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p1003 Salinae

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp1003‑1004 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

SALINAE, (ἁλαὶ, ἁλοπήγιον), a salt-work (Varro, de L. Lat., VIII.25, ed. Spengel). Although the ancients were well acquainted with rock-salt (Herod. IV.181‑185; ἅλες ὀρυκτοί, i.e. "fossil salt," Arrian, Exped. Alex. III.4 pp161, 162, ed. Blan.), and although they obtained salt likewise from certain inland lakes (Herod. VII.30) and from natural springs or brine-pits (Cic. Nat. Deor. II.53; Plin. H. N. XXXI.7 s.39‑42), and found no small quantity on certain shores where it was congealed by the heat of the sun without human labour (ἅλες αὐτόματοι, Herod. IV.53; Plin. l.c.), yet they obtained by far the greatest quantity by the management of works constructed on the sea-shore, where it was naturally adapted for the purpose by being so low and p1004flat as to be easily overflowed by the sea (maritimae areae salinarum, Col. de Re Rust. II.2), or even to be a brackish marsh (ἁλυκὶς) or a marine pool (λιμνοθάλαττα, Strabo, IV.1 §6, VII.4 §7; Caesar, Bell. Civ. II.37). In order to aid the natural evaporation, shallow rectangular ponds (multifidi lacus) were dug, divided from one another by earthen walls. The sea-water was admitted through canals, which were opened for the purpose, and closed again by sluices. [Cataracta] The water was more and more strongly impregnated with salt as it flowed from one pond to another (Rutilii, Itin. I.475‑490). When reduced to brine (coacto umore), it was called by the Greeks ἅλμη, by the Latins salsugo or salsilago, and by the Spaniards muria (Plin. l.c.). In this state it was used by the Egyptians to pickle fish (Herod. II.77), and by the Romans to preserve olives, cheese, and flesh likewise (Cato, de Re Rust. 7, 88, 105; Hor. Sat. II.8.53). From muria, which seems to be a corruption of ἁλμυρὸς, "briny," the victuals cured in it were called salsa muriatica (Plaut. Poen. I.2.32, 39). As the brine which was left in the ponds crystallized, a man entrusted with the care of them, and therefore called salinator (ἁλοπηγὸς), raked out the salt so that it lay in heaps (tumuli) upon the ground to drain (Manilius, V.690;º Nicander, Alex. 518, 519). In Attica (Steph. Byz.), in Britain (Ptol.), and elsewhere, several places, in consequence of the works established in them, obtained the name of Ἀλαὶ or Salinae.

Throughout the Roman empire the salt-works were commonly public property, and were let by the government to the highest bidder. The first salt-works are said to have been established by Ancus Marcius at Ostia (Liv. I.33; Plin. H. N. XXXI.41). The publicani who farmed these works appear to have sold the salt, one of the most necessary of all commodities, at a very high price, whence the censors M. Livius and C. Claudius (B.C. 204) fixed the price at which those who took the lease of them were obliged to sell the salt to the people. At Rome the modius was according to this regulation sold for a sextans, while in other parts of Italy the price was higher and varied (Liv. XXIX.37). The salt-works in Italy and in the provinces were very numerous; in conquered countries however they were sometimes left in the possession of their former owners (persons or towns) who had to pay to Rome only a fixed rent, but most of them were farmed by the publicani. (Burmann, Vectigal. Pop. Rom. p90, &c.)


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