Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 370: 114-115

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Pliny: Natural History

Hispaniae fructum, verum inmitem, dulcem in 27Africa sed statim evanescentem. contra in oriente ex iis vina gentiumque aliquis panis, plurimis vero etiam quadrupedum cibus. quamobrem iure dicentur externae; nulla est in Italia sponte genita, nec in alia parte terrarum nisi in calida, frugifera 28vero nusquam nisi in fervida.

VII. Gignitur levi sabulosaque terra, maiore in parte et nitrosa. gaudet riguis totoque anno bibere, cum amet sitientia. fimo1 quidam etiam laedi putant, Assyriorum pars aliqua si non rivis misceat. genera earum plura, et prima fruticem2 non excedentia, sterilem hunc, aliubi et ipsum fertilem, brevisque rami. orbe foliorum tectorii vicem hic parietibus plerisque in 29locis praestat contra aspergines. est et procerioribus silva, arbore ex ipsa foliorum aculeo fruticante circa totas pectinatim; quas silvestres intellegi necesse est, incerta tamen libidine etiam mitioribus se miscent. reliquae teretes atque procerae, densis gradatisque corticum pollicibus aut orbibus faciles ad scandendum orientis se populis praebent vitilem sibi arborique indutis circulum mira pernicitate cum

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Book XIII

barren. In the coastal regions of Spain they do bear fruit, but it does not ripen, and in Africa the fruit is sweet but will not keep for any time. On the other hand in the east the palm supplies the native races with wine, and some of them with bread, while a very large number rely on it also for cattle fodder. For this reason, therefore, we shall be justified in describing the palms of foreign countries; there are none in Italy not grown under cultivation, nor are there in any other part of the earth except where there is a warm climate, while only in really hot countries does the palm bear fruit.

VII. It grows in a light sandy soil and for the most part in one containing nitrates. It likes running water, and to drink all the year round, though it loves dry places. Some people think that dung actually does it harm, while a section of the Assyrians think that this happens if they do not mix the dung with water from a stream. There are several kinds of palm, beginningVarieties of palm. with kinds not larger than a shrub—a shrub that in some cases is barren, though in other districts it too bears fruit—and having a short branch. In a number of places this shrub-palm with its dome of leaves serves instead of plaster for the walls of a house, to prevent their sweating. Also the taller palms make a regular forest, their pointed foliage shooting out from the actual tree all round them like a comb—these it must be understood are wild palms, though they also have a wayward fancy for mingling among the cultivated varieties. The other kinds are rounded and tall, and have compact rows of knobs or circles in their bark which render them easy for the eastern races to climb; they put a plaited noose round themselves and round the tree, and the

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938