“cotton,” from Sansk. karpâsa,
was an Eastern product, originally called ἔρια ἀπὸ ξύλου
), “superior in beauty and quality to the wool
of sheep” (Hdt. 3.106
also mentions it in his account of the corslet Amasis of Egypt had given the
Lacedaemonians (3.47). It was brought by the Phoenicians into Spain: and
indeed Pliny (19.10
) is of opinion that it
was originally found near Tarraco. The Greeks first got a real knowledge of
it from the expedition of Alexander (Strab. 693, 694; Plin. Nat. 12.38
ff.). It is described by
Theophrastus (H. P.
4, 9 init.,
ed. Budaeus a Stempel, and of his notes, pp. 425 ff.) and by Pliny in
various passages. The Latin term Pliny uses (12.39) is gossypium.
The common kind, grown in India, had small leaves
like a mulberry, buds like a dog-rose (12.25), and fruit like apples
(19.14). The cotton plant among the Arabians and in the island of Tylos in
the Persian Gulf had a gourd-like fruit about the size of quince apples, and
was called cyna
(12. § § 38,
39; cf. Theophr. l.c.
). The finest cotton was got in
Egypt; its fruit presented the appearance of nux
and from the fine substance within the husk the yarn was spun.
The Egyptian priests used to wear garments made of this cotton. The article
is called κάρπασος
in Schol. on Ar.
736, and is mentioned by Caecilius Statius (ap. Non.
548, 15) about 180 B.C. This seems to be the earliest time we hear of cotton
at Rome: for we cannot suppose the Vestal in Prop.
, to have really worn a cotton
garment. Carbasus was used at Rome not only for articles of dress, but also
for tent curtains (Cic. Ver. 5.12,
), sails (Verg. A. 3.357
awnings in the theatre (Lucr. 6.109
). There was
no great distinction maintained in ordinary language between cotton and
linen (Catull. 64, 227; Prop. 5.3
: cf. also Becker-Göll,
3.233 ; Gallus,
3.289), and σινδὼν
muslin” ) is confused with linen stuffs (Auson. Epp.
parecbas. 2, “puer eia surge et calceos et linteam da sindonem”
] is not the same as κάρπασος
in that it does not apply to the same
article, and is used of any fabric woven from byssus flax or cotton (Marq.
473). In Malta there were a great
many manufactories of ὀθόνια
) which were called vestis melitensis
at Rome (Cic. Ver.
2.72, § 176
; 74.183). This may have been cotton brought by
the Phoenician colonists (Mövers, 2.2, 347; Blümner,
p. 125), or, as Yates
p. 286) thinks, linen. Silius
indeed (14.250) speaks of telâque superba
but, in the confusion of ideas that
existed among the average Romans between linen and cotton, this does not
prove much. Raw cotton was used as stuffing for pillows and bolsters
) at Tralles, Antinoopolis, and
Damascus: see Ed. Diocl.
18.46, ed. Wadd., p. 41, and a
secondary meaning of tula
in Sansk. is cotton. The
Macedonians with Alexander had already (Strab. 693) used it as stuffing for
pillows and padding for saddles (ἀντὶ κναφάλλων
καὶ τῆς σάγμασι σαγῆς
). On the subject of cotton among the
ancients, see Marquardt, Röm. Privatleben,
470-474. For the botany of cotton, see Royle, Culture of Cotton in
pp. 136 sqq.