Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants

LCL 70: 444-445

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7Ἐν Τύλῳ δὲ τῇ νήσῳ τῇ περὶ τὴν Ἀραβίαν εἶναί τί φασι ξύλον ἐξ οὗ τὰ πλοῖα ναυπηγοῦνται· τοῦτο δὲ ἐν μὲν τῇ θαλάττῃ σχεδὸν ἄσηπτον εἶναι· διαμένει γὰρ ἔτη πλείω ἢ διακόσια καταβυθιζόμενον· ἐὰν δὲ ἔξω, χρόνιον μὲν θᾶττον δὲ σήπεται. (θαυμαστὸν δὲ καὶ ἕτερον λέγουσι, οὐδὲν δὲ πρὸς τὴν σῆψιν. εἶναι γάρ τι δένδρον ἐξ οὗ τὰς βακτηρίας τέμνεσθαι, καὶ γίνεσθαι καλὰς σφόδρα ποικιλίαν τινὰ ἐχούσας ὁμοίαν τῷ τοῦ τίγριος δέρματι· βαρὺ δὲ σφόδρα τὸ ξύλον τοῦτο· ὅταν δέ τις ῥίψῃ πρὸς στερεώτερον τόπον, κατάγνυσθαι καθάπερ τὰ κεράμια.)

8Καὶ τὸ τῆς μυρίκης δὲ ξύλον οὐχ ὥσπερ ἐνταῦθα ἀσθενές, ἀλλ᾿ ἰσχυρὸν ὥσπερ πρίνινον ἢ καὶ ἄλλο τι τῶν ἰσχυρῶν. τοῦτο μὲν οὖν ἅμα μηνύει χώρας τε καὶ ἀέρος διαφορὰς καὶ δυνάμεις. τῶν δὲ ὁμογενῶν ξύλων, οἷον δρυΐνων πευκίνων, ὅταν ταριχεύωνται—ταριχεύουσι γὰρ οὐκ ἐν ἴσῳ βάθει πάντα δύοντες τῆς θαλάττης, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν πρὸς αὐτῇ τῇ γῇ, τὰ δὲ μικρὸν ἀνωτέρω, τὰ δ᾿ ἐν πλείονι βάθει· πάντων δὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν θᾶττον δύεται καθ᾿ ὕδατος, κἂν ἐπινῇ μᾶλλον ῥέπει κάτω.

V. Ἔστι δὲ τὰ μὲν εὔεργα τῶν ξύλων, τὰ δὲ δύσεργα· εὔεργα μὲν τὰ μαλακά, καὶ πάντων


Enquiry Into Plants, V. v.

1In the island of Tylos off the Arabian coast they say that there is a kind of wood2 of which they build their ships, and that in sea-water this is almost proof against decay; for it lasts more than 200 years if it is kept under water, while, if it is kept out of water, it decays sooner, though not for some time. They also tell of another strange thing, though it has nothing to do with the question of decay: they say that there is a certain tree,3 of which they cut their staves, and that these are very handsome, having a variegated appearance like the tiger’s skin; and that this wood is exceedingly heavy, yet when one throws it down on hard ground4 it breaks in pieces like pottery.

Moreover, the wood of the tamarisk5 is not weak there, as it is in our country, but is as strong as kermes-oak or any other strong wood. Now this illustrates also the difference in properties caused by country and climate. Moreover when wood, such as that of oak or fir, is soaked in brine—not all being soaked at the same depth in the sea, but some of it close to shore, some rather further out, and some at a still greater depth—6 in all cases the parts of the tree nearest the root (whichever tree it is) sink quicker under water, and even if they float, have a greater tendency to sink.

Which kinds of wood are easy and which hard to work. Of the core and its effects.

V. Some wood is easy to work, some difficult. Those woods which are soft are easy, and especially

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.theophrastus-enquiry_plants.1916