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Plutarch’s Moralia

911ΑΙΤΙΑΙ ΦΥΣΙΚΑΙ

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Διὰ τί τὸ θαλάττιον ὕδωρ οὐ τρέφει τὰ δένδρα;

Πότερον δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν οὐδὲ τῶν ζῴων τὰ χερσαῖα; ζῷον γὰρ ἔγγαιον τὸ φυτὸν εἶναι1 οἱ περὶ Πλάτωνα Dκαὶ Ἀναξαγόραν καὶ Δημόκριτον οἴονται· οὐ γὰρ2 διότι τοῖς ἐναλίοις φυτοῖς τρόφιμόν ἐστι καὶ πότιμον ὥσπερ τοῖς ἰχθύσιν, ἤδη καὶ τὰ ἐν τῇ χέρσῳ φυτά τε καὶ δένδρα τρέφει· οὔτε γὰρ2 ἐνδύεται ταῖς ῥίζαις ὑπὸ πάχους οὔτ᾿ ἀναφέρεται3 ὑπὸ βάρους4· ὅτι δ᾿ ἐμβριθές ἐστι καὶ γεῶδες, ἄλλοις τε πολλοῖς ἀποδείκνυται καὶ τῷ μᾶλλον ἀνέχειν καὶ ὑπερείδειν τὰ πλοῖα καὶ τοὺς κολυμβῶντας.

Ἢ μάλιστα μὲν βλάπτεται ξηρότητι τὰ δένδρα, ξηραντικὸν δὲ τὸ θαλάττιον;5 ὅθεν πρός τε6 τὰς σήψεις οἱ ἅλες βοηθοῦσι, καὶ τὰ σώματα τῶν λουσαμένων

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Natural Phenomena

Causes of Natural Phenomena

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Why does sea-water not provide trees with nourishment?

Is the reason the same as that for which it provides none for land-animals either, seeing that Plato,a Anaxagoras, and Democritusb think that a plant is an animal fixed in the earth? The fact that sea-water is nutritious for, and can be imbibed by, marine plants as well as fishes, does not immediately imply that it is also good for the plants and trees that grow on dry land. For one thing it is too thick to make its way into their roots, and for another it is too heavy to rise <up their stems>.c There are many proofs that it is heavy and earthy, in particular the fact that it holds up and supports boats and swimmers more than fresh water does.d

Or is it that trees are damaged above all by dryness, and sea-water has a drying effect? (This effect explains why salt is a safeguard against putrefaction,

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_causes_natural_phenomena.1965