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Chapter 15
The Gentlemen Farmers
This presentation is all about civility and
business of farming in ancient Rome. Look for:
Who farmed
How farming became big business
Villas and Latifundia
Roman Products
Roman Techniques and Knowledge utilized by
the Romans
The Good Life
For the Romans, farming was the one respectable way to
earn a living. They idealized it so much that the nobility
(senators) were only allowed to earn and store money
through owning land. Thus, those who wanted status
had villas, which originally were working farms.
Farming Vacation
Eventually, the villas became the vacation spots of their
day. They became so luxurious some were devoid of
agricultural activities but contained all of the features of
the city without the overcrowding and diseases. As a
consequence, the small family farmer became more
scarce and larger farming operations more prevalent.
Small Family Farms
The Romans credit their hard working and persistent
disposition to their beginnings as farmers. Being a
farmer was difficult and required discipline. This is why
it was such a noble profession. The small family farms
were tended by ordinary citizens. There is little evidence
for dwellings on these farms since the poor farmers
would have wanted to farm all of the land. They would
likely have farmed enough to feed their family.
A Small Problem
The problem with this
lifestyle is that citizens
had to serve in the
military. While at war
the farm often entered a
state of disrepair. These
dilapidated farms were
bought up
by the wealthy and combined to form larger
agriculture businesses. A landowner might also
acquire land confiscated from native landowners
defeated in war.
The Country Villa
A villa rustica was a larger farm. It would have had a
dwelling for the landowner as well as buildings for the
slaves and livestock as well as working areas (such as a
mill or press) and storage areas. This type of farm was
generally owned by someone who did not leave on the
farm. The owner likely lived in the city and vacationed
on the farm to escape city life.
The Beginning of Agribusiness
The farm would have been
managed by an overseer,
perhaps a well trusted slave.
Other slaves would do the
actual hard work required to
have a successful and
profitable farm.
Many communities were a mix of towns and farms since
the community relied on agricultural activity to keep the
citizens fed. Thus, farming became big business.
This type of farm might best be compared to modern
corporate farms. A successful mid-sized farmer would
buy a less profitable neighboring farm creating more of
an estate. This agricultural estate required many slaves
and was run as an efficient business. The latifundia had
the means and ability to create new crops and breeds of
Changing the Way We Do Business
The other small family farmers were unable to compete
and thus sold out to their super-sized neighbors.
Naturally, that only increased the size and efficiency of
the large farms, making for a smoother and more
profitable operation all together. A major difference in
these farming estates and the previous farms were that
they concentrated on exportation of their goods for
So what did the Romans grow?
• Olives which were pressed into oil
as well as eaten.
• Grapes which were crushed into
wine as well as eaten.
So what did the Romans grow?
• Grains such as wheat
• Apples and figs
• Lettuce, carrots, radishes, beans
• Nuts
So what did the Romans raise?
• Cattle, Goats, Sheep all produced food and milk and
sheep also produced wool for warmth
• Pigs a popular meat
• Foul (chicken, duck,, geese) for eggs and meat
• Bees kept for honey, the sweetener of the Romans
Bee Hives
It seems that the Romans were
adept at various modern farming
techniques. They were able to
irrigate and drain their fields as
well as plant the right crop in the
given soil. They also practiced
crop rotation and mixed crops as
well as allowing the land to be
unused periodically in order to
maximize the fertility of the land.
Hoe Blade
Good to Know
They knew which foods could be preserved, stored and
transported and which should be eaten more quickly.
They knew to store food goods in pottery underground.
They knew that olive oil could be transported and store
more easily then the olives; the same for wine and
grapes. They also knew to dry the edible portions of
grains, nuts and beans.
Corporate farms overtaking small family
farms are still a problem today. In your
original post answer the following: What is
your opinion of these corporate
agribusinesses? What would you recommend
as a good way for farming in America to thrive?
Your response post should evaluate the ideas of
your classmates’ for practicality. Please
remember to use proper English, including
spelling, grammar and punctuation. You must
both post and respond to a classmate for full