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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


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

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 XII - The Management of Land and of Capital


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Page 12

If, moreover, we have risen to that little-to-be-envied elevation of thought which values no feature of an economy save the capital invested in it, we cannot deny to the management of the Roman estates the praise of consistency, energy, punctuality, frugality, and solidity. The pithy practical husbandman is reflected in Cato's description of the steward, as he ought to be.

He is the first on the farm to rise and the last to go to bed; he is strict in dealing with himself as well as with those under him, and knows more especially how to keep the stewardess in order, but is also careful of his labourers and his cattle, and in particular of the ox that draws the plough; he puts his hand frequently to work and to every kind of it, but never works himself weary like a slave; he is always at home, never borrows nor lends, gives no entertainments, troubles himself about no other worship than that of the gods of the hearth and the field, and like a true slave leaves all dealings with the gods as well as with men to his master; lastly and above all, he modestly meets that master and faithfully and simply, without exercising too little or too much of thought, conforms to the instructions which that master has given.

He is a bad husbandman, it is elsewhere said, who buys what he can raise on his own land; a bad father of a household, who takes in hand by day what can be done by candle-light, unless the weather be bad; a still worse, who does on a working-day what might be done on a holiday; but worst of all is he, who in good weather allows work to go on within doors instead of in the open air. The characteristic enthusiasm too of high farming is not wanting; and the golden rules are laid down, that the soil was given to the husbandman not to be scoured and swept but to be sown and reaped, and that the farmer therefore ought first to plant vines and olives and only thereafter, and that not too early in life, to build himself a villa.

A certain boorishness marks the system, and, instead of the rational investigation of causes and effects, the well-known rules of rustic experience are uniformly brought forward; yet there is an evident endeavour to appropriate the experience of others and the products of foreign lands: in Cato's list of the sorts of fruit trees, for instance, Greek, African, and Spanish species appear.

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