March 20, 1767: On this day Thomas Owen matriculated from Jesus College, Oxford in England. Owen went on to become a minister of the Church of England. Owen’s legacy today lies primarily in his work as a translator of ancient Greek and Roman texts. These included some of the surviving fragments of the work of M. Terentius Varro, the Roman imperial author, the fourteen books on agricultural matters of Rutillius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius and the Geoponika, a compendium of writings by ancient Greek and Romans on various agricultural matters which was compiled in the tenth century on the orders of Emperor Constantine VII. Many of the texts in the Geoponika, notably the writings of the Roman agricultural writer, Florentinus, focused on viticulture and the use of wine as medicine, fertilizer and a great many other things. Owen published the Geoponika in two volumes which appeared in 1805 and 1806, making the texts of these ancient writers on wine and viticulture available to a much wider English-speaking audience for the first time. For more information, see this biography of Thomas Owen in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography. See also A. F. Pollard and Anne Pimlott Baker’s entry ‘Owen, Thomas’, in Brian Harrison and H. C. G. Matthew (eds.), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 Vols. (Oxford, 2004).
March 20, 1524: On this day, the governor of New Spain, Hernán Cortez, ordered the settlers to plant grape vines. The settlers did so in the region now known as Coahuila, which then became home to the Casa Madero winery, the oldest winery in the Americas.
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