The Oldest Surviving Latin Prose Is A Text About?
Answer: Farming Practices
When we think of ancient texts, we tend to think about epic poems, empire-cataloging histories, and some of the more exciting aspects of the ancient world as written down by scribes millennia ago. In more than one culture, however, the oldest surviving texts aren’t religious texts, epic poems, or the histories of rulers and empires, but texts related to commerce and farming. The oldest surviving Latin prose is no exception.
The oldest surviving prose, De Agri Cultura, or “On Farming or On Agriculture“, was written around 160 BC by Cato the Elder. The work, somewhat of a farmer’s notebook, but at the same time a prose-based depiction of rural life in Ancient Rome, was packed with useful information like when to sow crops, when to harvest, how to establish and maintain a vineyard, a host of recipes, and even some rituals for farmers to perform.
Perhaps the biggest impact that De Agri Cultura had is the change in Roman culture it ushered in. Because of how well-written the instructions in the work were (including detailed instructions on how to manage the laborers working in the vineyards), Rome began producing wine on a large scale. The massive vineyards were set up and run using Cato’s methods to great success.
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