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And here we must no longer defer giving an account of nitrum;1 which in its properties does not greatly differ from salt, and deserves all the more to be attentively considered, from the evident fact that the medical men who have written upon it were ignorant of its nature; of all which authors Theophrastus is the one that has given the greatest attention to the point. It is found in small quantities in Media, in certain valleys there that are white with heat and drought; the name given to it being "halmyrax."2 In Thracia, too, near Philipli, it is found, but in smaller quantities, and deteriorated with earthy substances, being known there as "agrion."3 As to that prepared from the burnt wood of the quercus,4 it never was made to any very great extent, and the manufacture of it has been long since totally abandoned. Nitrous5 waters are also found in numerous places, but not sufficiently impregnated to admit of condensation.6

The best and most abundant supply is found at Litæ, in Macedonia, where it is known as "Chalastricum:"7 it is white and pure, and closely resembles salt. In the middle of a certain nitrous lake there, a spring of fresh water issues forth. In this lake the nitrum8 forms for nine days, about the rising of the Dog-star, and then ceases for the same period, after which it again floats upon the surface, and then again ceases: facts which abundantly prove that it is the peculiar nature of the soil which generates the nitrum, it being very evident that, when the formation is there interrupted, neither the heat of the sun nor the fall of rain is productive of the slightest effect. It is also a truly marvellous fact, that though the spring of fresh water is always uninterruptedly flowing, the waters of the lake never increase or overflow. If it happens to rain on the days during which the nitrum is forming, the result is, that it is rendered additionally salt thereby: the prevalence of northeast winds, too, still more deteriorates its quality, as they have a tendency to stir up the mud at the bottom. Such is the formation of native nitrum.

In Egypt, again, it is made artificially, and in much greater abundance, but of inferior quality, being tawny and full of stones. It is prepared in pretty nearly the same manner9 as salt, except that in the salt-pans it is sea-water that is introduced, whereas in the nitre-beds it is the water of the river Nilus; a water which, upon the subsidence of the river, is impregnated with nitrum for forty days together, and not, as in Macedonia, at intermittent periods only. On occasions when there has been a fall of rain, a smaller proportion of river water is employed. As soon, too, as any quantity of nitrum has formed, it is immediately removed, in order that it may not melt in the beds. This substance, also, contains a certain proportion of oil,10 which is very useful for the cure of scab in animals. Piled up in large heaps, it keeps for a very considerable time. It is a marvellous fact, that, in Lake Ascanius11 and in certain springs in the vicinity of Chalcis, the water is fresh and potable on the surface, and nitrous below. The lightest part of nitrum is always considered the best, and hence it is that the froth of it is so much preferred. Still, however, when in an impure state, it is very useful for some purposes, colouring purple12 cloth, for instance, and, indeed, all kinds of dyeing. It is employed, also, very extensively in the manufacture of glass, as we shall more fully mention on the appropriate occasion.13

The only nitre-works in Egypt were formerly those in the vicinity of Naucratis and Memphis; those near Memphis being inferior to the others, the piles of nitrum there prepared being as hard as stone, and many of the heaps having become changed into rocks. When in this state, vessels are made of it, and very frequently they melt it with sulphur14 on a charcoal fire.15 When substances16 are wanted to keep, they employ this last kind of nitrum. In Egypt there are also nitre-beds, the produce of which is red, owing to the colour of the earth in the same locality. Froth of nitrum,17 a substance held in very high esteem, could only be made, according to the ancients, when dews had fallen; the pits being at the moment saturated with nitrum, but not having arrived at the point of yielding it. On the other hand, again, when the pits were in fall activity, no froth would form, it was said, even though dews should fall. Others, again, have attributed the formation of this last substance to the fermentation of the heaps of nitrum. In a succeeding age, the medical men, speaking of it under the name of "aphronitrum,"18 have stated that it was collected in Asia, where it was to be found oozing from the soft sides of certain mines—the name given to which was "colyces"19—and that it was then dried in the sun. The very best is thought to be that which comes from Lydia; the test of its genuineness being its extreme lightness, its friability, and its colour, which should be almost a full purple. This last is imported in tablets, while that of Egypt comes enclosed in vessels pitched within, to prevent its melting,20 the vessels being previously prepared by being thoroughly dried in the sun.21

To be good, nitrum should be very fine, and extremely spongy and porous. In Egypt, it is sophisticated with lime, an adulteration easily detected22 by tasting it; for when pure, it liquefies immediately, while that which has been adulterated, remains undissolved sufficiently long to leave a pungent taste23 in the mouth. It is burnt in a close earthen vessel, as otherwise it would decrepitate:24 except in this last case, however, the action of fire does not cause it to decrepitate. This substance neither produces nor nourishes anything; while, in the salt-pans, on the other hand, we see plants growing, and the sea, we know, produces immense numbers of animated beings, though, as to plants, sea-weed only. It is evident, too, that the acridity25 of nitrum must be much greater than that of salt, not only from the fact last mentioned, but from the circumstance also, that at the nitre-beds the shoes wear out with the greatest rapidity; localities which are otherwise very healthy, and remarkably beneficial for the eye-sight. At the nitre-works ophthalmia is a thing unknown: persons, too, that come there with ulcers upon them experience a rapid cure; though ulcerations formed upon the spot are but slow in healing. Used as a friction with oil, nitrum is a sudorific, and acts emolliently upon the body. That of Chalastra is used as a substitute for salt, in making bread,26 and the Egyp- tian nitrum is eaten27 with radishes,28 it having the effect of making them more tender; though as to other edibles it turns them white and spoils them. To vegetables it imparts an additional greenness.29

Viewed medicinally, nitrum is calorific, attenuant, mordent, astringent, desiccative, and ulcerating: it is good, too, in all cases where certain humours require to be drawn out or dispersed, or where gentle mordents or attenuants are required, as in the case of pustules and pimples, for example. Some persons ignite it for this purpose, and, after quenching it in astringent wine, bruise and use it, without oil, at the bath. Applied with dried iris powdered, and green olive oil, it checks immoderate perspiration. Applied topically with a fig, or boiled down to one half in raisin wine, it removes marks upon the eyes and granulations of the eyelids. It is used, also, for the removal of argema, boiled in a pomegranate rind with raisin wine. Used as an ointment, in combination with honey, it improves the eye-sight. It is very useful, also, for tooth-ache, taken as a collutory with wine and pepper, or boiled with a leek. Burnt, and employed as a dentifrice, it restores teeth30 to their original colour that have turned black; and an application of it, with Samian earth and oil, kills nits and other vermin of the head. Dissolved in wine, it is used as an in- jection for suppurations of the ears, and, applied with vinegar, it consumes filth that has accumulated there. Introduced dry into the ears, it disperses singings and tinglings in those organs. Applied topically, in the sun, with an equal quantity of Cimolian31 chalk dissolved in vinegar, it removes white morphew; and a mixture of it with resin, or with white raisins—the stones being beaten up as well—is an excellent cure for boils. It is useful, also, for inflammations of the testes; and, in combination with axle-grease, for pituitous eruptions on all parts of the body. For the cure of bites inflicted by dogs, it is used with resin, the application being made at first with vinegar. With lime and vinegar, it is used as a liniment for stings inflicted by serpents, as, also, for ulcerations, whether phagedenic, putrid, or serpiginous; in cases, too, of dropsy, it is employed both internally and externally, beaten up with figs. Taken internally as a decoction, in doses of one drachma, with rue, dill, or cummin, it effectually removes griping pains in the bowels. An external application of it, with oil and vinegar, is highly refreshing to persons exhausted with fatigue; and it is equally beneficial for shudderings and cold shiverings, the feet and hands of the patient being well rubbed with it, mixed with oil. It allays the itching sensations attendant upon jaundice, more particularly when it is administered to the patient while perspiring, with vinegar. Taken internally in oxycrate, it is an antidote to the poison of fungi; and, taken with water, it acts beneficially, as an emetic, in cases where the buprestis has been swallowed.

To persons who have taken bull's blood,32 nitrum is admi- nistered, in combination with laser.33 Mixed with honey and cow's milk, it is curative of ulcers upon the face. For the cure of burns, it is applied pounded, being first parched till it turns black. For pains in the bowels and kidneys, and for rigidities of the limbs and pains in the sinews, it is used in the form of an injection. For the cure of paralysis of the tongue, it is applied to that organ with bread, and to asthmatic patients it is administered in a ptisan. Flower of nitrum, used in combination with equal proportions of galbanum and turpentine respectively, is curative of chronic coughs; the mixture being taken in pieces the size of a bean. Nitrum34 itself, boiled and melted with tar, is given to patients to swallow, for quinzy.

Flower of nitrum, mixed with oil of cyprus,35 and applied in the sun, is a soothing liniment for pains in the joints. Taken internally with wine, it is curative of jaundice. It acts as a carminative also; and it arrests bleeding at the nose, the vapour of it in boiling water being inhaled by the patient. Mixed with alum, it removes porrigo; and, used daily with water, as a fomentation,. it removes offensive odours of the armpits. Used in combination with wax, it heals ulcers produced by pituitous secretions, and, similarly employed, it is very useful for affections of the sinews. For the cure of the cœliac flux, it is used in the form of an injection. Many authorities recommend the use of it, with oil, as a friction when cold shiverings are just coming on; as also, for the removal of leprous spots and freckles. It is a good plan also, to use a sitting-bath made with an infusion of nitrum, for the cure of gout, atrophy, opisthotony, and tetanus.

Both salt and nitre, boiled with sulphur,36 become petrified.

1 Beckmann, who devotes several pages to a consideration of the "ni- trum" of the ancients, considers it not to be our nitre." or "saltpetre," but a general name for impure alkaline salts. See his Hist. Inv. Vol. 11. pp. 490—503, Bohn's Ed. Ajasson, without hesitation, pronounces it to be nitrate of potash, neither more or less than our saltpetre, and quotes a statement from Andreossy, that it is still to le found in great quantities at Mount Ptou-Ampihosem, near the city of Pihosem, called Nitria by St. Jerome.

2 "Salt bursting from the earth."

3 "Wild."

4 See c. 40 of this Book. He is evidently speaking of a vegetable alkali here. See Beckmann, Vol. II. pp. 492–3, Bohn's Ed.

5 Beckmann thinks that these kinds of water were in reality only impure and not potable, from their nauseous taste, and that hence they were considered as nitrous. Nitrous water, he remarks, or water containing saltpetre, in all probability, does not exist. Vol. II. pp. 498–9. Bohn's Edition.

6 Or in other words, crystallization. Beckmann remarks that, in reference to alkaline water, this is undoubtedly true. Vol. II. p. 499.

7 From the adjacent town of Chalastra, on the Thermæan Gulf. The site is probably occupied by the modern Kulakia.

8 Carbonate of soda is found in the mineral waters of Seltzer and Carlsbad, and in the volcanic springs of Iceland, the Geysers more particularly.

9 Ajasson remarks, that from this we may conclude that the fabrication of nitrate of potash, or saltpetre, was in its infancy. It is by no means improbable that the artificial nitrum, here mentioned by Pliny, really was artificial saltpetre, more or less impure; the native nitrum, on the other land, being, as Beckmann suggests, a general term for impure alkaline mineral salts, in common with native saltpetre. Pliny's account, however, is confused in the highest degree, and in some passages far from intelligible.

10 Of a bituminous nature, probably. See c. 42 of this Book.

11 See B. v. c. 40. An alkaline water, Beckmann thinks. See Vol. II. pp. 96–7. Bohn's Ed.

12 He may possibly mean bleaching the material before dyeing.

13 See B. xxxvi. c. 65. This certainly goes far towards proving that under the name "nitrum," alkaline salts were included.

14 "Faciunt ex his vasa, necnon frequenter liquatum cum sulphure, co- quentes in carbonibus." This passage Beckmann pronounces to be one of the darkest parts in the history of nitrum. See Vol. II. p. 502. He is of opinion that not improbably the result here obtained would be, liver of sulphur, which when it cools is hard, but soon becomes moist when exposed to the air. Dalechamps, it would appear, explains the whole of this passage as applicable to glazing; but in such case, as Beckmann observes, the nitrum could serve only as a flux. Michaelis suggests that the vessels here mentioned, were cut, not for real use, but merely for ornament, in the same manner as they are still made, occasionally, from rock-salt.

15 The mention of nitrum, sulphur, and charcoal, probably the three ingredients of gunpowder, in such close proximity, is somewhat curious.

16 "Quæ" seems a preferable reading to "quos."

17 "Spuma nitri." An accidental property, Beckmann says, of the same salt that has been previously called "Chalastricum," "Halmyrax," "Aphronitrum," and "Agrion." In his opinion, "the ancients were acquainted with no other than native nitrum, which they called artificial, only when it required a little more trouble and art to obtain it."—Hist. Inv. Vol. II. p. 502. Bohn's Ed.

18 "Froth of nitre." Ajasson identifies this with hydro-carbonate of soda.

19 Supposed by Hardouin to be derived from the Greek κόλικας, "round cakes;" owing to the peculiar form of the pieces of rock by which the aphronitrum was produced. The reading, however, is very doubtful. Sillig, from Photius, suggests that it should be "scolecas."

20 One proof, Beckmann thinks, that Soda is meant. See Vol. II. p. 491.

21 "Whether Pliny means that the vessels were not burnt, but only baked in the sun, or that before they were filled, they were completely dried in the sun, has been determined by no commentator. To me the latter is probable."—Beckmann, Hist. Inv. Vol. II. p. 491.

22 Beckmann thinks that this mode of adulteration, with lime, is an additional proof that the "nitrum" of our author was only soda. See Vol. II. p. 492.

23 That, namely, of the lime. Quick-lime, certainly, would have a pungent taste, in comparison with that of soda, but not in comparison with that of saltpetre.

24 Another proof, Beekmann thinks, that it was native soda, impregnated with common salt. Vol. II. p. 492.

25 This would hardly apply to soda.

26 Probably to promote its rising, as Beckmann observes, Vol. II. p. 496; a circumstance which goes a great way towards proving that "Soda" was included, at least, under the name of "nitrum." Carbonate of soda is extensively used for this purpose at the present day.

27 And to correct the acridity of the radishes, possibly. A somewhat analogous fact is mentioned by Drury, in his "Journal in Madagascar." He says that the sourest tamarinds, "mixed with wood ashes, become sweet and eatable." See p. 316.—We are not unaware that many look upon this work and its statements as a work of fiction.

28 See B. xix. c. 26.

29 Carbonate of soda is added to pickles and boiling vegetables for this purpose.

30 Vegetable ashes, and tobacco-ashes in particular, have the same effect.

31 See B. xxxv. c. 57.

32 Viewed by the ancients as a poison, when taken warm; but erroneously, as we have more than once remarked.

33 See B. xix. c. 15.

34 Nitre balls are still given to the patient to suck, in cases of sore throat.

35 See B. xii. c. 51.

36 Beckmann considers that this statement throws some light on the obscure passage, commented on in Note 77, p. 514. See Hist. Inv. Vol. I. p.503. Bohn's Ed.

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