Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 436-437


Pliny: Natural History

colore caeli, stellata, per rudentes iere etiam in amphitheatris principis Neronis. rubent in cavis aedium et muscum ab sole defendunt; cetero mansit 25candori pertinax gratia. honor ei iam1 et Troiano bello—cur enim non et proeliis intersit ut naufragiis? thoracibus lineis paucos tamen pugnasse testis est Homerus. hinc fuisse et navium armamenta apud eundem interpretantur eruditiores, quoniam, cum σπαρτὰ dixit, significaverit sata.


VII. Sparti quidem usus multa post saecula coeptus est, nec ante Poenorum arma quae primum Hispaniae intulerunt. herba et haec, sponte nascens et quae non queat seri, iuncusque proprie aridi soli, uni terrae data2 vitio: namque id malum telluris est, nec aliud ibi seri aut nasci potest. in Africa exiguum et inutile gignitur. Carthaginiensis Hispaniae citerioris portio, nec haec tota sed quatenus parit, montes quoque 27sparto operit. hinc strata rusticis eorum, hinc ignes facesque, hinc calceamina et pastorum vestes; animalibus noxium praeterquam cacuminum teneritate. ad reliquos usus laboriose evellitur ocreatis cruribus manuque textis manicis convoluta, osseis iligneisve conamentis, nunc iam in hiemem iuxta,


Book XIX

awnings actually of sky blue and spangled with stars have been stretched with ropes even in the emperor Nero’s amphitheatres. Red awnings are used in the inner courts of houses and keep the sun off the moss growing there; but for other purposes white has remained persistently in favour. Moreover as early as the Trojan war linen already held a place of honour—for why should it not be present even in battles as it is in shipwrecks? HomerIl. II. 529, 830. testifies that warriors, though only a few, fought in linen corslets. This material was also used for rigging ships, according to the same author as interpreted by the more learned scholars, who say that the word sparta used by Homer means ‘sown’.Il. II. 135.

VII. As a matter of fact the employment of espartoaFabrics of esparto. began many generations later, and not before the first invasion of Spain by the Carthaginians. Esparto237 b.c. also is a plant, which is self-sown and cannot be grown from seed; strictly it is a rush, belonging to a dry soil, and all the blame for it attaches to the earth, for it is a curse of the land, and nothing else can be grown or can spring up there. In Africa it makes a small growth and is of no use. In the Cartagena section of Hither Spain, and not the whole of this but as far as this plant grows, even the mountains are covered with esparto grass. Country people there use it for bedding, for fuel and torches, for footwear and for shepherd’s clothes; but it is unwholesome fodder for animals, except the tender growth at the tops. For other purposes it is pulled out of the ground, a laborious task for which gaiters are worn on the legs and the hands are wrapped in woven gauntlets, and levers of bone or holmoak are used; nowadays the work goes on nearly into winter, but it is done most

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938