A farming general

Aug 2019
571
North
Ever since I watched the film "gladiator", a little thought has been bugging me. Namely, could a roman general be a farmer in the same time?
 
Feb 2011
1,142
Scotland
Cincinnatus- Roman Dictator/ Farmer of the 450s BCE, at least in Roman legend. Usually sorting out the Aequi and Volsci in short order then lay down the Dictatorship by lunchtime and back to the farm....
 
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Feb 2011
1,142
Scotland
I should add that Cincinnatus was exhibited as a shining example of civic virtue- much as Romans extolled matrons spinning flax etc.
However, even in those days a noble such as Cincinnatus would have been wealthy enough to employ staff/slaves on farm work, if they actually undertook this on their own properties.

By the days of 'Gladiator' the property qualifications for a senator qualifying to act as a general would have placed him well beyond the necessity of ploughing his own fields. Far more likely is that as a landowner, he would receive rents from tenant farmers.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,726
Dispargum
A general might own several estates but he would be an absentee landlord. He might prefer to live on his farm between wars, but it would be more like a vacation home than a serious business or occupation. The vacation home would generate enough revenue to pay for itself. The general might even prefer to call himself a farmer, in the same way that George Washington thought of himself as a farmer or planter, but that's not what we remember Washington for today.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Basically, no. As others have said, Roman generals were Senators (or equestrians, at times) who were trusted by the Emperor, which allowed him to keep political control of the army. Without that, he was not emperor for long! And men of that class *owned* land but were not "farmers". It's possible that one or two might have been quirky enough to do some gardening as a hobby, but that's about it.

"Gladiator" was a fantasy movie. It's always safest to assume that everything you see in a movie is WRONG, and work from there.

Matthew
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
Cato the Censor would be another example. This isn't to say generals were all living the cushy life. There were men who rose from nothing, or relative obscurity, to become great generals for Rome. It just wasn't common at all. The typical general was a wealthy senator who had been born into plenty, however even among those many had seen frontline combat and undergone gruelling work training for the legions.
 
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Jul 2019
809
New Jersey
Cato the Censor would be another example. This isn't to say generals were all living the cushy life. There were men who rose from nothing, or relative obscurity, to become great generals for Rome. It just wasn't common at all. The typical general was a wealthy senator who had been born into plenty, however even among those many had seen frontline combat and undergone gruelling work training for the legions.
Much had changed in Roman society from the times of Cincinatus and Cato to the time of Gladiator (Marcus Aurelius).
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
Can't see them pulling a plough somehow. All of Hispania, for example, (Roman citizens) was divided up into fincas owned by the lesser or greater ruling classes. This sort of passed through in a divvied up and battered way to Visigothic society in Hispania. I recall the Bishop of Toledo Julian left huge property and 600+ slaves in his will (the workers) - but I don't think he would be called a 'farmer' either!
 
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