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Fabulous antiquity, and Herodotus2 more particularly, have related that cinnamomum and cassia are found in the nests of certain birds, and principally that of the phœnix, in the districts where Father Liber was brought up; and that these substances either fall from the inaccessible rocks and trees in which the nests are built, in consequence of the weight of the pieces of flesh which the birds carry up, or else are brought down by the aid of arrows loaded with lead. It is said, also, that cassia grows around certain marshes, but is protected by a frightful kind of bat armed with claws, and by winged serpents as well. All these tales, however, have been evidently invented for the purpose of enhancing the prices of these commodities. Another story, too, bears them company, to the effect that under the rays of the noon-day sun, the entire peninsula exhales a certain indescribable perfume composed of its numerous odours; that the breezes, as they blow from it, are impregnated with these odours, and, indeed, were the first to announce the vicinity of Arabia to the fleets of Alexander the Great, while still far out at sea. All this, however, is false; for cinnamomum, or cinnamum, which is the same thing, grows in the country of the Æthiopians,3 who are united by intermarriages with the Troglodytæ. These last, after buying it of their neighbours, carry it over vast tracts of sea, upon rafts, which are neither steered by rudder, nor drawn or impelled by oars or sails. Nor yet are they aided by any of the resources of art, man alone, and his daring boldness, standing in place of all these; in addition to which, they choose the winter season, about the time of the equinox, for their voyage, for then a south easterly wind is blowing; these winds guide them in a straight course from gulf to gulf, and after they have doubled the promonotory of Arabia, the north east wind carries them to a port of the Gebanitæ, known by the name of Ocilia.4 Hence it is that they steer for this port in preference; and they say that it is almost five years before the merchants are able to effect their return, while many perish on the voyage. In return for their wares, they bring back articles of glass and copper, cloths, buckles, bracelets, and necklaces; hence it is that this traffic depends more particularly upon the capricious tastes and inclinations of the female sex. The cinnamon shrub5 is only two cubits in height, at the most, the lowest being no more than a palm in height. It is about four fingers in breadth, and hardly has it risen six fingers from the ground, before it begins to put forth shoots and suckers. It has then all the appearance of being dry and withered, and while it is green it has no odour at all. The leaf is like that of wild marjoram, and it thrives best in dry localities, being not so prolific in rainy weather; it requires, also, to be kept constantly clipped. Though it grows on level ground, it thrives best among tangled brakes and brambles, and hence it is extremely difficult to be gathered. It is never gathered unless with the permission of the god, by whom some suppose Jupiter to be meant; the Æthiopians, however, call him Assabinus.6 They offer the entrails of forty-four oxen, goats, and rams, when they implore his permission to do so, but after all, they are not allowed to work at it before sunrise or after sunset. A priest divides the branches with a spear, and sets aside one portion of them for the god; after which, the dealer stores away the rest in lumps. There is another account given, which states that a division is made between the gatherers and the sun, and that it is divided into three portions, after which lots are twice drawn, and the share which falls to the sun is left there, and forthwith ignites spontaneously.

The thinnest parts in the sticks, for about a palm in length, are looked upon as producing the finest cinnamon; the part that comes next, though not quite so long, is the next best, and so on downwards. The worst of all is that which is nearest the roots, from the circumstance that in that part there is the least bark, the portion that is the most esteemed: hence it is that the upper part of the tree is preferred, there being the greatest proportion of bark there. As for the wood, it is held in no esteem at all, on account of the acrid taste which it has, like that of wild marjoram; it is known as xylocinnamum.7 The price of cinnamomum is ten denarii per pound. Some writers make mention of two kinds of cinnamon, the white and the black: the white was the one that was formerly preferred, but now, on the contrary, the black is held in the highest estimation, and the mottled, even, is preferred to the white. The most certain test, however, of the goodness of cinnamon is its not being rough, and the fact that the pieces when rubbed together do not readily crumble to powder. That which is soft is more particularly rejected, which is the case, also, when the outer bark too readily falls off.

The right of regulating the sale of the cinnamon belongs solely to the king of the Gebanitæ, who opens the market for it by public proclamation. The price of it was formerly as much as a thousand denarii per pound; which was afterwards increased to half as much again, in consequence, it is said, of the forests having been set on fire by the barbarians, from motives of resentment; whether this took place through any injustice exercised by those in power, or only by accident, has not been hitherto exactly ascertained. Indeed, we find it stated by some authors, that the south winds that prevail in these parts are sometimes so hot as to set the forests on fire. The Emperor Vespasianus Augustus was the first to dedicate in the temples of the Capitol and the goddess Peace chaplets of cinnamon inserted in embossed8 gold. I, myself, once saw in the temple of the Palatium, which his wife Augusta9 dedicated to her husband the late emperor Augustus, a root of cinnamon of great weight, placed in a patera of gold: from it drops used to distil every year, which congealed in hard grains. It remained there until the temple was accidentally destroyed by fire.

1 The bark of the Cinnamomum Zeylanicum of the modern naturalists, the cinnamon-tree of Ceylon.

2 B. iii.

3 See B. vi. c. 34.

4 See B. vi. c. 26.

5 As Fée observes, this description does not at all resemble that of the cinnamon-tree of Ceylon, as known to us. M. Bonastre is of opinion that the nutmeg-tree was known to the ancients under this name; but, as Fée observes, the nutmeg could never have been taken for a bark, and cinnamon is described as such in the ancient writers. He inclines to think that their cinnamon was really the bark of a species of amyris.

6 See c. 33 of the present Book, and the Note.

7 Or "wood of cinnamon."

8 "Interrasili." Gold partly embossed, and partly left plain, was thus called.

9 The Empress Livia.

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