Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 426-427

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Pliny: Natural History

vicina1 Alianis capessunt Retovina et in Aemilia via Faventina. candore Alianis semper crudis Faventina praeferuntur, Retovinis tenuitas summa densitasque, candor qui2 Faventinis, sed lanugo nulla, quod apud alios gratiam, apud alios offensionem habet. nervositas filo aequalior paene quam araneis tinnitusque cum dente libeat experiri; ideo duplex quam ceteris pretium.

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Et ab his Hispania citerior habet splendorem lini praecipua torrentis in quo politur natura, qui adluit Tarraconem; et tenuitas mira ibi primum carbasis repertis. non dudum ex eadem Hispania Zoelicum venit in Italiam plagis utilissimum; civitas ea Gallaeciae et oceano propinqua. est sua gloria et Cumano in Campania ad piscium et alitum capturam, 11eadem et plagis materia: neque enim minores cunctis animalibus insidias quam nobismet ipsis lino tendimus. sed Cumanae plagae concidunt apro saetas et vel3 ferri aciem vincunt, vidimusque iam tantae tenuitatis ut anulum hominis cum epidromis transirent, uno portante multitudinem qua saltus cingeretur.4 nec id maxume mirum, sed singula earum stamina centeno quinquageno filo constare, sicut paulo ante Fulvio5 Lupo qui in praefectura Aegypti obiit.

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Book XIX

near the Alia district and Faenza on the Aemilian Road. The Faenza linens are preferred for whiteness to those of Alia, which are always unbleached, but those of Retovium are supremely fine in texture and substance and are as white as the Faventia, but have no nap, which quality counts in their favour with some people but puts off others. This flax makes a tough thread having a quality almost more uniform than that of a spider’s web, and giving a twang when you choose to test it with your teeth; consequently it is twice the price of the other kinds.

And after these it is Hither Spain that has a linen ofFlax of Spain and Campania for nets. special lustre, due to the outstanding quality of a stream that washes the city of Tarragon, in the waters of which it is dressed; also its fineness is marvellous, Tarragon being the place where cambrics were first invented. From the same province of Spain Zoëla flax has recently been imported into Italy, a flax specially useful for hunting-nets; Zoëla is a city of Gallaecia near the Atlantic coast. The flax of Cumae in Campania also has a reputation of its own for nets for fishing and fowling, and it is also used as a material for making hunting-nets: in fact we use flax to lay no less insidious snares for the whole of the animal kingdom than for ourselves! But the Cumae nets will cut the bristles of a boar and even turn the edge of a steel knife; and we have seen before now netting of such fine texture that it could be passed through a man’s ring, with running tackle and all, a single person carrying an amount of net sufficient to encircle a wood! Nor is this the most remarkable thing about it, but the fact that each string of these nettings consists of 150 threads, as recently made for Fulvius Lupus who died in the office of governor of Egypt.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938