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Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

gardens  

Katharine T. von Stackelberg

Gardens in the Greek and Roman world were both important cultural spaces and essential contributors to the Mediterranean food economy. Originally dedicated to producing useful household plants for the farm, the garden (kēpos, hortus) developed into a highly desirable urban and suburban amenity that combined productive, leisure, and religious space. Gardens’ association with the paradeisos enclosures of Persian and Hellenistic kings also encouraged their use as status symbols that signaled wealth and power. Gardens were also used as spaces of philosophical engagement and religious activity. They serve as an index of colonial and imperialist practice, reflecting the expansion of Greek and Roman territory through the introduction of new plants, and the use of Hellenizing and Orientalizing art and architecture. As cultivated places defined by their proximity to architecture, gardens emerged as an ideal space to explore the intersection between art and nature represented in the idea of the locus amoenus (‘pleasant place’) and the culture of the Roman villa.

Article

wind  

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.

Article

Gla  

Michael F. Lane

Gla (Mod. Gr. Γλας, ancient name unknown) is a Late Helladic fortress and likely administrative centre built on a rocky outcropping (once an island) in the north-east quarter of former Lake Copais in northern Boeotia.Gla—also occasionally “Glas” in archaeological literature—is a fortified site built on an outcropping in the north-east quarter of former Lake Copais, about 1.5 km south-east of the modern village of Kastro, formerly Topolia, Boeotia. While Kastro/Topolia has been identified with the site of Greco-Roman Copae, the ancient name of Gla is unknown, though it has been the subject of much inconclusive speculation. The modern name is derived from Arvanitic goulas (γουλάς), also the name of a locale near Evangelistria above Haliartus on the south side of the Copaic Basin (cf. Albanian kullë from Turkish kulle “tower,” particularly “watchtower”). This appellation is reported to refer particularly to the extant ruins on Gla’s summit. The site has also been called Palaiokastro (“Oldcastle”) in modern times. The nearest village’s Slavic place name Topolia (“Poplar Place”) was officially abolished in the mid-.

Article

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).

Article

Lynne Lancaster

The term “technology” comes from the ancient Greek τέχνη, techne, meaning “art, skill, craft.” In modern practice, definitions of technology often vary according to the discipline and era under examination. Concepts used to study modern technology can be of use in framing questions about technology in antiquity, but along with the methodology one risks adopting modern assumptions that are not necessarily valid for pre-industrial societies. For example, the concept of “progress” has underlain much modern evaluation of ancient technology. It can be found in some ancient writings on science and philosophy, but nowadays it also comes with the post-Enlightenment baggage of having been used in theoretical debates justifying imperialist goals.1 Moreover, modern notions of “progress” are linked with the idea of technological determinism, a theory that assumes that technical progress was a natural path of development towards the Industrial Revolution. Those societies not reaching this goal have often been considered economically and technologically stunted by some fundamental internal flaw.

Article

Miko Flohr

The Greek, Hellenistic and Roman worlds were characterized by a culture of knowledge that fostered and celebrated innovation and invention. Greeks and Romans not only embraced technological practices developed elsewhere in earlier periods, maximizing their use, but also saw the diffusion of a broad range of inventions and innovations in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transport, and communication. These innovations not only had a tangible impact on everyday material culture, but also supported the increasingly complex social, economic and political networks that came to characterize the ancient Mediterranean.

Graeco-Roman antiquity was a pre-industrial and agrarian society. It had limited means to circulate knowledge, and there were structural constraints on the emergence and diffusion of innovations compared to the early modern and modern world. At the same time, the Graeco-Roman world grew into an increasingly vast and complex conglomerate of social, political, and economic networks that facilitated (and fostered) innovation more than ever before, which resulted in significant change in technological practice and a well-developed consumer culture in which invention and knowledge could be appreciated and celebrated.

Article

Cumae  

Matteo D'Acunto

Cumae was an early Greek colony that was established by the Euboeans (c. 750 bce), conquered by the Campanians (421 bce), and subjected to the rule of Rome (from 338 bce), benefitting from an enduring prosperity throughout the Imperial period. An important city of ancient Italy, Cumae’s economy was based mainly on agriculture and commerce. During the Campanian and Roman periods, it preserved Greek-rooted cults and traditions even as it adopted first Oscan and then Latin languages and customs.Cumae (Greek Kymē; Latin Cumae; modern Cuma), Euboean colony, founded c. 750bce, 16 km (10 mi.) northwest of Naples (Neapolis). It was an important city of ancient Italy during the Greek, Campanian (Samnite), and Roman periods; in the Medieval period it became a castrum (military fortification).The ancient settlement lies on the coast north of Cape Misenum in the region called the Phlegraean (“Fiery”) Fields due to its volcanic activity. The acropolis of Cumae is a rocky spur and in antiquity was a headland protruding into the sea. A north–south ridge, known as Monte Grillo, lies .

Article

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 .

Article

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.

Article

J. Theodore Peña

Amphorae were large ceramic jars employed in the Roman world for the packaging and transport of a limited set of liquid and semi-liquid foodstuffs—chiefly wine, olive oil, and various kinds of fish preserves and processed fish products—and certain other substances. They were manufactured in a large number of distinct shapes—generally referred to as classes—linked to specific regions and employed for specific kinds of contents. For this reason amphorae are treated by scholars as proxy markers for the distribution of these categories of foodstuffs and, on account of their abundance and ubiquity in the archaeological record, they constitute one of the most important forms of material evidence for economic activity in the Roman world from the 3rd century bce down to the end of antiquity.We possess a wide range of evidence relating to amphorae. The remains of workshops in which amphorae were manufactured have been identified in many parts of the Roman world, and many of these have been subject to surface investigations and/or excavation. Amphorae occur in abundance on archaeological sites in most parts of the Roman world, most often in fragmentary condition, though in some cases more or less intact. These include amphora production workshops, sites relating to their filling or distribution (food processing/packaging facilities, .

Article

Marco Formisano

In comparison with other technical and scientific disciplines, agriculture enjoyed a higher social and cultural status because of both its inherent utility for society and economy and its moral exemplarity, associated in Rome with the traditional respected “ways of the ancestors” (mos maiorum). The extant works of Cato, Varro, Columella, Gargilius Martialis, and Palladius testify to the long life of agricultural discourse throughout the history of Latin literature and beyond. While it is helpful to read these texts as belonging to a tradition, each of them has its own individual form, aims, and creative ambition.Recent studies on ancient technical and scientific texts have demonstrated that this particular strand of Greek and Roman textuality—taking as its subject matter not only arable cultivation but also livestock, arboriculture, market gardens, luxuryfoods, slave management, and villa construction—deserves much more attention than it was given in the past, when works on various fields of practical knowledge were generally dismissed both as literary texts and as historical sources: on the one hand, they seemed to show no connection with the literary prose of other genres; on the other, quite paradoxically, historians of science and technology lamented that these texts were too literary and thus of limited utility for historical reconstructions. Today, however, there is a general scholarly agreement that these texts are not to be considered as mere “manuals,” since they do indeed have a strong relationship with other literary genres, both prose and poetry, and since they create a specific textual language, one which is much more “literary” than one might at first glance expect if one focuses only on the technical knowledge contained in those books. It is as if we were to read and interpret .