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And yet pearls may be looked upon as pretty nearly a possession of everlasting duration—they descend from a man to his heir, and they are alienated from one to another just like any landed estate. But the colours that are extracted from the murex1 and the purple fade from hour to hour; and yet luxury, which has similarly acted as a mother to them, has set upon them prices almost equal to those of pearls.

(36.) Purples live mostly seven2 years. Like the murex, they keep themselves in concealment for thirty days, about the time of the rising of the Dog-star; in the spring season they unite in large bodies, and by rubbing against each other, produce a viscous spittle, from which a kind of wax is formed. The murex does the same; but the purple3 has that exquisite juice which is so greatly sought after for the purpose of dyeing cloth, situate in the middle of the throat. This secretion consists of a tiny drop contained in a white vein, from which the precious liquid used for dyeing is distilled, being of the tint of a rose somewhat inclining to black. The rest of the body is entirely destitute of this juice. It is a great point to take the fish alive; for when it dies, it spits out this juice. From the larger ones it is extracted after taking off the shell; but the small fish are crushed alive, together with the shells, upon which they eject this secretion.

In Asia the best purple is that of Tyre, in Africa that of Meninx4 and the parts of Gætulia that border on the Ocean, and in Europe that of Laconia. It is for this colour that the fasces and the axes5 of Rome make way in the crowd; it is this that asserts the majesty of childhood;6 it is this that distinguishes the senator7 from the man of equestrian rank; by persons arrayed in this colour are prayers8 ad- dressed to propitiate the gods; on every garment9 it sheds a lustre, and in the triumphal vestment10 it is to be seen mingled with gold. Let us be prepared then to excuse this frantic passion for purple, even though at the same time we are compelled to enquire, why it is that such a high value has been set upon the produce of this shell-fish, seeing that while in the dye the smell of it is offensive, and the colour itself is harsh, of a greenish hue, and strongly resembling that of the sea when in a tempestuous state?

The tongue of the purple is a finger11 in length, and by means of this it finds subsistence, by piercing other shellfish,12 so hard is the point of it. They die in fresh water, and in places where rivers discharge themselves into the sea; otherwise, when taken, they will live as long as fifty days on their saliva. All shell-fish grow very fast, and purples more especially; they come to their full size at the end of a year.

1 Or "conchylium." We find that Pliny generally makes a difference between the colours of the "murex," or "conchylium," and those of the "purpura," or "purple." Cuvier says, that they were the names of different shell-fish which the ancients employed for dyeing in purple of various shades. It is not known exactly, at the present day, what species they employed; but it is a fact well ascertained, that the greater part of the univalve shell-fish, more especially the Buccini and Murices of Linnæus, distil a kind of red liquid. The dearness of it arose, Cuvier thinks, from the remarkably small quantity that each animal afforded. Since the coccus, or kermes, he says, came to be well known, and more especially since the New World has supplied us with cochineal, we are no longer necessitated to have recourse to the juices of the murex.

2 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. v. c. 14, says, "about six." The murex of Pliny is the κήρυξ of Aristotle.

3 Aristotle says, that the purple consists of three parts, the upper being the τράχηλος, or neck; the middle the μήχων,, or poppy; and the lower the πυθμήν, or trunk; and that the juice lies between the first and second of these parts, or the throat. This juice, which Pliny calls "flos," "flower," "ros," "dew," and "succus," "juice," is distilled, Cuvier says, not from the fauces of the animal, but from the mantle or membranous tissue which lines the shell.

4 See B. v. c. 7. See also B. vi. c. 36.

5 Which preceded the Roman consuls, who were clothed with the toga prætexta, the colour of which was Syrian purple.

6 Hardouin seems to think that "majestate pueritia" means "children of high birth;" but it was the fact that all children of free birth wore the prætexta, edged with purple, till they attained puberty. It is much more probable that by these words Pliny means the "majesty of youth," in its simplicity and guileless nature, that commands our veneration and respect.

7 He means that the purple laticlave or broad hem of the senator's toga distinguished him from the eques, who wore a toga with an angusticlave, or narrow hem.

8 From Cicero, Epist. Ad. Attic. B. ii. Ep. 9, we learn that purple was worn by the priests when performing sacrifice. Ajasson, however, agrees with Dalechamps in thinking that this passage bears reference to the consuls, who wore purple when sacrificing to the gods.

9 The prætexta, for instance, the laticlave, the chlamys, the paludamentum, and the trabea.

10 On the occasion of a triumph, the victor was arrayed in a "toga picta," an embroidered garment, which, from the present passage, would appear to have been of purple and gold. Pliny tells us, B. xxxiii. c. 19, that Tarquinius, on his triumph over the Sabines, wore a robe of cloth of gold.

11 Aristotle says the same, Hist. Anim. B. v. c. 14, and De Partib. Anim. B. ii. c. 17. Cuvier says, that the buccinus and murex have a long neck, in which there is a tongue armed with little teeth, but very sharp, by means of which the animal is enabled to pierce other shell-fish.

12 "Conchylia;" other fish of the same kind apparently; as Pliny uses the word "conchylium" synonymously with "murex."

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