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Kim Bowes

Roman landscapes exhibited enormous diversity, from the rolling hills of the Mediterranean heartland, to Nile marshlands, Apennine mountain pastures, and African pre-deserts. New work on this diversity has demonstrated the intensive methods with which they were managed for agriculture and artisanal output, as well as their highly periodized histories. While much debate in the study of these landscapes has revolved around ancient climate change, more apparent is robust human intervention, which often reached a peak during the Roman period. Romans thought deeply about landscapes, and their literature and religious rituals used landscape to frame moral, religious, and political values.

Unlike the landscapes of the Greek city states, those encompassed by the Roman empire at its height were diverse in the extreme. Among the empire’s territories were the pre-desert regions of Tripolitania and the Syrian frontier, the mountain pastures of the Apennines, and the marshes of the Egyptian oases, not to mention the rolling limestone landscapes of the Mediterranean heartland. Even within smaller slices of these territories (and even within tiny micro-regions), new work has revealed the remarkable diversity of vegetation, sunlight, rainfall, and topography. It is the plurality of these landscapes that gave Romans material for a rich tradition of literary and religious expression as well as a vast and intensive apparatus for economic exploitation.


Giusto Traina

The most common words to designate a marsh, a swamp, or a bog are helos in ancient Greek and palus in Latin; beside these terms, less common words were also employed. Literary and epigraphic texts give evidence for marshlands in the countryside, in the coastal areas, and also close to urban agglomerations. The sources often give evidence for drainage activity, but cases of extensive drainage are rare. In fact, they were possible only at public expense, by employing free or slave labor. On the other hand, several territories were characterized by a sort of marsh economy. Although rarely portrayed in literature, and despite the risk of malaria, marshy areas presented some economic potential: fishing, hunting, salt extraction, and farming. In many respects, the negative image of wetlands is a modern invention. The contrast between the rational order of the Roman countryside and the “barbaric” medieval landscape was introduced by the Enlightenment, and must be treated with caution.



Liba Taub

In classical times, wind was in some cases understood to be a god, or as being under the influence of a god; it was understood by some to be a phenomenon liable to prediction and/or explanation as a natural (often regarded as seismic) phenomenon. Wind was important for navigation, agriculture and town planning, as well as managing health and disease.Wind, and both its beneficial and destructive powers, features importantly in the earliest Greek texts. Individual winds are themselves gods, or associated with gods. The epic poets offer names for several specific winds: Boreas (the north wind; Op. 505–518), Notus (south), and Zephyrus (west) are described by Hesiod as sons of Astraeus and Eos (Theog. 378–380; see also 869–880), while a fourth wind, Eurus, also features in the Homeric poems (Od. 5.295); other, unnamed winds are also mentioned. Such conceptions of wind pervaded Graeco-Roman popular culture. Aristotle refers to painters’ depictions of wind (Mete.


Jean-Jacques Aubert

Because of the traditional reluctance of the Roman elite to engage personally in profit-oriented economic activities other than agriculture (Cic., Off. 1.151), entrepreneurs of all kinds formed a distinctive social class and would tend to act as non-advertised agents for those who may have had the needs, the means, and the willingness to operate businesses on a larger scale than the individual, subsistence-level enterprise. However, the concept of agency was foreign to Roman law, because acting on behalf and in the name of someone else smacked of magic. Consequently, agents were, at least originally, legally dependents, as slaves or sons and daughters in power, whose lack of legal personality enabled them to better their principal’s economic condition and eventually to engage both their delictual and contractual liability, under certain circumstances. The key to such a legal arrangement was the formal appointment (praepositio) of business managers (institores).


Robert A. Kaster

Varro (according to Petrarch) was “the third great light of Rome”—after Vergil and Cicero—and certainly Rome's greatest scholar. Though the great bulk of his work survives only in fragments, the quotations and paraphrases that those fragments preserve make his influence on subsequent writers evident: much of later Latin literature, from the Aeneid of Vergil down to St. Augustine's City of God, would look very different had they been unable to draw upon his learning. His writings covered nearly every branch of inquiry: history, geography, rhetoric, law, philosophy, music, medicine, architecture, religion, and more.Marcus Terentius Varro, (116–27bce), was born at Reate, in the Sabine territory (see sabini) NE of Rome. After studying at Rome with L. Aelius, the first true scholar of Latin literature and antiquities, and at Athens with the Academic philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon, Varro began a public career that brought him to the praetorship and, ultimately, to service on the Pompeian side (see .


Rebecca Flemming

Celsus was a Latin encyclopaedist of the early Roman Empire. Only the eight medical books of his Artes survive, but agriculture, rhetoric, and military matters were also encompassed in his work. The overall enterprise was aimed at synthesising and ordering bodies of useful technical knowledge for a Roman elite audience, knowledge often with Greek origins. Celsus selected, adapted, and reorganised this learning, rendering it into Latin. The extant books follow the tradition division of the medical art into regimen, drugs, and surgery, and are prefaced by an important critical history of ancient medicine.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus was author, probably in the reign of the emperor Tiberius (14–37ce), of a Latin encyclopaedic work entitled Artes, comprising five books on agriculture, eight on medicine, seven on rhetoric, and an unknown number on military matters. He also wrote on philosophy, though whether this was within or beyond the borders of his encyclopaedic enterprise is uncertain. The sources are unclear and the fit of such texts into an overall project aimed at summarising useful bodies of knowledge for Roman gentlemen is debatable.