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THIS question was started, why the Isthmian garland was made of pine. We were then at supper in Corinth, in the time of the Isthmian games, with Lucanius the chief priest. Praxiteles the commentator brought this fable for a reason; it is said that the body of Melicertes was found fixed to a pine-tree by the sea; and not far [p. 319] from Megara, there is a place called the Race of a Fair Lady, through which the Megarians say that Ino, with her son Melicertes in her arms, ran to the sea. And when many advanced the common opinion, that the pine-tree garland peculiarly belongs to Neptune, and Lucanius added that it is sacred to Bacchus too, but yet, for all that, it might also be appropriated to the honor of Melicertes, this began the question, why the ancients dedicated the pine to Neptune and Bacchus. As for my part, it did not seem incongruous to me, for both the Gods seem to preside over the moist and generative principle; and almost all the Greeks sacrifice to Neptune the nourisher of plants, and to Bacchus the preserver of trees. Beside, it may be said that the pine peculiarly agrees to Neptune, not, as Apollodorus thinks, because it grows by the sea-side, or because it loves a bleak place (for some give this reason), but because it is used in building ships; for the pine together with the like trees, as fir and cypress, affords the best and the lightest timber, and likewise pitch and rosin, without which the compacted planks would be altogether unserviceable at sea. To Bacchus they dedicate the pine, because it gives a pleasant seasoning to wine, for amongst pines they say the sweetest and most delicious grapes grow. The cause of this Theophrastus thinks to be the heat of the soil; for pines grow most in chalky grounds. Now chalk is hot, and therefore must very much conduce to the concoction of the wine; as a chalky spring affords the lightest and sweetest water; and if chalk is mixed with corn, by its heat it makes the grains swell, and considerably increases the heap. Besides, it is probable that the vine itself is bettered by the pine, for that contains several things which are good to preserve wine. All cover the insides of wine-casks with pitch, and many mix rosin with wine, as the Euboeans in Greece, and in Italy those that live about the river Po. From the parts of Gaul about Vienna [p. 320] there is a sort of pitched wine brought, which the Romans value very much; for such things mixed with it do not only give it a good flavor, but make the wine generous, taking away by their gentle heat all the crude, watery, and undigested particles.
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