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Book II

This webpage reproduces a Book of
De Re Rustica


published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1934

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


Marcus Terentius Varro
on Agriculture

Book III

p423 1 1   [link to original Latin text] Though there are traditionally two ways in which men live — one in the country, the other in the city — there is clearly no doubt, Pinnius, that these differ not merely in the matter of place but also in the time at which each had its beginning. Country life is much more ancient — I mean the time when people lived on the land and had no cities. 2 For tradition has it that the oldest of all cities is a Greek one, Thebes in Boeotia, founded by King Ogygus; while the oldest on Roman territory is Rome, founded by King Romulus. For we may now say, with regard to this, with more accuracy than when Ennius wrote:

Seven hundred years are there, a little more or less,

Since glorious Rome was founded, with augury august."

3 Thebes, however, which is said to have been founded before the deluge which takes its name from Ogygus, is some 2,100 years old. If, now, you compare this span of time with that early day when fields were first tilled, and men lived in huts and dugouts, and did not know what a wall or a gate was, farmers antedate city people by an enormous number of years. 4 And no marvel, since it was divine nature which gave us the country, and man's skill that built the cities; since all arts are said to have been discovered in Greece within a thousand years, while there never was a time when there were p425not fields on earth that could be tilled. And not only is the tilling of the fields more ancient — it is more noble. It was therefore not without reason that our ancestors tried to entice their citizens back from city to the country; for in time of peace they were fed by the country Romans, and in time of war aided by them. 5 It was also not without reason that they called the same earth "mother" and "Ceres,"1 and thought that those who tilled her lived a pious and useful life, and that they were the only survivors of the stock of King Saturnus.2 And it is in accordance with this that the sacred rites in honour of Ceres are beyond all others called "Initiations."3 6 The name of Thebes, too, no less clearly shows that the country is more ancient, in that the name given it comes from a type of land, and not from the name of the founder. For the old language, and the Aeolians4 of Boeotia in Greece as well, use the word teba for hill, leaving out the aspirate; and among the Sabines, a country which was settled by the Pelasgians from Greece, up to this day they use the same word; there is a trace of it in the Sabine country on the Via Salaria, not far from Reate, where a slope of a mile in length is called tebae.5 7 At first, because of their poverty, people practised agriculture, as a rule, without distinction, the descendants of the shepherds both planting and grazing on the same land; later, as this flocks grew, they made a division, with the result that some were called p427farmers, and others herdsmen. 8 This matter of herding has a twofold division (though no writer has made the distinction clearly), as the feeding around the steading is one thing, and that on the land is another. The latter is well known and highly esteemed, being also called pecuaria, and wealthy men frequently have ranches devoted to it, which they have either leased or bought; while the other, that of the steading, as it seems insignificant, has, by some writers, been brought under the head of agriculture, though it is a matter of feeding; and the subject as a whole has not, so far as I know, been treated as a separate topic by anyone. 9 Hence, as I suggested that there are three divisions of rural economy which are instituted for gainful ends — one of agriculture, a second of animal husbandry, and a third of the husbandry of the steading — I fixed on three books, of which I have written two: the first to my wife Fundania, on agriculture, and the second to Turranius Niger, on animal husbandry. The third book, that on the husbandry of the steading, which remains, I am herewith sending to you, thinking that in view of our nearness and our affection it is to you particularly that I should dedicate it. 10 For just as you had a villa noteworthy for its frescoing, inlaid work, and handsome mosaic floors, but thought it was not fine enough until its walls were adorned also by your writings, so I, that it might be farther adorned with fruit, so far as I could make it so, am sending this to you, recalling as I do the conversations which we held on the subject of the complete villa. And in discussing that subject we shall begin as follows.

2 1   [link to original Latin text] During the election of aediles, Quintus Axius, p429the senator, a member of my tribe, and I, after casting our ballots, wished, though the sun was hot, to be on hand to escort the candidate whom we were supporting when he returned home. Axius remarked to me: "While the votes are being sorted, shall we enjoy the shade of the Villa Publica,6 instead of building us one out of the half-plank of our own candidate?"7 "Well," I replied, "I think that the proverb is correct, 'bad advice is worst for the adviser,'8 and also that good advice should be considered good both for the adviser and the advised. 2 So we go our way and come to the Villa. There we find Appius Claudius, the augur,9 sitting on a bench so that he might be on hand for consultation, if need should arise. There were sitting at his left Cornelius Merula ('Blackbird'), member of a consular family, and Fircellius Pavo ('Peacock'), of Reate; and on his right Minucius Pica ('Magpie') and Marcus Petronius Passer ('Sparrow'). When we came up to him, Axius said to Appius, with a smile: "Will you let us come into your aviary, where you are sitting among the birds?" 3 "With pleasure," he replied, "and especially you; I still 'bring up' those hospitable birds which you set before me a few days ago in your villa at Reate, when I was on my way to lake Velinus in the matter of the dispute between the people of Interamna and those of Reate.10 But," p431he added, "isn't this villa, which our ancestors built, simpler and better than that elaborate villa11 of yours at Reate? 4 Do you see anywhere here citrus wood or gold, or vermilion or azure, or any coloured12 or mosaic work? At your place everything is just the opposite. Also, while this villa is common property of the whole population, that one belongs to you alone; this one is for citizens and other people to come to from the Campus, and that one is for mares and asses; and furthermore, this one is serviceable for the transaction of public business — for the cohorts to assemble when summoned by the consul for a levy, for the inspection of arms, for the censors to convoke the people for the census."13 5 "Do you really mean, replied Axius, "that this villa of yours on the edge of the Campus Martius is merely serviceable, and isn't more lavish in luxuries than all the villas owned by everybody in the whole of Reate? Why, your villa is plastered with paintings, not to speak of statues; while mine, though there is no trace of Lysippus or Antiphilus,14 has many a trace of the hoer and the shepherd. Further, while that villa is not without its large farm, and one which has been kept clean by tillage, this one of yours has never a field or ox or mare. 6 In short, what has your villa that is like that villa which your grandfather and great-grandfather had? For it has never, as that one did, seen a cured hay harvest in the loft, or a vintage in the cellar, or a grain-harvest in the bins. For the fact that a building is outside the city no more makes it a villa than the same fact makes villas p433of the houses of those who live outside the Porta Flumentana15 or in the Aemiliana."16

7 To which Appius replied, with a smile: "As I don't know what a villa is, I should like you to enlighten me, so that I shall not go wrong from lack of foresight; since I want to buy a villa from Marcus Seius near Ostia. For if buildings are not villas unless they contain the ass which you showed me at your place, for which you paid 40,000 sesterces, I'm afraid I shall be buying a 'Seian' house17 instead of a seaside villa. 8 My friend here, Lucius Merula, made me eager to own this house18 when he told me, after spending several days with Seius, that he had never been entertained in a villa which he liked more; and this in spite of the fact that he saw there no picture or statue of bronze or marble, nor, on the other hand, apparatus for pressing wine, jars for olive oil, or mills." 9 Axius turned to Merula and asked: "How can that be a villa, if it has neither the furnishings of the city nor the appurtenances of the country?" "Why," he replied, "you don't think that place of yours on the bend of the Velinus, which never a painter or fresco-worker has seen, is less a villa than the one in the Rosea which is adorned with all the art of the stucco-worker, and of which you and your ass are joint owners?" 10 When Axius had indicated by a nod that a building which was for farm use only was as much a villa as one that served both purposes, that of farm-house and city residence, and asked what inference he drew from that admission. "Why," he replied, "if your place in the Rosea is to be commended for its pasturage, and is rightly p435called a villa because cattle are fed and stabled there, for a like reason that also should have the name in which a large revenue is derived from pasturing.19 11 For if you get a revenue from flocks, what does it matter whether they are flocks of sheep or of birds? Why, is the revenue sweeter on your place from oxen which give birth to bees20 than it is from the bees which are busy at their task in the hives of Seius's villa? And do you get more from the butcher for boars born on your place there than Seius does from the market-man for the wild boars from his place?" 12 "Well," replied Axius, "what is there to prevent me from keeping these at my villa at Reate? You don't think that honey is Sicilian if it is produced on Seius's place, and Corsican21 if it is produced at Reate? And that if mast which has to be bought feeds a boar on his place it makes him fat, while that which is had for nothing on my place makes him thin?" Whereupon Appius remarked: "Merula did not say that you could not have husbandry like Seius's on your place; but I have, with my own eyes, seen that you have not. 13 For there are two kinds of pasturing: one in the fields, which includes cattle-raising, and the other around the farmstead, which includes chickens, pigeons, bees, and the like, which usually feed in the steading; the Carthaginian Mago, Cassius Dionysius, and other writers have left in their books remarks on them, but scattered and unsystematic. These Seius seems to have read, and as a result he gets more revenue from such pasturing out of one villa than others receive from a whole farm." 14 "You are quite right," said Merula; " I have seen there large flocks of geese, chickens, pigeons, cranes, and peafowl, not to speak p437of numbers of dormice, fish, boars, and other game. His book-keeper, a freedman who waited on Varro and used to entertain me when his patron was away from home, told me that he received, because of such husbandry, more than 50,000 sesterces from the villa every year." When Axius expressed his surprise, I remarked to him: "Doubtless you know my maternal aunt's place in the Sabine country, at the twenty-fourth milestone from Rome on the Via Salaria?"22 15 "Of course," he replied; "it is my custom to break the journey there at noon in summer, when I am on my way to Reate from the city, and to camp there at night in winter when I am on my way from there to town." "Well, from the aviary alone which is in that villa, I happen to know that there were sold 5,000 fieldfares, for three denarii apiece, so that that department of the villa in that year brought in sixty thousand sesterces23 — twice as much as your farm of 200 iugera at Reate brings in." "What? Sixty?" exclaimed Axius, "Sixty? Sixty? You are joking!" 16 "Sixty," I repeated. "But to reach such a haul as that you will need a public banquet or somebody's triumph, such as that of Metellus Scipio at that time, or the club dinners which are now so countless that they make the price of provisions go soaring. If you can't look for this sum in all other years, your aviary, I hope, will not go bankrupt on you; and if fashions continue as they now are, it will happen only rarely that you miss your reckoning. For how rarely is there a year in which you do not see a banquet or a triumph, or when the clubs do not feast?" "Why," said he, "in this time of luxury it may fairly be said that there is a banquet every day within the gates of Rome. 17 Was it not Lucius Abuccius, who is, as p439you know, an unusually learned man (his writings are quite in the manner of Lucilius), who used to remark likewise that his estate near Alba was always beaten in feeding by his steading? for his land brought in less than 10,000, and his steading more than 20,000 sesterces. He also claimed that if he had got a villa near the sea, where he wanted one, he would take in more than 100,000 from the villa. Come, did not Marcus Cato, when he took over the guardianship of Lucullus24 recently, sell the fish from his ponds for 40,000 sesterces?" 18 "My dear Merula," said Axius, "take me, I beg, as your pupil in this villa-feeding." "Certainly," he replied; "I will begin as soon as you promise the minerval."25 "That is satisfactory to me; you may have it to‑day, or I'll pay it time and again from that feeding." "Humph," replied Appius, "the first time some geese or peacocks out of your flock die!" "Well," retorted Axius, "what does it matter if you eat fowls or fish that have died,26 seeing that you never eat them unless they are dead? But, I pray you," said he, "lead me into the way of the science of villa-husbandry, and set forth its scope and method."

3 1   [link to original Latin text] Merula began without hesitation: "In the first place, the owner ought to have so clear an idea of those creatures which can be reared or fed in the villa and around it that they may afford him both profit and pleasure. There are three divisions of this science: the aviary, the hare-warren, and the fish-pond. Under the head of aviary I include enclosures for all fowls which are usually reared within the walls of the villa. 2 Under the head of hare-warrens I wish you to understand, not those which our forefathers called by that name — p441places where there are only hares — but all enclosures which are attached to the villa and keep animals enclosed for feeding. Similarly, by the term fish-pond I mean ponds which keep fish enclosed near the villa, either in fresh or salt water. 3 Each of these divisions may be subdivided into at least two: thus, under the first head, those which are not content with the land only, but need water also, as geese, teal, and ducks. In the same way the second head — that of game — contains its two diverse classes, one under which come the boar, the roe, and the hare, and the second, those which are also outside the villa, such as bees, snails, and dormice. 4 There are likewise two divisions of the third class, the aquatic, inasmuch as fish are kept sometimes in fresh water, sometimes in sea-water. For the three classes formed of these six subdivisions must be secured three classes of craftsmen — fowlers, hunters, fishers — or else you must purchase from these those creatures which you are to preserve by the activity of your own servants during the period of gestation and up to the time of birth, and when they are born to rear and fatten so that they may reach the market.27 And there are, moreover, certain other creatures which are to be brought into the villa without the use of net by fowler or hunter or fisher, such as dormice, snails, and chickens. 5 The rearing of the last named, chickens, was the first to be attempted within the villa; for not only did Roman soothsayers raise chickens first for their auspices,28 but also the heads of families in the country. Next came the animals which are kept in an enclosure near the villa for hunting, and hard p443by it the bee-hives; for from the first bees took advantage of the roof of the villa under the eaves. Thirdly there began to be built fresh-water ponds, to which were carried fish which had been caught from the streams. 6 Each of these three classes has two stages: the earlier, which the frugality of the ancients observed, and the later, which modern luxury has now added. For instance, first came the ancient stage of our ancestors, in which there were simply two aviaries: the barn-yard on the ground in which the hens fed — and their returns were eggs and chickens — and the other above ground, in which were the pigeons, either in cotes or on the roof of the villa. 7 On the other hand, in these days, the aviaries have changed their name and have become ornithones;29 and those which the dainty palate of the owner has constructed have larger buildings for the sheltering of fieldfares and peafowl than whole villas used to have in those days. 8 So too in the second division, the warren, your father, Axius, never saw any better game from his hunting than a paltry hare. For in his day there was no great preserve, whereas nowadays people enclose many acres within walls, so as to keep numbers of wild boars and roes. When you bought your place near Tusculum from Marcus Piso," he added, turning to me, "were there not many wild boars in the 'hare-warren?' 9 In the third division, who had a fish-pond, except a fresh-water pond, or kept any fish in it except squali or mugiles?30 On the other hand what young fop31 in these days p445will not tell you that he would as soon have his pond full of frogs as of such fish as these? You remember that Philippus once, when he had turned aside to visit his friend Ummidius at Casinum, was served with a fine pike from your river; he tasted it, spat it out, and exclaimed: 'I'll be hanged if I didn't think it was fish!' 10 So our generation, with the same extravagance with which it extended the boundaries of its warrens, has thrust its fish-ponds to the sea, and has brought into them whole schools of deep-sea fish.32 Was it not from these that Sergius Orata ('Goldfish') and Licinius Murena ('Lamprey') got their names? And, indeed, who does not know, on account of their fame, the fish-ponds of Philippus, Hortensius, and the Luculli? So, then, where do you wish me to begin, Axius?"

4 1   [link to original Latin text] "Personally," he replied, "if I may use a military figure, I should like you to begin post principia,33 that is, with the present rather than the former times, as larger returns are had from peafowl than from chickens. And what is more, I will make no secret of the fact that I want to hear first about the ornithon, because those fieldfares have made the word mean 'gain'; for those sixty thousand sesterces of Fircellia have set me on fire with greed."34

2 "There are," resumed Merula, "two kinds of ornithon; one merely for pleasure, such as our friend Varro has built near Casinum, which has found many admirers, and the other for profit. Of the latter class are the enclosures which those who supply fowl for the market keep, some in the city, others in the country; especially the leased enclosures in the Sabine district, as, because of the nature of the country, large flocks of fieldfares are found there. p4473 Lucullus claimed that the aviary which he built on his place near Tusculum, formed by a combination of these two, constituted a third class. Under the same roof he had an aviary and a dining-room, where he could dine luxuriously, and see some birds lying cooked on the dish35 and others fluttering around the windows of their prison. But they found it unserviceable; for in it the birds fluttering around the windows do not give pleasure to the eyes to the same extent that the disagreeable odour which fills the nostrils gives offence.

5 1   [link to original Latin text] "I shall, however, as I suppose you prefer, Axius, discuss the aviary which is built for profit — the place from which fat fieldfares are taken, and not the place where they are taken. Well, there is built a large domed building, or a peristyle covered with tiles or netting, in which several thousand fieldfares and blackbirds can be enclosed; 2 though some breeders add besides other birds which, when fattened, bring a high price, such as ortolans and quails. Into this building water should be conducted through a pipe and allowed to spread preferably through narrow channels which can easily be cleaned (for if the water spreads there in pools, it more easily becomes foul and is not good for drinking), and the superfluous drip-water from these should run out through a pipe, so that the birds may not be troubled by mud.36 3 It should have a low, narrow door, and preferably of the kind which they call coclia,37 such as usually are seen in the pit where bullfights are held. The windows should be few, and so arranged that trees and birds outside cannot be seen; for the sight of these, and p449the longing for them, makes the imprisoned birds grow thin. It should have only enough openings for light to enable the birds to see where to perch, and where the food and water is. It should be faced around the doors and windows with smooth plaster, so that no mice or other vermin can enter anywhere. 4 Around the walls of this building on the inside there should be a number of poles for the birds to perch on; and, in addition, rods sloping from ground to wall, with transverse rods fastened to them in steps at moderate intervals, after the fashion of the balustrades of the theatre or the arena.38 At the bottom, on the ground, there should be water for them to drink, and here should be placed cakes for their food. These are usually made by kneading a mixture of figs and spelt. Twenty days before the breeder desires to remove fieldfares, he feeds them more liberally, giving larger quantities and beginning to feed them on spelt ground finer. In this building there should be recesses, equipped with several shelves, as a supplement to the perches; 5 it is here, facing the perches, that the caretaker usually keeps on hand the birds which have died in the place, so as to render account to his master. When it become necessary to remove from this aviary birds which are fit for market, they should be taken out and put into a smaller aviary, called the seclusorium (coop), which is connected by a door with the larger aviary and better lighted. When he has the number which he desires to take shut up here, he kills them all. 6 The reason for doing this privately in a separate room is to prevent the others, if they should see it, from moping and dying at a time which would be inopportune for the seller. Fieldfares do not rear their young here and there as do the other migratory p451birds, storks in the field, swallows under the roof [and though their name (turdi) is masculine, there are in fact females too; nor is the case otherwise as regards blackbirds (merulae) — though they have a feminine name, there are also males].39 7 Again, birds being partly migratory, as swallows and cranes, and partly indigenous, as hens and doves, fieldfares belong to the former class, the migratory, and fly yearly across the sea into Italy about the time of the autumnal equinox, and back again whence they came about the spring equinox, as do turtle-doves and quail at another season in vast numbers. The proof of this is seen in the near-by islands of Pontiae, Palmaria, and Pandateria; for when they arrive in these at the first migration, they remain there for a few days to rest, and do the same when they leave Italy for their return across the sea.

8 "If you put 5,000 birds into this aviary," said Appius to Axius, "and there comes a banquet and a triumph, you may at once put at high interest that 60,000 sesterces which you want." Then, turning to me, he said: "Do you now describe that other kind of aviary which I am told you built for your amusement near Casinum, in the construction of which you are reputed to have far surpassed not only the archetype left by its inventor, our friend Marcus Laenius Strabo, our host at Brundisium, who was the first to keep birds penned up in a recess in his peristyle, feeding them through a net covering, but also Lucullus' huge buildings on his place at Tusculum." 9 I replied: "I own, near the town of Casinum, a stream which runs through my villa, clear and deep, with a stone facing, 57 feet wide, and requiring bridges for passage from one side of the villa to the other; it is 950 feet in a straight line from the island in the lowest part of p453the stream, where another stream runs into it, to the upper part of the stream, where the Museum is situated. 10 Along the banks of this stream there runs an uncovered walk 10 feet broad; off this walk and facing the open country is the place in which the aviary stands, shut in on two sides, right and left, by high walls. Between these lies the site of the aviary, shaped in the form of a writing-tablet with a top-piece,40 the quadrangular part being 48 feet in width and 72 feet in length, while at the rounded top-piece it is 27 feet. 11 Facing this, as it were a space marked off on the lower margin of the tablet, is an uncovered walk with a plumula41 extending from the aviary, in the middle of which are cages; and here is the entrance to the courtyard. At the entrance, on the right side and the left, are colonnades, arranged with stone columns in the outside rows and, instead of columns in the middle, with dwarf trees; while from the top of the wall to the archway the colonnade is covered with a net of hemp, which also continues from the archway to the base. These colonnades are filled with all manner of birds, to which food is supplied through the netting, while water flows to them in a tiny rivulet. 12 Along the inner side of the base of the columns, on the right side and on the left, and extending from the middle to the upper end of the open quadrangle, are two oblong fish-basins, not very wide, facing the colonnades. Between these basins is merely a path p455giving access to the tholos, which is a round domed building outside the quadrangle, faced with columns, such as is seen in the hall of Catulus, if you put columns instead of walls. Outside these columns is a wood planted by hand with large trees, so that the light enters only at the lower part, and the whole is enclosed with high walls. 13 Between the outer columns of the rotunda, which are of stone, and the equal number of slender inner columns, which are of fir, is a space five feet wide. Between the exterior columns, instead of a wall there is a netting of gut, so that there is a view into the wood and the objects in it, while not a bird can get out into it. In the spaces between the interior columns the aviary is enclosed with a net instead of a wall. Between these and the exterior columns there is built up step by step a sort of little bird-theatre, with brackets42 fastened at frequent intervals to all the columns as bird-seats. 14 Within the nettings are all manner of birds, chiefly songsters, such as nightingales and blackbirds, to which water is supplied by means of a small trench, while food is passed to them under the netting. Below the base of the columns is stone-work rising a foot and nine inches above the platform;43 the platform itself rises about two feet above a pond, and is about five feet wide, so that the guests44 can walk in among the benches and the small columns. At the foot of the platform inside, is the pond, with a border a foot wide, and a little island in the middle. Along the platform also docks45 have been hollowed out as shelters for ducks. 15 On the island is a small column, and on the inside of it is a post, which holds up, instead of a table, a wheel p457with spokes, in such fashion that on the outer rim, where the felloe usually stands, there is a curved board with raised edges like a tambourine, two and a half feet in width and a palm in height. This is revolved by a single manservant in such a way that everything to drink and eat is placed on it at once and moved around to all the guests. 16 From the side of the platform, on which there are usually coverlets,46 the ducks come out into the pond and swim about; from this pond a stream runs into the two fish-basins which I have described, and the minnows dart back and forth, while it is so arranged that cold and warm water flows for each guest from the wooden wheel and the table which, as I have said is at the ends of the spokes, by the turning of cocks.47 17 Inside, under the dome of the rotunda, the morning-star by day and the evening-star at night circle around near the lower part of the hemisphere, and move in such a manner as to show what the hour is. In the middle of the same hemisphere, running around the axis, is a compass of the eight winds, as in the horologium at Athens, which was built by the Cyrrestrian;48 and there a pointer, projecting from the axis, runs about the compass in such a way that it touches the wind which is blowing, so that you can tell on the inside which it is."

18 While we were thus conversing, a shouting arose in the Campus. We old hands at politics were not surprised at this occurrence, as we knew how excited an election crowd could become, but still we wanted to know what it meant; thereupon Pantuleius p459Parra49 comes to us, and tells us that a man had been caught, while they were sorting the ballots in the office, in the act of casting ballots into the ballot-box; and that he had been dragged off to the consul by the supporters of the other candidates. Pavo arose, as it was the watcher for his candidate who was reported to have been arrested.

6 1   [link to original Latin text] "You may speak freely about peafowl," said Axius, "since Fircellius50 has gone; if you should say anything out of the way about them, he would perhaps have a bone to pick51 with you for the credit of the family." To whom Merula said: "As to pea-fowl, it is within our memory that flocks of them began to be kept and sold at a high price. From them Marcus Aufidius Lurco is said to receive an income of more than 60,000 sesterces a year. There should be somewhat fewer males than females if you have an eye to the financial returns; but the opposite if you look at the pleasure, for the male is handsomer. 2 They should be pastured in flocks in the fields. Across the water they are said to be reared in the islands — on Samos, in the grove of Juno, and likewise in Marcus Piso's island of Planasia.52 For the forming of a flock they are to be secured when they are young and of good appearance; for nature has awarded the palm of beauty to this fowl over all winged things. The hens are not suited for breeding under two years, and are no longer suited when they get rather old. 3 They eat any kind of grain placed before them, and especially barley; so Seius issues a modius of barley a month per head, with the exception that he feeds more freely during the breeding season, before they begin to tread. He requires of his breeder three p461chicks for each hen, and these, when they are grown, he sells for fifty denarii each, so that no other fowl brings in so high a revenue. 4 He buys eggs, too, and places them under hens, and the chicks which are hatched from these he places in that domed building53 in which he keeps his peafowl. This building should be made of a size proportioned to the number of peafowl, and should have separate sleeping quarters, coated with smooth plaster, so that no serpent or animal can get in; 5 it should also have an open place in front of it, to which they may go out to feed on sunny days. These birds require that both places be clean; and so their keeper should go around with a shovel and pick up the droppings and keep them, as they are useful for fertilizer and as litter for chicks.54 6 It is said that Quintus Hortensius55 was the first to serve these fowl; it was on the occasion of his inauguration as aedile, and the innovation was praised at that time rather by the luxurious than by those who were strict and virtuous. As his example was quickly followed by many, the price has risen to such a point that the eggs sell for five denarii each, the birds themselves sell readily for 50 each, and a flock of 100 easily brings 40,000 sesterces — in fact, Abuccius used to say that if one required three chicks to every hen, the total might amount to 60,000.

7 1   [link to original Latin text] Meanwhile Appius's bailiff comes with a message from the consul that the augurs are summoned, and he leaves the villa. But pigeons fly into the villa, and Merula, pointing to them, remarks to Axius: "If you had ever built a dove-cote56 you might think these were your doves, wild though they are. For in a dove-cote there are usually two species of these: one the wild, or as some call them, the p463rock-pigeon, which lives in turrets and gable-ends (columina) of the farmhouse — whence the name columbae — and these, because of their natural shyness, hunt for the highest peak of the roof; hence the wild pigeons chiefly hunt for the turrets, flying into them, from the fields and back again, as the fancy takes them. 2 The other species of pigeon is gentler, and being content with the food from the house usually feeds around the doorstep. This species is generally white, while the other, the wild, has no white, but is variously coloured. From these two stocks is bred for profit a third hybrid species; these are put in a place called by some peristeron and by others peristerotrophion, and often a single one of these will contain as many as 5,000. 3 The peristeron is built in the form of a large building, with a vaulted roof; it has one narrow door and windows of the Punic style,57 or wider ones with double lattice-work, so that the whole interior is light, but so that no snake or other noxious creature can get in. The whole of the walls and chambers in the interior is covered with the smoothest possible plaster made of marble dust, and the exterior is also plastered around the windows, so that no mouse or lizard can crawl into the pigeon nest; for nothing is more timid than a pigeon. 4 Round nests are constructed for each pair, side by side in a row, and as many rows as possible are run from the floor up to the vaulted roof. Each nest should be so constructed as to have an opening large enough to allow only entrance and exit, and on the interior should be three palms in all directions. Under each row there should be fixed a board two palms wide, to serve as an entrance and walk-way. 5 Provision should be made for water to flow in, so that p465they may have a place to drink and bathe, for these birds are extremely cleanly. So the pigeon-keeper should sweep them out frequently every month; for the droppings which make the place filthy are so well suited for fertilizing that several writers have stated that it is the best kind. He should see to it that any pigeon which has been hurt be treated, and that any dead one be removed, and should remove the squabs which are fit for market. 6 He should also have a place shut off by a net from the rest, to which the brooding birds may be transferred, and from which the mother-birds may be able to fly away from the pigeon-house. This they do for two reasons: first, if they lose their appetite or grow sickly from confinement, as they are refreshed by the open air when they fly over the fields, or secondly for a decoy; for they will themselves return in any case, because of the young they have, unless they are killed by a crow or cut off by a hawk. 7 These birds the pigeon-keepers make a practice of killing by planting two limed twigs in the ground, leaning toward each other, after placing between them, with its legs tied, some animal which hawks are in the habit of chasing; and they are caught in this way, when they have smeared themselves with the lime. You may see that doves do return to a place, from the fact that many people let them loose from their bosoms in the theatre and they return to their homes; and if they did not come back they would not be turned loose. 8 Food is furnished them in troughs running around the walls, which are filled from the outside through pipes. Their favourite foods are millet, wheat, barley, peas, kidney-beans, and vetch. Those who have wild pigeons in turrets and in the tops of their villas should p467imitate these methods so far as they can. Those which are placed in the pigeon-house should be of a proper age, neither squabs nor old birds; and there should be an equal number of cocks and hens. 9 Nothing is more prolific than the pigeon; thus, within a period of forty days it conceives, lays, hatches, and brings off its young. And they continue this, too, through practically the entire year, leaving an interval only between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Two chicks are born each time, and as soon as they have grown and have their strength they breed along with their mothers. Those who practise the fattening of squabs to increase their selling price, shut them up as soon as they are covered with down; then they stuff them with white bread which has been chewed, twice a day in winter and three times in summer — morning, noon, and evening; in winter they omit the noon feeding. 10 When they begin to have feathers they are left in the nest, with their legs broken, and are left to their mothers so that they can eat the food more freely; for they feed themselves and their young on it all day long. Birds which are reared in this way fatten more quickly than others, and their parents become white. At Rome, if the birds are handsome, of good colour, sound, and of good breed, single pairs sell usually for 200 sesterces; but unusually fine ones sometimes for 1,000 sesterces. When a trader wanted recently to buy such birds at this price from Lucius Axius, a Roman knight, he said he would not sell for less than 400 denarii." 11 Axius remarked: "If I could buy a ready-made pigeon-house, as I bought an earthenware dove-cote when I wanted one in my town house, I should already have gone p469to buy it and have sent it to the farm-house." "Just as if," replied Pica, "there weren't many of them in the city, also. Or doesn't it seem to you that people who have dove-cotes on their roof-tiles possess pigeon-houses, inasmuch as some of them have equipment worth more than 100,000 sesterces? I suggest that you buy the complete outfit from one of these, and before you build in the country learn here in the city to put in your purse every day the big profit of a penny or two.58 But go ahead with your subject, Merula."

8 1   [link to original Latin text] "For turtle-doves, also," he resumed, "a place should be built of a size proportioned to the number you wish to raise; and this, too, as was remarked of pigeons, so that it has a door and windows, clear water, walls and cupola covered with plaster. 2 But instead of nests set in the walls it should have brackets or poles in a row, and over these there should be placed small mats of hemp. The bottom row should be not less than three feet from the ground, between the other rows there should be a space of nine inches, with a half-foot interval between the top and the cupola; and the row should be as wide as the bracket can stand out from the wall, as they feed on the brackets day and night. 3 As to food, dry wheat is given them, about a half-modius for 120 turtle-doves, and their quarters are swept out every day so that they may not suffer harm from the dung — and this is also kept for fertilizing the ground. The most suitable time for fattening is about harvest, for at that time their mothers are at their best, when most chicks are being born, these latter being better for fattening; and hence the income from them is greatest at this time."

p471 9 1   [link to original Latin text] "I wish, Merula," said Axius, "you would tell us of the division of fattening in which I am interested — that of chickens; then if there is anything in the other topics that is worth taking into account we may do so." "Well,59 under the term poultry are included three kinds of fowl: the barn-yard, the wild,60 and the African.61 2 Barn-yard fowls are the species which are kept continuously in farmsteads. One who wants to set up a poultry-farm62 of these — that is, wants to gain a large profit by the exercise of knowledge and care, as the Delians63 generally have done — should observe especially the following five points: purchase, including the breed and number to secure; breeding, including the manner of mating and laying; eggs, including the manner of sitting and hatching; chicks, including the manner of rearing and the birds by which they are reared; and to these is added, as an appendix, the fifth topic — the method of fattening. 3 Of the three species, the proper name for the female of the barn-yard fowl is hen, for the male is cock, while that of the half-males, which have been castrated, is capon. Cocks are castrated, to make them capons, by burning with a red-hot iron at the lowest part of the leg until it bursts;64 and the sore which results is smeared with potter's clay. 4 One who intends to have a complete poultry-farm should, of course, procure all three species, but chiefly the barn-yard fowls. In buying these he should choose hens which are prolific, usually of a reddish plumage, with black wing feathers, toes of uneven length, large heads, upright crest, full-bodied, as these are better fitted for laying. 5 Cocks should be amorous; and this is judged from their being muscular, with p473comb reddish, beak short, wide, and sharp, eyes yellowish or black, wattles red with a trace of white, neck particoloured or golden, thighs feathered, lower leg short, claws long, tail large, feathers thick; also by their stretching and crowing often, being stubborn in a fight — those which not only do not fear animals which attack the hens but even fight for the hens. 6 In choosing a strain, however, it is not well to go after the Tanagrian, Median,65 or Chalcidian; these are undoubtedly handsome birds and very well fitted for fighting one another, but they are rather poor for laying. If you wish to raise 200 you should assign them an enclosed place, and on it construct two large connecting hen-houses, facing eastward, each about ten feet in length, one-half smaller in width, and a little less in height.66 In each of these there should be a window three feet wide and one foot higher; these should be made of withes so spaced as to allow plenty of light to enter, and yet to keep from passing through them any of the things which usually injure fowls. 7 Between the two houses there should be a door through which their keeper, the gallinarius, can enter. In the houses should be run a number of perches sufficient to hold all the hens. Facing the several perches separate nests should be p475built for them in the wall. In front of it, as I said,67 should be an enclosed yard, in which they may run during the daytime and dust themselves. In addition there should be a large room for the caretaker to live in, so built that the surrounding walls may be entirely filled with hens' nests, either built in the wall or firmly attached; for movement isº harmful to a sitting hen. 8 In their nests at laying-time chaff should be spread under them; and when they have laid their eggs, the bedding should be removed and other fresh bedding spread, as in old bedding lice and other vermin generally breed, and these keep the hen from resting quietly, the result being that the eggs either develop unevenly or become stale. If you wish the hen to cover the eggs, it is claimed that a sitting should number not more than 25, even if the hen has been so prolific as to lay more, 9 and that the laying is best from the vernal to the autumnal equinox. So eggs which are laid before or after that period, and even the first laid within the period, should not be set; and the eggs which you set should be put under old hens (and such hens should not have sharp beaks or claws) rather than under pullets, as the latter ought to be busy at laying rather than at sitting. They are best fitted for laying when one or two years old. 10 If you are putting peafowl eggs under a hen, you should put the hen's eggs under her only at the beginning of the tenth day of sitting, so that she will hatch them together; for chicks require twice ten days, and peafowl chicks thrice nine. The hens should be shut up so that they may sit day and night, except at the times morning and evening, when food and drink are being given them. 11 The caretaker should go around at p477intervals of several days and turn the eggs so that they will warm evenly. It is said that you can tell whether eggs are full and fertile or not if you drop them into water, as the empty egg floats, while the full one sinks. Those who shake an egg to find this out make a mistake, as they break up the vital veins in them.68 The same authorities state that when you hold it up to the light, the one that the light shines through is infertile. 12 Those who wish to keep eggs a considerable time rub them down thoroughly with fine salt or brine for three or four hours, and when this is washed off pack them in bran or chaff. In setting eggs, care is taken that the number be uneven. The caretaker can find out four days after the sitting begins whether the incubating eggs contain the embryo of a chick. If he holds one against a light and observes it to be uniformly clear, the belief is that it should be thrown out and another substituted. 13 The chicks, when hatched, should be taken from the several nests and placed under a hen which has few chicks; and if a few eggs are left they should be taken away from this hen and put under others which have not yet hatched and those which have fewer than 30 chicks;69 for the batch must not exceed this number. During the first fifteen days there should be fed to the chicks in the morning, on a bed of dust, so that the hard earth may not injure their beaks, a mixture of barley-meal and cress-seed which has been worked up some time before with water, so that when it is eaten it may not swell up in their crops; and they must be kept away from water. p47914 When they begin to grow feathers from the rump, the lice must be picked from their heads and necks often, for they frequently waste away because of these. Around their houses stag horns should be burned, to keep snakes from coming in; for the smell of these animals is usually fatal to them. They should be driven out into the sunshine and on to the dung-hill so they can flutter about, as in that way they grow healthier — 15 not only the chicks but the whole poultry yard, both in summer and whenever the air is mild and it is sunny, with a net spread above them to keep them from flying outside the enclosure, and to keep hawks and the like from flying into it from outside; avoiding heat and cold, each of which is harmful to them. As soon as they have their wing-feathers they should be trained to follow one or two hens, so that the others may be free for laying rather than busied with the rearing of young. 16 They should begin to sit after the new moon, for the sittings which begin before that time usually do not turn out well. They are hatched in about twenty days. As really too much has been said about these barnyard fowls, I shall make up for it by brevity in speaking of the rest.

"Wild hens70 are found rarely in town and are hardly seen in Rome, except the tamed ones in cages. In appearance they not like these barn-yard fowls of ours, but rather like the African fowl.71 17 Birds whose appearance and shape show that they are of unmixed breed are usually displayed in public ceremonies, along with parrots, white blackbirds, and other unusual things of that sort. Usually they do not produce eggs and chicks in farmsteads, but in the forests. It is from these fowls that the island p481Gallinaria, in the Tuscan Sea off the coast of Italy opposite the Ligurian mountains, Intimilium, and Album Ingaunum, is said to have got its name;72 others hold that they are the descendants of those barnyard fowls which were carried there by sailors and became wild. 18 The African hens are large, speckled, with rounded back, and the Greeks call them 'meleagrides.'73 These are the latest fowls to come from the kitchen to the dining-room because of the pampered tastes of people. 19 On account of their scarcity they fetch a high price. Of the three species, it is chiefly the barnyard fowls which are fattened. These are shut into a warm, narrow, darkened place, because movement on their part and light free them from the slavery of fat. For this purpose the largest hens are chosen, but not necessarily those which are mistakenly called "Melic"; for the ancients74 said "Melic" for "Medic," just as they said "Thelis" for "Thetis." Those were called so originally which, because of their size, were imported from Media, and the descendants of these; but later on all large hens got the name on account of their likeness. 20 On these hens the feathers are pulled from wings and tail, and they are fattened on pellets of barley-meal, sometimes mixed with darnel flour, or with flax seed soaked in fresh water. They are fed twice a day, and are watched to see, from certain symptoms, that the last food taken has been digested before more is given. When they have eaten, and their heads have been cleaned to prevent their having lice, they are again shut up. This is continued as long as twenty-five days, and at this time they finally become fat. 21 Some breeders fatten them also on wheat bread softened in water mixed p483with a sound, fragrant wine, which results in making them fat and tender within twenty days. If, in the course of the fattening, they lose their appetites from too much food, the amount fed should be lessened, diminishing in the last ten days in the same proportion as it increased in the first ten, so that the twentieth day will be equal to the first. The same method is followed in fattening wood-pigeons and making them plump."

10 1   [link to original Latin text] "Pass on now," said Axius, "to that kind of fowl which is not content with any farmstead and land, but wants ponds — the kind you Greek-lovers call amphibious. The place where geese are reared you call by the foreign name of chenoboscion.75 Scipio Metellus76 and Marcus Seius have several large flocks of geese." "Seius," continued Merula, "in making provision for his flocks of geese, observed the five steps which I have described in the case of chickens, and which had to do with strain, mating, eggs, chicks, and fattening. 2 His first injunction to his servant was to see in choosing them that they were full-bodied and white, as usually they have goslings like themselves. For there is another species, mottled, which is called 'wild,' and these do not like to flock with the others, and are not tamed so easily. 3 The most suitable time for mating, in the case of geese, is after the winter solstice, for laying and sitting from the first of February or March up to the summer solstice. As they usually mate in the water, they are driven into a stream or a pond. Individuals do not lay more than three times in a year, and when they do, square coops should be built for each, about two and a half feet on each side,77 and these should be carpeted with straw. Their eggs should be distinguished by some p485mark, as they do not hatch the eggs of another. Usually nine eggs or eleven form a sitting; if fewer are set, five, if more, fifteen. In cold weather they sit thirty days, in warmer weather twenty-five. 4 When they hatch they are allowed to stay with the mother for the first five days; then they are driven out daily, when the weather is good, into meadows, and also into ponds or swamps. Coops are made for them above ground or under it, and not more than twenty goslings are placed in each; and care is taken that these quarters do not have moisture in the ground, and that they do have a soft cushion of straw or some other material, and that weasels cannot get in, or any other harmful beasts. 5 Geese feed in damp places; so a food is sowed which will bring in a profit,78 and also there is sowed for them an herb which is called seris, because this, even when it is dry, if touched by water becomes green. The leaves of this are plucked and fed to them, for if they are driven into the place where it is growing they either ruin it by their trampling or die from over-eating; for they are naturally ravenous. For this reason you must restrain them, for, as often happens in their feeding because of their greed, if they catch hold of a root which they want to pull out of the ground, they break their necks; for the neck is exceedingly weak, just as the head is soft. If there is none of this herb, they should be fed on barley or other grain. When the season for mixed forage comes, this should be fed as I said in regard to seris. 6 While the geese are sitting they should be fed on barley soaked in water. The goslings are fed first on barley-meal or barley for two days, and for the next three on green cress cut fine, p487soaked in water and turned into a vessel. But after they are shut into the coops or the underground nests, twenty to the nest, as I have said,79 they are fed on ground barley or mixed forage or tender grass cut fine. 7 For fattening, goslings are chosen which are about one and one-half months old; these are enclosed in the fattening pen, and there they are fed on a food consisting of barley-meal and flour dampened with water, being surfeited three times a day. After eating, they are allowed the opportunity of drinking as much as they want. When they are treated in this way they become fat in about two months. After every feeding the place is cleaned out; for they like a clean place, and yet never leave any place clean where they have been.

11 [link to original Latin text] "One who wishes to keep flocks of ducks and build a duck-farm80 should choose, first, if he has the opportunity, a place which is swampy, for they like this best of all; if this is not available, a place preferably where there is a natural pond or pool or an artificial pond, to which they can go down by steps. 2 There should be an enclosure in which they can move about, some fifteen feet high, as you saw at Seius's place, closed by one entrance. Around the entire wall on the inside should run a wide ledge, along which, next to the wall, are the covered resting places, and in front of them their vestibule levelled with plastered brickwork. In this is a continuous trough, in which food is placed for them and water is admitted; for in this way they take their food. 3 All the walls are smoothed with plaster, so that no weasel or other beast can get in to harm them; and the entire enclosure is covered with a wide-meshed net, so that an eagle cannot fly in or p489the ducks fly out. For food they are often given wheat, barley, grape-skins, and sometimes water-crabs and certain aquatic food of that sort. Any ponds in the enclosure should have a large inflow of water, so that it may always be fresh.

4 "There are also other species not unlike them, such as the teal, coot, and partridge, which, as Archelaus writes, conceive when they hear the voice of the male.81 These are not stuffed as are those above mentioned, either to increase their fecundity or to improve their flavour, but they become fat by merely feeding them as described. I have finished telling what seems to belong to the first act of the husbandry of the steading."82

12 1   [link to original Latin text] Meanwhile Appius returns, and we are asked by him and he by us what has been said and done. Appius continues: "There follows the second act, which is usually an appendage to the villa and retains its old name of hare-warren because of one part of it — for not only are hares enclosed in it in woods, as used to be the case on an acre or two of land, but also stags and roes on many acres. It is reported that Quintus Fulvius Lippinus83 has a preserve in the vicinity of Tarquinii of forty iugera, in which are enclosed, not only the animals I have named, but also wild sheep; and an even larger one near Statonia, and some in other places; 2 while in Transalpine p491Gaul, Titus Pompeius has a hunting preserve so large that he keeps a tract of about four square miles enclosed. In addition to this, in the same enclosure are usually kept places for snails84 and bee-hives, and also casks in which dormice are kept confined. But the care, increase, and feeding of all these, except the bees, is evident. 3 For everybody knows that walled enclosures in warrens ought to be covered with plaster and ought to be high — in the one case to make it impossible for a weasel or a badger or other animal to enter, and in the other to keep a wolf from leaping over; and they should have coverts in which the hares may hide in the day-time under the brush and grass, and trees with spreading branches to hinder the swooping of an eagle. 4 Who also does not know that if he points in a few hares, male and female, in a short time the place will be filled? Such is the fecundity of this animal. For place only four in a warren and it is usually filled in a short time; for often, while they have a young litter they are found to have others in the womb.85 And so Archelaus writes of them that one who wishes to know how old they are should examine the natural openings, for undoubtedly one has more than another.86 5 There is a recent practice of fattening these, too, by taking them from the warren and shutting them up in hutches and fattening them in an enclosed space. There are, then, some three species of these: one, this Italian species of ours, with short fore-legs and long hind p493legs, the upper part of the body dark, belly white, and ears long. This hare is said to conceive even while it is pregnant.87 In Transalpine Gaul and Macedonia they grow very large; in Spain and in Italy they are medium-sized. 6 Belonging to the second species is the hare which is born in Gaul near the Alps, which usually differs in the fact that it is entirely white; these are not often brought to Rome. To the third species belongs the one which is native to Spain — like our hare in some respects, but with short legs — which is called cony. Lucius Aelius thought that the hare received its name lepus because of its swiftness, being levipes, nimble-foot. My own opinion is that it comes from an old Greek word, as the Aeolians called it λέπορις. The conies are so named from the fact that they have a way of making in the fields tunnels (cuniculos) in which to hide. 7 You should have all these three species in your warren if you can. You surely have two species anyway, I suppose, as you were in Spain for so many years that I imagine the conies followed you all the way from there.

13 1   [link to original Latin text] "You know, Axius," Appius continued, "that boars can be kept in the warren with no great trouble; and that both those that have been caught and the tame ones which are born there commonly grow fat in them. For on the place that our friend Varro here bought from Marcus Pupius Piso near Tusculum, you saw wild boars and roes gather for food at the blowing of a horn at a regular time, when mast was thrown from a platform88 above to the boars, and vetch or the like to the roes." 2 "Why," said he, "I saw it carried out more in the Thracian fashion at Quintus Hortensius's place near Laurentum when p495I was there. For there was a forest which covered, he said, more than fifty iugera; it was enclosed with a wall and he called it, not a warren, but a game-preserve.89 In it was a high spot where was spread the table at which we were dining, to which he bade Orpheus be called. 3 When he appeared with his robe and harp, and was bidden to sing, he blew a horn; whereupon there poured around us such a crowd of stags, boars, and other animals that it seemed to me to be no less attractive a sight than when the hunts of the aediles take place in the Circus Maximus without the African beasts."90

14 1   [link to original Latin text] "Appius has lightened your task, my dear Merula," said Axius. "So far as game is concerned, the second act91 has been completed briefly; and I do not ask for the rest of it — snails92 and dormice — as that cannot be a matter of great effort." "The thing is not so simple as you think, my dear Axius," replied Appius. "You must take a place fitted for snails, in the open, and enclose it entirely with water; for if you do not, when you put them to breed it will not be their young which you have to search for, but the old snails. 2 They have to be shut in, I repeat, with water, so that you need not get a runaway-catcher. The best place is one which the sun does not parch, and where the dew falls. If there is no such natural place — and there usually is not in sunny ground — and you have no place where you can build one in the shade, as at the foot of a cliff or a mountain with a p497pool or stream at the bottom, you should make an artificially dewy one. This can be done if you will run a pipe and attach to it small teats to squirt out the water in such a way that it will strike a stone and be scattered widely in a mist. 3 They need little food, and require no one to feed them; they get their food, not only in the open while crawling around, but even discover any upright walls, if the stream does not prevent. In fact, even at the dealer's they keep alive for a long time by chewing the cud,93 a few laurel leaves being thrown them for the purpose, sprinkled with a little bran. Hence the cook usually doesn't know whether they are alive or dead when he is cooking them. 4 There are several varieties of snails, such as the small whites, which come from Reate, the large-sized, which are brought from Illyricum, and the medium-sized, which come from Africa. Not that they do not vary in these regions in distribution and size; thus, very large ones do come from Africa — the so‑called solitannae — so large that 80 quadrantes94 can be put into their shells; and so in other countries the same species are relatively larger or smaller. 5 They produce innumerable young; these are very small and with a soft shell, but it hardens with time. If you build large islands in the yards, they will bring in a large haul of money. Snails, too, are often fattened as follows: a jar for them to feed in, containing holes, is lined with must and spelt — it should contain holes in order to allow the air to enter, for the snail is naturally hardy.

15 1   [link to original Latin text] "The place for dormice is built on a different plan, as the ground is surrounded not by water but by a wall, which is covered on the inside with smooth p499stone or plaster over the whole surface, so that they cannot creep out of it. In this place there should be small nut-bearing trees; when they are not bearing, acorns and chestnuts should be thrown inside the walls for them to glut themselves with. 2 They should have rather roomy caves built for them in which they Campagna bring forth their young; and the supply of water should be small, as they do not use much of it, but prefer a dry place. They are fattened in jars, which many people keep even inside the villa. The potters make these jars in a very different form from other jars, as they run channels along the sides and make a hollow for holding the food. In such a jar acorns, walnuts, or chestnuts are placed; and when a cover is placed over the jars they grow fat in the dark."a

16 1   [link to original Latin text] "Well," remarked Appius, "the third act95 of the husbandry of the steading is left — fishponds." "Why third?" inquired Axius. "Or, just because you were accustomed in your youth not to drink honey-wine at home for the sake of thrift, are we to overlook honey?" "It is the truth he is telling," Appius said to us. 2 "For I was left in straitened circumstances, together with two brothers and two sisters, and gave one of them to Lucullus without a dowry; it was only after he relinquished a legacy in my favour that I, for the very first time, began to drink honey-wine at home myself, though meantime mead was none the less commonly served at banquets almost daily to all guests.96 3 And furthermore, it was my right97 and not yours to know these winged creatures, to whether nature has given so much talent and art. And so, that you may realize that I know bees better than you do, hear of the incredible art that nature has given p501them. Our well-versed Merula, as he has done in other cases, will tell you of the practice followed by bee-keepers.

4 "In the first place, bees are produced partly from bees, and partly from the rotted carcass of a bullock.98 And so Archelaus, in an epigram, says that they are 'the roaming children of a dead cow'; and the same writer says: 'While wasps spring from horses, bees come from calves.' Bees are not of a solitary nature, as eagles are, but are like human beings. Even if jackdaws in this respect are the same, still it is not the same case; for in one there is a fellowship in toil and in building which does not obtain in the other; in the one case there is reason and skill — it is from these that men learn to toil, to build, to store up food. 5 They have three tasks: food, dwelling, toil; and the food is not the same as the wax, nor the honey, nor the dwelling. Does not the chamber in the comb have six angles, the same number as the bee has feet? The geometricians prove that this hexagon inscribed in a circular figure encloses the greatest amount of space.b They forage abroad, and within the hive they produce a substance which, because it is the sweetest of all, is acceptable to gods and men alike; for the comb comes to the altar and the honey is served at the beginning of the feast and for the second table.99 6 Their commonwealth is like the states of men, for here are king, government, and fellowship. They seek only the pure; and hence no bee alights on a place which is befouled or one which has an evil odour, or even one which smells of sweet perfume. So one who p503approaches them smelling of perfume they sting, and do not, as flies do, lick him; and one never sees bees, as he does flies, on flesh or blood or fat — so truly do they alight only on objects which have a sweet savour. 7 The bee is not in the least harmful, as it injures no man's work by pulling it apart; yet it is not so cowardly as not to fight anyone who attempts to break up its own work; but still it is well aware of its own weakness. They are with good reason called100 'the winged attendants of the Muses,' because if at any time they are scattered they are quickly brought into one place by the beating of cymbals or the clapping of hands; and as man has assigned to those divinities Helicon and Olympus, so nature has assigned to the bees the flowering untilled mountains. 8 They follow their own king101 where he goes, assist him when weary, and if he is unable to fly they bear him upon their backs, in their eagerness to serve him. They are themselves not idle, and detest the lazy; and so they attack and drive out from them the drones, as these give no help and eat the honey, and even a few bees chase larger numbers of drones in spite of their cries. On the outside of the entrance to the hive they seal up the apertures through which the air comes between the combs with a substance which the Greeks call erithace.102 They all live as if in an army, sleeping and working regularly in turn, and send out as it were colonies, and their leaders give certain orders with the voice, as it were in imitation of the trumpet, as happens when they have signals of peace and war with one another. But, my dear Merula, that our friend Axius may not waste away while hearing this p505essay on natural history, in which I have made no mention of gain, I hand over to you the torch in the race."103

10 Whereupon Merula: "As to the gain I have this to say, which will perchance be enough for you, Axius, and I have as my authorities not only Seius, who has his apiaries let out for an annual rental of 5,000 pounds of honey, but also our friend Varro here. I have heard the latter tell the story that he had two soldiers under him in Spain, brothers named Veianius, from the district near Falerii. They were well-off, because, though their father had left only a small villa and a bit of land certainly not larger than one iugerum, they had built an apiary entirely around the villa, and kept a garden; and all the rest of the land had been planted in thyme, snail-clover, and balm — a plant which some call honey-leaf, others bee-leaf, and some call bee-herb. 11 These men never received less than 10,000 sesterces104 from their honey, on a conservative estimate, as they said they preferred to wait until they could bring in the buyer at the time they wanted rather than to rush into market at an unfavourable time." "Tell me, then," said he, "where I ought to build an apiary and of what sort, so as to get a large profit." 12 "The following," said Merula, "is the proper method for building apiaries, which are variously called melitrophia and mellaria:105 first, they should be situated preferably near the villa, but where echoes do not resound (for this sound is thought to be a signal for flight in their case); where the air is temperate, not too hot in summer, and not without sun in winter; p507that it preferably face the winter sunrise, and have near by a place which has a good supply of food and clear water. 13 If there is no natural food, the owner should sow crops which are most attractive to bees. Such crops are: the rose, wild thyme, balm, poppy, bean, lentil, pea, clover, rush, alfalfa,106 and especially snail-clover, which is extremely wholesome for them when they are ailing. It begins flowering at the vernal equinox and continues until the second equinox. 14 But while this is most beneficial to the health of bees, thyme is best suited to honey-making; and the reason that Sicilian honey bears off the palm is that good thyme is common there. For this reason some bruise thyme in a mortar and soak it in lukewarm water, and with this sprinkle all the plots planted for the bees. 15 So far as the situation is concerned, one should preferably be chosen close to the villa — and some people place the apiary actually in the portico of the villa, so that it may be better protected. Some build round hives of withes for the bees to stay in, others of wood and bark, others of a hollow tree, others build of earthenware, and still others fashion them of fennel stalks,107 building them square, about three feet long and one foot deep, but making them narrower when there are not enough bees to fill them, so that they will not lose heart in a large empty space. All such hives are called alvi, 'bellies,' because of the nourishment (alimonium), honey, which they contain; and it seems that the reason they are made p509with a very narrow middle is that they may imitate the shape of the bees.108 16 Those that are made of withes are smeared, inside and out, with cow-dung, so that the bees may not be driven off by any roughness; and these hives are so placed on brackets attached to the walls that they will not be shaken nor touch one another when they are arranged in a row. In this method, a second and a third row are placed below it at an interval, and it is said that it is better to reduce the number than to add a fourth. At the middle of the hive small openings are made on the right and left, by which the bees may enter; 17 and on the back,109 covers are placed through which the keepers can remove the comb. The best hives are those made of bark, and the worst those made of earthenware, because the latter are most severely affected by cold in winter and by heat in summer. During the spring and summer the bee-keeper should examine them about thrice a month, smoking them lightly, and clear the hive of filth and sweep out vermin. 18 He should further see to it that several chiefs do not arise, for they become nuisances because of their dissensions. Some authorities state also that, as there are three kinds of leaders among bees — the black, the red, and the striped110 — or as Menecrates111 states, two — the black and the striped — the latter is so much better that it is good practice for the keeper, when both occur in the same hive, to kill the black; for when he is with the other king he is mutinous and ruins the hive, because he either drives him out or is driven out and takes the swarm with him. 19 Of ordinary bees, the best is the small round striped one. The one called by some the p511thief, and by others the drone, is black, with a broad belly. The wasp, though it has the appearance of a bee, is not a partner in its work, and frequently injures it by its sting, and so the bees keep it away. Bees differ from one another in being wild or tame; by wild, I mean those which feed in wooded places, and by tame those which feed in cultivated ground. The former are smaller in size, and hairy, but are better workers.

"In purchasing, the buyer should see whether they are well or sick. 20 The signs of health are their being thick in the swarm, sleek, and building uniformly smooth comb. When they are not so well, the signs are that they are hairy and shaggy, as if dusted over — unless it is the working season which is pressing them; for at this time, because of the work, they get tough and thin. 21 If they are to be transferred to another place, it should be done carefully, and the proper time should be observed for doing it, and a suitable place be provided to which to move them. As to the time, it should be in spring rather than in winter, as in winter it is difficult for them to form the habit of staying where they have been moved, and so they generally fly away. If you move them from a good situation to one where there is no suitable pasturage, they become runaways. And even if you move them from one hive into another at the same place, the operation should not be carried out carelessly, 22 but the hive into which the bees are going should be smeared with balm, which has a strong attraction for them, and combs full of honey should be placed inside not far from the entrance, for fear that, when they notice either a lack of food. . . .112 He p513says that when bees are sickly, because of their feeding in the early spring on the blossoms of the almond and the cornel, it is diarrhoea that affects them, and they are cured by drinking urine. 23 Propolis113 is the name given to a substance with which they build a protectum ('gable') over the entrance opening in front of the hive, especially in summer. This substance is used, and under the same name, by physicians in making poultices,c and for this reason it brings even a higher price than honey on the Via Sacra. Erithace114 is the name given a substance with which they fasten together the ends of the comb (it is a different substance than either honey or propolis) and it is in it that the force of the attraction115 lies. So they smear with this substance, mixed with balm, the bough or other object on which they want the swarm to settle. 24 The comb is the structure which they fashion in a series of cells of wax, each separate cell having six sides, the same number as that of the feet given to each bee by nature. It is said that they do not gather wholly from the same sources the materials which they bring in for making the four substances, propolis, erithace, comb, and honey. Sometimes what they gather is of one kind, since from the pomegranate and the asparagus they gather only food, from the olive tree wax, from the fig honey, but of a poor quality. 25 Sometimes a double service is rendered,116 as both wax and food from the bean, the balm, the gourd, and the cabbage; and similarly a double service of food and honey from the apple and wild pear, and still another double service in combination, p515since they get wax and honey from the poppy. A threefold service, too, is rendered, as food, honey, and wax from the almond and the charlock. From other blossoms they gather in such a way that they take some materials for just one of the substances, other materials for more than one; 26 they also follow another principle of selection in their gathering (or rather the principle follows the bees);117 as in the case of honey, they make watery honey from one flower, for instance the sisera,118 thick honey from another, for instance from rosemary; and so from still another they make an insipid honey, as from the fig, good honey from snail-clover, and the best honey from thyme. 27 As drink is a component of food, and as this, in the case of bees, is clear water, they should have a place from which to drink, and this close by; it should flow past their hives, or run into a pool in such a way that it will not rise higher than two or three fingers, and in this water there should lie tiles or small stones in such a way that they project a little from the water, so that the bees can settle on them and drink. In this matter great care should be taken to keep the water pure, as this is an extremely important point in making good honey. 28 As it is not every kind of weather that allows them to go far afield for feeding, food should be provided for them, so that they will not have to live on the honey alone at such times, or leave the hives when it is exhausted. So about ten pounds of ripe figs are boiled in six congii of water, and after they are boiled they are rolled into lumps and placed near the hives. Other apiarists have water sweetened with honey placed near the hives in vessels, and drop clean pieces of wool into it through which they can suck, for the p517double purpose of keeping them from surfeiting themselves with the drink and from falling into the water. A vessel is placed near each hive and is kept filled. Others pound raisins and figs together, soak them in boiled wine, and put pellets made of this mixture in a place where they can come out to feed even in winter.

29 "The time when the bees are ready to swarm, which generally occurs when the well hatched new brood119 is over large and they wish to send out their young as it were a colony (just as the Sabines used to do frequently on account of the number of their children), you may know from two signs which usually precede it: first, that on preceding days, and especially in the evenings, numbers of them hang to one another in front of the entrance, 30 massed like a bunch of grapes; and secondly, that when they are getting ready to fly out or even have begun the flight, they make a loud humming sound exactly as soldiers do when they are breaking camp. Those which have gone out first fly around in sight, looking back for the others, which have not yet gathered, to swarm. When the keeper observes that they have acted so, he frightens them by throwing dust on them and by beating brass around them; 31 and the place to which he wishes to carry them, and which is not far away, is smeared with bee-bread and balm and other things by which they are attracted.120 When they have settled, a hive, smeared on the inside with the same enticing substances, is brought up and placed near by; and then by means of a light smoke blown around them they are induced to enter. When they have moved into the new colony, they remain so willingly that even if you place near by the hive from which they came, still they are content rather with their new home.

p519 32 "As I have given my views on the subject of feeding, I shall now speak of the thing on account of which all this care is exercised — the profit. The signal for removing the comb is given by the following occurrences . . . if the bees make a humming noise inside, if they flutter when going in and out, and if, when you remove the covers of the hives, the openings of the combs are seen to be covered with a membrane, the combs being filled with honey.121 33 Some authorities hold that in taking off honey nine-tenths should be removed and one-tenth left; for if you take all, the bees will quit the hive. Others leave more than the amount stated. Just as in tilling, those who let the ground lie fallow reap more grain from interrupted harvests, so in the matter of hives if you do not take off honey every year, or not the same amount, you will by this method have bees which are busier and more profitable. 34 It is thought that the first season for removing the comb is at the time of the rising of the Pleiades, the second at the end of summer, before Arcturus is wholly above the horizon, and the third after the setting of the Pleiades.122 But in this case, if the hive is well filled no more than one-third of the honey should be removed, the remainder being left for the wintering; but if the hive is not well filled no honey should be taken out. When the amount removed is large, it should not all be taken at one time or openly, for fear the bees may lose heart. If some of the comb removed contains no honey or honey that is dirty, it should be cut off with a knife. 35 Care should be taken that the weaker bees be not imposed upon by the stronger, for in this case their output is lessened; and so the weaker are separated and p521placed under another king. Those which often fight one another should be sprinkled with honey-water. When this is done they not only stop fighting, but swarm over one another, licking the water; and even more so if they are sprinkled with mead, in which case the odour causes them to attach themselves more greedily, and they drink until they are stupefied. 36 If they leave the hive in smaller numbers and a part of the swarm remains idle, light smoke should be applied, and there should be placed near by some sweet-smelling herbs, especially balm and thyme. 37 The greatest possible care should be taken to prevent them from dying from heat or from cold. If at any time they are knocked down by a sudden rain while harvesting, or overtaken by a sudden chill before they have foreseen that this would happen (though it is rarely that they are caught napping), and if, struck by the heavy rain-drops, they lie prostrate as if dead, they should be collected into a vessel and placed under cover in a warm spot; the next day, when the weather is at its best, they should be dusted with ashes made of fig wood, and heated a little more than warm. Then they should be shaken together gently in the vessel, without being touched with the hand, and placed in the sun. 38 Bees which have be warmed in this way recover and revive, just as happens when flies which have been killed by water are treated in the same way.d This should be carried out near the hives, so that those which have been revived may return each to his own work and home."

17 1   [link to original Latin text] Meantime Pavo returns to us and says: "If you wish to weigh anchor, the ballots have been cast and the casting of lots for the tribes is going on;123 and the herald has begun to announce who has been p523elected aedile by each tribe." Appius arose hurriedly, so as to congratulate his candidate at once and then go on to his home.124 And Merula remarked: "I'll give you the third act125 of the husbandry of the steading later, Axius." As they were rising, and we were looking back, because we knew that our candidate was coming also, Axius remarked to me: "I am not sorry that Merula left at this point, 2 for the rest is pretty well known to me. There are two kinds of fish-ponds, the fresh and the salt. The one is open to common folk,126 and not unprofitable, where the Nymphs127 furnish the water for our domestic fish; the ponds of the nobility, however, filled with sea-water, for which only Neptune can furnish the fish as well as the water, appeal to the eye more than to the purse, and exhaust the pouch of the owner rather than fill it. For in the first place they are built at great cost, and in the second place they are stocked at great cost, and in the third place they are kept up at great cost. 3 Hirrus128 used to take in 12,000 sesterces from the buildings around his fish-ponds; but he spent all that income for the food which he gave his fish. No wonder; for I remember that he lent to Caesar on one occasion 2,000 lampreys by weight;129 and that on account of the great number of fish his villa sold for 4,000,000 sesterces. Our inland pond, which is for the common folk, is properly called 'sweet,' and the other 'bitter';130 for who p525of us is not content with one such pond? Who, on the other hand, who starts with one of the sea-water ponds doesn't go on to a row of them? 4 For just as Pausias131 and the other painters of the same school have large boxes with compartments for keeping their pigments of different colours, so these people have ponds with compartments for keeping the varieties of fish separate, as if they were holy and more inviolate than those in Lydia about which, Varro, you used to say that while you were sacrificing, they would come up in schools, at the sound of a flute, to the edge of the shore and the altar, because no one dared catch them (the same time as that at which you saw the dancing islands of the Lydians);132 just so no cook dares 'haul these fish over the coals.'133 5 Though our friend Quintus Hortensius134 had ponds built at great expense near Bauli, I was at his villa often enough to know that it was his custom always to send to Puteoli to buy fish for dinner.135 6 And it was not enough for him not to feed from his ponds — nay, he must feed his fish with his own hands; and he actually took more pains to keep his mullets from getting hungry than I do to keep my mules at Rosea from getting hungry, and indeed he furnished them nourishment in the way of both food and drink much more generously than I do in caring for my donkeys. For I keep my very valuable asses with the help of a single stable-boy, a bit of barley, and water p527from the place; while Hortensius in the first place kept an army of fishermen to supply food, and they were continually heaping up minnows for the larger fish to eat. 7 Besides, he used to buy salted fish and throw them into ponds when the sea was disturbed and on account of bad weather this source of supply of the ponds failed to furnish food, and the live food — the fish which supplies the people with supper — could not be brought ashore with the net." "You could more easily get Hortensius's consent to take the carriage mules (mulas) from his travelling-carriage and keep them for your own," said I, "than take a barbed mullet (mullum) from his pond." 8 "And," he continued, "he was no less disturbed over his sick fish than he was over his ailing slaves. And so he was less careful to see that a sick slave did not drink cold water than that his fish should have fresh water to drink. In fact he used to say that Marcus Lucullus136a suffered from carelessness in this respect, and he looked down on his ponds because they did not have suitable tidal-basins, and so, as the water became stagnant, his fish lived in unwholesome quarters; 9 while, on the other hand, after Lucius Lucullus136b had cut through a mountain near Naples and let a stream of sea-water into his ponds, so that they ebbed and flowed, he had no need to yield to Neptune himself in matter of fishing — for he seemed, because of the hot weather, to have led his beloved fish into cooler places, just as the Apulian shepherds are wont to do when they lead their flocks along the cattle-trails into the Sabine hills.137 But while he was building near Baiae he became so enthusiastic that he allowed the architect to spend money as if it were his own, provided he would p529run a tunnel from his ponds into the sea and throw up a mole, so that the tide might run into the pond and back to the sea twice a day from the beginning of the moon until the next new moon, and cool off the ponds."138

10 So far we. Then a noise on the right, and our candidate, as aedile-elect, came into the villa wearing the broad stripe.139 We approach and congratulate him and escort him to the Capitoline. Thence, he to his home, we to ours, my dear Pinnius, after having had the conversation on the husbandry of the villa, the substance of which I have given you.

The Editor's Notes:

1 Properly "the creator." Cf. Servius on Georg. I.7, Ceres a creando dicta. But Varro, de Ling. Lat.V.64: quod gerit fruges, Ceres; and Cicero, de Nat. Deor., II.67, adopts this etymology.

2 Properly, "the Sower."

3 The rites of Ceres are connected with the "beginnings" of civilisation, and so the word initium (= initiation) was specially applicable to them. These rites were first established at Eleusis, and in 496 B.C. were introduced at Rome, when Ceres was identified with Demeter. Cf. also Book II.4.9.

4 Aeolis is used here and in III.12.6 for the Greek nominative plural Ἀιολεῖς, as also in De Ling. Lat.V.102. Cicero, Flac. 64, writes it Aeoles.

5 Most scholars reject the explanation, though Schneider remarks that there is no doubt that many Greek words existed among the Etruscans and other peoples of Italy. We have no other trace of the word. Sir G. Wilkinson derives the Egyptian Thebes from Tapé, "the head."

6 Livy tells us (IV.22) that it was authorized by the censors in 434 B.C., and that the census was first held there. It was built on the Campus Martius, and remains still exist. The purposes for which it was used are set forth in § 4 of this chapter.

Thayer's Note: see the article Villa Publica in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

7 tabella dimidiata has never been explained satisfactorily, and the text is probably hopelessly corrupt.

8 Aulus Gellius (IV.5) tells a story in illustration of the proverb. The Annales Magni recited that when a statue of Horatius Cocles had been struck by lightning the Etruscan haruspices were consulted. Being hostile to Rome, they purposely gave bad advice, and on their confession were executed. Whereupon this verse (which is a translation of Hesiod, Works and Days, I.266, ἡ δὲ κακὴ βουλὴ τῷ βουλεύσαντι κακίστη) was sung in Rome.

9 A member of this college of priests was at hand on public occasions, to give advice on any religious matter which might arise.

10 Cicero (ad Atticum, IV.15.5) refers to having stayed with Axius in 54 B.C. when engaged on a dispute between the people of Reate and Interamna. Axius seems to have entertained his guests lavishly, as Appius is still "belching" over the "hospitable" birds which his host furnished. The word ructor is used playfully, (a) literally, and (b) "recall to mind."

11 The villa was originally the simple farmstead. This naturally developed into the villa described in Book I, Chapters 11‑13. But the word was further used of those elaborate establishments to which Varro refers in the Introduction to Book II. The conversation here plays on these various meanings.

Thayer's Note: An adequate general overview, with an armload of citations, is provided by the article Villa in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

12 The word emblema in Latin designates a tessellated pavement of various colours.

13 As the Villa Publica was on the Campus Martius, it was the natural rendezvous for the mobilization of the army, as well as for the taking of the census, for the elections, and all public occasions which required a large open space.

14 Lysippus, the sculptor, and Antiphilus, the painter, were famous contemporaries of Alexander the Great.

15 One of the gates in the Servian Wall, close to the Tiber. The orator Hortensiusº had a house there.

Thayer's Note: see the article Porta Flumentana in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

16 Another suburb, first mentioned here. It was on the Campus Martius, and seems to have extended to the river.

17 Storr-Best refers to Aulus Gellius, III.9, where the story is told of a "certain Seius" who possessed a very beautiful horse, which, however, brought disaster to its successive owners, so that it became proverbial to say of an unlucky man, "He has a Seian horse"; and suggests a play on the proverb.

18 i.e. the house of Marcus Seius.

19 pastio is used of feeding bees, birds, etc., and has a wider significance than our word "pasturing."

20 Cf. Chapter 16, Section 4, of this book.

21 Honey from Sicily was famous for its excellence (see Chap. 16, 14); that from Corsica was bitter, because the bees fed on wormwood.

22 Leading from the Porta Collina into the Sabine country.

23 There were four sesterces to the denarius.

24 The son of Lucius Lucullus who fought against Mithridates. For the ponds, see pages 444, note 1, and 527.

25 minerval, a satirical word for a fee paid for instruction. Cf. Juvenal, X.116, uno parcam colit asse Minervam, said of a schoolboy.

26 morticina is used of animals which have died a natural death.

27 Cf. Cato, 89, 90.

28 One of the earliest and most common forms of augury was the feeding of the sacred chickens. If they ate so greedily that parts of the food fell from their beaks, it was called tripudium solistimum. Livy, and Cicero, de Divinatione, give many anecdotes.

Thayer's Note: In the latter work, the sacred chickens are to be found in I.77, II.71‑74, I.27, and II.20.

29 Cf. book II, Introd. § 2.

30 Both these fishes are unknown elsewhere except as sea-fish. They are frequently referred to by Pliny (N. H., Book IX), who seems to get his information from Aristotle's History of Animals.

31 Keil substitutes minthon for the meaningless mithon or rhynton of the manuscripts, and quotes for the meaning Philodemus of Gadara, who defines μίνθων as a supercilious fop "who looks down upon everybody and depreciates all whom he meets or hears of even if they be people reputed great," etc. — (Storr-Best). Goetz proposes malthon.

32 He returns to the subject in Chapter 18 of this book, and especially §§ 5 ff. For these fish-ponds built out into the sea cf.  Hor. Odes, II.15.3: latius | extenta visentur Lucrino | stagna lacu (cf. Marquardt, Privatleben der Römer, pp433 ff.).

33 i.e. "behind the front rank (of principes)," but Varro seems to use it in the sense of "after the beginning," not going too far back.

34 Cf. III.2.14‑15.

35 Varro has already commented on Greek names in common use. Horace uses the same word (Sat., II.8.86).

36 Columella (VIII.3.8) advises that in the chicken house the water and food be kept in covered lead troughs which contain openings to admit the heads of the fowl.

37 The word is used only here. Schneider interprets it as a trap-door, cataracta; but Pollack, in Pauly-Wissowa, cites Procopius, de Bell. Pers., I.24, who states that a door in the Hippodrome at Constantinople was called κοχλίας because of its winding course (ἀπὸ τῆς καθόδου κυκλοτεροῦς οὔσης). The word properly means a snail-shell with spirals.

38 Cancellus means, in general, any sort of screen on windows or doors. Here, as Ovid, Am.III.2.64, it refers to tiers of seats guarded by such grilles.

39 This strange addition may be part of Varro's queer grammarian humour.

40 The comparison with the tabula litteraria or school-boy's "slate," clarifies the description. As the tabula was provided with a loop or ring at the top with which to carry it (cf.  Hor. Sat. I.6.74, Epist. I.1.56), so the quadrangle was topped off with a projection rounded on the upper end, the capitulum. The circular building, tholos, referred to below, seems to have been erected in the rounded upper end of this capitulum.

Various attempts have made to reconstruct the aviary described in this paragraph. The reader may be referred to an important contribution (with ground-plan, translation of the passage, and commentary) by A. W. Van Buren and R. M. Kennedy, "Varro's Aviary at Casinum," Journal of Roman Studies, IX.59‑66. See also plates in editions of Gesner and Schneider, and frontispiece in translation of Storr-Best.

41 Plumula (lit. "little wing") is generally regarded by editors as quite unintelligible and corrupt. Van Buren and Kennedy (op. cit., p64) make out a good case for their translation "façade."

42 i.e. small shelf-like projections suggesting in appearance the mutules of Doric architecture.

43 The word falere occurs only in this passage, and we must conjecture its meaning; cf. fala, "platform." It seems to be a platform serving as the lectus or couch at the repast.

44 Keil holds that previous editors have erred in the thinking that Varro entertained his guests in this building, and that the word "guests" is a playful reference to the birds; and he reminds us of Lucullus's disappointing experience in holding banquets in an aviary (Chap. 4, Sec. 3). But certainly the arrangements named below seem better suited to people than to birds.

45 i.e. miniature ship-sheds.

46 The peripetasmata were the richly embroidered coverlets which were spread over the couches and hung down the sides to the floor; but in this case the guests would see, instead of the usual side-hangings, the open side of the platform with its duck-shelters facing the pond.

47 Epitonium, signifying originally "key," is used in the sense of "cock" by Vitruvius and by Seneca.

48 This is the water-clock, popularly called the "Tower of the Winds," built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus, in the first century B.C., and still to be seen. Each of its eight sides corresponded to one of the eight winds and held a picture of that wind. The water-clock was so arranged that it marked the hour, as Varro here describes, and the vane on the roof directed the pointer to the figure of the wind then blowing.

49 Parra is probably the barn owl, but in any case a bird of evil omen (Hor. Odes, III.27.1) as Parra, with his evil tidings, is here.

50 Fircellius Pavo ("Peacock"), whose full name was given, III.2.2.

51 Literally, "pull a saw"; from the alternate pulling and yielding of the sawyers.

52 A small island, now Pianosa, about 20 miles due south of Elba.

53 Columella, VIII.11.3, gives a detailed description of such a building.

54 Modern authorities are unable to give any reason for this latter statement.

55 This is Cicero's contemporary, the famous orator, Quintus Hortensius Hortalus. His love of luxury is often mentioned.

56 The word is formed from περιστερός, "pigeon," and τρέφειν, "rear." In Sec. 2 below the author uses peristeron also, from περιστερῶν.

57 We do not know what a "Punic window" was. Cato in 14.2 refers to such a window, and in 18.9 he speaks of a "Punic joint," the character of which is also unknown. There seems to be here none of the slighting tone found in Cicero's allusion to lectuli Punicani in Pro Murena, 75. The larger windows were guarded by lattice-work without and within.

58 Perhaps an instance of Varro's humour. They are constantly poking fun at Axius's greed, and Pica ironically advises him to learn from the city man a thing or two about "big" profits before setting up in the business in the country. Another interpretation, with no humour intended, comes from Iucundus's conjecture, ex asse semissem: i.e. a gain of one-half as from every as invested, or a profit of fifty per cent.

59 Merula resumes.

60 See note 1, page 478.

61 Guinea-fowl.

62 ὀρνιθοβόσκιον, breeding-place for birds.

63 The outstanding success of the Delians as poultrymen is attested by Columella (VIII.2.4). Pliny (N. H.X.139) states that they were the first to fatten poultry for market.

64 This strange operation is more clearly described by Columella, VIII.2.3, "And yet they experience this (lack of desire) not through the loss of their generative organs, but by having their spurs burned off with a red-hot iron." See also Pliny, N.H., X.50.

65 For the spelling "Median" as "Melian," see Sec. 19 of this chapter, with note 74.

66 The hen-house described by Columella in greater detail (VIII.3) corresponds, in general, to this, except in the matter of the room for the caretaker, which here is called "large," while in Columella's it is but seven feet in every dimension. Moreover, in Columella it contains only a fireplace, the smoke from which "is very salutary for hens." Columella states that this room connects the two hen-houses, but we can only infer that this is true in Varro. It appears that the caretaker's room was surrounded by nests, but the word plena (Sec. 7) seems very odd. Editors therefore suspect the text at this point; see critical note, page 474.

67 Unless the speaker refers to the "enclosed place" in Sec. 6, this is a slip.

68 Pliny (N. H., X.148, 151) repeats this, and says that all eggs have, in the centre of the yolk, a sort of blood-drop, which some consider to be the heart of the embryo chick. Aristotle, however, believed (Hist. Anim., VI.3) that this drop, from which developed the body of the chick, was in the white of the egg, and that the yolk supplied nourishment to the embryo.

69 Columella, whose directions in this matter are, as often, somewhat fuller and clearer than Varro's, recommends (VIII.5.7) that two or three newly hatched broods, up to a maximum of thirty chicks, be put under one hen on the very day of their hatching; but he advises (VIII.5.15) that they be kept in the nests with their mothers for that day rather than removed one by one as they are hatched. The unhatched eggs, he says (ibid.), must be removed after twenty-one days of incubation.

70 Schneider and Keil both think these are Italian partridges. Durand de la Malle thinks they are domestic fowl which have reverted. Still others think they are our heath-fowl.

71 Guinea fowl.

72 The modern name of Album Ingaunum is Albenga; that of Intimilium is Vintimiglia; and that of Gallinaria is Isola d'Albegna.

Thayer's Note: Today's spelling is Ventimiglia, presumably under the attraction of venti miglia = "twenty miles" (although French retains the older spelling in Vintimille); the island is given on current maps as Gallinara (no i).

73 Greek μελεαγρίς, from which our name for the turkey family, Meleagridae.

74 But Columella (VIII.2.4) says this was a mistake made, not by the ancients, but by "the ignorant rabble."

75 χηνοβοσκεῖον, "a place for feeding geese."

76 Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, consul with Pompey for part of the year 52 B.C.

77 Columella's goose-pens (VIII.14.1) were walled enclosures, nine feet high, with three-foot coops built into the walls.

78 Columella (VIII.14.2) makes clear what Varro evidently means: "A swampy, but grassy place is set apart for them, and other forage plants are grown, such as vetch, trefoil, fenugreek; but especially a species of endive which the Greeks call σέρις."

79 In Section 4.

80 νεσσοτροφεῖον, "a place where ducks are reared"; with Varro's description may be compared Columella, VIII.15.

81 The same story is told by Aristotle, Hist. Anim.V.2: "With partridges, by the way, if the female gets to leeward of the male, she becomes thereby impregnated. And often when they happen to be in heat she is affected in this wise by the voice of the male, or by his breathing down on her as he lies overhead." He repeats this story several times, as do other writers, both Greek and Latin. The myth, probably Egyptian, is, like the similar one of the vulture, referred to frequently by the Fathers. A very similar story is told by Varro, II.1.19.

82 Martial's description of the villa of his friend Faustinus at Baiae (III.58), which might well serve as a poetical preface to this work, mentions most of the animals and birds named by Varro.

83 Known only from this passage, and two passages in Pliny ( VIII.211; IX.173) which give the same facts. Tarquinii, now Corneto Tarquinia, was a very ancient and important city in Etruria. Statonia was also in southern Etruria.

Thayer's Note: see Chapters 18‑19: Corneto (Tarquinii) and 24: Statonia of George Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria.

84 See Chapter 14.

85 Aristotle makes this statement several times, e.g.Hist. Anim., V.9: "The greater part of wild animals bring forth once and once only in the year, except in the case of animals like the hare, where the female can become superfoetally impregnated." Many other authors repeat it, and marvellous tales are told of the fecundity of the hare. Aristotle explains this (Hist. Anim., III.1): "The females of horned non-ambidental animals are furnished with cotyledons in the womb when they are pregnant, and such is the case, among ambidentals, with the hare, the mouse, and the bat."

Thayer's Note: For superfetation among hares, see Mair's note on Oppian, Cyneg. III.519 ff. and Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.17, passim (including several of the notes); for an attested modern case in humans, my note to Pliny, N. H. VII.49.

86 Pliny (N. H., VII.218): "Archelaus is our authority for the statement that the hare has as many years as it has in its body openings for excrement. Certainly a varying number is found."

87 Cf. Section 4.

88 e palaestra is obscure. We have references to palaestrae attached to private houses, and I have assumed that it was an open space, a platform or terrace, on which the guests stood to watch the feeding. This seems to be in harmony with the statement immediately below.

89 θηροτροφεῖον, "a place for rearing game."

90 Panthers. Pliny tells us (VIII.64) that there was an old decree of the Senate which forbade panthers to be brought into Italy; and that Gnaeus Aufidius, tribune of the plebs (probably in 170 B.C.), had the people pass a law permitting their importation for use in the Circus.

91 Cf. III.3.1; III.12.1.

92 Snails, a favourite article of the Roman diet, are still commonly eaten in Italy and France, where they are bred in snail gardens (escargotières). Pliny N. H., IX.173) ascribes to Fulvius Lippinus (cf. 12.1, above) the establishment of vivaries for snails in the vicinity of Tarquinii, shortly before the Civil War, and the segregation of the various species named by Varro in this chapter.

93 See critical note above.

94 About two and one-half gallons. This statement is repeated by Pliny (N. H., IX.56); and he adds, rather significantly, that his authority is Marcus Varro!

95 Cf. Chapter 14.

96 The statement of Appius seems to be made in order to emphasize his poverty; but Schneider remarks that it is silly.

97 A pun on the name Appius, from apis.

98 Cf. II.5.5.

99 The Roman dinner usually consisted of three parts: (1) the gustus or promulsis, containing chiefly the hors d'oeuvres, especially eggs (cf. I.2.11), whence came the expression ab ovo usque ad mala; (2) the dinner proper; then, after an offering to the gods, (3) the mensa secunda or dessert. Mulsum, which was wine sweetened with honey, appeared both in the promulsis and with the dessert.

100 We do not know the author; but Aristophanes (Eccles. 974) calls a girl μέλιττα Μοῦσης, "honey-bee of the Muse." The reason given here is their response to the music of the cymbals, of the rhythmical beating of the hands.

101 Even Aristotle did not know that the queen bee was the common mother of the hive. This discovery, made by Swammerdam in the seventeenth century, is the beginning of the modern knowledge of the subject.

102 See Section 23.

103 A metaphor frequently used. It is taken from the torch-race at Athens, in which a lighted torch was handed on from one runner to another; it resembled the modern relay race.

104 This use of the distributive numeral with milia sestertia is paralleled in Chapter 6.6, and Chapter 17.3. For the apparently adjectival use of sestertia with milia, see also II.1.14 , and Columella, III.3.8‑10.

105 Melitton is the Greek μελιττών or μελισσών, "a bee-house"; melitrophion is μελιτροφεῖον (a shortened form of μελιττοτροφεῖον), "a place for raising bees"; and mellarium is the Latin equivalent.

106 "Alfalfa was one of the stand‑bys of ancient agriculture. According to Pliny, it was introduced into Italy from Greece, whither it had been brought from Asia during the Persian wars, and so derived its Greek and Roman name Medica. As Cato does not mention it with the other legumes he used, it is probable that the Romans had not yet adopted it in Cato's day, but by the time of Varro and Virgil it was well established in Italy. In Columella's day it was already a feature of the agriculture of Andalusia, and there the Moors, who loved plants, kept it alive, as it were a Vestal fire, while it died out of Italy during the Dark Ages; from Spain it spread again all over southern Europe, and with America it was a fair exchange for tobacco." — Fairfax Harrison.

107 For the merits of various types of hives, see Sec. 17, below, and cf. Columella, IX.6.

108 But earum may refer to alvos, and so mean "the shape of the belly."

109 ad extremam naturally means "at the end"; but since Pliny says (N. H., XXI.80) that the best cover was a tergo, and that it was a sliding cover, the interpretation here given seems probable.

110 Varro is quoting (and misquoting) Aristotle, who says (Hist. Anim., IX.40) that there are two varieties, not three: the black, and the red and striped.

111 Cited in I.I.9, as a poet of Ephesus; Pliny also names him, XI.7.

112 Locus desperatus. The text followed is that of Keil, accepted by Goetz, as being best attested by the MSS.; though Scaliger's emendation has palaeographical possibilities at least. If a lacuna be assumed with Gesner (cf Zahlfeldt, "Quaest. Crit. in Varr. Rer. Rust." p24), we have no hint in other writers as to what is lost. Editors are generally agreed that Varro is quoting from Menecrates.

113 "A red, resinous, odorous substance having some resemblance to wax and smelling like storax. It is collected by bees from the viscid buds of various trees, and used to stop the holes and crevices in their hives to prevent the entrance of cold air, to strengthen the cells, etc. Also called bee-glue." — Century Dict.

Varro puns on the literal meaning of the word πρὸ-πολις, "before the city," by using the term protectum.

114 "Bee-bread." "The pollen of flowers settles on the hairs with which their body is covered, whence it is collected into pellets by a brush on their second pair of legs, and deposited in a hollow in the third pair. It is called bee-bread and is the food of the larvae or young. The adult bees feed on honey." — Century Dict.

115 Aristotle, Hist. Anim., IX.40: "They have also another food which is called bee-bread; this is scarcer than honey, and has a sweet fig-like taste."

116 i.e. by the flower furnishing the "material."

117 i.e. while the bees seem to make this further distinction, as it is done unconsciously the distinction really governs the bees.

118 Supposed to be the skirret, Sium sisarum, L.

119 But the word adnatae, "cousins," is playfully used, and reminds us of Cicero, de Off., 54, where he describes the propagation of the family by the addition of brothers and cousins, and adds: "When these can no longer be contained in one home, they go out into other homes as into colonies."

120 Cf. Section 23 above.

121 Columella (IX.15.4) merely says that when you observe frequent battles between the drones and the bees, you should open the hives and see whether the comb is half-filled or full and covered with a membrane.

122 These dates are, respectively, 10th May, early September, and early November.

123 To decide, in case two candidates received an equal number of votes, which should be aedile. Cicero, Pro Planco, 22, says "For our ancestors would never have set up the lottery for aediles if they had not seen that a case could occur in which the candidates received an equal number of votes."

124 Book II ends in the same way. Horti has several meanings, among them "country house"; and it seems probable that in this instance Appius's candidate was so sure of his election that he had arranged a dinner-party to celebrate his victory.

125 Cf. III.3.1.

126 For the meaning, see Section 3 below.

127 Latin writers, and especially poets, write Lympha or Nympha, and use it as synonymous with water. The contrast here is, of course, between the fresh water of the ordinary pond and the sea-water of the more elaborate pond.

128 He is mentioned also II.1.2.

129 Pliny (IX.171) relates that the loan was on the occasion of one of Caesar's triumphs as dictator; but he says it was 6000.

130 Varro indulges in much punning, on "sweet" and "bitter," and on "mullets" and "mules." Thus, dulcis means both "fresh" and "delightful," while amarus has both the meanings of "bitter." In Section 6 the mulli, mullets, are contrasted with his muli, mules.

131 Pliny (N. H., XXXV.123) tells us he was a native of Sicyon, a contemporary of Apelles, and the discoverer of the art of foreshortening.

132 Pliny devotes a chapter (II.95) to such islands and says: "In the Nymphaeus, certain small islands called the 'Dancers,' because when choruses are sung they move in tune." Varro was a legatus to Pompey in Lydia in 67 or 66 B.C.

133 The pun is common in Latin writers, as ius means both "sauce" and "justice." Hence, vocare in ius, "to call to ius, sauce or justice."

134 He has already been mentioned, III.6.6, and III.13.2. Many other anecdotes are told of him: that he watered favourite trees with wine, and one occasion asked Cicero to exchange places with him in speaking, that he might go home to water with his own hands a plane tree he had planted; that he wept over the death of a favourite muraena, etc. Cicero has frequent sneers at those whom he calls piscinarios; as, e.g.ad Att., II.1.7: "who think they can touch the sky with their finger, if they have barbed mullets in their ponds which are tame enough to come when called."

135 This would be three or four miles.

136a 136b The two were brothers, and are often mentioned together.

The ponds mentioned here were near Bauli, which lay between Baiae and Misenum, and remains may still be seen. Vedius Pollio, Vergil, Hortensius, and many others had villas in this neighbourhood.

137 Cf. II.1.16, and II.2.9.

138 The whole statement is surprising, as it is well known that the Mediterranean is practically tideless. But Columella, in the corresponding passage (VIII.17), uses language which also seems to assume a tide. Livy, in his description of the capture of New Carthage (XXVI.45.8), says that the swamp, because the water was carried out naturally by the tide and also by a brisk wind blowing in the same direction, was at some places waist-deep and at others knee-deep. The United States Hydrographic Office reports that the mean tidal range at Naples is 0.8 of a foot; the spring tide range (twice a month) is 1.0 foot.

139 i.e. the toga praetexta, which had a broad border of purple. As aedile, he had a right to wear the official robe.

Thayer's Notes:

a For more comprehensive details about the raising of dormice, including clear pictures of two of these special jars, see the article Glirarium in Daremberg & Saglio's Dictionnaire des Antiquités.

b See I.7.2 and my note.

c See for example Celsus, V.28.11; and passim in that same Book, for several medicinal uses.

d Why would one want to resurrect a fly, or even, as seems to be implied here, make a habit of doing so? This tips me off that Varro and I have a bit of shared experience, very likely as little boys, two thousand years apart; story time.

When I was eleven, I spent a summer in Barbazan, a village of southwestern France, at the vacation home of my French family, that I'd never met before. It was a three-bedroom cottage, into which we somehow squeezed my great-uncle Jean Bercher, who owned the house; my parents and me, my cousins and their two children. I slept in my own little house — a sort of shed or maybe garage at the back of the garden had been arranged as an extra room — and I think my cousins' kids slept on sofas in the living room.

The house got livelier still when other cousins of mine, who lived in Tarbes, not so far away, came for frequent visits: two adults and their seven children. My uncle Jean, a 78‑year‑old man who liked a bit more quiet than he was getting, drew on his medical experience — he had retired as Médecin-Général of the French Army, director of the Val-de‑Grâce hospital in Paris — to amuse all us kids: somewhere else. And what worked best was a little lesson in how to resurrect a drowned fly: (1) OK guys, go out and catch some flies, without hurting them; (2) bring me a bowl of water and some table salt. Sure enough, we found that we could drown a fly until it was quite motionless and its little feet were all scrunched up against itself; then bury it in a mound of salt; and in a minute or so the salt would start to move, and eventually the fly would stagger out, shake itself, and like a heavy-loaded plane taking off from an aircraft carrier, totter off into the air: alive. This simple entertainment kept ten children occupied for most of the summer; most importantly, out of the house, out of the way, out of earshot. Medical school had been useful after all.

Whether the flies or bees are actually dead (notice that though Varro talks of dead flies, with regard to bees he says "they lie prostrate as if dead") is a matter of ethical definition, but not of practical consequence: without the vivifying application of a suitable fine substance such as salt or ashes, at some point death does become irreversible — take it from a little boy who spent a summer on the question. And yes, I wonder how many noisy brothers and sisters Varro had, and which of his elderly relatives taught him this neat little trick.

Page updated: 7 Jul 13