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Of the various kinds of sea-salt, the most esteemed is that of Salamis, in Cyprus; and of the lake-salts, that of Tarentum, and the salt known as Tattæan salt, which comes from Phrygia: these last two are also good for the eyes. That of Capadocia, which is imported in small cubes,1 imparts a fine colour, it is said, to the skin; but, for effacing wrinkles, that which we have2 already spoken of as the salt of Citium is the best: hence it is that, in combination with gith,3 it is used by females as a liniment for the abdomen after childbirth. The drier the salt, the stronger it is in taste; but the most agreeable of all, and the whitest known, is that of Tarentun. In addition to these particulars, we would remark also, that the whiter salt is, the more friable it is. Rain-water deadens every kind of salt, but dew-water makes it more deicate in flavour. North-easterly winds render the formation of salt more abundant, but, while south winds prevail, it never increases. It is only while north-easterly winds prevail, that flower of salt4 is formed. Neither the salt of Trgasa, nor the Acanthian salt—so called from the town5 where it is found—will decrepitate or crackle in the fire; nor will the froth of salt do so, or the outside scrapings, or refined salt. The salt of Agrigentum6 resists fire, but decrepitates in water.

There are differences, too, in the colour of salt: at Memphis it is deep red, russet-coloured in the vicinity of the Oxus, purple at Centuripa, and so remarkably bright at Gela, situate also7 in Sicily, as to reflect the image of objects. In Cappadocia there is a saffron-coloured fossil salt, transparent and remarkably odoriferous. For medicinal purposes, the ancients esteemed the salt of Tarentum in particular, and next to that all the marine salts, those collected from sea-foam more especially. For maladies of the eyes in cattle and beasts of burden, the salt of Tragasa and that of Bætica are employed. For made dishes8 and ordinary food, the more easily a salt liquefies and the moister it is, the more highly it is esteemed; there being less bitterness in salt of this description, that of Attica and of Eubœa, for example. For keeping meat, a pungent, dry, salt, like that of Megara, is best. A conserve of salt is also made, with the addition of various odoriferous substances, which answers all the purpose of a choice sauce,9 sharpening the appetite, and imparting a relish to all kinds of food: indeed, among the innumerable condiments which we use, the flavour of salt is always distinctly perceptible; and when we take garum10 with our food, it is its salt flavour that is considered so exquisite. And not only this, but sheep even, cattle, and beasts of burden, are induced to graze all the better11 by giving them salt; it having the effect, also, of considerably augmenting the milk, and imparting a superior flavour to the cheese.

We may conclude, then, by Hercules! that the higher enjoyments of life could not exist without the use of salt: indeed, so highly necessary is this substance to mankind, that the pleasures of the mind, even, can be expressed by no better term than the word "salt,"12 such being the name given to all effusions of wit. All the amenities, in fact, of life, supreme hilarity, and relaxation from toil, can find no word in our language to characterize them better than this. Even in the very honours, too, that are bestowed upon successful warfare, salt plays its part, and from it, our word "salarium"13 is derived. That salt was held in high esteem by the ancients, is evident from the Salarian14 Way, so named from the fact that, by agreement, the Sabini carried all their salt by that road. King Ancus Martius gave six hundred modii of salt as a largess15 to the people, and was the first to establish salt-works. Varro also informs us, that the ancients used salt by way of a relishing sauce; and we know, from an old proverb,16 that it was the practice with them to eat salt with their bread. But it is in our sacred rites more particularly, that its high importance is to be recognized, no offering ever being made unaccompanied by the salted cake.17

1 "In laterculis." Hardouin considers this to mean mall earthen vessels or pipes.

2 In c. 39 of this Book.

3 "Melelanthiun,." See B. xx. c. 17.

4 "Flos salis." Further mentioned in c. 42.

5 See B. iv. c. 17.

6 St. Augnstin mentions this marvellous kind of salt. De Civit. Dei, B. xxi. cc. 5, 7.

7 As well as Centuripa.

8 "Opsonium."

9 "Pilmentarii."

10 See c. 43 of this Book.

11 This is consistent with modern experience.

12 "Sales."

13 Literally, "salt money"—"argentum" being understood. The term was originally applied to the pay of the generals and military tribunes. Hence our word "salary."

14 Beginning at the Colline Gate.

15 "In congiario."

16 Most probably "He cannot earn salt to his bread," or something similar, like our saying, "He cannot earn salt to his porridge." The two Greek proverbs given by Dalechamps do not appear to the purpose.

17 "Mola salsa."

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), AQUAEDUCTUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), HALE´SION
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), TATTA LACUS
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