Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 34 ,   sections 94-178


Translated by H.Rackham (1952), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.    

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{20.} L   [94] But we will now turn our attention particularly to the various forms of copper, and its blends. In the case of the copper of Cyprus 'chaplet copper' is made into thin leaves, and when dyed with ox-gall gives the appearance of gilding on theatrical property coronets; and the same material mixed with gold in the proportion of six scruples of gold to the ounce makes a very thin plate called pyropus, 'fire-coloured' and acquires the colour of fire. Bar copper also is produced in other mines, and likewise fused copper. The difference between them is that the latter can only be fused, as it breaks under the hammer, whereas bar copper, otherwise called ductile copper, is malleable, which is the case with all Cyprus copper. But also in the other mines, this difference of bar copper from fused copper is produced by treatment; for all copper after impurities have been rather carefully removed by fire and melted out of it becomes bar copper. [95] Among the remaining kinds of copper the palm goes to bronze of Campania, which is most esteemed for utensils. There are several ways of preparing it. At Capua it is smelted in a fire of wood, not of charcoal, and then poured into cold water and cleaned in a sieve made of oak, and this process of smelting is repeated several times, at the last stage Spanish silver lead being added to it in the proportion of ten pounds to one hundred pounds of copper: this treatment renders it pliable and gives it an agreeable colour of a kind imparted to other sorts of copper and bronze by means of oil and salt. [96] Bronze resembling the Campanian is produced in many parts of Italy and the provinces, but there they add only eight pounds of lead, and do additional smelting with charcoal because of their shortage of wood. The difference produced by this is noticed specially in Gaul, where the metal is smelted between stones heated red hot, as this roasting scorches it and renders it black and friable. Moreover they only smelt it again once whereas to repeat this several times contributes a great deal to the quality. It is also not out of place to notice that all copper and bronze fuses better in very cold weather.

[97] The proper blend for making statues is as follows, and the same for tablets: at the outset the ore is melted, and then there is added to the melted metal a third part of scrap copper, that is copper or bronze that has been bought up after use. This contains a peculiar seasoned quality of brilliance that has been subdued by friction and so to speak tamed by habitual use. Silver-lead is also mixed with it in the proportion of twelve and a half pounds to every hundred pounds of the fused metal. [98] There is also in addition what is called the mould-blend of bronze of a very delicate consistency, because a tenth part of black lead is added and a twentieth of silver-lead; and this is the best way to give it the colour called Graecanic 'after the Greek'. The last kind is that called pot-bronze, taking its name from the vessels made of it; it is a blend of three or four pounds of silver-lead with every hundred pounds of copper. The addition of lead to Cyprus copper produces the purple colour seen in the bordered robes of statues.

{21.} L   [99] Things made of copper or bronze get covered with copper-rust more quickly when they are kept rubbed clean than when they are neglected, unless they are well greased with oil. It is said that the best way of preserving them is to give them a coating of liquid vegetable pitch. The employment of bronze was a long time ago applied to securing the perpetuity of monuments, by means of bronze tablets on which records of official enactments are made.

{22.} L   [100] Copper ores and mines supply medicaments in a variety of ways: inasmuch as in their neighbourhood all kinds of ulcers are healed with the greatest rapidity; yet the most beneficial is cadmea. This is certainly also produced in furnaces where silver is smelted, this kind being whiter and not so heavy, but it is by no means to be compared with that from copper. There are however several varieties; for while the mineral itself from which the metal is made is called cadmea, which is necessary for the fusing process but is of no use for medicine, so again another kind is found in furnaces, which is given a name indicating its origin. [101] It is produced by the thinnest part of the substance being separated out by the flames and the blast and becoming attached in proportion to its degree of lightness to the roof-chambers and side-walls of the furnaces, the thinnest being at the very mouth of the furnace, which the flames have belched out; it is called 'smoky cadmea' from its burnt appearance and because it resembles hot white ash in its extreme lightness. The part inside is best, hanging from the vaults of the roof-chamber, and this consequently is designated 'grape-cluster cadmea,' this is heavier than the preceding kind but lighter than those that follow - [102] it is of two colours, the inferior kind being the colour of ash and the better the colour of pumice - and it is friable, and extremely useful for making medicaments for the eyes. A third sort is deposited on the sides of furnaces, not having been able to reach the vaults because of its weight; this is called in Greek placitis {"caked residue"}, in this case by reason of its flatness, as it is more of a crust than pumice, and is mottled inside; it is more useful for itch-scabs and for making wounds draw together into a scar. [103] Of this kind are formed two other varieties, onychitis which is almost blue outside but inside like the spots of an onyx or layered quartz, and ostracitis shell-like residue which is all black and the dirtiest of any of the kinds; this is extremely useful for wounds. All kinds of cadmea (the best coming from the furnaces of Cyprus) for use in medicine are heated again on a fire of pure charcoal and, when it has been reduced to ash, if being prepared for plasters it is quenched with Amminean wine, but if intended for itch-scabs with vinegar. [104] Some people pound it and then burn it in earthenware pots, wash it in mortars and afterwards dry it. Nymphodorus's process is to burn on hot coals the most heavy dense piece of cadmea that can be obtained, and when it is thoroughly burnt to quench it with Chian wine, and pound it, and then to sift it through a linen cloth and grind it in a mortar, and then macerate it in rainwater and again grind the sediment that sinks to the bottom till it becomes like white lead and offers no grittiness to the teeth. Iollas' method is the same, but he selects the purest specimens of native cadmea.

{23.} L   [105] The effect of cadmea is to dry moisture, to heal lesions, to stop discharges, to cleanse inflamed swellings and foul sores in the eyes, to remove eruptions, and to do everything that we shall specify in dealing with the effect of lead.

Copper itself is roasted to use for all the same purposes and for white-spots and scars in the eyes besides, and mixed with milk it also heals ulcers in the eyes; and consequently people in Egypt make a kind of eye-salve by grinding it in small mortars. [106] Taken with honey it also acts as an emetic, but for this Cyprian copper with an equal weight of sulphur is roasted in pots of unbaked earthenware, the mouth of the vessels being smeared round with oil; and then left in the furnace till the vessels themselves are completely baked. Certain persons also add salt, and some use alum instead of sulphur, while others add nothing at all, but only sprinkle the copper with vinegar. When burnt it is pounded in a mortar of Theban stone, washed with rainwater, and then again pounded with the addition of a larger quantity of water, and left till it settles, and this process is repeated several times, till it is reduced to the appearance of cinnabar; then it is dried in the sun and put to keep in a copper box.

{24.} L   [107] The slag of copper is also washed in the same way, but it is less efficacious than copper itself. The flower of copper also is useful as a medicine. It is made by fusing copper and then transferring it to other furnaces, where a faster use of the bellows makes the metal give off layers like scales of millet, which are called the flower. Also when the sheets of copper are cooled off in water they shed off other scales of copper of a similar red hue - this scale is called by the Greek word meaning 'husk' - and by this process the flower is adulterated, so that the scale is sold as a substitute for it. On the other hand, scale of copper is forcibly knocked off with bolts into which are welded cakes of the metal, specially in the factories of Cyprus. The whole difference is that the scale is detached from the cakes by successive hammerings, whereas the flower falls off of its own accord. [108] There is another finer kind of scale, the one knocked off from the down-like surface of the metal, the name for which is 'stomoma.'

{25.} L   But of all these facts the doctors, if they will permit me to say so, are ignorant - they are governed by names: so detached they are from the process of making up drugs, which used to be the special business of the medical profession. Nowadays whenever they come on books of prescriptions, wanting to make up some medicines out of them, which means to make trial of the ingredients in the prescriptions at the expense of their unhappy patients, they rely on the fashionable druggists' shops which spoil everything with fraudulent adulterations, and for a long time they have been buying plasters and eye-salves ready made; and thus is deteriorated rubbish of commodities and the fraud of the druggists' trade put on show.

[109] Both scale however and flower of copper are burnt in earthenware or copper pans and then washed, as described above, to be applied to the same purposes; the scale also in addition removes fleshy troubles in the nostrils and also in the anus and dullness of hearing if forcibly blown into the ears through a tube, and, when applied in the form of powder, removes swellings of the uvula, and, mixed with honey, swellings of the tonsils. There is a scale from white copper that is far less efficacious than the scale from Cyprus; and moreover some people steep the bolts and cakes of copper beforehand in a boy's urine when they are going to detach the scale, and pound them and wash them with rainwater. It is also given to dropsical patients in doses of two drachmas in half a sextarius of honey-wine; and mixed with fine flour it is applied as a liniment.

{26.} L   [110] Great use is also made of verdigris. There are several ways of making it; it is scraped off the stone from which copper is smelted, or by drilling holes in white copper and hanging it up in casks over strong vinegar which is stopped with a lid; the verdigris is of much better quality if the same process is performed with scales of copper. Some people put the actual vessels, made of white copper, into vinegar in earthenware jars, and nine days later scrape them. [111] Others cover the vessels with grape-skins and scrape them after the same interval, others sprinkle copper filings with vinegar and several times a day turn them over with spattles till the copper is completely dissolved. Others prefer to grind copper filings mixed with vinegar in copper mortars. But the quickest result is obtained by adding to the vinegar shavings of coronet copper. [112] Rhodian verdigris is adulterated chiefly with pounded marble, though others use pumice-stone or gum. But the adulteration of verdigris that is the most difficult to detect is done with shoemakers' black, the other adulterations being detected by the teeth as they crackle when chewed. Verdigris can be tested on a hot fire-shovel, as a specimen that is pure keeps its colour, but what is mixed with shoemakers' black turns red. It is also detected by means of papyrus previously steeped in an infusion of plant-gall, as this when smeared with genuine verdigris at once turns black. It can also be detected by the eye, as it has an evil green colour. [113] But whether pure or adulterated, the best way is to wash it and when it is dry to burn it on a new pan and keep turning it over till it becomes glowing ashes; and afterwards it is crushed and put away in store. Some people burn it in raw earthenware vessels till the earthenware is baked through; some mix in also some male frankincense. Verdigris is washed in the same way as cadmea. Its powerfulness is very well suited for eye-salves and its mordant action makes it able to produce watering at the eyes; but it is essential to wash it off with swabs and hot water till its bite ceases to be felt.

{27.} L   [114] Hierax's Salve is the name given to an eye-salve chiefly composed of verdigris. It is made by mixing together four ounces of gum of Hammon, two of Cyprian verdigris, two of the copperas called flower of copper, one of misy and six of saffron; all these ingredients are pounded in Thasian vinegar and made up into pills, that are an outstanding specific against incipient glaucoma and cataract, and also against films on the eyes or roughnesses and white ulcerations in the eye and affections of the eyelids. Verdigris in a crude state is used as an ingredient in plasters for wounds also. [115] In combination with oil it is a marvellous cure for ulcerations of the mouth and gums and for sore lips, and if wax is also added to the mixture it cleanses them and makes them form a cicatrix. Verdigris also eats away the callosity of fistulas and of sores round the anus, either applied by itself or with gum of Hammon, or inserted into the fistula in the manner of a salve. Verdigris kneaded up with a third part of turpentine also removes leprosy.

{28.} L   [116] There is also another kind of verdigris called from the Greek worm-like verdigris, made by grinding up in a mortar of true Cyprian copper with a pestle of the same metal equal weights of alum and salt or soda with the very strongest white vinegar. This preparation is only made on the very hottest days of the year, about the rising of the Dog-star. The mixture is ground up until it becomes of a green colour and shrivels into what looks like a cluster of small worms, whence its name. To remedy any that is blemished, the urine of a young boy to twice the quantity of vinegar that was used is added to the mixture. Used as a drug, worm-verdigris has the same effect as santerna which we spoke of as used for soldering gold; both of them have the same properties as verdigris. Native worm-verdigris is also obtained by scraping a copper ore of which we shall now speak.

{29.} L   [117] Chalcitis, copper-stone, is the name of an ore, that from which copper also, besides cadmea, is obtained by smelting. It differs from cadmea because the latter is quarried above ground, from rocks exposed to the air, whereas chalcitis is obtained from underground beds, and also because chalcitis becomes immediately friable, being of a soft nature, so as to have the appearance of congealed down. There is also another difference in that chalcitis contains three kinds of mineral, copper, and sori, each of which we shall describe in its place; and the veins of copper in it are of an oblong shape.

[118] The approved variety of chalcitis is honey coloured, and streaked with fine veins, and is friable and not stony. It is also thought to be more useful when fresh, as when old it turns into sori. It is used for growths in ulcers, for arresting haemorrhage and, in the form of a powder, for acting as an astringent on the gums, uvula and tonsils. and, applied in wool, as a pessary for affections of the uterus, while with leek juice it is employed in plasters for the genitals. [119] It is steeped for forty days in vinegar in an earthenware jar, covered with dung, and then assumes the colour of saffron; then an equal weight of cadmea is mixed with it and this produces the drug called psoricon or cure for itch. If two parts of chalcitis are mixed with one of cadmea this makes a stronger form of the same drug, and moreover it is more violent if it is mixed in vinegar than if in wine; and when roasted it becomes more effective for all the same purposes.

{30.} L   [120] Egyptian sori is most highly commended, being far superior to that of Cyprus and Spain and Africa, although some people think that Cyprus sori is more useful for treatment of the eyes; but whatever its provenance the best is that which has the most pungent odour, and which when ground up takes a greasy, black colour and becomes spongy. It is a substance that goes against the stomach so violently that with some people the mere smell of it causes vomiting. This is a description of the sori of Egypt. That from other sources when ground up turns a bright colour like adsy, and it is harder; however, if it is held in the cavities and used plentifully as a mouthwash it is good for toothache and for serious and creeping ulcers of the mouth. It is burnt on charcoal, like chalcitis.

{31.} L   [121] Some people have reported that misy is made by burning mineral in trenches, its fine yellow powder mixing itself with the ash of the pine wood burnt; but as a matter of fact though got from the mineral above mentioned, it is part of its substance and separated from it by force, the best kind being obtained in the copper-factories of Cyprus, its marks being that when broken it sparkles like gold and when it is ground it has a sandy appearance, without earth, unlike chalcitis. A mixture of misy is employed in the magical purification of gold. Mixed with oil of roses it makes a useful infusion for suppurating ears and applied on wool a serviceable plaster for ulcers of the head. It also reduces chronic roughness of the eyelids, and is especially useful for the tonsils and against quinsy and suppurations. [122] The method is to boil 16 drachmas of it in one hemina of vinegar with honey added till it becomes of a viscous consistency: this makes a useful preparation for the purposes above mentioned. When it is necessary to make it softer, honey is sprinkled on it. It also removes the callosity of fistulous ulcers when the patients use it with vinegar as a fomentation; and it is used as an ingredient in eye-salves, arrests haemorrhage and creeping or putrid ulcers, and reduces fleshy excrescences. It is particularly useful for troubles in the sexual organs in the male, and it checks menstruation.

{32.} L    [123] The Greeks by their name for shoemakers'-black have made out an affinity between it and copper: they call it chalcanthon, 'flower of copper'; and there is no substance that has an equally remarkable nature. It occurs in Spain in wells or pools that contain that sort of water. This water is boiled with an equal quantity of pure water and poured into wooden tanks. Over these are firmly fixed cross-beams from which hang cords held taut by stones, and the kind clinging to the cords in a cluster of glassy drops has somewhat the appearance of a bunch of grapes. It is taken off and then left for thirty days to dry. Its colour is an extremely brilliant blue, and it is often taken for glass; [124] when dissolved it makes a black dye used for colouring leather. It is also made in several other ways: earth of the kind indicated is hollowed into trenches, droppings from the sides of which form icicles in a winter frost which are called drop-flower of copper, and this is the purest kind. But some of it, violet with a touch of white, is called lonchotoa, 'lance-headed.' [125] It is also made in pans hollowed in the rocks, into which the slime is carried by rainwater and freezes, and it also forms in the same way as salt when very hot sunshine evaporates the fresh water let in with it. Consequently some people distinguish in twofold fashion between the mined flower of copper and the manufactured, the latter paler than the former and as much inferior in quality as in colour. [126] That which comes from Cyprus is most highly approved for medical employment. It is taken to remove intestinal worms, the dose being one dram mixed with honey. Diluted and injected as drops into the nostrils it clears the head, and likewise taken with honey or honey-water it purges the stomach. It is given as a medicine for roughness of the eyes, pain and mistiness in the eyes, and ulceration of the mouth. It stops bleeding from the nostrils, and also haemorrhoidal bleeding. Mixed with henbane seed it draws out splinters of broken bones; applied to the forehead with a swab it arrests running of the eyes; also used in plasters it is efficacious for cleansing wounds and gatherings of ulcers. [127] A mere touch of a decoction of it removes swellings of the uvula, and it is laid with linseed on plasters used for relieving pains. The whitish part of it is preferred to the violet kinds for one purpose, that of being blown through tubes into the ears to relieve ear-trouble. Applied by itself as a liniment it heals wounds, but it leaves a discoloration in the scats. There has lately been discovered a plan of sprinkling it on the mouths of bears and lions in the arena, and its astringent action is so powerful that they are unable to bite.

{33.} L   [128] The substances called by Greek names meaning 'bubble' and 'ash' are also found in the furnaces of copper works. The difference between them is that bubble is disengaged by washing but ash is not washed out. Some people have given the name of 'bubble' to the substance that is white and very light in weight, and have said that it is the ashes of copper and cadmea, but that ash is darker and heavier, being scraped off the walls of furnaces, mixed with sparks from the ore and sometimes also with charcoal. [129] This material when vinegar is applied to it gives off a smell of copper, and if touched with the tongue has a horrible taste. It is a suitable ingredient for eye medicines, remedying all troubles whatever, and for all the purposes for which 'ash' is used; its only difference is that its action is less violent. It is also used as an ingredient for plasters employed to produce a gentle cooling and drying effect. It is more efficacious for all purposes when it is moistened with wine.

{34.} L   [130] Cyprus ash is the best. It is produced when cadmea and copper ore are melted. The ash in question is the lightest part of the whole substance produced by blasting, and it flies out of the furnaces and adheres to the roof, being distinguished from soot by its white colour. Such part of it as is less white is an indication of inadequate firing; it is this that some people call 'bubble.' But the redder part selected from it has a keener force, and is so corrosive that if while it is being washed it touches the eyes it causes blindness. [131] There is also an ash of the colour of honey, which is understood to indicate that it contains a large amount of copper. But any kind is made more serviceable by washing; it is first purified with a strainer of cloth and then given a more substantial washing, and the rough portions are picked out by the fingers. When it is washed with wine it is particularly powerful. There is also some difference in the kind of wine used, as when it is washed with weak wine it is thought to be less serviceable for eye-salves, and at the same time more efficacious for running ulcers or for ulcers of the mouth that are always wet and more useful for all the antidotes for gangrene. [132] An ash called Lauriotis is also produced in furnaces in which silver is smelted; but the kind said to be most serviceable for the eyes is that which is formed in smelting gold. Nor is there any other department in which the ingenuities of life are more to be admired, inasmuch as to avoid the need of searching for metals experience has devised the same utilities by means of the commonest things.

{35.} L   [133] The substance called in Greek antispodos substitute ash is the ash of the leaves of the fig-tree or wild fig or myrtle together with the tenderest parts of the branches, or of the wild olive or cultivated olive or quince or mastic and also ash obtained from unripe, that is still pale, mulberries, dried in the sun, or from the foliage of the box or mock-gladiolus, or bramble or turpentine-tree or oenanthe. The same virtues have also been found in the ash of bull-glue or of linen fabrics. All of these are burnt in a pot of raw earth heated in a furnace until the earthenware is thoroughly baked.

{36.} L   [134] Also 'smegma' is made in copper forges by adding additional charcoal when the copper has already been melted, and thoroughly fused, and gradually kindling it; and suddenly when a stronger blast is applied a sort of chaff of copper spurts out. The floor on which it is received ought to be strewn with charcoal-dust.

{37.} L   [135] Distinguished from smegma is the substance in the same forges called by the Greeks diphryx, from its being twice roasted. It comes from three different sources. It is said to be obtained from a mineral pyrites which is heated in furnaces till it is smelted into a red earth. It is also made in Cyprus from mud obtained from a certain cavern, which is first dried and then gradually has burning brushwood put round it. A third way of producing it is from the residue that falls to the bottom in copper furnaces; the difference is that the copper itself runs down into crucibles and the slag forms outside the furnace and the flower floats on the top, but the supplies of diphryx remain behind. [136] Some people say that certain globules of stone that is being smelted in the furnaces become soldered together and round this the copper gets red hot, but the stone itself is not fused unless it is transferred into other furnaces, and that it is a sort of kernel of the substance, and that what is called diphryx is the residue left from the smelting. Its use in medicine is similar to that of the substances already described; to dry up moisture and remove excrescent growths and act as a detergent. It can be tested by the tongue - contact with it ought immediately to have a parching effect and impart a flavour of copper.

{38.} L   [137] We will not omit one further remarkable thing about copper. The Servilian family, famous in our annals, possesses a bronze ½ as piece which it feeds with gold and silver and which consumes them both. Its origin and nature are unknown to me, but I will put down the actual words of the elder Messalla on the subject. 'The family of the Servilii has a holy coin to which every year they perform sacrifices with the greatest devotion and splendour; and they say that this coin seems to have on some occasions grown bigger and on other occasions smaller, and that thereby it portends either the advancement or the decadence of the family.'

{ 39.} L   [138] Next an account must be given of the mines and ores of iron. Iron serves as the best and the worst part of the apparatus of life, inasmuch as with it we plough the ground, plant trees, trim the trees that prop our vines, force the vines to renew their youth yearly by ridding them of decrepit growth; with it we build houses and quarry rocks, and we employ it for all other useful purposes, but we likewise use it for wars and slaughter and brigandage, and not only in hand-to-hand encounters but as a winged missile, now projected from catapults, now hurled by the arm, and now actually equipped with feathery wings, which I deem the most criminal artifice of man's genius, inasmuch as to enable death to reach human beings more quickly we have taught iron how to fly and have given wings to it. [139] Let us therefore debit the blame not to Nature, but to man. A number of attempts have been made to enable iron to be innocent. We find it an express provision included in the treaty granted by Porsena to the Roman nation {508 BC} after the expulsion of the kings that they should only use iron for purposes of agriculture; and our oldest authors have recorded that in those days it was customary to write with a bone pen. There is extent an edict of Pompeius the Great dated in his third consulship {52 BC} at the time of the disorders accompanying the death of Clodius, prohibiting the possession of any weapon in the city.

{40.} L   [140] Further, the art of former days did not fail to provide a more humane function even for iron. When the artist Aristonidas desired to represent the madness of Athamas subsiding in repentance after he had hurled his son Learchus from the rock, he made a blend of copper and iron, in order that the blush of shame should be represented by rust of the iron shining through the brilliant surface of the copper; this statue is still standing at Rhodes. [141] There is also in the same city an iron figure of Heracles, which was made by Alcon, prompted by the endurance displayed by the god in his labours. We also see at Rome goblets of iron dedicated in the temple of Mars the Avenger. The same benevolence of nature has limited the power of iron itself by inflicting on it the penalty of rust, and the same foresight by making nothing in the world more mortal than that which is most hostile to mortality.

{ 41.} L   [142] Deposits of iron are found almost everywhere, and they are formed even now in the Italian island of Ilva, and there is very little difficulty in recognizing them as they are indicated by the actual colour of the earth. The method of melting out the veins is the same as in the case of copper. In Cappadocia alone it is merely a question whether the presence of iron is to be credited to water or to earth, as that region supplies iron from the furnaces when the earth has been flooded by the river Cerasus but not otherwise. [143] There are numerous varieties of iron; the first difference depending on the kind of soil or of climate - some lands only yield a soft iron closely allied to lead, others a brittle and coppery kind that is specially to be avoided for the requirements of wheels and for nails, for which purpose the former quality is suitable; another variety of iron finds favour in short lengths and in nails for soldiers' boots; another variety experiences rust more quickly. All of these are called stricturae, 'edging ores,' a term not used in the case of other metals; it is, as assigned to these ores, derived from stringere aciem, 'to draw out a sharp edge.' [144] There is also a great difference between smelting works, and a certain knurr of iron is smelted in them to give hardness to a blade, and by another process to giving solidity to anvils or the heads of hammers. But the chief difference depends on the water in which at intervals the red hot metal is plunged; the water in some districts is more serviceable than in others, and has made places famous for the celebrity of their iron, for instance Bimbilis and Turiaso in Spain and Comum in Italy, although there are no iron mines in those places. [145] But of all varieties of iron the palm goes to the Seric, sent us by the Seres with their fabrics and skins. The second prize goes to Parthian iron; and indeed no other kinds of iron are forged from pure metal, as all the rest have a softer alloy welded with them. In our part of the world, in some places the lode supplies this good quality, as for instance in the country of the Norici, in other places it is due to the method of working, as at Sulmo, and in others, as we have said, it is due to the water; inasmuch as for giving an edge there is a great difference between oil whetstones and water whetstones, and a finer edge is produced by oil. [146] It is the custom to quench smaller iron forgings with oil, for fear that water might harden them and make them brittle. And it is remarkable that when a vein of ore is fused the iron becomes liquid like water and afterwards acquires a spongy and brittle texture. Human blood takes its revenge from iron, as if iron has come into contact with it, it becomes the more quickly liable to rust.

{42.} L   [147] We will speak in the appropriate place { 36.126 } about the lodestone and the sympathy which it has with iron. Iron is the only substance that catches the infection of that stone and retains it for a long period, taking hold of other iron, so that we may sometimes see a chain of rings; the ignorant lower classes call this 'live iron,' and wounds inflicted with it are more severe. [148] This sort of stone forms in Cantabria also not in a continuous rocky stratum like the genuine lodestone alluded to but in a scattered pebbly formation or 'bubbling' - that is what they call it. I do not know whether it is equally useful for glass founding, as no one has hitherto tested it, but it certainly imparts the same magnetic property to iron. The architect Timochares had begun to use lodestone for constructing the vaulting in the temple of Arsinoe at Alexandria, so that the iron statue contained in it might have the appearance of being suspended in mid air; but the project was interrupted by his own death and that of king Ptolemy who had ordered the work to be done in honour of his sister.

{43.} L   [149] Iron ore is found in the greatest abundance of all metals. In the coastal part of Cantabria washed by the Atlantic there is a very high mountain which, marvellous to relate, consists entirely of that mineral, as we stated in our account of the lands bordering on the Ocean.

Iron that has been heated by fire is spoiled unless it is hardened by blows of the hammer. It is not suitable for hammering while it is red hot, nor before it begins to turn pale. If vinegar or alum is sprinkled on it it assumes the appearance of copper. [150] It can be protected from rust by means of lead acetate, gypsum and vegetable pitch; rust is called by the Greeks 'antipathia,' natural opposite to iron. It is indeed said that the same result may also be produced by a religious ceremony, and that in the city called Zeugma on the river Euphrates there is an iron chain that was used by Alexander the Great in making the bridge at that place {331 BC}, the links of which that are new replacements are attacked by rust although the original links are free from it.

{44.} L   [151] Iron supplies another medicinal service besides its use in surgery. It is beneficial both for adults and infants against noxious drugs for a circle to be drawn round them with iron or for a pointed iron weapon to be carried round them; and to have a fence of nails that have been extracted from tombs driven in in front of the threshold is a protection against attacks of nightmare, and a light prick made with the point of a weapon with which a man has been wounded is beneficial against sudden pains which bring a pricking sensation in the side and chest. Some maladies are cured by cauterization, but particularly the bite of a mad dog, inasmuch as even when the disease is getting the upper hand and when the patients show symptoms of hydrophobia they are relieved at once if the wound is cauterized. In many disorders, but especially in dysenteric cases, drinking water is heated with red-hot iron.

{45.} L   [152] The list of remedies even includes rust itself, and this is the way in which Achilles is stated to have cured Telephus, whether he did it by means of a copper javelin or an iron one; at all events Achilles is so represented in painting, knocking the rust off a javelin with his sword. Rust of iron is obtained by scraping it off old nails with an iron tool dipped in water. [153] The effect of rust is to unite wounds and dry them and staunch them, and applied as a liniment it relieves fox-mange. They also use it with wax and oil of myrtle for scabbiness of the eyelids and pimples in all parts of the body, but dipped in vinegar for erysipelas and also for scab, and, applied on pieces of cloth, for hangnails on the fingers and whitlows. Applied on wool it arrests women's discharges and for recent wounds it is useful diluted with wine and kneaded with myrrh, and for swellings round the anus dipped in vinegar. Used as a liniment it also relieves gout.

{46.} L   [154] Scale of iron, obtained from a sharp edge or point, is also employed, and has an effect extremely like that of rust only more active, for which reason it is employed even for running at the eyes. It arrests haemorrhage, though it is with iron that wounds are chiefly made! And it also arrests female discharges. It is also applied against troubles of the spleen, and it cheeks haemorrhoidal swellings and creeping ulcers. Applied for a brief period in the form of a powder it is good for the eyelids. [155] But its chief recommendation is its use in a wet plaster for cleaning wounds and fistulas and for eating out every kind of callosity and making new flesh on bones that have been denuded. The following are the ingredients: six obols of bee-glue, six drachmas of Cimolian earth, two drachmas of pounded copper, two of scale of iron, ten of wax and a pint of oil. When it is desired to cleanse or fill up wounds, wax plaster is added to these ingredients.

{47.} L   [156] The next topic is the nature of lead, of which there are two kinds, black and white. White lead {tin} is the most valuable; the Greeks applied to it the name cassiteros, and there was a legendary story of their going to islands of the Atlantic ocean to fetch it and importing it in platted vessels made of osiers and covered with stitched hides. It is now known that it is a product of Lusitania and Gallaecia found in the surface-strata of the ground which is sandy and of a black colour. [157] It is only detected by its weight, and also tiny pebbles of it occasionally appear, especially in dry beds of torrents. The miners wash this sand and heat the deposit in furnaces. It is also found in the goldmines called 'alutiae,' through which a stream of water is passed that washes out black pebbles of tin mottled with small white spots, and of the same weight as gold, and consequently they remain with the gold in the bowls in which it is collected, and afterwards are separated in the furnaces, and fused and melted into white lead. [158] Black lead does not occur in Gallaecia, although the neighbouring country of Cantabria has large quantities of black lead only; and white lead yields no silver, although it is obtained from black lead. Black lead cannot be soldered with black without a layer of white lead, nor can white be soldered to black without oil, nor can even white lead be soldered with white without some black lead. Homer testifies that white lead or tin had a high position even in the Trojan period, he giving it the name of cassiteros. [159] There are two different sources of black lead, as it is either found in a vein of its own and produces no other substance mixed with it, or it forms together with silver, and is smelted with the two veins mixed together. Of this substance the liquid that melts first in the furnaces is called stagnum; the second liquid is argentiferous lead, and the residue left in the furnaces is impure lead which forms a third part of the vein originally put in; when this is again fused it gives black lead, having lost two-ninths in bulk.

{48.} L   [160] When copper vessels are coated with stagnum the contents have a more agreeable taste and the formation of destructive verdigris is prevented, and, what is remarkable, the weight is not increased. Also, as we have said, it used to be employed at Brundisium as a material for making mirrors which were very celebrated, until even servant-maids began to use silver ones. At the present day a counterfeit stagnum is made by adding one part of white copper to two parts of white lead; and it is also made in another way by mixing together equal weights of white and black lead: the latter compound some people now call 'silver mixture.' The same people also give the name of tertiary to a compound containing two portions of black lead and one of white; its price is 20 denarii a pound. It is used for soldering pipes. [161] More dishonest makers add to tertiary an equal amount of white lead and call it 'silver mixture,' and use it melted for plating by immersion any articles they wish. They put the price of this last at 70 denarii for 1 pound: the price of pure white lead without alloy is 80 denarii, and of black lead 7 denarii.

The substance of white lead has more dryness, whereas that of black lead is entirely moist. Consequently white lead cannot be used for anything without an admixture of another metal, nor can it be employed for soldering silver, because the silver melts before the white lead. [162] And it is asserted that if a smaller quantity of black lead than is necessary is mixed with the white, it corrodes the silver. A method discovered in the Gallic provinces is to plate bronze articles with white lead so as to make them almost indistinguishable from silver; articles thus treated are called 'incoctilia.' Later they also proceeded in the town Alesia to plate with silver in a similar manner, particularly ornaments for horses and pack animals and yokes of oxen; the distinction of developing this method belongs to the Bituriges. [163] Then they proceeded to decorate two-wheeled war-chariots, chaises and four-wheeled carriages in a similar manner, a luxurious practice that has now got to using not only silver but even gold statuettes, and it is now called good taste to subject to wear and tear on carriages ornaments that it was once thought extravagant to see on a goblet!

It is a test of white lead when melted and poured on papyrus to seem  to have burst the paper by its weight and not by its heat. India possesses neither copper nor lead, and procures them in exchange for her precious stones and pearls.

{49.} L   [164] Black lead which we use to make pipes and sheets is excavated with considerable labour in Spain and through the whole of the Gallic provinces, but in Britain it is found in the surface-stratum of the earth in such abundance that there is a law prohibiting the production of more than a certain amount. The various kinds of black lead have the following names - Ovetum lead, Capraria lead, Oleastrum lead, though there is no difference between them provided the slag has been carefully smelted away. It is a remarkable fact in the case of these mines only that when they have been abandoned they replenish themselves and become more productive. [165] This seems to be due to the air infusing itself to saturation through the open orifices, just as a miscarriage seems to make some women more prolific. This was recently observed in the Salutariensian mine in Baetica, which used to be let at a rent of 200,000 denarii a year, but which was then abandoned, and subsequently let for 255,000. Likewise the Antonian mine in the same province from the same rent has reached a return of 400,000 sesterces. It is also remarkable that vessels made of lead will not melt if they have water put in them, but if to the water a pebble or quarter-as coin is added, the fire burns through the vessel.

{50.} L   [166] In medicine lead is used by itself to remove scars, and leaden plates are applied to the region of the loins and kidneys for their comparative chilly nature to check the attacks of venereal passions, and the libidinous dreams that cause spontaneous emissions to the extent of constituting a kind of disease. It is recorded that the pleader Calvus used these plates to control himself and to preserve his bodily strength for laborious study. Nero, whom heaven was pleased to make emperor, used to have a plate of lead on his chest when singing songs fortissimo, thus showing a method for preserving the voice. [167] For medical purposes lead is melted in earthen vessels, a layer of finely powdered sulphur being put underneath it; on this thin plates are laid and covered with sulphur and stirred up with an iron spit. While it is being melted, the breathing passages should be protected during the operation, otherwise the noxious and deadly vapour of the lead furnace is inhaled: it is hurtful to dogs with special rapidity, but the vapour of all metals is so to flies and gnats, owing to which those annoyances are not found in mines.

[168] Some people during the process of smelting mix lead-filings with the sulphur, and others use lead acetate in preference to sulphur. Another use of lead is to make a wash - it is employed in medicine - pieces of lead with rainwater added being ground against themselves in leaden mortars till the whole assumes a thick consistency, and then water floating on the top is removed with sponges and the very thick sediment left when dry is divided into tablets. Some people grind up lead filings in this way and some also mix in some lead ore; but others use vinegar, others wine, others grease, others oil of roses. [169] Some prefer to grind the lead with a stone pestle in a stone mortar, and especially one made of Theban stone, and this process produces a drug of a whiter colour. Calcined lead is washed like antimony and cadmea. It has the property of acting as an astringent and arresting haemorrhage and of promoting cicatrisation. It is of the same utility also in medicines for the eyes, especially as preventing their procidence, and for the cavities or excrescences left by ulcers and for fissures of the anus or haemorrhoids and swellings of the anus. [170] For these purposes lead lotion is extremely efficient, while for creeping or foul ulcers ash of calcined lead is useful; and the benefit they produce is on the same lines as in the case of sheets of papyrus. The lead is burnt in small sheets mixed with sulphur, in shallow vessels, being stirred with iron rods or fennel stalks till the molten metal is reduced to ashes; then after being cooled off it is ground into powder. Another process is to boil lead filings in a vessel of raw earth in furnaces till the earthenware is completely baked. Some mix with it an equal amount of lead acetate or of barley and grind this mixture, in the way stated in the case of raw lead, and prefer the lead treated in this way to the Cyprus slag.

{51.} L   [171] The dross of lead is also utilized. The best is that which approximates in colour most closely to yellow, containing no remnants of lead or sulphur, and does not look earthy. This is broken up into small fragments and washed in mortars till the water assumes a yellow colour, and poured off into a clean vessel, and the process is repeated several times till the most valuable part settles as a sediment at the bottom. Lead dross has the same effects as lead, but to a more active degree. This suggests a remark on the marvellous efficacy of human experiment, which has not left even the dregs of substances and the foulest refuse untested in such numerous ways!

{52.} L   [172] Slag is also made from lead in the same way as from Cyprus copper; it is washed with rain water in linen sheets of fine texture and the earthy particles are got rid of by rinsing, and the residue is sifted and then ground. Some prefer to separate the powder with a feather, and to grind it up with aromatic wine.

{53.} L   [173] There is also molybdaeaa (which in another place we have called galena); it is a mineral compound of silver and lead. It is better the more golden its colour and the less leaden: it is friable and of moderate weight. When boiled with oil it acquires the colour of liver. It is also found adhering to furnaces in which gold and silver are smelted; in this case it is called metallic sulphide of lead. The kind most highly esteemed is produced at Zephyrium. Varieties with the smallest admixture of earth and of stone are approved of; [174] they are melted and washed like dross. It is used in preparing a particular emollient plaster for soothing and cooling ulcers and in plasters which are not applied with bandages but which they use as a liniment to promote cicatrisation on the bodies of delicate persons and on the more tender parts. It is a composition of three pounds of sulphide of lead and one of wax with three heminas of oil, which is added with solid lees of olives in the case of an elderly patient. Also combined with scum of silver and dross of lead it is applied warm for fomenting dysentery and constipation.

{54.} L   [175] 'Psimithium' also, that is cerussa or lead of acetate, is produced at lead-works. The most highly spoken of is in Rhodes. It is made from very fine shavings of lead placed over a vessel of very sour vinegar and so made to drip down. What falls from the lead into the actual vinegar is dried and then ground and sifted, and then again mixed with vinegar and divided into tablets and dried in the sun, in summertime. There is also another way of making it, by putting the lead into jars of vinegar kept sealed up for ten days and then scraping off the sort of decayed metal on it and putting it back in the vinegar, till the whole of it is used up. [176] The stuff scraped off is ground up and sifted and heated in shallow vessels and stirred with small rods till it turns red and becomes like sandarach, realgar. Then it is washed with fresh water till all the cloudy impurities have been removed. Afterwards it is dried in a similar way and divided into tablets. Its properties are the same as those of the substances mentioned above, only it is the mildest of them all, and beside that, it is useful for giving women a fair complexion; but like scum of silver, it is a deadly poison. The lead acetate itself if afterwards melted becomes red.

{55.} L   [177] Of realgar also the properties have been almost completely described. It is found both in goldmines and silver-mines; the redder it is and the more it gives off a poisonous scent of sulphur and the purer and more friable it is, the better it is. It acts as a cleanser, as a check to bleeding, as a calorific and a caustic, being most remarkable for its corrosive property; used as a liniment with vinegar it removes fox-mange; it forms an ingredient in eyewashes, and taken with honey it cleans out the throat. It also produces a clear and melodious voice, and mixed with turpentine and taken in the food, is an agreeable remedy for asthma and cough; its vapour also remedies the same complaints if merely used as a fumigation with cedar wood.

{56.} L   [178] Orpiment also is obtained from the same substance. The best is of a colour of even the finest-coloured gold, but the paler sort or what resembles sandarach is judged inferior. There is also a third class which combines the colours of gold and of sandarach. Both of the latter are scaly, but the other is dry and pure, and divided in a delicate tracery of veins. Its properties are the same as mentioned above, but more active. Accordingly it is used as an ingredient in cauteries and depilatories. It also removes overgrowths of flesh on to the nails, and pimples in the nostrils and swellings of the anus and all excrescences. To increase its efficacy it is heated in a new earthenware pot till it changes its colour.

Book 35

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