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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 44

Reaction of the Capitalist System on Agriculture

The Romans perceived moreover--as it was not difficult to perceive --that it was of far more consequence to give a different direction to the whole national economy than to exercise a police control over speculation; it was such views mainly that men like Cato enforced by precept and example on the Roman agriculturist. "When our forefathers," continues Cato in the preface just quoted, "pronounced the eulogy of a worthy man, they praised him as a worthy farmer and a worthy landlord; one who was thus commended was thought to have received the highest praise. The merchant I deem energetic and diligent in the pursuit of gain; but his calling is too much exposed to perils and mischances.

On the other hand farmers furnish the bravest men and the ablest soldiers; no calling is so honourable, safe, and free from odium as theirs, and those who occupy themselves with it are least liable to evil thoughts." He was wont to say of himself, that his property was derived solely from two sources --agriculture and frugality; and, though this was neither very logical in thought nor strictly conformable to the truth,(29) yet Cato was not unjustly regarded by his contemporaries and by posterity as the model of a Roman landlord.

29. Cato, like every other Roman, invested a part of his means in the breeding of cattle, and in commercial and other undertakings. But it was not his habit directly to violate the laws; he neither speculated in state-leases--which as a senator he was not allowed to do--nor practised usury. It is an injustice to charge him with a practice in the latter respect at variance with his theory; the -fenus nauticum-, in which he certainly engaged, was not a branch of usury prohibited by the law; it really formed an essential part of the business of chartering and freighting vessels.

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