Another account is also given, that a share is assigned to the sun…and bursts out in flames of its own accord. Pliny the Elder


These curls of brown bark stirred in our wine
journey from conflict
in the farthest south where Dionysus grew up.

Birds greater than eagles collect the sticks
from hidden places and carry them high
on sheer rock cliffs to build their nests.

The Arabians gather dead oxen and other beasts of burden,
cut them into large hunks,
and place them at the foot of those cliffs. They hide

until the birds plunge straight down
with the force of falling boulders
and surge back up grasping animal parts the weight of men.

Their nests fail under the burden of this gift,
and shatter on the ground far below
with eggs, young, and cinnamon.

The birds leap high, and safely now the men
collect the spice and ship it where
our servants will adorn our food and wine.


A glass or two of wine
will convince Herodotus of any whim
above prosaic fact. Cinnamon grows on a shrub,
three feet high at most in the far south-east,
and made difficult to get only by brambles among the plants.
Ethiopians sacrifice forty-four oxen, goats, and rams
to gain leave from Jove, whom they call Assabinus,
to harvest the twigs.
Priests set aside the god’s portion
which bursts into flame in the sun
while—no surprise–middlemen take the rest,
shipping it to the port of the Gebbanites.

Here the traders dawdle, selling
cinnamon for glass and copper,
buckles, bracelets and necklaces,
all the things their women demand
if those men who survive the voyage
want a welcome on their return.

With a longer journey and many hands,
cinnamon fetches a price in Rome that rose
to 1500 denarii a pound
after the forests were burnt,
I’ve heard, by enraged barbarians.
I cannot say if they protested some injustice
exercised by those in power
or if the southern winds of summer grew so hot
as to set fire to the earth, consuming
and making dear the spices
we covet, with the trees,
all the crops from those lands.