Cato, On Agriculture

LCL 283: 2-3

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Marcus Cato

M. Catonis

De Agri Cultura

Est interdum praestare mercaturis rem quaerere, nisi tam periculosum sit, et item fenerari, si tam honestum sit. Maiores nostri sic habuerunt et ita in legibus posiverunt, furem dupli condemnari, feneratorem quadrupli. Quanto peiorem civem existimarint feneratorem quam furem, hinc licet existimare. 2Et virum bonum quom laudabant, ita laudabant, bonum agricolam bonumque colonum. Amplissime laudari existimabatur qui ita laudabatur. 3Mercatorem autem strenuum studiosumque rei quaerendae existimo, verum, ut supra dixi, periculosum 4et calamitosum. 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 institutum1 principium hoc erit.

I. Praedium quom parare cogitabis, sic in animo habeto, uti ne cupide emas neve opera2 tua parcas


On Agriculture

Marcus Cato on Agriculture

It is true that to obtain money by trade is sometimes more profitable, were it not so hazardous; and likewise money-lending, if it were as honourable. Our ancestors held this view and embodied it in their laws, which required that the thief be mulcted double and the usurer fourfold; how much less desirable a citizen they considered the usurer than the thief, one may judge from this. And when they would praise a worthy man their praise took this form: “good husbandman,” “good farmer”; one so praised was thought to have received the greatest commendation. The trader I consider to be an energetic man, and one bent on making money; but, as I said above, it is a dangerous career and one subject to disaster. On the other hand, it is from the farming class that the bravest men and the sturdiest soldiers come, their calling is most highly respected, their livelihood is most assured and is looked on with the least hostility, and those who are engaged in that pursuit are least inclined to be disaffected. And now, to come back to my subject, the above will serve as an introduction to what I have undertaken.

I. When you are thinking of acquiring a farm, keep in mind these points: that you be not over-eager in buying nor spare your pains in examining,

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.cato-agriculture.1934