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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER VIII - Law, Religion, Military System, Economic Condition, Nationality


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Page 25

On the other hand the enactment in the law of 387, not incompatible indeed with the earlier mode of management but yet far more appropriate to the later, viz. that the landholder should be bound to employ along with his slaves a proportional number of free persons,(25) may well be regarded as the oldest trace of the later centralized farming of estates;(26) and it deserves notice that even here at its first emergence it essentially rests on slave-holding.

25. Cf. II. III. Combination of the Plebian Aristocracy and the Farmers against the Nobility

26. Varro (De R. R. i. 2, 9) evidently conceives the author of the Licinian agrarian law as fanning in person his extensive lands; although, we may add, the story may easily have been invented to explain the cognomen (-Stolo-).

How it arose, must remain an undecided point; possibly the Carthaginian plantations in Sicily served as models to the oldest Roman landholders, and perhaps even the appearance of wheat in husbandry by the side of spelt,(27) which Varro places about the period of the decemvirs, was connected with that altered style of management.

27. Cf. I. XIII. System of Joint Cultivation

Still less can we ascertain how far this method of husbandry had already during this period spread; but the history of the wars with Hannibal leaves no doubt that it cannot yet have become the rule, nor can it have yet absorbed the Italian farmer class. Where it did come into vogue, however, it annihilated the older clientship based on the -precarium-; just as the modern system of large farms has been formed in great part by the suppression of petty holdings and the conversion of hides into farm-fields. It admits of no doubt that the restriction of this agricultural clientship very materially contributed towards the distress of the class of small cultivators.

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