The opening chapters offer a geographical overview of ancient Italy and the suitability of its regions for sheep, a look at sheep breeds, and an attempt to trace the origins and extent of transhumance. There are chapters on shepherd communities and shepherd dress and equipment. There's a survey of the Roman agronomists — Cato, Varro, Columella, Pliny and Palladius — on sheep-rearing, and examinations of "ranching" (the large-scale raising of sheep), and of dairy produce, methods and utensils. And the last two chapters consider the processing and marketing of wool, and its long distance trade under the Empire. Eight pages of black and white photographs depict some modern sheep breeds and sculptural and architectural representations of sheep.
Frayn appears to have found every reference to sheep in the corpus of classical literature, from poetry to the Edict of Diocletian; she also uses evidence from art and archaeology. This offers a lot of material but — as Frayn admits herself — not enough to give a satisfying, balanced account. She also draws on information from later periods, for example transhumance in northern Greece and wool sales at fairs in the French Alps, but makes no attempt at a broader comparative study.
Translations are given for all Latin and Greek quotations, but much of Sheep-Rearing and the Wool Trade in Italy during the Roman Period will lack context for a reader without a background in Roman history.
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