Ager
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-sufficency.
  • 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.

  • 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).

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