What Was Ancient Roman Farming Like?

Ancient Roman farming was a prestigious and respected occupation that was primarily concerned with spelt cultivation. According to UNRV History, the Romans cultivated asparagus, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, garlic, figs, apricots, plums, mulberries and many other types of produce. The Romans also maintained vineyards, olive groves, meadows and irrigated produce gardens. Farmers also raised certain animals. Horses, however, were primarily reserved for war.

HistoryLink 101 explains that there were four types of farms in ancient Rome. Some farms were owned and operated by a single family, while other family farms were leased from wealthy landowners. When family labor was insufficient, farm owners turned to slave labor or made sharecropping arrangements with experienced farmers.

The earliest Roman farms were small and unsophisticated. Farmers soon learned a great deal from the nearby Greeks, who already practiced crop rotation and fertilized their land with manure. The Romans eventually mastered these skills and enjoyed greater crop yields as a result.

Ancient Roman farmers relied on cows and sheep for milk and fresh cheese. Sheep were also valued for their wool and hides. Bees were another important element of Roman agriculture because their honey was the only plentiful source of dietary sweetener.

Snails were the most unusual animals cultivated by the ancient Romans. Snail meat was a rare and expensive delicacy, and the precursor of modern French escargot.