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170
CORALLIUM.
The Greek name for this substance was derived according to some (Plin. xxxii. 11) from the necessity of cutting off the plant while still living with a sharp steel (κούρα, shearing), for if touched by the human hand it instantly hardened. It was con­sidered to be a marine plant, green whilst growing, and produc­ing white and soft berries, which exposed to the air hardened into the colour and the size of cornel-cherries ; this latter fact bearing the true stamp of a Greek theory explanatory of the origin of the beads first brought to them by their navigators to Massilia. It is briefly noticed by Theophrastus (38) as being a stone, blood-red in colour, but of a cylindrical form like the root of a plant, and growing in the sea : the petrified Indian Eeed (probably the Arabian Coral) not being far removed from it in nature. The ancient notion as to its vegetable nature rested not merely upon its shrub-like form, but also on the fact that its branches are clothed with a fleshy coating, soft whilst in the water, but drying up immediately upon its extraction. The Romans obtained it from the Red Sea, but of too dark a tint to be in much request ; from the Persian Gulf, where it was called Lace ; but the best quality was fished up on the Gallic coast off the Staechades isles (Hyères) ; and also off Lipari, and Trapani, in Sicily. The Gauls before the subjugation of their country used it profusely in the decoration of their swords, shields, and helmets (this with amber being the sole ornament known to them in the way of jewels) ; but when Pliny wrote, the demand for it in India had become so great, that it was rarely to be seen in its native country, all that was in the least saleable being exported to the East. A notice this, by the way, that gives an insight into the vast commerce and the facility of communication