Columella's hortus numerosus: Vergilian influence on Book 10 of the "De Re Rustica"

Nina Carmel Coppolino, Fordham University


In A.D. 60-65 Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella wrote a treatise on farming, De Re Rustica, in twelve books. Eleven of the books treat in prose various aspects of the farm. In contrast, Book 10 of the De Re Rustica is composed in dactylic hexameters and treats exclusively the subject of gardens. In the prose preface to Book 10, Columella cites the inspiration of Vergil, who bypassed the subject of gardens in the Georgics; Columella states that his aim is to fill out those parts of the earlier poem which Vergil indicated he was leaving for posterity to describe. Early in his poem, Columella deliberately describes the subject of Book 10 as a hortus numerosus a phrase which most likely means "rhythmic garden." Studies on Columella's interest in Vergil to date have focused primarily on localized verbal reminiscences, general influence, and the solving of minor textual problems in Vergil. This dissertation seeks to assess more fully Vergil's influence on Columella's didactic presentation of his subject in Book 10. Chapter One reviews Columella's sources, content, philosophy of farming and economic ideology, and use of the Georgics in the prose books. Chapter Two presents a new English translation of Book 10, based on the most recent text and commentary of E. de Saint-Denis (1969). Chapter Three examines Columella's language, themes, and didactic presentation in Book 10, demonstrating that Columella deliberately presents himself as a successor to Vergil not only in the positive spirit of small-scale agriculture, but also in the practice of didactic and descriptive poetry familiar to readers of the Georgics. Far from seeing ambiguity in Vergil's poetic presentation of agriculture, Columella appears to have perceived truth in Vergil's technical precepts. There is no doubt that he deliberately emulates Vergil's combination of instruction with poetic description, variety, and contrast.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Ancient languages

Recommended Citation

Coppolino, Nina Carmel, "Columella's hortus numerosus: Vergilian influence on Book 10 of the "De Re Rustica"" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9509747.