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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/258

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254
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in such close proximity. There is reason to believe that this river was the Werra. On its banks, near the town of Salzungen, saline springs have been known from time immemorial and are still in use. The historian further relates that salt was produced near the river and in the contiguous forest, not, as elsewhere, by the evaporation of seawater, but by pouring brine over a pile of burning wood, with the result that the salt was precipitated as a consequence of the struggle between the two elements, fire and water. Evidently the sacred character that was supposed to attach to this saline substance was due to the belief held by the natives that salt was always a product of the sea, except by the special interposition of the gods, as in this case. That they had contracted a liking for salt elsewhere in their wanderings may be taken for granted.

Salt is now produced in many parts of Germany, but its existence in any form was not known at this remote period. The article produced in such a singular manner must have been very impure; but the palates of the primitive Germans were much less sensitive than those of their modern successors. At a later period the Alemani and the Burgundians are said to have frequently striven in battle for salt pits or saline springs claimed by both; but the region can not be definitely located. The record is chiefly interesting when taken in connection with the preceding and others of a similar character as showing the high value placed upon this substance by peoples that had hardly made a start along the highway of civilization. With respect to the abovementioned method of making an impure grade of salt, it is worth noting that it is also spoken of as employed elsewhere. Varro had heard of a region where the inhabitants knew no salt, but used instead as seasoning a kind of salt coals which they obtained from burning wood. The same method and the same substitute for real salt are also reported as employed by some of the natives of Spain. Pliny devotes a good deal of space in his 'Natural History,' that storehouse of information and imagination, to the consideration of salt. He enumerates somewhat in detail the different places in almost the entire known world where it is found, describes the various methods of its production, notes the fondness of cattle for it, and adds that when mixed with their food it increases the quantity and improves the quality of the cheese. According to him Ancus Martius, the fourth king of Rome, established the first salt works, and the Romans perform no sacred rites without mola salsa. By the Romans salt was regarded as almost the staff of life, and the salt-cellar was preserved in families because it was supposed to have a quasi-sacred character. In one of his Odes, Horace tells his friend, Grosphus, that the man who enjoys life is he whose father's salt-cellar gleams on his table. In a satire by the same poet, the rustic sage informs the epicure that bread with salt will