Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 430-431

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Pliny: Natural History

x diebus, Aethiopes Indique e malis, Arabes e curcurbitis in arboribus, ut diximus, genitis.

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III. Apud nos maturitas eius duobus argumentis intellegitur, intumescente semine aut colore flavescente. tum evolsum et in fasciculos manuales colligatum siccatur in sole pendens conversis superne radicibus uno die, mox quinque aliis contrariis in se fascium cacuminibus, ut semen in medium cadat. inter medicamina huic vis et in quodam rustico ac praedulci Italiae transpadanae cibo, sed iam pridem 17sacrorum tantum, gratia. deinde post1 messem triticiam virgae ipsae merguntur in aquam solibus tepefactam, pondere aliquo depressae, nulli enim levitas maior. maceratas indicio est membrana laxatior, iterumque inversae ut prius sole siccantur, mox arefactae in saxo tunduntur stuppario malleo. quod proximum cortici fuit, stuppa appellatur, deterioris lini, lucernarum fere luminibus aptior; et ipsa tamen pectitur ferreis aculeis2 donec omnis 18membrana decorticetur. medullae numerosior distinctio candore, mollitia; cortices quoque decussi clibanis et furnis praebent usum.3 ars depectendi digerendique—iustum a quinquagenis fascium libris . . .4 quinas denas carminari5—linumque nere et

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Book XIX

made, the plant being soaked in water for ten days; the Ethiopians and Indians make thread from apples, and the Arabians from gourds that grow on trees, as we said.XII. 38.

III. With us the ripeness of flax is ascertained byMode of preparing flax for weaving linen. two indications, the swelling of the seed or its assuming a yellowish colour. It is then plucked up and tied together in little bundles each about the size of a handful, hung up in the sun to dry for one day with the roots turned upward, and then for five more days with the heads of the bundles turned inward towards each other so that the seed may fall into the middle. Linseed makes a potent medicine; it is also popular in a rustic porridge with an extremely sweet taste, made in Italy north of the Po, but now for a long time only used for sacrifices. When the wheat-harvest is over the actual stalks of the flax are plunged in water that has been left to get warm in the sun, and a weight is put on them to press them down, as flax floats very readily. The outer coat becoming looser is a sign that they are completely soaked, and they are again dried in the sun, turned head downwards as before, and afterwards when thoroughly dry they are pounded on a stone with a tow-hammer. The part that was nearest the skin is called oakum—it is flax of an inferior quality, and mostly more fit for lampwicks; nevertheless this too is combed with iron spikes until all the outer skin is scraped off. The pith has several grades of whiteness and softness, and the discarded skin is useful for heating ovens and furnaces. There is an art of combing out and separating flax: it is a fair amount for fifteen . . .a to be carded out from fifty pounds’ weight of bundles; and spinning flax is a respectable occupation even for

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938