Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 438-439


Pliny: Natural History

facillime tamen ab idibus Maiis in Iunias: hoc maturitatis tempus.


VIII. Volsum fascibus in acervo alligatum1 biduo, tertio resolutum spargitur in sole siccaturque et rursus in fascibus redit sub tecta. postea maceratur, aqua marina optume, sed et dulci si marina desit, siccatumque sole iterum rigatur. si repente urgueat desiderium, perfusum calida in solio ac siccatum stans conpendium 29operae patitur.2 hinc3 autem tunditur ut fiat utile, praecipue in aquis marique invictum: in sicco praeferunt e cannabi funes; set spartum alitur etiam demersum, veluti natalium sitim pensans. est quidem eius natura interpolis, rursusque quam libeat 30vetustum novo miscetur. verumtamen conplectatur animo qui volet miraculum aestumare quanto sit in usu omnibus terris navium armamentis, machinis aedificationum aliisque desideriis vitae. ad hos omnes usus quae sufficiant minus x͞x͞x͞ passuum in latitudinem a litore Carthaginis Novae minusque in longitudinem esse reperientur. longius vehi impendia prohibent.


IX. Iunco Graecos ad funes usos nomini credamus quo herbam eam appellant, postea palmarum foliis


Book XIX

easily between the middle of May and the middle of June, which is the season when the plant ripens.

VIII. When it has been plucked it is tied up inManufacture of esparto cloth. bundles in a heap for two days and on the third day untied and spread out in the sun and dried, and then it is done up in bundles again and put away under cover indoors. Afterwards it is laid to soak, preferably in sea water, but fresh water also will do if sea water is not available; and then it is dried in the sun and again moistened. If need for it suddenly becomes pressing, it is soaked in warm water in a tub and put to dry standing up, thus securing a saving of labour. After that it is pounded to make it serviceable, and it is of unrivalled utility, especially for use in water and in the sea, though on dry land they prefer ropes made of hemp; but esparto is actually nourished by being plunged in water, as if in compensation for the thirstiness of its origin. Its quality is indeed easily repaired, and however old a length of it may be it can be combined again with a new piece. Nevertheless one who wishes to understand the value of this marvellous plant must realize how much it is employed in all countries for the rigging of ships, for mechanical appliances used in building, and for other requirements of life. A sufficient quantity to serve all these purposes will be found to exist in a district on the coast of Cartagena that extends less than 100 miles along the shore and is less than 30 miles wide. The cost of carriage prohibits its being transported any considerable distance.

IX. We may take it on the evidence of the GreekEarly use of esparto for rope-making. worda for a rush that the Greeks used to employ that plant for making ropes; though it is well known that afterwards they used the leaves of palm trees

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938