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THE SPIKENARD OF THE ANCIENTS.
BY THE PRESIDENT.
NEARLY at the time, when the result of
at the time, when the result of my first inquiries concerning spikenard was published in the second volume of our Afiatick Researches, there appeared in the Philofophical Transactions an account of the ANDROPOGON y waráncufa, the specimen of which Dr. Blane had received from Lucnow, and which he supposes to be the true Indick nard of Dioscorides and GALEN: having more than once read his arguments with pleasure, but not with conviction, I feel it incumbent on me, to state my reasons for diffenting from the learned physician with all the freedom of a searcher for truth, but without any diminution of that respect, to which his knowledge and candour justly entitle him.
In the first place, there is a passage in Dr. BLANE's paper, which I could not but read with surprise ; not because it is erroneous or disputable (for nothing can be more certain) but because it is decisive against the very proposition, which the writer endeavours to support: « DiosCORIDES mentions the Syriack nard, says the doctor, as a species
• different from the Indian, which was certainly brought from some of the “ remote parts of India ; for both he and GALEN, by way of fixing
more precisely the country, whence it came, call it also Gagnites." We may add, that PTOLEMY, who, though not a professed naturalist, had opportunities in Egypt of conversing with Indian merchants on everything remarkable in this country, distinguishes Rangamati, as producing the true spikenard ; and it is from the borders of that
very district, if we believe modern Indians, that the people of Butan bring it yearly into Bengal (a). Now it is not contended, that the new fpecies of Andropogon (if it be a new species) may be the Indick nard of DIOSCORIDES, (b), because it was found by Mr. BLANE in a remote part of India (for that folitary fact would have proved nothing); but it is learnedly and elaborately urged, that it must be the true Indian spikenard, because it differs only in the length of the stalks from the nard of GARÇIAS, which, according to Him, is the only species of nardus exported from India, and which resembles a dried fpecimen seen by Rumphius, and brought, he says, among other countries, from Mackran, or the ancient Gadrosia, the very country, where, according to Arrian, the true nard grew in abundance; for “ the
Phenicians, he says, collected a plentiful store of it, and so much of “ it was trampled under foot by the army, that a strong perfume
was diffused on all sides of them ;” now there is a singular coincidence of circumstances ; for our Andropogon was discovered by the scent of its roots, when they were crushed by the horses and elephants
(a) PTOLE'm e’e distingue le canton de Rhandamarcotta, en ce qu'il fournit la plante, que nous appellons Spic riard, ce qui peut convenir à Rangamati; et des differentes espéces l'Indique est bien la plus eftiniće.
D'Anv. Antiq. Geogr. Ind. 81. 10) Dr. Roxburgh with great reason supposes it to be the Muricated ANDROPOGON of Koenig, who mentions the roots as odoriferous, when sprinkled with water.
See Retz. III. Fascic. 43. and v. 21.
in a hunting-party of the Vazir A'SUFUDDAULAH; so that, on the whole, it must be the same with the plant mentioned by ARRIAN : but it may be argued, I think, more conclusively, that a plant, growing with great luxuriance in Gadrosia, or Mackran, which the doctor admits to be a maritime province of Persia, could not possibly be the same with a plant. confined to remote parts of India ; so that, if GARÇIAS, RumPHIUS, and ARRIAN be supposed to have meant the same fpecies of nard, it was evidently different from that of DIOSCORIDES and GALEN, The respectable writer, with whose opinions I make so free, but from no other motive than a love of truth, seems aware of a little geographical difficulty from the western position of Macrán; for he, first, makes it extend to the river Indus, and then infers, from the long march westward and the distresses of ALEXANDER's army, subsequent to the discovery of the spikenard, that it must have grown in the more eastern part of the desert, and consequently on the very borders of India ; but, even if we allow Gedrofia, or Gadrofis, to have been the same tract of land with Macrán (though the limits of all the provinces in Perfia have been considerably changed), yet the frontier of India could never with any propriety be carried so far to the west; for not only the Oritæ and Arabitæ, but, according to MELA, the whole province of Ariana, were between Gadrosis and the Indus; and, though Macrán (for so the word should be written) may have been annexed to India by such whimsical geographers as the Turks, who give the name of white Indians to the Persians of Arachofia, and of yellow Indians to the Arabs of Yemen, yet the river Indus, with the countries of Sind and Múltán on both sides of it, has ever been considered by the Perfans and Arabs as the western limit of Hind or India ; and Arrian himself expressly names the Indus as its known boundary: let Gadrofis, however, be Macrán, and let Macrán be an Indian province, yet it could never have been a remote part of India in respect of Europe or Egypt, and, consequently, was not meant by Galen and Dios
CORIDES, when they described the true spikenard. It must be admitted, that, if the Siree of RUMPHIUS, which differs little from the nardus of GARÇIAS, which corresponds for the most part with the new Andropogon, was ever brought from the province of Macrán, they were all three probably the same plant with the nard of Arrian; but, unfortunately, RUMPHIUS thought of no country less than of Persia, and of no province less than of Macrán; for he writes very distinctly, both in his Latin and his Dutch columns, that the plant in question grows in Macian, which he well knew to be one of the Moluccas (c): I am far from intending to give pain by detecting this trifling mistake ; and, as I may have made many of greater consequence, I shall be truly obliged to any man, who will set me right with good manners, the sacred laws of which ought never to be violated in a literary debate, except when some petulant aggressor has forfeited all claim to respect.
ARRIAN himself can by no means be understood to assert, that the Indian spikenard grew in Perfia; for his words are a fragrant root of nard (d), where the omission of the definite articles implies rather a nard, than the nard, or the most celebrated species of it; and it seems very clear, that the Greeks used that foreign word generically for odoriferous plants of different natural orders: but ARRIAN in truth was a mere compiler ; and his credit, even as a civil historian, seems liable to so much doubt, that it cannot be safe to rely on him for any fact in the history of nature. “ We cannot, says the judicious and “ accurate STRABO, give easy credence to the generality even of
contemporary writers concerning ALEXANDER, whose fame was
(c) Hi flores sæpe, immo vulgo fere, observantur in vetustis Siree ftipitibus, qui in Ternata, Motira, et Mackian crescunt. Vol. 5. Lib. 8. Cap. 24. p. 182.
(d) Νάρδε ριζαν εύοσμο».
astonishingly astonishingly high, and whose historians, preferring wonders to truth,
wrote with secure negligence; well knowing, that, as the farthest “ limits of Asia were the scene of his actions, their affertions could
hardly be disproved.” Now ARRIAN's principal authority was ARISTOBulus of Cassandra, whose writings were little prized by the ancients, and who not only asserted, “ that Gadros produced very tall
myrrh-trees, with the gum of which the Phenicians loaded many “ beasts” (notwithstanding the slaughter of them from the distress of the whole army), but, with the fancy of a poet describing the nest of a phenix, placed myrrh, incense, and caspa, with cinnamon and Spikenard itself, even in the wilds of Arabia : “ The fruitfulness of Arabia,' says ARRIAN, tempted the king of Macedon to form a design of in
vading it; for he had been assured, that myrrh and frankincense “ were collected from the trees of that country; that cinnamon was
procured from one of its shrubs ; and that its meadows produced
spontaneously abundance of Spikenard.” HeroDOTUS, indeed, had heard of cinnamon in Arabia, where the Laurus, to the bark of which we now give that name, was, I verily believe, never seen : even the myrrh-tree does not seem to have been a native of Arabia, and the public are now informed, that it was transplanted from Abyssinian forests, and has not flourished on the opposite shore ; but, whatever be the countries of myrrh and cinnamon, we may be certain, that any learned Arab would laugh at us, if we were to tell him, that the Sumbulu'l Hind grew wild in abundance on the plains of Tahámah. It seems a bold allegation of Garças, that he has exhibited “ the only
species of nardus known in India, either for consumption by the “ natives or for exportation to Persia and Arabia :” if he meant, that any plant was either used in this country or exported from it by the name of nard, he had been strangely deceived ; and if he meant, that it was the only fragrant grass used here as a medicine or as a perfume, his error was yet more gross. But, whatever his meaning might