Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 353: 478-479

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Pliny: Natural History

ceras largius quam apes faciunt, dein maiorem vermiculum.


XXVI. Et alia horum origo. ex grandiore vermiculo gemina protendens sui generis cornua primum1 urica fit, dein quod vocatur bombylis, ex ea necydallus, ex hoc in sex mensibus bombyx. telas araneorum modo texunt ad vestem luxumque feminarum, quae bombycina appellatur. prima eas redordiri rursusque texere invenit in Coo mulier Pamphile, Plateae filia, non fraudanda gloria excogitatae rationis ut denudet feminas vestis.


XXVII. Bombycas et in Coo insula nasci tradunt, cupressi, terebinthi, fraxini, quercus florem imbribus decussum terrae halitu animante. fieri autem primo papiliones parvos nudosque, mox frigorum inpatientia villis inhorrescere et adversus hiemem tunicas sibi instaurare densas, pedum asperitate radentes foliorum lanuginem, in vellera hanc ab iis cogi subigique unguium carminatione, mox trahi in tramas,2 tenuari ceu pectine, postea adprehensam 78corpori involvi nido volubili. tum ab homine tolli fictilibusque in3 vasis tepore et furfurum esca nutriri, atque ita subnasci sui generis plumas, quibus vestitos ad alia pensa dimitti. quae vero carpta4 sint lanicia5 umore lentescere, mox in fila tenuari iunceo fuso.


Book XI

combs on a larger scale than bees do, and then produce a bigger grub.

XXVI. These creatures are also produced inInvention of silk. another way. A specially large grub changes into a caterpillar with two projecting horns of a peculiar kind, and then into what is called a cocoon, and this turns into a chrysalis and this in six months into a silk-moth. They weave webs like spiders, producing a luxurious material for women’s dresses, called silk. The process of unravelling these and weaving the thread again was first invented in Cos by a woman named Pamphile, daughter of Plateas, who has the undeniable distinction of having devised a plan to reduce women’s clothing to nakedness.

XXVII. Silk-moths are also reported to be born inThe Coan silk industry. the island of Cos, where vapour out of the ground creates life in the blossom of the cypress, terebinth, ash and oak that has been stripped off by rain. First however, it is said, small butterflies are produced that are bare of down, and then as they cannot endure the cold they grow shaggy tufts of hair and equip themselves with thick jackets against winter, scraping together the down of leaves with the roughness of their feet; this is compressed by them into fleeces and worked over by carding with their claws, and then drawn out into woof-threads, and thinned out as if with a comb, and afterwards taken hold of and wrapped round their body in a coiled nest. Then (they say) they are taken away by a man, put in earthenware vessels and reared with warmth and a diet of bran, and so a peculiar kind of feathers sprout out, clad with which they are sent out to other tasks; but tufts of wool plucked off are softened with moisture and then thinned out into threads with

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938