CHAP. 11.—CORAL: FORTY-THREE REMEDIES AND OBSERVATIONS.
In the same degree that people in our part of the world
set a value upon the pearls of India—a subject on which we
have already spoken1
on the appropriate occasion at sufficient
length—do the people of India prize coral: it being the
prevailing taste in each nation respectively that constitutes
the value of things. Coral is produced in the Red Sea also,
but of a more swarthy hue than ours. It is to be found also
in the Persian Gulf, where it is known by the name of "iace."
But the most highly-esteemed of all, is that produced in the
vicinity of the islands called Stœchades,2
in the Gallic Gulf,
and near the Æolian Islands and the town of Drepana in the
Sea of Sicily. Coral is to be found growing, too, at Graviscæ,
and off the coast of Neapolis in Campania: as also at Erythræ,
where it is intensely red, but soft, and consequently little
Its form is that of a shrub,3
and its colour green: its
berries are white and soft while under water, but the moment
they are removed from it, they become hard and red, resembling
the berries of cultivated cornel in size and appearance.
They say that, while alive, if it is only touched by a person,
it will immediately become as hard as stone; and hence it is
that the greatest pains are taken to prevent this, by tearing it
up from the bottom with nets, or else cutting it short with
a sharp-edged instrument of iron: from which last circumstance
it is generally supposed to have received its name of
The reddest coral and the most branchy is
held in the highest esteem; but, at the same time, it must
not be rough or hard like stone; nor yet, on the other hand,
should it be full of holes or hollow.
The berries of coral are no less esteemed by the men in India
than are the pearls of that country by the females among us:
their soothsayers, too, and diviners look upon coral as an amulet
endowed with sacred properties,5
and a sure preservative
against all dangers: hence it is that they equally value it as
an ornament and as an object of devotion. Before it was
known in what estimation coral was held by the people of
India, the Gauls were in the habit of adorning their swords,
shields, and helmets with it; but at the present day, owing to
the value set upon it as an article of exportation, it has become
so extremely rare, that it is seldom to be seen even in the
regions that produce it. Branches of coral, hung at the neck
are thought to act as a preservative against danger.
Calcined, pulverized, and taken in water, coral gives relief to
patients suffering from griping pains in the bowels, affections
of the bladder, and urinary calculi. Similarly taken in
wine, or, if there are symptoms of fever, in water, it acts as a
soporific. It resists the action of fire a considerable time before
it is calcined.
There is also a statement made that if this medicament is
frequently taken internally, the spleen will be gradually consumed.
Powdered coral, too, is an excellent remedy for patients
who bring up or spit blood. Calcined coral is used as
an ingredient in compositions for the eyes, being productive of
certain astringent and cooling effects: it makes flesh, also, in
the cavities left by ulcers, and effaces scars upon the skin.