previous next

8% of the text is displayed below. If you wish to view the entire text, please click here



WE have given the precedence in this account to the fruit-trees and others which, by their delicious juices, first taught man to give a relish to his food and the various aliments requisite for his sustenance, whether it is that they spontaneously produce these delightful flavours, or whether we have imparted them by the methods of adoption and intermarriage,1 thus bestowing a favour, as it were, upon the very beasts and birds. The next thing, then, would be to speak of the glandi- ferous trees, the trees which proffered the earliest nutriment to the appetite of man, and proved themselves his foster- mothers in his forlorn and savage state—did I not feel myself constrained on this occasion to make some mention of the surprise which I have felt on finding by actual experience what is the life of mortals when they inhabit a country that is without either tree or shrub.

(1.) I have already stated2 that in the East many nations that dwell on the shores of the ocean are placed in this necessitous state; and I myself have personally witnessed the condition of the Chauci,3 both the Greater and the Lesser, situate in the regions of the far North. In those climates a vast tract of land, invaded twice each day and night by the overflowing waves of the ocean, opens a question that is eternally proposed to us by Nature, whether these regions are to be looked upon as belonging to the land, or whether as forming a portion of the sea?

Here a wretched race is found, inhabiting either the more elevated spots of land, or else eminences artificially constructed, and of a height to which they know by experience that the highest tides will never reach. Here they pitch their cabins; and when the waves cover the surrounding country far and wide, like so many mariners on board ship are they: when, again, the tide recedes, their condition is that of so many shipwrecked men, and around their cottages they pursue the fishes as they make their escape with the receding tide. It is not their lot, like the adjoining nations, to keep any flocks for sustenance by their milk, nor even to maintain a warfare with wild beasts, every shrub, even, being banished afar. With the sedge4 and the rushes of the marsh they make cords, and with these they weave the nets employed in the capture of the fish; they fashion the mud,5 too, with their hands, and drying it by the help of the winds more than of the sun, cook their food by its aid, and so warm their entrails, frozen as they are by the northern blasts; their only6 drink, too, is rainwater, which they collect in holes dug at the entrance of their abodes: and yet these nations, if this very day they were vanquished by the Roman people, would exclaim against being reduced7 to slavery! Be it so, then—Fortune is most kind to many, just when she means to punish them.8


Another marvel, too, connected with the forests! They cover all the rest of Germany, and by their shade augment the cold. But the highest of them all are those not far distant from the Chauci already mentioned, and more particularly in the vicinity of the two lakes9 there. The very shores are lined with oaks,10 which manifest an extraordinary eagerness to attain their growth: undermined by the waves or uprooted by the blasts, with their entwining roots they carry vast forests along with them, and, thus balanced, stand upright as they float along, while they spread afar their huge branches like the rigging of so many ships. Many is the time that these trees have struck our fleets with alarm, when the waves have driven them, almost purposely it would seem, against their prows as they stood at anchor in the night; and the men, destitute of all remedy and resource, have had to engage in a naval combat with a forest of trees!

(2.) In the same northern regions, too, is the Hercynian11 Forest, whose gigantic oaks,12 uninjured by the lapse of ages, and contemporary with the creation of the world, by their near approach to immortality surpass all other marvels known. Not to speak of other matters that would surpass all belief, it is a well-known fact that their roots,13 as they meet together, up-heave vast hills; or, if the earth happens not to accumulate with them, rise aloft to the very branches even, and, as they contend for the mastery, form arcades, like so many portals thrown open, and large enough to admit of the passage of a squadron of horse.

(3.) All these trees, in general, belong to the glandiferous class,14 and have ever been held in the highest honour by the Roman people.


It is with the leaves of this class of trees that our civic crown is made, the most glorious reward that can be bestowed on military valour, and, for this long time past, the emblem of the imperial15 clemency; since the time, in fact, when, after the impiety of civil war, it was first deemed a meritorious action not to shed the blood of a fellow-citizen. Far inferior to this in rank are the mural16 crown, the vallar,17 and the golden18 one, superior though they may be in the value of the material: inferior, too, in merit, is the rostrate19 crown, though ennobled, in recent times more particularly, by two great names, those of M. Varro,20 who was presented with it by Pompeius Magnus, for his great achievements in the Piratic War, and of M. Agrippa, on whom it was bestowed by Cæsar, at the end of the Sicilian War, which was also a war against pirates.

In former days the beaks21 of vessels, fastened in front of the tribunal, graced the Forum, and seemed, as it were, a crown placed upon the head of the Roman people itself. In later times, however, they began to be polluted and trodden under foot amid the seditious movements of the tribunes, the public interest was sacrificed to private advantage, each citizen sought solely his own advancement, and everything looked upon as holy was abandoned to profanation—still, from amid all this, the Rostra22 emerged once again, and passed from beneath the feet of the citizens to their heads. Augustus presented to Agrippa the rostrate crown, while he himself received the civic crown23 at the hands of all mankind.


In ancient times crowns24 were presented to none but a divinity, hence it is that Homer25 awards them only to the gods of heaven and to the entire army; but never to an individual, however great his achievements in battle may have been. It is said, too, that Father Liber was the first of all who placed a crown on his head, and that it was made of ivy.26 In succeeding times, those engaged in sacrifices in honour of the gods began to wear them, the victims being decked with wreaths as well. More recently, again, they were employed in the sacred games;27 and at the present day they are bestowed on such occasions, not upon the victor, indeed, but upon his country, which receives, it is proclaimed, this crown at his hands.28 Hence arose the usage of conferring wreaths upon warriors when about to enjoy a triumph, for them to consecrate in the temples: after which it became the custom to present them at our games. It would be a lengthy matter, and, indeed, foreign to the purpose of this work, to enter upon a discussion who was the first Roman that received each kind of crown; in fact, they were acquainted with none but such as were given as the reward of military prowess. It is a well-known fact, however, that this people has more varieties of crowns than those of all other nations put together.


Romulus presented Hostus Hostilius29 with a crown of leaves, for being the first to enter Fidense. This Hostus was the grandfather of King Tullus Hostilius. P. Decius the elder, the military tribune, was presented with a crown of leaves by the army which had been saved by his valour, under the command of Cornelius Cossus,30 the consul, in the war with the Samnites. This crown was made at first of the leaves of the holm oak, but afterwards those of the æsculus31 were preferred, as being a tree sacred to Jupiter: this, however, was soon employed indifferently with the quercus, according as each might happen to present itself, the honourable distinction given to the acorn being the only thing observed. Rigorous laws were, however, enacted, to maintain the lofty glories of this wreath, by which it was placed upon an equality even with the supreme honours of the wreath that is given by Greece in presence of Jove32 himself, and to receive which the exulting city of the victor is wont to break33 a passage through its very walls. These laws are to the effect that the life of a fellow-citizen must be preserved, and an enemy slain; that the spot where this takes place must have been held by the enemy that same day; that the person saved shall admit the fact, other witnesses being of no use at all; and that the person saved shall have been a Roman citizen.

To preserve an ally merely, even though it should be the life of a king that is so saved, confers no right to this high reward, nor is the honour at all increased, even if it is the Roman general that has been thus preserved, it being the intention of the framers of the law that it should be the status of the citizen that is everything. When a man has received this wreath, it is his privilege to wear it for the rest of his life. When he makes his appearance at the celebration of the games,34 it is customary for the Senate even to rise from their seats, and he has the right of taking his seat next to the senators. Exemption, too, from all civic duties is conferred upon him as well as his father and his father's father. Siccius Dentatus, as we have already mentioned35 on an appropriate occasion, received fourteen civic crowns, and Manlius Capitolinus36 six,37 one, among the rest, for having saved the life of his general, Servilius. Scipio Africanus declined to accept the civic crown for having saved the life of his father at the battle of Trebia. Times these, right worthy of our everlasting admiration, which accorded honour alone as the reward of exploits so mighty, and which, while other crowns were recommended by being made of gold, disdained to set a price upon the safety of a citizen, and loudly proclaimed thereby that it is unrighteous to save the life of a man for motives of lucre.


It is a well-known fact that acorns38 at this very day constitute the wealth of many nations, and that, too, even amid these times of peace. Sometimes, also, when there is a scarcity of corn they are dried and ground, the meal being employed for making a kind of bread. Even to this very day, in the provinces of Spain,39 we find the acorn introduced at table in the second course: it is thought to be sweeter when roasted in the ashes. By the law of the Twelve Tables, there is a provision made that it shall be lawful for a man to gather his acorns when they have fallen upon the land of another.

The varieties of the glandiferous trees are numerous, and they are found to differ in fruit, locality, sex, and taste; the acorn of the beech having one shape, that of the quercus another, and that, again, of the holm-oak another. The various species also, among themselves, offer a considerable number of varieties. In addition to this, some of these trees are of a wild nature, while the fruits of others are of a less acrid flavour, owing to a more careful cultivation. Then, too, there is a difference between the varieties which grow on the mountains and those of the plains; the males differ from the females, and there are considerable modifications in the flavour of their fruit. That of the beech40 is the sweetest of all; so much so, that, according to Cornelius Alexander, the people of the city of Chios, when besieged, supported themselves wholly on mast. The different varieties cannot possibly be distinguished by their respective names, which vary according to their several localities. The quercus41 and the robur42 we see growing everywhere, but not so with the æsculus;43 while a fourth kind, known as the cerrus,44 is not so much as known throughout the greater part of Italy. We shall distinguish them, therefore, by their characteristic features, and when circumstances render it necessary, shall give their Greek names as well.

CHAP. 7. (6.)—THE BEECH.

The acorn of the beech45 is similar in appearance to a kernel, enclosed in a shell of triangular shape. The leaf is thin and one of the very lightest, is similar in appearance to that of the poplar, and turns yellow with remarkable rapidity. From the middle of the leaf, and upon the upper side of it, there mostly shoots a little green berry, with a pointed top.46 The beech is particularly agreeable to rats and mice; and hence it is, that where this tree abounds, those creatures are sure to be plentiful also. The leaves are also very fattening for dormice, and good for thrushes too. Almost all trees bear an average crop but once in two years; this is the case with the beech more particularly.


The other trees that bear acorns, properly so called, are the robur, the æsculus, the cerrus, the holm-oak,47 and the corktree:48 it is contained in a rivelled calyx, which embraces more or less of it, according to the several varieties. The leaves of these trees, those of the holm-oak excepted, are weighty, pulpy, long, and jagged at the edges, and they do not turn yellow before they fall, as with the beech: they are also longer or shorter, as the case may be.

There are two kinds49 of holm-oak: one of them, which belongs to Italy, has a leaf not very unlike that of the olive; some of the Greeks give it the name of "milax,"50 and in our provinces it is known as the aquifolia. The acorn of these two kinds is shorter and more slender than in the others: Homer51 calls it "acylos," and by that name distinguishes it from the ordinary acorn: it is generally said that the male tree of the holm-oak bears no fruit.

The best acorn, and the very largest, is that which grows upon the quercus, and the next to it is the fruit of the aæscu- lus: that of the robur, again, is diminutive, and the fruit of the cerrus has a meagre, wretched look, being enclosed in a calyx covered with prickles, like the outer coat of the chesnut. With reference to the acorn of the quercus, that which grows upon the female tree52 is sweeter and more tender, while that of the male is more solid and compact. The acorn, however, of the latifolia53 is the most esteemed, an oak so called from the remarkable broadness of its leaves. The acorns differ also among themselves in size, and the comparative fineness of the outer shell; as also in the circumstance that some have beneath the shell a rough coat of a rusty colour, while in others a white flesh immediately presents itself. Those, too, are more particularly esteemed, the two extremities of the nut of which, taken lengthwise, are as hard as a stone: and it is considered preferable that this peculiarity should present itself rather in the shell than in the flesh: in either case, however, it only exists in the fruit of the male tree. In some kinds, again, the acorn is oval, in others round; while in others it is of a more pointed form. The colour, too, varies considerably, according as it is blacker or whiter; this last being held in the highest esteem. The extremities of the acorn are bitter, but the flesh in the middle of it is sweet;54 another difference, too, consists in the comparative length or shortness of the stalk.

As for the trees themselves, the one that bears the acorn of largest size is known as the "hemeris;"55 a small tree with a thick bushy foliage all around it, and often hollowed at the place where the branch is joined to the trunk. The quercus has a stronger wood, and less susceptible of decay: this also is a very branchy tree, but is much taller than the last, while the trunk is considerably thicker. The ægilops,56 however, is the highest of them all, and is much attached to wild, uncultivated spots. Next to this in height is the latifolia, but its wood is far from being so useful either for building purposes or for charcoal. When rough-hewn it is very apt to spoil, hence it is that it is generally used in an unhewn state. As charcoal, it is considered only economical in smelting copper; for the moment the workman ceases to blow, the fire dies out, and hence it requires to be repeatedly rekindled; while at the same time it gives out great quantities of sparks. The best charcoal is that obtained from the wood of young trees.57 Square billets of wood, newly cut, are piled compactly together with clay, and built up in the form of a chimney; the pile is then set fire to, and incisions are made in the coat of clay as it gradually hardens, by the aid of long poles, for the purpose of letting the moisture of the wood evaporate.

The worst kind of all, however, both for timber and for making charcoal, is the oak known as the "haliphlœos,"58 the bark of which is remarkably thick, and the trunk of considerable size, but mostly hollow and spongy: it is the only one of this species that rots while the tree is still alive. In addition to this, it is very frequently struck by lightning, although it is not so remarkably lofty in height: for this reason it is not considered lawful to employ its wood for the purposes of sacrifice. It is but rarely that it bears any acorns, and when it does they are bitter: no animal will touch them, with the sole exception of swine, and not even they, if they can get any other food. An additional reason also for its exclusion from all religious ceremonials, is the circumstance that the fire is very apt to go out in the middle of the sacrifice when the wood of it is used for fuel.

The acorn of the beech, when given to swine,59 makes them brisk and lively, and renders the flesh tender for cooking, and light and easy of digestion; while, on the other hand, that of the holm oak has the effect of making them thin, pallid, meagre, and lumpish. The acorn of the quercus is of a broad shape, and is the heaviest as well as the sweetest of them all. According to Nigidius, the acorn of the cerrus occupies the next rank to this, and, indeed, there is no acorn that renders the flesh of swine more firm, though at the same time it is apt to impart a certain degree of hardness. The same author assures us also, that the acorn of the holm oak is a trying diet for swine, unless it is given in very small quan- tities at a time. He says, too, that this acorn is the last to fall, and that the flesh of swine, if fed upon the acorns of the æsculus, the robur, or the cork-tree, will be of a spongy nature.


All60 the glandiferous trees produce the gall-nut as well: they only bear acorns, however, in alternate years. The gallnut of the hemeris61 is considered the choicest of all, and the best adapted for the preparation of leather: that of the latifolia closely resembles it, but is somewhat lighter, and not by any means so highly approved. This last tree produces the black gall-nut also—for there are two varieties of it—this last being deemed preferable for dyeing wool.

(7.) The gall-nut begins to grow just as the sun is leaving the sign of Gemini,62 and always bursts forth in its entirety in a single night.63 The white variety grows, too, in a single day, but if the heat happens to overtake it, it shrinks immediately, and never arrives at its proper size, which is about that of a bean. The black gall-nut will remain green for a longer period, and sometimes attains the size of an apple64 even. The best kind is that which comes from Commagene,65 and the most inferior are those produced by the robur: it may easily be tested by means of certain holes in it which admit of the passage of the light.66


The robur, in addition to its fruit, has a great number of other productions: it bears67 the two varieties of the gall-nut, and a production which closely resembles the mulberry,68 except that it differs from it in being dry and hard: for the most part it bears a resemblance to a bull's head, and in the inside there is a fruit very similar to the stone of the olive. Little balls69 also are found growing on the robur, not unlike nuts in appearance, and containing within them a kind of soft wool, which is used for burning in lamps; for it will keep burning without oil, which is the case also with the black gall-nut. It bears another kind, too, of little ball, covered with hair,70 but used for no purpose: in spring, however, this contains a juice like honey. In the hollows formed by the union of the trunk and branches of this tree there are found also small round balls,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CAL´AMUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CORO´NA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), FUNUS
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: