Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius

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Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius, also known as Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus or most often just as Palladius, was an ancient writer who wrote in Latin, and is dated variously to the later 4th century or first half of the 5th century AD.[1] He is principally known for his book on agriculture, Opus agriculturae, sometimes known as De re rustica.


Since the Middle Ages, authors of agricultural treatises have referred often to Palladius. The Palladii were a prominent Gallic family, and the name Palladius is probably a family name (of Greek origin), with Aemilianus his cognomen (of Roman origin). In Late Antiquity, the convention of the tria nomina ("three names") for Roman men was no longer standard, and the greater variation in naming practice contributes to the uncertainty over the correct order of his names.[2] Evidence for his life is scant. Manuscripts of his work call him a vir illustris, which would indicate high rank. Although Palladius relies heavily on earlier agricultural writers, he himself owned farms in Italy and Sardinia, and had considerable experience of farming, with a special interest in fruit trees.[3]

Opus agriculturae[edit]

The Opus agriculturae is a treatise on farming in 14 parts or books, written in the late fourth or early fifth century AD.[4] The first book is general and introductory. Books 2 to 13 give detailed instructions for the typical activities on a Roman farm for each month of the year, starting with January. Each of these calendrical books has sections on field crops, vegetable gardens, fruit trees and other trees, and livestock. The fourteenth book, De Veterinaria Medicina, was rediscovered only in the 20th century, and gives instructions for the care of animals and elements of veterinary science.[4] All of this is in prose, but Palladius also appended a poem, De Insitione, On Grafting, consisting of eighty-five couplets of elegiac verse.[5]

Palladius' work stands in the tradition of Roman agricultural treatises, represented particularly by Marcus Priscus Cato, Marcus Terentius Varro, Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, and Gargilius Martialis. His chief contribution was to reduce the exhaustive works of Columella and Martialis to an appropriate scale for the practical farmer, while at the same time re-organising them on a calendrical basis, to provide the farmer with a checklist of the tasks needing attention each month.[6]

The work of Palladius was well known in the Middle Ages. A translation into Middle English verse survives from about 1420, entitled On Husbondrie;[7] it can be seen as part of a genre of instructional agricultural writing that was to develop in England into works such as those of Thomas Tusser and Gervase Markham. Two notable thirteenth century works that draw on Palladius are the Commoda ruralia of Petrus de Crescentius, written c. 1305 and printed at Augsburg in 1471; and the Speculum Maius of Vincentius Bellovacensis (Vincent de Beauvais) written about 1250 and first printed in Strasbourg in 1473–76.[8] There are a number of other incunabula or early editions.


The sixteen overshot wheels at Barbegal are considered the largest ancient mill complex. Their capacity was sufficient to feed the whole nearby city of Arles

The book is known for reference to a water-mill in Book 1, ch. 41, where Palladius suggests that waste water from bath buildings should be used to drive a mill. Such mills had been described by Vitruvius in 25 BC, and there is a growing number of examples of such Roman water-mills. The most spectacular is the set of 16 mills at Barbegal in southern France, using water fed by a stone aqueduct along the line of the same aqueduct which supplied nearby Arles.

Principal early editions[edit]

The earliest editions of Palladius group his works with those on agriculture of Cato the Elder, Varro and Columella. Some modern library catalogues follow Brunet in listing these under "Rei rusticae scriptores" or "Scriptores rei rusticae".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Browning, "Minor Figures," in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1982), vol. 2, p. 89.
  2. ^ Alan Cameron, "Polyonomy in the Late Roman Aristocracy: The Case of Petronius Probus," Journal of Roman Studies 75 (1985), pp. 173–174, citing PLRE II, nos. 4 and 13–15.
  3. ^ R.H. Rodgers, "The Moore Palladius," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 5.3 (1971), p. 203; Browning, "Minor Figures," CHCL, vol. 2, p. 89.
  4. ^ a b Browning, Robert (1982). "Learning and the Past". In Easterling, P. E.; Kenney, E. J.; Knox, B. M. W.; Clausen, W. V. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 771. ISBN 0521210437. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  5. ^ Smith, Sir William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities. Ed. by William Smith. Illustrated by numerous engravings on wood (2nd ed.). Boston; London: C. Little, and J. Brown. p. 99, vol. 3. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  6. ^ Fitch (below) p.14
  7. ^ Barton Lodge, Sidney J.H. Herrtage (eds.) (1873; 1879). Palladius on Husbondrie: edited from the unique MS. of about 1420 AD in Colchester Castle. London: for the Early English Text Society, N. Trübner & Co.
  8. ^ Eschenburg, Johann Joachim, Nathan Welby Fiske (1839). Manual of classical literature (3rd ed.). Frederick W. Greenough. Retrieved 28 July 2021. (Eschenburg cites the Speculum Historiale of Vincentius)
  9. ^ Brunet, Jacques-Charles (1843). Manuel du Libraire et de l'Amateur de Livres, vol 4., R–Z (in French) (4th ed.). Paris: Silvestre. p. 238-9. Retrieved 28 July 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bartoldus, Marco Johannes Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus: Welt und Wert spätrömischer Landwirtschaft. Augsburg (Wißner-Verlag), 2nd edit., 2014. ISBN 978-3-89639-875-8
  • Brodersen, Kai Palladius: Das Bauernjahr. Latin/German, Sammlung Tusculum, Berlin and Boston (de Gruyter) 2016. ISBN 978-3-11-044013-3
  • Fitch, John G. (transl.) Palladius: The Work of Farming. Totnes (Prospect Books), 2013. ISBN 9781903018927
  • Rodgers, Robert H. (ed.) Palladius Opus Agriculturae, De Veterinaria Medicina, De Insitione. Leipzig (Teubner) 1975. ISBN 3-598-71573-0
  • Rodgers, Robert H. An Introduction to Palladius. University of London, Institute of Classical Studies, Bulletin Supplement 35. London, 1975.

External links[edit]