Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 13
I. THIS is the degree to which the forests are valuable in the matter of scents; and their various products were not sufficiently remarkable by themselves, and luxury took pleasure in mixing them all up together and making a single scent out of the combination: thus perfumes were invented. It is not recorded who first discovered them. In the days of the Trojan War they did not exist, and incense was not used when prayers were made to the gods: even in the rites of religion people only knew the scent of cedar and citrus wood, trees of their own country, or more truly the reek, as it rose in wreaths of smoke, though attar of roses had already been discovered, for it also is specified as an ingredient in commending olive oil. Perfume ought by right to be accredited to the Persian race: they soak themselves in it, and quench the odour produced from dirt by its adventitious attraction. The first case that I am able to discover was when a chest of perfumes was captured by Alexander among the rest of the property of King Darius when his camp was taken. Afterwards the pleasure of perfume was also admitted by our fellow-countrymen as well among the most elegant and also most honourable enjoyments of life, and even began to be an appropriate tribute to the dead; and consequently we will enlarge on the subject. Those among perfumes which are not the product of shrubs will for the present only be indicated by their names; however, an account will be given of their nature in their proper places.
II. Perfumes have received their names in some cases from their countries of origin, in others from the juices of which they are made, in others from trees, and in others front other causes; and the first thing proper to know about them is that their importance changes, quite often their fame having passed away. The perfume most highly praised in the old days was made on the island of Delos, but later that from the Egyptian town of Mendes ranked the highest. Nor was this only the result of the blending and combination of several scents, but the same juices gained supremacy or degenerated in various ways in different places. The sword-lily perfume of Corinth was extremely popular for a long time, but afterwards that of Cyzicus, and similarly the attar of roses made at Phaselis, but this distinction was later taken from it by Naples, Capua and Palestrina. Oil of saffron from Soli in Cilicia was for a long time praised most highly, but subsequently that of Rhodes; vine-flower scent made in Cyprus was preferred, but afterwards that from Adramytteum, and scent of marjoram made in Cos, but afterwards quince-blossom unguent from the same place, and cyprus-scent made in Cyprus, but subsequently that made in Egypt; at this point scent from Mendes and almond-oil suddenly became more popular, but later on Phoenicia appropriated these two scents and left the credit for cyprus-scent to Egypt. Athens has persistently maintained the credit of her 'all-Athenian' perfume. There was also once an unguent called panther-scent at Tarsus, even the recipe for compounding which has disappeared; narcissus-scent has also ceased to be made from the narcissus flower.
The recipe for making unguents contains two ingredients, the juice and the solid part, the former which usually consists of various sorts of oil and the latter of scented substances, the oils being called 'astringents' and the scents 'sweetenings.' Together with these there is a third factor that many people neglectthat of colour, for the sake of which cinnabar and alkanet should be added. A sprinkle of salt serves to preserve the properties of the oil, but to scents containing an admixture of alkanet salt is not added. Resin or gum are added to retain the scent in the solid part, as it evaporates and disappears very quickly if these are not added.
The unguent most quickly made and probably the first invented was made of bryon and behen-oil, of which we have spoken above. Later the Mendes scent came in, made of behen-oil, resin and myrrh, and at the present day metopium is even more popular; this is an oil made in Egypt, pressed out of bitter almonds, with the addition of omphacium, cardamom, rush, reed, honey, wine, myrrh, seed of balsam, galbanum and terebinth-resin. One of the commonest unguents indeedand at the present day it is consequently believed also to be one of the oldestis one made of myrtle-oil, reed, cypress, cyprus, mastic-oil and pomegranate rind. But I am inclined to believe that the scents most widely used are those made from the rose, which grows in great abundance everywhere; and so the simplest compound was for a long time that of oil of roses, though additional ingredients used are omphacium, rose and saffron blossoms, cinnabar, reed, honey, rush, flower of salt or else alkanet, and wine. A similar method also is used in the case of oil of saffron with the addition of cinnabar, alkanet and wine, and also a similar method in the case of oil of marjoram, by mixing in omphacium and reed; this is best in Cyprus and at Mitylene, where marjoram is very plentiful. Also cheaper kinds of oil are compounded out of myrtle and laurel with the addition of marjoram, lilies, fenugreek, myrrh, casia, nard, rush and cinnamon. There is also an oil made from the common quince and the sparrow-quince, as we shall say later; it is called melinum, and is used as an ingredient in unguents with a mixture of omphacium, oil of cyprus, oil of sesame, balsam, rush, casia and southernwood. The most fluid of them all is susinum, made of lilies, oil of behen-nut, reed, honey, cinnamon, saffron and myrrh; and next is oil of cyprus, made of cyprus, omphacium, cardamom, reed, rosewood and southernwood; some people also add oil of cyprus and myrrh and all-heal; the best is that made at Sidon and the next best in Egypt. But if oil of sesame is added, the mixture will last as long as four years; and its scent is brought out by the addition of cinnamon.
Unguent of fenugreek is made of fresh olive-oil, cyprus, reed, melilot, fenngreek, honey, cat-thyme amd scent of marjoram. This was much the most celebrated unguent in the time of Menander, the author of comedies; but afterwards its place was taken by megalium, so called because of its celebrity as this was made of behen-nut oil, balsam, reed, rush, wood-balsam, casia and resin. A peculiarity of this unguent is that it must be constantly stirred while boiling until it ceases to have any odour, and when it becomes cold it recovers its scent.
There are also some juices which separately produce famous perfumesin the first place cinnamon-leaf, then the Illyrian iris and the sweet marjoram of Cyzicus, both of the herb class. Some few other ingredients are united with these, different ones by different makers, those who use the most mixing with one or the other honey, flower of salt, omphacium, leaves of the agnus castus, all-heal, and all sorts of foreign substances. Also unguent of cinnamon fetches enormous prices; to cinnamon is added behennut oil, wood-balsam, reed, seeds of rush and balsam, myrrh and scented honey. This is the thickest in consistency of all the unguents; its prices range from 35 to 300 denarii. Spikenard or leaf-unguent is made of omphacium or else behen-nut oil, rush, costus, nard, amomum, myrrh and balsam.
Under this heading it will be suitable to recall that we mentioned nine species of plants that resemble the Indian nard: such a large supply of material is available for purposes of adulteration. They can all be rendered more pungent by the addition of costus and amomum, which have an extremely powerful scent, and thicker in consistency and sweeter by means of myrrh, while their utility for medicine is increased by adding saffron; but they will be rendered extremely penetrating in themselves by means of amomumthis actually causes headache. Some people hold it enough to add a sprinkle of the most expensive ingredients to the others after boiling them down, as an economy, but the mixture has not the same strength unless they are all boiled down together. Myrrh even when used by itself without oil makes an unguent, provided that the staete kind is usedotherwise it produces too bitter a flavour. Unguent of cyprus produces a green colour, lily unguent gives a greasy consistency, oil of Mendes makes the mixture black, attar of roses white, and myrrh gives a pale hue.
These are the kinds of perfumes invented in early times, and the subsequent pilferings of the factories. We will now speak of what is the very climax of luxury and the most important example of this commodity.
What then is called the 'royal' unguent, because it is a blend prepared for the kings of Parthia, is made of behen-nut juice, costus, amomum, Syrian cinnamon, cardamom, spikenard, cat-thyme, myrrh, cinnamon-bark, styrax-tree gum, ladanum, balm, Syrian reed and Syrian rush, wild grape, cinnamon-, serichatum, cyprus, rosewood, all-heal, saffron, gladiolus, marjoram, lotus, honey und wine. And none of the components of this scent is grown in Italy, the conqueror of the world, and indeed none in the whole of Europe excepting The iris in Illyria and nard in Gaulfor as to wine and roses and myrtle leaves and olive oil, they may be taken as belonging to pretty well all countries in common.
III. What are called sprinkling powders are made of dried scents, the dregs of unguents being termed 'magma.' Among all the scents employed the one added last is the most powerful. Unguents keep best in alabaster boxes, scents when mixed with oil, and the fatter it is, as for instance oil of almonds, the better it helps to preserve them for a long time; and the unguents themselves improve with age. Sunshine is detrimental to them, and therefore they are stored in the shade, in vessels made of lead. When being tested they are put on the back of the hand, to avoid their being damaged by the warmth of the fleshy part.
IV. Perfumes serve the purpose of the most superfluous of all forms of luxury; for pearls and jewels do nevertheless pass to the wearer's heir, and clothes last for some time, but unguents lose their scent at once, and die in the very hour when they are used. Their highest recommendation is that when a woman passes by her scent may attract the attention even of persons occupied in something elseand their cost is more than 400 denarii per pound! All that money is paid for a pleasure enjoyed by somebody else, for a person carrying scent about him does not smell it himself. Still, if even these matters deserve to be graded after a fashion, we find in the works left by Marcus Cicero that unguents that have an earthy scent are more agreeable than those smelling of saffron, inasmuch as even in a class of things where corruption is most rife, nevertheless some degree of strictness in vice itself gives more enjoyment. But there are people who get most pleasure from unguent of a dense consistency, which they call thick essence, and who enjoy smearing themselves with perfume and not merely pouring it over them. We have even seen people put scent on the soles of their feet, a practice said to have been taught to the emperor Nero by Marcus Otho; pray, how could it be noticed or give any pleasure from that part of the body? Moreover, we have heard that somebody of private station gave orders for the walls of his bathroom to be sprinkled with scent, and that the Emperor Caligula had the bathtubs scented, and so also later did one of the slaves of Neroso that this must not be considered a privilege of princes! Yet what is most surprising is that this indulgence has found its way even into the camp: at all events the eagles and the standards, dusty as they are and bristling with sharp points, are anointed on holidaysand I only wish we were able to say who first introduced this custom! No doubt the fact is that our eagles were bribed by this reward to conquer the world! We look to their patronage forsooth to sanction our vices, so as to have this legitimation for using hair-oil under a helmet!
V. I could not readily say when the use of unguents first made its way to Rome. It is certain that in 189 BC the censors Puhlius Licinius Crassus and Lucius Julius Caesar issued a proclamation forbidding any sale of 'foreign essences'that being the regular name for them. But, good heavens! nowadays some people actually put scent in their drinks, and it is worth the bitter flavour for their body to enjoy the lavish scent both inside and outside. It is a well-known fact that Lucius Plotius, the brother of Lucius Plancus who was twice consul and censor, when proscribed by the Triumvirs was given away in his hiding-place at Salerno by the scent of the unguent he had been usinga disgrace that acquitted the entire proscription of guilt, for who would not consider that people of that sort deserved to die?
VI. In other respects Egypt is of all the countries in the world the best adapted for the production of unguents, but Campania with its abundance of roses runs it close. But Judea is even more famous for its palm-trees, the nature of which will now be described. It is true that there are also palms in Europe, and they are common in Italy, but these are barren. In the coastal regions of Spain they do bear fruit, but it does not ripen, and in Africa the fruit is sweet but will not keep for any time. On the other hand in the east the palm supplies the native races with wine, and some of them with bread, while a very large number rely on it also for cattle fodder. For this reason, therefore, we shall be justified in describing the palms of foreign countries; there are none in Italy not grown under cultivation, nor are there in any other part of the earth except where there is a warm climate, while only in really hot countries does the palm bear fruit.
VII. It grows in a light sandy soil and for the most part in one containing nitrates. It likes running water, and to drink all the year round, though it loves dry places. Some people think that dung actually does it harm, while a section of the Assyrians think that this happens if they do not mix the dung with water from a stream. There are several kinds of palm, beginning with kinds not larger than a shruba shrub that in some cases is barren, though in other districts it too bears fruitand having a short branch. In number of places this shrub-palm with its dome of leaves serves instead of plaster for the walls of a house, to prevent their sweating. Also the taller palms make a regular forest, their pointed foliage shooting out from the actual tree all round them like a combthese it must be understood are wild palms, though they also have a wayward fancy for mingling among the cultivated varieties. The other kinds are rounded and tall, and have compact rows of knobs or circles in their bark which render them easy for the eastern races to climb; they put a plaited noose round themselves and round the tree, and the noose goes up with the man at an astonishingly rapid speed. All the foliage is at the top of the tree, and so is the fruit, which is not among the leaves as in all other trees, but hanging in bunches from shoots of its own between the branches, and which has the nature of both a cluster and a single fruit. The leaves have a knife-like edge at the sides and are divided into two flanges that fold together; they first suggested folding tablets for writing, but at the present day they are split up to make ropes and plaited wickerwork and parasols.
The most devoted students of nature report that trees, indeed all the products of the earth and even grasses, are of both sexes, a fact which it may at this place be sufficient to state in general terms although in no trees is it more manifest than in the palm. A male palm forms a blossom on the shoot, whereas a female merely forms a bud like an ear of corn, without going on to blossom. In both male and female, however, the flesh of the fruit forms first and the woody core afterwards; this is the seed of the treewhich is proved by the fact that small fruits without any core are found on the same shoot. The seed is oblong in shape and not rounded like an olive-stone, and also it is split at the back by a bulging cleft, and in most cases shaped like a navel at the middle of the bulge: it is from here that the root first spreads out. In planting the seed is laid front-side downward, and a pair of seeds are placed close together with two more above them, since a single seed produces a weak plant, but the four shoots unite in one strong growth. This woody core is divided from the fleshy parts by a number of white coats, others clinging closely to its body; and it is loose and separate, only attached by a thread at its top end. The flesh takes a year to ripen, though in some places, for instance, Cyprus, it has a pleasant sweet flavour even though it does not reach maturity. In Cyprus the leaf is broader and the fruit rounder than it is elsewhere, though people there do not eat the body of the fruit, but spit it out after merely squeezing out the juice. Also in Arabia the palm is said to have a sickly sweet taste, although Juba states that he prefers the palm that grows in the territory of the Tent-dweller Arabs, which they call the dablas, to all other kinds for flavour. For the rest, it is stated that in a palm-grove of natural growth the female trees do not produce if there are no males, and that each male tree is surrounded by several females with more attractive foliage that bend and bow towards him; while the male bristling with leaves erected impregnates the rest of them by his exhalation and by the mere sight of him, and also by his pollen; and that when the male tree is felled the females afterwards in their widowhood become barren. And so fully is their sexual union understood that mankind has actually devised a method of impregnating them by means of the flower and down collected from the males, and indeed sometimes by merely sprinkling their pollen on the females.
VIII. Palms are also propagated by layering, the trunk for a length of three feet from the actual brain of the tree being divided by incisions and dug into the ground. Also a slip torn off from the root makes a hardy growth when planted, and so does one from the youngest of the branches. In Assyria the tree itself, too, is laid in a moist soil and throws out roots along its whole length, but these grow into shrubs and not into a tree; consequently the growers plant cuttings, and transplant the young trees when a year old and again when two years old, for they like a change of positionthis is done in the spring in other countries, but in Assyria about the rising of the Dog-star. Also there they do not touch the young trees with a knife, but tie back the leafy shoots to make them grow upward to a considerable height. When the trees are strong they prune them down so as to make them grow thicker, leaving the stumps of the branches six inches long; to lop them at any other point kills the mother tree. We have said above that palms like a salt soil; consequently in places where the ground is not of that nature they sprinkle salt on it, not at the roots of the trees but a little farther off. Some palms in Syria and Egypt divide into two trunks, and in Crete even into three, and some even into five. These begin to bear in three years, but the palms in Cyprus, Syria and Egypt bear when four years old, and others when five, the tree being then the height of a man; as long as the trees are young the fruit has no woody part inside, and consequently they are called 'eunuchs.'
IX. Palm-trees are of many varieties. The barren kinds are used in Assyria and throughout the whole of palm. Persia for building timber and for the more luxurious articles of manufacture. Also there are forests of palms grown for timber which when felled send out shoots again from the root; the pith of these at the top, which is called their 'brain,' has a sweet taste, and after it has been removed the trees continue to live, which is not the case with other sorts of palm. The name of this tree is the chamaerops, and it has an exceptionally broad soft leaf which is extremely useful for wickerwork; it grows in large numbers in Crete, but even more in Sicily. Palm-wood makes charcoal that lasts a long time and burns slowly. In the palms that bear fruit the core of the fruit is shorter in some cases than in others and also softer; in some cases it is of a bony substance, and when polished with the edge of a file is used by superstition as a charm against witchcraft. The core is wrapped in several coats which in some cases vary in number and in others in thickness. Consequently there are forty-nine kinds of palm, if one cared to go through the names of them all, including those that have foreign names, and the varieties of wine that are extracted from them. The most famous of all is honoured by the name of the royal palm, because it used to be reserved for the kings of Persia alone; it grew only at Babylon in the Garden of Bagosthe Persian word for a eunuch, some of these having actually been kings in Persia. This garden was always kept within the precincts of the ruler's court.
In the southern part of the world the kind called in Greek the wild-boar date is held in the highest repute, and next to it ranks the Maldive nut date. The latter is a short, rounded fruit of a white colour, more like a grape than a Phoenician date, for which reason it has also received the name of pearl-date. It is said that only one palm-tree of this kind exists, at Chora, and the same is the case with the wild-boar date; and a remarkable story has come to us about this tree, to the effect that it dies off and then comes to life again of itselfa peculiarity which it shares with the phoenix, which is thought to have taken its name from the suggestion of this palm-tree: the tree was bearing fruit at the time when this book was published. The actual fruit is large, hard and prickly, and differs from all the other kinds by having a gamey sort of smell that is most noticed in wild boars, which is the reason for its name. The sandalis date, so called from its resemblance to a sandal, ranks fourth; of this kind again there are said to be at the most five trees in existence, on the border of Ethiopia, and they are as remarkable for the sweetness of their fruit as they are for their rarity. Next to these the most famous are the caryotae, which supply a great deal of food but also of juice, and from which the principal wines of the East are made; these strongly affect the head, to which the date owes its name. But not only are these trees abundant and bear largely in Judea, but also the most famous are found there, and not in the whole of that country but specially in Jericho, although those growing in the valleys of Arehelais and Phaselis and Livias in the same country are also highly spoken of. Their outstanding property is the unctuous juice which they exude and an extremely sweet sort of wine-flavour like that of honey. The Nicholas date belonging to this class is not so juicy but exceptionally large in size, four put end to end making a length of eighteen inches. The date that comes next in sweetness is less attractive to look at, but in flavour is the sister of the caryotae and consequently is called in Greek the sister-dates The third class among these, the pateta, has too copious a supply of juice, and the excess of liquor of the fruit itself bursts open even while on the parent tree, looking like dates that have been trodden on.
Of the many drier dates the finger-date forms a class of its own: it is a very long slender date, sometimes of a curved shape. The variety of this class which we offer to the honour of the gods is called ehydaeus by the Jews, a race remarkable for their contempt for the divine powers. All over the Thebaid and Arabia the dates are dry and small, with a shrivelled body, and as they are scorched by the continual heat their covering is more truly a rind than a skin. Indeed in Ethiopia itself the climate is so dry that the skin of these dates is rubbed into powder and kneaded to make loaves of bread like flour. This date grows on a shrub, with branches eighteen inches long, a rather broad leaf, and fruit of a round shape, but larger than the size of an apple. The Greek name for this date is koix; it comes to maturity in three years, and the shrub always has fruit on it. another date sprouting in place of one picked. The date of the Thebaid is packed into casks at once, before it has lost the aroma of its natural heat; if this is not done, it quickly loses its freshness and dries up unless it is warmed up again in an oven.
Of the rest of the date kind the Syrian variety, called sweetmeats, seem to be a low-class fruit; for those in the other part of Phoenicia and Cilicia have the local name of acorn-dates, also used by us. These too are of several kinds, differing in shape, some rounder and others longer, and also in colour, some being blacker and others reddish; indeed, they are reported to have as many varieties of colour as the fig! though the white ones are the most in favour. They also differ in size, many having reached half a yard in length while some are no larger than a bean. The best kinds for keeping are those that grow in salt and sandy soils, for instance in Judea and the Cyrenaic district of Africa; the dates in Egypt, Cyprus, Syria and Seleucia in Assyria do not keep, and consequently are used for fattening swine and other stock. It is a sign that the fruit is spoilt or old if the white excrescence by which the dates are attached to the cluster has fallen off. Soldiers of Alexander were choked by eating green dates; this effect was produced in the Gedrosi country by the quality of the fruit, and occurs elsewhere from eating it to excess, for fresh dates are so sweet that people will not stop eating them except because of the danger.
X. Syria has several trees that are peculiar to it beside this date; in the class of nuts the pistachio is well-known: it is reported that taken either in food or in drink it is a remedy for snakebite. In the fig class Syria has the Carians and smaller figs of the same class called cottana, also the plum that grows on Mount Damascus and the myxa, both now acclimated in Italy. In Egypt the myxa is also used for making wine.
XI. Phoenicia has a small variety of cedar that resembles a juniper. It is of two kinds, the Lycian and the Phoenician, which have different leaves; the one with a hard, prickly, pointed leaf is called the oxycedros, while the other is a branchy tree and the wood is full of knots and has a better scent. They bear fruit the size of a myrtle-berry, with a sweet taste. The larger cedar also has two kinds, of which the flowering one bears no fruit, while the one that bears fruit does not flower, and in its case the previous fruit is replaced by a new one. Its seed is like that of the cypress. Some people call this tree the cedarpine. From it is obtained the resin held in the highest favour, while its actual timber lasts for ever, and consequently it has been the regular practice to use it even for making statues of the godsthe Apollo Sosianus in a shrine at Rome, which was brought from Seleucia, is made of cedar-wood. There is a tree resembling the cedar in Arcadia, and a shrub in Phrygia is called the cedrys.
XII. Syria also has the turpentine-tree. Of this the male variety has no fruit, but the female has two kinds of fruit, one of them ruddy and the size of a lentil, while the other is pale, and ripens at the same time as the grape; it is no larger in size than a bean, has a rather agreeable scent, and is sticky to the touch. Round Mount Ida in the Troad and in Macedonia this is a low-growing shrub-like tree, but at Damascus in Syria it is big. Its wood is fairly flexible and remains sound to a great age; it is of a shiny black colour. The flower grows in clusters like the olive, but is crimson in colour, and the foliage is thick. It also bears follicles out of which come insects resembling gnats, and which produce a sticky resinous fluid which also bursts out from its bark.
XIII. Also the male sumach-tree of Syria is productive, the female being barren; the leaf is that of an elm only a little longer, covered with down, and the footstalks of the leaves always lying alternately in opposite directions; the branches are slender and short. The sumach is used for bleaching leather. The seed, which resembles a lentil, turns red at the same time as the grapes; it is called rhus and is required for certain drugs.
XIV. Egypt also has many kinds of trees not found anywhere else, before all a fig, which is consequently called the Egyptian fig. The tree resembles a mulberry in foliage, size and appearance; it bears its fruit not on the branches but on the trunk itself, and this is an exceedingly sweet fig without seeds inside it. There is an extremely prolific yield, but only if incisions are made in the fruit with iron hooks, otherwise it does not ripen; but when this is done, it can be plucked three days later, another fig forming in its place, the tree thus scoring seven crops of extremely juicy figs in a summer. Even if the incisions are not made new fruit forms under the old and drives out its predecessor before it is ripe four times in a summer. The wood of this fig is of a peculiar kind, and is one of the most useful there is. As soon as it is cut it is plunged into a marsh, and at first sinks to the bottom, but afterwards begins to float, and it is clear that moisture not belonging to it, which soaks into all other timber, drains the sap out of this. When it begins to float on the surface, this is its sign that the timber is ready for use.
XV. A tree to some extent resembling the Egyptian fig is one in Crete called the Cyprian fig, as it also bears fruit on its actual trunk and on its branches when they have grown to thickness. But the Cyprian fig puts out a bud without any leaves, resembling a root. The trunk of the tree is like a poplar, and the leaf like an elm. It bears fruit four times a year, and also buds the same number of times, but its unripe figs will not ripen unless an incision is made in them to let out the juice. They have the sweet taste and the inside of the common fig, and are the size of a service-tree berry.
XVI. Another similar tree is the one called by the Ionians the ceronia, which also buds from the trunk, the fruit being a pod, which has consequently been called by some the Egyptian fig. But this is clearly a mistake, as it does not grow in Egypt but in Syria and Ionia, and also in the neighbourhood of Cnidus and on the island of Rhodes. It is always in full foliage, and it has a white flower with a powerful scent. It sends out shoots at the lower parts, and consequently is of a yellow colour above ground, as the suckers drain away the sap. If the fruit of the preceding year is picked about the rising of the Dog-star, it at once grows a second crop, after which it blossoms through the period of the Bear-ward, and the winter nourishes its fruit.
XVII. Egypt also possesses a tree of a peculiar kind called the persea which resembles a pear but is an evergreen. It bears fruit without intermission, as when it is plucked a fresh crop sprouts the next day, but its season for ripening is when the midsummer winds are blowing. The fruit is longer than a pear, and is enclosed in a shell like an almond and a rind the colour of grass, but where the almond has a kernel this has a plum, which differs from an almond kernel in being short and soft, and although temptingly sweet and luscious, is quite wholesome. The wood is just like that of the lotus for goodness and soundness and, also in its black colour, and it too has habitually been used for making statues. The timber of the tree we have mentioned called the acorn-date, although reliable, is not so highly valued, as a large proportion of it has a twisted grain, so it is only used for shipbuilding.
XVIII. But on the contrary the wood of the cucus is in great esteem; this tree resembles a palm in that its leaves are also used for textiles, but it differs because it spreads out into branches like arms. The fruit is of a size that fills the hand; its colour is yellow and its juice has an attractive sweet taste, with a touch of astringency. It has a large and very hard shell inside, which is used by turners for making curtain-rings, and inside the shell is a kernel which has a sweet taste while fresh, but which when dried goes on getting continually harder and harder, so that it can only be eaten after being soaked in water for several days. The wood has a rather uneven grain that is most attractive, and it is consequently very much admired by the Persians.
XIX. Also thorn-wood is equally esteemed in the same country, that is, the wood of a black thorn, as it lasts without decaying even in water, and is consequently extremely serviceable for the ribs of ships; timbers made of a white thorn rot easily. It has sharp thorns even on the leaves, and seed in pods that is used instead of oak-galls in dressing leather. The blossom has a pleasing effect in garlands and also makes a valuable medicine; also the tree distils gum. But its most valuable property is that when cut down it shoots up again two years later. This thorn grows in the neighbourhood of Thebes, where oak, persea and olive are also found, in a forest region nearly 40 miles from the Nile, watered by springs that rise in it. This region also contains the Egyptian plum-tree, which is not unlike the thorn last mentioned; its fruit resembles a medlar, and ripens in the winter, and the tree is an evergreen. The fruit contains a large stone, but the fleshy part, owing to its nature and to the abundance in which it grows, provides the natives with quite a harvest, as after cleaning it they crush it and make it into cakes for storage. There was also once a forest region round Memphis with such huge trees that three men could not join hands round The trunks; and one of them was particularly remarkable, not because of its fruit or its utility for some purpose, but on account of the circumstance that it has the appearance of a thorn, but leaves resembling wings, which when somebody touches the branches at once fall off and afterwards sprout again.
XX. It is agreed that the Egyptian thorn supplies the best kind of gum; it is of a streaked appearance, grey in colour, clean and free from bark, and it sticks to the teeth; its price is 3 denarii per pound. The gum produced from the bitter almond and the cherry is inferior, and that from plum-trees is the worst kind of all. A gum also forms in the vine which is extremely valuable for children's sores, and the gum sometimes found in the olive-tree is good for toothache; but the gun's also found in the elm on Mount Corycus in Gilicia and in the juniper are of no use for anything, indeed elm-tree gum there even breeds gnats. Also a gum exudes from the sarcocolla that is the name of the tree and also of the gumwhich is extremely useful both to painters and to medical men; it resembles incense dust, and for the purposes mentioned the white kind is better than the red; its price is the one mentioned above.
XXI. We have not yet touched on the marsh-plants nor the shrubs that grow by rivers. But before we leave Egypt we shall also describe the nature of papyrus, since our civilization or at all events our records depend very largely on the employment of paper. According to Marcus Varro we owe even the discovery of paper to the victory of Alexander the Great, when he founded Alexandria in Egypt, before which time paper was not used. First of all people used to write on palm-leaves and then on the bark of certain trees, and afterwards folding sheets of lead began to be employed for official muniments, and then also sheets of linen or tablets of wax for private documents; for we find in Homer that the use of writing-tablets existed even before the Trojan period, but when he was writing even the land itself which is now thought of as Egypt did not exist as such, while now paper grows in the Sebennytic and Saitic nomes of Egypt, the land having been subsequently heaped up by the Nile, inasmuch as Homer wrote that the island of Pharos, which is now joined to Alexandria by a bridge, was twenty-four hours' distance by sailing-ship from the land. Subsequently, also according to Varro, when owing to the rivalry between King Ptolemy and King Eumenes about their libraries Ptolemy suppressed the export of paper, parchment was invented at Pergamum; and afterwards the employment of the material on which the immortality of human beings depends spread indiscriminately.
XXII. Papyrus then grows in the swamps of Egypt or else in the sluggish waters of the Nile where they have overflowed and lie stagnant in pools not more than about three feet in depth; it has a sloping root as thick as a man's arm, and tapers gracefully up with triangular sides to a length of not more than about 15 feet, ending in a head like a thyrsus; it has no seed, and is of no use except that the flowers are made into wreaths for statues of the gods. The roots are employed by the natives for timber, and not only to serve as firewood but also for making various utensils and vessels; indeed the papyrus itself is plaited to make boats, and the inner bark is woven into sail-cloth and matting, and also cloth, as well as blankets and ropes. It is also used as chewing-gum, both in the raw state and when boiled, though only the juice is swallowed.
Papyrus also grows in Syria on the borders of the lake round which grows the scented reed already mentioned, and King Antiochus would only allow ropes made from this Syrian papyrus to be used in his navy, the employment of esparto not yet having become general. It has recently been realized that papyrus growing in the Euphrates near Babylon can also be used in the same way for paper; nevertheless up to the present the Parthians prefer to embroider letters upon cloths.
XXIII. The process of making paper from papyrus is to split it with a needle into very thin strips made as broad as possible, the best quality being in the centre of the plant, and so on in the order of its splitting up. The first quality used to be called 'hieratic paper' and was in early times devoted solely to books connected with religion, but in a spirit of flattery it was given the name of Augustus, just as the second best was called 'Livia paper' after his consort, and thus the name 'hieratic' came down to the third class. The next quality had been given the name of 'amphitheatre' paper, from the place of its manufacture. This paper was taken over by the clever workshop of Fannius at Rome, and its texture was made finer by a careful process of insertion, so that it was changed from common paper into one of first-class quality, and received the name of the maker; but the paper of this kind that did not have this additional treatment remained in its own class as amphitheatre paper. Next to this is the Saitic paper named from the town where it is produced in the greatest abundance, being made from shavings of inferior quality, and the Taeneotic, from a neighbouring place, made from material still nearer the outside skin, in the case of which we reach a variety that is sold by mere weight and not for its quality. As for what is called 'emporitic' paper, it is no good for writing but serves to provide covers for documents and wrappers for merchandise, and consequently takes its name from the Greek word for a merchant. After this comes the actual papyrus, and its outermost layer, which resembles a rush and is of no use even for making ropes except those used in water.
Paper of all kinds is 'woven' on a board moistened with water from the Nile, muddy liquid supplying the effect of glue. First an upright layer is smeared on to the table, using the full length of papyrus available after the trimmings have been cut off at both ends, and afterwards cross strips complete the lattice-work. The next step is to press it in presses, and the sheets are dried in the sun and then joined together, the next strip used always diminishing in quality down to the worst of all. There are never more than twenty sheets to a roll.
XXIV. There is a great difference in the breadth of the various kinds of paper: the best is thirteen inches wide, the hieratic two inches less, the Fannian measures ten inches and the amphitheatre paper one less, while the Saitic is still fewer inches across and is not as wide as the mallet used in making it, as the emporitic kind is so narrow that it does not exceed six inches. Other points looked at in paper are fineness, stoutness, whiteness and smoothness. The status of best quality was altered by the emperor Claudius. The reason was that the thin paper of the period of Augustus was not strong enough to stand the friction of the pen, and moreover as it let the writing show through there was a fear of a smudge being caused by what was written on the back, and the great transparency of the paper had an unattractive look in other respects. Consequently the foundation was made of leaves of second quality and the woof or cross layer of leaves of the first quality. Claudius also increased the width of the sheet, making it a foot across. There were also eighteen-inch sheets called 'maerocola,' but examination detected a defect in them, as tearing off a single strip damaged several pages. On this account Claudius paper has come to be preferred to all other kinds, although the Augustus kind still holds the field for correspondence; but Livia paper, having no quality of a first-class kind, but being entirely second class, has retained its position.
XXV. Roughness is smoothed out with a piece of ivory or a shell, but this makes the lettering apt to fade, as owing to the polish so given the paper does not take the ink so well, but has a shinier surface. The damping process if carelessly applied often causes difficulty in writing at first, and it can be detected by a blow with the mallet, or even by the musty smell if the process has been rather carelessly carried out. Spottiness also may be detected by the eye, but a bad porous strip found inserted in the middle of the pasted joins, owing to the sponginess of the papyrus, sucks up the ink and so can scarcely be detected except when the ink of a letter runs: so much opportunity is there for cheating. The consequence is that another task is added to the process of paper-weaving.
XXVI. The common kind of paste for paper is made fine flour of the best quality mixed with boiling water, with a very small sprinkle of vinegar; for carpenter's paste and gum make too brittle a compound. But a more careful process is to strain the crumb of leavened bread in boiling water; this method requires the smallest amount of paste at the seams, and produces a paper softer than even linen. But all the paste used ought to be exactly a day oldnot more nor yet less. Afterwards the paper is beaten thin with a mallet and run over with a layer of paste, and then again has its creases removed by pressure and is flattened out with the mallet. This process may enable records to last a long time; at the house of the poet and most distinguished citizen Pomponius Secundus I have seen documents in the hand of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus written nearly two hundred years ago; while as for autographs of Cicero, of his late Majesty Augustus, and of Virgil, we see them constantly.
XXVII. There are important instances forthcoming that make against the opinion of Marcus Varro in regard to the history of paper. Cassius Hemina, a historian of great antiquity, has stated in his Annals, Book IV, that the secretary Gnaeus Terentius, when digging over his land on the Janiculan, turned up a coffer that had contained the body of Numa, who was king at Rome, and that in the same coffer were found some books of histhis was in the consulship of Publius 181 BC. Cornelius Cethegus, son of Lucius, and of Marcus Baebius Tamphilus, son of Quintus, dating 535 years after the accession of Numa; and the historian says that the books were made of paper, which makes the matter still more remarkable, because of their having lasted in a hole in the ground, and consequently on a point of such importance I will quote the words of Hemina himself: 'Other people wondered how those books could have lasted so long, but Terentius's explanation was that about in the middle of the coffer there had been a square stone tied all round with waxed cords, and that the three books had been placed on the top of this stone; and he thought this position was the reason why they had not decayed; and that the books had been soaked in citrus-oil, and he thought that this was why they were not moth-eaten. These books contained the philosophical doctrines of Pythagoras'and Hemina said that the books had been burnt by the praetor Quintus Petilius because they were writings of philosophy [prob. an interpolation]. The same story is recorded by Piso the former Censor in his Commentaries, Book I, but he says that there were seven volumes of pontifical law and the same number of Pythagorean philosophy; while Tuditanus in Book XIII says that there were twelve volumes of the Decrees of Numa; Varro himself says that there were seven volumes of Antiquities of Man, and Antias in his Second Book speaks of there having been twelve volumes On Matters Pontifical written in Latin and the same number in Greek containing Doctrines of Philosophy; Antias also quotes in Book III a Resolution of the Senate deciding that these volumes were to be burnt. It is however universally agreed that the Sibyl brought three volumes to Tarquin the Proud, of which two were burnt by herself while the third was destroyed in the burning of the Capitol in the Sulla crisis. Moreover the Mucianus who was three times consul has stated that recently, when governor of Lycia, he had read in a certain temple a letter of Sarpedon written on paper at Troywhich seems to me even more remarkable if even when Homer was writing, Egypt did not yet exist: otherwise why, if paper was already in use, is it known to have been the custom to write on folding tablets made of lead or sheets of linen, or why has Homer stated that even in Lycia itself wooden tablets, and not letters, were given to Bellerophon? This commodity also is liable to dearth, and as early as the principate of Tiberius a shortage of paper led to the appointment from the senate of umpires to supervise its distribution, as otherwise life was completely upset.
XXVIII. Ethiopia, which is on the borders of Egypt, has virtually no remarkable trees except the wool- tree, like the one described among the trees of India and Arabia. However, the Ethiopian variety has a much woollier consistency, and a larger pod, like that of a pomegranate, and also the trees themselves resemble each other. Beside the wool-tree there are also palms of the kind which we have described. The trees and the scented forests of the islands round the coast of Ethiopia have been spoken of when those islands were mentioned.
XXIX. Mount Atlas is said to possess a forest of a remarkable character, about which we have spoken. Adjoining Mount Atlas is Mauretania, which produces a great many citrus-treesand the tablemania which the ladies use as a retort to the men against the charge of extravagance in pearls. There till exists a table that belonged to Marcus Cicero for which with his slender resources and, what is more surprising, at that date, he paid half-a-million sesterces; and also one is recorded as belonging to Gallus Asinius that cost a million. Also two hanging tables were sold at auction by King Juba, of which one fetched 1,200,000 sesterces and the other a little less. A table that was lately destroyed in a fire came down from the Cethegi and had changed hands at 1,300,000 sestercesthe price of a large estate, supposing somebody preferred to devote so large a sum to the purchase of landed property. The size of the largest tables hitherto has been: one made by Ptolemy, king of Mauretania, out of two semicircular slabs of wood joined together, 4 ft. in diameter and 3 in. thickand the invisibility of the join makes the table more marvellous as a work of art than it could possibly have been if a product of nature--and a single slab bearing the name of Nomius a freedman of the Emperor which is 3 ft. 11 in. across and 11 in. thick. Under this head it seems proper to include a table that belonged to the Emperor Tiberius which was 4 ft. 2 in. across, and 1 in. thick all over, but was only covered with a veneer of citrus-wood, although the one belonging to his freedman Nomius was so sumptuous. The material is an excrescence of the root, and is very greatly admired when it grows entirely underground, and so is more uncommon than the knobs that grow above ground, on the branches as well as on the trunk; and the timber bought at so high a price is in reality a disease of the trees, the size and the roots of which can be judged from the circular tabletops. In foliage, scent and the appearance of the trunk these trees resemble the female cyprus, which is also a forest tree. A mountain called Ancorarius in Hither Mauretania provided the most celebrated citrus-wood, but the supply is now exhausted.
XXX. The outstanding merit of citrus-wood tables is to have wavy marks forming a vein or else little spirals. The former marking produces a longish pattern and is consequently called tiger-wood, while the latter gives a twisted pattern and consequently slabs of that sort are called panther-tables. Also some have wavy crinkled markings, which are more esteemed if they resemble the eyes in a peacock's tail. Besides the kinds previously mentioned, great esteem, though coming after these, belongs to those veined with a thick cluster of what look like grains, these slabs being consequently called parsley-wood, from the resemblance. But the highest value of all resides in the colour of the wood, the colour of meed being the most favoured, shining with the wine that is proper to it. The next point is size: nowadays tables made of whole trunks are admired, or several trunks mortised together in one table.
The faults in a table are woodinessthat is the name given to a dull patternless uniformity in the timber, or uniformity arranged like the leaves of a plane-tree, and also to a grain resembling the veining or colouring of the holm-oakand to flaws or hairy lines resembling flaws, a fault to which heat and wind have rendered the timber particularly liable; next comes a colour running across the wood in a black streak like a lamprey and marked with irregular raven-scratchings as on a poppy and in general rather approaching black, or blotches of various colours. The natives bury the timber in the ground while still green, giving it a coat of wax; but carpenters lay it in heaps of corn for periods of a week with intervals of a week between, and it is surprising how much its weight is reduced by this process. Also wreckage from ships has recently shown that this timber is dried by the action of sea water, and solidified with a hardness that resists decay, no other method producing this result more powerfully. Citrus-wood tables are best kept and polished by rubbing with the dry hand, especially just after a bath; and they are not damaged by spilt wine, as having been created for the purpose of wine-tables.
Few things that supply the apparatus of a more luxurious life rank with this tree, and consequently it seems desirable to dwell on it for a little as well. It was known even to Homerthe Greek name for it being thyon, otherwise thya. Well, Homer has recorded its being burut among unguents as one of the luxuries of Circe, whom he meant to be understood as a goddessthose who take the word thyon to mean perfumes being greatly in error, especially as in the same verse he says that cedar and larch were burnt at the same time, which shows that he was only speaking of trees. Already Theophrastus, who wrote immediately after the period of Alexander the Great, about 314 B.C., assigns a high rank to this tree, stating that it was recorded that the flooring of the old temples used to be made of it and that its timber when used in roofed buildings is virtually everlasting, being proof against all causes of decay; and he says that no wood is more marked with veins than the root, and that no products made of any other material are more valuable. The finest citrus, he says, is round the Temple of Hammon, but it also grows in the interior of Cyrenaica. He makes no mention, however, of tables made of citrus-wood, and indeed there is no older record of one before that of the time of Cicero, which proves their novelty.
XXXI. There is another tree with the same name, bearing fruit which some people abhor for its scent and bitter taste while other people are fond of it; this wood is also used for decorating houses, but it does not need further description.
XXXII. Africa also, where it faces in our direction, produces a remarkable tree, the lotus, called in the vernacular celthis, which also has been naturalized in Italy, though it has been altered by the change of soil. The finest lotus is found round the Syrtes and the district of the Nasamones. It is the size of a pear, although Cornelius Nepos states that it is a short fruit. The incisions in the leaf resemble those in the holm-oak, except that they are more numerous. There are several varieties of lotus, differing chiefly in their fruits. This one is the size of a bean and saffron-coloured, but it changes colour several times before it is ripe, like grapes. It grows in thick clusters on the branches like myrtle-berries and not like cherries as it does in Italy; in its own country it is so sweet to eat that it has even given its name to a race of people and to a land which is too hospitable to strangers who come there, making them forget their native land. It is reported that chewing this lotus prevents gastric diseases. The better kind has no stone inside it, those of the other variety having a kernel of a bony appearance. Also a wine is pressed from this fruit that resembles mead, which again according to Nepos will not keep for more than ten days; he states that the berries are chopped up with spelt and stored in casks for food. Indeed we are told that armies have been fed on this while marching to and fro through Africa. The wood is of a black colour, and is in demand for making melodious flutes, while out of the root are devised knife-handles and other short implements.
This is the nature of the lotus-tree in Africa. But the same name also belongs to a herbaceous plant, as well as to a colewort in Egypt belonging to the class of marsh-plants. This springs up when the flood waters of the Nile retire; it resembles a bean in its stalk and in its leaves, which grow in large, thick clusters, although they are shorter and more slender than the leaves of a bean. The fruit grows in the head of the plant and resembles the fruit of the poppy in its indentations and in every other way; it contains grains like millet-seeds. The natives pile these heads in heaps to rot, and then separate the seeds by washing and dry them and crush them, and use them to make bread. There is a further remarkable fact reported, that when the sun sets these poppies shut up and fold their leaves round them, and at sunrise open again, this going on till they ripen and the flower, which is white, falls off. A further point reported is that in the Euphrates both the head itself and the flower at the evening go on submerging till midnight, and disappear entirely into the depth so that they cannot be found even by plunging the hand in, and then return and by degrees straighten up again, and at sunrise come out of the water and open their flower, and still go on rising so that the flower is raised up quite a long way above the water. The lotus has a root of the size of a quince, enclosed in a black skin like the shell of a chestnut; inside it has a white body, agreeable to eat raw but still more agreeable when boiled in water or roasted in the ashes. Its peelings are more useful than any other fodder for fattening pigs.
XXXIII. The region of the Cyrenaica ranks the lotus below its own Christ's-thorn. This is more in the nature of a shrub, and its fruit is redder, and contains a kernel that is eaten by itself, as it is agreeable alone; it is improved by being dipped in wine, and moreover its juice improves wine. The interior of Africa as far as the Garamantes and the desert is covered with palms remarkable for their size and their luscious fruit, the most celebrated being in the neighbourhood of the temple of Ammon.
XXXIV. But the country in the neighbourhood of Carthage claims by the name of Punic apple what some call the pomegranate; this it has also split up into classes, by giving the name of apyrenum to the variety that lacks a woody kernel: the consistency of this is whiter than that of the others, and its pips have a more agreeable taste and the membranes enclosing them are not so bitter; but in other respects these apples have a special structure resembling the cells in a honeycomb, which is common to all that have a kernel. Of these there are five kinds, the sweet, the sour, the mixed, the acid and the vinous; those of Samos and of Egypt are divided into the red-leaved and the white-leaved varieties. The skin of the unripe fruit is specially used for dressing leather. The flower is called balaustium, and is serviceable for doctors and also for dyeing cloth; it has given its name to a special colour.
XXXV. Shrubs growing in Asia and Greece are the epicactis, which others call emboline, with small leaves which taken in drink are an antidote against poisons, as those of the heath are against snakes, and the shrub that produces the grain of Cnidus, which some call flax, the name of the shrub itself being thymelaea, which others call ehamelaea, others pyros achne, some cnestor, others cneorum. It resembles the oleaster, but has narrower leaves, which when chewed have a gummy consistency; it is the size of a myrtle, and has a seed of the colour and shape of spelt, which is only used for medicinal purposes.
XXXVI. The goat-shrub only grows in the island of Crete; it resembles the terebinth in seed as well as in other respects; the seed is reported to be very efficacious against arrow wounds. The same island also produces a goat-thorn, which has the root of the white thorn, and is much preferred to the goat-thorn growing in the country of the Medes or in Achaia; its price is 3 denarii per pound.
XXXVII. Asia also produces the goat-plant or scorpio, a thorn without leaves and with reddish branches, used for medicinal purposes: Italy also has the myrica, which is there called the tamarisk, and Achaia the wild brya; a remarkable property of the brya is that only the cultivated kind bears fruit; this resembles a gall-nut. In Syria and Egypt this shrub is abundant, and we give the name of unlucky wood to its timber; yet some of the timbers of Greece are unluckier, for Greece grows a tree named the ostrys, another form of the name being ostrya, which grows by itself round rocks washed by water; it is like an ash in its bark and branches, and a pear in its leaf, though the leaves are a little longer and thicker and wrinkled with indentations running all across them; the seed resembles barley in colour as well as shape. The wood is hard and solid, and it is said that if it is brought into a house it causes difficulty in childbirth and painful deaths.
XXXVIII. Equally unlucky is the tree on the island of Lesbos called the euonymus, which is not unlike the pomegranate treeits leaves are between pomegranate and bay-leaves in size, but have the shape and soft texture of the leaf of the pomegranateand which by the scent of its white blossom gives prompt warning of its pestilential qualities. It bears a pod like that of the sesame, with a coarse square-shaped grain inside it which is deadly for animals; and the leaf also has the same property, although sometimes an immediate evacuation of the bowels gives relief.
XXXIX. Alexander Cornelius mentions a tree called the hon-tree, the timber of which he says was used to build the Argo, which bears mistletoe resembling that on the oak, and which cannot be rotted by water or destroyed by fire, the same being the case with its mistletoe. This tree is, so far as I am aware, unknown to anyone else.
XL. Andrachle is almost always rendered into Latin for the Greeks by the word 'purslain,' although purslain is a herbaceous plant and its Greek name is one letter different, andrachne: for the rest the andrachle is a forest tree, nor does it grow in level country. It resembles the arbutus, only it has a smaller leaf and is an evergreen; the bark, though not rough, might be supposed to have frozen round the tree, it has such a wretched appearance.
XLI. The sumach has a similar leaf, but is smaller in size. It has the peculiarity of clothing its fruit (which is called pappus) with downy fluff, a thing that occurs with no other tree. The apharce also resembles the andrachle, and like it bears twice a year; they produce a first crop of fruit just at the time when the grapes are beginning to ripen, and a second at the beginning of winter. What sort of fruit is produced on these two occasions is not reported.
XLII. It may be suitable to have the fennel giant mentioned among the exotics and assigned to the genus 'tree,' inasmuch as the structure of some plants, in the classification that we shall adopt, has the whole of the wood outside in place of bark and inside, in place of wood, a fungous pith like that of the elder, though some have an empty hollow inside like reeds. This fennel grows in hot countries over sea; its stalk is divided by knotted joints. It has two varieties, one called in Greek narthex, which rises to some height, the other narthecia, which always grows low. From the joints shoot out very large leaves, the larger the nearer to the ground; but in other respects it has the same nature as the anise, and the fruit is similar. No shrub supplies a wood of lighter weight, and consequently it is easy to carry, and supplies walking-sticks to be used by old gentlemen.
XLIII. The seed of the fennel giant has been called by some thapsia, but these people are mistaken, since the thapsia, though no doubt it is a giant fennel, is one of a peculiar kind, having the leaves of a fennel and a hollow stalk not exceeding the length of a walking-stick; the seed is like that of the giant fennel, but the root is white. When an incision is made in the thapsia milk oozes out, and when pounded it emits a sweet juice; even the bark is not thrown away. All these parts of the tree are poisons; in fact it is injurious even to those engaged in digging it up if the slightest current of air blows from the shrub in their direction: their bodies swell up, and their face is attacked by erysipelasfor which reason before beginning they grease it with a solution of wax. The doctors however say that mixed with other ingredients the shrub is of use in treating certain diseases, and also for fox-mange, bruises and spottinessas if there really were any lack of remedies, forcing them to take in hand new enormities! But they cloak their noisome expedient with excuses of that sort, and such is their impudence that they ask us to believe that poison is among the resources of science!
The thapsia of Africa is the most violent of all. Some people make an incision in the stalk during harvest-time and make a hollow in the root itself for the juice to collect in, and when it has dried take it away; others pound the leaves and stalk and root in a mortar and after drying the juice hard in the sun cut it up into lozenges. The emperor Nero at the beginning of his reign gave this juice a famous advertisement, as when during his nocturnal escapades his face had sustained a number of bruises he smeared it with a mixture of thapsia, frankincense and wax and on the following day gave the lie to rumour by going about with a whole skin. It is a well-known fact that fire can be best kept alight in a fennel stalk, and that the fennels in Egypt are the best.
XLIV. In Egypt also grows the caper-tree, a shrub with a rather hard wood; also its seed is well known as an article of food, and is usually gathered together with the stalk. Its foreign varieties should be avoided, inasmuch as the Arabian kind is poisonous and the African injures the gums, and that from Marmarica, is injurious to the womb. Also the Apulian caper-tree produces vomiting and diarrhoea by causing flatulence in all the organs. Some persons call this shrub 'dog-brier,' others 'snakevine'.
XLV. The saripha growing on the banks of the Nile also belongs to the shrub class. It is about 3 ft. high and the thickness of a man's thumb; its foliage is that of the papyrus, and it is chewed in a similar manner. The root is highly rated in workshops for use as fuel, because of its hardness.
XLVI. Also we must not leave out a plant that at Babylon is grown on thorn-bushes, because it will not live anywhere elsejust as mistletoe grows on trees, but the plant in question will only grow on what is called the 'royal thorn.' It is a remarkable fact that it buds on the same day as it has been plantedthis is done just at the rising of the Dog-starand it very quickly takes possession of the whole of the tree. It is used in making spiced wine, and is cultivated for that purpose. This thorn also grows on the Long Walls at Athens.
XLVII. There is also a shrub called cytisus, which has been remarkably praised by Amphilochus of Athens as a fodder for all kinds of cattle, and when dried for swine as well, and he guarantees a yearly return of 2,000 sesterces for an ingerum of it, even on only moderate soil. It serves the same purpose as vetch, but produces satiety more quickly, an animal being fattened by quite a moderate amountso much so that beasts of burden fed on it refuse barley. No other fodder produces a larger quantity or a better quality of milk, and above everything as a medicine for cattle it renders them immune from all diseases. He also recommends a potion made of cytisus dried and boiled in water to be given with wine to nursing women when their milk fails, and he says this will make the infants stronger and taller; also he advises giving it while in the green state to fowls, or if it has dried, after being steeped. Moreover, Democritus and Aristomachus promise that bees will never fail if there is cytisus available for them to feed on. No other fodder is less expensive. It is sown when barley is, or in the spring, like leek, if the seed is used; or else the stalk is planted in autumn before the winter solstice. If sown the seed is soaked, or, if there is a shortage of rain, it is watered after sowing. When the plants are 18 inches high they are replanted in a trench a foot deep. This planting is done through the equinoxes, while the shrub is still tender; it takes three years to mature, and it is cut at the spring equinox, when it has done floweringa job that can be done very cheaply even by a boy or an old woman. It is of a whitish colour to look at, and its appearance may be briefly described by saying that it looks like a trifoliated plant with a rather narrow leaf. It is always fed to stock only once in two days, but in winter as it has got dry it is moistened first; ten pounds make a sufficient feed for a horse, and for smaller animals in proportion. Incidentally, good results are got by sowing garlic and onions as catch-crops between the rows of cytisus.
The cytisus shrub was discovered in the island of Cythnus, and from there was transplanted to all the Cyclades and later to the Greek cities, greatly increasing the supply of cheese. Moreovera fact that makes me very much surprised that it is rare in Italyit is not afraid of damage from heat and cold and hail and snow, and, as Hyginus adds, not even from wood-grubs, as its wood has no attraction for them.
XLVIII. Shrubs and trees also grow at the bottom of the seathose in the Mediterranean being of smaller size, for the Red Sea and the whole of the Eastern Ocean are filled with forests. The Latin language has no name for what the Greeks call phycos, as our word alga denotes a herbaceous sea-plant, whereas the phycos is a shrub. It has a broad leaf and is coloured green; and it produces a growth one of the Greek names for which means 'leek-weed' and the other 'bind-weed.' Another variety of the same shrub has a hair-like leaf resembling fennel, and grows on rocks, while the one above grows in shallow water near the coast; both kinds shoot in springtime and die off in autumn. The phycos growing on rocks round the island of Crete is also used for a purple dye; the most approved kind being that growing on the northern side of the island, as is the case in regard to sponges. A third variety resembles a grass; its root is knotted, and so is its stalk, like the stalk of a reed.
XLIX. Another group of shrubs is called bryon, which has the leaf of a lettuce only more wrinkled. This grows lower down than the one last mentioned; but in deep water grow a pine and an oak, each 18 inches high; they have shells clinging to their branches. The oak is reported to provide a dye for woollen fabrics, and some in deep water are actually said to bear acorns, these facts having been ascertained by shipwrecked persons and by divers. Also other very large marine trees are reported in the neighbourhood of Sicyonfor the sea-vine grows everywhere, but there is a sea-fig, which has no leaves and a red bark, and also the class of marine shrubs includes a sea-palm. Outside the Straits of Gibraltar grows a marine shrub with the leaf of a leek, and another with the foliage of a bay-tree and of thyme; both of these when thrown up ashore by the waves turn into pumice.
L. But in the East it is a remarkable fact that as soon as we leave Keft, passing through the desert we find nothing growing except the thorn called 'drythorn,' and this quite seldom; whereas in the Red Sea there are flourishing forests, mostly of bay and olive, both bearing berries and in the rainy season funguses, which when the sun strikes them change into pumice. The bushes themselves grow to the height of a yard and a half. The seas are full of sea-dogs, so much so that it is scarcely safe for a sailor to keep a lookout from the bowsin fact they frequently go for the actual oars.
LI. The soldiers of Alexander who sailed from India gave an account of some marine trees the foliage of which was green while in the water but dried up in the sun as soon as it was taken out and turned into salt; they also reported that along the coasts there were bulrushes of stone which exactly resembled real ones, and out in deep water certain shrubs of the colour of cow-horn where they branched out and turning red at the top; they were brittle, like glass when handled, but turned red-hot in fire like iron, their proper colour coming back again when they had cooled off. In the same part of the earth also the rising tide submerges forests, although the trees are higher than the loftiest planes and poplars. Theft foliage is that of the bay-tree, and their blossom has the scent and colour of violets; the berries resemble olives, and these also have an agreeable scent; they form in the autumn and fall off in spring, whereas the leaves are never shed. The smaller of these trees are entirely covered by the tide, but the tops of the largest stand out and ships are moored to them, as well as to their roots when the tide goes out. We have been informed from the same sources that other trees also have been observed in the same sea which always keep their leaves and have a fruit resembling a lupine.
Juba relates that in the neighbourhood of the Cave-dwellers' Islands a bush grows at the bottom of the sea called 'hair of Isis,' which has no leaves and resembles coral, and that when it is lopped it changes its colour to black and turns hard, and when it falls it breaks; and so does another marine bush the Greek name for which means 'the Graces' eyelid,' which is a potent love-charm; he says women make bracelets and necklaces of it. He declares that when being taken the bush is aware of it and turns as hard as horn, blunting the edge of the knife, but that if it is cut before it is aware of the danger that threatens it, it turns into stone.