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SALINAE

SALINAE sc. fodinae (ἁλαί, ἁλοπήγιον), a salt-work. The ancients had many ways of procuring salt, of which Pliny, Plin. Nat. 31. § § 73-92, gives a summary. They were acquainted with rock-salt (Hdt. 4.181-185; ἅλες ὀρυκτοί, Arrian, Exped. Alex. 3, 4; sal nativus). They obtained salt also from inland lakes (Hdt. 7.30), from natural springs or brine-pits (Cic. N. D. 2.5. 3, 132), and from coasts where the sun dried it out of the sea-water (as the ἅλες αὐτόματιο at the mouth of the Borysthenes: Hdt. 4.53 and Dio Chrys. Or. 36; Pliny, l.c.). But they obtained their largest supplies from works constructed on the seashore where it was adapted for the purpose by being low and easily overflowed by the sea. In order to aid the natural evaporation, shallow rectangular ponds (the multifidi lacus of Rutil. Itin. 1.478) were dug, divided from one another by earthen walls, and probably like the old salt-pans still visible on many points of the English coast. The seawater was admitted by channels which could be closed by sluices (CATARACTA; Rutil. 1.481). As the water flowed from one evaporating-pond to another, it became more strongly impregnated with salt (Rutil. 1.475-490). When the brine began at last to crystallise, the maker (salinator, ἁλοπηγὸς) raked out the salt and left it to drain (Nicander, Alex. 519). Works of this kind gave the name of Ἁλαὶ or Salinae to several places in Attica (Steph. Byz.; see Boeckh, Staatshaushaltung der Athener, 1.126, ed. 3), Britain (Ptol.), and elsewhere. Cato, Cat. Agr. 88, gives directions for further purifying common salt.

Brine made as above (coacto humore, Plin. Nat. 31.73) was called by the Greeks ἅλυμ, by the Latins salsugo or salsilago, and by the Spaniards muria (Plin. Nat. 31.83). It was used by the Egyptians to pickle fish (Hdt. 2.77), and by the Romans to preserve olives, cheese, and meat (Cato, l.c.). From muria, which may be connected with ἁλμνρίς, “brine,” victuals cured in it were called salsa muriatica (Plaut. Poen. 1.2, 31).

Under Roman government salt-works were common public property, and were let to the highest bidder. Ancus Martius is said to have established the first salt-work at Ostia (Liv. 1.33; Plin. Nat. 31.89). In Liv. 2.9 (B.C. 508) we find the government interfering with the price, and the sale of salt becoming a statemonopoly. In B.C. 204 (Liv. 29.37) a new vectigal was raised out of salt. Livy apparently means that a tax was put on, in addition to the revenue derived from the manufacture, but he is far from being clear. The price of salt was at the same time limited. The modius (about a peck) was to be sold for a sextans at Rome; but dearer in other parts of Italy, no doubt to cover the cost and risks of transport. In the provinces salt-works were sometimes left to their former owners (persons or towns), who had merely to pay Rome a fixed rent; but the commonest plan was to lease them to publicani. The Roman government seems to have been anxious to keep the price of salt down; but still its monopoly was maintained under the Empire (Cod. Just. 4.61, 11).

[F.T.R]

hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.77
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.181
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.185
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.53
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.30
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 9
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 2.5
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