(σπόγγος) is mentioned only in the New Test. in those, passages which relate the incident of "a sponge filled with vinegar and put on a reed", (Mt 27:48; Mr 15:36), or "on hyssop" (Joh 19:29), being offered to our Lord on the cross. The commercial value of the sponge was known from very early times; and although there appears to be no notice of it in the Old Test., yet it is probable that it was used by the ancient Hebrews, who could readily have obtained it good from the Mediterranean. Aristotle mentions several kinds, and carefully notices those which were useful for economic purposes (Hist. Anim. 5, 14). His speculations on the nature of the sponge are very interesting. Sponge was used in Homer's day for washing the person, and for cleansing tables after meals, and Martial records the latter use among the Romans. According to Pliny it was used by painters, probably to wash out lights, correct errors, etc.
Sponge (Spongia officinalis) consists, in the state in which we are familiar with it, of an irregular network of minute fibers of a clear horny substance, branching and anastomosing at minute intervals, and in every direction, so as to form a highly porous and elastic mass, the general form of which is that of a cup with thick walls, but not unfrequently rounded or ovate without any cavity. These fibers were during life clothed with a glair which possessed vitality, and were furnished with cilia, by whose movements currents were produced in the water which everywhere occupied the cavities of the mass, thus insuring oxygen for respiration and nutritive matter for increase. This particular species grows on rocks in deep water in the Levant, and especially in the seas that wash the Grecian isles, where, from remote antiquity to the present time, there has existed an active fishery for it. The inhabitants of many of the isles ate dependent for a living on sponge diving.