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But to all other odours that of balsamum1 is considered preferable, a plant that has been only bestowed by Nature upon the land of Judæa. In former times it was cultivated in two gardens only, both of which belonged to the kings of that country: one of them was no more than twenty jugera in extent, and the other somewhat smaller. The emperors Ves- pasianus and Titus had this shrub exhibited at Rome; indeed, it is worthy of signal remark, that since the time of Pompeius Magnus, we have been in the habit of carrying trees even in our triumphal processions. At the present day this tree pays us homage and tribute along with its native land, but it has been found to be of altogether a different nature to that which our own as well as foreign writers had attributed to it: for, in fact, it bears a much stronger resemblance to the vine than to the myrtle. This recent acquisition by conquest has learned, like the vine, to be reproduced by mallet2-shoots, and it covers declivities just like the vine, which supports its own weight without the aid of stays. When it puts forth branches it is pruned in a similar manner, and it thrives by being well raked at the roots, growing with remarkable rapidity, and bearing fruit at the end of three years. The leaf bears a very considerable resemblance to that of rue, and it is an evergreen. The Jews vented their rage upon this shrub just as they were in the habit of doing against their own lives and persons, while, on the other hand, the Romans protected it; indeed, combats have taken place before now in defence of a shrub. At the present day the reproduction of it has become a duty of the fiscal authorities, and the plants were never known to be more numerous or of larger growth; they never exceed the height, however, of a couple of cubits.

There are three different kinds of balsamum. The first has a thin and hair-like foliage, and is known by the name of eutheriston.3 The second is of a rugged appearance, bending downwards, full of branches, and more odoriferous than the first; the name of this is trachy. The third kind is the eumeces, so called, because it is taller than the others; it has a smooth, even, bark. It is the second in quality, the eutheriston being inferior to the trachy. The seed of this plant has a flavour strongly resembling that of wine; it is of a reddish colour, and not without a certain amount of unctuousness; the grains of inferior quality are lighter in weight and of a greener hue: the branches of the shrub are thicker than those of the myrtle. Incisions are made in it either with glass, or else a sharp stone, or knives made of bone: it being highly injurious to touch the vital parts with iron, for in such case it will immediately wither away and die. On the other hand, it will allow of all the superfluous branches being pruned away with an instrument of iron even. The hand of the person who makes the incision is generally balanced by an artificial guide, in order that he may not accidentally inflict a wound in the wood beyond the bark.

A juice distils from the wound, which is known to us as opobalsamum; it is of extraordinary sweetness,4 but only exudes in tiny drops, which are then collected in wool, and deposited in small horns. When taken from out of these, the substance is placed in new earthen vessels; it bears a strong resemblance to a thick oil, and is of a white colour when fresh. It soon, however, turns red, and as it hardens loses its transparency. When Alexander the Great waged war in those parts, it was looked upon as a fair summer day's work to fill a single concha5 with this liquid; the entire produce of the larger garden being six congii, and of the smaller one a single congius; the price, too, at which it was sold was double its weight in silver. At the present day the produce of a single tree, even, is larger; the incisions are made three times every summer, after which the tree is pruned.

The cuttings, too, form an article of merchandize: the fifth year after the conquest of Judæa, these cuttings, with the suckers, were sold for the price of eight hundred thousand sesterces. These cuttings are called xylobalsamum,6 and are boiled down for mixing with unguents, and in the manufactories have been substituted for the juices of the shrub. The bark is also in great request for medicinal purposes, but it is the tears that are so particularly valuable; the seed holding the second rank in estimation, the bark the third, and the wood being the least esteemed of all. Of the wood, that kind which resembles boxwood is considered the best: it has also the strongest smell. The best seed is that which is the largest in size and the heaviest in weight; it has a biting or rather burning taste in the mouth. Balsamum is adulterated with hypericon:7 from Petra, but the fraud is easily detected, from the fact that the grains of the latter are larger, comparatively empty, and longer than those of balsamum; they are destitute also of any pungency of smell, and have a flavour like that of pepper.

As to the tears of balsamum, the test of their goodness is their being unctuous to the touch, small, of a somewhat reddish colour, and odoriferous when subjected to friction. That of second-rate quality is white; the green and coarse is inferior, and the black is the worst of all; for, like olive-oil, it is apt to turn rancid when old. Of all the incisions, the produce is considered the best of those from which the liquid has flowed before the formation of the seed. In addition to what has been already stated, it is often adulterated with the juice of the seed, and it is with considerable difficulty that the fraud is detected by a slight bitterness in the taste, which ought to be delicate and without the slightest mixture of acidity, the only pungency being that of the smell. It is adulterated also with oil of roses, of cyprus, of mastich, of balanus, of turpentine, and of myrtle, as also with resin, galbanum, and Cyprian wax, just as occasion may serve. But the very worst adulteration of all, is that which is effected with gum, a substance which is dry when emptied into the hand, and falls to the bottom when placed in water; both of which are characteristics of the genuine commodity. Balsamum, in a genuine state, should be quite hard, but when it is mixed with gum a brittle pellicle forms upon it. The fraud can also be detected by the taste, and when placed upon hot coals it may easily be seen if there has been any adulteration with wax and resin; the flame too, in this case, burns with a blacker smoke than when the balsamum is pure. When mixed with honey its qualities are immediately changed, for it will attract flies even in the hand. In addition to these various tests, a drop of pure balsamum, if placed in luke-warm water will settle to the bottom of the vessel, whereas, if it is adulterated, it will float upon the surface like oil, and if it has been drugged with metopion or hammoniacum, a white circle will form around it. But the best test of all is, that it will cause milk to curdle, and leave no stain upon cloth. In no commodity are there practised more palpable frauds than in this, for a sextarius of balsamum which is sold by the fiscal authorities at three hundred denarii, is sold again for a thousand, so vast is the profit to be derived from increasing this liquid by sophistication. The price of xylobalsamum is six denarii per pound.

1 Balsam (or balm of Mecca, as it is sometimes called) is the produce of two trees, probably varieties of one another, of the terebinth family, belonging to the genus Amyris. So far from being a native solely of Judæa, Bruce assures us that its original country was that which produces myrrh, in the vicinity of Babelmandel, and that the inhabitants use the wood solely for fuel. In Judæa it appears to have been cultivated solely in gardens; and it was this tree which produced the famous balm of Gilead of Scripture. The balsam trees known to us do not at all correspond with Pliny's description, as they do not resemble either the vine or myrtle, nor are their leaves at all like those of rue.

2 "Malleolis." So called when the new shoot of the tree springing from a branch of the former year, is cut off for the sake of planting, with a bit of the old wood on each side of it, in the form of a mallet.

3 "Easily cut." This and the other kinds, the names of which mean "rough barked," and "good length," are probably only varieties of the same tree, in different states.

4 This is said, probably, in allusion to the smell, and not the taste. Fée remarks, that Pliny speaks with a considerable degree of exaggeration, as its odour is very inferior to that of several balsams which contain benzoic acid. The balsam obtained by incision, as mentioned by Pliny, is not brought to Europe, but only that obtained by the process of decoction; which is known as "balm of Mecca," or of Judæa. It is difficult to believe. according to Fée, that it was adulterated with the substances here mentioned by Pliny; oil of roses having been always a very precious com- modity, wax being likely to change its nature entirely, and gums not being of a nature to combine with it. Its asserted effects upon milk he states to be entirely fabulous; the statement is derived from Dioscorides.

5 The concha, or "shell," was a Greek and Roman liquid measure, of which there were two sizes. The smaller was half a cyathus, .0412 of an English pint; the larger was about three times the size of the former, and was known also as the oxybaphum.

6 Or "wood of balsam." It is still known in European commerce by its ancient name. The fruit is called Carpobalsamum.

7 See B. xxvi. cc. 53, 54.

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