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date: 29 November 2020

agricultural implements, Romanlocked

  • M. Stephen Spurr

Extract

Roman agricultural implements comprised slaves (see slavery), animals, and tools (Varro, Rust. 1. 17. 1). Only the third category is reviewed here. The essential similarity between the inventories in M. *Porcius Cato (1) (Agr. 10, 11) and *Palladius (1. 42) some 600 years later indicates technological stability or stagnation, depending on one's point of view. (This very stability has enabled researchers working in Mediterranean areas little affected by mechanized agriculture to interpret with some security the growing archaeological evidence, the ancient representations in art, and the Roman agricultural writers.) Yet while innovations such as the Gallic reaping machine (Pliny, HN 18. 296; Palladius, 7. 2. 2–4) were rare, improvements in design were common. Examples include: in arable cultivation, the plough (e.g. Pliny, HN 18. 171–2) and threshing sledge (Varro, Rust. 1. 52. 2); and, in arboriculture, the vine-dresser's knife, trench-measuring devices (Columella, Rust.

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