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It is for the sake of their timber that Nature has created the other trees, and more particularly the ash,1 which yields it in greater abundance. This is a tall, tapering tree, with a feather-like leaf: it has been greatly ennobled by the encomiums of Homer, and the fact that it formed the spear of Achilles:2 the wood of it is employed for numerous purposes. The ash which grows upon Mount Ida, in Troas, is so extremely like the cedar,3 that, when the bark is removed, it will deceive a purchaser.

The Greeks have distinguished two varieties of this tree, the one long and without knots, the other short, with a harder wood, of a darker colour, and a leaf like that of the laurel. In Macedonia they give the name of "bumelia"4 to an ash of remarkably large size, with a wood of extreme flexibility. Some authors have divided this tree into several varieties, ac- cording to the localities which it inhabits, and say that the ash of the plains has a spotted wood, while that of the mountain ash is more compact. Some Greek writers have stated hat the leaf of the ash is poisonous5 to beasts of burden, but harmless to all the animals that ruminate6 The leaves of his tree in Italy, however, are not injurious to beasts of burden even; so far from it, in fact, that nothing has been found to act as so good a specific for the bites of serpents7 as to drink the juice extracted from the leaves, and to apply them to the wounds. So great, too, are the virtues of this tree, that no serpent will ever lie in the shadow thrown by it, either in the morning or the evening, be it ever so long; indeed, they will always keep at the greatest possible distance from it. We state the fact from ocular demonstration,8 that if a serpent and a lighted fire are placed within a circle formed of the leaves of the ash, the reptile will rather throw itself into the fire than encounter the leaves of the tree. By a wonderful provision of Nature, the ash has been made to blossom before the serpents leave their holes, and the fall of its leaf does not take place till after they have retired for the winter.

1 He does not speak in this place of the "ornus" or "mountain ash;" nor, as Fée observes, does he mention the use of the bark of the ash as a febrifuge, or of its leaves as a purgative. This ash is the Fraxinus excelsior of Decandolles.

2 Il. xxiv. 277.

3 Pliny makes a mistake here, in copying from Theophrastus, who says that it is the yew that bears so strong a resemblance to the cedar.

4 Or "bull's-ash." This variety does not seem to have been identified.

5 This statement results from his misinterpretation of the language of Theophrastus, who is really speaking of the yew, which Pliny mistakes or the ash.

6 Miller asserts that, if given to cows, this leaf will impart a bad flavour to the milk; a statement which, Fée says, is quite incorrect.

7 A merely fanciful notion, without apparently the slightest foundation: the same, too, may be said of the alleged antipathy of the serpent to the beech-tree, which is neither venomous nor odoriferous.

8 This story of Pliny has been corroborated by M. de Verone, and as strongly contradicted by Camerarius and Charras: with M. Fée, then, we must leave it to the reader to judge which is the most likely to be speaking the truth. It is not improbable that Pliny may have been imposed upon, as his credulity would not at all times preclude him from being duped.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SABI´NI
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