Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 432-433

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Pliny: Natural History

viris decorum est; iterum deinde in filo politur, inlisum crebro silici ex aqua, textumque rursus tunditur clavis, semper iniuria melius.


IV. Inventum iam est etiam quod ignibus non absumeretur. vivum id vocant, ardentesque in focis conviviorum ex eo vidimus mappas sordibus exustis splendescentes igni magis quam possent aquis. regum inde funebres tunicae corporis favillam ab reliquo separant cinere. nascitur in desertis adustisque Indiae locis, ubi non cadunt imbres, inter diras serpentes, adsuescitque vivere ardendo, rarum inventu, difficile textu propter brevitatem; rufus de 20cetero colos splendescit igni. cum inventum est, aequat pretia excellentium margaritarum. vocatur autem a Graecis ἀσβέστινον ex argumento naturae suae. Anaxilaus auctor est linteo eo circumdatam arborem surdis ictibus et qui non exaudiantur caedi. ergo huic lino principatus in toto orbe. proximus byssino, mulierum maxime deliciis circa Elim in Achaia genito; quaternis denaris scripula eius 21permutata quondam ut auri reperio. linteorum lanugo, e velis navium maritimarum maxime, in magno usu medicinae est, et cinis spodii vim habet.


Book XIX

men. Then it is polished in the thread a second time, after being soaked in water and repeatedly beaten out against a stone, and it is woven into a fabric and then again beaten with clubs, as it is always better for rough treatment.

IV. Also a linen has now been invented that is incombustible.Incombustible and other linens. It is called ‘live’ linen, and I have seen napkins made of it glowing on the hearth at banquets and burnt more brilliantly clean by the fire than they could be by being washed in water. This linen is used for making shrouds for royalty which keep the ashes of the corpse separate from the rest of the pyre. The planta grows in the deserts and sun-scorched regions of India where no rain falls, the haunts of deadly snakes, and it is habituated to living in burning heat; it is rarely found, and is difficult to weave into cloth because of its shortness; its colour is normally red but turns white by the action of fire. When any of it is found, it rivals the prices of exceptionally fine pearls. The Greek name for it is asbestinon,b derived from its peculiar property. Anaxilaus states that if this linen is wrapped round a tree it can be felled without the blows being heard, as it deadens their sound. Consequently this kind of linen holds the highest rank in the whole of the world. The next place belongs to a fabric made of fine flax grown in the neighbourhood of Elis in Achaia, and chiefly used for women’s finery; I find that it formerly changed hands at the price of gold, four denarii for one twenty-fourth of an ounce. The nap of linen cloths, principally that obtained from the sails of sea-going ships, is much used as a medicine, and its ash has the efficacy of metal dross.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938