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The cultivated vine is kept down by pruning every year, and all the strength of the tree is drawn as much as possible into the shoots, or else thrown downwards to the sets;1 indeed, it is only allowed to expand with the view of ensuring an abundant supply of juice, a result which is obtained in various modes according to the peculiarities of the climate and the nature of the soil. In Campania they attach2 the vine to the poplar: embracing the tree to which it is thus wedded, the vine grasps the branches with its amorous arms, and as it climbs, holds on with its knotted trunk, till it has reached the very summit; the height being sometimes so stupendous that the vintager when hired is wont to stipulate for his funeral pile and a grave at the owner's expense. The vine keeps continually on the increase, and it is quite impossible to separate the two, or rather, I may say, to tear them asunder. Valerianus Cornelius has regarded it as one of the most remarkable facts that could be transmitted to posterity, that single vines have been known to surround villas and country houses with their shoots and creeping tendrils ever on the stretch. At Rome, in the porticoes of Livia, a single vine, with its leaf-clad trellises, protects with its shade the walks in the open air; the fruit of it yields twelve amphoræ of must.3

Everywhere we find the vine overtopping the elm even, and we read that Cineas,4 the ambassador of King Pyrrhus, when admiring the great height of the vines at Aricia, wittily making allusion to the peculiar rough taste of wine, remarked that it was with very good reason that they had hung the parent of it on so lofty a gibbet. There is a tree in that part of Italy which lies beyond the Padus,5 known as the "rumpotinus,"6 or sometimes by the name of "opulus," the broad circular7 storeys of which are covered with vines, whose branches wind upwards in a serpentine form to the part where the boughs finally divide,8 and then, throwing out their tendrils, disperse them in every direction among the straight and finger-like twigs which project from the branches. There are vines also, about as tall as a man of moderate height, which are supported by props, and, as they throw out their bristling tendrils, form whole vineyards: while others, again, in their inordinate love for climbing, combined with skill on the part of the proprietor, will cover even the very centre9 of the court-yard with their shoots and foliage. So numerous are the varieties of the vine which even Italy alone presents.

In some of the provinces the vine is able to stand of itself without anything to support it, drawing in its bending branches, and making up in its thickness for its stunted size. In other places, again, the winds will not allow of this mode of culture, as in Africa, for instance, and various parts of the province of Gallia Narbonensis. These vines, being prevented from growing beyond the first branches, and hence always retaining a resemblance to those plants which stand in need of the hoe, trail along the ground just like them, and every here and there suck10 up the juices from the earth to fill their grapes: it is in consequence of this, that in the interior of Africa the clusters11 are known to exceed the body of an infant in size. The wine of no country is more acid than those of Africa, but there is nowhere to be found a grape that is more agreeable for its firmness, a circumstance which may very probably have given rise to its name of the "hard grape."12 As to the varieties of the grape, although they are rendered innumerable by the size, the colour, and the flavour of the berry, they are multiplied even still more by the wines that they produce. In one part they are lustrous with a rich purple colour, while in another, again, they glow with a rosy tint, or else are glossy with their verdant hue. The grapes that are merely white or black are the common sorts. The bumastus13 swells out in form like a breast, while that known as the "dactylus,"14 has a berry of remarkable length. Nature, too, displays such varieties in these productions of hers, that small grapes are often to be found adhering to the largest vines, but of surpassing sweetness; they are known by the name of "leptorragæ."15 Some, again, will keep throughout the winter, if care is taken to hang them to the ceiling16 with a string; while others, again, will keep by virtue of their own natural freshness and vigour, if put into earthen jars, which are then enclosed in dolia,17 and covered up with the fermenting husks of grapes. Some grapes receive from the smoke of the blacksmith's forge that remarkable flavour which it is also known to impart to wines: it was the high name of the Emperor Tiberius that brought into such great repute the grapes that had been smoked in the smithies of Africa. Before his time the highest rank at table was assigned to the grapes of Rhætia,18 and to those growing in the territory of Verona.

Raisins of the sun have the name of "passi," from having been submitted19 to the influence of the sun. It is not uncommon to preserve grapes in must, and so make them drunk with their own juices; while there are some that are all the sweeter for being placed in must after it has been boiled; others, again, are left to hang on the parent tree till a new crop has made its appearance, by which time they have become as clear and as transparent20 as glass. Astringent pitch, if poured upon the footstalk of the grape, will impart to it all that body and that firmness which, when placed in dolia or amphoræ, it gives to wine. More recently, too, there has been discovered a vine which produces a fruit that imparts to its wine a strong flavour of pitch: it is the famous grape that confers such celebrity on the territory of Vienne,21 and of which several varieties have recently enriched the territories of the Arverni, the Sequani, and the Helvii:22 it was unknown in the time of the poet Virgil, who has now been dead these ninety years.23

In addition to these particulars, need I make mention of the fact that the vine24 has been introduced into the camp and placed in the centurion's hand for the preservation of the supreme authority and command? that this is the high reward which summons the lagging ranks to the eagles raised aloft,25 and that even in chastisement for faults it tends to reflect honour upon the punishment?26 It was the vineyard, too, that first afforded a notion,27 the practical utility of which has been experienced in many a siege. Among the medicinal preparations, too, the vine holds so high a place, that its very wines taken by themselves are efficacious as remedies for disease.28

1 Or "layers," "propagines."

2 Nubunt, properly "marry." This is still done in Naples, and other parts of Italy, The use of vine stays there are unknown.

3 "Mustum." Pure, unfermented juice of the grape.

4 See B. vii. c. 24.

5 Italia Transpadana.

6 See B. xxiv. c. 112. The Bauhins are of opinion that this is the Acer opulus of Willdenow, common in Italy, and very branchy.

7 "Tabulata in orbem patula." He probably alludes to the branches extending horizontally from the trunk.

8 "In palmam ejus."

9 There is no doubt that the whole of this passage is in a most corrupt state, and we can only guess at its meaning. Sillig suggests a new reading, which, unsupported as it is by any of the MSS., can only be regarded as fanciful, and perhaps as a very slight improvement on the attempts to obtain a solution of the difficulty. Pliny's main object seems to be to contrast the vines that entwine round poles and rise perpendi- cularly with those that creep horizontally.

10 By throwing out fresh shoots every here and there. Fée , however, seems to think that he means that the grapes themselves, as they trail along the ground, suck up the juices with their pores. These are known in France as "running vines," and are found in Berry and Anjou.

11 He must evidently be speaking of the size of the bunches. See the account of the grapes of Canaan, in Numbers xiii. 24.

12 "Durus acinus," or, according to some readings, "duracinus."

13 From the Greek βουμαστὸς, a cow's teat, mentioned by Virgil, Georg. ii. 102.

14 Or finger-grape.

15 From the Greek λεπτορᾶγες, "small-berried."

16 Pensili concamaratæ nodo.

17 We have no corresponding word for the Latin "dolium." It was an oblong earthen vessel, used for much the same purpose as our vats; new wine was generally placed in it. In times later than that of Pliny the dolia were made of wood.

18 Hardouin speaks of these grapes as still growing in his time in the Valtelline, and remarkable for their excellence.

19 "A patientia." Because they have suffered from the action of the heat.

20 From the thinness of the skin.

21 See c. 24, also B. xxiii. c. 24.

22 See B. iii. c. 5, and B. xxxiii. c. 24.

23 He died in the year B.C. 19.

24 A vine sapling was the chief mark of the centurion's authority.

25 The reading "elatas," has been adopted. If "lentas" is retained, it may mean, "promotion, slow though it be," for the word "aquila" was often used to denote the rank of the "primipilus," who had the charge of the eagle of the legion.

26 Because it was the privilege solely of those soldiers who were Roman citizens to be beaten with the vine sapling.

27 He alludes to the "vinea" used in besieging towns; the first notion of which was derived from the leafy roof afforded by the vines when creeping on the trellis over-head. It was a moveable machine, affording a roof under which the besiegers protected themselves against darts, stones, fire, and other missiles. Raw hides or wet cloths constituted the uppermost layer.

28 See B. xxiii. c. 19.

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  • Cross-references to this page (5):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), HE´LVII
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MAREIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MU´TINA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PISAE
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), RHAETIA
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