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Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (Gades in Hispania Baetica, 4 AD - ca. 70 AD) was a Roman writer on agriculture. After a career in the army (he was tribune in Syria in 35 AD), he took up farming. His 'de Re Rustica' in twelve volumes has been completely preserved and forms our most important source on Roman agriculture, together with the works of Cato the Elder and Varro, both of which he occasionally cites. A smaller book on trees (de Arboribus) has been preserved as well.
In addition, Columella used many sources no longer extant, to which he is thus an important witness: Cornelius Celsus, the Carthaginian writer Mago, Tremellius Scrofa, and many Greek sources are included. His uncle Marcus Columella, 'a clever man and a exceptional farmer' (VII.2.30), had conducted experiments in sheep breeding, crossing colourful wild rams, introduced from Africa for gladiatorial games, with domestic sheep; he very likely influenced his nephew's interests. Columella owned farms in Italy — he refers specifically to properties of his at Ardea, Carseoli , and Alba (R.R. III.9.2)— and speaks repeatedly of his own practical experience in agriculture.
The book is presented as advice to a certain Publius Silvinus . Structure of "On Agriculture":
- olive trees
- 6: big animals: cattle, horses and mules
- 7: small animals: asses, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs
- 8: Fish and fowl: Chickens, doves, thrushes, peacocks, Numidian chicken and guinea fowl, geese, ducks, fish ponds
- 9: wild animals: enclosures for wild animals, bee-keeping, production of honey and wax
- 10: gardens
- personnel management
- managing the household
Other Roman writers on agriculture include Palladius and Vegetius. Pliny the Elder's Natural History gives some information as well, as do the works of Vitruvius and Hyginus. Diocletian's edict informs us on prices for agricultural products in the later empire. A 20-book Byzantine collection, the Geoponica (Agricultural Matters), includes much Roman and earlier Greek material.
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