CHAPTER X. THE COUNTRY HOMESTEAD AND COUNTRY SEAT

Throughout the romanized parts of the empire - in other words, wherever Romans settled, in Italy, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and also wherever the richer natives imitated the Roman fashions - the house in any city or considerable town was built as nearly as possible after the type described.

In the country the poor naturally had their much simpler cottages and cabins of a room or two, commonly thatched or shingled, knowing nothing of hall and court and all these arrangements of art and luxury. In the case of the more well-to-do country people of Italy - the larger farmers, wine-growers, olive-growers, and the like - the homestead was of a kind which made for simplicity and comfort. It was in such homes that one would find the most wholesome life and the soundest moral fibre of the time.

Normally the homestead would be a large, and often a rambling, building of one storey, except where a tower served as a store-room for the mellowing wine or a loft for the mellowing fruit. When we read in Horace about the liberal stack of wood to be kept in readiness near the hearth, and about the wine-jar drinking in the smoke in the store-room we must think of his country homestead on the Sabine Hills, not of a house in Rome, for at Rome there was no blazing hearth to sit round and no smoky tower-loft for the ripening of the Caecuban.

You enter an open court or yard, round the sides of which may run the stalls of the horses and oxen of the farm, the tool-rooms, the lofts of hay and corn, the quarters of the labourers - herdsmen, ploughmen, vine-dressers - and the great farm-kitchen. It is in this kitchen that you will find the bright hearth in winter-time, where all the members of the homestead gather round the fire. It is here that they then all eat, and in it the women of the establishment perform their work, spinning and weaving and mending. Off from the court will be situated the wine-press, or the olive-press, the-granaries, the fruit mellowing on mats, and the various rooms or bins where wine is fermented and stored, or where the olive-oil is treated and stocked. Commonly a more retired court will contain the private rooms of the owner, and somewhere in the homestead will be found the fowl-yard, with its hens, ducks, geese, and guinea-fowl, the sties, and the preserves for various toothsome animals, including perhaps dormice and snails.

Frequently a Roman of the city affected a country house of this character, to which he would flee during the tyrannous reign of the Dogstar or the Lion - -in other words, during that hot season of the year which requires no description for those who have been so ill-advised as to sojourn in Rome in July, August, and early September. Many of his town slaves he would take with him, and what was a holiday for him was also a holiday for them. His rural homestead would possess great charm for the quieter type of man who had no real love for the pomps and shows the rattle and tumult, of the city. The vision of wholesome country-produce - of fresh milk and eggs and vegetables, and of tender poultry - is one which still attracts our city-folk. But the vision, then as now, was often subject to disillusion. Complaints are many that you had to feed the homestead in place of it feeding you, and when Martial has given a pleasant picture of a family reaching the gate of Rome with a coachful of the typical produce of the country, he ends by suddenly letting you know that they are not coming in from their country house but are going out to it. The complaint of the English seaside town that there will be no fish "till the train comes in from London," is thus a sufficiently old one. Yet the same Martial supplies another picture, painted with such zest of frank enjoyment that we are at once convinced of its truth. Some portions of it perhaps admit of translation in the following terms: -