Varro, On Agriculture

LCL 283: 224-225

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On Agriculture, I

XVII. “I have now discussed the four divisions of the estate which are concerned with the soil, and the second four, which are exterior to the soil but concern its cultivation; now I turn to the means by which land is tilled. Some divide these into two parts: men, and those aids to men without which they cannot cultivate; others into three: the class of instruments which is articulate, the inarticulate, and the mute; the articulate comprising the slaves, the inarticulate comprising the cattle, and the mute comprising the vehicles. All agriculture is carried on by men—slaves, or freemen, or both; by freemen, when they till the ground themselves, as many poor people do with the help of their families; or hired hands, when the heavier farm operations, such as the vintage and the haying, are carried on by the hiring of freemen; and those whom our people called obaerarii,1 and of whom there are still many in Asia, in Egypt, and in Illyricum. With regard to these in general this is my opinion: it is more profitable to work unwholesome lands with hired hands than with slaves; and even in wholesome places it is more profitable thus to carry out the heavier farm operations, such as storing the products of the vintage or harvest. As to the character of such hands Cassius2 gives this advice: that such hands should be selected as can bear heavy work, are not less than twenty-two years old, and show some aptitude for farm labour. You may judge of this by the way they carry out their other orders, and, in the case of new hands, by asking one of them what they were in the habit of doing for their former master.

“Slaves should be neither cowed nor high-spirited. They ought to have men over them who know how

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.varro-agriculture.1934