BOOK V - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
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BOOK V







Page 187 There are many other Navigable Rivers in Celtica, to write of which particularly would be tedious: Almost all of them are some times Frozen up, as if Bridges were cast over their Channels. But the Ice being naturally smooth, and therefore Slippery to the Passengers, they throw Chaff upon it that they may go the more firmly.

In many Places of Gaul, there's something strange and very remarkable, which is not fit to pass over in silence. For the West and North Winds in Summer are so fierce and violent, that they fling into the Air great Stones as big as a Man can grasp in his Hands, together with a Cloud of Gravel and Dust. Nay, the violence of this Whirlwind is such, that it forces Mens Arms out of their Hands, rents their Cloaths off their Backs, and dismounts the Rider from his Horse.

This excessive Cold and immoderate Temper of the Air, is the cause why the Earth in these Parts produces neither Wine nor Oyl; and therefore the Gauls to supply the want of these Fruits, make a Drink of Barley, which they call Xythus: They mix likewise their Hony-Combs with Water, and make use of that for the same purpose. They are so exceedingly given to Wine, that they guzle it down as soon as it is imported by the Merchant, and are so eager and inordinate, that making themselves drunk, they either fall dead asleep, or become stark mad. So that many Italian Merchants (to gratify their own Covetousness) make use of the Drunkenness of the Gauls to advance their own profit and gain. For they convey the Wine to 'em both by Navigable Rivers, and by Land in Carts, and bring back an incredible price: For in lieu of a Hogshead of Wine, they receive a Boy, giving Drink in truck for a Servant.

In Gaul there are no Silver Mines, but much Gold, with which the nature of the Place supplies the Inhabitants, without the labour or toyl of digging in the Mines. For the winding Course of the River washing with its Streams, the Feet of the Mountains, carries away great pieces of Golden Ore, which those imploy'd in this business gather, and then grind and bruise these Clods of Golden Earth; and when they have so done, cleanse them from the gross Earthy part, by washing them in Water, and then melt them in a Furnace; and thus get together a vast heap of Gold, with which not only the Women, but the Men deck and adorn themselves. For they wear Bracelets of this Mettal about their Wrists and Arms, and massy Chains of pure and beaten Gold about their Necks, and weighty Rings upon their Fingers, and Croslets of Gold upon their Breasts. The Custom observ'd by the higher Gauls in the Temples of their Gods, is admirably remarkable; for in their Oratories and sacred Temples of this Country, in honour of their Gods they scatter Pieces of Gold up and down, which none of the Inhabitants (their superstitious Devotion is such) will in the least touch or meddle with, tho the Gauls are of themselves most exceeding Covetous.

For Stature they are tall, but of a sweaty and pale Complexion, Red-Hair'd, not only Naturally, but they endeavour all they can to make it redder by Art. They often wash their Hair in a Water boyl'd with Lime, and turn it backward from the Forehead to the Crown of the Head, and thence to their very Necks, that their Faces may be more fully seen, so that they look like Satyrs and Hobgoblins. By this sort of management of themselves, their Hair is as hard a Horse's Mane. Some of them shave their Beards; others let them grow a little. The Persons of Quality shave their Chins close, but their Mustaches they let fall so low, that they even cover their Mouths; so that when they eat, their Meat hangs tangling in their Hair; and when they drink, the Liquor runs through their Mustaches as through a Sieve. At Meal-time they all sit, not upon Seats, but upon the Ground, and instead of Carpets, spread Wolves or Dogs Skins under them. Young Boys and Girls attend them, such as are yet but meer Children. Near at Hand they have their Chimneys, with their Fires well furnish'd with Pots and Spits full of whole Joynts of Flesh Meat; and the best and fairest Joynts (in a way of due honour and regard) they set before the Persons of best Quality: As Homer introduces the Grecian Captains entertaining of Ajax, when he return'd Victor from his single Combat with Hector, in this Verse—

〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉
But Agamemnon as a favouring Sign,
Before great Ajax set the lusty Chine.



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