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Roman Farming Techniques

A Roman Farmhouse - Artist's conception

When we think of the Roman Empire, images of fighting legions or coliseums come to mind. But the fact is that the Empire was not an armed camp. Most of its citizens lived peaceful lives within the Pax Romana, and a sizeable proportion lived in cities of which Rome was of course the greatest of all. In order to support this urban class, an efficient system of food production and distribution was necessary.

The Roman Empire's food production was achieved despite lacking modern fertilizers or modern equivalents of equipment for plowing and harvesting. Everything was done by hand, usually by slaves working on large industrial farms owned by the upper classes. There were also private holdings, including lands given to discharged veterans and their families as compensation for service in the Imperial army.

Despite the comparative primitiveness of Roman farming technology, the Romans achieved a high level of food production, thanks to a holistic understanding of irrigation, crop rotation, and pest control. This aspect of Roman society is often overlooked in favor of more glamorous legions and gladiators, but the fact is that without this strong foundation, the Roman Empire would have been impossible. The barbarian invasions that toppled the empire destroyed much of the irrigation and agricultural improvements of the Romans, so that food production fell sharply and during the Dark Ages, the cities shrank. In fact, some areas of Europe, have never recovered their former productivity.

In the following treatise, we learn about the ingenious ways in which the Romans grew their crops and animals.

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