The Romans were able to enjoy plentiful harvests because of the fertile land and the varied climate. The ancient Roams believed that, if they prayed to Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, she would help their harvests.
Farms were self-sufficient, based mainly on the production of grain and the ideal of the self-sufficient citizen farmer continue long after the establishment of large agricultural estates had engulfed many small farmers.
As the Romans conquered new territories, they were able to add to their natural resources. When Rome conquered Italy, land was often confiscated from communities that put up strong resistance or later rebelled against Rome.
The farmers in Italy grew grains, olives and grapes. Olive oil and wine were some of Italy’s leading exports. Many Romans seem to have used a two-field system, which meant that each year famers only planted on half their land while the other half was allowed to rest to recover nutrients and moisture.
However, Rome farming methods were fairly primitive and not very productive. Roman farms produced few crops and required many people to do the work.
During the Roman Empire the major problem for the emperor was the availability of labor for agriculture. Augustus was smart enough not to depress the working farmers to the point at which they could not produce.
Slave labor continued to be important during and after the period of expansion in the last two centuries of the Republic.
During the Late Republic, rich men began buying up all the land and putting together huge estates.
Ancient Roman farming