Aspalathus

Aspal'athus (ἀσπάλαθος), a word which occurs only in Ecclus. 24:15, of the Apocrypha, where the substance which it indicates is enumerated with other spices and perfumes to which wisdom is compared. It was no doubt one of the drugs employed by the ancients as a perfume and incense, as it is described Ly Dioscorides (i, 19), as well as enumerated Ly Theophrastus (ix, 7), and by both among aromatic substances. It forms one of the ingredients of the eydh:, or compound incense made use of Ly the Egyptian priests, as related both by Plutarch and Dioscorides. From the notices in the classical authors (comp. Theogn. 1193; Theocr. 24:87; Plin. 12:24, 52) we can only gather that it was a thorny shrub, whose bark, especially of the roots, yielded a fragrant oil. In the Arabian works on husbandry the plant is stated to have an acid taste, and to bear a purple flower, but no fruit (see Smith's Diet. of Class. Antiq. s.v.). Lignum Rhodium is sometimes considered to be one of the kinds of aspalathus described by Dioscorides, but this is a produce of the Canary Islands, and of the plant called Convolvulus scoparius. By others aspalathus, which has been supposed to be the same thing as Syrian aloe, or that of Rhodes and of Candia, is thought to have been yielded by species of the genus which has been called Aspalathus, and especially by the species A. Creticus, which is now called Anthyllis Hernannice; but there does not seem to be sufficient proof of this. Others again have held that aspalathus was a kind of agallochum, SEE ALOE, and Dr. Harris (sub. Lign.-aloe) seems to have thought that he got rid of a difficulty by suggesting that ahalim, which was probably agallochum, should be rendered Aspalathus. Arab authors, as Avicenna and Serapion, give Dar-shishan as the Arabic synonym of aspalathus. They quote some of their own countrymen as authorities respecting it, in addition to Galen and Dioscorides. Hence it would appear to have ;een a product of the East rather than of the West, as for such they usually give only the Greek name or its translation, and quote only Greek authorities. Avicenna, in addition to his description, says that some think it may be the root of Indian nard. Hence it may justly be inferred that Dar- shishan, which the Arabians thought to be aspalathus, must have come to them from India, or they would not have hazarded this supposition. In India the name Dar-shishan is applied to the bark of a tree which is called kaiphul or kyphul. This tree is a native of the Himalayan Mountains from Nepal to the Sutlej, and has been figured and described by Dr. Wallich, in his Tentamen Florce lepalensis, p. 59, t. 45, by the name Myrica sapida, in consequence of its fruit, which is something like that of the arbutus, being edible. The leaves, on being rubbed, have a pleasantly aromatic though faint smell. The bark forms an article of commerce from the hills to the plains, being esteemed in the latter as a valuable stimulant medicine. It may be seen mentioned by the name ka-i-phul in Gladwin's translation of the Persian Ulfaz-i-Udwieh, No. 884, as a synonym of Dar-sheeshan, which is described as an aromatic bark, while at No. 157 Dar-shishan is considered to be a synonym of ishtelayus, which seems to be a corruption of aspalathus from the errors of transcribers in the diacritical points. Kaiphul has, moreover, been long celebrated by. Sanscrit authors, and it may therefore have easily formed one of the early articles of commerce from the East to the West, together with nard, costus, and lycium from these mountains. SEE SPICERY.

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