Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 16
I. AMONG the trees already mentioned are included the fruit-trees and those which by their mellower juices first added the element of pleasure to food and taught us to mingle relishes with our necessary nutriment, whether they did so of their own accord or whether they learnt from mankind to acquire agreeable flavours by means of adoption and intermarriageand this is a service which we have also rendered to beasts and birds. Next would have come an account of the acorn-bearing trees which first produced food for mortal man and were the foster-mothers of his helpless and savage lot, if we were not compelled by a sense of wonder learnt from experience to turn first to the question, what is the nature and what are the characteristics of the life of people living without any trees or any shrubs.
We have indeed stated that in the east, on the shores of the ocean, a number of races are in this necessitous condition; but so also are the races of people called the Greater and the Lesser Chauci, whom we have seen in the north. There twice in each period of a day and a night the ocean with its vast tide sweeps in a flood over a measureless expanse, covering up Nature's age-long controversy and the region disputed as belonging whether to the land or to the sea. There this miserable race occupy elevated patches of ground or platforms built up by hand above the level of the highest tide experienced, living in huts erected on the sites so chosen, and resembling sailors in ships when the water covers the surrounding land, but shipwrecked people when the tide has retired, and round their huts they catch the fish escaping with the receding tide. It does not fall to them to keep herds and live on milk like the neighbouring tribes, nor even to have to fight with wild animals, as all woodland growth is banished far away. They twine ropes of sedge and rushes from the marshes for the purpose of setting nets to catch the fish, and they scoop up mud in their hands and dry it by the wind more than by sunshine, and with earth as fuel warm their food and so their own bodies, frozen by the north wind. Their only drink is supplied by storing rainwater in tanks in the forecourts of their homes. And these are the races that if they are nowadays vanquished by the Roman nation say that they are reduced to slavery! That is indeed the case: Fortune oft spares men as a punishment.
II. Another marvel arising from the forests: these crowd the whole of the remainder of Germany and augment the cold with their shadow, but the loftiest grow not far from the Chauci mentioned above, especially round two lakes. The actual shores of these are occupied by oaks, which grow with extreme eagerness, and these when undermined by the waves or overthrown by blasts of wind carry away with them vast islands of soil in the embrace of their roots, and thus balanced, float along standing upright, so that our fleets have often been terrified by the wide rigging of their huge branches, when they seemed to be purposely driven by the waves against the bows of the ships at anchor for the night, which thus were unavoidably compelled to engage in a naval battle with trees.
In the same northern region is the vast expanse of the Hereynian oak forest, untouched by the ages and coeval with the world, which surpasses all marvels by its almost immortal destiny. To omit other facts that would lack credence, it is well known that the collision of the roots encountering each other raises up hillocks of earth, or, where the ground has not kept up to them, their arches in their struggle with one another rise as high as the branches, and curve over in the shape of open gateways, so as to afford a passage to squadrons of cavalry.
They are practically all of the acorn-bearing class of oak, which is ever held in honour at Rome,
III. because from it are obtained the Civic Wreaths, that glorious emblem of military valour, but now for a long time past also an emblem of the emperors clemency, ever since, owing to the impiety of the civil wars, not to kill a fellow-citizen had come to be deemed meritorious. Below these rank mural crowns and rampart-crowns and also golden crowns, although surpassing them in cost, and below them likewise are beaked crowns, albeit down to the present supremely famous in the case of two persons, Marcus Varro who was given this honour by Pompey [67 B.C.] the Great as a result of the wars against the pirates, and likewise Marcus Agrippa who was awarded it is by Augustus after the Sicilian wars, which were also waged against pirates. Previously the forum was graced by the rams of ships fastened in front of the platform, like a wreath crowning the Roman nation. But later they began to be trampled on and polluted by the seditions of the tribunes, and power began to pass from public into private ownership, and to be sought for the advancement of individual citizens, and the sacrosanct tribunes began to make all things profane; and after this the Rams passed from underneath the feet of the speakers to the heads of the citizens; this Wreath of Rams Augustus bestowed upon Agrippa, but he himself received the Civic Wreath from the whole of mankind.
IV. In olden times indeed no Civic Wreath was presented save to a deitythat is why Homer assigns a wreath only to heaven and to a whole battlefield, but to no man individually even in combatand it is said that Father Liber was the first to set a crown on his own head, a wreath of ivy. Afterwards persons performing sacrifices in honour of the gods assumed crowns, the victims being adorned with wreaths as well. Most recently of all they were also brought into use in ritual competitions, but in these and at the present day they are not bestowed on the winner, but an announcement is made that by him a wreath is conferred upon his native place; and from this has arisen the custom of also bestowing wreaths on victorious generals about to go in a triumphal procession, for them to dedicate as offerings in the temples, and also subsequently the practice of presenting wreaths at the games. To discuss who was the first Roman to receive each kind of wreath would be a lengthy matter, and not relevant to the plan of this work, and as a matter of fact the Romans were only acquainted with those given for military achievements; but it is a well-known fact that this one nation has a greater variety of wreaths than all the other nations put together.
V. Hostus Hostilius, who was the grandfather of King Tullus Hostilius, was crowned by Romulus with a garland of leaves for having been the first to enter Fidena. The elder Publius Decius, who was military tribune, received a garland of leaves from the army which he had saved from destruction in the war with the Samnites when the consul Cornelius Cossus was [343 B.C] in command of our army. The Civic Wreath was first made of the leaves of the holm-oak, but afterwards preference was given to a wreath from the winter oak, which is sacred to Jove, and also a variety was made with the common oak and the tree growing in the particular locality was given, only the honour awarded to the acorn being preserved! Strict and therefore exclusive conditions were further imposed, which may be compared with that supreme wreath of the Greeks which is bestowed beneath the tutelage of Zeus himself and for which the winner's native place in its rejoicing breaks a passage through its city walls; these conditions wereto save the life of a fellow-citizen; to kill one of the enemy; that the place where the exploit occurred must not be occupied by the enemy on the same day; that the person rescued must admit the factwitnesses otherwise are of no value;and that it must have been a Roman citizen: auxiliary forces, even though it is a king who is rescued, do not bestow this distinction. Nor is the same honour any greater if the rescued person is a general, because the founders of this institution wished the honour to be supreme in the case of any citizen. The receiver of the wreath may wear it for the rest of his life; when he appears at the games it is the custom for even the senate always to rise at his entrance, and he has the right to sit next to the senators; and he himself and his father and his paternal grandfather are exempt from all public duties. Siccius Dentatus, as we have mentioned at the proper place, won fourteen Civic Wreaths, and Capitolinus six, one in his case being actually for saving the life of his commanding officer Servilius. Scipio Africanus refused to accept a wreath for rescuing his father at the Trebbia. How worthy of eternity is a national character that rewarded exploits so distinguished with honour only, and whereas it enhanced the value of its other wreaths with gold, refused to allow the rescue of a citizen to be a thing of price, thus loudly proclaiming that it is wrong even to save the life of a human being for the sake of gain!
VI. Acorns at this very day constitute the wealth of many races, even when they are enjoying peace. Moreover also when there is a scarcity of corn they are dried and ground into flour which is kneaded to make bread; beside this, at the present day also in the Spanish provinces a place is found for acorns in the second course at table. Acorns have a sweeter flavour when roasted in the ashes. Moreover it was provided by law in the Twelve Tables that it was permissible to gather up acorns falling on to another person's land. There are many kinds of acorns, and they differ in their fruit, habitat, sex and flavour, some having the shape of the beech-nut and others of the mast of the oak and the holmoak, and there are also differences within each of these varieties. Moreover some grow wild in forests and others are more tame, occupying cultivated ground. Then they are different in mountain regions and in the plains, as also they differ in sexmale and female, and likewise in flavour: the sweetest of them all is beech-mast, it being recorded by Cornelius Alexander that the people in the town of Chios actually held out against a siege by using it for food. It is not possible to distinguish its kinds by their names, which are different in different places, inasmuch as we see the hard-oak and the common oak growing everywhere, but the winter oak not in every region, and the fourth species of the same class, called the Turkey oak, is not known at all even to the greater part of Italy. We will therefore distinguish the varieties by their properties and natures, also using the Greek names when necessary.
VII. The acorn of the beech resembles a kernel, being enclosed in a triangular shell. The leaf, which is thin and one of the lightest that there are, resembles that of the poplar; it turns yellow very quickly, and on its upper side, usually at the middle, it grows a little green berry with a pointed end. Mice are extremely fond of the beech and consequently in places where it grows these animals abound; it also fattens dormice, and is good for thrushes, too. Almost all trees grow a good crop only every other year, but this is especially the case with the beech.
VIII. The trees that bear acorns in the proper sense of the term are the hard-oak, the common oak, the winter oak, the Turkey oak, the holm-oak and the cork tree. These trees carry their acorn enclosed in a bristly cup that embraces more or less of it according to their kinds. Their leaves with the exception of the holm-oak are heavy, fleshy and tapering, with wavy edges, and they do not turn yellow when they fall like beech leaves; they differ in length according to the variety of their kinds.
There are two classes of holm-oak. The Italian variety, called by some Greeks milax, has a leaf not very different from that of the olive, but the holmoak in the provinces is the one with pointed leaves. The acorn of both kinds is shorter and more slender than that of other varieties; Homer calls it akylon and distinguishes it by that name from the common acorn. It is said that the male holm-oak bears no acorns.
The best and largest acorn grows on the common oak, and the next best on the winter oak, as that of the hard-oak is small, and that of the Turkey oak a rough, bristly thing with a prickly cup like that of the chestnut. But also in the case of the oak in general the acorn of the female tree is sweeter and softer, while that of the male tree is more compact. In the most esteemed variety called descriptively the broad-leaved oak, the acorns differ among themselves in size and in the thinness of their shell, and also in that some have under the shell a rough coat of a rusty colour, whereas in others one comes to the white flesh at once. Those acorns are also esteemed the kernel of which at each extremity taken lengthwise has a stony hardness, those having this in the husk being better than those with it in the flesh of the nut, but in either case it only occurs with a male tree. Moreover in some cases the acorn is oval, in others round, and in others of a more pointed shape, just as the colour also is blacker or lighter, the latter being preferred. The ends of acorns are bitter and the middle parts sweet; also there is a difference in the shortness or length of the stalk.
In respect of the trees themselves the one that bears the largest acorn is called the hemeris; this is a comparatively low-growing oak which forms a circle of bushy foliage and which is frequently hollow at the spread of the branches. The wood of the common oak is stronger and less liable to decay; this variety also has many branches, but grows higher and has a thicker trunk; but the loftiest kind is the aegilops, which likes wild uncultivated country.
Next to this in height is the broad-leaved oak, but it is less useful for builders' timber and for charcoal, and when hewn with the axe is liable to split, on which account it is used in the unhewn state. As charcoal it only pays to use it in a copper-smith's workshop, because as soon as the bellows stop it dies down and has to be rekindled repeatedly; but it gives out a great quantity of sparks. A better charcoal is obtained from young trees. Piles of freshly cut sticks are fitted closely together and made into an oven with clay, and the structure is set fire to, and the shell as it hardens is prodded with poles and so discharges its moisture.
The worst kind both for charcoal and for timber is the one called in Greek the sea-cork oak, which has a very thick bark and trunk, the latter usually hollow and spongy; and no other variety of the oak class is so liable to rot, even while it is alive. Moreover it is very frequently struck by lightning, although it is not particularly lofty; consequently it is not thought right to use its wood for sacrifices either. Also it rarely bears acorns, and when it does they are bitter, so that no animal will touch them except swine, and not even these if they can get any other fodder. An additional reason among others for its being disregarded for religious ceremonies is that its charcoal goes out during the course of a sacrifice.
Beech-mast fed to pigs livens them up, and makes their flesh easy to cook and light and digestible whereas the acorns of the holm-oak make a pig thin, not a glossy, meagre. Acorns from the common oak make it heavy and lumpish, being themselves also the largest of nuts and the sweetest in flavour. According to Nigidius's account the next best to the common acorn is the acorn of the Turkey oak, and no other kind gives the pig more solid flesh, though hard. He says that holm-oak acorn is a trying feed for pigs, unless given to them in small quantities at a time; and that this is the latest acorn to fall. He adds that the acorn of the winter oak, hard-oak and cork-tree make a pig's flesh spongy.
IX. All the acorn-bearing trees produce oak-apples. Oak galls as well, and acorns in alternate years, but the hemeris bears the best oak-apple and the one most suitable for dressing hides. The oak-apple of the broad-leaved oak resembles it, but is lighter in weight and much less highly approved. This tree also produces the black oak-applefor there are two varieties, this last being more useful for dyeing wool. The oak-apple begins to grow when the sun is leaving the sign of the Twins, and always bursts forth full-size in a night. The lighter-coloured variety grows in a single day, and if it encounters a spell of heat it dries up at once and does not attain its proper growth, that is, to have a kernel the size of a bean. The black oak-apple stays fresh and goes on growing for a longer period, so as sometimes to reach the size of an apple. The best kind comes from Commagene, and the worst is that produced by the hard-oak; it can be detected by the transparent hollows in it.
X. The hard-oak supplies a number of other products in addition to acorns; it also bears both kinds of oak-apples, and berries that are like mulberries except that they are dry and hard, also usually resembling a bull's head, which contain a fruit like the stone of an olive. There also grow on it little balls not unlike nuts, having inside them soft flocks of wool suitable for lamp-wicks, since they will keep burning even without oil, as is also the case with the black oak-apples. The hard-oak also bears another sort of little ball with hairs on it, which is of no use, though in spring-time it has a juice that is like bee-glue. Also in the hollows at the junction of its boughs grow little balls adhering bodily to the bark and not attached by a stalk, the point of attachment being white but the remainder speckled with black patches; inside they have a scarlet colour, but when opened they are bitter and empty. Sometimes also the hard-oak bears growths resembling pumice-stone, as well as little balls made of the leaves rolled up, and also on the veins of the leaves watery pustules of a white colour, and as long as they remain soft permeable to light, in which gnats are born. When they ripen they form a knot like the small smooth oak-apple.
XI. Hard-oaks also bear catkins: that is the name of a small round ball used in medicine for its caustic property. It also grows on the fir, the larch, the pitch-pine, the lime, nut-trees and the plane, lasting on in the winter after the leaves have fallen. It contains a kernel resembling the kernel of pine-cones; this grows in winter and opens out in spring. When the leaves have begun to grow, the whole ball falls off. Such is the multiplicity of products in addition to the acorn that are borne by hard-oaks; but they also produce edible fungi and hog-mushrooms, the most recently discovered stimulants of the appetite, which grow round their roots; those of the common oak are the most esteemed, but those of the hard-oak and cypress and pine are harmful. Hard-oaks also produce mistletoe, and honey as well according to Hesiod, and it is an accepted fact that honey-dew falling from the sky, as we said, deposits itself on the leaves of no other tree in preference to the hard-oak; and it is well known that hard-oak wood when burnt produces a nitrous ash.
XII. Nevertheless the holm-oak challenges all these products of the hard-oak on the score of its scarlet alone. This is a grain, and looks at first like a roughness on a shrub, which is the small pointed-leaf holmoak. The grain is called 'scolecium,' 'little worm'. It furnishes the poor in Spain with the means of paying one out of every two instalments of their tribute.
We have stated the use of this grain and the mode of preparing it when speaking of purple dye. It occurs also in Galatia, Africa, Pisidia and Cilicia, and the worst kind in Sardinia.
XIII. In the Gallic provinces chiefly the acorn-bearing trees produce agaric, which is a white fungus with a strong odour, and which makes a powerful antidote; it grows on the tops of trees, and is phosphorescent at night; this is its distinguishing mark, by which it can be gathered in the dark. Of the acorn-bearing tree the one called the aegilops alone carries strips of dry cloth covered with white mossy tufts; this substance not only grows on the bark but hangs down from the branches in streamers eighteen inches long, and it has a strong scent, as we miss. said when dealing with perfumes.
The cork is a very small tree, and its acorns are very bad in quality and few in number; its only useful product is its bark, which is extremely thick and which when cut grows again; when flattened out it has been known to form a sheet as big as 10 feet square. This bark is used chiefly for ships' anchor drag-ropes and fishermen's dragnets and for the bungs of casks, and also to make soles for women's winter shoes. Consequently the Greek name for the tree is 'bark-tree,' which is not inappropriate. Some people also call it the female holm-oak, and in places where the holm-oak does not grow, for instance in the districts of Elis and Sparta, use cork-tree timber instead of holm-oak, especially for wain-wright's carpentry. It does not grow all over Italy or anywhere in Gaul.
XIV. Also in the case of the beech, the lime, the fir and the pitch-pine the bark is extensively used by country people. They employ it for making panniers and baskets, and larger flat receptacles used for carrying corn at harvest-time and grapes at the vintage, and the roof-eaves of cottages. A scout writes reports to send to his officers by cutting letters on fresh bark from the sap; and also beech bark is used for ritual purposes in certain religious rites, but the tree from which it is stripped does not survive.
XV. The most suitable roof-shingles are got from the hard-oak, and the next best from the other acorn-bearing trees and from the beech; those most easily obtained are cut from all the trees that produce resin, but these are the least good to last with the exception of those from the pine. Cornelius Nepos informs us that Rome was roofed with shingles right down to the war with Pyrrhus, a period of 470 years. At all events its different regions used to be denoted by designations taken from the woodsthe Precinct of Jupiter of the Beech Tree (which retains the name even to-day)where there was once a grove of beeches, Oak-forest Gate, Osier Hill, where people went to get osiers, and all the Groves, some even named from two sorts of trees. It was in Winter-oak Grove that Quintus Hortensius as dictator after the 287 BC. secession of the plebeians to the Janiculum Hill carried the law that an order of the plebs should be binding on all citizens.
XVI. The pine and the fir and all the trees that produce pitch were in those days considered exotics, because there were none in the neighbourhood of the capital. Of these trees we shall now speak, in order that the whole of the source from which flavouring for wine is produced may be known at once, after an account has been given of the trees in Asia or the East which produce pitch.
In Europe pitch is produced by six kinds of trees, all related to one another. Of these the pine and the wild pine have a very narrow long leaf like hair, with a sharp point at the end. The pine yields the smallest amount of resin, sometimes also produced from its nuts themselves, about which we have spoken, and scarcely enough to justify its classification as a resinous tree.
XVII. The pinaster is nothing else but a wild pine tree of smaller height throwing out branches from the middle as the pine does at the top. This variety gives a larger quantity of resin, in the manner which we shall describe. It grows in flat countries also. Most people think that trees called tibuli that grow along the coasts of Italy are the same tree with another name, but the tibulus is a slender tree and more compact than the pinaster, and being free from knots is used for building light gallies; it is almost devoid of resin.
XVIII. The pitch-pine loves mountains and cold localities. It is a funereal tree, and is placed at the doors of houses as a token of bereavement and grown on graves; nevertheless nowadays it has also been admitted into our homes because of the ease with which it can be clipped into various shapes. This pine gives out a quantity of resin interspersed with white drops so closely resembling frankincense that when mixed with it they are indistinguishable to the eye; hence the adulteration is practised in the Seplasia. All these classes of trees have short leaves, but rather thick and hard like the leaf of the cypress. The branches of the pitch-pine are of moderate size and grow out almost immediately from the root of the tree, attached to its sides like arms.
Similarly the fir, which is in great demand for building ships, grows high up on mountains, as though it had run away from the sea; and its shape is the same as that of the pitch-pine. But it supplies excellent timber for beams and a great many of the appliances of life. Resin, which gives its value to the pitch-pine, is a defect in the fir, which occasionally exudes a small quantity when exposed to the action of the sun. The wood, on the contrary, which in the case of the fir is extremely beautiful, in the pitchpine only serves for making split roof-shingles and tubs and a few other articles of joinery.
XIX. The fifth kind of resinous tree has the same habitat and the same appearance; it is called the larch. Its timber is far superior, not rotting with age and offering a stubborn resistance to damp; also it has a reddish colour and a rather penetrating scent. Resin flows from this tree in rather large quantities, of the colour and stickiness of honey, and never becoming hard.
The sixth kind is the torch-pinea specially so called, which gives out more resin than the rest, but less, and of a more liquid kind, than the pitch-pine; and it is agree able for kindling fires and also for torchlight at religious ceremonies. These trees, at all events the male variety, also produce the extremely strong-smelling liquid called by the Greeks. It is a disease of the larch to turn into a torch-pine.
All these kinds of trees when set fire to make an enormous quantity of sooty smoke and suddenly with an explosive crackle send out a splutter of charcoal and shoot it to a considerable distanceexcepting the larch, which does not burn nor yet make charcoal, nor waste away from the action of fire any more than do stones. All these trees are evergreen, and are not easily distinguishable in point of foliage even by experts, so closely are they interrelated; but the pitch-pine is not so tall as the larch, which has a thicker and smoother bark and more velvety and oilier and thicker foliage, the leaf bending more softly to the touch, whereas the foliage of the pitch-pine is scantier and also drier and thinner and of a colder nature, and the whole tree is rougher and is covered with resin; the wood more resembles that of the fir. When the roots of a larch have been burnt it does not throw out fresh shoots, but the pitch-pine does, as happened on the island of Lesbos after the grove of the town of Pyrrha had been burnt. Moreover there is another difference within these species themselves in the matter of sex: the male tree is shorter and has harder leaves, while the female is taller and its leaves are more unctuous and not forked and not stiff; and the wood of the male is hard, and when used in carpentry splits crooked, while that of the female is softer, the manifestation of the difference resting with the axe, which in every variety detects the male, because it meets with resistance and falls with a louder crash and is pulled out of the wood with greater difficulty. With the male trees the wood itself is parched and blacker in colour. In the neighbourhood of Mount Ida in the Troad there is also another variation among the larches, the mountain larch and the coast larch being different. As for Macedonia and Arcadia and the neighbourhood of Elis, in these places the varieties exchange names and the authorities are not agreed as to which name to give to each species, though for our part we settle that sort of question by the verdict of Rome.
The biggest of the entire group is the fir, the female being even taller than the male, and its timber softer and more easily worked, and the tree rounder in shape, and with dense feathery foliage, which makes it impervious to rain; and in general it has a more cheerful appearance. From the branches of these species, with the exception of the larch, there hang nut-like growths resembling catkins, packed together like scales. Those of the male fir have kernels in their tips, though this is not the case with the female fir; but the nuts of the pitch-pine have kernels filling the whole of the catkins, which are smaller and narrower, the kernels being very small and black, owing to which the Greek name for the pitch-pine is a word meaning 'louse-tree.' Also in the pitch-pine the nut-growths are more closely packed in the male trees and less moist with resin.
XX. Moreover, not to pass over any variety, resembling these trees in appearance is the yew, hardly green at all in colour and slender in form, with a gloomy, terrifying appearance; it has no sap, and is the only tree of all the class that bears berries. The fruit of the male yew is harmfulin fact its berries, particularly in Spain, contain a deadly poison; even wine-flasks for travellers made of its wood in Gaul are known to have caused death. Sextius says that the Greek name for this tree is milax, and that in Arcadia its poison is so active that people who go to sleep or picnic beneath a yew-tree die. Some people also say that this is why poisons were called 'taxic,' which we now pronounce 'toxic,' meaning 'used for poisoning arrows.' I find it stated that a yew becomes harmless if a copper nail is driven into the actual tree.
XXI. In Europe tar is obtained from the torch-pine by heating it, and is used for coating ships' tackle and many other purposes. The wood of the tree is chopped up and put into ovens and heated by means of a fire packed all round outside. The first liquid that exudes flows like water down a pipe; in Syria this is called 'cedar-juice,' and it is so strong that in Egypt it is used for embalming the bodies of the dead.
XXII. The liquor that follows is thicker, and now produces pitch; this in its turn is collected in copper cauldrons and thickened by means of vinegar, as making it coagulate, and it has been given the name of Bruttian pitch; it is only useful for casks and similar receptacles, and differs from other pitch by its viscosity and also by its reddish colour and because it is greasier than all the rest. It is made from pitch-resin caused to boil by means of red-hot stones in casks made of strong oak, or, if casks are not available, by piling up a heap of billets, as in the process of making charcoal. It is this pitch which is used for seasoning wine after being beaten up into a powder like flour, when it has a rather black colour. The same resin, if rather gently boiled with water and strained off, becomes viscous and turns a reddish colour; this is called 'distilled pitch.' For making this the inferior parts of the resin and the bark of the tree are usually set aside. Another mixing process produced 'intoxication resin': raw flower of resin is picked off the tree with a quantity of thin, short chips of the wood, and broken up small in a sieve, and then steeped in water heated to boiling. The grease of this that is extracted makes the best quality of resin, and it is rarely obtainable, and only in a few districts of Italy near the Alps. It is suitable for medical use: the doctors boil of a gallon of white resin in l gallons of rainwaterthough others think it pays better to boil it without water over a slow fire for a whole day, and to employ a vessel of white copper, or to boil resin from the turpentine-tree in a flat pan on hot ashes, as they prefer this to all the other kinds. The resin of the mastich is rated next.
XXIII. We must not omit to state that with the name of 'live pitch' is to Greeks also the give pitch which has been scraped off the bottom of seagoing ships and mixed with waxas life leaves nothing untriedand which is much more efficacious for all the purposes for which the pitches and resins are serviceable, this being because of the additional hardness of the sea salt.
An opening is made in a pitch-tree on the side towards the sun, not by means of an incision but by a wound made by removing the bark, making an aperture at most two feet long, so as to be at least eighteen inches from the ground. Also the body of the tree itself is not spared, as in other cases, because the chips of wood are valuable; but the chips from nearest the surface are most esteemed, those from deeper in giving the resin a bitter flavour. Afterwards all the moisture from the whole tree flows together into the wound; and so also in the case of the torch-tree. When the liquid stops flowing, an opening is made in a similar manner out of another part of the tree and then another. Afterwards the whole tree is felled and the pith of the timber is burnt. In the same way in Syria also they strip the bark off the turpentine-tree, there indeed stripping it from the branches and roots as well, although the resin from these parts is not valued highly. In Macedonia they burn the whole of the male larch but only the roots of the female tree. Theopompus wrote that in the territory of the Apolloniates a mineral pitch is found that is not inferior to that of Macedonia. The best pitch is everywhere obtained from trees growing in sunny places with a north-east aspect, whereas that from shady places has a rougher appearance, and presents an offensive odour; and pitch in a cold winter is inferior in quality and less plentiful in quantity, and of a bad colour. Some people think that the liquid obtained in mountain regions is superior in quantity and colour and sweeter, and also has a more agreeable smell, so long as it remains in the state of resin, but that when boiled down it yields less pitch, because it goes off into a watery residue, and that the trees themselves are thinner than those in the plains, but that both the one and the other kinds are less productive in dry weather. Some trees yield a liberal supply in the year after they are cut, whereas others do so a year later and some two years later. The wound fills up with resin, not with bark or by a scab, as in this tree an incision in the bark does not join up.
Among these classes of trees some people have made a special variety of the sappinus fir, because under the name of this group of trees is grown the kind which we described among the nut-bearing kinds; and the lowest parts of the same tree are called pine-torches, although the tree in question is really only a pitch-pine with its wild character a little modified by cultivation, whereas the sappinus is a timber produced by the mode of felling used, as we shall explain.
XXIV. For it is for the sake of their timber that Nature has created the rest of the trees, and the most productive of them all, the ash. This is a lofty, shapely tree, itself also having feathery foliage, and has been rendered extremely famous by the advertisement given it by Homer as supplying the spear of Achilles. The wood of the ash is useful for a great many purposes. The kind grown on Ida in the Troad so closely resembles cedar-wood that when the bark has been removed it deceives buyers. The Greeks have distinguished two kinds of ash-tree, a tall one without knots and the other a short tree with harder and darker wood and foliage like that of the bay-tree. In Macedonia there is a very large ash making very flexible timber, which has the Greek name of 'ox-ash.' Other people have distinguished the ash-tree by locality, as they say that the ash of the plains has a crinkly grain and the mountain ash is close-grained. Greek writers have stated that the leaves of the ash are poisonous to beasts of burden, though doing no harm to all the other kinds of ruminants; but in Italy they are harmless to beasts of burden also. Indeed, they are found to be serviceable as an exceptionally effective antidote for snakebites, if the juice is squeezed out to make a potion and the leaves are applied to the wound as a poultice; and they are so potent that a snake will not come in contact with the shadow of the tree even in the morning or at sunset when it is at its longest, so wide a berth does it give to the tree itself. We can state from actual experiment that if a ring of ash-leaves is put round a fire and a snake, the snake will rather escape into the fire than into the ash-leaves. By a marvellous provision of Nature's kindness the ash flowers before the snakes come out and does not shed its leaves before they have gone into hibernation.
XXV. In the lime-tree the male and the female are entirely different. Not only is the wood of the male lime hard and reddish and knotted and more scented, but also the bark is thicker, and when peeled off cannot be bent; nor does the male tree produce seed or a flower as the female does, and the female is thicker in the trunk and its wood is white and of superior quality. A remarkable fact in regard to the lime is that no animal will touch its fruit, whereas the juice of the leaves and bark has a sweet taste. Between the bark and the wood there are thin coats made by a number of layers of skin, made from which are the ropes called lime-withies, and the thinnest part of them provided limechaplets, famous for the ribbons of wreaths of honour in old times. Lime-wood is worm-proof, and it makes useful timber although the tree is of extremely moderate height.
XXVI. The maple, which is of about the same size as the lime, is second only to the citrus in its elegance as a material for cabinet-making and in the finish it allows of. It is of several kinds: the white maple, an exceptionally light-coloured wood, is called Gallic maple, and grows in Italy north of the Po, and on the other side of the Alps; the second kind has blotches running in wavy lines, and in its finer variety has received the name of 'peacock maple' from its resemblance to a peacock's tail, the finest sorts growing in Istria and Tyrol; and an inferior variety is called the thick-veined maple. The Greeks distinguish the varieties by locality, saying that the maple of the plains is light-coloured and not wavythis kind they call glinonbut the mountain maple has a rather wavy grain and is harder, the wood of the male tree being still wavier and suitable for making more elegant articles; while a third kind is the hornbeam, a reddish wood that splits easily, with a rough bark of a pale colour. Others prefer to class tins as belonging to a special kind of tree, and give it the Latin name of carpinus.
XXVII. But a very beautiful feature of the maple is the growth on it called bruscum, and yet much more remarkable the molluscum, both knots, the former veined in a twistier pattern, while the latter is covered with simpler markings, and if it were large enough for tables to be made of it would undoubtedly be preferred to citrus-wood; but as it is, except for writing-tablets and veneering on couches, it is seldom seen in use. Bruscum is also used for making tables, though they have a darkish colour. A similar growth is also found on the alder, but it is as far inferior to the others as the alder itself is to the maple. The male maple flowers before the female. It must be added that maples grown in dry places are preferred to those in marshes, as is also the case with ash-trees. North of the Alps grows a tree making timber that closely resembles the white ash; its Greek name is the cluster-tree, as it bears pods containing kernels, which taste like a hazel nut.
XXVIII. But a timber rated in the first rank is that of the box, which is rarely marked with wrinkles and only at the root, the rest of it being smooth; box-wood is esteemed for a certain toughness and hardness and for its pale colour, while the tree itself is valued in ornamental gardening. There are three kinds: the Gallic box, which is trained to shoot up into conical pillars and attains a rather large height; the oleaster, which is condemned for all purposes, and which gives out an unpleasant smell; and a third kind called our native box, a cultivated variety as I believe of the wild box, which spreads more than the others and forms a thick hedge; it is an evergreen, and will stand clipping. The box abounds in the Pyrenees and the Kidros mountains and in the Berecyntus district, and it grows thickest in Corsica, where it bears an objectionable blossom, which causes the bitter taste in Corsican honey; its seed arouses the aversion of all living creatures. The box on Mount Olympus in Macedonia makes as thick a growth as the Corsican, but it is of a low height. Box loves cold and rugged places; also in a fire it is as hard as iron, and is of no use for fuel or charcoal.
XXIX. Among these and the fruit-bearing trees a place is given to the elm, because of its timber and the friendship between it and the vine. The Greeks are acquainted with two kinds of elm: the mountain elm which makes the larger growth, and the elm of the plains which grows like a shrub. Italy gives the name of Atinian elm to a very lofty kind (and among these values highest the dry variety, which will not grow in damp places); a second kind it calls the Gallic elm, a third, which has thicker foliage and more leaves growing from the same stalk, the Italian elm, and a fourth, the wild elm. The Atinian elm does not bear samarathat is the name for elm seedand all the elms are grown from shoots of the roots, but the other kinds also from seed.
XXX. The most notable trees having now been mentioned, some general facts must be pointed out concerning all trees. The cedar, the larch, the torchpine and the rest of the trees that produce resin love mountains, and so also do the holly, box, holmoak, juniper, turpentine-tree, poplar, mountain ash and hornbeam; on the Apennines there is also a shrub called the cotinus, famous for supplying a dye for linen cloth that resembles purple. The fir, hard-oak, chestnuts, lime, holm-oak and cornel like mountains and valleys. The maple, ash, service-tree, lime and cherry love mountains watered by springs. The plum, pomegranate, wild olive, walnut, mulberry and elder-trees are not generally found on mountains; and the cornel cherry, hazel, oak, mountain ash, maple, ash, beech, hornbeam come down from the mountains to level ground also, while the elm, apple, pear, bay, myrtle, red cornel, holm-oak and the broom, designed by Nature for dyeing cloth, spread up from the plains to mountain regions as well. The service-tree delights in cold places, but even more the birch. The latter is a Gallic tree, of a remarkable white colour and slenderness, a cause of terror as supplying the magistrates' rods of office; it is also easily bent to make hoops and likewise the ribs of small baskets, and the Gauls extract from it bitumen by boiling. These trees are accompanied into the same regions by the may also, the most auspicious tree for supplying wedding torches, because according to the account of Masurius it was used for that purpose by the shepherds who carried off the Sabine women; but at the present time the hornbeam and the hazel are most usually employed for torches.
XXXI. The cypress, walnut, chestnut and laburnum dislike water. The last is another Alpine tree, and is not generally known; its wood is hard and white and its flower, which is half a yard long, bees will not touch. The shrub called Jupiter's beard, used in ornamental gardening and clipped into a round bushy shape, and having a silvery leaf, also dislikes water. Willows, alders, poplars, the silera and the privet, the last extremely useful for making tallies, will only grow in places where there is water, and the same is the ease with the whortleberry, grown in bird-snares in Italy, but in Gaul also to supply purple dye for slaves' clothes. All the trees that are common to the mountains and the plains grow larger and finer to look at when in flat country, but those on the mountains grow better fruit and make timber with a wavier grain, excepting the apples and pears.
XXXII. Beside this, some trees shed their leaves but others are evergreenalthough before this difference another one has to be mentioned first: some trees are entirely wild, but some being more civilizedas these are the accepted names by which they are distinguished: the latter, kindly trees which render more humane aid by their fruit or some other property and by affording shade, may not improperly be called 'civilized.'
XXXIII. The trees of the latter class that do not shed their leaves are the olive, laurel, palm, myrtle, cypress, the pines, ivy, rhododendron and savinthough the last may be called a herbaceous plant. The rhododendron, as is shown by its name, comes from the Greeks (another Greek name given it being nerion, and another 'rose-laurel') it is an evergreen that resembles a rose-tree, and throws out shoots from the stems; it is poisonous for cattle and for goats and sheep, but for man it serves as an antidote against the poisons of snakes.
Trees of the forest class that do not shed their leaves are the fir, larch, wild pine, juniper, cedar, turpentine, box, holm-oak, holly, cork, yew, tamarisk. Between the evergreen and the deciduous classes are the andrachle growing in Greece and the arbutus in all countries, for they shed all their leaves except those on the top of the tree. In the class of shrubs also a kind of cedar, the bramble and the cane do not shed their leaves. In the territory of Thurii, where Sybaris once stood, there was a single oak that was visible from the actual city which never shed its leaves and which did not bud before midsummer; and it is surprising that this fact having been published by Greek authors has never subsequently been mentioned among ourselves. The fact is that the influence of some localities is so great that in the neighbourhood of Memphis in Egypt and at Elephantine in the Thebaid none of the trees shed their leaves, not even the vines.
XXXIV. All the rest of the trees except those already mentionedfor it would be a lengthy business to enumerate themshed their leaves; and it has been noticed that the leaves do not wither unless they are thin, broad and soft, whereas the leaves which do not fall off are thick and fleshy and narrow in shape. It is an erroneous classification to say that the trees which do not shed their leaves are those with a more unctuous juice; for who can detect that property in the case of the holm-oak? The mathematician Timaeus thinks that they fall when the sun is passing through Scorpio owing to the strength of that constellation and a certain poison in the air; but then we may justly wonder why the same influence is not operative against all these trees. Most trees shed their leaves in autumn, but some lose them later, and prolong the delay into the winter; and it makes no difference if they budded earlier, inasmuch as some trees are the first to bud and among the last to be stripped of their leaves, for instance almonds, ash-trees, elders, whereas the mulberry is the latest to bud and one of the first to shed its leaves. The soil also has a great influence in this matter: the leaves fall earlier on dry, thin soils, and earlier with an old tree, in many cases even before the fruit can ripen, for instance, in the case of the late fig and the winter pear and apple, and with the pomegranate the fruit is the only thing visible on the parent tree. But not even with the trees that always keep their foliage do the same leaves last on with others shooting up beneath themwhen this happens the old leaves wither away, this occurring mostly about the solstices.
XXXV. Each of the trees in its own kind has a permanent uniformity of leaf, with the exception of the poplar, the ivy and the croton (which, as we have said, is also called the cici). There are three kinds of poplars, the white, the black and the one called the leaf and which is very famous for the mushrooms Libyan poplar, which has a very small and very dark that grow on it. The white poplar has a leaf of two colours, white on the upper side and green underneath. With this tree and the black poplar and the croton the leaves are exactly circular when young but project into angles when older; whereas the leaves of the ivy are angular at first but become round. From the leaves of the white poplar springs out a quantity of shiny white down, and when the foliage is specially thick the trees are white all over like fleeces. Pomegranate and almond trees have reddish leaves.
XXXVI. An exceptionally remarkable thing occurs in the case of the elm, lime, olive, white poplar and willow: after midsummer their leaves turn right round, and no other indication shows with greater certainty that the season is finished. Also their leaves contain in themselves a variation that is common to all foliage: the under surface, towards the ground, is of a bright grass-green colour, and on the same side they are comparatively smooth, while on their upper part they have sinews and hard skin and articulations, but creases underneath like the human hand. The leaves of the olive are whiter and not so smooth on the upper side, and ivy-leaves the same. But the leaves of all trees open out every day towards the sun, as if intending their under side to be warmed. The upper side of all leaves has however small an amount of down upon it, which in some countries serves for wool.
XXXVII. We have said that in the east palm-leaves are used for making strong ropes, and that these are made specially serviceable for use in water. Indeed with us also the leaves are plucked from the palms after harvest, the better ones being those that have no divisions in them, and are put to dry indoors for a period of four days and then spread out in the sun, being left out at night as well, until they dry a bright white colour, and afterwards they are split for use in manufacture.
XXXVIII. The fig, vine and plane have very broad leaves and the myrtle, pomegranate and olive narrow ones; those of the pine and cedar are like hairs, those of the holly and one kind of holm-oak pricklyindeed the juniper has a spine instead of a leaf. The leaves of the cypress and tamarisk are fleshy, those of the alder extremely thick, those of the reed and willow are long and the leaves of the palm are also double; those of the pear rounded, those of the apple pointed, those of the ivy angular, those of the plane divided, those of the pitch-pine and fir separated like the teeth of a comb, those of the hard oak crinkly all round the edge, those of the bramble have a prickly skin. In some plants the leaves sting, for instance nettles; those of the pine, pitch-pine, fir, larch, cedar and the hollies are prickly; those of the olive and holm-oak have a short stalk, those of the vine a long one, those of the poplar a stalk that quivers, and poplars are the only trees on which the leaves rustle against one another. Again, in one kind of the apple class there are small leaves even on the fruit itself, shooting out from the middle of the apples, sometimes even pairs of leaves; and moreover with some trees the leaves shoot round the boughs, but with others also at the tip of the boughs, and with the hard oak also on the trunk. Also leaves grow either dense or thinly spread, and broad leaves are always scantier. In the case of the myrtle they are arranged regularly, with the box they curve over, on fruit trees they have no arrangement, on the apple and the pear several shoot from the same stalk; the leaves of the elm and the cytisus are covered with branching veins. With these Cato includes the leaves of the poplar and oak when they have fallen, advising that they should be given to animals before they have become quite dry, and indeed that the leaves of the fig and holm-oak and also ivy-leaves should be fed to oxen; they are also given the leaves of the reed and the laurel. The service-tree sheds its leaves all at once, but all the other trees lose them gradually.And so much on the subject of leaves.
XXXIX. The following is the order which Nature observes throughout the year. First comes fertilization, taking place when the west wind begins to blow, which is generally from February the 8th. This wind impregnates the creatures that derive life from the earthindeed in Spain even the mares, as we have stated: this is the generating breath of the universe, its name Favonius being derived, as some have supposed, from fovere, 'to foster.' It blows from due west and marks the beginning of spring. Country people call it the cubbing season, as Nature is longing to receive the seeds; and when she brings life to all the seeds sown, they conceive in a varying number of days and each according to its nature, some immediately, as is the case with animals, while some do so more slowly and carry their progeny for a longer period of gestation, and the process is consequently called 'germination.' When a plant flowers it may be said to give birth, and the flower produced makes its appearance by bursting the capsules; the process of its upbringing takes place in the fruit stage.
This and the process of budding are the trees' labour;
XL. the blossom is the token of full spring and of the rebirth of the year.The blossom is the trees' rejoicing: it is then that they show themselves new creatures and transformed from what they really are, it is then that they quite revel in rivalling each other with the varied hues of their colouring. But to many of them this is denied, for they do not all blossom, and some of them are sombre and incapable of enjoying the delights of the seasons; the holmoak, the pitch-pine, the larch and the pine do not bedeck themselves with any blossom or announce the yearly birthdays of their fruit by a many-coloured harbinger, nor yet do the cultivated and the wild fig, for they produce their fruit straight away instead of a blossom, and in the case of the fig it is also remarkable that there are abortive fruits that never ripen. The juniper also does not blossomthough some writers record two kinds of juniper, one of which flowers but does not bear, and one which does not flower but does bear, its berries coming to birth immediately, which remain on the tree for two years; but this is a mistake, and all the junipers present the same gloomy aspect always. Similarly, the fortunes of many human beings also lack a flowering season.
XLI. All trees however produce buds, even those which do not blossom. There is also a great difference between localities, inasmuch as of the same kind of tree those growing in marshy places bud earlier, those on the plains next and those in woods last of all; but taking them separately the wild pear buds earlier than the rest, the cornel buds when the west wind begins to blow, next the laurel, and a little before the equinox the lime and maplewhile among the earliest trees to flower are the poplar, elm, willow, alder and the nuts; the plane also buds quickly. The other trees bud when spring is about to begin, the holly, terebinth, Christ's thorn, chestnut and the acorn-bearing trees, while the apple is a late budder, and the cork buds latest of all. Some trees bud twice, owing to excessive fertility of soil or the allurement of agreeable weather, and this occurs to a greater degree with the young blades of cereals, although in trees excessive budding tends to exhaust the sap; but some trees have other buddings by nature, in addition to that which takes place in spring, these being settled by their own constellations (an account of which will be given more appropriately in the next volume but one after this)a winter budding at the rising of Aquila, a summer one at the rising of the Dog-star and a third at the rising of Arcturus. Some people think that the two latter buddings are common to all trees, but that they are most noticeable in the fig, the vine and the pomegranate; and they explain this as due to the fact that those are the times when there is the most abundant crop of figs in Thessaly and Macedonia; although this explanation holds good most clearly in Egypt. Also whereas the rest of the trees, as soon as they have begun to bud, keep on budding continuously, the hard-oak, the fir and the larch divide the process into three parts and produce their buds in three batches; consequently they also shed scales of bark three times, a process which occurs in all trees during germination because the bark of the pregnant tree is burst open. But their first budding is at the beginning of spring and takes about a fortnight, while they bud for the second time when the sun is passing through the Twins, with the consequence that the first shoots are seen to be pushed up by those that follow, the growth being attached by a joint. The third budding period of the same trees, which starts from midsummer, is the shortest, and does not take more than a week; and on this occasion also the jointing on the tips as they grow out is clearly visible. Only the vine buds twice, first when it puts forth a cluster and then when it spreads it out. Those species which do not blossom only produce shoots and mature them. Some blossom at once during the process of budding, and are quick in the blossom but slow in ripening, for instance the vine; some blossom with a late budding and ripen quickly, for instance the mulberry, which buds the latest among cultivated trees and only when the cold weather is over, owing to which it has been called the wisest of the trees; but when its budding has begun it breaks out all over the tree so completely that it is completed in a single night with a veritable crackling.
XLII. Of the trees that we have spoken of as budding in winter at the rising of Aquila, the almond blossoms first of all, in the month of January, while in March it develops its fruit. The next to flower after the almond is the Armenian plum, then the jujube and the early peachthese exotic trees and forced; the first to flower in the order of nature are, of forest trees, the elder, which has a great deal of pith, and the male cornel, which has none; and of cultivated trees the apple, and a little afterwards, so that they can be seen blossoming simultaneously, the pear, the cherry and the plum. These are followed by the laurel, and that by the cypress, and then the pomegranate and the figs. When these are already flowering the vines and the olives also bud, and their sap rises at the rising of the Pleiadesthat is their constellation, whereas the vine flowers at midsummer, and also the olive, which begins a little later. All begin to shed their blossom not sooner than a week after flowering, and some more slowly, but none more than a fortnight later, and all well within the 8th of July, anticipated by the trade-winds.
XLIII. In the case of some trees the fruit does not follow immediately. The cornel produces its fruit about midsummer; it is at first white and afterwards blood-red. The female of the same kind bears its berries after autumn; they are sour and no animal will touch them; also its wood is spongy and of no use, although the timber of the male tree is one of the strongest and hardest there is, so great is the difference caused by sex in the same kind of tree. The terebinth and also the maple and the ash produce their seed at harvest time, but nut-trees, apples and pears, excepting winter or early varieties, in the autumn, and the acorn-bearing trees still later, at the setting of the Pleiades, the winter oak only in autumn, while some kinds of apple and pear and the cork-tree fruit at the beginning of winter. The fir flowers with a saffron-coloured blossom about midsummer and produces its seed after the setting of the Pleiades; but the pine and the pitch-pine come before it in budding by about a fortnight, though they themselves also drop their seed after the Pleiades.
XLIV. Citrus-trees and the juniper and the holm-oak are classed as bearing all the year round, and on these trees the new crop of fruit hangs along with that of the previous year. The pine, however, is the most remarkable, as it carries both fruit that is beginning to ripen and that which will ripen in the following year and also in the year after next. Also no tree reproduces itself with more eagerness: within a month of a cone being plucked from it another cone is ripening in the same place, an arrangement which ensures that there are cones ripening in every single month of the year. Pine-cones that split while still on the tree are called azaniae, and if they are not removed they injure the rest of the crop.
XLV. The only trees that bear no fruitI mean not even seedare the tamarisk, which is of no use except for making brooms, the poplar, the alder, the Atinian elm and the alaternus, the leaves of which are between those of the holm-oak and the olive; but trees that never grow from seed nor bear fruit are considered to be unlucky and under a curse. Cremutius states that the tree from which Phyllis hanged herself is never green. People open gum-producing trees after they have budded, but the gum does not thicken until after the fruit has been removed.
XLVI. Sapling trees have no fruit as long as they are growing. The trees most liable to lose their fruit before it ripens are the palm, the fig, the almond, the apple and the pear, and also the pomegranate, which excessive dew and frost cause to lose its flower as well. In consequence of this people bend down its branches, lest if they shoot straight upright they may receive and retain the moisture which is injurious to them. The pear and almond lose their blossom even if it does not rain but a south wind sets in or the sky is cloudy, and if that sort of weather has prevailed after they have shed their blossom, they lose their first fruit. But it is the willow that loses its seed most quickly, before it approaches ripeness at all. This is the reason why Homer gives it the epithet 'fruit-losing'; but succeeding ages have interpreted the meaning of the word in the light of its own wicked conduct, inasmuch as it is well known that willow seed taken as a drug produces barrenness in a woman. But Nature, showing her foresight in this matter also, has been rather careless about bestowing seed on a tree that is propagated easily even a planted sprig. It is said however that one variety of willow usually carries its seed till it ripens; this grows on the island of Crete just by the path coming down from the Cave of Jupiter; it has a hard woody seed of the size of a chick-pea.
XLVII. Some trees are rendered barren by a fault in the locality, for instance the forest of Cende on Paros, which bears nothing; and the peach-trees on Rhodes only produce blossom. This peculiarity is also caused by sex, as in the kinds of trees of which the males do not bear; though some people reverse this and assert that it is the male trees that bear. Another cause of barrenness is thick growth of leaves.
XLVIII. Some trees producing fruit bear it both of on the sides and at the end of their branches, for instance the pear, the pomegranate, the fig and the myrtle. In other respects they have the same nature as cereal plants, for in their case also the ear grows at the tip of the stalks, whereas beans grow on the sides. The palm-tree alone, as has been stated, has its fruit, enclosed in spathes, hanging down in bunches.
XLIX. The remaining trees have their fruit underneath their leaves for its protection, except the fig, the leaf of which is very large and gives a great deal of shade, and because of this the fruit hangs above the leaves. The fig is also the only tree whose leaf forms later than the fruit. A remarkable thing reported in the case of a certain kind of fig-tree found in Cilicia and Cyprus and on the mainland of Greece is that the figs grow underneath the leaves, but the abortive fruit that does not mature forms after the leaves have grown. The fig-tree also produces an early crop of fruit, called at Athens 'forerunners,' especially in the Spartan variety.
In the same class of fruit-trees there are some that bear two crops,
L. and on the island of Cos the wild figs bear three, the first eliciting a following crop and the following crop a third one. It is this last crop that is used in the process of caprification. But in the wild fig also the fruit grows at the back of the leaves. Among the apples and the pears there are some that bear two crops a year, as also there are some early varieties. The wild apple bears twice, its second crop coming after the rising of Arcturus, especially in sunny localities. There are indeed vines that actually bear three crops, which consequently people call 'mad vines,' because on these some grapes are ripening while others are just beginning to swell and other bunches are only in flower. Marcus Varro states that there once was a vine at the temple of the Mother of the Gods in Smyrna that bore three times a year, and an apple tree in the district of Cosenza that did the same. But this regularly occurs in the district of Tacupe in Africa (about which we shall say more in another place), such is the fertility of the soil. The cypress also bears three times, for its berries are gathered in January, May and September, and those of each crop are of a different size.
But also in the trees themselves, even when laden with fruit, there is a difference between different kinds: the arbutus and the oak bear more fruit in their upper part and the walnut and the marisca fig on their lower branches. All trees bear earlier the older they grow, and bear earlier in sunny places and on a thin soil; all wild trees are later, some of them never ripening their fruit at all. Similarly trees that have the earth underneath them ploughed or broken up ripen their fruit quicker than ones that are not attended to; those so treated also bear larger crops.
LI. Moreover there is another difference, connected with age. Almond-trees and pears have the largest crops in their old age, as also do the acorn-bearing trees and one kind of fig, but all the other fruit-trees when young and when ripening more slowly; and this is especially noticeable in the case of vines, for the older vines make better wine and the young ones give a larger quantity. The apple however grows old very quickly and in its old age bears inferior fruit, as the apples it produces are smaller and liable to be worm-eaten, the worms being also generated on the tree itself. The fig is the only one of all the trees grown that is given a ding to assist its ripeningtruly a portentous thing, that greater prices are paid for fruit out of season. But all fruit-trees that bear their fruit before the proper time grow old prematurely; indeed some die at once when the weather has lured them to surrender their whole stock of fertility, a thing that happens most of all to vines. The mulberry, on the other hand, grows old very slowly, being very little exhausted by its crop; and also the trees whose timber has wrinkled markings age slowly, for instance the palm, the maple and the poplar. Also trees grow old more quickly when the earth under them is ploughed, whereas forest trees age very slowly. Consequently trees carefully tended blossom earlier and bud earlier, and are in advance of the season generally; and in general all attention adds fertility, while fertility advances old age, because every weakness is rendered more subject to the weather.
LII. Many trees grow several products, as we said in the case of acorn-bearing trees. Among them, the laurel bears its own grapes, and especially the barren laurel, which produces nothing else, and which is consequently thought by some people to be the male tree. Hazels also bear catkins of a hard, compact shape, which are of no use for any purpose; but the holm-oak produces the greatest number of things, for it grows both its own seed and the grain called crataegus, and mistletoe grows on the north side of the tree and hyphear on the south sidewe shall say more about these a little laterand occasionally the trees have all four of these things together.
LIII. Some trees are of simple shape, having one stem rising from the root and a number of branches, as the olive, fig and vine; some belong to the bushy class, as the Christ's thorn and the myrtle, and also the hazelin fact this bears better and more abundant nuts when it spreads out into many branches. Some trees have no branches at all, for instance the box of the cultivated variety and the foreign lotus. Some trees are forked, and even branch out into five parts, some divide the trunk but have no branches, as is the case with the elder, and some are undivided and have branches, like the pitch-pines. Some have their branches in a regular order, for instance the pitch-pine, the fir, with others their arrangement is irregular, as with the oak, apple and pear. Also in the case of the fir the branching is nearly vertical and the boughs project upward towards the sky, and do not slope down sideways. It is a remarkable thing that this tree dies if the tops of the branches are lopped, but survives if they are cut off entirely from the trunk; also should the trunk be cut off below where the branches were, what remains lives, whereas if only the top be removed the whole tree dies. Some trees branch out from the root up, like the elm, others throw out boughs only at the top, like the pine and the Greek bean-tree, which at Rome they call the lotus because of the sweetness of its fruit, which although growing wild almost resembles cherries. The exuberance of its branches makes it specially in request for houses, as they grow on a short main stem and spread out with a very wide expanse of shade, often leaping across to the neighbouring mansions. No shady foliage is more short-lived, and the branches do not take away the sun, their leaves falling in winter. No trees have bark that is more agreeable or attractive to look at, and none have branches that are longer and stouter or more numerous, so that they might be described as being themselves so many trees. Their bark serves for staining hides and their root for dyeing wool. Apple trees have branches of a peculiar kind, resembling the muzzles of wild animals, several smaller boughs being attached to one very large one.
LIV. Some branches are without eyes and do not form buds, this being a natural consequence of their not having fully developed, or else a penalty when a scar inflicted in pruning has blunted their powers. In a vine the eye and in a reed the joint contain the same nature that trees which spread out have in their branch. With all trees the parts nearest the pound are thicker. The fir, the larch, the palm, the cypress, the elm and all the trees with a single trunk make their growth in the direction of height. Among the branching trees the cherry is found making timbers as much as 20 yards long and a yard thick for the whole length. Some trees spread out into branches at once, for example apples.
LV. The bark of some trees is thin, as in the laurel and the lime, that of others thick, as in the oak; in some it is smooth, as in the apple and the fig, but it is rough in the oak and the palm, and in all trees it becomes more wrinkled in old age. With certain trees, for instance the vine, it bursts of its own accord, while certain others actually shed their bark, for instance the apple and the arbutus. The bark of the cork-tree and the poplar is fleshy, that of the vine and the reed is like a skin; in the cherry it resembles the layers of the papyrus; the skin of the vine, the lime and the fir consists of a number of coats, but in some cases it is a single layer, for instance in the fig and the reed.
LVI. There is also a great difference in the roots of trees: those of the fig, the hard-oak and the plane are abundant, those of the apple short and thin, those of the fir and larch single, as these trees are supported by a single root, although it throws out small fibres laterally. The roots of the laurel are rather thick and of uneven shape, and the same with the olive, the roots of which also form branches, but those of the hard-oak are fleshy. Hard-oaks drive their roots down deep, indeed the winter oak, at all events if we believe Virgil, goes down as deep with. its root as it projects upward with its trunk. The olive and apple and cypresses spread their roots through the top layer of the turf, in some cases shooting straight out, as with the laurel and olive, and in other cases winding about, as with the fig. This tree bristles with fine filaments, as also do the fir and a number of forest trees, from which the mountain people pluck extremely thin threads and plait them into handsome flasks and other vessels. Some people have stated that the roots of trees do not go down deeper than the warmth of the sun's heat can reach, and this according to the nature of the soil, whether rather thin or heavy; but I think that this is incorrect, as it is certainly found in the authorities that when a fir-tree was transplanted it measured four yards in depth, though it had not been dug up whole but had been broken off. The root of the citrus-wood tree is the largest in extent and abundance, and next to it those of the plane, the hard-oak and the acorn-bearing trees. Some trees have a root that is more tenacious of life than the part above ground, for instance the laurel; and accordingly, when it has withered in the trunk, if it is cut back it shoots again even more vigorously. Some people think that trees grow old more quickly owing to having short roots, but this is disproved by figtrees, which have very long roots and grow old very quickly. I also consider false a statement that has been made by some persons, to the effect that the roots of trees become smaller with age, for an aged oak when overturned by a violent storm has been seen to embrace a Roman acre of ground.
LVII. It is a common occurrence for fallen trees often to be replaced and to come back to life again owing to the earth forming a sort of scab over the wound. This is most common with plane trees, which hold a very large quantity of wind because of the density of their branches, which are lopped to relieve the trees of the weight and the trees are then replanted in their own hole; and this has before now also been done in the case of walnuts and olives and a number of other trees. There are also many cases of trees having fallen even without a storm or any other cause except one of a miraculous nature and having risen up again of their awn accord. This portent occurred to the citizens of the Roman nation during the Cimbrian wars in the case of an elm in the grove of Juno at Nocera, actually after its top had been lopped off because it was leaning forward right on to the altar; the tree was restored of its own accord so completely that it at once flowered, and from that date onward the majesty of the Roman people recovered, after having previously been ravaged by disasters in war. It is recorded that this also happened at Philippi with a willow that had fallen down and had been severed from its trunk, and at Stagira with a white poplar in the shrine of the Muses, all of these occurrences being of good omen. But most wonderful of all, a plane-tree at Antandros recovered of its own accord and was restored to life even after its sides had been rough-hewn all round, a tree 22 feet high and 6 feet thick.
LVIII. Those trees which we owe to Nature grow in three ways, spontaneously or by seed or from a root. More numerous artificial methods have come into existence, about which we shall speak in the volume given to the subject; for at the present our whole discourse is about Nature, so memorable for her manifold and marvellous methods. In fact, we have shown that not all trees will grow in all places, or live if removed from one place to another; this is due in some cases to antipathy, in others to obstinacy, more frequently to the weakness of the specimens transplanted, because in some cases the climate is unfavourable and in others the soil is incompatible.
LIX. Balm of Gilead disdains to grow elsewhere, and a citron grown in Assyria will not bear elsewhere; and likewise the palm also will not grow everywhere or, even if it does grow, bear fruit, or else even when it has made a promise and a show of bearing, refuses to mature the fruit, seeming to have given birth to it against its will. The cinnamon shrub has not the strength to travel to the neighbourhood of Syria. The delicate perfumes of amomum and nard cannot endure to travel out of India and be conveyed by sea even as far as Arabiaan attempt to import them was made by King Seleueus. What is most surprising is that although the trees themselves can usually be persuaded to live and to bear transplantation, and occasionally even the soil will grant the request to nourish foreigners and give food to immigrants, the climate is absolutely unrelenting. The pepper-tree will live in Italy, and the casia-plant even in a northern region, and the incense-tree has been known to live in Lydia, but where are we to get the sunshine that sucks all the juice out of these plants or ripens the drops of essence that they shed? It is nearly as surprising that Nature may alter in the same localities and yet retain a hundred percent of her vigour. She had bestowed the cedar on the regions of torrid heat, but it in the mountains of Lycia and Phrygia. She had made cold unfriendly to but no tree is more frequent on Mount Olympus. In the city of Kertch in the neighbourhood of the Cimmerian Bosphorus, King Mithridates and the rest of the natives had toiled in every way to have the laurel and the myrtle, at all events for ritual purposes, but they did not succeed, although trees belonging to a mild climate abound there, pomegranates and figs, as well as apples and pears that win the highest praise. In the same region Nature has not produced the trees that belong to cold climatespine, fir and pitch-pine. And what is the point of our going abroad to the Black Sea? In the actual neighbourhood of Rome chestnuts and cherries only grow with reluctance, and the peachtree round Tusculum, and almonds are laboriously grown from graft, although Tarracina teems with whole woods of them.
LX. The cypress is an exotic, and has been one of the most difficult trees to rear, seeing that Cato has written about it at greater length and more often than about all the other trees, as stubborn to grow, of no use for fruit, with berries that cause a wry face, a bitter leaf, and a pungent smell: not even its shade agreeable and its timber scanty, so that it almost belongs to the class of shrubs; consecrated to Dis, and consequently placed at the doors of houses as a sign of mourning. The female bears seed but the male is sterile. For a long time past merely owing to its pyramidal appearance it was not rejected just for the purpose of marking the rows in vineyards, but nowadays it is clipped and made into thick walls or evenly rounded off with trim slenderness, and it is even made to provide the representations of the landscape gardener's work, arraying hunting scenes or fleets of ships and imitations of real objects with its narrow, short, evergreen leaf. There are two kinds of cypress: the pyramid, tapering upward in a spiral, which is also called the female cypress, and the male cypress which spreads its branches outward from itself, and is pruned and used as a prop for a vine. Both the male and the female are allowed to grow up so as by having their branches lopped off to form poles or props, which after twelve years' growth sell for a denarius apiece, a grove of cypresses being a most profitable item in one's plantation account; and people in old days used commonly to call cypress nurseries a dowry for a daughter. The native country of this tree is the island of Crete, although Cato calls it Taranto cypress, no doubt because that place was where it was first imported. In the island of Ischia also, if cut down, it will shoot up again; but in Crete this tree is produced by spontaneous generation wherever anybody stirs the earth, and shoots out at once, in this case in fact even without any demand being made of the soil and of its awn accord, and especially in the mountains of Ida and those called the White Mountains, and in the greatest number on the very summits of the peaks that are never free from snow, which may well surprise us, as the tree does not occur elsewhere except in a warm climate and has a great dislike for snow.
LXI. Nor is only the nature of the soil important in relation to these trees, or the permanent character of the weather, but also a certain temporary influence that it exerts: showers of rain usually bring with them certain seeds, and seeds of a certain kind stream down, occasionally even some of an unknown kind, which happened in the district of Cyrenaica, when laser first grew there, as we shall say in the section dealing with herbaceous plants. Also near that city a shower of thick, pitchy rain caused a wood to grow up.
LXII. It is said that ivy now grows in Asia Minor. Theophrastus about 314 BC. had stated that it did not grow there, nor yet in India except on Mount Meros, and indeed that Harpalus had used every effort to grow it in Media without success, while Alexander had come back victorious from India with his army wearing wreaths of ivy, because of its rarity, in imitation of Father Liber; and it is even now used at solemn festivals among the peoples of Thrace to decorate the wands of that god, and also the worshippers' helmets and shields, although it is injurious to all trees and plants and destructive to tombs and walls, and very agreeable to chilly snakes, so that it is surprising that any honour has been paid to it.
There are two primary kinds of ivy, as of the rest of the plants, the male and the female. The male is said to have the larger stem and leaf, which also are harder and have more sap, and so it also has a larger flower, approaching purple in colour; but the flower of both male and female resembles the wild rose, except that it has no scent. These kinds each comprise three species, for ivy is white or black and a third species is called helix. Moreover these species divide into others, since one kind only has white fruit but another has a white leaf as well; also in some of those bearing white fruit the berry is closely packed and rather large, hanging in round bunches which are called 'clusters,' and also Silenici when the berry is smaller and the bunch less compactas similarly occurs in the black variety. Also one kind has a black seed and another a seed of the colour of saffron; the latter ivy is used by poets for their wreaths, and its leaves are not so dark in colour; some people call it Nysian ivy and others Bacchic ivy, and it has the largest clusters of all the black ivies. Some people among the Greeks also make two classes of this variety, depending on the colour of the berriesred-berry ivy and golden-fruit ivy.
But it is the helix which has most varieties of all, as it differs very greatly in leaf. The leaves are small and angular and of a rather elegant shape, whereas those of the remaining kinds are plain and simple. It differs also in the distance between the joints, but particularly in its infertility, as it does not bear any fruit. Some people think that this is a matter of age and not of kind, and that the plant begins as a helix and becomes an ivy when it gets old. This is seen to be a clear mistake on their part, inasmuch as we find several more kinds of helix, but three that are most noticeablethe grass-green helix which is the commonest, a second kind with a white leaf, and a third kind with a variegated leaf, which is called Thracian ivy. Moreover there is a grass-ivy with rather narrow and symmetrically arranged and rather thickly growing leaves, and in another variety all these points are different; also in the variegated ivy one variety has narrower leaves arranged in a similar way and clustering more thickly, and another variety entirely lacking these features, and also the leaves are either larger or smaller, and differ in the arrangement of their markings; and in the white ivy in some cases the leaves are whiter than in others. The grass-green ivy grows the longest shoots; but it is the white ivy that kills trees, and by taking from them all their sap grows so thick a stalk as itself to become a tree. Its characteristics are very large, very broad leaves, fat stiff buds, which in the other kinds are bent, and clusters standing up erect; and although in every kind of ivy the arms take root, yet this kind has the most spreading and powerful arms, those of the black ivy coming next. But it is a peculiarity of the white ivy that it throws out arms among the middle of its leaves, with which it always embraces things on either side, this being the case even on walls, although it is unable to go round them. Consequently even though it is cut apart at several places nevertheless it lives and lasts on, and it has as many points to strike root with as it has arms, which make it safe and solid while it sucks and strangles trees. There is also a difference in the fruit of the white and the black ivy, since in some cases it is so bitter that birds will not touch it.
There is also a stiff ivy, which is the only kind that will stand without a prop, and which consequently has the name in Greek of 'straight ivy'; while on the other hand the one called in Greek 'ground-ivy' is never found except creeping on the ground.
LXIII. Resembling ivy is the plant called smilax, which first came from Cilicia, but is now more common in Greece; it has thick jointed stalks and thorny branches that make it a kind of shrub; the leaf resembles that of the ivy, but is small and has no corners, and throws out tendrils from its stalk; the flower is white and has the scent of a lily. It bears clusters of berries like those of the wild vine, not of the ivy; they are red in colour, and the larger ones enclose three hard black stones but the smaller a single stone. This plant is unlucky to use at all sacred rites and for wreaths, because it has a mournful association, a maiden named Smilax having been turned into a smilax shrub because of her love for a youth named Crocus. The common people not knowing this usually pollute their festivals with it because they think that it is ivy; just as in the case of the poets or Father Liber or Silenus, who wear wreaths made of who in the world knows what?
Smilax is used for making tablets; it is a peculiarity of this wood to give out a slight sound when placed to one's ear. It is said that ivy has a remarkable property for testing wines, inasmuch as a vessel made of its wood allows wine to pass through it, water that has been mixed with the wine stops in the vessel.
LXIV. Among the plants that like cold conditions it may also be proper to have the aquatic shrubs mentioned. The primacy among these will be held by the reeds, which are indispensable for the practices of war and of peace and are also acceptable for our amusement. The northern peoples thatch their homes with reeds, and roofs of this kind last for ages, while in other parts of the world as well reeds also provide very light ceilings for rooms. And reeds serve as pens for writing on paper, especially Egyptian reeds owing to their kinship as it were with the papyrus; although the reeds of Cnidus and those that grow round the Anaetic lake in Asia are more esteemed. Those of our country have a more fungous substance underneath the surface, made of spongy cartilage which has a hollow structure inside and a thin, dry, woody surface, and easily breaks into splinters which always have an extremely sharp edge. For the rest it is of a slender appearance, jointed and divided with knots and tapering gradually off to the top with a rather thick tuft of hair, which also is not without value, as it either serves instead of feathers to stuff the beds of innkeepers, or in places where it grows very hard and woody in structure, as in Belgium, it is pounded up and inserted between the joints of ships to caulk the seams, holding better than glue and being more reliable for filling cracks than pitch.
LXV. The peoples of the East employ reeds in making war; by means of reeds with a feather added to them. They hasten the approach of death, and to reeds they add points which deal wounds with their barb that cannot be extracted, and if the weapon itself breaks in the wound, another weapon is made out of it. With these weapons they obscure the very rays of the sun, and this is what chiefly makes them want calm weather and hate wind and rain, which compel the combatants to keep peace between them. And if anybody should make a rather careful reckoning of the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Arabs, Indians, Scythians and Bactrians, and the numerous races of the Sarmatians and of the East, and all the realms of the Parthians, almost one-half of mankind in the whole world lives subject to the sway of the reed. It was outstanding skill in this employment of the reed in Crete that made her warriors famous; but in this also, as in all other things, Italy has won the victory, as no reed is more suitable for arrows than that which grows in the river at Bologna, the Reno, which contains the largest amount of pith and has a good flying weight and a balance that offers a sturdy resistance even to gusts of windan attraction which does not belong in the same degree to the shafts grown in Belgium. The reeds of Crete also have the same valuable property, although those from India are placed highest of all, some people believing that they belong to a different species, as with the addition of points they also serve the purpose of lances. The Indian bamboo indeed is of the size of a tree, as we see in the case of the specimens frequently found in our temples. The Indians say that in this plant also there is a difference between males and females, the male having a more compact body and the female a bulkier one. And a single length between knots, if we can believe it, will actually serve as a boat. The bamboo grows especially on the banks of the river Chenab.
Every kind of reed makes a great many stems from one root, and when it is cut down it grows again even more prolifically. The root is by nature very tenacious of life; it as well as the stem is jointed. Only the Indian bamboo has short leaves, but in all the reeds the leaves sprout from a knot and wrap the stem all round with coats of thin tissue, and at a point halfway between two knots usually cease to clothe the stems and droop forward. The reed and the cane though round have two sides, with a series of shoots thrown out above the knots alternately, so that one forms on the right side and then another at the next joint above on the left, turn and turn about. From these sometimes grow branches, which are themselves slender canes.
LXVI. There are, however, several varieties of reed. One is rather compact and has joints closer together, with short spaces between them, while another has them farther apart with larger spaces between them, and is also thinner in itself. But another kind of cane is hollow for its whole length; its Greek name means the flute-reed, and it is very useful for making flutes because it contains no pith and no fleshy substance. The Orchomenus cane has a passage right through even the knots, and is called in Greek the pipe-reed; this is more suitable for flageolets, as the preceding kind is for flutes. There is another reed the wood of which is thicker and the passage narrow; this reed is entirely filled with spongy pith. Reeds are of various lengths and thickness. The one called the donax throws out most shoots; it only grows in watery placesinasmuch as this also constitutes a difference, a reed growing in dry places being much preferred. The reed used as an arrow is a special kind, as we have said, but the Cretan variety has the longest intervals between the knots, and when heated allows itself to be bent in any direction you please. Also differences are made by the leaves, which vary not only in number and length but also in colour. The Laconian reed has spotted leaves, and throws out a greater number at the bottom of the stalk, as is thought to be the case with reeds in general that grow round marshy pools, which are different from river reeds, being draped with long leaves climbing upward and embracing the stem for a considerable distance above the knot. There is also a slanting reed which does not shoot upward to any height but spreads itself out close to the ground like a shrub; it is very attractive to animals when young and tender, and is called by some people the cletia. Also in Italy there is a growth, found in marsh-reeds, only coming out of the outer skin just below the tuft, named adarca, which is very beneficial for the teeth, as it has the same pungency as mustard.
The admiration expressed in old days for the reed-beds of the Lake of Orchomenus compels me to speak about them in greater detail. The Greek name for a rather thick, stronger kind of reed used to be 'fence-reed,' and for a more slender variety 'plaiting reed,' the latter growing in islands floating on the water and the former on the banks overflowed by the lake. The third is the flageolet reed'pipe-reed' used to be the Greek name for it. This took eight years to grow, as the lake also regularly took that space of time in rising, it being thought to be a bad omen if ever it continued at its full height two years longer, a thing that was marked by the fatal Athenian battle at Chaeronea. Not far off is Lebadea ... is called the Cephisus flowing into it. When therefore the flooding has continued for a year, the reeds grow even to a size suitable for purposes of fowlink: these used to be called in Greek 'yoke-reeds'; on the other hand those growing when the flood goes down sooner were called 'silky reeds,' with a thin stalk, those with a broader and whiter leaf being distinguished by the name of 'female reeds,' and those with only a small amount of down or none at all being called 'eunuchs.' These supplied the instruments for glorious music, though mention must also not be omitted of the further remarkable trouble required to grow them, so that excuse may be made for the present-day preference for musical instruments of silver. Down to the time of the flautist Antigenides, when a simple style of music was still practised, the reeds used to be regarded as ready for cutting after the rising of Arcturus. When thus prepared the reeds began to be fit for use a few years later, though even then the actual flutes needed maturing with a great deal of practice, and educating to sing of themselves, with the tongues pressing themselves down, which was more serviceable for the theatrical fashions then prevailing. But after variety came into fashion, and luxury even in music, the reeds began to be cut before midsummer and made ready for use in three years, their tongues being wider open to modulate the sounds, and these continue to the present day. But at that time it was firmly believed that only a tongue cut from the same reed as the pipe in each ease would do, and that one taken from just above the root was suitable for a left-hand flute and one from just below the top for a right-hand flute; and reeds that had been washed by the waters of Cephisus itself were rated as immeasurably superior. At the present time the flutes used by the Tuscans in religious ritual are made of box-wood, but those for theatrical performances are made of lotus and asses' bones and silver. The reeds most approved for fowling come from Palermo, and those to make fishing-rods are from Abarsa in Africa.
LXVII. In Italy the reed is chiefly employed to serve as a prop for vines. Cato recommends planting it in damp lands, after first working the soil with a double mattock, a space a yard wide being left between the shoots; and he says that at the same time also wild asparagus, from which garden asparagus is produced, associates in friendship with it, and so does willow when planted round itthe willow being the most useful of the water-plants, although vines like poplars and the Caecuban vines are trained up on them, and although alders in hedges give rather close a protection and, if planted together in water, stand sentry like banks to guard the country against the assaults of the rivers when they overflow, and when cut down they are useful because of the innumerable suckers that they produce as successors.
LXVIII. The uses made of willows are of several kinds. They send out rods of great length used for vine-trellises and at the same time provide strips of bark for withes, and some grow shoots of a yielding flexibility useful for tying, others extremely thin ones suitable for weaving into basketwork of an admirably fine texture, and other stronger ones for plaiting baskets and a great many agricultural utensils, while the whiter ones when the bark has been removed and they have been worked smooth do to make bottles more capacious than any that can be made of leather, and also are extremely suitable for luxurious easy chairs. The willow sprouts again after being lopped, and from the short stump, which is more like a fist than a branch, makes a thicker growth for cutting, the tree being in our opinion not one of the last to choose for cultivation, inasmuch as none yields a safer return or involves less outlay, and none is more indifferent to weather.
LXIX. Cato attributes to the willow the third place in the estimation of the countryside, and puts it before the cultivation of the olive and before corn or meadowlandand this is not because other kinds of withes are lacking, inasmuch as the broom, the poplar, the elm, the blood-red cornel, the birch, the reed when split and the leaves of the reed, as in Liguria, and the vine itself and brambles after the thorns have been cut off serve as ties, and also the hazel when twistedand it is surprising that any wood should make stronger ties after being bruised by twisting; nevertheless it is the willow that has the properties specially required for this purpose. The Greek red willow is split, while the Amerian willow, which has a lighter colour but is a little more fragile, is consequently used as a tie without having been split. Three kinds are known in Asia: the black willow, which is more useful for ties, the white willow for agricultural purposes, and a third kind, which is the shortest, called the helix. With us also many people distinguish the same number of varieties by name; they call one 'plaiting willow' and also 'purple willow,' another, which is thinner, 'dormouse willow' from its colour, and a third, the thinnest, 'Gallic willow.'
LXX. The rush, having a fragile stalk and being a marsh plant, is not rightly to be reckoned in the class of bushes or of brambles or plants with stalks, nor yet among herbaceous plants, or in any other class except its own; it is used for making thatch and mats, and stripped of its outer coat serves for candles and funeral torches. In some places rushes are stronger and stiffer, for they are used to carry sails not only by boatmen on the Po but also at sea by the African fisherman, who hangs his sail in a preposterous fashion, between masts, and the Moors use them for roofing their cabins; and if one looks closely into the matter, rushes may appear to occupy the place held by the papyrus in the inner region of the world.
LXXI. Among water-plants, in a class of their own but of a bushy nature, are also brambles, and so are elders, which are of a spongy nature, though in a different way from the giant fennel, as at all events the elder has more wood; a shepherd believes that a horn or trumpet of elder wood will be louder if the wood was cut in some place where the elder bush is out of hearing of the crowing of cocks. Brambles bear blackberries, and one variety, which is called in Greek the dog-bramble, a flower like a rose. A third kind the Greeks call the Ida bramble, from the place where it grows, a more slender variety than the others, with smaller and less hooked thorns; its blossom is used to make an ointment for sore eyes, and also, dipped in honey, for St. Anthony's fire, and also soaked in water it makes a draught to cure stomach troubles. Elder-trees have small black berries with a sticky juice, chiefly med for a hair dye; these also are boiled in water and eaten.
LXXII. There is also a juice in the body of trees, which must be looked upon as their blood. It is not the same in all treesin figs it is a milky substance, which has the property of curdling milk so as to produce cheese, in cherries it is gummy, in elms slimy, sticky and fat, in apples, vines and pears watery. The stickier this sap is, the longer the trees live. And in general the bodies of trees, as of other living things, have in them skin, blood, flesh, sinews, veins, bones and marrow. The bark serves for a skin; it is a remarkable fact as regards the bark on a mulberry that when doctors require its juice they strike it with a stone two hours after sunrise in spring and the juice trickles out, but if a deeper wound is made the bark seems to be dry. Next to the bark most trees have layers of fatty substance, called from its white colour alburnum; this is soft and the worst part of the wood, rotting easily even in a hard oak and liable to woodworm, for which reason it will always be removed. Under this fat is the flesh of the tree and under the flesh the bones, that is the best part of the timber. Those trees which have a drier wood, for instance the olive, are more liable to bear fruit only every other year than trees whose wood is of a fleshy nature, like the cherry. And not all trees have a large amount of fat or flesh, any more than the most active among animals; there is no fat or flesh at all in the box, the cornel and the olive, nor any marrow, and only a very small quantity even of blood, just as the service-tree has no bones and the elder no fleshthough both have a great deal of marrownor have reeds for the greater part.
LXXIII. The flesh of some trees contains fibres and veins. It is easy to distinguish between them, the veins being broader and whiter than the fibre. Veins are found in wood that is easy to split, and consequently if you put your ear to one end of a beam of wood however great its length you can hear even taps made with a graver on the other end, the sound penetrating by passages running straight through the wood, and by this test you can detect whether the timber is twisted and interrupted by knots. In the ease of trees in which there are tuberosities resembling the glands in the flesh of an animal, these contain no vessels or fibres, but a kind of hard knot of flesh rolled up in a ball; in the citrus and the maple this is the most valuable part. The other kinds of wood employed for making tables are cut into circles by splitting the trees along the line of the fibre, as otherwise the vein cut across the round of the free would be brittle. In beech trees the grainings in the fibre run crosswise, and consequently even vessels made of beech-wood were highly valued in old days: Manius Curius declared on oath that he had touched nothing of the booty taken in a battle except a flask made of beech-wood, to use in offering sacrifices.
A log of timber floats more or less horizontally, each part of it sinking deeper the nearer it was to the root. Some timbers have fibre without veins, consisting of thin filaments merely; these are the easiest to split. Others have no fibre, and break more quickly than they split, for instance olives and vines. But on the other baud in the fig-tree the body consists entirely of flesh, while the holm-oak, eornel, hard oak, cytisus, mulberry, ebony, Lotus and the trees that we have stated to be without marrow, consist entirely of bone. The timber of all of these is of a blackish colour except the cornel, hunting spears made of which are bright yellow when notched with incisions for the purpose of decoration. The cedar, the larch and the juniper are red. The female larch contains wood called in Greek aegis, of the colour of honey; this wood when made into panels for pictures has been found to last for ever without being split by any cracks; it is the part of the trunk nearest to the pith; in the fir-tree the Greeks call this 'ilusson.' The hardest part of the cedar also is the part nearest the pithas the bones are in the bodyprovided the has been scraped off. It is reported that the inner part of the elder also is remarkably firm, and some people prefer hunting spears made of it to all others, as it consists entirely of skin and bones.
LXXIV. The proper time for felling trees that are to be stripped of their bark, for instance well-turned trees that are to be used for temples and other purposes requiring round pillars, is when they budat other times the bark is impossible to detach and decay is setting in under it and the timber is turning black; but the time for cutting beams and logs to be cleared of their bark by the axe is between midwinter and the period of westerly wind, or if we should be obliged to do it sooner, at the setting of Areturus and, before that, at the setting of the Lyreon the earliest calculation at midsummer: the dates of these constellations will be given in the proper place. It is commonly thought sufficient to take care that no tree is felled to be rough-hewn before it has born its fruit. The hard oak if cut in spring is liable to woodworm; if cut at midwinter it neither rots nor warps, but otherwise it is even liable to twist and to split, and this happens in the case of the cork-tree even if felled at the proper time. It is also of enormous importance to take account of the moon, and people recommend that trees should be felled only between the twentieth and thirtieth days of the month. It is universally agreed, however, that the most advantageous time for felling timber is when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, the date which some call the interlunar day and others the day of the moon's silence. At all events those were the limits fixed in advance by the Emperor Tiberius for felling larches in Raetia for the reconstruction of the deck of the Naval Sham Fight when it had been burnt down. Some people say that the moon ought to be in conjunction and below the horizon, a thing that can only happen in the night.
If conjunctions should coincide with the shortest day of the winter solstice, the timber produced lasts for ever; and the next best is when the conjunction coincides with the constellations mentioned above. Some people add the rising of the Dog-star also, and say that this was how the timber used for the Forum of Augustus was felled. But trees that are neither quite young nor old are the most useful for timber. Another plan not without value is followed by some people, who make a cut round the trees as far as the pith and then leave them standing, so that all the moisture may drain out of them. It is a remarkable fact that in old days in the first Punic War the fleet commanded by Duilius was on the water within 60 days after the timber left the tree, while, according to the account of Lucius Piso, the 220 ships that fought against King Hiero were built in 45 days; also in the second Punic war Scipio's fleet sailed on the 40th day after the timber had been felled. So effective is prompt action even in the hurry of an emergency.
LXXV. Cato, the leading authority on timber in all its uses, adds the following advice: 'Make a press of black fir wood for choice. With elm, pine or walnut timber, when you are going to root up these or any other tree, take them up when the moon is waning, in the afternoon, when there is not a south wind. A tree will be ready for felling when its seed is ripe. And be careful not to haul a tree or trim it with the axe when there is a dew.' And the same writer later: 'Do not touch timber except at new moon, or else at the end of the moon's second quarter; with timber which you dig up by the roots or cut off level with the ground, the seven days next after full moon are the best for removing it. Beware absolutely of rough-hewing or cutting or touching any timber unless it is dry, and when it is frozen or wet with dew. Similarly the emperor Tiberius kept to the period between two moons even in having his hair cut. Marcus Varro advises the plan of having one's hair cut just after full moon, as a precaution against going bald.
LXXVI. When the larch and still more the white fir has been felled, a liquid flows from them for a long time. These are the tallest and the straightest of all the trees. For the masts and spars of ships the fir is preferred because of its light weight. A property shared by these trees and also by the pine is that of having veins running through the wood in four or in two divisions, or else only in one line. The interior in the four-veined kind is the best timber to cut up for inlaid wood-work and that in the twoveined the worst, and softer than the other kinds; experts can tell them at once from the bark. Fir wood from the part of the tree that was near the ground is free from knots. This timber after being floated in a river in the way which we have described is cleared of bulges, and when so treated is called sappinus, while the upper part which is knotted and harder is called club-wood. Moreover in the trees themselves the parts towards the north-east are stronger; and in general trees from damp and shady places are inferior and those from sunny places are closer grained and durable; on this account at Rome fir from the Tuscan coast is preferred to that from the Adriatic.
In trees of this class there is also a difference corresponding to their native countries. The most highly spoken of grow on the Alps and the Apennincs, on the Jura and Vosges mountains of Gaul, in Corsica, Bithynia, Pontus and Macedonia. The firs of Aenia and Arcadia are inferior, and those of Parnassus and Enboea the worst, because in those places they are branchy and twisted and the wood is apt to rot. As for the cedar, those in Crete, Africa and Syria are the most highly spoken of. Timber well smeared with cedar oil does not suffer from maggot or decay. The juniper has the same excellence as the cedar; this tree grows to a great size in Spain and especially in the territory of the Vaccaei; the heart of its timber is everywhere even more solid than that of the cedar. A general fault of all timber is what is called cross-grain, when the veins and knots have grown twisted. In some trees are found centres like those in marble, that is hard pieces like a nail, unkind to the saw; and there are some hardnesses due to accident, as when a stone, or the branch of another tree, has been caught in a hollow and taken into the body of the tree. It is said that stones found inside trees serve as a preventive against abortion. In the market-place at Megara long stood a wild olive tree on which brave warriors had hung their weapons; these in the course of time had been hidden by the bark growing round them; and on this tree depended the fate of the city, an oracle having prophesied that it would be destroyed when a tree gave birth to armswhich happened to this tree when it was cut down, greaves and helmets being found inside it.
What is believed to have been the largest tree ever seen at Rome down to the present time was one that Tiberius Caesar caused to be exhibited as a marvel on the deck of the Naval Sham Fight before mentioned; it had been brought to Rome with the rest of the timber used, and it lasted till the amphitheatre of the emperor Nero. It was a log of larchwood, 120 feet long and of a uniform thickness of two feet, from which could be inferred the almost incredible height of the rest of the tree by calculating its length to the top. Within our own memory there was also an equally marvellous tree left by Marcus Agrippa in the porticos of the Voting-booths, left over from the timber used for the ballot office; this was twenty feet shorter than the one previously mentioned, and 18 inches in thickness. An especially wonderful fir was seen in the ship which brought from Egypt at the order of the emperor Gaius the obelisk erected in the Vatican Circus and four shafts of the same stone to serve as its base. It is certain that nothing more wonderful than this ship has ever been seen on the sea: it carried one hundred and twenty bushels of lentils for ballast, and its length took up a large part of the left side of the harbour of Ostia, for under the emperor Claudius it was sunk there, with three moles as high as towers erected upon it that had been made of Pozzuoli cement for the purpose and conveyed to the place. It took four men to span the girth of this tree with their arms; and we commonly hear that masts for those purposes cost 80,000 sesterces and more, and that to put together the rafts usually runs to 40,000. But in Egypt and Syria for want of fir the kings are said to have used cedar wood for their fleets; the largest cedar is reported to have been grown in Cyprus and to have been felled to make a mast for a galley with rowers in teams of eleven belonging to Demetrius; it was one hundred and thirty feet long and took three men to span its girth. The pirates of Germany voyage in boats made of a single tree hollowed out, some of which carry as many as thirty people.
The most close-grained of all timber and consequently the heaviest is judged to be ebony and box, both trees of a slender make. Neither will float in water, nor will the cork-tree if its bark be removed, nor the larch. Of the remainder the most close-grained is the one called at Rome the lotus, and next the hard oak when the white sap-wood has been removed. The hard oak also has wood of a dark colour, and still darker is that of the cytisus, which appears to come very near to ebony, although people are to be found who assert that the turpentine-trees of Syria are darker. Indeed there is a celebrated artificer named Thericles who used to turn goblets of turpentine-tree wood, which is a highly valued material; it is the only wood that needs to be oiled, and is improved by oil. Its colour can be wonderfully counterfeited by staining walnut and wild pear wood and boiling them in a chemical preparation. All the trees that we have mentioned have hard close-grained wood. Next after them comes the cornel, though its wood cannot be given a shiny polish became of its poor surface; but cornel wood is hardly useful for anything else except the spokes of wheels or in case something has to be wedged in wood or fixed with bolts made of it, which are as hard as iron. There are also the holm-oak, the wild and cultivated olive, the chestnut, the hornbeam and the poplar. The last is also mottled like the mapleif only any timber could be any good when the branches of the tree are frequently lopped: this amounts to gelding the tree, and takes away all its strength. For the rest, most of these trees, but especially the hard oak, are so hard that it is not possible to bore a hole in the wood until it has been soaked in water, and even then when a nail has been driven right into it it cannot be pulled out. On the other hand cedar gives no hold to a nail. The softest of all woods is lime, and it is also apparently the hottest as well: it is adduced in proof of this that it turns the edge of adzes quicker than any other wood. Other hot woods are mulberry, laurel, ivy and all those used for making matches.
LXXVII. This has been discovered by experience in the camps of military scouting parties and of shepherds, because there is not always a stone at hand to strike fire with; consequently two pieces of wood are rubbed together and catch fire owing to the friction, and the fire is caught in a lump of dry tinder, fungus or dead leaves catching most readily. But there is nothing better than ivy wood for rubbing against and laurel wood for rubbing with; one of the wild vines (not the claret-vine), which climbs up a tree like ivy, is also spoken well of. The trees that have the coldest wood of all are all that grow in water; but the most flexible, and consequently the most suitable for making shields, are those in which an incision draws together at once and closes up its own wound, and which consequently is more obstinate in allowing steel to penetrate; this class contains the vine, agnus castus, willow, lime, birch, elder, and both kinds of poplar. Of these woods the lightest and consequently the most useful are the agnus castus and the willow; but they are all suited for making baskets and things consisting of flexible wicker-work. Also they are shiny and hard, and easy to use in carvings. Plane has flexibility, but of a moist kind, like alder; a drier flexibility belongs to elm, ash, mulberry, and cherry, but it is heavier. Elm retains its toughness most stoutly, and is in consequence the most useful wood for the hinges and frames of doors, because it is not liable to warp, only it should be put the other way up, so that the top of the tree is towards the lower hinge and the root above. The palm is ... and also cork-tree timber is similar; apple and pear are also close-grained, as well as maple, but maple is brittle, and so are any veined woods. In all trees the characteristics of each kind are carried further by wild specimens and by males; and barren trees have stronger wood than fertile ones, except in species where the male trees bear, for instance the cypress and the cornel.
LXXVIII. The following trees do not experience decay and agecypress, cedar, ebony, lotus, box, yew, juniper, wild olive, cultivated olive; and of the remainder the slowest to age are the larch, hard oak, cork, chestnut and walnut. The cedar, cypress, cultivated olive and box do not split or crack of their own accord.
LXXIX. It is believed that ebony lasts an extremely long time, and also cypress and cedar, a clear verdict about all timbers being given in the temple of Diana at Ephesus, inasmuch as though the whole of Asia was building it it took 120 years to complete. It is agreed that its roof is made of beams of cedar, but as to the actual statue of the goddess there is some dispute, all the other writers saying that it is made of ebony, but one of the people who have most recently seen it and written about it, Mucianus, who was three times consul, states that it is made of the wood of the vine, and has never been altered although the temple has been restored seven times; and that this material was chosen by EndoeusMucianus actually specifies the name of the artist, which for my part I think surprising, as he assigns to the statue an antiquity that makes it older than not only Father Liber but Minerva also. He adds that nard is poured into it through a number of apertures so that the chemical properties of the liquid may nourish the wood and keep the joins togetheras to these indeed I am rather surprised that there should be anyand that the folding doors are made of cypress wood, and the whole of the timber looks like new wood after having lasted nearly 400 years. It is also worth noting that the doors were kept for four years in a frame of glue. Cypress was chosen for them because it is the one kind of wood which beyond all others retains its polish in the best condition for all time. Has not the statue of Vejovis in the citadel, made of cypress wood, lasted since its dedication in the year 561 [193 BC] after the foundation of Rome? Noteworthy also is the temple of Apollo at Utica, where beams of Numidian cedar have lasted for 1178 years just as they were when they were put in position at the original foundation of that city; and the temple of Diana at Saguntum in Spain, the statue of the goddess, according to the authority of Bocchus, having been brought there from Zaeynthus with the founders of the city 200 years before the fall of Troy; it is kept inside the town itselfHannibal from motives of religion spared itand its beams, made of juniper, are still in existence even now. Memorable above all is the temple of the same goddess at Aulis, built some centuries before the Trojan war; all knowledge of what kind of timber it was built of has entirely disappeared. Broadly speaking it can at all events be said that those woods have the most outstanding durability which have the most agreeable scent. Next in esteem after the timbers mentioned stands that of the mulberry, which even darkens with age. At the same time also some woods last longer when employed in certain ways than they do otherwise: elm lasts best exposed to the air, hard oak when used under ground, and oak when submerged under wateroak when above the ground warps and makes cracks in structures. Larch and black alder do the best in damp; hard oak is rotted by sea water. Beech and walnut are also well spoken of for use in water, these timbers indeed holding quite the first place among those that are used under the ground, and likewise juniper (which is also very serviceable for structures exposed to the air), whereas beech and Turkey oak quickly decay, and the winter oak also will not stand damp. The alder on the other hand if driven into the ground in marshy places lasts for ever and stands a load of any amount. Cherry is a strong wood, elm and ash are tough but liable to warp, although they are flexible; and they are more reliable if the trees are left standing and dried by ringing round the trunk. Larch is reported to be liable to woodworm when used in seagoing vessels, and the same with all woods except the wild and the cultivated olive; in fact some woods are more liable to faults in the sea and others in the ground.
LXXX. There are four kinds of pests that attack timbers. Borer-worms have a very large head in proportion to their size, and gnaw away wood with their teeth; these worms are observed only in the sea, and it is held that they are the only ones to which the name of borer-worm properly applies. The land variety are called moths, but the name for those resembling gnats is thrips, and there is also a fourth kind belonging to the maggot class, of which some are engendered by the wood itself when its sap becomes putrid and others are produced by the worm called horned-wormas they are in treeswhich when it has gnawed away enough to be able to turn round, gives birth to another. The birth of these insects is prevented however in some trees, for instance the cypress, by the bitter taste of the wood, and in others, for instance the box, by its hardness. It is also said that the fir will not decay in water if about the time of budding and at the lunar period we stated it is stripped of its bark. The companions of Alexander the Great stated that on the island of Tylos in the Red Sea there are trees used for building ships, the timbers of which have been found continuing free from rot for two hundred years even though they were under water. They further reported that the same island contains a shrub growing only thick enough for a walking stick, marked with stripes like a tiger skin, heavy and liable to break like glass when it falls on to things of harder substance.
LXXXI. We have in our country some timbers liable to split of their own accord, and architects consequently recommend that they should be smeared with dung and then dried, so as to make them proof against the action of the atmosphere. Fir and larch are strong weight-carriers, even when placed horizontally, and whereas hard oak and olive bend and yield to a weight, the woods named resist it and are not readily broken, and they fail owing to rot before they fail in strength. The palm tree also is strong, for it curves in a different way to other trees: all the others curve downward, but the palm curves in the opposite direction, making an arch. Pine and cypress are the strongest to resist rot and woodworms. Walnut bends easilyfor this wood also is used for making beams; when it breaks it gives a warning in advance by a creaking noise, as happened for instance at Antandro, when people in the public baths took alarm at the sound and made their escape. Pines, pitch pines and alders are hollowed to form pipes for conveying water, and when buried underground will last a number of years; but they age quickly if not covered over, the resistance they offer being remarkably increased if their outside surface also is covered with moisture.
LXXXII. Fir wood is strongest in a vertical position; it is very suitable for door panels and any kinds of inlaid work desired, whether in the Greek or the Campanian or the Sicilian style of joinery; under brisk planing it makes pretty curly shavings, always twisting in a spiral like the tendrils of a vine; moreover, of all sorts of wood it is most adapted for being glued together, so much so that it will split at a solid place before it parts at a join.
LXXXIII. Gluing also is important for veneering articles with thin sections of wood or otherwise. For use as veneer a thready veining is approved of (it is called fennel-pattern grain on account of the resemblance), because in every kind of wood pieces with gaps and twists in them do not take the glue; some woods cannot be joined by gluing either with wood of the same kind or with other woods, for example hard oak, and in general materials unlike in substance do not hold together, for instance if one tried to join stone and wood. The wood of the service-tree, the hornbeam and the box have a very strong dislike for cornel wood, and so to a smaller degree has lime. All of the woods we have described as yielding are easily bent for all purposes, and so besides are mulberry and wild fig; while those which are moderately moist are suitable for boring and sawing, since dry woods give way beyond the part which you bore or saw, whereas green woods except hard oak and box offer a more obstinate resistance, and fill up the teeth of saws in an ineffective even line; this is the reason why the teeth are bent each way in turn, so as to get rid of the sawdust.
LXXXIV. Ash is the most compliant wood in work of any kind, and is better than hazel for spears, lighter than cornel, and more pliable than service-tree; indeed the Gallic ash even has the suppleness and light weight required for chariots. The elm would rival it were not its weight against it. Beech also is easily worked, although brittle and soft; also cut in thin layers of veneer it is flexible, and is the only wood suitable for boxes and desks. The holm-oak as well cuts into extremely thin layers, and also has a not unattractive colour, but it is most reliable for things subjected to friction, for instance the axles of wheels, for which ash is selected because of its pliancy, as also is holm-oak for its hardness and elm for both qualities. But wood is also used in small pieces for the operations of carpentry, and a remarkable fact stated is that the most serviceable holders for augers are made from wild olive, box, holm-oak, elm and ash, and the best mallets from the same woods and larger ones from pine and holm-oak. But with these timbers also seasonable felling is more conducive to strength than if done prematurely, inasmuch as hinges made of olive, a very hard wood, that have been left too long unmoved in doorways have been known to put out shoots like a growing plant. Cato recommends holly, laurel or elm for making levers, and Hyginus hornbeam, holm-oak or Turkey-oak for the hafts of agricultural implements.
The principal woods for cutting into layers and for using as a veneer to cover other kinds of wood are citrus, turpentine-tree, varieties of maple, box, palm, holly, holm-oak, the root of the elder, and poplar. Also the alder, as has been stated, supplies a tuberosity that can be cut into layers, as do the citrus and the maple; no other trees have tuberosities so much valued. The middle part of trees is more variegated, and the nearer the root the smaller and the more wavy are the markings. This first originated the luxury use of trees, covering up one with another and making an outside skin for a cheaper wood out of a more expensive one. In order that one tree might be sold several times over, even thin layers of wood have been invented. And this was not enough: the horns of animals began to be dyed and their tusks cut in slices, and wood to be inlaid and later veneered with ivory. Next came the fancy of ransacking even the sea for material: tortoise-shell was cut up to provide it, and recently, in the principate of Nero, it was discovered by miraculous devices how to cause it to lose its natural appearance by means of paints and fetch a higher price by imitating wood. A little time ago luxury had not thought wood good enough, but now it actually manufactures wood out of tortoiseshell. By these methods high prices are sought for couches and orders are given to outdo turpentine wood, make a more costly citrus, and counterfeit maple.
LXXXV. If one thinks of the remote regions of the world and the impenetrable forests, it is possible that some trees have an immeasurable span of life. But of those that the memory of man preserves there still live an olive planted by the hand of the elder Africanus on his estate at Liternum and likewise a myrtle of remarkable size in the same placeunderneath them is a grotto in which a snake is said to keep guard over Africanus's shadeand a lotus tree in the precinct of Lucina at Rome founded in 375 B.C., a year in which no magistrates were elected; how much older the tree itself is uncertain, but at all events there is no doubt that it is older, since it is from the grove in question that the goddess Lucina takes her name. This tree is now about 500 years old; still older, though its age is uncertain, is the lotus free called the Hair Tree, because the Vestal Virgins' offering of hair is brought to it.
LXXXVI. But there is another lotus tree in the precincts of Vulcan founded by Romulus from a tithe of his spoils of victory, which on the authority of Masurius is understood to be of the same age as the city. Its roots spread right across the Municipal Offices as far as the Forum of Caesar. With this there grew a cypress of equal age, which about the closing period of Nero's principate fell down and was left lying.
LXXXVII. But on the Vatican Hill there is a holmoak that is older than the city; it has a bronze tablet on it with an inscription written in Etruscan characters, indicating that even in those days the tree was deemed venerable. The people of Tivoli also date their origin far before the city of Rome; and they have three holm-oaks still living that date even earlier than their founder Tiburnus, the ceremony of whose installation is said to have taken place near them; but tradition relates that he was the son of Amphiaraus, who died in battle before Thebes a generation before the Trojan war.
LXXXVIII. Authorities say that there is a plane-tree at Delphi that was planted by the hand of Agamemnon, and also another at Caphya, a place in Arcadia. There are trees at the present day growing on the tomb of Protesilaus on the shore of the Dardanelles opposite the city of the Trojans, which in every period since the time of Protesilaus, after they have grown big enough to command a view of Ilium, wither away and then revive again; while the oaks on the tomb of Ilus near the city are said to have been planted at the date when the place first began to be called Ilium.
LXXXIX. It is said that at Argos there still survives the olive to which Argus tethered Io after she had been transformed into a heifer. West of Heraclea in Pontus there are altars dedicated to Jupiter under his Greek title of Stratios, where there are two oak trees planted by Hercules. In the same region there is a port called Harbour of Amyeus, famous as the place where King Bebryx was killed; his tomb ever since the day of his death has been shaded by a laurel tree which they call the Mad Laurel, because if a piece plucked from it is taken on board ships, quarrelling breaks out until it is thrown away. We have mentioned the region of Aulocrene, traversed by the route leading from Apamea into Phrygia; in it travellers are shown the plane-tree from which Marsyas was hanged after losing his match with Apollo, and which was selected for the purpose on account of its size even then. Moreover at Delos may be seen a palm tree dating back to the time of the same deity, and at Olympia a wild olive from which was made the wreath with which Hercules was crowned for the first timeveneration for it is preserved even now. Also the olive tree produced by Minerva in the competition a is reported still to exist at Athens.
XC. On the other hand pomegranates, the fig and the apple class are extremely short-lived; and among apples those that ripen early are more short-lived than those that ripen late and the sweet ones than the sour, and the same is the case with the sweeter variety among the pomegranates, and likewise among vines, and particularly the more fruitful ones. Graecinus states that there have been cases of vines living 600 years. It also appears that trees growing in water die more quickly. Laurels, apples and pomegranates age rapidly, it is true, but they put out shoots again from their roots. Consequently the hardiest trees to live are olives, seeing that it is generally agreed among the authorities that they last 200 years.
XCI. On a hill named Corne in the territory of Tusculum, near the city, there is a grove named Corne which has been held in reverence from early times by the district of Latium as sacred to Diana; it consists of a beech coppice the foliage of which has the appearance of having been trimmed by art. This grove contains one outstanding tree which in our generation excited the affection of the orator Passienus Crispus, who had twice been consul and who subsequently became still more distinguished by marrying Agrippina and becoming the stepfather of Nero; Crispus used regularly not merely to lie beneath the tree and to pour wine over it, but to kiss and embrace it. Close to this grove is a holm-oak which is also famous, as measuring thirty-four feet round the trunk, and sending out what look like ten separate trees of remarkable size and forming a wood of itself.
XCII. It is a well-known fact that trees are killed by ivy. Some people believe that a similar property noxious to trees, though operating more slowly, is also trees. contained in mistletoefor this plant also is recognised as by no means among the least remarkable on account of other properties beside its berries. For some varieties of plants cannot grow in the earth, and take root in trees, because they have no abode of their own and consequently live in that of others: instances of this are mistletoe and the plant in Syria called cadytas, which twines itself round not only trees but even brambles, and likewise in the district about Tempe in Thessaly the plant called polypodium, and also the dolichos and the serpyllum.
Also a plant that grows on a wild olive after it has been lopped is called phaunos, while one that grows on the fuller's teazel is called hippophaesturn; it has hollow stalks, small leaves and a white root, the juice of which is considered very useful for purgatives in epilepsy.
XCIII. There are three kinds of mistletoe. One that grows as a parasite on the fir and the larch is called stelis in Euboea and hyphear in Arcadia, and the name of mistletoe is used for one growing on the oak, hard oak, holm-oak, wild pear, turpentine-tree, and indeed most other trees; and growing in great abundance on the oak is one which they call dryos hyphear. There is a difference in the case of every tree except the holm-oak and the oak in the smell and poison of the berry and the disagreeably scented leaf, both the berry and the leaf of the mistletoe being bitter and sticky. The hyphear is more useful than vetch for fattening cattle; at first it only acts as a purge, but it subsequently fattens the beasts that have stood the purging process, although they say that those with some internal malady cannot stand it. This method of treatment is employed for forty days in summer. An additional variety is said to be found in mistletoe, in that when it grows on deciduous trees it also sheds its leaves itself, but when growing on an evergreen tree it retains its leaves. But universally when mistletoe seed is sown it never sprouts at all, and only when passed in the excrement of birds, particularly the pigeon and the thrush: its nature is such that it will not shoot unless it has been ripened in the stomach of birds. Its height does not exceed eighteen inches, and it is evergreen and always in leaf. The male plant is fertile and the female barren, except that even a fertile plant sometimes does not bear.
XCIV. Mistletoe berries can be used for making bird-lime, if gathered at harvest time while unripe; for if the rainy season has begun, although they get bigger in size they lose in viscosity. They are then dried and when quite dry pounded and stored in water, and in about twelve days they turn rottenand this is the sole case of a thing that becomes attractive by rotting. Then after having been again pounded up they are put in running water and there lose their skins and become viscous in their inner flesh. This substance after being kneaded with oil is bird-lime, used for entangling birds' wings by contact with it when one wants to snare them.
XCV. While on this subject we also must not omit the respect shown to this plant by the Gallic provinces. The Druidsthat is what they call their magicianshold nothing more sacred than mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is a hard-oak. Groves of hard-oaks are chosen even for their own sake, and the magicians perform no rites without using the foliage of those trees, so that it may be supposed that it is from this custom that they get their name of Druids, from the Greek word meaning 'oak'; but further, anything growing on oak-trees they think to have been sent down from heaven, and to be a sign that the particular tree has been chosen by God himself. Mistletoe is, however, rather seldom found on a hard-oak, and when it is discovered it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon (which for these tribes constitutes the beginning of the months and the years) and after every thirty years of a new generation, because it is then rising in strength and not one half of its full size. Hailing the moon in a native word that means 'healing all things,' they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and with a golden sickle cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they kill the victims, praying to God to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal that is barren, and that it is an antidote for all poisons. So powerful is the superstition in regard to trifling matters that frequently prevails among the races of mankind.