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The next thing to be mentioned are dates. Xenophon, in the second book of his Anabasis, says—“And there was in the district a great deal of corn, and wine made of the dates, and also vinegar, which was extracted from them; but the berries themselves of the date when like what we see in Greece, were set apart for the slaves. But those which were destined for the masters were all carefully selected, being of a wonderful size and beauty, and their colour was like amber. And some they dry and serve up as sweetmeats; and the wine made from the date is sweet, but it produces headache.” And Herodotus, in his first book, speaking of Babylon says,— “There are palm-trees there growing over the whole plain, most of them being very fruitful; and they make bread, and wine, and honey of them. And they manage the tree in the same way as the fig-tree. For those palm-trees which they call the males they take, and bind their fruit to the other palm-trees which bear dates, in order that the insect which lives in the fruit of the male palm may get into the date and ripen it, [p. 1042] and so prevent the fruit of the date-bearing palm from being spoilt. For the male palm has an insect in each of its fruits, as the wild fig has.” And Polybius of Megalopolis, who speaks with the authority of an eye-witness, gives very nearly the same account of the lotus, as it is called, in Libya, that Herodotus here gives of the palm-tree; for he speaks thus of it: “And the lotus is a tree of no great size, but rough and thorny, and its leaf is green like that of the rhamnus, but a little thicker and broader. And the fruit at first resembles both in colour and size the berries of the white myrtle when full grown; but as it increases in size it becomes of a scarlet colour, and in size about equal to the round olives; and it has an exceedingly small stone. But when it is ripe they gather it. And some they store for the use of the servants, bruising it and mixing it with groats, and packing it into vessels. And that which is preserved for freemen is treated in the same way, only that the stones are taken out, and then they pack that fruit also in jars, and eat it when they please. And it is a food very like the fig, and also like the palm-date, but superior in fragrance. And when it is moistened and pounded with water, a wine is made of it, very sweet and enjoyable to the taste, and like fine mead; and they drink it without water; but it will not keep more than ten days, on which account they only make it in small quantities as they want it. They also make vinegar of the same fruit.”
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