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The Greeks have distinguished three varieties of the lettuce1; the first with a stalk so large, that small garden gates2, it is said, have been made of it: the leaf of this lettuce is somewhat larger than that of the herbaceous, or green lettuce, but extremely narrow, the nutriment seeming to be expended on the other parts of the plant. The second kind is that with a rounded3 stalk; and the third is the low, squat lettuce4 generally known as the Laconian lettuce.

Some persons5 have made distinctions in reference to their respective colours, and the times for sowing them: the black lettuce is sown in the month of January, the white in March, and the red in April; and they are fit for transplanting, all of them, at the end of a couple of months. Those, again, who have pursued these enquiries even further than this, have distinguished a still greater number of varieties of them—the purple, the crisped, the Cappadocian,6 and the Greek lettuce, this last having a longer leaf than the rest, and a broad stalk: in addition to which, there is one with a long, narrow leaf, very similar to endive in appearance. The most inferior kind, however, of all, is the one to which the Greeks, censuring it for its bitterness, have given the name of "picris."7 There is still another variety, a kind of white lettuce, called "meconis,"8 a name which it derives from the abundance of milk, of a narcotic quality, which it produces; though, in fact, it is generally thought that they are all of them of a soporific tendency. In former times, this last was the only kind of lettuce that was held in any esteem9 in Italy, the name "lactuca" having been given it on account of the milk10 which it contains.

The purple kind, with a very large root, is generally known as the Cæcilian11 lettuce; while the round one, with an extremely diminutive root and broad leaves, is known to some persons as the "astytis,"12 and to others as the "eunychion," it having the effect, in a remarkable degree, of quenching the amorous propensities. Indeed, they are, all of them, possessed of cooling and refreshing properties, for which reason it is, that they are so highly esteemed in summer; they have the effect, also, of removing from the stomach distaste for food, and of promoting the appetite. At all events, we find it stated, that the late Emperor Augustus, when ill, was saved on one occasion13, thanks to the skill of his physician, Musa14, by eating lettuces, a food which the excessive scruples of his former physician, C. Æmilius, had forbidden him. At the present day, however, lettuces have risen into such high estimation, that a method has been discovered even of preserving them during the months in which they are out of season, by keeping them in oxymel15. It is generally supposed, also, that lettuces have the effect of making blood.

In addition to the above varieties, there is another kind of lettuce known as the "goats' lettuce,"16 of which we shall have occasion to make further mention when we come to the medicinal plants: at the moment, too, that I am writing this, a new species of cultivated lettuce has been introduced, known as the Cilician lettuce, and held in very considerable esteem; the leaf of it is similar to that of the Cappadocian lettuce, except that it is crisped, and somewhat larger.

1 The Lactuca sativa of Linnæus. This account of the Greek varieties is from Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. B. vii. c. 4.

2 This, no doubt, is fabulous, and on a par with the Greek tradition that Adonis concealed himself under the leaves of a lettuce, when he was attacked and killed by the wild boar. The Coss, or Roman, lettuce, as Fée remarks, is the largest of all, and that never exceeds fifteen to twenty inches in height, leaves, stalk and all.

3 This would seem not to be a distinct variety, as the rounded stalk is a characteristic of them all.

4 "Sessile." A cabbage-lettuce, probably; though Hardouin dissents from that opinion.

5 Columella more particularly. There are still varieties known respec- tively as the black, brown, white, purple, red, and blood-red lettuce.

6 Martial, 13. v. Epig. 79, gives to this lettuce the epithet of "vile."

7 It has been suggested that this may have been wild endive, the Cichoreum intubus of botanists.

8 Or "poppy-lettuce." See B. xx. c. 26. The Lactuca virosa, probably, of modern botany, the milky juice of which strongly resembles opium in its effects.

9 For its medicinal qualities, most probably.

10 "Lac."

11 So called, Columella informs us, from Cæcilius Metellus, Consul A.U.C. 503.

12 Meaning "antaphrodisiac." The other name has a kindred meaning.

13 A.U.C. 731.

14 Antonius Musa. For this service he received a large sum of money, and the permission to wear a gold ring, and a statue was erected by public subscription in honour of him, near that of Æsculapius. He is supposed to be the person described by Virgil in the Æneid, B. xii. 1. 390, et seq., under the name of lapis. See B. xxix. c. 5 of this work.

15 Vinegar and honey; a mixture very ill-adapted, as Fée observes, to preserve either the medicinal or alimentary properties of the lettuce.

16 "Caprina lactuca." See B. xx. c. 24.

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