Some think that the word ‘farm’ is derived from an old English word feorm meaning ‘provision’.
There is, though, a strong argument that it comes from the Latin adjective firmus, firma, firmum meaning ‘firm, strong, to be relied upon’.
This seems to be a pretty positive way to view a farm. You would think, then, that farmers were viewed positively.
In fact, many insults, such as, ‘boor’, ‘clown’,’ churl’, ‘lout’, and ‘villain’ all mean farmer.
Interestingly, so does the word ‘pagan’. This is derived from the Latin paganus and was used by Roman soldiers as an insult for new recruits who showed their inexperience. It was later used by the 19th century religious group the Salvation Army in the same way, to mean soldiers that were not good at their job. However, as the Salvation Army is battling for souls, there was a shift in meaning to ‘a non-believer in Christ’.
More than 90 per cent of the Roman Empire lived a poor, rural existence. Vegetius, a Roman military expert, wrote that he favoured the recruitment of soldiers from the countryside because of this harsh and laborious lifestyle. His argument was as follows:
“Common people… from the country are fittest for War; for as they are brought up to Labour in the open Air, they seek not the Shade, and can bear the Heats of the Sun. They are strangers to Baths; and to the sweets of Life. Their Minds are simple. They are content with little. Their Limbs are hardened to every kind of Labour, having been accustomed to carry tools, to make Ditches and to carry Burdens, in the fields.”