Abstract This article investigates the interplay of agriculture and writing in the elder Cato's aristocratic self-fashioning (both his individual self-representation, that is, and his construction of aristocracy more broadly). I argue that the De Agricultura represents Cato and his contemporaries as individual, small-plot farmers by making explicit the agricultural inflection of a more general masterly extensibility, i.e., that slaves were prosthetic tools with which owners accomplished various tasks, a move that in turn reveals the ubiquitous, assiduous ““labor”” of the individual owner. The preface's valorization of small-plot farmers, past and present, contextualizes the owner's ““labor”” both culturally and historically (the one by means of the other), and thereby seeks to bridge the agricultural and temporal divide that separates Cato and his contemporaries from their esteemed predecessors.

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