What was agriculture like in Ancient Rome?

What was agriculture like in Ancient Rome?

With the birth of agriculture , there was a surplus of food, because agriculture can feed ten to one hundred times more people per square kilometer than hunting and gathering. As there was more food, the population grew. Thanks to agriculture, we stopped being hunter-gatherers, and we were able to settle in villages, with more free time to think and innovate (although this also seems to have led to machismo, according to some authors ).

Despite, then, that we consider agriculture as something natural and transgenics and other ways of promoting it as something unnatural, in reality it is not like that: agriculture and transgenics have been allies since ancient times . Agriculture is idealized by Edenic images of the past, but in reality things did not use to be as we imagine. Suffice it to list some shocking ideas about agriculture in Ancient Rome .

For example, more than 90% of the Empire’s population was poor and lived in the countryside, forced to eke out a precarious existence. Living off agriculture was very hard at this time. That is why Vegecio explained in his Compendium of Military Technique that army recruits should be sought in rural areas because, given the low level of technology, agriculture was very laborious and required a very rough physical shape.

What about technology? Pliny mentions that in the large estates of Gaul there were a kind of harvesters, but that they did not seem very useful when compared to humans, as JC McKewon abounds in this in his book Cabinet of Roman Curiosities :

Various harvesters are represented on various funerary monuments in Gaul. It was probably the low cost of the slave labor, and not the design flaws of these machines, that prevented them from being widely adopted.

Nor was the operation of agriculture very well known, that is why the Twelve Tables legislated against obtaining good consechas by means of spells.

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In Natural History , Pliny explains that when studying the propagation of plants, trees enjoy novelties and travel the same as people. And agriculture also had its origin in the divinities:

We can verify the agricultural origins of Rome in the gods Verváctor, Reparátor, Impórcitor and Obarátor, who protected the different stages of farming; in Ocátor, Runcina, Sáritor, Espiniense and Subrincinátor, divinities all related to the elimination of weeds; in Robígine and Róbigo, which protected the crop from mildew; and in Estercuto, who taught men the technique of composting the fields with manure.