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GEOPONICI

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 737 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GEOPONICI,' or Scriptores rei rusticae, the Greek and Roman writers on husbandry and agriculture. On the whole the Greeks paid less attention than the Romans to the scientific study of these subjects, which in classical times they regarded as a branch of economics. Thus Xenophon's Oeconomicus (see also Memorabilia, ii. 4) contains a eulogy of agriculture and its beneficial ethical effects, and much information is to be found in the writings of Aristotle and his pupil Theophrastus. About the same time as Xenophon, the philosopher Democritus of Abdera wrote a treatise Hepi Fewpytas, frequently quoted and much used by the later compilers of Geoponica (agricultural treatises). Greater attention was given to the subject in the Alexandrian period; a long list of names is given by Varro and Columella, amongst them Hiero II. and Attalus III. Philometor. Later, Cassius Dionysius of Utica translated and abridged the great work of the Carthaginian Mago, which was still further condensed by Diophanes of Nicaea in Bithynia for the use of King Deiotarus. From these and similar works Cassianus Bassus (q.v.) compiled his Geoponica. Mention may also be made of a little work Hept FewpytKWv by Michael Psellus (printed in Boissonade, Anecdota Graeca, i.). The Romans, aware of the necessity of maintaining a numerous and thriving order of agriculturists, from very early times endeavoured to instil into their countrymen both a theoretical and a practical knowledge of the subject. The occupation of the farmer was regarded as next in importance to that of the soldier, and distinguished Romans did not disdain to practise it. In furtherance of this object, the great work of Mago was translated into Latin by order of the senate, and the elder Cato wrote his De agri cultura (extant in a very 'corrupt state), a simple record in homely language of the rules observed by the old, Roman landed proprietors rather than a theoretical treatise. He was followed by the two Sasernae (father and son) and Gnaeus Tre:nellius Scrofa, whose works are lost. The learned Marcus Terentius Varro of Reate, when eighty years of age, composed his Rerum rusticarum, libri tres, dealing with agriculture, the ' The latinized form of a non-existent rew7rovsKOt, used for convenience. suffered martyrdom, among whom also the Holy George was martyred." Two Syrian church inscriptions bearing the name, one at Ezr'a and the other at Shaka, found by Burckhardt and Porter, and discussed by J. Hogg in the Transactions of the Royal Literary Society, may with some probability be assigned to the middle of the 4th century. Calvin impugned the saint's existence altogether, and Edward Reynolds (r 599-1676) ,bishop of Norwich, like Edward Gibbon a century later, made him one with George of Laodicea, called " the Cappadocian," the Arian bishop of Alexandria (see GEORGE OF LAODICEA). Modern criticism, while rejecting this identification, is not unwilling to accept the main fact that an officer named Georgios, of high rank in the army, suffered martyrdom probably under Diocletian. In the canon of Pope Gelasius (494) George is mentioned in a list of those " whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God," a statement which implies that legends had already grown up around his name. The caution of Gelasius was not long preserved; Gregory of Tours, for example, asserts that the saint's relics actually existed in the French village of Le Maine, where many miracles were wrought by means of them; and Bede, while still explaining that the Gesta Georgii are reckoned apocryphal, commits himself to the statement that the martyr was beheaded under Dacian, king of Persia, whose wife Alexandra, however, adhered to the Christian faith. The great fame of George, who is reverenced alike by Eastern and Western Christendom and by Mahommedans, is due to many causes. He was martyred on the eve of the triumph of Christianity, his shrine was reared near the scene of a great Greek legend (Perseus and Andromeda), and his relics when removed from Lydda, where many pilgrims had visited them, to Zorava in the Hauran served to impress his fame not only on the Syrian population, but on their Moslem conquerors, and again on the Crusaders, who in grateful memory of the saint's intervention on their behalf at Antioch built a new cathedral at Lydda to take the place of the church destroyed by the Saracens. This cathedral was in turn destroyed by Saladin. The connexion of St George with a dragon, familiar since the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, can be traced to the close of the 6th century. At Arsuf or Joppa—neither of them far from Lydda—Perseus had slain the sea-monster that threatened the virgin Andromeda, and George, like many another Christian saint, entered into the inheritance of veneration previously enjoyed by a pagan hero.' The exploit thus attaches itself to the very common Aryan myth of the sun-god as the conqueror of the powers of darkness. The popularity of St George in England has never reached the height attained by St Andrew in Scotland, St David in Wales or St Patrick in Ireland. The council of Oxford in 1222 ordered that his feast should be kept as a national festival; but it was not until the time of Edward III. that he was made patron of the kingdom. The republics of Genoa and Venice were also under his protection. Sec P. Heylin, The History of ... S. George of Cappadocia (1631); S. Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages; Fr. Gorres, " Der Ritter St Georg in der Geschichte, Legende and Kunst " (Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Theologie, xxx., 1887, Heft i.); E. A. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of St George of Cappadocia: the Coptic texts edited with an English translation (1888) ; Rolland, Ada Sancti, iii. ioi ; E. O. Gordon, Saint George (1907) ; M. H. Gulley, St George for Merrie England (1908).
End of Article: GEOPONICI
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