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The proper time for felling trees that are wanted for barking, the round, tapering trees, for instance, that are employed in temples and for other purposes, is at the period of germination:1 for at other times it is quite impossible to detach the bark from the rotten wood that adheres to it, while the wood itself assumes a blackish hue. Squared logs, and wood from which the bark has been lopped, are generally cut in the period that intervenes between the winter solstice and the prevalence of the west winds; or else, if it is necessary to anticipate that period, at the setting of Arcturus and before that of the Lyre, the very earliest period being the summer solstice: the days of these respective constellations will be mentioned in the appropriate place.2

In general it is looked upon as quite sufficient to use all due precaution that a tree is not rough-hewn before it has borne its yearly crop. The robur, if cut in spring, is subject to the attacks of wood-worm, but if cut in winter, will neither rot nor warp: otherwise it is very liable to bend and become awry, as well as to crack; the same is the case, too, with the cork-tree, even if cut down at the proper time. The state of the moon,3 too, is of infinite importance, and it is generally recommended that trees should be cut only between the twentieth and the thirtieth days of the month. It is generally agreed, however, by all, that it is the very best time for felling timber, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, a day which is called by some persons the interlu- nium, and by others the moon's silence. At all events, it was under these circumstances that Tiberius Cæsar gave orders for the larches to be cut in Rhætia, that were required for the purpose of rebuilding the bridge of the Naumachia4 after it had been destroyed by fire. Some persons say that the moon ought not only to be in conjunction, but below the horizon as well, a thing that can only happen in the night. If the conj unction should chance to fall on the very day of the winter solstice, the timber, they say, that is then felled will be of everlasting duration; the next best being the timber that is cut when the conjunction coincides with the constellations previously mentioned. There are some, too, who add the rising of the Dog-star as a favourable time, and say that it was at this period that the timber was cut which was employed in building the Forum of Augustus.

Wood which is intended for timber ought to be cut neither when too young nor too old. Some persons, too—and the practice is by no means without its utility—cut round5 the tree as far as the pith, and then leave the timber standing, so that all the juices may be enabled to escape. Going back to ancient times, it is a remarkable fact, that in the first Punic War the fleet commanded by Duillius was on the water within sixty days from the time the timber was cut: and, what is still more so, Piso relates that King Hiero had two hundred and twenty ships wholly constructed in forty-five days: in the second Punic War, too, the fleet of Scipio was at sea the fortieth day after the axe had been put to the tree. Such is the energy and dispatch that can be displayed on occasions of emergency.

1 This practice was formerly forbidden by the forest laws of France.

2 In B. xviii.

3 Pliny borrows this superstition from Theophrastus, Hist. Plant. B. vi. c. 1.

4 This was the name of mimic sea-fights, exhibited at Rome in the Circus or amphitheatres, or else in lakes dug expressly for the purpose. Hardouin says, there were five Naumachiæ at Rome, in the 14th region of the City.

5 This practice is no longer followed.

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