Cato: De Agricultura
The Author and the Manuscripts
Marcus Cato was an important public figure, and his life is well known. Ancient biographies of him were penned by Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos, qq.v.; and some further information can be found in Aurelius Victor (de Viris Illustribus, 47ff.), and surely the characterization of him in Cicero’s Cato Maior de Senectute must be based on a living memory of the man. The Loeb edition provides a summary in its Introduction, and a separate section on the Manuscripts of Cato’s and Varro’s agricultural works, often transmitted together.
Mustum si voles totum annum habere, in amphoram mustum indito et corticem oppicato, demittito in piscinam. Post dies XXX eximito. Totum annum mustum erit.
If you wish to keep grape juice through the whole year, put the grape juice in an amphora, seal the stopper with pitch, and sink in the pond. Take it out after thirty days; it will remain sweet the whole year.
More information about Cato…
MARCUS PORCIUS CATO
DE AGRI CULTURA
Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.) known as The Censor is well known in the rolls of Roman history as a representative of the Roman conscience in the face of a time of several very different kinds of change. He was brought up in an agricultural world, from an Plebeian family but one not known for important civil appointments. Serving early in the army, he took part in the Battle of Zama ending the Second Punic war, was noted by L. Valerius Flaccus as a man of talent,, and coming to Rome he became Quaestor in 203, Aedile in l99, Praetor in l98 and consul in l95. His Triumph in l94 commemorated his role in the military conquest of Spain, a campaign in which he was known for effectiveness and also great cruelty. In the following year he devoted himself to the duties of Censor, which furnished him with a full scope for exercising his views on the deterioration of Roman society. For the rest of his long life, he was sworn enemy to the growing corruption in high places. He disliked and opposed the infiltration of Greek ideas and culture into the Roman way of life, and tried to stem the luxurious and expensive living of the day. In short, Cato was sharp, effective, ultra-conservative in his views, and intent on stemming the new currents which were reshaping the old Roman Republic.
Cato was a writer at a time when Roman prose was not yet well developed. His “Origines” on the foundations of the Italian states, his many recorded speeches and various other writings has all been lost. But the book De Agri Cultura has been preserved and has come down to us in a readable, continuous text. It was widely known in Roman times and probably already edited in orthography and possibly excerpted from a mong paper. In its present form it runs about 70 printed pages in 162 short sections. It is by far the earliest piece of Latin prose we have, and without question far closer to the way actual Roman spoke and thought than the highly developed prose style of the Augustan writers.