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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a historical overview of Greek and Roman agronomy as a literary phenomenon, touching on major sources such as Hesiod, Xenophon, Cato, and Columella together with numerous minor authors. It tracks the ever-expanding boundaries of what was considered agronomy during the Classical era, plus trends towards specialization and encyclopedism in writers from Hellenistic and Roman times. The most common feature of this heterogeneous body of writings is a concern to communicate what the authors believe to be best practices in agriculture—which may not always be the same as standard or widespread practices. Interest in agricultural paradoxography is shown to be an enduring and essential feature of the genre. Agronomists did not attempt to take into account the methods of the ancient natural sciences, save for astronomy, which was productively assimilated by the authors of farmers’ calendars.

Keywords: Bolus of Mendes, Cato, Columella, Hesiod, Mago, parapegma, Theophrastus, Varro, Vergil, Xenophon

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