AGRICULTURE, Hoxonv O. As the ground was, by divine appointment, to furnish subsistence for man, and after his fall he was doomed to procure it by labour, husbandry, or the practical part of agriculture, was of neces. city the first and most important occupation of the descendants of Adam ; wherefore we learn from Scripture, that his two sons, Abel and Cain, were both employed in this manner, the former being a keeper of sheep, and the latter a tiller of the ground. With what implements this work of tillage was carried on, and what degree of art was employed in producing the fruits of the earth, is left to conjecture ; but writers on those early periods are generally agreed that the antediluvians were in pos session of many arts and inventions which were in process of time lost, or at least but im perfectly retained among the different nations that were scattered abroad after the confusion of tongues. Agriculture was one of the arts which Noah and his posterity retained; for we find that he cultivated the vine. Those of the line of Shem appear to have followed the breed ing and feeding of cattle; but those of the line of Ham, who took possession of Egypt, applied themselves to the tilling of the ground, and with so much ingenuity, industry, and suc cess, that, owing to the inundations of the Nile, and the consequent fertility of the soil, Egypt was enabled in the time of Abraham, and still more so in the time of Joseph, to supply its neighbours with corn during a period of fa mine. Nor were the inhabitants backward in assisting the liberality of nature: they busied themselves in embanking, irrigation, and drain ing, in order to derive all the benefits which the benignant river was capable of affording them. These works are said to have been car ried on with particular spirit under the aus pices of Sesestris, 1800 years before the Chris tian era. So sensible were the Egyptians of the blessings which agriculture afforded, that, in the blindness of their zeal, they ascribed the invention of the art to their god Osiris, and the culture of barley and wheat to their goddess Isis.
The Pelasgi, or aboriginal inhabitants of Greece, were among the number of those who lost all the primeval arts, and fed upon acorns and wild fruits, until they were led by the Egyptians, with whom they had an early com caumeation, to the cultivation of the ground.
Like them, too, they placed their benefactress Ceres, to whom they ascribed the introduction of corn, among the number of their deities; a goddess whom authors agree was no other than the Egyptian Isis. hi the time of Homer, agriculture was in such esteem, that King Laertes laid aside his royal dignity, that he might cultivate a few fields. IiesiA the con temporary of this author, has devoted a whole poem to the labours of the field in the different seasons of the year. Of other writings, among the Greeks, on agriculture, little remains, ex cept a treatise by Xenophon on rural affairs, and scattered notices on the subject in the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus ; but we learn from Varro, that there were in his time not less than fifty Greek authors to be consult ed on agricultural matter.
The Jews, as Scripture informs us, applied themselves, when they came into the land of Canaan, to the cultivation of the soil, having each their territory allotted to them. We may also infer, from the frequent allusions to this subject in different parts of the Old Testament, that husbandry formed their principal occupa. tion. The laws of Moses have, many of them, for their object, the regulation of their flocks, their herds, and their fields. David cultivated his own land, having officers to take charge of his flocks, his herds, his camels, his asses, and his warehouses of wine and oil, &c. Elisha was in the field with twelve yoke of oxen when Elijah found him. Besides the frequent men tion of husbandry business in different parts of the sacred writings, as the digging of wells, the planting of vineyards, the leasing, gathering in, thrashing, sifting, and winnowing of corn, with a number of other things of the like kind. That the Carthaginians did not neglect agri culture, is evident from this, that they had wri ters on the subject, of whom a famous general, Mago, was one, who is quoted by Varro. He wrote no less than twenty-eight books. It is probable that, under the auspices of these peo ple, agriculture flourished in Sicily, which was afterwards the granary of Rome.