 22 or 23 days were added to the ordinary number of 355, they were inserted after the 23rd day of February which ended on that day. The remaining five days along with the inserted days constituted a thirteenth month, called intercalaris.

113 The suggestus was an elevated walk-way around the lacus into which the wine flowed from the press.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 22