previous next


Mago has likewise given similar recommendations as to the rush known to us as the "mariscus,"1 and which is so extensively employed for weaving mats. He says that it should be gathered in the month of June, up to the middle of July, and for drying it he gives the same precepts that have been already2 mentioned, in the appropriate place, when speaking of sedge. He describes a second kind, also, which I find is generally called the "marine" rush, and is known to the Greeks as the "oxyschœnos."3

Generally speaking, there are three varieties of this last rush: the pointed rush, which is barren, and by the Greeks is called the male rush and the "oxys:"4 the female rush,5 which bears a black seed, and is called the "melancranis,"6 thicker and more bushy than the preceding one: and a third kind, called the "holoschœbnus,"7 which is larger still. Of these varieties, the melancranis grows separately from the others, but the oxys and the holoschœnus will grow upon the self-same clod. The holoschœnus is the most useful for all kinds of basket-work, being of a particularly supple and fleshy nature; it bears a fruit, which resembles eggs attached to one another. The rush, again, which we have spoken of as the male rush,8 is reproduced from itself, the summit of it being bent down into the earth; the melancranis, however, is propagated from seed. Beyond this, the roots of all the varieties of the rush die every year.

The rush is in general use for making kipes9 for sea-fishing, the more light and elegant kinds of basket-work, and the wicks of lamps, for which last purpose the pith is more particularly employed.10 In the vicinity of the maritime Alps, the rushes grow to such a vast size, that when split they measure nearly an inch in diameter; while in Egypt, on the other hand, they are so extremely fine, that the people there make sieves of them, for which, indeed, there can be nothing better.

Some authors, again, distinguish another kind of rush, of a triangular shape, to which they give the name of cyperos,11 though many persons make no distinction between it and the "cypiros," in consequence of the resemblance of the names; for our own part, however, we shall observe the distinction. The cypiros, as we have already12 stated, is identical with the gladiolus, a plant with a bulbous root, the most esteemed being those grown in the Isle of Crete, the next best those of Naxos, and the next those of Phœnicia. The cypiros of Crete is white, with an odour strongly resembling that of nard; the produce of Naxos has a more pungent smell, that of Phœnicia but little odour of any kind, and that of Ægypt none at all for it grows in that country as well.

This plant disperses hard tumours of the body—for we shall here begin to speak of the remedies derived from the various flowers and odoriferous plants, they being, all of them, of very considerable utility in medicine. As to the cypiros, then, I shall follow Apollodorus, who forbids it to be taken in drink, though at the same time he admits that it is extremely useful for calculi of the bladder, and recommends it in fomentations for the face. He entertains no doubt, however, that it is pro- ductive of abortion, and he mentions, as a remarkable fact, that the barbarians,13 by inhaling the fumes of this plant at the mouth, thereby diminish the volume of the spleen. They never go out of the house, he says, till they have inhaled these fumes, through the agency of which they daily become stronger and stronger, and more robust. He states, also, that the cypiros, employed as a liniment with oil, is an undoubted remedy for chafing of the skin, and offensive odours of the arm-pits.

1 The Schœnus mariscus of Linnæus.

2 Pliny is guilty of a lapsus memoriæ here, for he has nowhere given any such advice on the subject. Hardouin refers to B. xviii. c. 67, but erroneously, for there he is speaking of hay, not "ulva" or sedge.

3 The "sharp rush." The Juncus acutus of Linnæus; the pointed bulrush.

4 The "pointed" rush. The Schœnus mucronatus of Linnæus.

5 A variety, Fée says, of the Schœnus nigricans of Linnæus, the black bulrush.

6 The "black head."

7 The Scirpus holoschœnus of Linnæus, Fée thinks.

8 None of the rushes, Fée remarks, are barren; and when the head is inserted in the ground, it is neither more nor less than a sowing of the seed. Hardouin remarks, however, that by the word "cacumine." the bulbous root of the rush is meant, and not the point of the stem.

9 "Nassæ." Baskets with a narrow mouth.

10 It has descended in our time to the more humble rushlight; and even that is fast "going out."

11 Fée identifies it with the Cyperus longus and Cyperus rotundus of Linnæus, the odoriferous or round souchet.

12 In c. 67 of this Book. The bulb, however, of the gladiolus is inodorous; for which reason Fée is inclined to think that Pliny, with all his care, is describing a cyperus, perhaps the Cyperus esculentus.

13 It would be curious to know who these barbarians were, who thus smoked cypirus as we do tobacco. Fée queries whether they were Germans or Gauls, people of Asia or of Africa.

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 (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: