Very little of Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella is known. He was born in Gades (modern Cadiz), and was a contemporary of Seneca the Younger. He seems to have either been raised by or particularly fond of his uncle, whom he simply calls Marcus. If he was not simply a literary creation, his uncle, Columella alleges, was a farmer who had imparted his knowledge to his nephew.
Only two of Columella’s works have survived: the De Arboribus and the De Re Rustica in ten books. The former work focuses solely on trees (hence the name), while the latter is a much-expanded version that discusses many more agrarian concerns, such as lifestock, beekeeping, gardens, and even slaves.
The last book, book 10, picks up where Vergil left off in his Georgics. Therein Vergil deliberately left out extended discussion of gardens, and stated that he would leave the task to someone in the future. Columella’s work, up until now written in prose, switches to hexametric verse, the meter in which Vergil wrote his Georgics. Thus the book is intended to “complete” the Georgics in a sense.
- E. S. Forster 1950. “Columella and His Latin Treatise on Agriculture.” Greece and Rome 19: 123–128.