previous next


The several kinds of corn are not everywhere the same; and even where they are the same, they do not always bear a similar name. The kinds most universally grown are spelt, by the ancients known as "adorea," winter wheat,1 and wheat;2 all these being common to many countries. Arinca was originally peculiar to Gaul, though now it is widely diffused over Italy as well. Egypt, too, Syria, Cilicia, Asia, and Greece, have their own peculiar kinds, known by the names of zea,3 olyra, and wheat.4 In Egypt, they make a fine flour from wheat of their own growth, but it is by no means equal to that of Italy. Those countries which employ zea, have no spelt. Zea, however, is to be found in Italy, and in Campania more particularly, where it is known by the name of "seed."5 The grain that bears this name enjoys a very considerable celebrity, as we shall have occasion to state6 on another occasion; and it is in honour of this that Homer7 uses the expression, ζείδωρος ἄρουρα, and not, as some suppose, from the fact of the earth giving life.8 Amylum is made, too, from this grain, but of a coarser9 quality than the kind already mentioned;10 this, however, is the only difference that is perceptible.

The most hardy kind, however, of all the grains is spelt, and the best to stand the severity of the weather; it will grow in the very coldest places, as also in localities that are but half tilled, or soils that are extremely hot, and destitute of water. This was the earliest food of the ancient inhabitants of Latium; a strong proof of which is the distributions of adorea that were made in those times, as already stated.11 It is evident, too, that the Romans subsisted for a long time upon pottage,12 and not bread; for we find that from its name of "puls," certain kinds of food are known, even at the present day, as "pulmentaria."13 Ennius, too, the most ancient of our poets, in describing the famine in a siege, relates how that the parents snatched away the messes of pottage14 from their weeping children. At the present day, even, the sacrifices in conformity with the ancient rites, as well as those offered upon birthdays, are made with parched pottage.15 This food appears to have been as much unknown in those days in Greece as polenta was in Italy.

1 Siligo.

2 Triticum.

3 The Triticum dicoccum, or spelt.

4 Probably rye. See the next Chapter.

5 Semen.

6 In c. 20, also in c. 29. This grain, which was in reality a kind of spelt, received its name probably from having been the first cultivated.

7 Il. ii. c. 548: "the land that produces zea."

8 Not ἀπὸ τδ̂ ζῆν, from "living."

9 Merely, as Fée says, from the faulty method employed in its preparation, as starch has, in all cases, the same physical appearance.

10 In c. 17 of this Book.

11 In c. 3 of this Book.

12 "Puls," like our porridge.

13 Any food that was originally eaten with "puls," and afterwards with bread, was so called, such as meat, vegetables, &c.

14 "Offam." This word, which in the later writers signifies a "cake," originally meant a hardened lump of porridge.

15 Pulte fritillâ.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SA´RCULUM
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), NILUS
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: