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Bill Thayer

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T. I, Vol. 1

Article by Ch. Morel in

Daremberg & Saglio,
Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines,
Librairie Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1877‑1919.

translation and © William P. Thayer

Acapna. — I. Acapna ligna, ἄκαπνα ξύλα, woods that burn without smoke. The climate of Greece and Italy does not require very complicated heating equipment. The ancients, in their living quarters, contented themselves in general, as is still the case today in many hot countries, with a stove: stationary (ἑστία) or portable (focus, ἀνθρακία, ἔσχαρα), and in the former case, a plain hole in the ceiling sufficed to let the smoke out [Focus, Domus]. This method of heating made it necessary to use fuels that produced as little smoke as possible. Wood was used that was carefully prepared so as to dry out thoroughly. The poets always take care to indicate this drying process by suitable epithets (ξύλα δανά,​1 ξύλα κάγκανα,​2 κᾶλα κάγκανα).​3 In Greece drying processes were perfected so as to obtain woods that burned producing no smoke at all — ξύλα ἄκαπνα or just ἄκαπνα;​4 the Romans adopted the word along with the thing itself. We know three of the processes they used. The simplest was to activate the drying of the wood by exposing it to a blazing fire without, however, reducing it to charcoal; the materials so prepared were also called ligna cocta or coctilia;​5 the second method consisted in removing the bark and steeping the wood in water, then drying it thoroughly before using it;​6 the last process was to soak it in amurca, the watery part of the juice of olives that flows first from the press, before the oil [Olea]; sometimes also the surface of the wood was merely coated with it, and the wood then dried in the sun.7

II. acapnon mel, smokeless honey, i.e., honey taken from the hive without smoking out the bees.​8 Since smoking them out imparted a rather unpleasant taste to the honey, mel acapnon was prized. [Mel].

The Author's Notes:

1 Hom. Od. XV.322; Aristoph. Pax 1134.

2 Hom. Od. XVIII.308; Il. XXI.364.

3 Hom. Hymn. in Merc. 112.

4 Plut. Symposium, II.1.17; Galen De san. tuend. Book IV, t. VI, p127.

5 Martial, Ep. XIII.15.

6 Theophrastus, Hist. plant. XV.10.

7 Cato, R. R. 130; Pliny, N. H. XV.8.

8 Pliny, N. H. XI.15; Columella, VI.33.

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Page updated: 10 Apr 16