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For the fact is that spartum1 did not begin to be employed till many ages after the time of Homer; indeed, not before the first war that the Carthaginians waged in Spain. This, too, is a plant that grows spontaneously,2 and is incapable of being reproduced by sowing, it being a species of rush, peculiar to a dry, arid soil, a morbid production confined to a single country only; for in reality it is a curse to the soil, as there is nothing whatever that can be sown or grown in its vicinity. There is a kind of spartum grown in Africa,3 of a stunted nature, and quite useless for all practical purposes. It is found in one portion of the province of Carthage4 in Nearer Spain, though not in every part of that; but wherever it is produced, the mountains, even, are covered all over with it.

This material is employed by the country-people there for making5 their beds; with it they kindle their fires also, and prepare their torches; shoes6 also, and garments for the shepherds, are made of it. As a food for animals, it is highly injurious,7 with the sole exception of the tender tops of the shoots. When wanted for other uses, it is pulled up by the roots, with considerable labour; the legs of the persons so employed being protected by boots, and their hands with gloves, the plant being twisted round levers of bone or holm-oak, to get it up with the greater facility. At the present day it is gathered in the winter, even; but this work is done with the least difficulty between the ides of May8 and those of June, that being the period at which it is perfectly ripe.

1 The Stipa tenacissima of Linnæus; a kind of broom, called "Esparto" by the Spaniards.

2 Although, as Fée says, this is still the fact, it is a plant which would readily admit of cultivation. Varro, however, De Re Rust. B. i. c. 23, speaks of it in conjunction with hemp, flax, and rushes, as being sown.

3 This kind, Fée thinks, may possibly have been identical with the Spartum Lygeum of Linnæus, false esparto, or alvarde.

4 At the present day it is only in the provinces on the Mediterranean that spartum is found; the other provinces producing nothing but alvarde.

5 It is still used in the southern parts of Spain for the same purposes.

6 The shoes now made of it are known as "espartenas" and "alpargatas."

7 It is not dangerous in itself, but is too tough to be a favourite article of food with cattle.

8 Fifteenth of May and thirteenth of June.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), O´CREA
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