The AgroCCol Project

This interdisciplinary collaboration project combines the study on ancient literature and the history of science, in order to get a better understanding of a crucial stage in the history of agriculture and agronomical discourses, by analysing the topic of growing cereals and legumes in Greek and Latin agronomical discourses and particularly in the book II of Columella’s De re rustica (1st century A.D.). This research program will highlight a corpus which, despite its worth to the history of science and techniques, remains little read and studied today: for instance, book II by Columella has not been published or translated in France since the 19th century.

The purposes of this collective research will be two-fold. Firstly, the aim of the project is to associate the research devoted to agricultural practices in Antiquity with an ideological and aesthetical analysis of this so-called technical literature. Secondly, the project will link together an edition of book II of Columella’s De re rustica with the creation of a digital corpus encoded in XML, using tools devoted to digital humanities. All the data will be available online.

This digital corpus will compile ancient texts regarding the topic of growing cereals and legumes and will include in particular: the Latin agronomical discourses of Cato, Varro, Columella, Palladius; book XVIII of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History; Greek scientific literature (Theophrastus, Galen); the Geoponica; didactic poetry (Hesiod, Vergil) and relevant fragments. This broad collection of technical texts will be used to analyze the ancient agronomical precepts dedicated to similar topics by serializing and comparing the interactions between those various texts. This project will finally lead to produce new translations, two glossaries (botanical and technical) and thematic notes which will synthesize the results. The notes, written by an interdisciplinary team working in close collaboration, will explain the technical background by taking into account not only recent studies on ancient linguistics or rural archaeology, but also today’s traditional knowledge or practices. They will show how an agronomical knowledge was created in the Greco-Roman world in relation to specific climate and soil conditions, and how it was transmitted and changed over time; they would later be useful for others research fields or studies devoted to others cultural areas.

The AgroCCol project will thus make Greek and Latin agronomical discourses understandable to a large readership, by carrying out several actions : not only the Web site and the scientific edition of Columella’s book II, but also an academic blog, the publication of the proceedings of the symposium which will take place at the end of the project, an anthology of ancient agronomical texts in a collection intended to the general public, and, in collaboration with the Lyon Public Library, a virtual exhibition dedicated to the edition, translation and reception of the ancient agronomical treatises in the early modern period.