added by archaeologs Large planned agricultural estates geared to efficient production and high profits through the use of cheap, usually slave, labor. The estates were owned by the Roman upper classes and were first created towards the end of the Roman Republic. The land was confiscated by Rome from conquered communities beginning in the early 2nd century BC. They were common throughout the western part of the empire in the early centuries of the first millennium AD. Although strictly a Roman term, its use extends to any agricultural estates, as in South America, where production is at an industrial level. It occurred in classical Greece in the 5th century BC and later, in the Hellenistic Age from 323 BC, large estates were held by rulers, ministers, and other rich people and by some great temples. Upper-class Romans who owned latifundia had enough money to improve their crops and livestock, displacing the small farm as the regular agricultural unit by the 3rd century AD. As the empire declined and disappeared in the West (5th century AD), the latifundia assumed great importance not only as economic but also as local political and cultural centers.