Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus


was thrown upon the fire, whence it was withdrawn clean and unburnt. Pliny speaks of it, xxxvi. 19, «amiantus, like alum, loses nothing of its substance from Fire»; and Dioscorides, v. 158, says of the Cyprian amiantus «there is produced in Cyprus a stone called amiantus, resembling alum (alumen scissile), which is prepared and made into a cloth which looks like leather. When thrown into the fire, it burns but comes forth brighter, and is not consumed.» The modern Greeks called the amiantus carystia: others, Cotton-stone.
Besides this stone there is found also much red jasper, agate and three different kinds of precious stones. The hills nearest to Larnaca are all of talc, from which is prepared the gypsum so generally used in the island.
Of wild quadrupeds there are only foxes and hares: the latter, owing to the fine pasture, are better flavoured than our own. The European residents keep horses and dogs, and amuse themselves greatly at all seasons of the year in hunting these animals.
Among birds the commonest are francolins, partridges, woodcock, quails, thrushes, and every kind of waterfowl: we may say in fact that no winged game is lacking. The price of francolins and of partridges is the same, five soldi each. Woodcocks are a little dearer, for though they are abundant enough they are more prized, and other birds are extremely cheap. I must not forget the beccafico and the ortolan, which
are very plump: they are sold indiscriminately at four soldi the bunch of twelve, and they are so plentiful that even at this price they are a source of profit to the villagers. The largest catches are made near Santa Napa. Some are sold fresh, but most of them have the head and feet cut off, are scalded, and then put into vinegar with certain drugs. Thus prepared they keep for a year, and are sold at the same price as the fresh birds. The sale of these little birds is in the hands of the Europeans at Larnaca, who continually receive commissions from England, Holland, France, and some parts of the Turkish dominions, from correspondents who desire them for their own use. Every year 400 little barrels are exported, some containing 200, others 400 birds. The way they are generally prepared here for the table is to cut them in two, and put them on the gridiron with bread crumbs and a little parsley which gives them an excellent flavour.
In the months of July and August one sees many vultures standing in the fields like flocks of sheep; but they are only birds of passage, whilst all the other creatures we have mentioned are natives: unless we should except the woodcock, whose nest has never been found in any part of the island, nor indeed, so they say,elsewhere. Among the venomous beasts there is a kind of snake, which the Greeks call κουφη or deaf, whose bite is mortal. The longest are two feet in length, and their thickness across about a thumb's length. They are yellow and black, and have two little horns on the head. The Greeks err in calling it the deaf snake, as it is certainly not deaf, for the peasants when they reap the corn, among which it chiefly lives, to guard themselves from its attacks, besides keeping their boots always on their feet, have also little bells bound to their sickles to alarm and scare them away. A useless precaution, were the snakes really deaf. I ought to add before leaving the subject that at Tremitiu, a village in the island, is a Greek family which is said to enjoy the hereditary virtue of curing persons bitten by these serpents. I have seen myself two persons who within twenty-four hours after the bite presented themselves to one
of this family, and by a simple pressure of the wound were healed. On the other hand others have died who did not seek, or who despised, this remedy. But it is true that their virtue consists in a particular secret, for when they press the affected part, they deftly apply some powder which causes severe but momentary pain.The Tarantula of Cyprus is a spider of dark hue inclining to black, all covered with long hairs. Its bite is very dangerous, but not mortal; it never fails to cause pains accompanied by fever. That of the Galera is poisonous and mortal. This is a narrow beast, flat, about six inches long, of a yellowish hue, and furnished with a quantity of legs which it moves all together like the oars of a galley, whence it takes its name. There is also a black snake five or six feet long. This is not venomous, and may be handled without offence. It is sometimes skinned and cooked, and said to be a savoury morsel. The horses are not fleet, but in Pafo there is a breed which is renowned for the pace called chapqun a short amble, which they can keep up for six hours running, over hills or plains, without the least inconvenience to the rider. The donkeys have the same pace, and the mules of both sexes, which are considered the finest in this part of the Levant.
The oxen are small and lean; the Greeks do not eat beef, upon the principle that the beast that tills the ground should not be used as food for man.The

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