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Nearly approaching to the nature of sulphur is that of bitumen,1 which in some places assumes the form of a slime, and in others that of an earth; a slime, thrown up, as already2 stated, by a certain lake in Judæa, and an earth, found in the vicinity of Sidon, a maritime town of Syria. In both these states, it admits of being thickened and condensed. There is also a liquid3 bitumen, that of Zacynthus, for example, and the bitumen that is imported from Babylon; which last kind is also white: the bitumen, too, of Apollonia is liquid. All these kinds, in Greek, have the one general name of "pissasphaltos,"4 from their strong resemblance to a compound of pitch and bitumen. There is also found an unctuous liquid bitumen, resembling oil, in a spring at Agrigentum, in Sicily, the waters of which are tainted by it. The inhabitants of the spot collect it on the panicles of reeds, to which it very readily adheres, and make use of it for burning in lamps, as a substitute for oil, as also for the cure of itch-scab in beasts of burden.

Some authorities include among the bitumens, naphtha, a substance which we have already mentioned in the Second Book;5 but the burning properties which it possesses, and its susceptibility of igniting, render it quite unfit for use. Bitumen, to be of good quality, should be extremely brilliant, heavy, and massive; it should also be moderately smooth, it being very much the practice to adulterate it with pitch. Its medi- cinal properties are similar to those of sulphur, it being naturally astringent, dispersive, contractive, and agglutinating: ignited, it drives away serpents by the smell. Babylonian bitumen is very efficacious, it is said, for the cure of cataract and albugo, as also of leprosy, lichens, and pruriginous affections. Bitumen is employed, too, in the form of a liniment, for gout; and every variety of it is useful for making bandolines for eyelashes that are refractory and impede the sight. Applied topically with nitre,6 it is curative of tooth-ache, and, taken internally, with wine, it alleviates chronic coughs and difficulty of respiration. It is administered in a similar manner for dysentery, and is very good for arresting looseness of the bowels. Taken internally with vinegar, it dissolves and brings away coagulated blood. It modifies pains also in the loins and joints, and, applied with barley-meal, it forms a peculiar kind of plaster, to which it has given its name.7 It stanches blood also, heals wounds, and unites the sinews when severed. Bitumen is administered for quartan fevers, in doses of one drachma to an equal quantity of hedyosmos,8 the whole kneaded up with one obolus of myrrh. The smell of burnt bitumen detects a tendency to epilepsy, and, applied to the nostrils with wine and castoreum,9 it dispels suffocations of the uterus. Employed as a fumigation, it acts as a check upon procidence of the uterus, and, taken internally with wine, it has the effect of an emmenagogue.

Another use that is made of it, is for coating the inside of copper vessels, it rendering them proof against the action of fire. It has been already10 stated that bitumen was formerly employed for staining copper and coating statues. It has been used, too, as a substitute for lime; the walls of Babylon, for instance, which are cemented with it. In the smithies they are in the habit of varnishing iron and heads of nails with it, and of using it for many other purposes as well.

1 There are three distinct kinds of bitumen. 1. Naphtha, also known as petroleum, or rock-oil, inflammable, volatile, soluble in alcohol, and found in France and Italy. 2. Asphalt, or bitumen of Judæa, solid, insoluble in alcohol, and found in Lake Asphaltites in Syria, more particularly. 3. Pissasphalt, of a medium consistency between the other substances, of which it appears to be composed. See B. xxiv. c. 25.

2 In B. v. c. 15

3 Naphtha, most probably.

4 See B. xxiv. c. 25.

5 Chapter 109.

6 As to the "nitrum" of Pliny, see B. xxxi. c. 46.

7 "Asphalt plaster," probably.

8 Or mint. See B. xix. c. 47, and B. xx. c. 53.

9 See B. xxxii. c. 13.

10 In B. xxxiv. c. 9.

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