The Farm of Senex Caecilius

Like many Romans, I like to escape to the countryside in the hot months, so I visit the small farm near Tusculum in Latium. (Actually, it's my mother's farm and has been in the family for generations.) I enjoy the country life as long as someone else does all of the farming!

The view on the left is from my villa rustica, perched on a hillside and bordered by an olive grove. The fertile fields in the valley below lie fallow beneath a blanket of snow.

Here are a few facts about the tenure of land in Roman times.

  • In the early republic, most farming was done by the landowner's family on a small scale of self-sufficiency.
  • By the 2nd century BC, large agricultural estates called latifundia were formed from public land (ager publicus) and leased largely to patricians who profited greatly.
  • In 111 BC an agrarian law made most state-owned land the private property of its occupants, but disputes over public land arose several times with Sulla and others.
  • By the 3rd century AD, there was a decline in agriculture, some farms were deserted, and land was left uncultivated.
  • Here are some additional resources about farming in Roman times.

  • An entry in Wikipedia about latifundia gives additional information about the tremendous Roman landed estates.
  • An entry in William Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities contains details about the Roman term ager and other terms related to the land and its division.
  • An entry in Wikipedia about menologia rustica describes the information that ancient farmers' almanacs provided on conditions and activities pertaining to agriculture.

  • Some of the preceding information comes from Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, written by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins and published in1994 by The Oxford University Press (Oxford).

    Farm | Villa Rustica | Orchard | Byre | Horreum | Pond | Meadow | Garden | Vineyard