Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.) known as The Censor is well known in the rolls of Roman history as a representative of the Roman conscience in the face of a time of several very different kinds of change. He was brought up in an agricultural world, from an Plebeian family but one not known for important civil appointments. Serving early in the army, he took part in the Battle of Zama ending the Second Punic war, was noted by L. Valerius Flaccus as a man of talent,, and coming to Rome he became Quaestor in 203, Aedile in l99, Praetor in l98 and consul in l95. His Triumph in l94 commemorated his role in the military conquest of Spain, a campaign in which he was known for effectiveness and also great cruelty. In the following year he devoted himself to the duties of Censor, which furnished him with a full scope for exercising his views on the deterioration of Roman society. For the rest of his long life, he was sworn enemy to the growing corruption in high places. He disliked and opposed the infiltration of Greek ideas and culture into the Roman way of life, and tried to stem the luxurious and expensive living of the day. In short, Cato was sharp, effective, ultra-conservative in his views, and intent on stemming the new currents which were reshaping the old Roman Republic.

Cato was a writer at a time when Roman prose was not yet well developed. His "Origines" on the foundations of the Italian states, his many recorded speeches and various other writings has all been lost. But the book De Agri Cultura has been preserved and has come down to us in a readable, continuous text. It was widely known in Roman times and probably already edited in orthography and possibly excerpted from a mong paper. In its present form it runs about 70 printed pages in 162 short sections. It is by far the earliest piece of Latin prose we have, and without question far closer to the way actual Roman spoke and thought than the highly developed prose style of the Augustan writers.

I selected twenty four of the sections which pertain to human and social qualities, to which I have added short commentary following the Latin text. I have not translated the Latin since it is simple in its constructions and good reading as an example of accessible Latin with few frills. The vocabulary has many unusual items of farm vocabulary, which I have converted or paraphrased to some extent, but for the serious reader of this remarkable little book, the best way is to go to the Oxford Latin Dictionary and check out the details. Words which were common and once known to everybody may now be hapax legomena, and the list of such words is a good index of how narrow our scope of the Roman world actually is.

Cato's crusade against the change in Roman society was his major life's work, something he never forgot even when he decided at age of eighty to learn Greek, probably in order to refute the tide of Hellenic thought invading Rome. The book on Agriculture is a clear statement of the principles of honesty, directness of intent, social values and the relationship of individuals to the survival of small farming enterprises. Written late in his life, Cato's picture of a well coordinated and viable farming operation is presumably based on his own experience in just such a setting in his youth, which points to a setting in the period of near 250 B. C.

Cato's own life history took a different turn after that time. First he was a private soldier in the wars, he was at the Battle of Zama in 202 and saw Carthage halted if not totally eradicated. He was involved in military expeditions into Greece and then Spain, and in these years he must have seen two generations of young farm-bred Romans virtually wiped out. If some survived, they returned to find their family farms subsumed into the large landed estates which the Roman nobility were putting together as slave-run Latifundia, the prototype for the Imperial estates and even the regional duchies of the early Medieval Period. The family farm was gone, and the Roman world was turning to larger business enterprises all around the Seas. The grain for Italy could not be grown at home in enough quantities, so the Near East became a critical part of Roman trade for imports. This meant more shipping, more large scale deals with more capital, so the move toward greater corruption and more luxury in the face of new wealth is hardly surprising.

At long last the academic world has opened the door to Social History, that complex web of threads which defines the life of the populace, the populus minutus as the Roman called them. For Rome this has been for the most part obscured by succeeding ages which filtered and sieved the data from Rome in accordance with the interests of their own time. We know a great deal about how an educated and intelligent man like Cicero wrote and thought, but his writing even in a personal letter to a friend or brother, is a far remove from anything a man in the street could even understand. And so with most of Roman "literature", which is specifically representative of upper-class thought and taste. One might almost say that nothing of popular speech has survived, certainly not enough to construct even a sample for a modern Linguist to work with.

There are traces of the popular speech and thought in. Plautine comedy, despite a Hellenistic format and its cloak of versification. Coimedy shows a great deal about the range of usage of the country audiences who attended the local and very popular plays. Cato's De Agricultra comes next as the only example of early prose used for a commonplace subject, long before the examples of Greek oratory and the so-called Asiatic Style emerged to color Latin prose. Caesar's Commentaries as Atticistic or puristic writing might be thought of as coming closer to the common vein, but Caesarian stylistics are as definite in their organization as the fancy style he was opposing. Horace's Satires have pieces of common-usage wording, but always worked into a complex literary fabric where they are used mainly for coloristic effects. With a great leap, we jump to Petronius for a glimpse of plain, prose wording, but here it is a case of too little and too late.

Latin speech as the Romans used it is all but unknown to us. It is true there are many tens of thousands of Inscriptions from all periods, but these are formal in how they speak. The few which are more expansive often try to be literary in attitude, where the most interesting thing about them is their failure to mimic the high style.

Catos' De Agricultura is worth reading very carefully. The grammar is basic Latin, the subject is the hard-nosed information about running of a small enterprise farm. It is reminiscent of the New England farms of the early l9th century for work-ethic, while the use of slaves on the richer plantations of the South matches Cato's oil and wine markets with the large cotton plantations run by slaves. What is unique about Cato is his focus on the business at hand, getting the most out of the men and land, while keeping a sense of duties and values in mind, however narrow and restrictive it may be, and doing this all under the umbrella of a set of traditional religious observances. This too suited the earlier American scene.

But for Cato writing near 150 B.C., it was all in vain. The latifundia had taken over Italy, the Scipios who had won the wars were now in Cato's view becoming crooks leaching funds from the expanding economy. Cato's injunctions against fancy clothing, over-large partying, spending of money in every direction ---- these were all in vain. As Censor he had a voice to speak out but the message was not going to be heard seriously, since Rome was not going back to the farm economy of the days before the Punic Wars. The best Cato could do would be to write a Memoir of the good life in the old days, they way it was when he was a young man growing up under the watchful eye of his elders, the respectable "maiores" whom he quotes in the first page of his book.

Just so the farm economy of l910 in America, where 80 percent of the populace lived on farms, is only a memory which cannot be revived by the political voiced now in the new Millennium calling for "family values" and "personal integrity". There are new values perhaps, once we may not even yet recognize, but they are not going to be like those of a century ago. It is so with Cato, reading his crabby little manual on values on the farm, we get a clear vignette of what things must have been like around 250 B.C. in the Roman countryside. But when Cato adds a note about the building of a new Farmhouse and says it is better to make is somewhat "urbanum" with the conveniences or the urbs Rome, so the Master will stay close and not run off to the city, he is already admitting that it won't work. Just so, we include TV and a pool and air-conditioning for the farm-family in our Midwest breadbasket of the nation, and we still can't keep the young men and women on the farm.

There is an organization called The Cato Society, which you will find on the Internet under, an ultra-conservative study-group which like Cato himself tries to resist the waves of change, hearkening back to the solidity of the Old Days with a false devotion which touches the heart. This takes its origins from the early "Cato Letters", pamphlets current in the l780's for a conservative view of the new United States. But both the Letters and the Society share with Cato himself a reactionary attitude toward The New, coupled with a pinch-penny economics which does not understand democracy or the idea or liberal human values. When a modern business weakens, we sell or bankrupt it and dump the shareholders, quite in the spirit of Cato who advises selling off salves who are too old to be worth their keep. Nepos (below) doesn't mention things like this, but the sensitive Greek biographer Plutarch was shocked. And so the old conflict between the Dollar Values as contrasted with the Human Values goes on.

I suggest reading De Agricultura with a double watch on what he is saying. It is on the one hand most engaging to see how these little people so long ago on forgotten farms in ancient Italy lived their lives. But on the other hand, we must read it as a disappearing rear-window view of something already long gone into the past, something which we will probably never see again. We can call for "Family Values" and "Personal Responsibility" from the political lectern forever, but whether we are going to have a place and functioning site for these values is a discouragingly open question.


Est interdum praestare mercaturis rem quaerere, nisi tam periculosum sit, et item foenerari, si tam honestum. Maiores nostri sic habuerunt et ita in legibus posiverunt: furem dupli condemnari, foeneratorem quadrupli. Quanto peiorem civem existimarint foeneratorem quam furem, hinc licet existimare.

Et virum bonum quom laudabant, ita laudabant: bonum agricolam bonumque colonum. Amplissime laudari existimabatur qui ita laudabatur. Mercatorem autem strenuum studiosumque rei quaerendae existimo, verum, ut supra dixi, periculosum et calamitosum.

Getting money by trade can sometimes seem preferable, but the dangers are great, worse for money-lending as our course cases clearly show. Farmers are our best example of good character and reputation, while businesmen have a hard and tough profession.

At ex agricolis et viri fortissimi et milites strenuissimi gignuntur, maximeque pius quaestus stabilissimusque consequitur minimeque invidiosus, minimeque male cogitantes sunt qui in eo studio occupati sunt. Nunc, ut ad rem redeam, quod promisi institutum principium hoc erit.

Best soldiers and best men come from the agricultural world. I return to the subject which I promised to do (institutum as supine "to institute"), as the beginning of my book.


Praedium quom parare cogitabis, sic in animo habeto: uti ne cupide emas neve opera tua parcas visere et ne satis habeas semel circumire. Quotiens ibis, totiens magis placebit quod bonum erit. Vicini quo pacto niteant, id animum advertito: in bona regione bene nitere oportebit. Et uti eo introeas et circumspicias, uti inde exire possis.

Uti bonum caelum habeat, ne calamitosum siet, solo bono, sua virtute valeat. Si poteris, sub radice montis siet, in meridiem spectet, loco salubri. operariorum copia siet, bonumque aquarium, oppidum validum prope siet. aut mare aut amnis, qua naves ambulant, aut via bona celerisque. Siet in his agris qui non saepe dominum mutant: qui in his agris praedia vendiderint, eos pigeat vendidisse. Uti bene aedificatum siet. Caveto alienam disciplinam temere contemnas. De domino bono bonoque aedificatore melius emetur.

Looking the land over carefully, the neighborhood, equipments and market access, condition will be critical, also who the seller is. Listen to all.

Ad villam cum venies, videto vasa torcula et dolia multane sient: ubi non erunt, scito pro ratione fructum esse. Instrumenti ne magni siet, loco bono siet. Videto quam minimi instrumenti sumptuosusque ager ne siet. Scito idem agrum quod hominem, quamvis quaestuosus siet, ssumptuosus erit, relinqui non multum.

Equipment is less important that the land, and remember its like a man: Lots of money but lots of spending, and soon nothing left.

Praedium quod primum siet, si me rogabis, sic dicam: de omnibus agris optimoque loco iugera agri centum, vinea est prima, vel si vino multo est. secundo loco hortus irriguus. tertio salictum. quarto oletum. quinto pratum. sexto campus frumentarius. septimo silva caedua. octavo arbustum. nono glandaria silva.

Should be hundred acres, in six sections: vineyard, vegetables, willows for fencing, olive yard, grain fields, woodlot, tree-lot for vines and acorn/beech forest (for pigs). This is interestingly laid out, with wine and olive oil production the most important, wood, willow fencing and mast for maintaining the farm, a "wet-garden" for household fresh produce, and only incidentally grain "frumentum", which by now as imported form Sicily or the East. But without grain, the society couldn't function, so we see here is this little "ideal" farm a plan for what farms must have been like before the Punic Wars. Farmers make good soldiers as he says, but a generation or two lost in the wars means large corporations buying up the farmsteads for extensive estates, which finally covered all of Italy and bred the latifundia, and in turn the medieval feudal principalities. Cato after a full life, now at age 80 is advising for a lost cause, just as Vergil did later in the Georgics.


Pater familias, ubi ad villam venit, ubi larem familiarem salutavit, fundum eodem die, si potest, circumeat, si non eodem die, at postridie. Ubi cognovit quo modo fundus cultus siet, opera quaeque facta infectaque sient, postridie eius diei vilicum vocet, roget quid operis siet factum, quid restet, satisne temperi opera sient confecta, possitne quae reliqua sient conficere, et quid factum vini, frumenti aliarumque rerum omnium.

First step is to take charge, check with the foreman about what is done, what needed, the actual tally of the product as it stands. And do this today, at worst next day!

Ubi ea cognovit, rationem inire oportet operarum, dierum. Si ei opus non apparet, dicit vilicus sedulo se fecisse, servos non valuisse, tempestates malas fuisse, servos aufugisse, opus publicum effecisse. Ubi eas aliasque causas multas dixit, ad rationem operum operarumque revoca. Cum tempestates pluviae fuerint, quae opera per imbrem fieri potuerint: dolia lavari, picari, villam purgari, frumentum transferri, stercus foras efferri, stercilinum fieri, semen purgari, funes sarciri, novos fieri, centones, cuculiones familiam oportuisse sibi sarcire, per ferias potuisse fossas veteres tergeri, viam publicam muniri, vepres recidi, hortum fodiri, pratum purgari, virgas vinciri, spinas runcari, expinsi far, munditias fieri. Cum servi aegrotarint, cibaria tanta dari non oportuisse.

Then check on the workers, their work and health, daily work time (dierum), and all the fixing and cleaning up which has to be done. Work for rainy days, for holidays, for sick slaves short rations, etc. Idle hand are the Devils'work has its Roman parallel.

Ubi cognita aequo animo sient quae reliqua opera sient, curari uti perficiantur. Rationes putare argentariam, frumentariam, pabuli causa quae parata sunt, rationem vinariam, oleariam, quid venerit, quid exactum siet, quid reliquum siet, quid siet quod veneat, quae satis accipiunda sient, satis accipiantur, reliqua quae sient, uti compareant.

Si quid desit in annum, uti paretur. Quae supersint, uti veneant. Quae opus sient locato, locentur. Quae opera fieri velit et quae locari velit, uti imperet et ea scripta relinquat.

Now a plan of checking everything, buying and selling, and deciding what work was to be hired-out (locare), and all put down in writing. And down i to the following paragraph: Having a major sale (auctio) getting rid of products and worn out equipment and worn out animals, slaves, since the Master (paterfamilias) has to be a Seller, not a Buyer!

Pecus consideret. Auctionem uti faciat: vendat oleum, si pretium habeat. Vinum, frumentum quod supersit, vendat. Boves vetulos, armenta delicula, oves deliculas, lanam, pelles, plostrum vetus, ferramenta vetera, servum senem, servum morbosum, et si quid aliud supersit, vendat. Patrem familias vendacem, non emacem esse oportet.

Note that he says patrem familias here, and in the first paragraph above patremfamilias with the archaic gen. sg., as suiting the religious observance of entering the farmstead. But elsewhere he can say familiae. This text must have been updated in language in the Roman period, but if this alternation remains, it was probably a genuine difference of that time.


Prima adulescentia patrem familiae agrum conserere studere oportet. Aedificare diu cogitare oportet, conserere cogitare non oportet, sed facere oportet. Ubi aetas accessit ad annos XXXVI, tum aedificare oportet, si agrum consitum habeas. Ita aedifices, ne villa fundum quaerat nec fundus villam. Patrem familiae villam rusticam bene aedificatam habere expedit, cellam oleariam, vinariam, dolia multa, uti lubeat caritatem exspectare: et rei et virtuti et gloriae erit.

The house must not demand from the farm, or the farm from the house, other words no gentleman's villa here, as later. A good storage barn means you can wait for high prices (caritas from carus 'dear", quite different from the caritas translating St Paul's agape in the Vulgate a few centuries later!).

Torcularia bona habere oportet, ut opus bene effici possit. Olea ubi lecta siet, oleum fiat continuo, ne corrumpatur. Cogitato quotannis tempestates magnas venire et oleam deicere solere. Si cito sustuleris et vasa parata erunt, damni nihil erit ex tempestate et oleum viridius et melius fiet. Si in terra et tabulato olea nimium diu erit, putescet, oleum fetidum fiet. Ex quavis olea oleum viridius et bonum fieri potest, si temperi facies. In iugera oleti CXX vasa bina esse oportet, si oletum bonum beneque frequens cultumque erit. Trapetos bonos privos inpares esse oportet, si orbes contriti sient, ut conmutare possis, funes loreos privos, vectes senos, fibulas duodenas, medipontos privos loreos. Trochileas Graecanicas binis funis sparteis ducunt: orbiculis superioribus octonis, inferioribus senis citius duces. Si rotas voles facere, tardius ducetur, sed minore labore.

The trapetus privus is an individual olive mill, rather than a ganged machine, so stones can be changed without shutting down the whole operation. Trochilea of Greek style are like out rope block-and-tackle or multiple rope sheaves, with a 7 : 1 mechanical advantage, while the "wheels" are gears, which must be Archimediean worm gear and wheel, with ratio of one turn to the number of teeth on the large wheel, hence more power very very slow. We may think of this as a simple New England style farm, but the Alexandrian Greeks of the time were fine mechanical engineers and the Romans knew about their work for hoisting loads onto ships. Only description of this we have is Vitruvius X 2. 5


Villam urbanam pro copia aedificato. In bono praedio si bene aedificaveris, bene posiveris, ruri si recte habitaveris, libentius et saepius venies. Fundus melius erit, minus peccabitur, fructi plus capies. Frons occipitio prior est. Vicinis bonus esto. Familiam ne siveris peccare. Si te libenter vicinitas videbit, facilius tua vendes, opera facilius locabis, operarios facilius conduces. Si aedificabis, operis, iumentis, materie adiuvabunt, siquid bona salte usus venerit, benigne defendent.

Interesting that he wants the house nice (urbanum would mean like at Rome to some degree, like the suburbs) so you will enjoy it and opt run off to the city. Stay there and enjoy the neighborhood, don't let (siveris from sino) your people (familia = household, slaves and all) commit offenses (peccare, but not yet a religious Sin). Neighborhood also means help and market!


Haec erunt vilici officia. Disciplina bona utatur. Feriae serventur. Alieno manum abstineat, sua servet diligenter. Litibus familia supersedeat. Siquis quid deliquerit, pro noxa bono modo vindicet. Familiae male ne sit, ne algeat, ne esuriat. Opere bene exerceat, facilius malo et alieno prohibebit. Vilicus si nolet male facere, non faciet. Si passus erit, dominus inpune ne sinat esse.

Note faciet is singular going back to the familia, not the vilicus, although I would expect facient. Patior here meaning permitting the wrongdoing.

Pro beneficio gratiam referat, ut aliis recte facere libeat. Vilicus ne sit ambulator, sobrius siet semper, ad cenam nequo eat. Familiam exerceat, consideret, quae dominus imperaverit fiant. Ne plus censeat sapere se quam dominum. Amicos domini, eos habeat sibi amicos. Cui iussus siet, auscultet. Rem divinam nisi Conpitalibus in conpito aut in foco ne faciat.

It is only the Master's role to do the houshold ceremonies, but the foreman can do the festivals at the crossroads for the Lares COmpitales, right after the Saturnalia in December. The day varies and he must keep up on the calendar as part of his job.

Iniussu domini credat nemini: quod dominus crediderit, exigat. Satui semen, cibaria, far, vinum, oleum mutuum dederit nemini. Duas aut tres familias habeat, unde utenda roget et quibus det, praeterea nemini. Rationem cum domino crebro putet. Operarium, mercennarium, politorem diutius eundem ne habeat die. Nequid emisse velit insciente domino, neu quid dominum celavisse velit. Parasitum nequem habeat. Haruspicem, augurem, hariolum, Chaldaeum nequem consuluisse velit. Segetem ne defrudet: nam id infelix est.

He must not only be honest, stay close, and keep books for the farm, but he may have two or three other "familiae" in the neighborhood to lend and borrow from, other than these for bartering on short term nobody at all. Interesting that there are four kinds of charlatans he must avoid, which points to the extent of superstition at the time. An Epistle from St Paul would not have meant much to Cato, who in his old age learned Greek probably more to refute the Hellenic tide than to read Sophocles in the original.

Opus rusticum omne curet uti sciat facere, et id faciat saepe, dum ne lassus fiat. Si fecerit, scibit in mente familiae quid sit, et illi animo aequiore facient. Si hoc faciet, minus libebit ambulare et valebit rectius et dormibit libentius. Primus cubitu surgat, postremus cubitum eat. Prius villam videat clausa uti siet, et uti suo quisque loco cubet et uti iumenta pabulum habeant. Boves maxima diligentia curatos habeto. Bubulcis opsequito partim, quo libentius boves curent. Aratra vomeresque facito uti bonos habeas.

Since oxen (boves) are draft not meat, they are very important, and the ox herd(bubulcus) must be favored to keep his animals well trained. Just so the mahouts in India with their elephants. The pratum mentioned above is for pasturage. But this is not a high priority consideration like wine and oil.

Terram cariosam cave ne ares, neve plostrum neve pecus inpellas. Si ita non caveris, quo inpuleris, trienni fructum amittes. Pecori et bubus diligenter substernatur, ungulae curentur. Scabiem pecoris et iumentis caveto. Si id ex fame et si inpluit fieri solet. opera omnia mature conficias face.

Rotten land (cariosa cf. dental caries) is dry land turned to mud by sudden rain, trampling it down hurt animals and loses planting in such mud for three years or so. Substernere means "bedding" the animals, and of course watch the hoofs. He says (below) to use branches if straw is not available. Elsewhere he applies tar to hoofs if on hard land, to pick up sand and make a temporary "shoe" for un-shoeable oxen.

Nam res rustica sic est, si unam rem sero feceris, omnia opera sero facies. Stramenta si deerunt, frondem illigneam legito, eam substernito ovibus bubusque. Stercilinum magnum stude ut habeas. Stercus sedulo conserva. Cum exportabis, purgato et conminuito. Per autumnum evehito. Circum oleas autumnitate ablaqueato et stercus addito. Frondem populneam, ulmeam, querneam caedito per tempus: eam condito non peraridam, pabulum ovibus. Item faenum cordum, sicillimenta de prato, ea arida condito. Post imbrem autumnum rapinam, pabulum lupinumque serito.

In Autumn till around the trees, ab-laqueo means pull off the "ropes" of weeds (not literary laquare "paneled ceiling" from its recesses or 'lacus"). We are in the country now! Manure everything well, branches cut from various trees are good protection, faenum cordum is 'late hay' not good for fodder, sicillamenta are sickle-scrap (word seen only here!) Then thinking for the next year two feed crops before winter comes. As we see these little known farming words, we realize how much Latin has been lost, words any country lad would know, a far cry from the literary vocabulary of the Augustan age which we imagine to be "the Latin language". For rapine and lupina, don't other looking up these words, use them as they are, since Oxford Lat. Dict. has British botanical names, and we can never be sure about ancient plants anyway. D'Arcy Thompson" Greek Plants... " makes that clear.


Vilici officia quae sunt, quae dominus praecepit, ea omnia quae in fundo fieri oportet quaeque emi pararique oportet, quo modoque cibaria, vestimenta familiae dari oportet, eadem uti curet faciatque moneo dominoque dicto audiens sit. Hoc amplius, quo modo vilicam uti oportet et quo modo eae imperari oportet, uti adventu domini quae opus sunt parentur curenturque diligenter.

The vilica is the woman counterpart to the vilicus, and she is in charge of the female side of the familia. But they can be married, as below:


Vilicae quae sunt officia curato faciat. Si eam tibi dederit dominus uxorem, esto contentus. Ea te metuat facito. Ne nimium luxuriosa siet. Vicinas aliasque mulieres quam minimum utatur neve domum neve ad sese recipiat. Ad coenam ne quo eat neve ambulatrix siet. Rem divinam ni faciat neve mandet qui pro ea faciat iniussu domini aut dominae: scito dominum pro tota familia rem divinam facere. Munda siet: villam conversam mundeque habeat. Focum purum circumversum cotidie, priusquam cubitum eat, habeat. Kal., Idibus, Nonis, festus dies cum erit, coronam in focum indat, per eosdemque dies lari familiari pro copia supplicet.

The duties of the vilica are wide in range, and start with personal qualities, responsibility to duties and the religious rites, which she is expected to oversee and have done correctly. Everything must be done under the name of the Master, rituals and expenses of course.

Cibum tibi et familiae curet uti coctum habeat. Gallinas multas et ova uti habeat. Pira arida, sorba, ficos, uvas passas, sorba in sapa et piras et uvas in doliis et mala struthea, uvas in vinaciis et in urceis in terra obrutas et nuces Praenestinas recentes in urceo in terra obrutas habeat. Mala Scantiana in doliis et alia quae condi solent et silvatica, haec omnia quotannis diligenter uti condita habeat. Farinam bonam et far suptile sciat facere.

But we go immediately into the practical side of her administration, the chicken yard, the picking and preserving and storing of fruit, and seeing that the grain is properly (subtly) ground. She is seen as a super administrative housekeeping, a role which women on farms have enjoyed, or resented well into recent times. With the recent changes in gender responsibility, we find ourselves in a social quandary, since men who try the house-running role are often very inferior substitutes.


Vinum in doliis hoc modo venire oportet. Vini in culleos singulos quadragenae et singulae urnae dabuntur. Quod neque aceat neque muceat, id dabitur. In triduo proxumo viri boni arbitratu degustato. Si non ita fecerit, vinum pro degustato erit. Quot dies per dominum mora fuerit, quo minus vinum degustet, totidem dies emptori procedent. Vinum accipito ante K. Ian. primas. Si non ante acceperit, dominus vinum admetietur. Quod admensus erit, pro eo resolvito. Si emptor postularit, dominus ius iurandum dabit verum fecisse. Locus vinis ad K. Octobres primas dabitur. Si ante non deportaverit, dominus vino quid volet faciet. Cetera lex, quae oleae pendenti.

At the head, venire in the legal sense of "come to terms, be legally agreed on". The culleus is 41 a urnae = amphorae or 120 gallons. Only not acidy or musty (mucus) permitted. The tasting is not like our tasting of fine vintage, just a basic check, by a reliable judge (arbitratu), if not done in 3 days, register as done. If owner's fault, add 3 for the taster. "Receipt" is specified by date X, if not received by then Owner

What is surprising about this is in a basic, agricultural community, such detailed legal specifications are laid out with all possibilities covered. The farmer is not like the former European peasant or the distant hereditary land-owner of France, but much more like the Colonial American independent farmer, who also was very specific about his legal details and records.


Romae tunicas, togas, saga, centones, sculponeas. Calibus et Minturnis cuculliones, ferramenta, falces, palas, ligones, secures, ornamenta, murices, catellas. Venafri palas. Suessae et in Lucanis plostra, treblae Albae, Romae dolia, labra. Tegulae ex Venafro.

Buy at Rome the personal gear, blankets, wooden clogs etc, but go to Cales and Minturnae for forged iron goods, spaces, scythes, and such. Markets for manufactured goods seem to center on specific townships, and iron was since early Etruscan times a high-value material throughout Italy..

Aratra in terram validam Romanica bona erunt, in terram pullam Campanica, iuga Romanica optima erunt, vomeris indutilis optimus erit. Trapeti Pompeis, Nolae ad Rufri maceriam, claves, clostra Romae, hamae oleariae, urcei aquarii, urnae vinariae, alia vasa ahenea Capuae, Nolae, fiscinae Campanicae Capuae utiles sunt. Funes subductarios, spartum omne Capuae, fiscinas Romanicas Suessae, Casino *** optimae erunt Romae.

Now the plow equipment, some for heavy earth (valida), other for light typical Mediterranean land. The vomer indutilis is a detachable plowshare, we thought was an American invention by John Deere! Next come the vessels and containers from Capua and Nola. Pulley ropes (subductarius) with a winch and all manila cordage (spartum) from Capua. Roman style basketry (for storing of as sieves for pressing olives) at Suessa....... (lacuna)....

One does not have to know all this farm vocabulary, but I want to point out the wide variety of equipment available from local manufacturing sources, which points to the aggressive spirit of bustling business. If fiscina is basket, then fiscus is the money-basket and Father of Fiscal Operations.

Funem torculum siquis faciet, Casini L. Tunnius, Venafri C. Mennius L. f. Eo indere oportet coria bona III nostratia, recentia quae depsta sient, quam minimum salis habeant. Ea depsere et unguere unguine prius oportet, tum siccare.

Press ropes on the other hand come from specific factories owned by manufacturing freedmen, and early index of the libertus class of Romans. He suggests native hides of recently softened up or "worked" leather (depso is the word Cicero used for the sexual futuo, but "much worse", actually kneading... he is embarrassed to mention it!".


Familiae cibaria. Qui opus facient: per hiemem tritici modios IIII, per aestatem modios IIII S. Vilico, vilicae, epistatae, opilioni: modios III. Cmpeditis: per hiemem panis p. IIII, ubi vineam fodere coeperint panis p. V, usque adeo dum ficos esse coeperint, deinde ad p. IIII redito.

Triticum is still the name for wheat, important in the West for its glutinaceous qualities which with yeast make rising bread products and pasta. The modius is a peck or 8 quart dry measure. Rations 4 winter, 4 1/2 summer, bosses 3. The "chain-gang" gets bread so they can eat at work, winterime 4 lbs. (p. =pondera) bread. Digging in the vinyard they get 5 lb bread till later reduced to 4.

Compediti are chained slaves with a criminal record, not the usual familia hands. They worked in the fields and in a locked prison (ergastula) overnight, a description in Columella I 8,16. Remember that we had slaves until mid l9th c., and chain gangs working on the roads in the South into the l930's. And in our New Global World,. what goes on in places we know nothing of?


Vinum familiae. Ubi vindemia facta erit, loram bibant menses tres. Mense quarto: heminas in dies, id est in mense congios II S. Mense quinto, sexto, septimo, octavo: in dies sextarios, id est in mense congios quinque. Nono, decimo, undecimo, duodecimo: in dies heminas ternas, id est amphoram. Hoc amplius Saturnalibus et Compitalibus in singulos homines congios III S. Summa vini in homines singulos inter annum Q. VII. Conpeditis, uti quidquid operis facient, pro portione addito. Eos non est nimium in annos singulos vini Q. X ebibere.

The farm hands are to drink "lora" which is a sort of weak beverage made from watered grape skins. With the congius as three quarts, the sextarius at a pint, and a hemina a half-pint, you can see that even a stingy boss ash to give more fluid as the summer months come on. Three and a half congii for Holiday season is probably a social necessity, but the master has to know the annual tally, which comes up to VII Q., or seven Quadrants or Amphorae (one amphora is 6 gallons) a year per man. This sounds like some 42 gallons of this stuff annually, or 3/4 gallon a week, not bad if it were wine. But lora? As to the chain-gang, more in proportion to their work, but ten amphorae (=Q.) per year is not excessive ---- or 60 gallons a year.

In Italy water was not considered fit to drink generally, and before understanding about micro-organisms boiling to make it safe was presumably not thought of. Wine with even a slight alcohol content should help, and this lora if it did ferment sufficiently could provide safety as well as liquid to replace evaporative body losses and urination. Now remember that Romans always mixed wine with water in proportion of three waters, so the chain gang workers would get something like l80 gallons of water a year, or over three gallons a day. Even if mixed stronger, this would be a good water ration for a hard field worker.

What is interesting is the way the supervisor keeps tally on every little thing, even the watery wine the workers consume. The American Old Farmer's Almanac is equally fastidious about book keeping, not a cent falls between the racks in the kitchen flooring.


Pulmentarium familiae. Oleae caducae quam plurimum condito. Postea oleas tempestivas, unde minimum olei fieri poterit, eas condito: parcito uti quam diutissime durent. Ubi oleae comesae erunt, hallacem et acetum dato. Oleum dato in menses unicuique s. I. Salis unicuique in anno modium satis est.

These are the condiments to go with pasta and bread dishes, olives which haven't a great deal of oil are used, sparingly of course, and when these gone pickled fish will do. S. is for sextarius, a pint of oil monthly, but the peck (8 quarts) of salt per year is standard, a "salarium" if not yet a salary. As in the Near Eastern and Oriental world, these condiments are a regular side-dish", without which no person could consider a meal proper. In the US we have the traditional plate of cole slaw.


Vestimenta familiae. Tunicam p. III S, saga alternis annis. Quotiens cuique tunicam aut sagum dabis, prius veterem accipito, unde centones fiant. Sculponias bonas alternis annis dare oportet.

The tunic or Gr. chiton is something like a modern long T-shirt, the standard with a belt garb of worker. Light, cheap and airy, it is much better than the Gaulish braccae of "pants" which the Romans thought ridiculous. It is strange that many modern Americans are so devoted to the Tunic on top with the braccae or Jeans below as the uniform of choice. The sagum is a rough short overcoat for bad weather, often carried by soldiers. Sculponae are Dutch style wooden clogs, carved from blocks of soft wood (sculptured). The tunic is in length P. III S., or three feet and a half long, issued every other hear with a sagum (or is it Tunic a year and sagum every other, unclear?) They are into recycling, the used clothing goes back to make a patchwork quilt (cento), nothing wasted then any more than now when all cotton cloth is baled and reprocessed as valuable material


Bos si aegrotare coeperit, dato continuo ei unum ovum gallinaceum crudum, integrum facito devoret. Postridie caput ulpici conterito cum hemina vini facitoque ebibat. Sublimiter terat et vaso ligneo det, bosque ipsus et qui dabit sublimiter stet. Ieiunus ieiuno bovi dato.

Egg whole down his throat, next day a "head of leek" chopped with a half pint (hemina) of wine to be drunk right down. Hop it standing up high, offer in a wooden bowl, ox and owner both up high off the ground (magical or to avoid e. coli from the ground?). Both have to be fasting.


Ubi uvae variae coeperint fieri, bubus medicamentum dato quotannis, uti valeant. Pellem anguinam ubi videris, tollito et condito, ne quaeras cum opus siet. Eam pellem et far et salem et serpullum, haec omnia una conterito cum vino, dato bubus bibant omnibus. Per aestatem boves aquam bonam et liquidam bibant semper curato. Ut valeant refert.

When the grape changes color in summer, give oxen medicine. Snake skin with barley and salt, thyme ground up with wine for the whole herd. In summer they need good clear water. One suspects that the snakeskin prescription is better for the owner's mental health than for the oxen, for whom clean water will do just fine.


Boves ne pedes subterant, priusquam in viam quoquam ages, pice liquida cornua infima unguito.

Of course you can't shoe an even toed ungulate like an ox the way you shoe an odd-toed one like a horse, and if the hoof wears down, the animal is useless. Using thick pitch on the hooves will pick up small sand and gravel on the road, giving a temporary "shoe" to the ox. Surprising if this was just a Roman invention.

One notes that there is no mention of the horse, that the whole of this farm-world seems to have revolved about the oxen. There is a complex situation on this point, which I can only summarize here. For heavy work a pair of oxen under a yoke is ideal for plowing or pulling heavy loads, but the ox moves slowly and a horse can plow the light tilth of Italy far faster and more efficiently. But the Romans never discovered until many centuries later that the horse will not pull hard against any load without he oblong shaped, heavily padded house-collar, which lets him breathe without choking off his neck musculature. The horse pulling lightly on a load was to the Romans less economical in terms of cost of food, that a team of chain-gang slaves, and with slaves in plentiful supply (at lower feeding costs), the slave gangs were seen as prefecable for heavy farm work. The other side of the coin however, was the constant threat of slave insurrections, which meant a strong military arm on hand throughout Italy. It is amazing that a lack of "horse technology' could have resulted in a slave-dependent society, with the various ancillary problems that go with slavery.


Piro florente dapem pro bubus facito. Postea verno arare incipito. Ea loca primum arato, quae rudecta harenosaque erunt. Postea uti quaeque gravissima et aquosissima erunt, ita postremo arato.

Naturally after the spring rains one should plow the "dry and sandy" first, then the muddy. Common sense as they say.

Dapem hoc modo fieri oportet. Iovi Dapali culignam vini quantam vis polluceto. Eo die feriae bubus et bubulcis et qui dapem facient. Cum pollucere oportebit, sic facies: "Iuppiter dapalis, quod tibi fieri oportet in domo familia mea culignam vini dapi, eius rei ergo macte hac illace dape polluenda esto. " Manus interluito postea vinum sumito: "Iuppiter dapalis, macte istace dape polluenda esto, macte vino inferio esto. " Vestae, si voles, dato. Daps Iovi assaria pecuina urna vini. Iovi caste profanato sua contagione. Postea dape facta serito milium, panicum, alium, lentim.

The verb 'pollucere" mean offer up at a sacrifice, a special word for this but remarkably similar to polliceor which means "offer, promise". Probably different origins but I suspect the Roman saw this as the ritual form of the other one. "Macte" indecl. orig. a Vocative from mactus 'great. honorable" is a ritual word used in addressing a deity, like "Bless thee, O Lord" with verb esto.. Note that "inferius" is "brought in offerings'. not infernal wine. Ancient wording "roasted meat, an urn of wine. " Then you can sow the four grains.


Lucum conlucare Romano more sic oportet: porco piaculo facito, sic verba concipito: "Si deus, si dea es, quoium illud sacrum est, uti tibi ius est porco piaculo facere illiusce sacri coercendi ergo harumque rerum ergo, sive ego sive quis iussu meo fecerit, uti id recte factum siet, eius rei ergo hoc porco piaculo immolando bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi domo familiaeque meae liberisque meis:. Harumce rerum ergo macte hoc porco piaculo immolando esto".

This seems a more literate prayer that the previous ones, in its full formulaic style, and almost legalistic eagerness to cover all conditions and considerations. By lucus he means a grove of trees which ash become overgrown, but the word has a strange history. From lux "light" a lucus was originally a "light admitting area" in the primeval forest, a holy clearing where a shrine or rite was to be honored. But as Italy was largely cleared of forests, this "grove" was seen as a wooded sanctuary, in the middle of open farmlands. Now Cato is talking about clearing some of the dense forest growth out of a holy grove, in a sense back where things started, but everything in reverse. This is a much better explanation of the word lucus, than the late grammarian's, a parody of a normal etymology: Lucus a NON lucendo.

Si fodere voles, altero piaculo eodem modo facito, hoc amplius dicito: "Operis faciundi causa". Dum opus, cotidie per partes facito. Si intermiseris aut feriae publicae aut familiares intercesserint, altero piaculo facito.

Digging not permitted, prayer required again and each day of work. Nowadays this is the warning "Do not dig without consulting the Power Company" because of buried lines, then it was offending the Powers That Be.


Agrum lustrare sic oportet. Impera suovitaurilia circumagi: "Cum divis volentibus quodque bene eveniat, mando tibi, Mani, uti illace suovitaurilia fundum agrum terramque meam quota ex parte sive circumagi sive circumferenda censeas, uti cures lustrare. " Ianum Iovemque vino praefamino, sic dicito:

The suovetaurilia was a ceremony for all livestock, and named by combining the three animals: sus 'pig' + ovis 'sheep' + taurus "bull", an early portmanteau word.

" Mars pater te precor quaesoque uti sies volens propitius mihi domo familiaeque nostrae. Quoius rei ergo agrum terram fundumque meum suovitaurilia circum agi iussi: uti tu morbos visos invisosque viduertatem vastitudinemque, calamitates intemperiasque prohibessis defendas averruncesque. Ui tu fruges frumenta vineta virgultaque grandire dueneque evenire siris, pastores pecuaque salva servassis. Duisque duonam salutem valetudinemque mihi domo familiaeque nostrae: harunce rerum ergo fundi terrae agrique mei lustrandi lustrique faciundi ergo, sic ut dixi, macte hisce suovitaurilibus lactentibus immolandis esto: Mars pater, eiusdem rei ergo macte hisce suovitaurilibus lactentibus immolandis esto. " Item cultro facito struem et fertum uti adsiet, inde obmoveto. Ubi porcum inmolabis, agnum vitulumque, sic oportet: "eiusdem rei ergo macte hisce suovitaurilibus immolandis esto. " Nominare vetat Martem neque agnum vitulumque......... Si minus in omnis litabit, sic verba concipito: "Mars pater, quod tibi illoc porco neque satisfactum est, te hoc porco piaculo".

Ancient forms are natural in all prayers, here macte esto "be thou magnified" and duis (an old IE optative like sis, to verb do dare, XII tables and duis=des in Plautus). The old form duonam = bonam, from an Italic/IE *du-eno-. The strues was a little heap of cakes, Festus says they are like fingers joined together, "ladyfingers?", fertum a sacrificial pancake, and waving a knife over them indicated their sacrificial role in the ceremony. After the word vitulumque, something seems to have dropped out, meaning unclear in this sentence. Next: si litabit "if these is question" about something of the above being said wrong, fix it by an additional short prayer: "If this pig rite was not enough, I atone with this (another?) pig., because the legalistic Roman knows that the word in a contract have to be exact, and not sense taking chances with a prayer. There are metrical cadences in this prayer which some scholars have observed, but they are hard to find throughout, since they are Saturnians which are not well understood..


Priusquam messim facies, porcam praecidaneam hoc modo fieri oportet. Cereri porca praecidanea porco femina, priusquam hasce fruges condas, far, triticum, hordeum, fabam, semen rapicium. Ture vino Iano Iovi Iunoni praefato, priusquam porcum feminam immolabis. Iano struem [c]ommoveto sic: "Iane pater, te hac strue [c]ommovenda bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi liberisque meis domo familiaeque meae". Fertum Iovi [c}ommoveto et mactato sic: "Iuppiter, te hoc ferto obmovendo bonas preces precor uti sies volens propitius mihi liberisque meis domo familiaeque meaemactus hoc ferto".

In this sacrifice there are two pigs, the one before the harvest is called the porca praecidanea, while one sacrificed after the harvest is the porca succidanea (Aulus Gellius IV 6. 7). I think the [c]ommove- is a mis-corrections for ob-movenda, which is strangely preserved a few lines down in obmovendo bonas preces. Houseman lambasted the German text-critics soundly for making corrections of words they did not understand, and this might be a good example of the 'furor corrigendi'. Or is it in the MS tradition which all comes from one source, the Marcius?. Fertum or ferctum is a special kind of sacrifical cake.

Postea Iano vinum dato sic: "Iane pater, uti te strue [c]ommovenda bonas preces bene precatus sum, eiusdem rei ergo macte vino inferio esto. " Postea porcam praecidaneam inmolato. Ubi exta prosecta erunt, Iano struem ommoveto mactatoque item, uti prius obmoveris. Iovi fertum obmoveto mactatoque item, uti prius feceris. Item Iano vinum dato et Iovi vinum dato, item uti prius datum ob struem obmovendam et fertum libandum. Postea Cereri exta et vinum dato.


De brassica quod concoquit. Brassica est quae omnibus holeribus antistat. Eam esto vel coctam vel crudam. Crudam si edes, in acetum intinguito. Mirifice concoquit, alvum bonam facit, lotiumque ad omnes res salubre est. Si voles in convivio multum bibere cenareque libenter, ante cenam esto crudam quantum voles ex aceto, et item, ubi cenaveris, comesto aliqua V folia. Reddet te quasi nihil ederis, bibesque quantum voles.

Cato goes on with cabbage as medicine, but this first introduction is surprising, since it has the practical value of an apertif before a huge meal as well as a damper on drunkenness. It may be that the 3 : 1 ratio of water mixture with the wine rendered real inebriation unlikely, while the cabbage could mask the remaining effects. Here esto is imperative from edo edere, not from esse: "eat it.. " I have not tried this one.

Alvum si voles deicere superiorem, sumito brassicae quae levissima erit P. IIII inde facito manipulos aequales tres conligatoque. Postea ollam statuito cum aqua. Ubi occipiet fervere, paulisper demittito unum manipulum, fervere desistet. Postea ubi occipiet fervere, paulisper demittito ad modum dum quinque numeres, eximito. Item facito alterum manipulum, item tertium. Postea conicito, contundito, item eximito in linteum, exurgeto sucum quasi heminam in pocillum fictile. Eo indito salis micam quasi ervum et cumini fricti tantum quod oleat. Postea ponito pocillum in sereno noctu. Qui poturus erit, lavet calida, bibat aquam mulsam, cubet incenatus.

This involves tying in three bunches, then various kitchen operations of blanching in hot water while you count V (five), then again. Squeeze, point, train in a cloth, add some other stuff, leave overnight (clear sky!), when about bedtime have a hot bath, drink some, sleep fasting. This should help with the sense of the cookery.

Postea mane bibat sucum deambuletque horas IIII, agat, negoti siquid habebit. Ubi libido veniet, nausia adprehendet, decumbat purgetque sese. Tantum bilis pituitaeque eiciet, uti ipse miretur, unde tantum siet. Postea ubi deorsum versus ibit, heminam aut paulo plus bibat. Si amplius ibit, sumito farinae minutae concas duas, infriet in aquam, paulum bibat, constituet. Verum quibus tormina molesta erunt, brassicam in aqua macerare oportet. Ubi macerata erit, coicito in aquam calidam, coquito usque donec conmadebit bene, aquam defundito. Postea salem addito et cumini paululum et pollinem polentae eodem addito et oleum. Postea fervefacito, infundito in catinum, uti frigescat. Eo interito quod volet cibi, postea edit.

Not surprisingly you will throw up, take a little more, retard it with a little flour, continue as directed to cook it up...

Sed si poterit solam brassicam esse, edit. Et si sine febre erit, dato vini atri duri aquatum bibat quam minimum. Si febris erit, aquam. Id facito cotidie mane. Nolito multum dare, ne pertaedescat, uti possit porro libenter esse. Ad eundem modum viro et mulieri et puero dato. Nunc de illis, quibus aegre lotium it quibusque substillum est. Sumito brassicam, coicito in aquam ferventem, coquito paulisper, uti subcruda siet. Postea aquam defundito non omnem. Eo addito oleum bene et salem et cumini paululum, infervefacito paulisper. Postea inde iusculum frigidum sorbere et ipsam brassicam esse, uti quam primum excoquatur. Cotidie id facito.

If you want cabbage by itself, OK. If fevered, add water, otherwise wine, but don't take too much or you will get disgusted with it....... and you have to take it daily. Good for man woman or child! I cite this passage to show how hard it is to follow specifics in another language where you don't have the social background or terminology of the operation. Giving directions for cooking in an unused language is as hard a test of perception as any, but the Medicinal Veda has some directions which make this as easy as Julia Childs' kitchen show.


Luxum siquod est, hac cantione sanum fiet. Harundinem prende tibi viridem P(edes) IIII aut quinque longum, mediam diffinde, et duo homines teneant ad coxindices. Incipe cantare: "motas uaeta daries dardares astataries dissunapiter" usque dum coeant. Ferrum insuper iactato. Ubi coierint et altera altera tetigerint, id manu prehende et dextera sinistra praecide, ad luxum aut ad fracturam alliga, sanum fiet. Et modo cotidie cantato et luxato vel hoc modo: "huat huat huat istasis tarsis ardannaboudannaustra. "

Luxus is a dislocation, fractura a break, the reed is split in two but not separated, and the end placed over the joint and the other tips joined, is seems like two bows tied over the joint. Waving the knife confirms the ritual as elsewhere. Then cut it off? right and left side? and tie ? over the joint. It will heal but still do the chant daily! Since we know joints do tend to heal, and psychological state of mind is strong medicine, the chant will certainly do no harm, and the patient is actually receiving "treatment", with the beside attention of the chanters. Splitting the reed might symbolically connect with a slit of wood being grafted as the cambium layer rebuilds,. a familiar figure to the Romans who knew tree grafting well.

Since the inerpretation of this passage is still a little unclear, it might be suggested that we are mis-reading instructions for applying a pair of splints to a fractured joint.


Salsura pernarum ofellae Puteolanae. Pernas sallire sic oportet in dolio aut in seria. Cum pernas emeris, ungulas earum praecidito. Salis Romaniensis moliti in singulas semodios. In fundo dolii aut seriae sale sternito, deinde pernam ponito, cutis deorsum spectet, sale obruito totam. Deinde alteram insuper ponito, eodem modo obruito. Caveto ne caro carnem tangat. Ita omnes obruito. Ubi iam omnes conposueris, sale insuper obrue, ne caro appareat. Aequale facito. Ubi iam dies quinque in sale fuerint, eximito omnis cum suo sale. Quae tum summae fuerint, imas facito eodemque modo obruito et conponito. Post dies omnino XII pernas eximito et salem omnem detergeto et suspendito in vento biduum. Die tertio extergeto spongea bene, perunguito oleo, suspendito in fumo biduum. Tertio die demito, perunguito oleo et aceto conmixto, suspendito in carnario. Nec tinia nec vermes tangent.

This one is easy to read. The dolium is a pot, the seria an even larger earthenware pot, perna is the standard word for a ham.. Sallio is "salting", here the process is a combination of salting pork, smoking it afterwards, and hanging it in free air on the meat rack. Insect-proof!


Habitationem delutare. Terram quam maxime cretosam vel rubricosam, eo amurcam infundito, paleas indito. Sinito quadriduum fracescat. Ubi bene fracuerit, rutro concidito. Ubi concideris, delutato. Ita neque aspergo nocebit, neque mures cava facient, neque herba nascetur, neque lutamenta scindent

What is interest is the use of chalky or reddish clay (lutum), adding amurca which is the watery liquid left over after pressing olives for oil, a by product, and straw as in brick making for a binder, and making a stable waterproof and mouse proof wall covering. The use of adobe earth in our Southwest is similar when stabilized with an oxidizing oil by-product, as has been done for house walls formerly and now in traditional-style new housing. The Roman did not like waste!


Panem depsticium sic facito. Manus mortariumque bene lavato. Farinam in mortarium indito, aquae paulatim addito subigitoque pulchre. Ubi bene subegeris, defingito coquitoque sub testu.

Considering all the techniques known for making all kinds of simple and fancy bread, this looks entirely too simple and short a recipe. But it is the exact formula for sourdough bread, which doesn't use yeast but takes its enzyme from the ambient air, and given time of several days (not specified clearly enough here) will rise, to be pushed down (subigo exactly) several times. Technically the title says depsiticum = kneaded. Apparently cooked simply overt a hot plate on an open fire, with an inverted pottery crock serving as a neat little oven. This should give round not long loaves, like those we often see from Italian style bakeries. Washing the hands and bowl ARE important because you want to get your active ingredient from the air, not from yeasts and mold on dirty kitchenware or your hands.


It seems useful to add here Nepos' short Vita of Cato, which is important for the factual material it presents, and also as an example of simple and unaffected prose as written a century after Cato's De Agricultura. Nepos is not a stylist, he has none of Sallust's dramatic archaistic flair, or Livy's sustained "epic-of-Rome" style, which I why I think it interesting for a stylistic comparison with Cato's writing.

M. CATO, ortus municipio Tusculo adulescentulus, priusquam honoribus operam daret, versatus est in Sabinis, quod ibi heredium a patre relictum habebat. Inde hortatu L. Valerii Flacci, quem in consulatu censuraque habuit collegam, ut M. Perpenna censorius narrare solitus est, Romam demigravit in foroque esse coepit. Primum stipendium meruit annorum decem septemque. Q. Fabio M. Claudio consulibus tribunus militum in Sicilia fuit. Inde ut rediit, castra secutus est C. Claudii Neronis, magnique opera eius existimata est in proelio apud Senam, quo cecidit Hasdrubal, frater Hannibalis.

Quaestor obtigit P. Africano consuli cum quo non pro sortis necessitudine vixit: namque ab eo perpetua dissensit vita. Aedilis plebi factus est cum C. Helvio. Praetor provinciam obtinuit Sardiniam, ex qua, quaestor superiore tempore ex Africa decedens, Q. Ennium poetam deduxerat, quos non minoris aestimamus quam quemlibet amplissimum Sardiniensem triumphum.

Consulatum gessit cum L. Valerio Flacco, sorte provinciam nactus Hispaniam citeriorem, exque ea triumphum deportavit. Ibi cum diutius moraretur, P. Scipio Africanus, consul iterum, cuius in priori consulatu quaestor fuerat, voluit eum de provincia depellere et ipse ei succedere neque hoc per senatum efficere potuit, cum quidem Scipio principatum in civitate obtineret, quod tum non potentia, sed iure res publica administrabatur. Qua ex re iratus senatu, consulatu peracto privatus in urbe mansit.

At Cato, censor cum eodem Flacco factus, severe praefuit ei potestati. Nam et in complures nobiles animadvertit et multas res novas in edictum addidit, qua re luxuria reprimeretur, quae iam tum incipiebat pullulare. Circiter annos octoginta, usque ad extremam aetatem ab adulescentia, rei publicae causa suscipere inimicitias non destitit. A multis temptatus non modo nullum detrimentum existimationis fecit, sed, quoad vixit, virtutum laude crevit.

In omnibus rebus singulari fuit industria. Nam et agricola sollers et peritus iuris consultus et magnus imperator et probabilis orator et cupidissimus litterarum fuit. Quarum studium etsi senior arripuerat, tamen tantum progressum fecit, ut non facile a reperiri possit neque de Graecis neque de Italicis rebus, quod ei fuerit incognitum. Ab adulescentia confecit orationes.

Senex historias scribere instituit. Earum sunt libri VII. Primus continet res gestas regum populi Romani: secundus et tertius, unde quaeque civitas orta sit Italica. Ob quam rem omnes Origines videtur appellasse. In quarto autem bellum Poenicum est primum, in quinto secundum. Atque haec omnia capitulatim sunt dicta.

Reliquaque bella pari modo persecutus est usque ad praeturam Servii Galbae, qui diripuit Lusitanos. Atque horum bellorum duces non nominavit, sed sine nominibus res notavit. In eisdem exposuit, quae in Italia Hispaniisque aut fierent aut viderentur admiranda. In quibus multa industria et diligentia comparet, nulla doctrina. Huius de vita et moribus plura in eo libro persecuti sumus, quem separatim de eo fecimus rogatu T. Pomponii Attici. Quare studiosos Catonis ad illud volumen delegamus.


There is a good character notice of Cato in Livy XXXIX, 40 with no reference to the meanness which so shocked Plutarch.

His comitiis prudentia et uirtute senatus sublatis, alia maioris certaminis, quo et maiore de re et inter plures potentioresque uiros, sunt exorta. censuram summa contentione petebant L. Ualerius Flaccus P. et L. Scipiones Cn. Manlius Uulso L. Furius Purpurio patricii, plebeii autem M. Porcius Cato M. Fuluius Nobilio Ti. et M. Sempronii, Longus et Tuditanus. sed omnes patricios plebeiosque nobilissimarum familiarum M. Porcius longe anteibat. in hoc uiro tanta uis animi ingeniique fuit, ut quocumque loco natus esset, fortunam sibi ipse facturus fuisse uideretur. nulla ars neque priuatae neque publicae rei gerendae ei defuit

urbanas rusticasque res pariter callebat. ad summos honores alios scientia iuris, alios eloquentia, alios gloria militaris prouexit: huic uersatile ingenium sic pariter ad omnia fuit, ut natum ad id unum diceres, quodcumque ageret: in bello manu fortissimus multisque insignibus clarus pugnis, idem postquam ad magnos honores peruenit, summus imperator, idem in pace, si ius consuleres, peritissimus, si causa oranda esset, eloquentissimus, nec is tantum, cuius lingua uiuo eo uiguerit, monumentum eloquentiae nullum exstet: uiuit immo uigetque eloquentia eius sacrata scriptis omnis generis. orationes et pro se multae et pro aliis et in alios: nam non solum accusando sed etiam causam dicendo fatigauit inimicos. simultates nimio plures et exercuerunt eum et ipse exercuit eas

nec facile dixeris, utrum magis presserit eum nobilitas, an ille agitauerit nobilitatem. asperi procul dubio animi et linguae acerbae et immodice liberae fuit, sed inuicti a cupiditatibus animi, rigidae innocentiae, contemptor gratiae, diuitiarum. in parsimonia, in patientia laboris periculique ferrei prope corporis animique, quem ne senectus quidem, quae soluit omnia, fregerit, qui sextum et octogesimum annum agens causam dixerit, ipse pro se orauerit scripseritque, nonagesimo anno Ser. Galbam ad populi adduxerit iudicium.


Pliny the Elder (Natural History XXIX,14) has this curious passage from Cato advising his son to look into Greek literature, but not too far, because that are a bad lot, those Greeks:

et hoc puta vatem dixisse: quando ista gens suas literas dedit, omnia corrumpet, tum etiam magis, si medicos suos huc mittet, iurarunt inter se barbaros necare omnes medecina, sed hoc ipsum mercede facient........ Nos quoque dictitant barbaros


Further discussion about Cato is found in Plutarch's Essay on him, usually titled in Latin "Cato Maior" as against Cato Uticensis.. Cicero's essay De Senectute has Cato as the main speaker, but the portrayal must be taken as heavily fictionalized and written out of respect for a "National Hero".

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College