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Tempting Fate: The Vintner's Reward


"When the time is ripe, let me plant tender vines and stout orchard trees with my own deft hands, a countryman indeed. Nor let hope disappoint me; rather let it reward me with heaped-up corn and a rich new wine to fill my vat." (Tibullus, Elegies I)

Underlying these words was the romantic notion that Rome's ancient heroes were sturdy farmers who lived frugally and ploughed their land until such day as they might be called upon to serve a direly threatened Republic. Early senators who headed the centuries-long lineage of many renowned families of Imperial Rome also were credited with being "hands-on" farmers. By the 1st century A.D., the cultivation of vines, along with the other two staple crops (wheat and olives) was the way to find a moral rapport with those fabled Republicans.

It didn't matter if the land was so poor that the vine warranted pruning only every other year, as long as the landowner was diligent in his efforts. If he did manage to turn a meager plot into a fine vineyard, and produced a quality of grape to match, the Romans drooled then with respect for his achievement.