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Book I

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!


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Book III

(Vol. I) Columella
De Re Rustica

p105 Book II

1 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam You ask me, Publius Silvinus, and I have no hesitation in informing you at once, why in the preceding book I immediately at the start1 rejected the long-standing opinion of almost all who have discoursed on the subject of agriculture, and repudiated as mistaken the views of those who hold that the soil, wearied and exhausted by age-long wasting away and by cultivation now extending over a long period of time, has become barren. 2 And I am not unaware that you hold in reverence, not only the authority of other renowned writers, but particularly that of Tremelius, who, in handing down to posterity a very great number of agricultural precepts set forth with refinement as well as learning, being obviously misled through too great deference to the ancients who treat of a like subject, held the mistaken belief that the earth, the mother of all things, like womankind now worn out with old age, is incapable of bearing offspring. This fact I too should admit if no fruits whatever were being produced; 3 for the old age of a human being also is pronounced barren, not when a woman no longer gives birth to triplets and twins, but only when she is able to conceive and bring forth no offspring at all. Thus, after the period of youth is past, even though a long life still remains, still parturition is denied to years and is not restored. p107But on the contrary, when the soil, whether abandoned deliberately or by chance, is cultivated anew, it repays the farmer with heavy interest for its periods of idleness.2 4 The antiquity of the earth, therefore, is not the reason for the scantiness of her fruits — if, I mean, when once old age sets in, it takes no backward step and has no power to grow vigorous and young again — but not even the weariness of the soil lessens its fruits for the farmer. For it is not like a man of intelligence to be persuaded that, as in the case of human beings exhaustion follows immoderate physical exertion or the bearing of some heavy burden, just so does it follow cultivation and activity on the part of the land. 5 What then, you say, does Tremelius mean by his assertion that virginal and wooded areas, when they are first cultivated, yield abundantly, but soon thereafter are not so responsive to the toil of those who work them? He observes, undoubtedly, what occurs, but does not understand thoroughly why it happens. For ground that is new and but recently taken out of its wooded state and brought under cultivation should not be regarded as more fruitful on this account, because it has lain fallow longer and is younger; but because, in the leaves and herbage of many years, which it has kept producing naturally, fattened, so to speak, with more plentiful nourishment, it more readily satisfies the requirements for bringing forth crops and supporting them. 6 But when the roots of the plants, broken by mattocks and ploughs, and when the trees, cut down by the axe, cease to nourish their mother with their foliage; when the leaves which fell from bushes and p109trees in the autumn season and which were spread over her are presently turned under by the ploughshare and mixed with the subsoil, which is usually thinner, and are used up, the result is that the soil, being deprived of its old-time nourishment, grows lean. 7 It is not, therefore, because of weariness, as very many have believed, nor because of old age, but manifestly because of our own lack of energy that our cultivated lands yield us a less generous return. For we may reap greater harvests if the earth is quickened again by frequent, timely, and moderate manuring. As I promised in the preceding book to speak of its cultivation, I shall now begin the discussion.

2 1 Those who are most experienced in agricultural affairs have said, Silvinus, that there are three kinds of terrain — champaign, hilly, and mountainous.3 Of champaign land they favoured especially that lying, not in a perfectly even and level plain, but in a somewhat sloping one; of hilly land, that with a gentle and gradual rise; of mountainous land, the high and rugged, but wooded and grassy.4 2 Furthermore, under each of these classes there fall six species of soil — fat or lean, loose or compact, moist or dry; and these qualities, in combination and in alternation with one another, produce a very great variety of soils. To enumerate them is not the mark of a skilled farmer; for it is not the business of any art to roam about over the species, which are countless, but to proceed through the classes, for these can readily be connected in the imagination and brought within the compass of words. 3 We must have recourse, then, to certain unions, as we may call them, between qualities which are at variance with each other — p111what the Greeks call συζυγίαι ἐναντιοτήτων, and which we may fairly render "the couplings of opposites." Furthermore, it must be pointed out that, of all things which the earth brings forth, more thrive better on a plain than on a hill, and more in fat land than in lean. 4 As to dry ground and wet ground, we have not ascertained which of these excels in number, since there are, in each case, almost limitless things which thrive in dry places, and the same in wet areas; but of this number there is nothing that does not grow better in loose soil than in dense. This, too, our own Vergil said when, after recounting the other good points of a fruitful field, he added:

and one of crumbling soil; for this is what we rival when we plough.5

For cultivation is nothing else than the loosening and breaking up of the ground; 5 and on this account a field which is both rich and mellow yields the greatest returns, because in producing most it demands least, and what it does require is supplied with trifling labour and expense. Such a soil may therefore with justice be called the very best. Next in order to this is the combination of rich and dense, a soil which rewards the expense and toil of the husbandman with rich increase. 6 Third in rank is a well-watered place, because it can produce fruits without expense. Cato, who rated the yield of meadow lands far ahead of other returns, used to say that this kind of land was first;6 but we are now speaking of land under cultivation, not of that left untilled. 7 No kind is considered worse than that which is at the same time dry, stiff, and lean; for not only is it worked with p113difficulty, but even when worked it makes no recompense, and when left idle it is not altogether adequate for meadows or for grazing land. Therefore this type, whether in tillage or fallow, is a source of grief to the husbandman and should be shunned as if it were plague-ridden ground; for the one type brings death, and this brings starvation, that most frightful attendant of death, if we may trust the Grecian Muses, who cry:

To die of hunger is the bitterest of fates.7

8 But now we shall turn our attention rather to the more fertile soil, and our treatment of this is to be set forth under two heads — land in tillage, and woodland. We shall first speak of reducing a wooded area to an arable state, for the reason that the preparation of a field comes before its cultivation. As to an untilled piece of ground, then, let us consider whether it is dry or damp, shaded with trees or rough and stony; whether it is covered with rushes and grass or encumbered with fern-brakes or other bushy growth. 9 If it is damp, the superfluous moisture must first be drained off with ditches. Of these we are familiar with two kinds — blind and open. In tracts of hard-packed and chalky soil they are left open; but where the ground is of looser texture some are made open and some of them, too, are covered over, though in such a way as to connect with the p115mouths of the open ditches.8 But it will be best to make open drains wider at the top, and sloping and narrowing together at the bottom, like inverted roof-tiles; for those whose sides are perpendicular are quickly eroded by water and are filled in by the slipping of the earth above. 10 The covered ones, on the other hand, are to be blinded by sinking trenches to a depth of three feet, and then, after they have received a filling half way up of small stones or clean gravel, levelling them off by throwing over them the dirt that was dug out. Or, if stones and gravel are not available, a sort of cable of entwined brushwood will be fashioned of such a thickness as the bottom of the narrow trench may receive when it is fitted, so to speak, and pressed down close. 11 This will then be stretched along the bottom, to be covered over with earth after cypress or pine foliage — or, failing this, other boughs — has been trampled down over it; there being, both at the beginning and at the outlet of the ditch, two stones set up, merely by way of supports, with one stone laid on top of them in the fashion of little bridges, that this sort of structure may hold the banks in place and prevent the stoppage of water at inlet and outlet.

There are two methods of handling a wooded and bushy stretch of land: either by tearing out the trees by the roots and removing them or, if they are few, by simply cutting them down, burning them, and ploughing them under. 12 It is easy to clear stony p117ground by gathering up the stones; and if there is a great quantity of them, parts of the field must be used for building them into piles of some sort, so that the other parts may be cleared off, or the stones will have to be buried in a deep-dug trench. This should be done, however, only if the cheapness of labour makes it advisable. 13 The bane of rushes and grass is repeated grubbing, of the fern it is constant uprooting, which may be done also with the plough; for it dies out within two years' time if torn up repeatedly, and even sooner if at the same time you apply manure and sow with lupines or beans so as to have some return while remedying the defects of the field. For it is agreed that the fern is more easily destroyed by sowing and manuring; but even if you cut it down with the sickle (which is work even a child could do) as it sprouts out from time to time, within the aforesaid period its vigour is spent. 14 But now, after a consideration of the clearing of unbroken ground, comes the management of land newly brought under cultivation; and I shall set forth presently my own views on this, after I have given to those who are concerned with land in tillage some precepts on matters which must be learned first.

I recall that very many of the ancients who have written on agricultural topics have laid down as acknowledged and unquestioned evidence of fat and fertile grain-land the natural sweetness of the soil, its growth of herbage and trees, and its black or ashy colour. 15 As to the other points I have no doubt; but in the matter of colour I cannot marvel enough, not only that other writers but especially that Cornelius Celsus, a man of discernment not merely in p119husbandry but also in nature as a whole, went so far astray, both in his thinking and in his observation, that the many marshes and the many stretches of salt meadows, in which the above-mentioned colours are usually present, did not attract his notice. 16 For our casual observations reveal no place, provided it contains stagnant water, which is not of a black or ashy colour; unless perhaps I am myself mistaken in thinking that luxuriant grain crops cannot be produced in the soil of slimy swamp and brackish marshland or in a region of salt deposits along the seacoast. But this mistake of the ancients is too apparent to require refutation by further argument. It is not the colour, then, that is, so to speak, the infallible voucher and witness of goodness of ploughland; 17 and for that reason grain-land, that is rich land, is to be judged rather by other qualities. For, as the sturdiest of farm animals have been allotted different and almost countless colours, just so the strongest soils have them in very great number and variety. Accordingly, we must take care that the soil which we intend to cultivate is rich. 18 Still this of itself is not sufficient if it lacks sweetness; and we may come to know both qualities by a very easy method. For a clod is sprinkled with a little water and kneaded in the hand, and if it is viscous and cohesive when firmed with the slightest touch and,

in the manner of pitch is shaped to the fingers in handling,

as Vergil says,9 and does not crumble when dashed to the ground, this test informs us that there is in such earth a natural moistness and fatness. 19 But when p121you try to put back and tread down in trenches the earth that has been removed, if there is an excess as by some sort of leavening, it will be a sure sign that the soil is fat; if it is insufficient, that it is poor; if it makes an even fill, that it is ordinary.10 And yet the statements which I have just now made may seem not so trustworthy in the case of blackish earth (pulla),11 which is better tested by its yield of crops. 20 We shall also make distinctions of taste as follows: from that part of the field which displeases us most, clods should be dug and soaked in an earthen vessel, then thoroughly mixed with fresh water and, after careful straining in the manner of dreggy wine, examined by tasting;12 for, whatever is the taste transmitted from the clods to the water, such we shall take to be the taste of that soil. But, apart from this experiment, there are many signs which show that ground is sweet and suitable for grain — for example, the rush, the reed, grass, trefoil, the dwarf-elder, bramble bushes, wild plums, and many other things which are well known also to searchers for springs,13 and which are not nourished except by veins of sweet water in the ground. 21 And we should not be content with the first appearance of surface soil, but should take pains to investigate the character of what lies beneath — whether it is earthy or not. It will be satisfactory for grain, however, if the soil below is equally good to a depth of two feet; for trees, a depth of four feet is sufficient.14 When we have investigated these points as stated, we shall put our p123field in readiness for planting; and it yields no trifling increase if it is worked with care and understanding. For this reason it is a matter of first importance to put a plan of this kind of work in writing, that husbandmen may adhere to it as a pattern and a law in the breaking up of their fields.

22 To proceed then,a it is proper to have oxen closely yoked while at work, so that they will move with a more stately gait, with lofty bearing and heads held high; also that their necks may be galled less, and that the yoke may sit more closely on their shoulders. This method of yoking is most approved; for the method in use in some provinces — fastening the yoke to the horns — has been condemned by almost all who have written precepts for husbandmen, and not without reason. 23 For cattle can put forth more effort with neck and shoulders than with the horns,15 and in this way they exert themselves with the entire bulk of the body and its whole weight; but in the other way, with their heads pulled back and faces turned upward, they are tortured, and barely scratch the surface of the ground with a very light ploughshare. And it is for this reason that they work with smaller ploughs, because they are unable to tear up the surface of new ground and dig it deep; but when this is done, all growing things are greatly benefited, for when ploughlands are deeply furrowed the fruits of crops and trees swell with greater increase. 24 On this point, therefore, I disagree with Celsus, who, shrinking from the expense which is undoubtedly greater in the case of larger cattle, advises the breaking up of land with small shares and share-beams, so that it may be accomplished with oxen of smaller size; disregarding the fact that revenue in fruitfulness p125of crops outweighs the expense of buying heavier draught animals, and especially in Italy, where the land, being planted with vineyards16 and olives, wants to be broken and worked rather deep, so that the uppermost roots of vines and olives, which are detrimental to the yield if they are left, may be cut off by the ploughshares, and that the deeper roots may receive the nourishment of moisture more readily when the ground is deeply worked. 25 Still Celsus' method may be suited to Numidia and Egypt, where, as a rule, the land is destitute of trees and is sown with grain; and soil of that sort, crumbling with fat sands, and like loose ashes, is stirred sufficiently with the lightest plough-point (dens).17 The ploughman, moreover, must walk upon the broken ground and in every other furrow must hold his plough upright and at its full depth, but in such a way as not to leave anywhere any solid and unbroken ground, which farmers call scamnum.18 26 When the oxen come to a tree, he must keep them firmly in hand and check their pace, for fear that the driving of the ploughshare with too great force against a root may jolt their necks, and so that an ox may not strike a horn violently against the bole of the tree, or graze the trunk or break off a branch with the end of the yoke. He should keep them in dread of his voice rather than of his lash, blows being his last resort when they balk at a task. He should never urge a bullock with a goad, for this makes him irritable and inclined to kick; yet he may urge him on now and then with a p127whip. 27 He should not stop in the middle of the furrow, but should allow a rest at the end of it, so that the ox will exert himself more energetically the whole way in the hope of stopping. But to run a furrow more than one hundred and twenty feet in length is injurious to a beast, for he is wearied more than is right when he goes beyond this limit. 28 When the turning-point is reached, the ploughman should push the yoke forward and hold the oxen back, to allow their necks to cool off; for these quickly become inflamed if they are constantly bound, and as a result their arises a swelling and then running sores. And the ploughman should use the mattock no less than the ploughshare, and should dig up and hunt out all the broken stumps and surface roots with which a field is infested when it is planted with trees for supporting vines.

3 1 When the ploughman has unyoked his oxen after work, he should rub the lower parts that were bound,19 knead the upper part20 with his hands, and pull up the skin and not allow it to cling to the body; for this, too, is a kind of ailment very injurious to cattle.21 2 He should rub down their necks and pour unmixed wine down their throats if they are heated; and it is enough to give a pint of wine to each. But it is not proper for oxen to be tied to their cribs before they have stopped sweating and panting. Then, when they are in the proper condition for feeding, it is best not to give them much feed, and not the whole amount at once, but to portion it out, a little at a time. When they have consumed this, they p129should be led to water and enticed by whistling to drink more freely, and then at length taken back to eat their fill of a more generous allowance of fodder.

It is enough to have discussed the duties of the ploughman up to this point. Our next step is to give directions also as to the seasons for breaking up ploughland.

4 1 Rich plains which hold water for a considerable length of time are to be broken at a time of year when it is growing warm, after they have put forth all their vegetation and while the seeds of this vegetation have not yet ripened; but they should be ploughed with furrows so numerous and close together that it can hardly be told in what direction the ploughshare has been driven, for in this way all the roots of the growth are broken off and killed. 2 But fallow land22 should be so pulverized by much re-ploughing that it will require no harrowing, or very little, after we have put in the seed. For the ancient Romans said that a field was poorly prepared when it had to be harrowed after the crop was in the ground. 3 Furthermore, a farmer should examine it frequently to see whether it is properly ploughed — and not merely by sight, which is sometimes mistaken when earth is scattered over unploughed skips that lie hidden, but also by touch, which is deceived the less when a strong and stiff pole is put to use and pushed into the furrows crosswise. If it goes in to a uniform depth and without striking anything, it is clear that all the ground has been stirred in turn; but if some harder spot obstructs its entrance, it shows that there is unbroken fallow. When ploughmen observe that this is done rather frequently, they are not guilty of leaving skips.23 Wet p131champaign lands, then, should be broken after the Ides of April.24 4 When they are ploughed at this time, they should be gone over a second time after the passing of the twenty days around the solstice — which falls on the ninth or eighth day before the Calends of July25 — and then a third time in the neighbourhood of the Calends of September;26 for it is agreed among experts in husbandry that no ploughing should be done from the summer solstice up to this time, unless, as sometimes happens, the earth is soaked with heavy and sudden showers as if by winter rains. 5 In this case there is no objection to breaking fallow land in the month of July. But whenever the ploughing is done, we must be careful not to let a field be worked when it is muddy or half soaked from light rains — a condition of soil which farmers call varia and cariosa;27 that is, when, after a long drought, a light rain wets the upper surface of the clods but does not reach the lower part. For ploughlands which are turned over when they are muddy cannot be worked for a whole year, and they are not fit for sowing or harrowing or planting; but, on the other hand, those which are ploughed when they are varia are visited with barrenness for three successive years.28 6 Let us, then, above all, follow a middle course in ploughing our lands, that they may neither be entirely wanting in dampness nor immoderately wet; for too much moisture, as I have said, makes them sticky and muddy, while those that are parched with drought cannot be properly loosened. p133For either the point of the plough is rejected by the hardness of the ground or, if it does enter at some spot, it does not break the soil into fine particles, but tears up huge clods; and when these lie in the way, the plough-land is under a handicap and cannot be properly worked at the second ploughing, because the ploughshare is thrown out of the furrow by the weight of the clods as though by some deep-seated obstructions, with the result that hard skips are left even in the re-ploughing and that the oxen are severely injured by the unevenness of the strain. 7 Added to this is that all ground, though it be never so rich, still has poorer soil underneath, and when the larger clods are turned up they bring this with them; the result being that the less productive soil, mixed with the richer, grows a less bountiful crop, and in addition the accounting of the farmer is made more difficult by the poor progress of his work; for the proper tasks cannot be completed when the ground is hard. 8 For this reason my advice is, in dry weather, to replough ground already broken, and to wait for rain which, by its soaking of the earth, makes cultivation easy for us. But a iugerum29 of such land is prepared with four days' labour; for it is broken easily in two days, gone over a second time in one, a third time in three-fourths of a day, and is formed into ridges and sown in one-fourth of a day. These ridges, moreover, country folk call porcae30 when the ground is ploughed in such a way that the earth heaped between two widely separated furrows affords a dry bed for the grain. 9 Hillsides where the soil is rich should be broken after the sowing of the three-months crops is completed, in the month of March; or, if the warmth of the climate and the p135dryness of the region make it advisable, even in February. Then between the middle of April and the solstice they should be gone over a second time, and a third time in September around the equinox; and a iugerum of such ground is prepared with the same number of days labour as wet champaign land.

10 But especial care must be taken in the ploughing always to run the furrow crosswise to the slope; for by this method the difficulty of the ascent is mitigated, and the toil of man and beast is thereby lessened most handily. Still, whenever it is reworked, the furrows should be run somewhat obliquely, now uphill, now downhill, so that we may tear up the ground in both directions and not work it in the same track. 11 Lean land which lies level and is well watered should be ploughed for the first time during the latter part of the month of August, then gone over again a second time in September, and put in readiness for sowing about the time of the equinox. In ground of this sort, moreover, the work is easier, and for this reason fewer days of labour are expended; for three days are sufficient for one iugerum. Lean and sloping ground, likewise, is not to be ploughed in summer, but around the calends of September;31 for if it is broken before this time, the earth, being exhausted and destitute of moisture, is burned by the summer sun and has no reserves of strength. Therefore it is best to plough it between the Calends and the Ides of September,32 and then to work it again immediately, so that it may be sown during the first rains of the equinox; and such land is to be sown, not in the ridges, but in the furrows.

5 1 Still, before we give lean land its second p137ploughing, it will be best to manure it; for on such food, so to speak, it grows fat. On level ground piles of manure, about five modii33 to the pile, should be placed farther apart, and on hilly land closer together: on the level it will suffice to leave an interval of eight feet each way, on a slope two feet less. My own preference is that this be done when the moon is waning, for this frees the crops from weeds. Furthermore, one iugerum, if manured heavily, requires twenty-four loads;34 if lightly, eighteen. 2 Then the manure once it is spread, should be ploughed in immediately and covered over, that it may not lose its strength from the heat of the sun and that the soil, being mixed with it, may grow fat on the aforesaid nourishment. And so, when piles of manure are distributed in a field, the number of those so scattered should not exceed what the ploughmen can dig in on the same day.

6 1 Inasmuch as we have given directions for the preparation of the ground for sowing, let us now treat of the kinds of seed. The seeds of first importance and most useful to mankind are grains of wheat and emmer.35 We know of several varieties of wheat; but of this number that called robus or "ruddy" is most suitable for sowing, because it is superior in both weight and brightness. 2 Second place must be given to siligo or winter wheat, which is of excellent appearance in bread36 but lacking in weight. The third shall be the three-months wheat, the use of which is most gratifying to farmers; for when, because of rains or some other reason, an early sowing has not been made, recourse is had to p139this. This, again, is a variety of siligo. The other kinds of wheat, except for those who find pleasure in a great variety of crops and in idle vainglory, are superfluous. 3 Of emmer, however, we commonly see four varieties in use: the far which is called Clusian,37 of a white and shiny appearance; that called vennuculum,38 one kind reddish and the other white, but both of greater weight than the Clusian; the three-months far, called halicastrum,39 which is excellent both in weight and in goodness. 4 But these kinds of wheat and emmer should be kept by farmers for this reason, that seldom is any land so situated that we can content ourselves with one kind of seed, as some strip which is either swampy or dry cuts through it. Further, wheat grows better in a dry spot, while emmer is less harmed by moisture.

7 1 Though there are very many kinds of pulse or legumes, those observed to be most pleasing and useful to man are the bean, the lentil, the pea, the cow-pea, the chick-pea, hemp, millet, panic grass, sesame, lupine, also flax and barley, because from the last named is made tisana40 or barley-grits. Likewise of the fodder crops the best are Medic clover and fenugreek, and vetch no less so; 2 and next in order are chickling-vetch, bitter vetch, and mixed fodder made from barley. But of this number we shall first discuss those which are sown for our own sake,41 keeping in mind that very ancient rule in which p141we are warned to reap42 in cold places last, in warm places sooner, and in hot places earliest of all. For the present, however, we shall give rules applicable to a temperate region.

8 1 Our poet holds that emmer and even wheat should not be sown before the setting of the Vergiliae,43 a rule which he puts in verse as follows:

But if for wheat or emmer you plough, intent on grain alone,

Let Atlas' daughters at dawn be hid before the planting's done.44

2 Now they are "hidden" on the thirty-second day after the autumnal equinox, which usually falls on the ninth day before the Calends of October;45 by which it should be understood that the seed-time of wheat lasts for forty-six days — from the setting of the Vergiliae, which occurs on the ninth day before the November Calends,46 up to the time of the winter solstice.47 For wise husbandmen observe this rule to such an extent that, for fifteen days before the occurrence of the solstice and a like number afterwards, they do no ploughing and no pruning of vine or tree. We, too, do not deny that p143the sowing should be governed by this rule in land that is temperate and not at all moist; 3 but in sections that are wet and lean, or cold, or even shaded, it is usually proper to sow before the Calends of October,

while the dry earth permits, while clouds are in suspense,48

so that the roots of the grain may gain strength before they are attacked by winter rains or cold or frost. But even though the sowing be finished in good season, still we must be careful to make wide ridges and frequent water-furrows, which some call elices, and to turn off all water into drains49 and hence outside the grain-fields. 4 And I am not unaware that some ancient authorities have left directions that fields should not be sown except after the ground is well soaked with rain; and that this is to the greater advantage of the farmer, if it comes in due season, I have no doubt. But if the rains are late, as sometimes happens, the seed is safely intrusted to ground however thirsty; and that is actually the practice in certain provinces where such weather conditions exist. For seed that is put into dry ground and harrowed in, is no more injured than if it were stored away in a granary; and when the rain does come, the sowing of many days' standing sprouts up in one.50 5 Tremelius, in fact, makes the statement that seed sown before the rains begin is not injured by birds or ants when the soil is parched during the fair weather of summer, and I have even tried it rather frequently and have thus far found it to be true. However, in land of this sort it is more suitable to sow p145emmer than wheat, as it has a husk enclosing it which is tough and resistant to moisture for a longer period.

9 1 A iugerum of rich land usually requires four modii of wheat;51 land of medium quality, five; it calls for nine modii of emmer if the soil is fertile, and ten if it is ordinary. For although there is little agreement among authorities as to the quantity, yet my own experience has shown that this amount seems best suited; and anyone who does not care to comply with this may follow the directions of those who instruct us to sow a rich field with eight modii of wheat a iugerum, and the same for emmer, and who hold that seed should be supplied to medium land in this proportion. 2 My opinion is that not even the amount which I have mentioned above is always to be held to, for the reason that conditions of place or season or weather cause it to vary: of place, according as the grain is sown on level ground or hillsides, and these, too, either fat or medium or lean; of season, according as we cast the seed in autumn or even at the onset of winter, for the earlier sowing allows a lighter seeding while the later requires it to be heavier; of weather, according as it is rainy or dry, for the former requires the same as the early sowing, and the latter the same as the late. 3 Further, every sort of grain especially delights in ground that is open and sloping toward the sun, warm and loose; for though hilly ground produces a somewhat stronger grain, it yields a smaller crop of wheat. Soil that is heavy, chalky, and wet is not unsuited to the growing of winter wheat and emmer. Barley tolerates no place except one that is loose and dry. 4 And the first mentioned grains require ground that lies fallow and is worked by turns in alternate years and that is as rich as p147possible; while the last named wants no middling ground, being sown either in very rich or very poor soil. Even though you sow the first mentioned in ground that is still muddy and wet after continuous rains, if necessity so demands, it withstands the injury; if you commit the last named to miry ground, it dies. 5 However, if the field is moderately chalky or marshy, you need for a sowing of the white winter wheat or common wheat somewhat more than the five modii that I mentioned above. But if the ground is dry and loose, no matter whether it be rich or poor, only four; for, conversely, lean land requires the same amount of seed, be if it is not sown thinly it produces a small and empty head. 6 But when it forms a stool of several stalks from one seed it makes a heavy stand even from a light sowing. Among other things, too, we should not overlook the fact that a field planted with trees for supporting vines requires one fifth more seed than a treeless and open field.

We have been speaking thus far of the autumn sowing, for this we regard as the most important. 7 There is another sowing, however, when necessity requires it — what farmers call the "half-month sowing."52 This is practised to advantage in very cold and snowy regions where the summer is damp and free from intense heat, but in other places it very seldom yields a return. And even in this sowing it will be better to finish it quickly, and certainly before the spring equinox; in fact, if conditions of ground and of weather allow it, the sooner we sow the better the result will be. 8 For there is no seed that naturally requires three months, as many have believed, and p149in fact the same seed will do better when planted in the autumn. There are, nevertheless, certain seeds that do better than others in enduring the heat of spring, such as white wheat (siligo), Galatian barley, the three-months emmer,53 and the grain of the Marsian bean; for the other hardy grains should always be sown before winter in temperate localities.

Further, the earth has a way, at times, of emitting a brackish and bitter ooze which blights even full-grown crops with its poisonous seepage and in warm localities leaves patches without even a single stalk from the seed. 9 It is best that such bare spots be indicated by the use of markers, so that we may take measures against faults of this kind in due season; for in a place where oozy ground or some other plague kills out the crop it is best that pigeon dung or, failing that, cypress foliage be scattered and ploughed in. But the very first thing to do is to draw off all free water by running a furrow; otherwise the aforesaid remedies will be useless. Some people wrap a three-modius sowing measure in the skin of a hyena and broadcast the seed from it after it has remained there a while, not doubting that seed sown in this way will do well.54 10 Certain underground pests also kill out mature crops by cutting off their roots. As a remedy against this they use the juice of a plant which country people call sedum,55 mixed with water; for the seeds are sown after they have been soaked in this solution for one night. Some take the juice squeezed from the wild cucumber and the p151crushed root of the same, dilute it with water, and after soaking the seeds in the same way they consign them to the earth.56 Others sprinkle the furrows with this same liquid or with unsalted lees of oil, when the crop begins to be infested, and so drive off the destructive creatures.

The next direction that I have to offer is that when the crops have been harvested and are on the threshing-floor, we should consider the sowing that is to follow. 11 For, as Celsus remarks, when the harvest is just ordinary we should select all the best heads and store the seed from them by itself; when, in turn, there is a more generous yield, everything that is threshed out should be cleaned with a sieve, and the grain that settles to the bottom because of its size and weight should always be kept for seed. This is a most beneficial measure because, while grain deteriorates more rapidly in damp places, it also does so in dry places unless such pains are taken. 12 For there is no doubt that from strong seed there can be produced seed that has no strength; but it is obvious that what is produced continuously from weak seed can never acquire strength. For that reason Vergil, in treating of other matters, has also expressed himself very clearly on the subject of seeds, as follows;

Some I have seen deteriorate, though chosen with great care

And long examination, if with toil of man

The largest were not hand-picked every year.

But so the will of Fate. All things are doomed

To hasten to the worse and, downward turned,

To take a backward course.57

p153 13 Further, if a red grain, when cut in two, shows the same colour throughout, we have no doubt that it is sound; but one that is whitish outside and is also seen to be white inside, that should be set down as light and lacking in substance. And let us not be misled into thinking that siligo is desirable for farmers; for this is a degenerate kind of wheat, and though superior in whiteness, it is inferior in weight. It does well, however, in a humid climate, and for that reason is better suited to springy places. Still we need not go a great distance or to great pains to find it; for in wet ground every kind of wheat turns into siligo after the third sowing.

14 Next to these grains in utility is that variety of barley which country people call hexastichum;58 some also call it cantherinum59 because it is a better food than wheat for all animals that belong on a farm, and is more wholesome for humans than is bad wheat; and in times of scarcity there is nothing better in guarding against want. It is sown in loose, dry ground, either very rich or poor, because it is agreed that land is weakened by crops of it; for this reason it is committed to a very fertile field, whose excessive strength cannot be impaired, or to a lean one to which nothing else is entrusted. 15 The seed should be cast at the second ploughing, after the equinox, about the middle of seed-time if the soil is rich, and earlier if it is poor. One iugerum will take five modii of seed. And when p155this has ripened somewhat it should be harvested with more haste than any other grains, for, having brittle straw and grain that has no covering of chaff, it shatters quickly; and for the same reason it is more easily threshed than other grains. But when you have taken off a crop of it, it is best to let the ground lie fallow for a year; or if not, to saturate it with manure and drive out all the poison that still remains in the land. 16 There is also a second variety of barley which some call distichum60 and others Galatian, of extraordinary weight and whiteness, so much so that when mixed with wheat it makes excellent food for the household. It is sown about the month of March in ground that is very rich but cold; it does better, however, if a mild winter allows it, when sown around the middle of January. One iugerum calls for six modii.

17 Panic and millet also should be counted among grain crops, even though I have already listed them among the legumes, for in many countries the peasants subsist on food made from them.61 They require a light, loose soil, and thrive not only in gravelly ground but also in sand, if only the climate is moist or the ground well watered; for they have a great dread of dry and chalky ground. 18 They cannot be sown before spring, for they are fond of warm weather above all; but they are intrusted to the earth to best advantage in the latter part of March. They do not burden the farmer's budget with a heavy expense, as about four sextarii are enough for a iugerum; and yet they demand repeated hoeing and p157weeding to make them free of weeds. When they have formed their heads, before the seeds crack open with the heat, they are gathered by hand, hung in the sun, and stored away after they have dried; and when stored in this fashion they keep longer than other grains. 19 Bread is made of millet, and it may be eaten without distaste before it cools. Panic, when ground and freed from bran, and millet as well, makes a porridge which, especially with milk, is not to be despised even in time of plenty.

10 1 Inasmuch as we have given sufficient instructions about grains, we shall next discuss the legumes. First consideration belongs to the lupine, as it requires the least labour, costs least, and of all crops that are sown is most beneficial to the land. For it affords an excellent fertilizer for worn-out vineyards and ploughlands; it flourishes even in exhausted soil; and it endures age when laid away in the granary. When softened by boiling it is good fodder for cattle during the winter; in the case of humans, too, it serves to ward off famine if years of crop failures come upon them. 2 It is broadcast direct from the threshing-floor, and it is the only one of all the legumes which does not require a rest in the bin, whether you sow it in unbroken fallow in the month of September before the equinox or immediately after the Calends of October; and whatever way you cover it, it withstands the carelessness of the farmer. Still it needs the mild temperature of autumn to become quickly established, for if it has not taken p159a strong hold before winter it is greatly injured by the cold. 3 It will be best to put away your left-over seed in a loft where smoke can reach it, for if dampness gets into it, it breeds worms; and when they have once eaten away the embryo of the lupine seed, the other part cannot germinate. The lupine likes lean ground, as I have said, and especially reddish soil; 4 it has an intense dislike of chalky ground and does not come up at all in a miry field. One iugerum takes ten modii. Next after this it will be proper to commit to the earth the kidney bean, either in old fallow ground, or better in rich ground that is tilled every year; the sowing of one iugerum will require not more than four modii. The same may be said of the pea, which desires, however, an easy and loose soil, a warm situation, and a climate where it often rains. The same quantity may be sown to the iugerum as in the case of the kidney bean, or one modius less, at the beginning of seed-time after the autumnal equinox.

5 A spot that is naturally very fertile or well manured should be set aside for the common bean, and old fallow lying in a valley and receiving moisture from the higher ground. First, however, we shall cast the seed, then furrow the ground, and after furrowing reduce it to ridges and harrow it, to provide a deeper and more abundant covering of loose earth; for it is of the greatest importance that the roots of the sprouting seed be sunk deep. 6 But if we must use restored land that has just borne a crop, after cutting the straw we shall distribute twenty-four loads of p161manure to the iugerum and spread it; and just as before, when we have scattered the seed on the unbroken ground, we shall plough it in, form ridges, and harrow, though there are some who say that beans should not be harrowed in cold regions because the projecting clods shelter them from the frosts while they are still young and provide some warmth when they are suffering from the cold. 7 There are people, too, who think that in cultivated land this same plant takes the place of manure62 — a belief which I take as meaning, not that the ground is enriched by the sowing of it, but that it uses up the strength of the soil less than other crops. For I am convinced that land which has borne no crop is better suited for grain than one which bore a crop of this legume the preceding year. 8 A iugerum of land requires four modii of beans, as Tremelius thinks, but six, in my opinion, if the ground is rich, and somewhat more if it is just ordinary; and it does not tolerate lean ground or a foggy situation, though it often does well on heavy soil. It should be sown, part at the middle of seed-time, and part at the end — the sowing called "septimontial."63 The early sowing is more common, though the late one is sometimes better. 9 There is little use in sowing it after the winter solstice, and the very worst time is spring; although there is also a three-months bean which may be sown in February, using one-fifth more than for the early variety, but which yields scanty straw p163and not many pods. And so I hear the old-time farmers commonly remark that they would rather have the bean straw of the early sowing than the beans of the three-months variety. 10 But, whatever the season of sowing, we must take care that the quantity allotted for seed be broadcast on the fifteenth day of the moon, provided only she does not on that day traverse the rays of the sun — what the Greeks call ἀπόκρουσις or "waning"; otherwise that it be sown in any case on the fourteenth day, while the light of the moon is still waxing, even though the whole amount of seed cannot be covered immediately. For no harm will come to it from nightly dews or other causes, if only it be protected from cattle and birds. 11 The ancient husbandmen, moreover, and Vergil too, held that it should first be soaked in oil lees or in nitre, and then sown,

That the deceptive pods might have a larger fruit,

Their seeds soon softened by even a little heat.64

We, too, have learned that seed so treated is less infested by weevils after it has reached maturity. And what we are about to say next, we offer as a precept from our own experience: 12 Gather beans before in the dark of the moon,65 before dawn; and when they have dried on the threshing-floor, immediately, before the moon begins its waxing, beat them out, cool them, and carry them into the granary. When stored in the same way they will not be harmed by weevils. And this one, especially, of the legumes, can be very easily threshed without the use of cattle, and cleaned p165without the aid of wind, as follows: 13 Have a moderate number of loose sheaves brought together at one end of the threshing-floor, and let three or four men push them along with their feet through the middle of the floor the longest way, and beat them with sticks or forks; then, when they reach the other end of the floor, let them throw the stalks again into a pile. 14 For the seeds that have been beaten out will lie on the floor, and the other bundles will be threshed out on top of them, little by little, in the same manner. For the hardest chaff will be knocked off and separated by the beaters, but the fine chaff which has fallen from the pods along with the beans will be separated in another way: that is, when the mixture of chaff and seeds has been heaped together in one pile, let it be tossed some distance away, a little at a time, by winnowing-fans; and by this means the chaff, being lighter, will fall short, and the beans, which are thrown farther, will come clean to the spot where the winnower throws them.

15 The lentil is properly sown only from the time of the half-moon up to her twelfth day, in ground that is lean and loose, or fat, but above all in a place that is dry; for when in flower it is easily damaged by rankness and moisture. To make it come out quickly and make a good growth, it should be mixed with dried manure before sowing, and then broadcast after it has remained thus for four or five days. Our practice is to make two sowings, the early one in the middle of seedtime, and the later in the month of February. 16 A little more than one modius covers a p167iugerum of ground. To keep it from being destroyed by weevils — for they eat it even when it is in the pod — care must be taken that, as soon as it is threshed out, it be sunk in water, and that the sound grains be separated from the empty, which come at once to the surface; then that it be dried in the sun, sprinkled and rubbed with the bruised root of silphium66 mixed with vinegar, and again dried in the sun; and presently, after cooling, that it be stored away — in the bin if the amount is rather large, or in olive jars and salt-fish jars if there is not much of it. If these are sealed with gypsum immediately upon being filled, we shall find the lentil sound whenever we take it out for use. Still, it can be kept satisfactorily without such treatment if mixed with ashes.

17 Flax-seed should not be sown unless it yields a heavy crop and brings a good price in the region where you farm; for it is particularly hurtful to land. For this reason it requires a soil which is very rich and moderately moist. It is sown from the first of October to the rising of Aquila, which falls on the seventh day before the Ides of December.67iugerum of land is sown with eight modii of it. Some hold that it should be sown in poor land, and very thickly, so that the flax may grow with a more slender stem. The same people also say that if it is sown in rich ground in February, ten modii should be broadcast to the iugerum.

18 Sesame68 is to be sown earlier on well-watered ground, and from the autumnal equinox to the Ides p169of October69 on ground that lacks moisture. It usually requires a loamy soil, such as the Campanians call pullum; still it thrives no less well even in rich sand or in mixed ground.70 The same quantity of seed is sown to the iugerum as of millet and panic, sometimes even two sextarii71 more. But I have seen this same seed sown in the months of June and July in districts of Cilicia and Syria, and harvested during the autumn, when it was fully ripe.

19 The chick-pea or the chickling-vetch, which has a resemblance to the pea, should be sown in January or February in rich soil if the weather is moist; though in some sections of Italy the sowing is made before the first of November. Three modii are sufficient for one iugerum. No legume is less hurtful to land; but it seldom does well, because, when in bloom, it cannot endure dry weather or south winds; and both these drawbacks usually attend the season when it drops its blossoms.72 20 The chick-pea which is called arietillum,73 and also one of another variety, called Punicum, may be sown during the whole month of March, if the weather is moist, in the most fertile soil; indeed, this kind is harmful to land for that reason is not approved by the more expert farmers. If it must be sown, however, it should be soaked a day ahead to hasten its germination. Three modii are enough for one iugerum.

21 Hemp demands a rich, manured, well-watered soil, or one that is level, moist, and deeply worked. Six grains of this seed to the square foot are planted at p171the rising of Arcturus, which means toward the end of February, about the sixth or fifth day before the Calends of March;74 and yet no harm will be done in planting it up to the spring equinox if the weather is rainy.

22 After these legumes consideration must be given to the navew and the turnip, as both of them are filling food for country people. The turnips, however, are more profitable, because they yield a greater increase and serve as food, not only for mankind, but also for cattle, especially in Gaul, where this vegetable provides winter fodder for the aforesaid animals. Both require a loamy, loose soil, and do not grow in heavy ground. 23 Turnips, however, like level and moist places, while the navew prefers ground that is sloping and dry with more of a tendency to leanness; and so it grows better in gravelly and sandy lands. The nature of the situation changes the seed of both: thus, turnips sown in one soil are changed into navews in two years' time, while in the other the navew likewise takes on the appearance of the turnip.75 In well-watered situations both are properly sown after the summer solstice, in dry places at the end of August or the early part of September.76 They demand a soil that is well prepared by pointed working with the plough or mattock and generously manured; 24 for this is of the greatest importance, not only because they themselves make a better showing but also because, after they are harvested, soil so treated produces luxuriant crops of grain. One p173iugerum of ground should be sown with not more than four sextarii of turnip seed; of the navew, one-fourth more is to be scattered, because it does not widen out into a globular shape but pushes its slender root straight down.

The above plantings are to be made, in our opinion, for the sake of man, and then come several kinds of cattle fodder, such as Medic clover,77 vetch, mixed fodder of barley and oats, fenugreek, and also bitter vetch and chick-pea; for we do not think it worth while to enumerate the rest, and still less to sow them, excepting only the cytisus [shrub-clover] of which we shall speak in those books78 which we have in writing on the various kinds of young shoots. 25 But of those which find favour the Medic plant is outstanding for several reasons: one seeding affords, for all of ten years thereafter, four harvestings regularly and sometimes six; it improves the soil; lean cattle of every kind grow fat on it; it has medicinal value for an ailing beast; and one iugerum of it provides abundant fodder for three horses for an entire year. 26 It is sown as we shall next direct. In the place where you are to sow Medic the following spring, break the ground about the first of October and allow it to mellow during the entire winter; then, at the beginning of February, work it again carefully, remove all stones, and break up the clods; after that, sometime in the month of March, plough it a third time and harrow it. When you have prepared the ground in this fashion, make divisions as you would in a p175garden, ten feet wide and fifty feet long, to allow water to be supplied by way of the foot-paths and to provide a means of access on both sides for the weeders. 27 Then spread old manure over it, and at the end of April sow at the rate of one cyathus79 of seed to a space ten feet long and five wide. When you have done so, the seed should be covered at once with wooden rakes — a matter of great importance — for the seed is very soon burned by the sun. After the seed is sown, the place should not be touched with iron; and so, as I have said, it must be hoed with wooden implements and repeatedly freed of weeds, so that no other kind of growth may kill out the weak Medic. 28 It will be best to make the first cutting rather late, after it has dropped some of its seed. Thereafter, when it has started up, you may cut it as tender as you please and feed it to stock, but somewhat sparingly at first, until they become accustomed to it, so that the novelty of the fodder may not harm them; for it causes bloating and greatly increases the blood supply. After cutting, water it rather frequently; then, a few days later, when it begins to send out new shoots, weed out all other kinds of growth. If cared for in this way, it can be cut six times a year and will last for ten years.80

29 Of vetch, however, there are two sowings: the first about the time of the autumnal equinox, for the purpose of forage, in which we sow seven modii to the iugerum; the second in the month of January or even later, when we scatter six modii for the production of seed. Both sowings may be made on untilled land, but with better results on broken ground; and this p177species especially does not like dew at the time of sowing. 30 For this reason it must be broadcast after the second or third hour of the day, when all moisture has been dried up by sun or wind, and no more should be scattered than can be covered in the same day; for, if night comes on before it is covered, the least moisture spoils it. Care must be taken not to put it in the ground before the twenty-fifth day of the moon; otherwise we usually find that the slug damages the crop.

31 Mixed forage81 should be sown in land that is worked every year, very heavily manured, and twice ploughed. It turns out best when sown with ten modii of horse-barley to the iugerum about the autumnal equinox; but when rains are threatening, so that, being watered by showers after sowing, it may come up quickly and gather strength before the severe weather of winter. For in cold weather, when other forage has failed, this provides excellent cut fodder for oxen and other animals; and if you care to graze it frequently, it holds out even up to the month of May. 32 If, however, you wish also to take seed from it, cattle must be kept off after the first of March, and it must be protected from every kind of harm so as to be capable of bearing seed. The same method is applied to oats: they are sown in the autumn; some are cut for hay or for fodder while still green; and some are set apart for seed.

33 Fenugreek, which country people call siliqua,82 has two seasons for sowing: one of them in the month of September, when it is sown for fodder, on the same p179days as vetch, near the time of the equinox; the other, however, at the end of January or early in February, when it is sown for seed; though we use six modii to the iugerum for the latter sowing, and seven for the former. Both sowings are made not without advantage before the ground is prepared, and care is taken that it be ploughed closely but not deeply, for if the seed is covered more than four fingers deep it does not easily come up; and for this reason some people break the ground with the smallest ploughs before sowing, and then scatter the seed and cover it with light hoes.

34 Bitter vetch, on the other hand, thrives on soil that is lean but not moist, because it is usually spoiled by rankness. It may be sown in autumn and equally well after the winter solstice, in the latter part of January or all of February, if only before the first day of March. This whole month, farmers say, is not suited to this legume, because when sown at this time it is harmful to cattle, and especially to oxen, in which it causes brain-madness when they eat it.83 It is sown five modii to the iugerum.

35 Crushed chickling-vetch instead of bitter vetch is given to oxen in Hispania Baetica:84 after being broken by a suspended85 millstone it is soaked for a time in water, until it becomes soft, and in this condition, mixed with sifted chaff, it is fed to cattle. But twelve pounds of bitter vetch are sufficient for one yoke, and sixteen of chick-pea. This same chick-pea is not unsuited to human use, and is not unpleasant; in taste, at least, it differs not at all from the chickling-vetch, being distinguished merely by its colour, for it is more dirty-looking p181and nearer black. It is sown at the first or second ploughing in the month of March, according as the richness of the soil requires, and the same consideration determines the amount — for modii, sometimes three, sometimes even two and a half to the iugerum.

11 1 Since we have treated of the time at which each sowing should be made, we shall now show what method of cultivation is to be employed, and the number of days' labour required for each of the crops mentioned. After the sowing is finished, the next matter is that of hoeing, a point on which authorities are not agreed. Some say that this is of no advantage, because the roots of the grain are uncovered by the hoe and some of them are even cut off, and, if the weather is cold after the hoeing, the grain is killed by frost; but that it is better that weeding and cleaning be done at the proper season. 2 Still there are many who believe in hoeing, but that it should not be done everywhere in the same way and at the same time; thus, in dry and sunny fields, as soon as the crops can stand hoeing, they should be covered with well-stirred soil to enable them to bush out; and this should be done before winter, and then repeated after winter is past; while in cold and swampy places, usually after winter is over, they should be hoed without being covered over but having the earth thoroughly stirred by level hoeing. 3 Nevertheless we find that winter hoeing is suited to many regions, but only where dryness and warmth of climate permit, though we think it best not to practice even this everywhere but to conform to the ways of those who live in the neighbourhood. For countries have their own peculiar advantages, such as those of Egypt and Africa, where the farmer does p183not touch his crop from the sowing until the reaping, for climatic conditions and the quality of the soil are such that scarcely any plant comes up except from seed that is sown; either because of the scarcity of rain or because the character of the soil so lends itself to those who cultivate it.86 4 Moreover, in those regions where hoeing is desirable, the crops are not to be touched before the growth has covered the furrows, even if the condition of the weather should allow it. It will be proper to hoe wheat and emmer as soon as they have put forth four blades, barley when it has five, and beans and other legumes when they stand four fingers above ground — with the exception, however, of the lupine, as hoeing is hurtful to its seedlings; for it has a single root, and if this is cut or injured by an iron tool, the whole plant dies. 5 And even if this were not the case, cultivation would still be unnecessary, for this one plant is so far from being troubled by weeds as actually to destroy them on its own account. Now other crops which may be worked when wet, are nevertheless hoed with better results when dry, because, when handled in this way, they are not attacked by rust; but barley must not be touched except when perfectly dry. 6 Many people think that beans should not be hoed at all, because, being pulled by hand when ripe, they may be separated from the other growth, and the grass that grows among them may be saved for hay. This is also the opinion of Cornelius Celsus, who counts this too among the other virtues of this legume when he says that after the beans are removed a cutting of hay may be taken from the same spot. But to me it seems the mark of a very poor farmer to allow grass p185to grow among his crops, for it detracts greatly from the yield if weeding is neglected. 7 And it is no mark of a wise husbandman to be more concerned with fodder for cattle than with food for man, especially when he may obtain the former as well by cultivation of his meadows. I am so strongly in favour of hoeing beans as to think that they should actually be hoed three times. For we find that when cultivated in this way they not only multiply their yield but also have but little pod in proportion, and that a measure of them when shelled and cleaned is almost as full as before they were shelled, as the amount is scarcely diminished by the removal of the outer coverings. 8 And in general, as we have said before, winter hoeing is of very great benefit on clear and dry days after the solstice is past, in the month of January, if there are no frosts. It should be done, besides, in such a way that the roots of the plants will not be damaged, but rather covered over and hilled up, so that the offshoots of the main stem may spread out farther. It will be beneficial to do this at the first hoeing, but harmful at the second, because grain rots if it is covered after it has ceased to send out shoots. 9 Therefore nothing more should be done at the second hoeing than to loosen the ground evenly; and this should be done immediately after the vernal equinox is past, within twenty days, before the plant forms a joint, for when it is hoed later it is destroyed by the dry weather and heat of the ensuing summer. To the hoeing must be added the weeding, and we must take care not to touch a grain-field when it is in bloom, but either beforehand or soon after the blossoms have fallen. p18710 Now all grain and barley, in short everything that is not of double seed,87 sends out an ear from the third to the fourth joint; and when it has pushed out the entire spike it casts its bloom within eight days, and then continues to grow until it reaches maturity forty days after its flowering. On the other hand, those that are of double seed, such as beans, peas, and lentils, bloom in forty days and increase in growth for the same length of time.

12 1 And now to reckon up the number of days' labour required to bring to the threshing-floor what we have committed to the earth, four or five modii of common wheat88 take up four days' work of the ploughmen, one of the harrower, two of the hoer for the first hoeing and one for the second, one of the weeder, and one and a half of the reaper — a total of ten and one-half days of labour. Five modii of winter wheat require the same number of days. Nine or ten modii of emmer89 call for as many days' work as five modii of common wheat. 2 Five modii of barley require three days' labour of the ploughman, one day of harrowing, one and a half of hoeing, and one of reaping — six and a half days in all. Four or six modii of beans use up two days' work of the ploughman in old fallow ground, but one in land under cultivation; they are harrowed in a day and a half, hoed in a day and a half, hoed a second time in one day and a third time in one day, and harvested in one day — the total amounting to seven or eight days. 3 Six or seven modii of vetch want two days' labour of the ploughmen in old fallow, and one in ground that is kept under p189cultivation; this likewise is harrowed in one day, and harvested in one day — the total amounting to [three or] four days' work. Five modii of bitter vetch are sown in the same number of days, harrowed in one day, and also hoed, weeded, and harvested in one day each — the total making up six days. Six or seven modii of fenugreek90 are put in the ground with the same number of days' labour, and are harvested in one day. Four modii of cow-peas are put under ground in the same number of days, are harrowed in one day, and harvested in one. 4 Four modii of chickling-vetch or of the small chick-pea require three days' work of the ploughmen; they are harrowed in one day, weeded in one, and pulled in one — the total amounting to six days of work. A modius and a half of lentil is covered in the same number of days, harrowed in one, hoed in two, weeded in one, and pulled in one — the total coming to eight days' work. Ten modii of lupine are covered in one day, harrowed in one, and harvested in one. Four sextarii of millet and the same amount of panic take up four days' labour of the ploughmen, are harrowed in three days, and hoed in three; the number of days for gathering is not fixed. 5 Three modii of the chick-pea are sown in the same number of days, harrowed in two days, hoed in one, weeded in one, and pulled in three — a total of eleven days' work. Eight or ten modii of flaxseed are sown with four days' ploughing, harrowed with three days' work, weeded with one, and pulled with three — the total amounting to eleven days' work. Six sextarii of sesame are cared for with three days' ploughing after the first breaking of the ground, four days of p191harrowing, four of hoeing and two at the second hoeing, and two days of harvesting — a total of fifteen days. 6 Hemp is sown as we have directed above, but the amount of expense and attention required is not fixed. Medic, however, is put in the ground, not with the plough, but, as I have said, with small wooden rakes. One iugerum of this is harrowed by two men, hoed by one, and harvested by one.

7 From this summing up of the days of labour required it is concluded that two hundred iugera of land can be worked with two yoke of oxen, the same number of ploughmen, and six common labourers, provided it be free of trees; but the same amount, when it is planted with trees, Saserna says can be satisfactorily cultivated with three additional men. This calculation shows us that one yoke of oxen can meet the requirements of one hundred and twenty-five modii of wheat and the same of legumes, so that the autumn sowing may total two hundred and fifty modii, and even after that seventy-five modii of three-months crops may still be sown. 8 The proof of this is as follows: Seeds that are sown at the fourth ploughing require, for twenty-five iugera, one hundred and fifteen days' labour of the ploughmen; for such a plot of ground, however hard, is broken in fifty days, re-ploughed in twenty-five, plough a third time and then sown in forty days. 9 Other legumes require sixty days, that is, two months. Forty-five days also are allowed for rainy weather and holidays, on which no ploughing is done; likewise thirty days after the sowing is finished, in which there is a period p193of rest. Thus the total amounts to eight months and ten days. Still there are left of the year three months and twenty-five days, which we may spend either in sowing three-months crops or in the hauling of hay, forage, manure, and of other useful things.

13 1 But of the crops that I have mentioned, the same Saserna thinks that land is fertilized and improved by some, and, on the other hand, that it is burned out and wasted by others; that it is fertilized by lupine, beans, vetch, bitter vetch, lentils, the small chickpea, and peas. As to the lupine I have no doubt, nor yet as to vetch when it is sown for fodder, provided, however, that after being cut green it be followed up immediately by the plough, and that the ploughshare cut up and bury, before it dries out, what is left by the sickle; for this takes the place of manure. 2 For if the roots are left to dry out after the fodder is cut, they will draw all the moisture out of the soil and use up the strength of the land; and it is probable that this happens also in the case of beans and other legumes by which the ground appears to be enriched; so that, unless the ground is broken up at once after a crop of them has been taken off, it will be of no benefit to the crops which are to be planted in that spot thereafter. 3 Of those legumes, too, which are harvested by pulling, Tremelius says that the poisons of the chickpea and of flax are most harmful to the soil, the one because it is of a salty nature, the other because of its burning qualities; and Vergil, too, points this out when he says:

A field is burned by crops of flax, is burned by crops of oats,

Is burned by crops of poppies with Lethaean slumber steeped.91

p195 For there is no doubt that a field is impaired by seeding it with these, just as it is by millet and panic. But for all ground that is exhausted by cropping the aforesaid legumes there is one remedy at hand, namely, to come to its aid with manure, and with this sustenance, so to speak, to restore the strength that has been taken from it; 4 and this not only for the sake of seed which is committed to the ploughed furrow, but also for trees and bushes, which thrive in greater measure on this kind of nourishment. Wherefore, if manuring is of the greatest advantage to the farmer, as it appears to be, I believe that it should be discussed with unusual care, inasmuch as this subject, though not overlooked by the ancient authorities,92 has nevertheless been given very slight attention.

14 1 There are, then, mainly, three kinds of manure: that produced by birds, by humankind, and by cattle. Of bird dung that is considered first which is gathered from dove-cotes, and next is that which comes from hens and other fowl, excepting nevertheless marsh birds or swimming fowl, such as ducks and geese; for that is actually harmful. Still we especially commend pigeon dung, because we find that a moderate spreading of it causes the earth to ferment; 2 and second to this is human excrement, if it is mixed with other refuse of the farmstead, for by itself it is naturally rather hot and for that reason it burns the ground. Better suited to young shoots, however, is human urine; and if you let it age for six months and then apply it to vines or fruit trees, there is nothing that makes them bear more abundantly; and not only will this treatment produce a larger crop but also p197it improves the flavour and the bouquet of the wine and the fruit. 3 Also old oil lees, unsalted and mixed with this, can be used to advantage in watering fruit-bearing trees, and especially olives; for even when applied alone the lees are very beneficial. But both of them are used chiefly during the winter and even in spring, before the heat of summer, while the ground is kept open around the vines and the trees.93 4 The dung of cattle holds third place, and in this too there is a difference; for what the ass produces is considered best, because that animal chews very slowly and for that reason digests his food more easily, and he gives in return a manure that is well prepared and ready for the field immediately. After those that we have mentioned comes sheep dung, next is goat dung, and then that of other cattle and draught-animals. The dung of swine is considered the poorest of all. 5 Moreover, the use of ashes and cinders is reasonably beneficial, while cut lupine plants provide the strength of the best manure. And I am not unaware that there is a certain kind of countryside in which neither cattle nor fowl can be kept; but even in such a place it is the mark of a slothful husbandman to be destitute of fertilizer. 6 For he may store up any sort of leaves; he may gather any accumulated matter from bramble patches and from highways and byways; he may cut down his neighbour's fernbrakes without doing him harm, or even as a favour, and mix p199them with the cleanings from his inclosure; he may sink a trench such as, in my first book,94 I directed to be made for the storage of manure, and may heap together in one pile his ashes, sewer filth, straw, and other dirt that is swept out. But it is well to fasten a piece of oak wood in the middle of that same place, for this keeps the harmful serpent from hiding in the manure.95 7 All this of land which is bereft of cattle; for where herds of four-footed animals are kept, there are some places, such as the kitchen and the goat-sheds, which should be cleaned every day, and others, like the ox-stalls and sheepfolds, which are to be cleaned on rainy days. And if the ground is used merely for grain, it is of no importance to keep the different kinds of manure apart; but if the farm is laid out for a nursery, for grainfields, and also for meadows, the manure too must be stored separately, as that of goats and of birds. Then the rest of the refuse should be gathered into the hollowed-out place before mentioned, and it should be constantly saturated with moisture, so that the weed seeds mixed with the chaff and other matter may rot. 8 Then during the summer months the whole dunghill should be thoroughly stirred with rakes, just as if you were loosening the ground, so that it may decay more readily and be fit for the land. Moreover, I consider those farmers lacking in industry who have from each of the smaller animals less than one load96 of manure in thirty days, and likewise ten loads from each of the larger ones; and the same amount from each person, for they can gather and heap together not only the waste matter from their own bodies, but also the dirt p201which the yard and the buildings produce every day. 9 I have also this further direction to give, that all manure is most beneficial to crops when it has been stored in proper season and has rested for a year, for it still has its strength unimpaired and does not produce weeds; moreover, that the older it is, the less beneficial, because it has less strength. For this reason it should be spread on meadows while as fresh as possible, because it produces more grass; and this should be done in the month of February, while the moon is waxing, as this also contributes somewhat to the hay crop. As to the other use of manure, what sort is suitable for the several kinds of crops, we shall speak when we treat of them individually.

15 1 Meanwhile, one who wishes to prepare his fields for grain should distribute manure in piles of moderate size while the moon is waning — in the month of September if he intends to sow in the autumn, at any time of winter if he is to sow in the spring — at the rate of eighteen loads to the iugerum on level ground and twenty-four on hilly land; and, as I said a little earlier,97 he should not spread these heaps until he is ready to sow. 2 Yet if anything keeps him from applying manure at the proper time, a second method is, before hoeing, to scatter over the grainfield the pulverized droppings from the bird houses in the manner of one casting seed; and if there is none of this, to broadcast goat dung by hand then stir the ground thoroughly with hoes. This produces luxuriant crops. And I think that husbandmen should not be unacquainted with the fact that as land grows cold when it is not manured, so it is burned if manured too heavily; and that it is of p203greater advantage to the farmer to do this frequently rather than lavishly. 3 And there is no doubt that wet land requires a greater quantity of it, and dry land less — the one because, being chilled by constant moisture, it is warmed when manure is applied, and the other because, being naturally warm, it is parched by the increased aridity when this is added; for which reason such dressing should be neither deficient nor over-sufficient. 4 If, however, no kind of manure is available, it will be very helpful to follow the practice which I remember my uncle, Marcus Columella, a very learned and painstaking farmer, frequently employed: that is, to heap clay on gravelly ground, and gravel on ground that was clayey and too stiff, and in this way to grow not only luxuriant crops of grain but also very fine vineyards. 5 For this same authority used to say that dung should not be applied to vines, because it spoiled the flavour of the wine; and he thought that a better dressing for making a heavy vintage was humus, either that which accumulates around bramble-thickets, or in fact any earth obtained elsewhere and brought in. But my opinion nowadays is that if the farmer is destitute of everything, at any rate there is no lack of lupine, that very ready aid; and if he will scatter this on lean ground about the middle of September, plough it in, and at the proper time cut it up with the ploughshare or the mattock, it will have the effect of the best manure. 6 The lupine should be cut, moreover, in gravelly ground when it is in the second flower, and in sticky soils when it is in its third.98 In the former case it is turned under while it is tender, p205so that it may rot quickly and be mixed with the thin soil; in the latter case when it has grown stronger, so that it may hold up the more solid clods longer and keep them suspended, to be broken down when heated by the summer sun.

16 1 These things the ploughman will be able to accomplish if he makes provision not only for the varieties of forage crops which I have mentioned, but also for a supply of hay for the better maintenance of his cattle, without which it is difficult to work the land to advantage; and on that account the tending of a meadow is also required of him. To the meadow the ancient Romans assigned the leading rôle in agriculture, 2 and to it also they gave its name (pratum) from the fact that it was immediately "ready" (paratum)99 and did not require a great amount of toil. Marcus Porcius,100 indeed, called to mind also the following considerations: that it is not damaged by storms like the other divisions of the farm, and that, though needing very little outlay, it yields a return year after year — and that not a single return, because it pays no less in pasturage than in hay. 3 We take notice, then, of two kinds of meadows, the dry and the watered.101 In level ground that is rich and fat there is no need of an inflowing stream, and hay which grows naturally on a moist soil is considered superior to that enticed by irrigation; though such watering is necessary if the leanness of the soil demands it. For a meadow can be laid down both in stiff and in loose soil, however poor, if the opportunity for irrigation is offered. 4 And it should not be a plain that slopes inward, nor a hill with a steep pitch — the former that it may not hold too long the water which settles p207there, the latter that it may not immediately pour it off in a torrent. However, if the ground has a gentle slope and is either rich or moist, a meadow may be laid down. 5 But the place most approved is an even surface which, having a slight slope, does not allow rain or inflowing rivulets to stand too long; but when any moisture reaches it, it gradually drains off. And so if there is in any part of it a low and boggy place where water stands, it must be drained with ditches; for an oversupply and an undersupply of water are equally destructive to grass.

17 1 The keeping up of meadows is, moreover, a matter of care rather than of labour. In the first place, we must not allow shrubs or thorn bushes or weeds of rather vigorous growth to remain in them, but before winter and throughout autumn we must root out some of them, such as bramble-bushes, thickets, and rushes, and pull up others like endive and midsummer thorns; and we should not permit swine to feed on them, as they root them up with their snouts and tear up the sod, nor larger animals except when the ground is very dry, because their hoofs, sinking into the wet ground, bruise and cut the grass roots. 2 Then also the more rugged and elevated sections should be enriched with manure in the month of February, while the moon is waxing; and all stones and any harmful objects that may lie in the way of the sickle should be gathered up and carried some distance away, and then, sooner or later, according to the nature of the place, the meadows should be let alone to grow to hay. There are also some meadows covered with the mould of long neglect, and the old-time p209farmers have a way of restoring them by scraping off the moss and broadcasting seed from the hayloft, or by applying manure; neither of which is so effective as the frequent application of ashes. This last treatment kills the moss completely. 3 Still these remedies are rather slow, whereas the most effective measure is to plough the spot all over again. The above are measures that we should take if we have taken over meadows ready-made; but if new ones are to be established or old ones restored — for there are many, as I have said, which run down and become barren through neglect, and it is expedient to plough them up now and then for a grain crop, because such land after long idleness produces luxuriant crops — 4 we shall break up in the summer such land as we have set apart for a meadow, work it continuously throughout the autumn, and seed it with turnips or navews or even beans; then the following year, with grain. In the third year we shall plough thoroughly and dig out by the roots all the stouter growth, brambles and trees, that stand in the way, unless the fruitfulness of the set trees keeps us from so doing. Next we shall sow vetch mixed with hayseed, then break the clods with hoes and level the surface by drawing a brushwood drag over it, and scatter the heaps of earth which the drags usually form at the turnings, so that the mower's scythe may not strike against anything. 5 But it is not advisable to cut this vetch until it is entirely ripe and has shed some seed on the ground beneath it. Then the mowers should cut it down, and the ground should next be irrigated if there is a supply of water, but p211only in case the ground is rather heavy; for in loose soil it is not wise to let in too heavy a flow of water before the ground is packed and bound together by vegetation, because the force of the water washes away the soil and, by exposing the roots, does not allow the grass to gain a foothold. 6 It is for this reason that one should not even turn his herds into meadows that are still soft and settling, but should cut the grass with sickles whenever it shoots up; for, as I have said before, cattle plant their hoofs in the soft ground and, cutting off the grass roots, do not allow them to spread and form a dense growth. In the second year, however, we shall allow the smaller animals to be turned in after the haymaking, if only dry weather and the condition of the ground will permit it. 7 Then in the third year, when the meadow is quite solid and firm, it will be in condition to receive even the larger cattle. But, in general, care must be taken that after the rising of Favonius102 in February, about the middle of the month, the poorer spots and especially the higher places be given a coating of manure in which hayseed is mixed; for the more elevated slope supplies nourishment to the land that lies below when a pouring rain or a hand-conducted rivulet carries the liquid manure along with its own waters to the part below. And it is for this reason that wise farmers, even in ploughed land, manure a hillside more heavily than a valley, because, as I have stated, the rains are forever carrying all the richer matter down to the lowland.

18 1 It is best, moreover, that hay be cut before p213it begins to wither, as a greater quantity of it is harvested and it affords a more agreeable food for cattle. But a middle course should be followed in the curing, that it be gathered neither when very dry nor, on the other hand, while still green — in the one case because it is no better than straw if it has lost all its sap, and in the other because, if it has kept too much of it, it rots in the loft and often, when it becomes heated, it breeds fire and starts a blaze. Sometimes, too, when we have cut our hay a rain surprises us; and if the hay is soaked through it is useless to move it while wet, but better to let the upper side of it dry out in the sun. 2 Only then shall we turn it, and, when it is dry on both sides, we shall bring it together in windrows and then bind it up in bundles. And above all we shall lose no time in putting it under cover; or, if it is not convenient for the hay to be carried to the farmstead or tied into bundles, it will be well at any rate that all of it that had been dried out to the proper extent be built up into cocks and that these be topped off with very sharp peaks. 3 For by this method hay is very conveniently protected from rains; and even if there is no rain, it is still not amiss to build the aforesaid cocks, so that any moisture remaining in the hay may sweat and dry out in the piles. For this reason wise husbandmen, even in the case of hay brought under cover, do not store it away until they have allowed it to heat and cool for a few days in a loose pile. But now after the haymaking comes attention to the grain harvest; and that we may properly gather it, we must first put in readiness the implements with which the crops are harvested.

p215 19 The threshing-floor, too, if it is of earth, to be satisfactorily prepared for threshing should first be scraped, then dug thoroughly, with an admixture of chaff and oil lees which have not been salted, and moistened; for such treatment protects the grain from the ravages of mice and ants. Then, after being smoothed down, it should be packed hard with rammers or with a millstone, and, again strewn with chaff, it should be tramped down and left in this condition to be dried by the sun. 2 There are people, however, who set aside for the threshing a piece of meadow land which is exposed to the west wind, and smooth off a threshing-place by cutting beans and throwing them on it; for while the legumes are being trampled out by the cattle the vegetation also is worn away by their hoofs, and in this way the place becomes bare and makes a suitable threshing-floor for grain.

20 1 But when the grain is ripe it should be quickly harvested before it can be parched by the heat of the summer sun, which is most severe at the rising of the Dog-star;103 for delay is costly — in the first place because it affords plunder for birds and other creatures, and, secondly, because the kernels and even the heads themselves quickly fall as the stalks and beards wither. 2 And if wind-storms or cyclones strike it, the greater part of it is lost on the ground; for which reason there should be no delay, but when the crop is even golden yellow, before the grains have entirely hardened and after they have taken on a reddish colour, the harvest should be gathered, so p217that the grain may grow larger on the floor104 and in the stack rather than in the field. For it is an established fact that, if cut at the proper time, it makes some growth afterwards. 3 There are, furthermore, several methods of reaping: many cut the straw in the middle with cradle-scythes, and these either bill-shaped or toothed; many gather the heads only with forks, and others with combs105 — an operation which is very easy in a thin crop, but very difficult in a thick one.

But if the grain, with a part of the straw, is cut with sickles, it is at once gathered into a pile or carried into the shed,106 and then after repeated drying in the sun, as opportunity offers, it is threshed. 4 If, however, the heads only are cut off they may be carried into the granary and then, drug the winter, be beaten out with flails or trodden out by cattle. But if it is convenient to have the grain threshed on the floor, there is no doubt that this work is better done with horses than with oxen; and if you have few teams you may hitch to them a threshing-sledge and a drag, either of which very easily breaks up the straw. It is better, however, that the heads themselves be beaten with flails and winnowed with fans. 5 But when the grain is mixed with the chaff it is cleaned by the wind. The west wind is considered excellent for this purpose, as it blows generally and evenly in the summer months; but to wait for it is the mark of a p219dilatory farmer, for often, while we are waiting, a raging storm surprises us. Therefore the threshed grain should be heaped on the threshing-floor in such a way that it can be winnowed with any gentle wind. But if the air is quiet in every quarter for many days, the grain should be cleaned with winnowing-fans, for fear that after excessive stillness of the winds a mighty storm may bring to naught the toil of an entire year. 6 Then the pure grain, if it is being laid away for a term of years, should be threshed again, for the better it is scoured the less it is preyed upon by weevils; but if it is intended for immediate use, there is no need of a second cleaning and it is sufficient that it be cooled in the shade and so carried to the granary. The handling of legumes, too, differs not at all from that of other grains, for they also are either consumed at once or stored away. And this is the crowning reward of the husbandman — reaping the harvest of the seed that he has entrusted to the earth.

21 1 But inasmuch as our ancestors saw fit to render an account of their leisure hours as well as of their times of non-leisure,107 I also believe that farmers should be advised of what they should do on holidays and what they should leave undone. For here are things which, as the poet says,

Divine and human laws let be performed on festive days:

No sacred law forbids to fetch the irrigating rills,

A hedge along the field to stretch, for birds a snare to lay,

And briars to burn, and bleating flocks to dip in wholesome stream.108

p221 2 And yet the pontiffs assert that a grain-field should not be fenced on holidays; they also forbid the washing of sheep for the good of the fleece, except as a curative measure. Vergil is instructing us as to the lawfulness of washing the flock in a river on holidays, and for that reason he adds "to dip in wholesome stream" — that is, in a healing stream; for there are ailments because of which it is expedient to bathe the cattle.109 3 Furthermore, the religious observances of our forefathers permit these tasks also on holidays:110 the braying of spelt; the cutting of torches; the dipping of candles; the tilling of a leased vineyard; the clearing out and cleaning of fish-ponds, cisterns, and old ditches; the sickling111 of meadows; the spreading of manure; the storing of hay in the loft; the gathering of the fruits of a leased olive-grove; the spreading of apples, pears and figs to dry; the making of cheese; the carrying of trees for planting, either on our own shoulders or with a pack mule. But it is not permitted to haul them with a yoked animal, nor to plant them after they are transported, nor to open the ground, nor to thin a tree;112 4 and not to assist in the sowing either unless you have first sacrificed a puppy,b nor to cut hay or bind it or haul it; and it is not permissible either by the ordinances of the priests for the vintage to be gathered on feast days, nor to shear sheep, unless you have sacrificed a puppy. It is also lawful to make boiled must and to boil wine. To gather grapes and olives for preserving is likewise lawful. It is not lawful to clothe sheep with skins.113 p223Anything that you may do in your garden for the good of your vegetables is lawful. It is not lawful to bury a dead person on public feast days. 5 Marcus Porcius Cato says that there are no holidays for mules, horses, and asses;114 the same authority permits the yoking of oxen for the purpose of hauling wood and grain. We ourselves have read in the books of the pontiffs that only on the holidays called Denicale115 is it unlawful to have mules in harness, but on other holidays it is lawful.

I am well aware that at this point, after my survey of the observances of feast days, some people will miss the customs observed by the ancients in the matter of purificatory ceremonies and other offerings which are made for the good of the crops.116 6 And I am not declining the task of offering this instruction, but am postponing it for that book117 which I intend to put together after I have written precepts on the whole science of agriculture. Meanwhile I shall bring the present discussion to an end, having in mind to tell in the next book what ancient authorities have handed down on the subject of vineyards and of tree-plantations, and what I myself have since discovered.


The Editor's Notes:

1 IPraef. 1.

2 Lundström restores the reading of the best manuscripts, preferred also by Pontedera as cessatorum <temporum>.

3 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.6.2.

4 Cf. Palladius, I.5.5.

5 Vergil, Georg. II.204.

6 Cf. Cato, 9.

7 Homer, Od. XII.342.

8 The text here translated accepts the emendation of Ragnar Sobel ("En Columellakonjektur," Apophoreta Gotoburgensia Vilelmo Lundström Oblata [Gothenburg, 1936], pp169‑170), reversing the illogical position of covered and open ditches as found in most of the manuscripts and in (p115)Lundström's text. Earlier editors read ut in patentes ora hiantia caecarum competant, "that the gaping mouths of the blind ditches may connect with those that are open." On the subject of ditching, cf. Cato, 43.1, 155; and especially Pliny, N. H. XVIII.47, and Palladius, VI.3.

9 Georg. II.250. Palladius (I.5.3) also considers this a test of fat soil; but Pliny (XVII.27) remarks that stickiness is not a true test of fat soil, for potter's clay has the same quality.

10 Such a soil test is mentioned also by Vergil (Georg. II.226‑237) and Palladius (loc. cit.). Pliny (loc. cit.) rejects the test as inconclusive.

11 Cf. IPraef. 24.

12 On testing by tasting cf. De Arb. 3.6; Vergil, Georg. II.238‑247; Palladius, loc. cit.

13 For directions as to the ancient methods of locating water, digging wells, and piping, see Vitruvius, De Arch. VIII, Chaps.1 and 5‑6, and Palladius, IX.8‑12.

14 Cf. Palladius, I.6.11.

15 Cf. Palladius, II.3.1. Pliny, though apparently in agreement with Columella (N. H. XVIII.177), speaks of yoking by the head as customary in the Alps (N. H. VIII.179).

16 The arbustum was a plantation of trees to which vines were trained.

17 Cf. Varro, L. L. V.135, dens, quod eo mordetur terra.

Thayer's Note: For a good overview of the ancient plow and its terminology, see the article Aratrum in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

18 I.e. a "skip" or "balk." On the matter of ploughs (p125)and ploughing, particularly with reference to this chapter and the three following, see Fairfax Harrison, "The Crooked Plow," Classical Journal XI.323‑332.

19 I.e. the part of the neck embraced by the bow of the yoke.

20 Lit., the back (of the neck), pressed by the bar of the yoke.

21 An affliction called coriago, "hidebound." Cf. VI.13.2‑3, and Vegetius, Vet. IV.12.1, for causes and treatment.

22 Vervactum is defined by Varro (R. R. I.44.2) as land that sometimes rests between crops, while land that is worked every year is called restibilis. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.76, quod vere semel aratum est, a temporis argumento vervactum vocatur.

23 Cf. Palladius, II.3.2.

24 I.e. after April 13th. Cf. Palladius, V (April).2.4.

25 June 23rd or 24th.

26 September 1st.

27 Cf. Cato, 5.6. Pliny (N. H. XVII.34‑35), commenting on Cato's precept, compares carious ground with the rottenness of wood, as being dry, spongy, full of holes, weak, unfruitful, and not fit for anything.

28 Cf. Palladius, II.3.2‑3.

29 About three-fifths of an acre.

30 Varro says (R. R. I.29.3) that the ridges between the furrows are called porcae because that soil produces (porricit) the grain.

31 Sept. 1st.

32 Sept. 13th.

33modius = about 1 peck.

34 One cart-load contained eighty modii; cf. XI.2.86 and Palladius, X.1.2.

35 For the wheats, see Note on page 461.

Thayer's Note: p461 is the end of the Volume, and the note, out of place there and not referred to elsewhere, appears merely to have been inserted there thru an oversight. At any rate, here it is:

Triticum is wheat in general; often common wheat and two other varieties; siligo is usually common wheat, but sometimes club-wheat; far and adoreum are both emmer-wheat (two-grained wheat).

36 Because of its whiteness; cf. II.9.13, and Pliny, N. H. XVIII.86.

37 So called from Clusium, a town of Etruria, now Chiusi.

38 The derivation of the word is not known.

39 Or alicastrum, defined by Isidore (Orig. XVII.3.9) as similar to the Greek alica.

40 Greek πτισάνη, hulled and crushed barley.

41 As against fodder plants for animals; cf. II.10.24.

42 The translation follows the MSS. and earliest editions, against seramus "sow" and iaciamus "cast" of more recent editors. Columella appears to be speaking of the harvest from the autumn sowing (cf. 9.6, below; and Palladius, I.34.6), in which sowing the order would be reversed.

43 I.e. the Pleiades, seven daughters of Atlas, in the constellation Taurus.

44 Vergil, Georg. I.219‑221.

45 Sept. 23rd under the Julian reform of 46 B.C.; but cf. circa VIII Kal. Oct. (= Sept. 24) in IX.14.11.

46 Oct. 24th; but Nov. 11th according to Pliny, N. H. XVIII.225. Varro (R. R. I.28.2) reckons fifty-seven days between the setting of the Pleiades and the winter solstice.

47 Columella puts the shortest day (bruma) of the year circa VIII Kal. Ian. (= Dec. 25; cf. IX.14.12), and, citing Hipparchus, XVI Kal. Ian. (= Dec. 17; cf. XI.2.94). But Columella's calendar is often confused. Some explanation may be found in his statement in IX.14.12, when treating of bees, that he follows the calendars of Eudoxus and Meton and the ancient astronomers as adapted to the public sacrifices and better known to husbandmen than the more exact reckonings of Hipparchus.

48 Vergil, Georg. I.214.

49 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.179.

50 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.203.

51 I.e. at the rate of about one and two-thirds bushels an acre.

52 Or, perhaps better, trimestrem ("three-months sowing"). Cf. Palladius, I.6.16; Pliny, N. H. XVIII.69.

53 Cf. II.6.3.

54 Compare with this paragraph Palladius, X.3, and especially sec. 2, Si modium, quo seretur, hyaenae pelle vestieris, et ibi aliquamdiu quod serendum est, esse patiaris, sata bene provenire feruntur.

55 The house-leek.

56 Cf. Varro, R. R. I.2.25.

57 Georg. I.197‑200.

58 I.e. "six-rowed" barley.

59 "horse-barley," from cantherius, a gelding (Varro, R. R. II.7.15).

60 "two-rowed."

61 The Sarmatians, says Pliny (N. H. XVIII.100), lived chiefly on millet porridge, made with mare's milk or with blood drawn from the thigh of a horse; while the Ethiopians knew of no other grains than millet and barley. Panic was used by (p155)the people of Gaul and Aquitania, by the people of Italy beyond the Po, and was held in highest esteem by the nations of Pontus (ibid. 101).

62 Varro (R. R. I.23.3), for example, speaks of the use of the field bean for green manuring before the pods have formed.

63 A sowing made at about the time of the festival of the Seven Hills (Septimontium), celebrated in December before the (p161)solstice; cf. Varro, L. L. VI.34, and Palladius, XIII (Dec. 1). The festival celebrated not the union of the Seven Hills of complete Rome, but a much earlier union of the three spurs of the Palatine, the three spurs of the Esquiline, and the lower ground of the Subura.

Thayer's Note: As usual, this is just one of an entire forest of opinions; for a more detailed and balanced view, see the article Septimontium in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

64 Vergil, Georg. I.195‑196.

65 Palladius (VII.3.2) gives similar directions for the pulling beans luna minuente, when the moon is waning. In connection (p163)with this and much of the moon lore that follows, see Eugene Tavenner, "The Roman Farmer and the Moon," Trans. Am. Phil. Assn. XLIX.67‑82.

66 Identified by Columella (VI.17.7; cf. XII.7.4, 59.4) with laserpitium, laserwort. Pliny (N. H. XIX.38‑46) gives a long account of the history and uses of the plant.

67 Dec. 7th.

68 Perhaps to be identified with the gingili- or gingelly-plant.

69 Oct. 15th.

70 Congesticia, earth brought together from different places; cf. II.15.4‑5; Palladius X.7; Theophrastus, De Caus. Plant. III.25.

71 1 sextarius = about 1 pint.

72 Cf. Palladius II (Jan.), 5.

73 Pliny says (N. H. XVIII.124) that it is so called because of its resemblance to the head of a ram (aries).

74 I.e. Feb. 24th or 25th.

75 Cf. Palladius, VIII.2.2. Pliny remarks that the Greeks (N. H. XVIII.129) and medical men (N. H. XIX.75) distinguished between "male" (round) and "female" (elongated) turnips or navews, the original sex and change of nature being determinable by thickness of sowing and quality of soil.

76 Columella speaks also (XI.3.16 and 59) of a spring sowing, in February, for a summer crop, though the sowing in August was to be preferred.

77 Medic clover or lucern (alfalfa) is said to have come to Italy from Greece, where it was introduced from Media at the (p173)time of the Persian Wars with King Darius (Pliny, N. H. XVIII.144).

78 The cultivation of cytisus is discussed in V.12 and De Arb. 28; it is tree-medick.

79cyathus = about one-twelfth of a pint.

80 Pliny (loc. cit.) gives it more than thirty years of life.

81 Farrago is defined by Varro (R. R. I.31.5) as a mixture of barley, vetch, and legumes for green feed; cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.142.

82 The texts of Pliny (N. H. XVIII.140) read silicia, with variants silica and sicilia. Pliny's siliqua is carob.

83 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.139.

84 Andalusia.

85 I.e. set for coarse grinding.

86 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVIII.186.

87 I.e., in modern botanical usage, dicotyledonous.

88 The amount of seed required for sowing one iugerum; cf. II.9.1.

89 Semen adoreum, in combination or singly; cf. II.6.1, II.9.1.

90 Siliqua; cf. II.10.33.

91 Georg. I.77‑78.

92 Cf. Cato, 36; Varro, R. R. I.38. Of later authorities cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.50‑57, and Palladius, I.33.

93 An operation formerly described by the convenient word "ablaqueation." Cf. Palladius, II.1, Ianuario mense locis temperatis ablaqueandae sunt vites, quod Itali excodicare apellant,º id est circa vitis codicem dolabra terram diligenter aperire, et purgatis omnibus velut lacus efficere, ut solis teporibus et imbribus provocentur; Isidore, Orig. XVII.5.31.

94 I.6.21‑22.

95 So Varro, R. R. I.38.3; Pliny, N. H. XVII.57.

96 Columella, XI.2.86, speaks of one load (vehis) of manure as containing 80 modii (= about 20 bushels).

97 Chap. 5 of this book.

98 Pliny, in describing the lupine, says (N. H. XVIII.133) that it blooms three times.

99 So also Varro, R. R. I.7.10; Pliny, N. H. XVIII.29; Isidore, Orig. XV.13.º

100 Cato. But the passage is lost.

101 Cato, 8.1.

102 Favonius, also called Zephyrus, was the gentle west wind, a harbinger of spring. Cf. VIII.11.7, cum Favonii spirare coeperunt, id est ab Idibus Februariis ante Martium mensem.

103 XI.2.53, Septimo Kal. Augustas (= July 26) Canicula apparet.

104 Cf. Columella on olives (XII.52.18): Plerique agricolae crediderunt, si sub tecto baca deponatur, oleum in tabulato grandescere; quod tam falsum est quam in area frumenta crescere.

105 Commentators are uncertain as to the nature and use of these implements. Festus (111L) defines mergae as forks for lifting grain; so called because in the hands of the reaper they plunge into the grain just as diving birds (mergi) dive (p217)(mergunt) in pursuit of food. Others conjecture a sharp V‑shaped contrivance which the user pushed before him in such a way as to catch and tear off the heads of the grain. The "comb" (pecten) is regarded by some as a rake; by others as an iron implement with comb-like teeth, used to clip off the heads of the standing grain. Cf. Varro, R. R. I.50; Pliny, N. H. XVIII.296‑297.

106 Cf. I.6.24, with note.

107 Cicero remarks (Pro Plancio, 27) that this was a dictum of Cato in his Origines.

108 Vergil, Georg. I.268‑272.

109 The ancient authorities frequently speak, for example, of dipping sheep as a preventive of scab.

110 Cf. Cato, 2.4.

111 Sicilire is defined by Varro (R. R. I.49.2) as cutting with a sickle the tufts of grass which the mowers have passed over.

112 Not the regular pruning (putatio), but the removal of superfluous foliage to admit the light (conlucare, sublucare).

113 Certain breeds of fine-wooled sheep were jacketed with skins to keep their fleeces free from dirt, etc.; Varro, R. R. II.2.18; Pliny, N. H. VIII.47. Columella devotes a chapter (VII.4) to the care of these delicate animals.

114 But Columella omits Cato's exception, "unless they fall on family festivals"; cf. Cato, 138, Mulis, equis, asinis feriae nullae, nisi si in familia sunt.

115 Holidays celebrated by the family in honour of its deceased members; cf. Paul. Fest. 61L, Denicales feriae colebantur, cum hominis mortui causa familia purgabatur. Graeci enim νέκυν mortuum dicunt; and Fest. 282L, (p223)Privatae feriae vocantur sacrorum propriorum, velut dies natales, operationis, denecales. See also Cicero, De Leg. 2.55, and Cincius ap. Gellius XVI.4.4.

116 Cf. Cato 141; Vergil, Georg. I.338 f.

117 This proposed volume, if ever written, has been lost.


Thayer's Notes:

a A charming translation, and probably more technically accurate as well, of the passages dealing with plowing, from this point thru II.15.1, may be found in The Crooked Plow, by Fairfax Harrison (Classical Journal, XI, 6:328‑331).

b The Latin catulus, cognate with our English word cat, means the cub or pup of almost any animal; but usually does in fact mean a young dog. At any rate, the Romans quite certainly sacrificed dogs from time to time: a puppy at the Robigalia, a bitch to a goddess called Geneta Mana according to Plutarch, and dogs or puppies at the Lupercalia; and the Eugubine Tables appear to record the same of the ancient Umbrians: the puppy entrails were made into shish-kebab.


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