In view of the interest of Columella's De Re Rustica it is strange that it is not better known. Indeed, it is difficult to secure a text of it, since the last complete edition was published in the eighteenth century and the nearest approach to an English edition is a short selection from his works published in Dublin in 1732.
As to the man himself our knowledge is derived almost wholly from his own writings. His full name was Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella. He was a contemporary and friend of Seneca, who lived from 4 b.c. to A.D. 65 and, like Columella, was a native of Spain, and of Seneca's brother Gallio, proconsul of Achaea, who figures in the Acts of the Apostles (xviii. 12) as ‘caring for none of these things’, and also died in A.D. 65. The elder Pliny (A.D. 23–79) quotes freely from Columella. Without going into further detail, I think we may say that the De Re Rustica was probably published in the sixties of the first century A.D.
Columella was born and spent his early years at or near the town of Gades, the modern Cadiz, in the south-west corner of Spain. He does not mention his parents but often speaks of his uncle Marcus, who was also a keen agriculturist and lived in the Spanish province of Baetica in which Gades was situated. Possibly Columella lived with his uncle during his early years. At some period of his life he found himself on military service at Tarentum, where an inscription has been discovered which describes him as a military tribune of the Sexta Legio Ferrata, which is known to have been recruited at Gades.