The arranged manual, but rather a collection of

The agriculture of Hellensitic Italy was transformed not only by the introduction of a large number of technical innovations, but
also by a profound structural change. The last 2 centuries BC witnessed decisive steps towards the establishment of large scale
estates, latifundia, which were to play an important role in the course of the empire. Even though the cultivation units remained
relatively small for a long period, there was gradual transition to more extensive farming, largely based on slave labour.
Fortunately, we are able to gain a detailed insight into the agricultural life of the time. About 160BC, a Roman statesman, Cato the
Censor (234BC-149BC) wrote a book called De agricultura (“About Agriculture”). It is not a well arranged manual, but rather a
collection of unconnected notes comprising, apart from general instructions and a mention of religious customs, a description of
two of Cato’s own estates near the border of Latium and Campania.
One farm – with an extent of 240 iugera (about 60ha. or 150 acres), managed by 13 people (mainly slaves) – specialised in the
cultivation of olives. The other specialised in viticulture, occupied 100 iugera (about 25ha. or 60 acres) and was managed by 16
people. Even though the descriptions refer to these two particular farms, they are doubtless fairly representative of normal
cultivation units in Late Republican Italy.
Besides workers and animals, all kinds of tools and equipment are listed, including the precise number of spades, axes, tongs,
working tables and so on used at each farm. As well as this, specialised agricultural equipment, Cato describes a series of
machines, showing that – in spite of his well-known aversion to everything foreign – he was perfectly aware of the recent
The olives were crushed in 5 edge-runner mills (trapeta1) of various sizes (a recent invention), and the pulp was then transferred
to five presses of the most recent models, …