[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Clicca hic ad Latinam paginam legendam.]
Latine

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Preface

This webpage reproduces a Book of the
De Re Rustica

of
Columella

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1941

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,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Book II

(Vol. I) Columella
De Re Rustica

p27 Book I

1 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam One who devotes himself to agriculture should understand that he must call to his assistance these most fundamental resources: knowledge of the subject, means for defraying the expenses, and the will to do the work. For in the end, as Tremelius remarks, he will have the best-tilled lands who has the knowledge, the wherewithal, and the will to cultivate them. For the knowledge and willingness will not suffice anyone without the means which the tasks require; 2 on the other hand, the will to p29do or the ability to make the outlay will be of no use without knowledge of the art, since the main thing in every enterprise is to know what has to be done — and especially so in agriculture, where willingness and means, without knowledge, frequently bring great loss to owners when work which has been done in ignorance brings to naught the expense incurred. 3 Accordingly, an attentive head of a household, whose heart is set on pursuing a sure method of increasing his fortune from the tillage of his land, will take especial pains to consult on every point the most experienced farmers of his own time; he should study zealously the manuals of the ancients, gauging the opinions and teachings of each of them, to see whether the records handed down by his forefathers are suited in their entirety to the husbandry of his day or are out of keeping in some respects. 4 For I have found that many authorities now worthy of remembrance were convinced that with the long wasting of the ages, weather and climate undergo a change; and that among them the most learned professional astronomer, Hipparchus,1 has put it on record that the time will come when the poles will change position, a statement to which Saserna, no mean authority on husbandry, seems to have given credence. 5 For in that book on agriculture which he has left behind he concludes that the position of the heavens had changed from this evidence: that regions which formerly, because of the unremitting severity of winter, could not safeguard any shoot of the vine or the olive planted in them, now that the earlier coldness has abated and the weather is becoming more clement, produce olive harvests and the vintages of Bacchus in the p31greatest abundance. But whether this theory be true or false, we must leave it to the writings on astronomy. 6 Other precepts of husbandry are not to be concealed from the tiller of the soil; and while Punic writers from Africa have handed them down in large numbers, yet many of them are assailed as erroneous by our farmers, as, for example, by Tremelius, who, though he brings this very charge, provides the excuse that the soil and the climate of Italy and of Africa, being of a different nature, cannot produce the same results. But whatever the causes by reason of which the agricultural practice of our times is at variance with the ancient principles, they should not discourage the learner from reading them; for in the works of the ancients far more is found to merit our approval than our rejection.

7 There is, furthermore, a great throng of Greeks who give instruction on husbandry; and the first of them, that most renowned poet, Hesiod2 of Boeotia, has contributed in no small degree to our art. It was then further assisted by men who have come from the well-spring of philosophy — Democritus of Abdera, Xenophon the follower of Socrates, Archytas of Tarentum, and the two Peripatetics, master and pupil, Aristotle and Theophrastus. 8 Sicilians, too, have pursued that occasion with no ordinary zeal, Hieron and Epicharmus, whose pupil was even Attalus Philometor.3 Athens assuredly has been the mother of a host of writers, of whom our most outstanding p33authorities are Chaereas, Aristandrus, Amphilochus, Euphronius, and Chrestus — Euphronius being not, as many believe, the Euphronius of Amphipolis (who is himself regarded as a praiseworthy farmer), but a native of Attica. 9 The islands, too, have honoured the study, as witness Epigenes of Rhodes, Agathocles of Chios, and Evagon and Anaxipolis of Thasos. Menander and Diodorus also, fellow-countrymen of the renowned Bias, one of the Seven,4 were among the first to lay claim to a knowledge of agriculture. Not inferior to these are Bacchius and Mnaseas of Miletus, Antigonus of Cymê, Apollonius of Pergamus, Dion of Colophon, and Hegesias of Maronea. 10 As a matter of fact, Diophanes of Bithynia epitomized the treatise of the Carthaginian Mago.5 Other writers, too, though of lesser fame, whose countries we have not learned, have made some contribution to our study. Such are Androtion, Aeschrion, Aristomenes, Athenagoras, Crates, Dadis, Dionysius, Euphyton, and Euphorion. 11 And with no less fidelity have Lysimachus and Eubulus, Menestratus and Plentiphanes, Persis and Theophilus, to the best of their ability, brought us their tribute. 12 And that we may endow Agriculture at last with Roman citizenship (for it has belonged thus far to writers p35of the Greek race), let us now recall that illustrious Marcus Cato the Censor, who first taught her to speak in Latin; after him the two Sasernas,6 father and son, who continued her education with greater care; then Tremelius Scrofa,7 who gave her eloquence, and Marcus Terentius,8 who added refinement; and presently Vergil, who gave her the power of song as well. 13 And finally, let us not disdain to mention her paedagogus,9 so to speak, Julius Hyginus,10 though still paying greatest reverence to the Carthaginian Mago as the father of husbandry, inasmuch as his twenty-eight memorable volumes were translated into the Latin tongue by senatorial decree. 14 No less honour, however, is due to men of our own time, Cornelius Celsus11 and Julius Atticus;12 for Cornelius has embraced the whole substance of the subject in five books, while the latter has published just one book on one kind of agriculture, that concerned with vines. And his pupil, as it were, Julius Graecinus,13 has taken care that two volumes of similar instructions on vineyards, composed in a more elegant and learned style, should be handed down to posterity.14

15 These, then, Publius Silvinus, are the men whom p37you are to call into consultation before you make any contract with agriculture, yet not with any thought that you will attain perfection in the whole subject through their maxims; for the treatises of such writers instruct rather than create the craftsman. 16 It is practice and experience that hold supremacy in the crafts, and there is no branch of learning in which one is not taught by his own mistakes. For when a venture turns out unsuccessfully through wrong management, one avoids the mistake that he had made, and the instructions of a teacher cast a light upon the right course. 17 Hence these precepts of ours promise, not to bring the science to perfection, but to lend a helping hand. And no man will immediately become a master of agriculture by the reading of these doctrines, unless he has the will and the resources to put them into practice. We set them forth, therefore, in the nature of supports to those who wish to learn, not intended to be beneficial by themselves alone, but in conjunction with other requirements.

18 And, as I have stated, not even those aids, nor the constant toil and experience of the farm overseer, nor the means and the willingness to spend money, avail as much as the mere presence of the master;15 for if his presence does not frequently attend the work, all business comes to a standstill, just as in an army when the commander is absent. And I believe that Mago the Carthaginian was pointing this out most particularly when he began his writings with such sentiments as these: "One who has bought land should sell his town house, so that he will have no desire to worship the household gods of the city rather than those of the country; the man who takes p39greater delight in his city residence will have no need of a country estate".16 19 This precept, if it could be carried out in our times, I would not change. But as things are, since political ambition often calls most of us away, and even more often keeps us away when called, I consequently rate it as most advantageous to have an estate near town, which even the busy man may easily visit every day after his business in the forum is done. 20 For men who purchase lands at a distance, not to mention estates across the seas, are making over their inheritances to their slaves, as to their heirs and, worse yet, while they themselves are still alive; for it is certain that slaves are corrupted by reason of the great remoteness of their masters and, being once corrupted and in expectation of others to take their places after the shameful acts which they have committed, they are more intent on pillage than on farming.

2 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam I am of the opinion, therefore, that land should be purchased nearby, so that the owner may visit it often and announce that his visits will be more frequent than he really intends them to be; for under this apprehension both overseer and labourers will be at their duties. But whenever the chance offers, he should stay in the country; and his stay should not be an idle one nor spent in the shade. For it behooves a careful householder to go around every little bit of his land quite frequently and at every season of the year, that he may the more intelligently observe the nature of the soil, whether in foliage and grass or in ripened crops, and that he may not be ignorant of what may properly be done on it. 2 For it is an old saying of Cato that land is most grievously maltreated when its master does not direct p41what is to be done thereon but listens to his overseer.17 Therefore, let it be the chief concern of one who owns a farm inherited from his ancestors, or of one who intends to buy a place, to know what kind of ground is most approved, so that he may either be rid of one that is unprofitable or purchase one that is to be commended. 3 But if fortune attends our prayer, we shall have a farm in a healthful climate, with fertile soil, partly level, partly hills with a gentle eastern or southern slope; with some parts of the land cultivated, and other parts wooded and rough; not far from the sea or a navigable stream, by which its products may be carried off and supplies brought in. The level ground, divided into meadows, arable land, willow groves, and reed thickets, should be adjacent to the steading. 4 Let some of the hills be bare of trees, to serve for grain crops only; still these crops thrive better in moderately dry and fertile plains than in steep places, and for that reason even the higher grainfields should have some level sections and should be of as gentle a slope as possible and very much like flat land. Again, other hills should be clad with olive groves and vineyards, and with copses to supply props for the latter; they should be able to furnish wood and stone, if the need of building so requires, as well as grazing ground for herds; and then they should send down coursing rivulets into meadows, gardens, and willow plantations, and running water for the villa. 5 And let there be no lack of herds of cattle and of other four-footed kind to graze over the tilled land and the p43thickets. But such a situation as we desire is hard to find and, being uncommon, it falls to the lot of the few; the next best is one which possesses most of these qualities, and one is passable which lacks the fewest of them.

3 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Porcius Cato, indeed, held the opinion that in the inspection of farm land two considerations were of chief importance — the wholesomeness of the climate, and the fruitfulness of the region;18 and that if either of these were wanting and one had the desire none the less to live there, he had lost his senses and should be turned over to his legal guardians.19 2 For no one in his right mind should go to the expense of cultivating barren soil, and, on the other hand, in an unhealthful climate, no matter how fruitful and rich the soil, the owner cannot live to the harvest; for where the reckoning must be made with Orcus,20 not only the harvesting of the crops but also the life of the husbandmen is uncertain, or rather death is more certain than gain. 3 After these two primary considerations he added, as deserving no less attention, the following: the road, the water, and the neighbourhood. A handy road contributes much to the worth of land: first and most important, the actual presence of the owner, who will come and go more cheerfully if he does not have to dread discomfort on the journey; and secondly its convenience for bringing in and carrying out the necessaries — a factor which increases the value of stored crops and lessens the expense of bringing p45things in, as they are transported at lower cost to a place which may be reached without great effort; 4 and it means a great deal,21 too, to get transportation at low cost if you make the trip with hired draught-animals, which is more expedient than looking after your own; furthermore, that the slaves who are to accompany the master will not be reluctant to begin the journey on foot. As to the goodness of the water, the point is so apparent to everyone that it needs no further discussion; 5 for who can doubt that water — without which none of us, whether of sound or delicate health, can prolong his life — is most highly esteemed? As to the suitability of a neighbour, there is, as a matter of fact, no fixed rule, since death and various other circumstances sometimes change him in our eyes. It is for this reason that some people reject Cato's opinion, though they appear to be badly mistaken. For, as it is the part of a wise man to endure the blows of fortune with a stout heart, so it is the mark of a madman to create misfortunes for himself voluntarily; and this is what he does who spends his money in the purchase of a worthless neighbour, even though he might have heard, from his first days in the cradle, provided he comes of gentle stock, the Greek proverb:

Not even an ox would be lost but for an evil neighbour.22

6 And this saying applies not only to the ox, but to all parts of our estate; to such an extent, in fact, that many have preferred to forsake their homes because of the wrongdoing of their neighbours; unless we attribute it to p47some other motive than their inability to put up with bad neighbours that whole nations (I speak of the Achaeans and Hiberians, the Albanians, too, and the Sicilians as well; and, to touch upon our own beginnings, the Pelasgians, the Aborigines, and the Arcadians) abandoned their native soil and sought out a different part of the world. 7 And not to speak merely of disasters affecting communities at large, it is a matter of tradition that private individuals too, both in the countries of Greece and in our own Hesperia, have been abominable neighbours; unless anyone could have endured that infamous Autolycus23 on an adjoining place, or unless Cacus,24 a resident of the Aventine mount, brought joy to his neighbours on the Palatine! For I prefer to speak of men of past time rather than of the present, so as not to call by name a neighbour of my own who does not allow a tree of any great spread to stand on our common line; who does not let a seed-bed go unhurt, or stakes to support the vines; who does not even let the cattle graze undisturbed. Rightly, then, as far as my opinion goes, did Marcus Porcius advise the avoidance of such a nuisance and particularly warn the farmer-to‑be not to come near it of his own free will.

8 To the other injunctions we add one which one of the Seven Sages25 delivered to posterity for all time: that measure and proportion be applied to all things, and that this be understood as spoken not only to those who are to embark on some other enterprise, but also to those who are to acquire land p49— not to want to buy more than a regard for their reckonings allows. For this is the meaning of that famous maxim of our own poet:

Admire large farms, but yet a small one till.26

9 This precept, which a most learned man has expressed in verse, is, in my opinion, a heritage from antiquity, inasmuch as it is agreed that the Carthaginians, a very shrewd people, had the saying that the farm should be weaker than the farmer; for, as he must wrestle with it, if the land prove the stronger, the master is crushed. And there is no doubt that an extensive field, not properly cultivated, brings in a smaller return than a little one tilled with exceeding care.27 10 For this reason those seven iugera of Licinius,28 which the tribune of the plebs distributed to each man after the expulsion of the kings, rewarded the ancients with greater returns than our very extensive fallow-lands bestow upon us nowadays. So great an amount, in fact, did Manius Curius Dentatus, whom we mentioned a little above,29 regard as a good fortune greater than that of one who had been consul and had received a triumph, when after the winning of a victory under his successful leadership, the people bestowed upon him, in token of reward for his unusual ability, fifty iugera of land; and, declining the generosity of the state, he was content with the portion allotted to his fellow-citizens and to the common people. 11 Later one, even p51though our victories and the annihilation of the enemy had desolated vast stretches of country, it was still a criminal matter for a senator to have more than fifty30 iugera in his possession. And Gaius Licinius31 was condemned under the terms of his own law when, with an unrestrained passion for ownership, he had exceeded the limit of landholdings which he had set up by legislation proposed when he was a tribune; and this not only because it was a mark of arrogance to occupy holdings of such extent, but quite as much for the reason that it seemed the more scandalous for a Roman citizen, by extending his ownership in unheard-of fashion beyond the sufficiency of his inheritance, to leave untilled those lands which the enemy by their flight had abandoned. 12 Therefore, as in all matters, so too in the acquiring of land, moderation shall be exercised. For only so much is to be occupied as is needed, that we may appear to have purchased what we may keep under control, not to saddle ourselves with a burden and to deprive others of its use and enjoyment after the manner of men of enormous wealth who, possessing entire countries of which they cannot even make the rounds, either leave them to be trampled by cattle and wasted and ravaged by wild beasts, or keep them occupied by citizens enslaved for debt32 and by chain-gangs. But every man's limit will be determined by his own desire plus his means; 13 for, as I have said before, the desire for possession does not suffice if you lack the wherewithal for cultivation.

p53 4 1   Legamen ad paginam Latinam Next in order is the precept of Caesonius,33 which Marcus Cato34 also is said to have employed, that land which one intends to purchase should be visited again and again; for at the first examination it does not reveal the hidden qualities, bad or good, which are more readily apparent to those who go over it again soon afterwards. Our ancestors, too, have handed down to us what may be called a stand for the appraisal of rich and fertile land, of whose properties we shall speak in a fitting place, when we come to the discussion of types of soil.35 2 I have, however, a general rule which should be an attesting witness, so to speak, and should be proclaimed again and again; a rule which Marcus Atilius Regulus, a general of the greatest renown in the first Punic War, is reported to have laid down: that as a farm, even of the richest soil, is not to be purchased if it be unwholesome, just so we are not to buy a piece of worn-out land even though it be most wholesome.36 This advice Attilus gave to the husbandmen of his day with the greater authority as coming from the knowledge of experience; 3 for history relates that he was once the tiller of a pestilential and lean piece of ground in Pupinia.37 Wherefore, though it may be the part of a wise man not to buy anywhere and everywhere and not to be beguiled by either the allurements of fruitful land or the charm of its beauty, it is just as truly the part of an industrious master to render fruitful and profitable any land that he has acquired by purchase or otherwise; for our predecessors have left to us many means of relief from a noxious climate, whereby pernicious plagues may be alleviated, and even on lean land the good sense and painstaking of the husbandmen p55can overcome the thinness of the soil. 4 These results we shall attain, moreover, if we pay heed, as to an oracle, to the truest of poets, who says:

Be it our care to learn betimes the winds and moods of heaven,

To learn the tillage of our sires and nature of the place,

What fruits each district does produce and what it does refuse.38

And yet, not content with the authority of either former or present-day husbandmen, we must hand down our own experiences and set ourselves to experiments as yet untried. 5 This practice, though sometimes detrimental in part, nevertheless proves advantageous on the whole; because no field is tilled without profit if the owner, through much experimentation, causes it to be fitted for the use which it can best serve. Such management also increases the profit from the most fertile land. Accordingly, there should be no neglect, anywhere, of experimentation in many forms; and far greater daring should be shown on rich soil, because the return will not render the toil and expense a total loss. 6 But as the nature of the farm and the method of its cultivation is a matter of importance, even so is the construction of the farmstead and the convenience of its arrangement; for tradition has it that many have made mistakes, as is the case of two p57very eminent men, Lucius Lucullus39 and Quintus Scaevola,40 of whom the one put up too large a stand of buildings, the other not large enough to meet the requirements of his acreage; though either error is contrary to the interests of the owner. 7 For not only are we put to excessive expense in erecting buildings on too large a scale, but also we pay more for upkeep; on the other hand, when they are smaller than the farm requires, its products are wasted. For both the moist and the dry products which the earth produces are easily spoiled if there are no buildings into which they may be carried, or if such buildings are unsuitable because of their scantiness. 8 Furthermore, the master should be housed as well as possible in proportion to his means, so that he may more willingly visit the country and find more pleasure in staying there. And especially, if his wife also accompanies him, since her disposition, like her sex, is daintier, she must be humoured by amenities of some sort to make her stay more contentedly with her husband. The farmer, then, should build handsomely, but without letting building become his passion, and he should take in only so large a plot that, as Cato says, "the buildings may not seek for land, nor the land for buildings."41 As to the qualities of a building site, I shall now speak in general terms.

9 As a building which is begun should be situated in a healthful region, so too in the most healthful part of that region; for when the surrounding atmosphere is bad, it is a contributing factor to a host of physical ills. There are certain places, such p59as Thebes in Boeotia is said to be, which are comparatively free from heat in midsummer but become frightful and unbearable with the cold of winter; there are places which are mild in winter but glow with a most cruel heat in summer, as they say of Chalcis in Euboea. 10 Let there be sought, then an atmosphere free from excesses of heat and cold; this is usually maintained halfway up a hill, because, not being in a hollow, it is not numbed with winter's frosts or baked with steaming heat in summer, and, not being perched on the top of a mountain, it is not fretted at every season of the year with every little breeze or rain. The best situation, then, is halfway up a slope, but on a little eminence, so that when a torrent formed by the rains at the summit pours around it the foundations will not be torn away.

5 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Let there be, moreover, a never-failing spring either within the steading or brought in from outside; a wood-lot and pasture near by. If running water is wanting, make a search for a well close by, to be not too deep for hoisting the water, and not bitter or brackish in taste. 2 If this too fails, and if scanty hope of veins of water compels it, have large cisterns built for people and ponds for cattle; this rain-water is after all most suitable to the body's health, and is regarded as uncommonly good if it is conveyed through earthen pipes into a covered cistern. Next to this is flowing water which, having its source in the mountains, comes tumbling down over rocks as on Mount Gaurus in Campania. The p61third choice is well-water which is found on a hillside or in a valley, if not in its lowest part. 3 Worst of all is swamp-water, which creeps along with sluggish flow; and water that always remains stagnant in a swamp is laden with death. But the same water, harmful though its nature is, is purified by the rains of the winter season and loses its virulence; from this fact water from the heavens is known to be most healthful, as it even washes away the pollution of poisonous water, and we have stated that this is most approved for drinking.42 4 On the other hand, bubbling brooks contribute greatly to the alleviation of summer heat and to the attractiveness of places; and, if local conditions will allow, I think that they, by all means, should be conducted into the villa, regardless of the quality of the water if only it is sweet.

But if the stream is far removed from the hills, and if the healthfulness of the region and the somewhat elevated position of its banks allow the placing of the villa above flowing water, care must still be taken that it have the stream at the rear rather than in front of it,43 and that the front of the structure face away from the harmful winds peculiar to the region and towards those that are most friendly; for most streams reek with mists, hot in summer and cold in water, and these, unless dispersed by the greater force of winds that blow upon them, are the cause of destruction to man and beast. 5 It is best, moreover, as I have said, for a villa to face the east or the south in healthful situations, the north in noxious. A villa is always properly placed when it overlooks the sea and receives the shock of the waves and is sprinkled with their spray; p63yet never on the shore but not a little distance removed from the edge of the water. 6 For it is better to move back a considerable distance from the sea rather than a short way, since the intermediate space is filled with a heavier air. And neither should there be any marsh-land near the buildings, and no military highway adjoining; for the former throws off a baneful stench in hot weather and breeds insects armed with annoying stings, which attack us in dense swarms; then too it sends forth plagues of swimming and crawling things deprived of their winter moisture and infected with poison by the mud and decaying filth, from which are often contracted mysterious diseases whose causes are even beyond the understanding of physicians;44 and at every season of the year rust and dampness play havoc with farm implements and equipment, and with unstored and stored produce; 7 the highway, moreover, impairs an estate through the depredations of passing travellers and the constant entertainment of those who turn in for lodging. For these reasons my advice is to avoid disadvantages of this sort and to place the villa neither on a highway nor far from a highway, at a greater height, and to build it in such a way that it faces the point where the sun rises at the time of the equinox.45 8 For the situation of this kind maintains an even and steady balance between the winds of winter and those of summer; and the more the site of the building slopes toward the east the more freely can it catch the passing breezes in summer and the less be molested by the storms of winter, and it can be warmed by the morning sun so that the frosts will melt — since ground is regarded as well-nigh pestilential when it is inaccessible p65and unfavourably situated with reference to the sun and the sun-warmed breezes; and if it is cut off from these, no other force can dry up or clear away the night frosts and any mould or dirt that has settled there. And these are destructive not only to men but to cattle and growing crops and their fruits as well.

9 But one who desires to erect a building on a sloping site should always begin operations at the lower side; for when the foundations start from the less elevated point, they will not only easily support their own superstructure but will also serve as a buttress and underpinning for any additions which may later be made to the upper side, if it should prove desirable to enlarge the villa — for of course the previous structure below will offer strong support for any that may be built above and rest on it afterwards. 10 On the contrary, if the foundation at the upper side of the slope supports a load of its own, anything that you may later add below will be full of cracks and chinks; for when new construction is added to old, it draws away as if objecting to the growing burden, and the older structure will press upon it as it gives way until, gradually, overpowered by its own weight, it will topple in ruins. Such a structural defect must therefore be avoided at the start when the foundations are first laid.

6 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam The size of the villa and the number of its parts should be proportioned to the whole inclosure, and it should be divided into three groups: the villa urbana46 or manor house, the villa rustica47 or farmhouse, and the villa fructuaria or storehouse. The p67manor house should be divided in turn into winter apartments and summer apartments, in such a way that the winter bedrooms may face the sunrise at the winter solstice,48 and the winter dining-room face the sunset at the equinox.49 2 The summer bedrooms, on the other hand, should look toward the midday sun at the time of the equinox,50 but the dining-rooms of that season should look toward the rising sun of winter.51 The baths should face the setting sun of summer,52 that they may be lighted from midday up to evening. The promenades should be exposed to the midday sun at the equinox, so as to receive both the maximum of sun in winter and the minimum in summer. 3 But in the part devoted to farm uses there will be placed a spacious and high kitchen, that the rafters may be free from the danger of fire, and that it may offer a convenient stopping-place for the slave household at every season of the year. It will be best that cubicles for unfettered slaves be built to admit the midday sun at the equinox; for those who are in chains there should be an underground prison, as wholesome as possible, receiving light through a number of narrow windows built so high from the ground that they cannot be reached with the hand.

4 For cattle there should be stables which will not be troubled by either heat or cold; for animals broken to work, two sets of stalls — one for winter, another for summer; and for the other animals which it is proper to keep within the farmstead there should be places partly covered, partly open to the sky, and surrounded with high walls so that the animals may rest in the one place in winter, in the other in summer, without being attacked by wild p69beasts. 5 But stables should be roomy and so arranged that no moisture can flow in and that whatever is made there may run off very quickly, to prevent the rotting of either the bases of the walls or the hoofs of the cattle. 6 Ox-stalls should be ten feet wide, or nine at the least — a size which will allow room for the animal to lie down and for the oxherd to move around it in performing his duties.53 The feed-racks should not be too high for the ox or pack-animal to feed from without inconvenience while standing. 7 Quarters should be provided for the overseer alongside the entrance, so that he may have oversight of all who come in and go out; and for the steward over the entrance for the same reason, and also that he may keep close watch on the overseer; and near both of these there should be a storehouse in which all farm gear may be collected, and within it a closet for the storing of the iron implements.

8 Cells for the herdsmen and shepherds should be adjacent to their respective charges, so that they may conveniently run out to care for them. And yet all should be quartered as close as possible to one another, so that the diligence of the overseer may not be overtaxed in making the rounds of the several places, and also that they may be witnesses of one another's industry and negligence.

9 As to the part devoted to the storage of produce, it is divided into rooms for oil, for presses, for wine, for the boiling down of must, lofts for hay and chaff, storerooms, and granaries, that such of them as are on the ground floor may take care of liquid products for the market, such as oil and wine; while dry p71products, such as grain, hay leaves, chaff, and other fodder, should be stored in lofts. 10 But the granaries, as I have said, should be reached by ladders and should receive ventilation through small openings on the north side; for that exposure is the coolest and the least humid, and both these considerations contribute to the preservation of stored grain. 11 The same reason holds true in the placing of the wine-room on the ground floor; and it should be far removed from the baths, oven, dunghill, and other filthy places which give off a foul odour, and no less so from cisterns and running water, from which is derived a moisture that spoils the wine.

12 And I am not unaware that some consider the best place for storing grain to be a granary with a vaulted ceiling, its earthen floor, before it is covered over, dug up and soaked with fresh and unsalted lees of oil and packed down with rammers as is Signian work.54 13 Then, after this has dried thoroughly, it is overlaid in the same way with a pavement of tiles consisting of lime and sand mixed with oil lees instead of water, and these are beaten down with great force by rammers and are smoothed off; and all joints of walls and floor are bound together with a bolstering55 of tile, for usually when buildings develop cracks in such places they afford holes and hiding-places for underground animals. But granaries are also divided into bins to permit the storage of every kind of legume by itself. 14 The walls are coated with a plastering of clay and oil lees, to which are added, in place of chaff, the dried leaves of the wild olive p73or, if these are wanting, of the olive. Then, when the aforesaid plastering has dried, it is again sprinkled over with oil lees: and when this has dried the grain is brought in. 15 This seems to be the most advantageous method of protecting stored produce from damage by weevils and like vermin, and if it is not carefully laid away they quickly destroy it. But the type of granary just described, unless it be in a dry section of the steading, causes even the hardest grain to spoil with mustiness; and if it were not for this, it would be possible to keep grain even buried underground, as in certain districts across the sea56 where the earth, dug out in the manner of pits, which they call siri, takes back to itself the fruits which it has produced. 16 But we, living in regions which abound in moisture, approve rather the granary that stands on supports above the ground and the attention to pavements and walls as just mentioned, because, as I have said, the floors and sides of storerooms so protected keep out the weevil. Many think that when this kind of pest appears it can be checked if the damaged grain is winnowed in the bin and cooled off, as it were. 17 But this is a most mistaken notion; for the insects are not driven off by so doing, but are mixed through the whole mass. If left undisturbed, only the upper surface would be attacked, as the weevil breeds no more than a palm's breadth below;57 and it is far better to endanger only the part already infested than to subject the whole amount to risk. For it is easy, when p75occasion demands it, to remove the damaged portion and use the sound grain underneath. But these latter remarks, though brought in extraneously, I nevertheless seem to have introduced not unseasonably at this point.

18 The press-rooms especially and the store-rooms for oil58 should be warm, because every liquid is thinned with heat and thickened by great cold; and if oil freezes, which seldom happens, it becomes rancid. But as it is natural heat that is wanted, arising from the climate and the exposure, there is no need of fire or flame, as the taste of oil is spoiled by smoke and soot. For this reason the pressing-room should be lighted from the southern side, so that we may not find it necessary to employ fires and lamps when the olives are being pressed.

19 The cauldron-room, in which boiled wine is made, should be neither narrow nor dark, so that the attendant who is boiling down the must may move around without inconvenience. The smoke-room, too, in which timber not long cut may be seasoned quickly can be built in a section of the rural establishment adjoining the baths for the countryfolk; for it is important also that there be such places in which the household may bathe — but only on holidays; 20 for the frequent use of baths is not conducive to physical vigour. Storerooms for wine will be situated to advantage over these places from which smoke is usually rising, for wines age more rapidly when they are brought to an early maturity by a certain kind of smoke. For this reason there should be another loft to which they may be removed, to keep p77them from becoming tainted, on the other hand, by too much smoking.

As for the situation of the villa and the arrangement of its several parts, enough has been said. 21 It will be necessary, next, that the villa have the following near it: an oven and a gristmill, of such size as may be required by the number of hands that are to be employed; at least two ponds, one to serve for geese and cattle, the other in which we may soak lupines, elm-withes, twigs, and other things which are adapted to our needs.59 There should also be two manure-pits, one to receive the fresh dung and keep it for a year, and a second from which the old is hauled; but both of them should be built shelving with a gentle slope, in the manner of fish-ponds, and built up and packed hard with earth so as not to let the moisture drain away. 22 For it is most important that manure shall retain its strength with no drying out of its moisture and that it be soaked constantly with liquids, so that any seeds of bramble or grass that are mixed in the straw or chaff shall decay, and not be carried out to the field to fill the crops with weeds. And it is for this reason that experienced farmers, when they carry out any refuse from folds and stables, throw over it a covering of brush and do not allow it to dry out or be burned by the beating of the sun.

23 The threshing-floor is to be so placed, if possible, that it can be viewed from above by the master, or at least by the farm-manager. Such a floor is best p79when paved with hard stone, for the reason that the grain is threshed out quickly, since the ground does not give under the beating of hoofs and threshing-sledges,60 and the winnowed grain is cleaner and free from small stones and clods which a dirt floor nearly always casts up during the threshing. 24 Adjoining this there should be a shed61 (and especially in Italy, because of the changeableness of the weather), in which the half-threshed grain may be stacked under cover if a sudden shower comes up. In certain districts across the sea, where there is no rain in summer, this is unnecessary. The orchards, too, and the gardens should be fenced all around and should lie close by, in a place to which there may flow all manure-laden sewage from barnyard and baths, and the watery lees squeezed from olives; for both vegetables and trees thrive on nutriment of this sort too.

7 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam After all these arrangements have been acquired or contrived, especial care is demanded of the master not only in other matters, but most of all in the matter of the persons in his service; and these are either tenant-farmers or slaves, whether unfettered or in chains. He should be civil in dealing with his tenants, should show himself affable, and should be more exacting in the matter of work than of payments, as this gives less offence yet is, generally speaking, more profitable. For when land is carefully tilled it usually brings a profit, and never a loss, except when it is assailed by unusually severe weather or by robbers; and for that reason the tenant does not venture to ask for reduction of his rent. 2 But the master should not be insistent on his rights in every particular to which he has bound his tenant, such as the exact day for payment, or p81the matter of demanding firewood and other trifling services in addition, attention to which causes country-folk more trouble than expense; in fact, we should not lay claim to all that the law allows, for the ancients regarded the extreme of the law as the extreme of oppression.62 On the other hand, we must not neglect our claims altogether; for, as Alfius the usurer is reported to have said, and with entire truth, "Good debts become bad ones if they are not called". 3 Furthermore, I myself remember having heard Publius Volusius,63 an old man who had been consul and was very wealthy, declare that estate most fortunate which had as tenants natives of the place, and held them, by reason of long association, even from the cradle, as if born on their own father's property. So I am decidedly of the opinion that repeated letting of a place is a bad thing, but that a worse thing is the farmer who lives in town and prefers to till the land through his slaves rather than by his own hand. 4 Saserna used to say that from a man of this sort the return was usually a lawsuit instead of revenue, and that for this reason we should take pains to keep with us tenants who are country-bred and at the same time diligent farmers, when we are not at liberty to till the land ourselves or when it is not feasible to cultivate it with our own servants; though this does not happen except in districts which are desolated by the severity of the climate and the barrenness of the soil. 5 But when the climate is moderately healthful and the soil moderately good, a man's personal supervision never fails to yield a larger return from his land than does that of a tenant — never than that of even an overseer, unless the p83greatest carelessness or greed on the part of the slave stands in the way. There is no doubt that both these offences are either committed or fostered through the fault of the master, inasmuch as he has the authority to prevent such a person from being placed in charge of his affairs, or to see to it that he is removed if so placed. 6 On far distant estates, however, which it is not easy for the owner to visit, it is better for every kind of land to be under free farmers than under slave overseers, but this is particularly true of grain land. To such land a tenant farmer can do no great harm, as he can to plantations of vines and trees, while slaves do it tremendous damage: they let out oxen for hire, and keep them and other animals poorly fed;a they do not plough the ground carefully, and they charge up the sowing of far more seed than they have actually sown; what they have committed to the earth they do not so foster that it will make the proper growth; and when they have brought it to the threshing-floor, every day during the threshing they lessen the amount either by trickery or by carelessness. 7 For they themselves steal it and do not guard it against the thieving of others, and even when it is stored away they do not enter it honestly in their accounts. The result is that both manager and hands are offenders, and that the land pretty often gets a bad name. Therefore my opinion is that an estate of this sort should be leased if, as I have said, it cannot have the presence of the owner.

8 1   Legamen ad paginam Latinam The next point is with regard to slaves — over what duty it is proper to place each and to what sort of tasks to assign them. So my advice at the start is not to appoint an overseer from that sort of slaves p85who are physically attractive, and certainly not from that class which has busied itself with the voluptuous occupations of the city. 2 The lazy and sleepy-headed class of servants, accustomed to idling, to the Campus, the Circus, and the theatres, to gambling, to cookshops, to bawdy-houses, never ceases to dream of these follies; and when they carry them over into their farming, the master suffers not so much loss in the slave himself as in his whole estate. A man should be chosen who has been hardened by farm work from his infancy, one who has been tested by experience.64 If, however, such a person is not available, let one be put in charge out of the number of those who have slaved patiently at hard labour; 3 and he should already have passed beyond the time of young manhood but not yet have arrived at that of old age, that youth may not lessen his authority to command, seeing that older men think it beneath them to take orders from a mere stripling, and that old age may not break down under the heaviest labour. He should be, then, of middle age and of strong physique, skilled in farm operations or at least very painstaking, so that he may learn the more readily; for it is not in keeping with this business of ours for one man to give orders and another to give instructions, 4 nor can a man properly exact work when he is being tutored by an underling as to what is to be done and in what way. Even an illiterate person, if only he have a retentive mind, can manage affairs well enough. Cornelius Celsus says that an overseer of this sort brings money to his master oftener than he does his book, because, not knowing his letters, he is either less able to falsify accounts or is afraid to do so through a second p87party because that would make another aware of the deception.

5 But be the overseer what he may, he should be given a woman companion to keep him within bounds65 and yet in certain matters to be a help to him; and this same overseer should be warned not to become intimate with a member of the household, and much less with an outsider, yet at times he may consider it fitting, as a mark of distinction, to invite to his table on a holiday one whom he has found to be constantly busy and vigorous in the performance of his tasks.66 He shall offer no sacrifice except by direction of the master. 6 Soothsayers and witches, two sets of people who incite ignorant minds through false superstition to spending and then to shameful practices, he must not admit to the place.b He must have no acquaintance with the city or with the weekly market, except to make purchases and sales in connection with his duties. 7 For, as Cato says,67 an overseer should not be a gadabout; and he should not go out of bounds except to learn something new about farming, and that only if the place is so near that he can come back. He must allow no foot-paths or new crosscuts to be made in the farm; and he shall entertain no guest except a close friend or kinsman of his master.

8 As he must be restrained from these practices, so must he be urged to take care of the equipment and the iron tools, and to keep in repair and stored away twice as many as the number of slaves requires, so that there will be no need of borrowing from a neighbour; for the loss in slave labour exceeds the cost of articles of this sort. 9 In the care and clothing p89of the slave household he should have an eye to usefulness rather than appearance, taking care to keep them fortified against wind, cold, and rain, all of which are warded off with long-sleeved leather tunics, garments of patchwork, or hooded cloaks. If this be done, no weather is so unbearable but that some work may be done in the open. 10 He should be not only skilled in the tasks of husbandry, but should also be endowed, as far as the servile disposition allows, with such qualities of feeling that he may exercise authority without laxness and without cruelty, and always humour some of the better hands, at the same time being forbearing even with those of lesser worth, so that they may rather fear his sternness than detest his cruelty. This he can accomplish if he will choose rather to guard his subordinates from wrongdoing than to bring upon himself, through his own negligence, the necessity of punishing offenders. 11 There is, moreover, no better way of keeping watch over even the most worthless of men than the strict enforcement of labour, the requirement that the proper tasks be performed and that the overseer be present at all times; for in that case the foremen in charge of the several operations are zealous in carrying out their duties, and the others, after their fatiguing toil, will turn their attention to rest and sleep rather than to dissipation.

12 Would that those well-known precepts, old but excellent in morality, which have now passed out of use, might be held to‑day: That an overseer shall not employ the services of a fellow-slave except on the master's business; that he shall partake of no food except in sight of the household, nor of other p91food than is provided for the rest; for in so doing he will see to it that the bread is carefully made and that other things are wholesomely prepared. He shall permit no one to pass beyond the boundaries unless sent by himself, and he shall send no one except there is great and pressing need. 13 He shall carry on no business on his own account, nor invest his master's funds in livestock and other goods for purchase and sale; for such trafficking will divert the attention of the overseer and will never allow him to balance his accounts with his master, but, when an accounting is demanded, he has goods to show instead of cash. But, generally speaking, this above all else is to be required of him — that he shall not think that he knows what he does not know, and that he shall always be eager to learn what he is ignorant of; 14 for not only is it very helpful to do a thing skilfully, but even more so is it hurtful to have done it incorrectly. For there is one and only one controlling principle in agriculture, namely, to do once and for all the thing which the method of cultivation requires; since when ignorance or carelessness has to be rectified, the matter at stake has already suffered impairment and never recovers thereafter to such an extent as to regain what it has lost and to restore the profit of time that has passed.

15 In the case of the other slaves, the following are, in general, the precepts to be observed, and I do not regret having held to them myself: to talk rather familiarly with the country slaves, provided only that they have not conducted themselves unbecomingly, more frequently than I would with the town slaves; and when I perceived that their unending toil was lightened by such friendliness on the p93part of the master, I would even jest with them at times and allow them also to jest more freely. Nowadays I make it a practice to call them into consultation on any new work, as if they were more experienced, and to discover by this means what sort of ability is possessed by each of them and how intelligent he is. Furthermore, I observe that they are more willing to set about a piece of work on which they think that their opinions have been asked and their advice followed. 16 Again, it is the established custom of all men of caution to inspect the inmates of the workhouse, to find out whether they are carefully chained, whether the places of confinement are quite safe and properly guarded, whether the overseer has put anyone in fetters or removed his shackles without the master's knowledge. For the overseer should be most observant of both points — not to release from shackles anyone whom the head of the house has subjected to that kind of punishment, except by his leave, and not to free one who he himself has chained on his own initiative until the master knows the circumstances; 17 and the investigation of the householder should be the more painstaking in the interest of slaves of this sort, that they may not be treated unjustly in the matter of clothing or other allowances, inasmuch as, being liable to a greater number of people, such as overseers, taskmasters, and jailers, they are the more liable to unjust punishment, and again, when smarting under cruelty and greed, they are more to be feared. 18 Accordingly, a careful master inquires not only of them, but also of those who are not in bonds, as being more worthy of belief, whether they are receiving what is due to them under his instructions; p95he also tests the quality of their food and drink by tasting it himself, and examines their clothing, their mittens, and their foot-covering. In addition he should give them frequent opportunities for making complaint against those persons who treat them cruelly or dishonestly. In fact, I now and then avenge those who have just cause for grievance, as well as punish those who incite the slaves to revolt, or who slander their taskmasters; and, on the other hand, I reward those who conduct themselves with energy and diligence. 19 To women, too, who are unusually prolific, and who ought to be rewarded for the bearing of a certain number of offspring, I have granted exemption from work and sometimes even freedom after they had reared many children. For to a mother of three sons exemption from work was granted; to a mother of more her freedom as well.

Such justice and consideration on the part of the master contributes easily to the increase of his estate. 20 But he should also bear in mind, first to pay his respects to the household gods as soon as he returns from town;68 then at once, if time permits, if not, on the next day, to inspect his lands and revisit every part of them and judge whether his absence has resulted in any relaxation of discipline and watchfulness, whether any vine, any tree, or any produce is missing; at the same time, too, he should make a new count of stock, slaves, farm-equipment, and furniture. If he has made it a practice to do all this for many years, he will maintain a well-ordered discipline when old age comes; and whatever his age, he will never be so wasted with years as to be despised by his slaves.

p97 9 1   Legamen ad paginam Latinam Something should be said, too, as to what tasks we think each kind of body or mind should be assigned. As keepers of the flocks it is proper to place in charge men who are diligent and very thrifty. These two qualities are more important for this task than stature and strength of body, since this is a responsibility requiring unremitting watchfulness and skill. 2 In the case of the ploughman,69 intelligence, though necessary, is still not sufficient unless bigness of voice and in bearing makes him formidable to the cattle. Yet he should temper his strength with gentleness, since he should be more terrifying than cruel, so that the oxen may obey his commands and at the same time last longer because they are not worn out with the hardship of the work combined with the torment of the lash. But what the duties of shepherds and herdsmen, I shall treat again in their proper places;70 3 for the present it is sufficient to have called to mind that strength and height are of no importance in the one, but of the greatest importance in the other. For, as I have said, we shall make all the taller ones ploughmen, both for the reason I have just given and because in the work of the farm there is no task less tiring to a tall man; for in ploughing he stands almost erect and rests his weight on the plough-handle.71 The common labourer may be of any height at all, if only he is capable of enduring hard work. 4 Vineyards require not so much tall men as those who are broad-shouldered and brawny, for this type is better suited to digging and pruning other forms of viticulture. In this department husbandry is less exacting in the matter of p99honesty than in the others, for the reason that the vine-dresser should do his work in company with others and under supervision, and because the unruly are for the most part possessed of quicker understanding, which is what the nature of the work requires. For it demands of the helper that he be not merely strong but also quick-witted; and on this account vineyards are commonly tended by slaves in fetters. 5 Still there is nothing that an honest man of equal quickness will not do better than a rogue.

I have inserted this that no one may think me obsessed of such a notion as to wish to till my land with criminals rather than with honest men. But this too I believe: that the duties of the slaves should not be confused to the point where all take a hand in every task. 6 For this is by no means to the advantage of the husbandman, either because no one regards any particular task as his own or because, when he does make an effort, he is performing a service that is not his own but common to all, and therefore shirks his work to a great extent; and yet the fault cannot be fastened upon any one man because many have a hand in it. For this reason ploughmen must be distinguished from vine-dressers, and vine-dressers from ploughmen, and both of these from men of all work. 7 Furthermore, squads should be formed, not to exceed ten men each, which the ancients called decuriae and approved of highly, because that limited number was most conveniently guarded while at work, and the size was not disconcerting to the person in charge as he led the way. 8 Therefore, if the field is of considerable extent, such squads should be distributed over sections of it and the work should be so apportioned p101that men will not be by ones or twos, because they are not easily watched when scattered; and yet they should number no more than ten, lest, on the other hand, when the band is too large, each individual may think that the work does not concern him. This arrangement not only stimulates rivalry, but also it discloses the slothful; for, when a task is enlivened by competition, punishment inflicted on the laggards appears just and free from censure.

9 But surely, in pointing out to the farmer-to‑be those matters for which especial provision must be made — healthfulness, roads, neighbourhood, water, situation of the homestead, size of the farm, classes of tenants and slaves, and assignment of duties and tasks — we have now come properly, through these steps, to the actual tilling of the soil; of this we shall presently treat at greater length in the book that follows.


The Editor's Notes:

1 A famous Greek astronomer and mathematician, the inventor of trigonometry, who lived in the second century B.C.

2 One of the earliest Greek poets, said by Pliny (XVIII.201) to have been the first writer of agricultural precepts. (p31)His surviving works include Works and Days, a collection of agricultural and moral teachings.

3 For a discussion of the names and defence of the text, cf. V. Lundström, "Litteraturhistoriska Bidrag, etc.: 2 Epicharmos och Attalos Philometor," Eranos, XV.165‑171.

4 The Seven Sages of Greece, all belonging to the period from 620 to 550 B.C. The names are variously given, but those usually mentioned are: Cleobulus, Periander, Pittacus, Bias, Thales, Chilon, and Solon.

5 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.1.10; and see V. Lundström, "Magostudien," Eranos, II.60‑67; J. P. Mahaffy, "The Work of Mago on Agriculture," Hermathena, VII.29‑35.

6 Regarded by Pliny (N. H. XVII.199) as the most ancient and most distinguished husbandmen after Cato.

7 A contemporary of Varro and one of the speakers in Varro's agricultural treatise.

Thayer's Note: The Latinist will notice that Scrofa, meaning "sow", is an interestingly agricultural cognomen for this author. I cannot resist further footnoting this with the story in Macrobius (Sat. I.6.30, my translation), which some will read as germane:

This is how Tremellius came to receive the cognomen Scropha. This Tremellius with his familia (extended family including slaves) and his freedmen was at his farm. His slaves, when a sow (scropha) wandered near, stole it away and killed it: a neighbor, calling his groundkeepers, surrounds the scene so that nothing could be removed from there: and calls the master to return his animal to him. Tremellius, who had learned about the affair from his overseer, arranged the dead body of the sow under the covers on which his wife was lying down: and he allows the neighbor to search. When he came to the bedroom, he came up with an oath that there was no sow on his farm except, he said, the one that was lying in the covers: and he shows him the bed. This very funny oath gave Tremellius the cognomen Scropha.

8 Marcus Terentius Varro.

9 A slave whose duty it was to guard his master's children, escort them to school, and perhaps give some elementary instruction at home.

Thayer's Note: For comprehensive details and sources, see the article Paedagogus in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

10 Freedman and librarian of Augustus, and a writer of great versatility. Two works, dealing with mythology and astronomy, survive under his name.

11 An encyclopaedic writer, who flourished in the time of Tiberius; called the "Roman Hippocrates" for his great learning in medicine. Eight books of his medical writings have come down to us (in L. C. L., 3 vols., by W. Spencer).

Thayer's Note: For a complete list of all references to him in the text of Columella on this site, see my note to Prof. Spencer's introduction to Celsus.

12 Known from this passage as a contemporary of Columella, by whom he is often quoted.

13 Father of Julius Agricola, the father-in‑law of Tacitus.

14 Our meagre knowledge of the lives and works of agricultural writers (Varro excepted) between the time of Cato and that of Columella is summed up by R. Reitzenstein in his dissertation, De Scriptorum Rei Rusticae Libris Deperditis (Berlin, 1884).

15 Cf. the maxim of Cato, 4, frons occipitio prior est; Pliny, N. H. XVIII.31 frontemque domini plus prodesse quam occipitium; and Palladius, I.6.1, praesentia domini provectus est agri.

16 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.7.

17 Not found in Cato as now extant; but cf. the sentiment of Cato, 2, and especially 5.2, where the overseer is enjoined not to consider himself wiser than his master. Pliny (N. H. XVIII.36), after citing the instructions of Cato as to the qualifications for an overseer, considers it sufficient to add (p41)that the overseer should possess an intelligence nearly equal to that of his master, though he should not himself be conscious of it.

18 The substance of these words is found in Cato I.2‑3; but the passage as a whole bears a closer resemblance to Varro, R. R. I.2.8.

19 A legal expression. Cf. Varro, loc. cit., quorum si alterutrum decolat et nihilo minus quis vult colere, mente est captus adque agnatos et gentiles est deducendus. Under the Laws of the Twelve Tables the agnati (blood relatives on the father's side) (p43)and gentiles (members of the same gens) were legal guardians in cases of lunacy; cf. Frag. XII Tab. ap. Cicero, De Inv. II.50 (148), si fvriosvs escit agnatvm gentilivmqve in eo pecvniaqve eivs potestas esto.

Thayer's Note: For further details and sources on the handling of mental impairment in Roman law, see the article Curator in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

20 I.e. with Death. Cf. Varro, R. R. I.4.3.

21 Lundström justifies this interpretation of the unanimous reading nec non nihil of the MSS.; cf. "Småplock ur Columellas språk: 22. Tredubbel negation," Eranos, XV.205.

22 Hesiod, Works and Days, 348.

23 The master-thief of Greek mythology, son of Hermes (Mercury) and maternal grandfather of Odysseus. Autolycus possessed the gift of making himself and his stolen property invisible or of changed appearance.

24 A monster of Roman legend, who stole from Hercules the (p47)cattle of Geryon. The story of Cacus is told at great length by Vergil, Aen. VIII.193‑267.

25 See I.1.9, note.

26 Vergil, Georg. II.412‑413.

27 Cf. Palladius I.6.8, Fecundior est culta exiguitas quam magnitudo neglecta.

28 The first Roman agrarian law, made by Romulus, allotted to every citizen two iugera of land (Varro, R. R. I.10.12; cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.7). For the seven iugera, cf. Varro, (p49)I.2.9, who speaks of such a distribution of land as first made by the tribune Gaius Licinius 365 years after the expulsion of the kings; also Pliny, XVIII.18. A like distribution by decree of the senate, after the conquest of Veii (396 B.C.), is recorded by Livy, V.30.

29 Praef. 14.

30 Schneider alone reads quingenta, 500.

31 The tribune Gaius Licinius Stolo, proposer of the Licinian Rogations (passed in 367 B.C.) which limited ownership of land to 500 iugera. Cf.  Varro, R. R. I.2.9; Pliny, N. H. XVIII.17.

Thayer's Note: For full details and sources, see the article Lex Licinia in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

32 Under the old Roman law of debt the borrower bound himself, in default of payment, to work out the debt as a (p51)quasi slave (nexus) of his creditor. Cf. Varro, L. L. VII.105, Liber qui suas operas in servitutem pro pecunia quadam debebat, dum solveret, nexus vocatur, ut ab aere obaeratus.

Thayer's Note: For comprehensive details and sources, see the article Nexus in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

33 Unknown.

34 Cf. Cato, I.1.

35 II.2.

36 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.27.

37 A barren tract in Latium, near Tusculum; cf. Varro, R. R. I.9.5. Valerius Maximus (IV.4.6) tells us that Regulus possessed seven iugera of land in this region.

38 Vergil, Georg. I.51‑53.

39 Consul in 74 B.C. Enriched by his campaigns against Mithridates, he became famous for his luxury and extravagance. He is said to have introduced the cherry (cerasus) into Italy from Cerasus in Pontus.

40 A famous jurist, contemporary with Lucullus; cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.32.

41 Cato, 3.1; cf. Varro, R. R. I.11.1, and Pliny, loc. cit.

42 Cf. Palladius, I.17.4, nam caelestis aqua ad bibendum omnibus antefertur. So by most authors rain-water was considered most wholesome.

43 The common advice of all authorities.

44 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.12.1‑2.

45 I.e. due east.

46 Containing the apartments of the landlord, and so called because built in the city style of architecture. On the whole matter of farm buildings compare especially Vitruvius, De ArchitecturaVI.6; Varro, R. R. I.11‑13.

47 Properly including quarters for the overseer, slaves, and livestock.

48 South-east.

49 Due west.

50 Due south.

51 South-east.

52 North-west.

53 Palladius (I.21) prescribes a stall eight feet wide and fifteen feet long for each pair of oxen. Vitruvius (VI.6.2) (p69)gives dimensions of seven feet by ten (minimum) or fifteen (maximum).

54 A kind of flooring consisting of broken tiles, mixed with mortar, and beaten down with rammers. The name is derived from Signia (mod. Segni), a town of Latium, famous for its tiles.

55 I.e., a raised border of the flooring, so called from its resemblance to a pillow or bolster (pulvinus).

56 Varro (R. R. I.57.2) speaks of the use of pits (siri) in Cappadocia and Thrace, and of straw-bottomed wells (plutei) in certain sections of Spain. Wheat, he says, has been known to keep in this way for as long as fifty years, and millet for more than a hundred; cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.306. The (p73)use of the trench "silo" — a word derived ultimately from sirus — is well known, of course, to modern farmers.

57 Similar statements are made by Varro (loc. cit.), Pliny (XVIII.302), and Palladius (I.19.3), who cites Columella.

58 Cf. Vitruvius, VI.6.3; Palladius, I.20.

59 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.13.3; Palladius, I.31.

60 Described by Varro, R. R. I.52.1; cf. L. L. V.21.

61 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.13.5, where nubilar (nubilarium) is derived from nubilare (to be cloudy, i.e. to threaten rain).

62 Cf. Terence, Heaut. 796, ius summum saepe summast malitia. The proverb is given by Cicero (De Off. I.33), summum ius summa iniuria, with the comment that it was worn threadbare.

63 In the Fasti Romani Consulares the name of Q. Volusius Saturninus appears under the year 807 A.U.C. (= A.D. 55).

64 Cf. XI.1.7.

65 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.17.5.

66 This precept and many of those that follow are repeated nearly word for word in XI.1.19‑28.

67 Cato, 5.2.

68 Cf. Cato, 2.

69 The bubulcus was, in a restricted sense, as here and often, a ploughman (= arator) or ox-driver; in the wider sense, as just below and elsewhere, a herdsman in general charge of the cattle.

70 See Bks. VII.1‑7 and VI.1‑26.

71 Pliny (N. H. XVIII.179) says that the ploughman does not steer a straight course unless he stoops to his work.


Thayer's Notes:

a The problem doesn't seem ever to have been solved: see this advice by an experienced slave-owner in 19c America.

b As in Cato, 5.4. The translator's "shameful practices" (the Latin text has flagitia) can be rendered "villainies" or even "crimes"; I suspect Columella has in mind theft and revolt.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 10 Jun 10