Test Your Knowledge of Ancient Roman Agriculture with Our Quiz!



9 Questions

What were the three types of terrain that land was classified into in Rome?

What was the most important crop triad in Rome?

What were the four systems of farm management in Rome?

What was the significance of trade between provinces in the Roman empire?

What was the best type of soil for farming in Rome?

What percentage of necessary fats in the average Roman diet came from the consumption of olive oil?

What was the estimated amount of grain that Rome needed per year?

What was the name of the automatic harvester or reaper used by farmers in northern Gaul?

What were the three ways in which aristocrats and common people could acquire land for a farm in Rome?


Roman Agriculture: A Summary

  • Rome expanded to rule much of Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East, and its agriculture practices were influenced by the Mediterranean climate.

  • The majority of people in Rome were engaged in agriculture, with the rural society becoming dominated by large estates owned by the wealthy and utilizing mostly slave labor.

  • The Mediterranean triad of crops, grains, olives, and grapes, were most important, with grains providing 70-80% of the calories in an average diet.

  • Land ownership was a dominant factor in distinguishing the aristocracy from the common person, and land was classified into three types of terrain: champaign, hills, and wooded, verdant mountain highlands.

  • The Romans had four systems of farm management: direct work by owner and his family, tenant farming, forced labor by slaves owned by aristocrats, and other arrangements in which a farm was leased to a tenant.

  • Trade between provinces of the empire was significant, and all regions of the empire were largely economically interdependent.

  • Wheat, emmer, spelt, barley, and millet were produced in some provinces; others specialized in wine and others in olive oil, depending on the soil type.

  • Cows provided milk while oxen and mules did the heavy work on the farm, and horses were raised by the rich for racing or war.

  • The consumption of olive oil provided about 12% of the calories and about 80% of necessary fats in the diet of the average Roman.

  • The cultivation of grapes on large estates using slave labor was common in Italy, and wine was becoming a universal drink in the Roman empire.

  • The best soil for farming was fat and loose soil that was the least costly and most productive, followed by fat and dense soil, and moist soils.

  • Storage was important, and granaries had to be well-ventilated, cool, and with minimal humidity, to prolong freshness.

  • The Romans had handbooks on farming practice, and Cicero considered farming the best of all Roman occupations.Farming in Ancient Rome

  • The profitability of vineyards was exaggerated to make the point that grain offers little profit compared to wine.

  • Average wheat yields per year in the 3rd decade of the century were around 1,200 kg/ha in Italy and Sicily, 1,710 kg/ha in Egypt, 269 kg/ha in Cyrenaica, Tunisia at 400 kg/ha, and Algeria at 540 kg/ha, Greece at 620 kg/ha.

  • An agricultural unit was known as a latus fundus, which can be interpreted as a latifundia or at 500 iugera or around 125 hectares.

  • By the 70s AD, Africa fed Rome for eight months of the year and Egypt only four.

  • It is estimated that Rome needed at least 150,000 tonnes of grain per year, calculating that each resident of the city consumed 200 kilograms (440 lb) of grain per year.

  • Mechanical devices aided agriculture and the production of food, such as the Barbegal mills in southern France, which had a capacity of 4.5 tons of flour per day.

  • Farmers in northern Gaul used a kind of automatic harvester or reaper called the "vallus" or "gallic vallus", which cut the ears of grain without the straw and was pushed by oxen or horses.

  • Aristocrats and common people could acquire land for a farm in one of three ways: purchase, reward for going to war, or inheritance.

  • Though some small farms were owned by lower-class citizens and soldiers, much of the land was controlled by the noble class of Rome.

  • The farms would produce a variety of crops depending on the season, and focused on trying to acquire the best possible farm under the best possible conditions.

  • The majority of farm work was done by slaves, who were relatively cheap to use because they were property.

  • Roman farmers faced many of the problems which have historically affected farmers, including the unpredictability of weather, rainfall, and pests, and the risk of war and land conflicts.


Think you know about ancient Roman agriculture? Test your knowledge with our quiz! From the Mediterranean triad of crops to the different types of terrain, we cover all the important aspects of Roman agriculture. Discover how land ownership affected the aristocracy, the various systems of farm management, and the importance of trade between provinces. Learn about the role of animals in farming, the significance of storage, and the profitability of different crops. Take our quiz and see if you're an expert on farming practices in ancient Rome

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