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Agriculture and husbandry in Sicily and Lucania in the 2nd century BC: the evidence of the lapis Pollae

Mario Adamo

University of Oxford

This paper investigates how the Latin inscription known as lapis Pollae (CIL X 6950 = CIL I2 638 = ILS 23 = ILLRP 454 = Inscr. It. III.1 272) can be used to address the shifting balance between agriculture and husbandry in Sicily and Lucania as a consequence of the growth of demand for grain in the 2nd century BC.

The inscription, standing along the road Capua-Regium, mentions (among other things) the decision by a Roman magistrate to privilege the claims of ploughmen on public land, at the expenses of shepherds (ll. 12-13: primus fecei, ut de agro poplico aratoribus cederent paastores). So far, the sentence has been unanimously understood as a reference to a land distribution in Lucania, either in connection to the Gracchan settlements (Wiseman 1964; Verbrugghe 1973), or to the settlement of viasei vicanei (Carlsen 2009; Bernard et al. 2014). According to this interpretation, shepherds were relocated to settle farmers.

I argue, instead, that in the sentence cedere does not mean "withdraw", but "give priority". I suggest that the sentence refers to a judgement given by a praetor of Sicily, to settle a dispute concerning the use of ager publicus: according to my interpretation, the magistrate gave priority to people who grew grain (arationes) for the Roman market, in case of competing claims with the owners of flocks. Through the analysis of the involvement of Roman citizens in the Sicilian economy after the conquest, I suggest that the dispute involved not only Sicilians, but also Roman entrepreneurs.

In the second part of the paper, I discuss the date of the episode. First, I point out that the indication of mileage on the lapis Pollae has been reduced at a later stage, and argue that this has to do with alterations to the road, such as the construction of a bridge to avoid a detour. Then I present the inscribed milestone from Ponte Maodino, pertaining to the via Annia Roma-Aquileia (Uggeri 2012), and explain that the document proves that milestones were amended to keep record of changes to itineraries. Finally, I present the only extant milestone from the road Capua-Regium (AE 1955, 191 = AE 1956, 148 = ILLRP 454a = CIL I2.4 2936), and suggest that, since it has no amendments, it was set up later than the lapis Pollae. Since the milestone bears the name of T. Annius pr(aetor), and the most recent Annius to have held the praetorship is T. Annius Rufus (praetor in 131 BC at the latest), then the lapis Pollae is earlier than 131 BC.

At this point, I analyze Plutarch's account of an attempted land reform by C. Laelius in the late 150's or early 140's. I reject Astin's (1967: 307-308) view that Laelius was attempting to put through a land distribution; instead, I connect the episode to the lapis Pollae, arguing that growing demand for arable land was creating contrasts with the owners of flocks, the activity then prevailing on public land. I substantiate this claim by reflecting on the location of the lapis Pollae. I explain that, although the economy of Lucania was heavily reliant on husbandry, archaeology (Di Giuseppe 2007; 2011; Gualtieri 2008; 2009; Fracchia and Gualtieri 2011) and literary evidence show that around the turn of the 1st century BC arable farming had acquired considerable importance. I suggest that the lapis Pollae gives us a glimpse of the initial stages of the expansion of arable farming in Lucania: I suggest that this was promoted by the local elites of Roman colonies in Lucania and Campania, whereas it was opposed by the senators and equites who owned the flocks roaming on public land.

Session/Panel Title

Epigraphic Economies (organized by the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy)

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