Reading 17-1 2 Gulf of Sidra in Libya. Cyrene, the main Greek city on the North African coast (Fig. 1), owed its renown to silphion. An example of Laconian pottery of 565 BC (Fig. 2) pictures King Arcesilas II of Cyrene (c. 568–550) in black and red cloak and hat, sitting on a chair supervising the weighing and loading of silphion wrapped in skins, ready for export. “Battus’ silphion” became a Greek expression for extreme wealth, Battus being the f rst king of Cyrene. The coins of Cyrene for centuries featured the plant whose gummy secretions were a royal export monopoly and constituted the wealth and pride of the land. By the f rst century, the encyclopedic Pliny the Elder (23–79) tells us that the uses of silphion (which as a Roman he calls laser ) would be “an endless task to record.” Pliny’s account of silphion’s origin obtained from the “most reliable authors of Greece” (obviously Theophrastus) was that it “ f rst sprang up in the vicinity of the Garden of the Hesperides at the edge of Great
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