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This tree was seen for the first time in the regions of Europe, which commence on this side of the Ceraunian mountains,1 growing at Circeii,2 near the tomb of Elpenor there:3 it still retains its Greek4 name, which clearly proves it to be an exotic. There were myrtles growing on the site now occupied by Rome, at the time of its foundation; for a tradition exists to the effect that the Romans and the Sabines, after they had intended fighting, on account of the virgins who had been ravished by the former, purified themselves, first laying down their arms, with sprigs of myrtle, on the very same spot which is now occupied by the statues of Venus Cluacina; for in the ancient language "cluere" means to purify.

This tree is employed, too, for a species of fumigation;5 being selected for that purpose, because Venus, who presides over all unions, is the tutelary divinity of the tree.6 I am not quite sure, too, whether this tree was not the very first that was planted in the public places of Rome, the result of some ominous presage by the augurs of wondrous import. For at the Temple of Quirinus, or, in other words, of Romulus himself, one of the most ancient in Rome, there were formerly two myrtle-trees, which grew for a long period just in front of the temple; one of these was called the Patrician tree, the other the Plebeian. The Patrician myrtle was for many years the superior tree, full of sap and vigour; indeed, so long as the Senate maintained its superiority, so did the tree, being of large growth, while the Plebeian tree presented a meagre, shrivelled appearance. In later times, however, the latter tree gained the superiority, and the Patrician myrtle began to fail just at the period of the7 Marsic War,8 when the power of the Senate was so greatly weakened: and little by little did this once majestic tree sink into a state of utter exhaustion and sterility. There was an ancient altar9 also, consecrated' to Venus Myrtea, known at the present day by the name of Murcia.

1 He means the Acroceraunian chain in Epirus, mentioned in B. iii.

2 See B. iii. c. 9.

3 He was one of the companions of Ulysses, fabled by Homer and Ovid to have been transformed by Circe into a swine.

4 μυρσἰνη, was its Greek name.

5 See B. xxv. c. 59.

6 See B. xii. c. 2. Ovid, Fasti, B. iv. 1. 15, et seq., says that Venus concealed herself from the gaze of the Satyrs behind this tree.

7 Either this story is untrue, or we have a right to suspect that some underhand agency was employed for the purpose of imposing on the superstitious credulity of the Roman people.

8 Or Social War. See B. ii. c. 85.

9 Near the altar of Census, close to the meta of the Circus.

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