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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/265

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261
SALT.

was called salarium argentum. Civil officials or military officers when traveling in a civil capacity were also provided with this ration of salt. In later times, when the commodity was no longer difficult to obtain, money was paid in lieu of salt, but still ostensibly for the purpose of providing the same article. Generally, however, the allowance was sufficiently liberal to purchase a good many things besides sodium chloride. In time salt-money in ancient Rome came to be as comprehensive as 'stationery' in the phraseology of our home-grown legislators. The officials received no salary, yet the unfortunate provincials would generally have been glad to pay a definite amount rather than the presents (?) and perquisites which they were called upon to provide. A salary usually means a fixed sum, but there never has been framed a clear definition of 'necessary expenses.'

As indicated above, it is still a mooted question whether the consumption of salt is essential to the maintenance of animal life. If, as is now generally held, marine fauna antedated all others, it is reasonable to suppose that the principle of atavism would never carry living beings beyond a natural fondness for and even the necessity of consuming saline matter. On the other hand, it is maintained by some competent authorities that a sufficient quantity is taken into the system by the herbivora to supply all natural requirements. From these it passes into the bodies of the carnivora. Those who insist that sufficient salt is taken into the animal body indirectly with the food are equally positive that the excessive fondness for it exhibited by most men and some other animals is the result of a perverted taste. They cite as a parallel case the eagerness with which dogs and other brutes, to say nothing of human beings, devour sweetmeats, as evidence of a vitiated taste that readily results in more or less serious harm. Certain it is that no mineral substance has ever been so eagerly sought as an ingredient of food and it is probable that the quantity consumed is on the increase. But whether animal life is possible under conditions where salt is wholly absent can, in the present state of our knowledge, be neither categorically affirmed nor positively denied.