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There is no grain that displays a greater avidity than wheat, and none that absorbs a greater quantity of nutriment. With all propriety I may justly call winter wheat1 the very choicest of all the varieties of wheat. It is white, destitute of all flavour,2 and not oppressive3 to the stomach. It suits moist localities particularly well, such as we find in Italy and Gallia Comata; but beyond the Alps it is found to maintain its character only in the territory of the Allobroges and that of the Memini; for in the other parts of those countries it degenerates at the end of two years into common wheat.4 The only method of preventing this is to take care and sow the heaviest grains only.

(9.) Winter wheat furnishes bread of the very finest quality and the most esteemed delicacies of the bakers. The best bread that is known in Italy is made from a mixture of Cam- panian winter wheat with that of Pisæ. The Campanian kind is of a redder colour, while the latter is white; when mixed with chalk,5 it is increased in weight. The proper proportion for the yield of Campanian wheat to the modius of grain is four sextarii of what is known as bolted flour;6 but when it is used in the rough and has not been bolted, then the yield should be five sextarii of flour. In addition to this, in either case there should be half a modius of white meal, with four sextarii of coarse meal, known as "seconds," and the same quantity of bran.7 The Pisan wheat produces five sextarii of fine flour to the modius; in other respects it yields the same as that of Campania. The wheat of Clusium and Arretium gives another sextarius of fine flour, but the yield is similar to that of the kinds already mentioned in all other respects. If, however, as much of it as possible is converted into fine wheat meal, the modius will yield sixteen pounds weight of white bread, and three of seconds, with half a modius of bran. These differences, however, depend very materially upon the grinding; for when the grain is ground quite dry it produces more meal, but when sprinkled with salt water8 a whiter flour, though at the same time a greater quantity of bran. It is very evident that "firina," the name we give to meal, is derived from "far." A modius of meal made from Gallic winter wheat, yields twenty-two pounds of bread; while that of Italy, if made into bread baked in tins,9 will yield two or three pounds more. When the bread is baked in the oven,10 two pounds must be added in weight in either case.

(10.) Wheat yields a fine flour11 of the very highest quality. In African wheat the modius ought to yield half a modius of fine flour and five sextarii of pollen, that being the name given to fine wheat meal, in the same way that that of winter wheat is generally known as "fos," or the "flower." This fine meal is extensively used in copper works and paper manufactories. In addition to the above, the modius should yield four sextarii of coarse meal, and the same quantity of bran. The finest wheaten flour will yield one hundred12 and twenty-two pounds of bread, and the fine meal of winter wheat one hundred13 and seventeen, to the modius of grain. When the prices of grain are moderate, meal sells at forty asses the modius, bolted wheaten flour at eight asses more, and bolted flour of winter wheat, at sixteen asses more. There is another distinction again in fine wheaten flour, which originated formerly in the days of L. Paul's. There were three classes of wheat; the first of which would appear to have yielded seventeen pounds of bread, the second eighteen, and the third nineteen pounds and a third: to these were added two pounds and a half of seconds,14 and the same quantity of brown15 bread, with six sextarii of bran.16

Winter wheat never ripens all at once, and yet there is none of the cereals that can so ill brook any delay; it being of so delicate a nature, that the ears directly they are ripe will begin to shed their grain. So long, however, as it is in stalk, it is exposed to fewer risks than other kinds of wheat, from the fact of its always having the ear upright, and not retaining the dew, which is a prolific cause of mildew.

From arinca17 a bread of remarkable sweetness is made. The grains in this variety lie closer than they do in spelt; the ear, too, is larger and more weighty. It is rarely the case that a modius of this grain does not weigh full sixteen pounds. In Greece they find great difficulty in threshing it; and hence it is that we find Homer18 saying that it is given to beasts of burden, this being the same as the grain that he calls "olyra." In Egypt it is threshed without any difficulty, and is remarkably prolific. Spelt has no beard, and the same is the case with winter wheat, except19 that known as the Laconion variety. To the kinds already mentioned we have to add bromos,20 the winter wheat just excepted, and tragos,21 all of them exotics introduced from the East, and very similar to rice. Tiphe22 also belongs to the same class, from which in our part of the world a cleaned grain resembling rice is prepared. Among the Greeks, too, there is the grain known as zea; and it is said that this, as well as tiphe, when cleaned from the husk and sown, will degenerate23 and assume the form of wheat; not immediately, but in the course of three years.

1 "Siligo." There are numerous contradictions in Pliny with reference to this plant, but it is now pretty generally agreed that it is the Triticum hibernum of Linnæus: the "froment tousselle" of the French. It was formerly the more general opinion that it was identical with spelt; but that cannot be the case, as spelt is red, and siligo is described as white.

2 "Sine virtute" It is doubtful what is the meaning of this.

3 Sine pondere.

4 In other places he says, most unaccountably, that wheat "degenerates into siligo."

5 As to this practice, see c. 29.

6 "Quam vocant castratam."

7 From this account, it would appear that there were twenty-four sextarii to the modius; but the account in general is very contradictory.

8 Salt water is rarely used for this purpose in modern times. See this passage discussed in Beckmann on Inventions, Bohn's Ed. vol. i. p.

9 "Artopticio." See c. 27 of this Book.

10 Without tin, probably; or the tin bread may have been baked before the fire, similar to the method adopted at the present day with the American ovens.

11 "Similago." Founders still use meal occasionally for making moulds; it is also employed in making paper.

12 The mention of "hundreds" here is evidently faulty, unless the other part of the passage is corrupt. Fée suggests twenty-two and twenty seven.

13 The mention of "hundreds" here is evidently faulty, unless the other part of the passage is corrupt. Fée suggests twenty-two and twenty seven.

14 the mention of "hundreds" here is evidently faulty, unless the other part of passage is corrupt. Fée suggests twenty-two and twenty-seven

15 But above we find him stating that "secundarius," "seconds" flour, and "cibarius," or "coarse," meal, are the same thing. His contradictions cannot apparently be reconciled.

16 The whole of this passage, as Brotier remarks, is evidently corrupt.

17 Fée has no doubt that this was siligo, or winter-wheat, in a very high state of cultivation.

18 Il. v. 1. 195.

19 There are still some varieties both of winter-wheat and spelt that have the beard.

20 It is generally thought that this is the oat, the Avena sativa of Linnæus, while some have suggested rice. Fée thinks that by the name, some exotic gramineous plant is meant.

21 Probably a variety of spelt, as Sprengel conjectures, from Galen and other writers. See c. 16 of this Book.

22 Fée thinks that it is the grain of the Festuca fluitans of Linnæus that is here alluded to, and identifies it with the "ulva palustris" of Virgil, Geor. iii. 174.

23 The Latin word "degener" cannot here mean "degenerate," in our sense of the word, but must merely imply a change of nature in the plant.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), NUDUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), VIA´TOR
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MAURETA´NIA
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