The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


This word does not occur in the A. V., but express mention is made of the material in Esth. i. 6, where it is stated that in the court of the king's palace-garden were "white, green, and blue hangings." The Hebrew word here translated "green" is "karpas" (Greek, καρπάσια). It should probably be rendered "cotton" (so R. V., margin) or, more accurately, "cotton muslin." It is plainly a loan-word from the Persian "karpâs" (fine linen), which itself goes back to the Sanskrit "karpâsa" (cotton). The English "cotton" is probably a loanword from the Arabic "ḳutun," through the Spanish and French "coton."

It is quite evident that cotton grew and was used for clothing in very ancient times in India. Although the nature of cotton was plainly known as early as Herodotus (iii. 106), it was the eastern conquests of Alexander that first made the Greeks, and subsequently other Western nations, acquainted with cotton fabrics. The Latins were especially familiar with it (compare Strabo, 15, § 71; Lucan, iii. 209, etc.), although "carbasus" was also applied to fine linen and cambric (see Yates, "Textrinum Antiquorum," i. 338 et seq.).

The cultivation of the cotton-plant (Gossypium herbaceum) spread from India throughout the entire East. It is now one of the most important staples of Palestine. The botanically allied cotton-shrub (Gossypium arboreum) probably originated in Egypt, more particularly in Abyssinia. It was formerly extensively cultivated in Lower Egypt, but was later driven out by the superior Gossypium herbaceum. This probably explains the fact that the Egyptians were not acquainted with cotton before the time of the Greek conquest in 333 B.C.

J. Jr. J. D. P.
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