The “illustrious man” Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius (ruh-TIHL-ee-uhs TAWR-uhs ih-mihl-ee-AY-nuhs puh-LAY-dee-uhs), as he is named in his manuscripts, wrote a book on agriculture (c. mid-fifth century c.e.; On Agriculture, 1975). He probably is the Palladius, a young relative of the poet Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, who in 418 c.e. had come to Rome from Gaul to study law and was the son of Exsuperantius, praetorian prefect of Gaul in 424 c.e. Palladius’s title of “illustrious” could suggest that he had held a high office, but no such Palladius can be found, so perhaps the title was honorary. He owned estates in Sardinia and Italy.
Palladius’s handbook consists of fourteen chapters: an introduction, twelve chapters named after the months of the year, a poem, “On Grafting,” and a final chapter, “On the Medicine of Herds.” The introduction discusses basic agricultural practices, such as “on good water,” “on the quality of land,” “on the selection and location of fields,” and “on winter and summer buildings.” Although he drew material from previous agricultural writers such as Gargilius Martialis, Marcus Cetius Faventinus, Anatolius of Beirut, and, in particular, Columella, Palladius made much use of his own personal experience. His attempts to adhere to the dry and straightforward style of his models are complemented by a lively and varied manner of writing that reflect his rhetorical training.