Agricola, Georgius, De re metallica, 1912/1950

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Certainly, if mining is a shameful and discreditable employment for a
gentleman because slaves once worked mines, then agriculture also will not be
a very creditable employment, because slaves once cultivated the fields, and
even to-day do so among the Turks; nor will architecture be considered
honest, because some slaves have been found skilful in that profession;
nor medicine, because not a few doctors have been slaves; nor will any other
worthy craft, because men captured by force of arms have practised it.
Yet agriculture, architecture, and medicine are none the less counted
amongst the number of honourable professions; therefore, mining
ought not for this reason to be excluded from them.
But suppose we
grant that the hired miners have a sordid employment.
We do not mean
by miners only the diggers and other workmen, but also those skilled in the
mining arts, and those who invest money in mines.
Amongst them can be
counted kings, princes, republics, and from these last the most esteemed
citizens.
And finally, we include amongst the overseers of mines the noble
Thucydides, the historian, whom the Athenians placed in charge of the
mines of Thasos.29 And it would not be unseemly for the owners themselves
to work with their own hands on the works or ore, especially if they them-
selves have contributed to the cost of the mines.
Just as it is not undignified
for great men to cultivate their own land.
Otherwise the Roman Senate
would not have created Dictator L.
Quintius Cincinnatus, as he was at
work in the fields, nor would it have summoned to the Senate House the
chief men of the State from their country villas.
Similarly, in our day,
Maximilian Cæsar would not have enrolled Conrad in the ranks of the nobles
known as Counts; Conrad was really very poor when he served in the mines
of Schneeberg, and for that reason he was nicknamed thepoor man”; but

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