We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Robert Witcher

Witcher, R.E. (2016). Agricultural production in Roman Italy. In A companion to Roman Italy. Cooley, A. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. 459-482.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter considers the practice and organization of agricultural production in Roman Italy drawing on textual, archaeological, and ethnoarchaeological evidence. As well as reviewing the types of crops cultivated and animals husbanded, it considers broader questions about the scale of production and the social organization of labor (e.g. peasants, slaves, tenants). The chapter outlines the significance of critical new approaches to ancient texts and recent archaeological discoveries for established narratives of agricultural production and agrarian relations. This includes questioning the extent to which peasant farmers were systematically pushed from the land and the significance of oil and wine production in the economic fortunes of the Republican aristocracy. Throughout, examples are used to demonstrate how powerful ancient and modern assumptions (e.g. the self-sufficient peasant, “decline”) shape interpretation of texts and archaeological evidence.