Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 424-425

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Pliny: Natural History

cavendos frugum causa victusque praemonebamus: ecce seritur hominis manu, nectitur1 eiusdem hominis ingenio quod ventos in mari optet! praeterea, ut sciamus favisse Poenas, nihil gignitur facilius, ut sentiamus nolente seri2 natura, urit agrum deterioremque etiam terram facit.

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II. Seritur sabulosis maxime unoque sulco. nec magis festinat aliud: vere satum aestate evellitur, et hanc quoque terrae iniuriam facit. ignoscat tamen aliquis Aegypto serenti ut Arabiae Indiaeque merces inportet: itane et Galliae censentur hoc reditu? montesque mari oppositos esse non est satis et a latere oceani obstare ipsum quod vocant inane? 8Cadurci, Caleti, Ruteni, Bituriges ultumique hominum existimati Morini, immo vero Galliae universae vela texunt, iam quidem et transrhenani hostes, nec pulchriorem aliam vestem eorum feminae novere. qua admonitione succurrit quod M. Varro tradit, in Serranorum familia gentilicium esse feminas lintea 9veste non uti. in Germania autem defossae atque sub terra id opus agunt; similiter etiam in Italiae regione Aliana inter Padum Ticinumque amnes, ubi a Saetabi tertio in Europa lino palma, secundam enim

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Book XIX

sake of the crops and of our food: and behold man’s hand is engaged in growing and likewise his wits in weaving an object which when at sea is only eager for the winds to blow! And besides, to let us know how the Spirits of Retribution have favoured us, there is no plant that is grown more easily; and to show us that it is sown against the will of Nature, it scorches the land and causes the soil actually to deteriorate in quality.

II. Flax is chiefly grown in sandy soils, and withFlax of Egypt, Gaul, and Italy. a single ploughing. No other plant grows more quickly: it is sown in spring and plucked in summer, and owing to this also it does damage to the land. Nevertheless, one might forgive Egypt for growing it to enable her to import the merchandise of Arabia and India. Really? And are the Gallic provinces also assessed on such revenue as this? And is it not enough that they have the mountains separating them from the sea, and that on the side of the ocean they are bounded by an actual vacuum,a as the term is? The Cadurci, Caleti, Ruteni, Bituriges, and the Morini who are believed to be the remotest of mankind, in fact the whole of the Gallic provinces, weave sailcloth, and indeed by this time so do even our enemies across the Rhine, and linen is the showiest dress-material known to their womankind. This reminds us of the fact recorded by Varro that it is a clan-custom in the family of the Serrani for the women not to wear linen dresses. In Germany the women carry on this manufacture in caves dug underground;b and similarly also in the Alia district of Italy between the Po and the Ticino, where the linen wins the prize as the third best in Europe, that of Saetabis being first, as the second prize is won by the linens of Retovium

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938