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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."
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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