It was a custom at feasts, that a guest when he had lain down should have a paper given to him, conning a bill of fare of what there was for dinner, so that he night know what the cook was going to serve up. We find a fruit called Damascenes. Now many of the ancient writers mention Damascus, a city of great reputation and importance; and as there is a great quantity of plum-trees in the territory of the Damascenes, and as they are cultivated there with exceeding care, the tree itself has got to be called a Damascene, as being a kind of plum different from what is found in other countries. The fruit is more like prunes. And many writers speak of them, and Hipponax says—
I have a garland of damascenes and mint.And Alexis says—
A. And in my sleep I thought I saw a prize.And again he says—
B. What was it?
A. Listen.—There came up to me,
While still within th' arena's spacious bounds,
One of my rivals, bringing me a crown-
A ripe revolving crown of damascenes.
B. Oh Hercules! and were the damascenes ripe?
Did you e'er see a sausage toasted,Nicander says—
Or dish of tripe well stuff'd and roasted?
Or damascenes stew'd in rich confection—
Such was that gentleman's complexion.
The fruit they call a plum, the cuckoo's prize.But Clearchus the Peripatetic says that the Rhodians and Sicilians call plums βράβυλα, and so Theocritus the Syracusan uses the word—
Heavy with plums, the branches swept the ground.And again he says—
Far as the apple doth the plum surpass.But the damascene is smaller in circumference than other plums, though in flavour it is very like them, except that it is a little sharper. Seleucus, in his Dictionary, says that [p. 82] βράβυλα, ἦλα, κοκκύμηλα, and μάδρυα are all different names for the same thing; and that plums are called βράβυλα, as being good for the stomach, and βορὰν ἐκ βάλλοντα,, that is, assisting to remove the food; and ἦλα, which is the same word as μῆλα, meaning simply fruit, as Demetrius Ixion says in his Etymology. And Theophrastus says, κοκκύμηλα καὶ σποδιάς: σποδιὰς being a kind of wild plum. And Araros calls the tree which bears the fruit κοκκυμηλέα, and the fruit itself κοκκύμηλον. And Diphilus of Siphnos pronounces plums to be juicy, digestible, and easily evacuated, but not very nutritious.