Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 25
I. THIS peculiar glory of plants which I am now going to speak of, Mother Earth producing them sometimes for medicinal purposes only, rouses in one's mind admiration for the care and industry of the men of old; there was nothing left untried or unattempted by them, and furthermore nothing kept secret, nothing which they wished to be of no benefit to posterity. But we moderns desire to hide and suppress the discoveries worked out by these investigators, and to cheat human life even of the good things that have been won by others. Yes indeed, those who have gained a little knowledge keep it in a grudging spirit secret to themselves, and to teach nobody else increases the prestige of their learning. So far has custom departed from fresh research and assistance to life; the supreme task of our great minds has long been to keep within individual memory the successes of the ancients, so allowing them to be forgotten. But, heaven knows, there are some whom a single discovery has added to the number of the gods, whose life on earth at any rate has been made more glorious by their names being given to plants, so kind the thanks of a mindful posterity. This careful research of theirs is less wonderful when rewarded by plants of fascinating growth or attractive as food; but they have scoured also trackless mountain heights, unexplored deserts and all the bowels of the earth, finding out the power of every root and the uses to which can be put mere slim threads of vegetation, and turning to healthful purposes that which the very beasts refuse to touch as food.
II. This subject was less popular with our countrymen than it should have been considering their vast appetite for all things useful and good; the first student of it, and for a long time the only one, being that same Marcus Cato, the master of all excellent crafts, who merely touched briefly the subject, without neglecting even veterinary medicine. After him one only of our distinguished men has tried his hand at the subject, Gaius Valgius, an author of approved scholarship, who left unfinished a work dedicated to the late emperor Augustus, beginning also his preface with a devout prayer that his Imperial Highness should always, and above all others, be the healer of every human ill.
III. Before Valgius the only Roman who had written on this subject, as far as I can discover, was Pompeius Lenaeus, a freedman of Pompeius Magnus, in whose day, I find, scientific treatment of it first found a home among Roman students. For it was Mithridates, the greatest king of his time, whom Pompeius vanquished, that was, we know by evidence as well as by report, a more attentive investigator of life's problems than any of those born before him. By his unaided efforts he thought out the plan of drinking poison daily, after first taking remedies, in order that sheer custom might render it harmless; he was the first to discover the various antidotes, one of which is even known by his name; he also discovered the mixing with antidotes of the blood of Pontic ducks, because they lived on poison; addressed to him were treatises, still extant, written by the famous physician Asclepiades, who when urgently invited to come from Rome sent instructions instead; Mithridates alone of men is definitely known to have spoken twenty-two languages, and no man of his subject peoples was ever addressed by him through an interpreter during all the fifty-six years of his reign. He then, with his brilliant intellect and wide interests, was an especially diligent student of medicine, and collected detailed knowledge from all his subjects, who comprised a great part of the world, leaving among his private possessions a bookcase of these treatises with specimens and the properties of each. Pompeius however on getting possession of all the royal booty ordered his freedman Lenaeus, a man of letters, to translate these into Latin. This great victory therefore was as beneficent to life as it was to the State.
IV. Besides these the subject has been treated by Greek writers, whom we have mentioned in their proper places; of these, Crateuas, Dionysius and Metrodorus adopted a most attractive method, though one which makes clear little else except the difficulty of employing it. For they painted likenesses of the plants and then wrote under them their properties. But not only is a picture misleading when the colours are so many, particularly as the aim is to copy Nature, but besides this, much imperfection arises from the manifold hazards in the accuracy of copyists. In addition, it is not enough for each plant to be painted at one period only of its life, since it alters its appearance with the fourfold changes of the year.
V. For this reason the other writers have given verbal accounts only; some have not even given the shape of the plants, and for the most part have been content with bare names, since they thought it sufficient to point out the properties and nature of a plant to those willing to look for it. To gain this knowledge is no difficult matter; 11 at least have enjoyed the good fortune to examine all but a few plants through the devotion to science of Antonius Castor, the highest botanical authority of our time; I used to visit his special garden, in which he would rear a great number of specimens even when he passed his hundredth year, having suffered no bodily ailment and, in spite of his age, no loss of memory or physical vigour. Nothing else will be found that aroused greater wonder among the ancients than botany. Long ago was discovered a method of predicting eclipses of the sun and moonnot the day or night merely but the very hour. Yet there still exists among a great number of the common people an established conviction that these phenomena are due to the compelling power of charms and magic herbs, and that the science of them is the one outstanding province of women. At any rate tales everywhere are widely current about Medea of Colchis and other sorceresses, especially Circe of Italy, who has even been enrolled as a divinity. This is the reason, I think, why Aeschylus, one of the earliest poets, declared that Italy abounds in potent herbs, and many have said the same of Circeii, where she lived. Strong confirmatory evidence exists even today in the fact that the Marsi, a tribe descended from Circe's son, are well-known snake-charmers. Homer indeed, the first ancestor of ancient learning, while expressing in several passages great admiration for Circe, gives the prize for herbs to Egypt, even though at that time the irrigated Egypt of today did not yet exist, for it was formed afterwards by the alluvial mud of the river. At any rate he says that Egyptian herbs in great number were given by the wife of the king to the Helen of his tale, including that celebrated nepenthes, which brought forgetfulness and remission of sorrow, to be administered especially by Helen to all mortals. But the first of all those known to tradition to publish anything about botany carefully was Orpheus; after him Musaeus and Hesiod, as we have said, expressed great admiration for the plant called polium; Orpheus and Hesiod recommended fumigations. Homer mentions by name other plants also, which I shall speak of in their appropriate places. After him the celebrated philosopher Pythagoras was the first to compose a book on the properties of plants, assigning their original discovery to Apollo, Aesculapius and the immortal gods generally: Democritus also composed a similar work. Both of them visited the Magi of Persia, Arabia, Ethiopia and Egypt, and so amazed were the ancients at these books that they positively asserted even unbelievable statements. Xanthus, who wrote books on history, relates in the first of them that a young snake, which had been killed, was restored to life by his father, who used a plant called by Xanthus balis, and that the same plant brought back to life one Tylo, whom the snake had killed. Juba too records that a man in Arabia was restored to life by means of a plant. Democritus said, and Theophrastus believed him, that there was a plant which, carried by the bird I have mentioned, forced out by its touch a wedge driven into a tree by shepherds. Although these tales are incredible, yet they fill us with wonder, and force us to admit that there is still much truth in them. Hence too I find that most authorities hold that there is nothing which cannot be achieved by the power of plants, but that the properties of most are still unknown. Among these thinkers was Herophilus, famous in medicine, who is reported to have said that certain plants are perhaps beneficial even when merely trodden on. It has been observed at any rate that wounds and diseases get worse on the arrival of people who have made a journey on foot.
VI. Such was the condition of medicine in the old days, all of it finding its way into the dialects of Greece. But the reason why more herbs are not familiar is because experience of them is confined to illiterate country-folk, who form the only class living among them; moreover nobody cares to look for them when crowds of medical men are to be met everywhere. Many simples also, though their properties have been discovered, still lack names, for instance, the plant I mentioned when dealing with the cultivation of crops, which we know keeps all birds away if buried at the corners of the cornfield. The most disgraceful reason for this scanty knowledge is that even those who possess it refuse to teach it, just as though they would themselves lose what they have imparted to others. To this must be added that there is no sure method of discovery; for even of those we already know chance has sometimes been the finder; at other times, to speak the truth, the discoverer was a god. Down to recent years there has been no cure for the bite of a mad dog, a symptom of which is dread of water and aversion to drink of any kind. Recently the mother of a man serving in the praetorian guard saw in a dream how she sent to her son to be taken in drink the root of the wild rose, called cynorrhodon, which by its appearance had attracted her the before in a shrubbery. Operations were going on in Lacetania, the part of Spain nearest to Italy, and by chance it happened that the soldier, after being bitten by a dog, was beginning to show a horror of water, when a letter arrived from the mother, who begged him to obey the heavenly warning. So his life was unexpectedly saved, as was that of all who afterwards tried a similar remedy. Elsewhere among our authorities the only medicinal use of cynorrhodon to be found is that the ash of the spongy substance that forms in the middle of its thorns was mixed with honey to make hair grow on the head where mange had left it bare. In the same province, on the land of my host, I learned of a recent discovery there, a stalk called dracunculus, of the thickness of a thumb, with spots of many colours like those of a viper, which people said was a remedy for the bites of all creatures, a different plant from those I have called dracunculus in the preceding book. This one has a different shape, and is an amazing plant in other ways; for when snakes begin to cast their slough it springs up to the height of about two feet, and then buries itself in the ground when snakes do so, and while it is concealed no snake at all is anywhere to be seen. This by itself would be a kindly service of Nature, if it only warned us and pointed out the time of danger.
Nor is it beasts alone that are guilty of causing injury; at times waters also and regions do the same. When Germanicus Caesar had moved forward his camp across the Rhine, in a maritime district of Germany there was only one source of fresh water. To drink it caused within two years the teeth to fall out and the use of the knee-joints to fail. Physicians used to call these maladies stomacace and scelotyrbe. A remedy was found in the plant called britannica, which is good not only for the sinews and for diseases of the mouth, but also for the relief of quinsy and snakebite. It has dark, rather long leaves, and a dark root. Its juice is extracted even from the root. The blossom is called vibones; gathered before thunder is heard, and swallowed, it keeps away the fear of quinsy for a whole year. It was pointed out to our men by the Frisians, at that time a loyal tribe, in whose territory our camp lay. Why the plant was so called I greatly wonder, unless perhaps, living on the shore of the British ocean, they have so named the britannica because it is, as it were, a near neighbour of Britain. It is certain that the plant was not so named because it grew abundantly in that island: Britain was at that time an independent state.
VII. It was one of the ambitions of the past to give one's name a to a plant, as we shall point out was done by kings. It was thought a great honour to discover a plant and be of assistance to human life, although now perhaps some will think that these researches of mine are just idle trifling. So paltry in the eyes of Luxury are even the things that conduce to our health. It is but right, however, to mention in the first place the plants whose discoverers can be found, with their properties classified according to the kinds of disease for which they are a remedy. To reflect indeed on this makes one pity the lot of man; besides chances and changes and the strange happenings that every hour brings, there are thousands of diseases that every mortal has to dread. To distinguish which are the most grievous of them might be considered almost an act of folly, since every man considers that the particular disease from which he is suffering at the moment is the most awful. On this point, however, the experience of time has concluded that the disease causing the sharpest agony is strangury from stone in the bladder; next comes disease of the stomach, and after that pains produced by diseases of the head; these being about the only diseases that are responsible for suicides.
I myself am amazed that the Greeks have described even harmful plants, and not the poisonous ones only, since the state of human life is such that death is frequently a harbour of refuge even for the most excellent of men, Marcus Varro relating that the Roman knight Servius Clodius, owing to the severe pain of gout, was forced to rub his legs all over with a poison, after which that part of his body was as free from sensation as it was from pain. But what excuse was there to point out the means of deranging the mind, of causing abortion, and of many similar crimes. I personally do not mention abortives, nor even love-philtres, remembering as I do that the famous general Lucullus was killed by a love-philtre, nor yet any other unholy magic, unless it be by way of warning or denunciation, especially as I have utterly condemned all faith in such practices. Enough pains, and more than enough, will have been taken if I point out plants healthful to life and discovered in order to preserve it.
VIII. The most renowned of plants is, according to Homer, the one that he thinks is called by the gods moly, assigning to Mercury its discovery and the teaching of its power over the most potent sorceries. Report says it grows today in Arcadia round Pheneus and on Cyllene; it is said to be like the description in Homer, with a round, dark root, of the size of an onion and with the leaves of a squill, and not difficult to dig up. Greek authorities have painted its blossom yellow, though Homer describes it as white. I have met a herbalist physician who said that the plant was also to be found in Italy, and that one could be brought for me from Campania within a few days, as it had been dug out there in spite of the difficulties of rocky ground, with a root thirty feet long, and even that not entire, but broken off short.
IX. After moly the plant with the highest reputation they call the dodecatheon, as a compliment to the grandeur of all the twelve gods. It is said that taken in water it cures all diseases. Its leaves are seven, very like those of lettuce and sprouting from a yellow root.
X. The first plant to be discovered was the peony, which still retains the name of the discoverer; it is called by some pentorobon, by others glycyside, for an added difficulty in botany is the variety of names given to the same plant in different districts. It grows on shaded mountains, having a stem among the leaves about four fingers high, which bears on its top four or five growths like almonds, in them being a large amount of seed, red and black. This plant also prevents the mocking delusions that the Fauns bring on us in our sleep. They recommend us to uproot it at night-time, because the woodpecker of Mars, should he see the act, will attack the eyes in its defence.
XI. The plant panaces by its very name promises to be a cure for every disease; it has many varieties, and to the gods have been ascribed the discovery of its properties. One variety in fact has the additional name of asclepion, after which Asclepius called his daughter Panacia. The juice of this plant when curdled is like that, already described, of fennelgiant, coming from a root with a thick and salty skin. When it has been pulled up it is a pious duty to fill in the hole with various cereals as an atonement to the earth. Where the juice is prepared, and how, and the most esteemed kind, I have already described in my account of exotic plants. The kind imported out of Macedonia they call bucolicon, because herdsmen collect the sap as it exudes of its own accord; this evaporates very rapidly. As to the other kinds, the least popular is the dark and soft, for these qualities are signs of adulteration with wax.
XII. A second kind they call heracleon, and say that it was discovered by Hercules; others call it heracleotic or wild origanum, because it is like the origanum I have already described; the root is of no value.
XIII. A third kind of panaces has the surname chironium from Chiron the centaur who discovered it. Its leaf is like that of lapathum, but larger and more hairy. The blossom is golden and the root small. It grows in rich soils. The blossom of this kind is very efficacious, and therefore has a wider range of usefulness than that of the kinds mentioned above.
XIV. The fourth kind is the panaces discovered by the same Chiron and surnamed centaurion, but also phamaceon, a name derived from king Pharnaces, as there is a controversy whether he was, or was not, the discoverer. This kind is grown from seed, having longer leaves than the other kinds, and with serrated edges. Its scented root is dried in the shade, and adds a pleasing taste to wine. Some hold that there are two other kinds of panaces, one with a broad, the other with a slender, leaf.
XV. Heracleon siderion ('ironwort') is yet another discovery of Hercules. It has a slender stem about four fingers high, a flower of a deep red and leaves like those of coriander. It is found near ponds and flyers, and heals very thoroughly all wounds inflicted by iron.
XVI. A discovery of Chiron's was the vine called chironia, which I have mentioned in my section on the vines I have also mentioned a plant, the discovery of which is attributed to Minerva.
XVII. To Hercules too they ascribe the plant which is called apollinaris by some, altercum by us Romans, but by the Greeks hyoscyamos ('pig's bean'). There are several kinds of it: one has black seed, with flowers that are almost purple, and a thorny calyx, growing in Galatia. The common kind, however, is whiter and more bushy; it is taller than the poppy. The seed of the third kind is like the seed of irio; but all kinds cause insanity and giddiness. A fourth kind is soft, downy, richer in juice than the others, with a white seed, and growing in places near the sea. This is a kind that medical men have adopted, as they have that with a red seed. Sometimes, however, the white seed turns red if gathered before getting ripe, and then it is rejected; and generally no kind is ever gathered before it has become dry. It has the character of wine, and therefore injures the head and brain. Use is made of the seed as it is or when the juice has been extracted from it. The juice is extracted separately also from the stems and leaves. They also use the root, but the drug is, in my opinion, a dangerous medicine in any form. In fact, it is well known that even the leaves affect the brain if more than four are taken in drink; yet the ancients used to take them in wine under the impression that fever was so brought down. An oil is made from the seed, as I have said, which by itself if poured into the ears deranges the brain. It is a wonderful thing that they have prescribed remedies for those who have taken the drink, which implies that it is a poison, and yet have included it among remedies; so unwearied have been researches in making every possible experiment, even to compelling poisons to be helpful remedies.
XVIII. Linozostis or parthenion was discovered by Mercury, and so many among the Greeks call it 'Hermes' grass', but all we Romans agree in calling it mercurialis. There are two kinds of it, the male and the female, the latter having the more powerful properties. It has a stem which is a cubit high and sometimes branchy at the top, leaves narrower than those of ocimum, joints close together and many hollow axils. The seed of the female hangs down in great quantity at the joints; while that of the male stands up near the joints, less plentiful, short and twisted; the female seed is loose and white? The leaves of the male plant are darker, those of the female lighter; the root is quite useless and very slender. It grows in flat, cultivated country. A remarkable thing is recorded of both kinds: that the male plant causes the generation of males and the female plant the generation of females. This is effected if immediately after conceiving the woman drinks the juice in raisin wine, or eats the leaves decocted in oil and salt, or raw in vinegar. Some again decoct it in a new earthen vessel with heliotropium and two or three ears of corn until the contents become thick. They recommend the decoction to be given to women in food, with the plant itself on the second day of menstruation for three successive days; on the fourth day after a bath intercourse is to take place. Hippocrates has bestowed very high praise on these plants for the diseases of women; no medical man recognises its virtues after this fashion. He used them as pessaries for uterine troubles, adding thereto honey, or oil of roses or of iris or of lilies, also as an emmenagogue and to bring away the afterbirth. The same effects, he said, resulted from taking them in drink and from using them for fomentations. He dropped the juice into foul-smelling ears, and with the juice and old wine made an embrocation for the abdomen. The leaves he applied to fluxes from the eyes. A decoction of it with myrrh and frankincense he prescribed for strangury and bladder troubles. For loosening the bowels, however, or for fever, a handful of the plant should be boiled down to one half in two sextarii of water. This is drunk with the addition of salt and honey, and if the decoction has been made with a pig's foot or a chicken added, the draught is all the more beneficial. Some have thought that as a purge both kinds should be administered, either by themselves or with mallows added to the decoction. They purge the abdomen and bring away bile, but they are injurious to the stomach. Their other uses we shall give in the appropriate places.
XIX. Achilles too, the pupil of Chiron, discovered a plant to heal wounds, which is therefore called achilleos, and by it he is said to have cured Telephus. Some have it that he was the first to find out that copper-rust is a most useful ingredient of plasters, for which reason he is represented in paintings as scraping it with his sword from his spear on to the wound of Telephus, while others hold that he used both remedies. This plant is also called by some Heraclean panaces, by others siderites, and by us millefolia; the stalk is a cubit high, and the plant branchy, covered from the bottom with leaves smaller than those of fennel. Others admit that this plant is good for wounds, but say that the real achilleos has a blue stalk a foot long and without branches, gracefully covered all over with separate, rounded leaves. Others describe achilleos as having a square stem, heads like those of horehound, and leaves like those of the oak; they claim that it even unites severed sinews. Some give the name sideritis to another plant, which grows on boundary walls and has a foul smell when crushed, and also to yet another, like this but with paler and more fleshy leaves, and with more tender stalks, growing in vineyards; finally to a third, two cubits high, with thin, triangular twigs, leaves like those of the fern, a long foot-stalk and seed like that of beet. All are said to be excellent for wounds. Roman authorities call the one with the broadest leaf royal broom; it cures quinsy in pigs.
XX. Teucer too in the same age discovered teucrion, called by some hemionion; it spreads out thin, rush-like twigs with small leaves, grows on rough localities, has a harsh taste, never flowers and never produces seed. It is a cure for splenic troubles, a property discovered, as is well known, in the following way; they say that when sacrificial entrails had been thrown on the plant, this stuck to the spleen and consumed it. On account of this the plant is called by some splenion. It is said that pigs which eat its root are found to be without a spleen. There are some who call by the same name a ligneous plant with branches like those of hyssop and leaves like those of the bean, and recommend it to be gathered when it is in flowerso these certainly hold that the plant has a flowerand they praise most highly the sort that comes from the mountains of Cilicia and Pisidia.
XXI. Melampus is well known for his skill in the arts of divination. From him one kind of hellebore is called melampodion. Some hold that the discovery is due to a shepherd called Melampus, who noticed that his she-goats were purged after browsing upon the plant, and by administering the milk of these goats cured the daughters of Proetus of their madness. Wherefore it is well to give here together an account of every kind of hellebore.
The chief kinds are two, the white and the black. This difference, most authorities say, applies only to the roots, others say that the leaves of black hellebore are like those of the plane but smaller, darker and with more indentations; that the leaves of white hellebore are like those of sprouting beet, but also darker and turning to red on the under side of its grooves, and that both have a stem a span high, resembling that of fennel-giant, wrapped up in skins like those of bulbs, and with a root fringed like that of onions. The black hellebore kills horses, oxen and pigs; so they avoid it, although they eat the white kind. The latter is said to be ripe at harvest, and it grows abundantly on Mount Oeta, and the best on one part of it, around the place called Pyra. The black kind is to be found everywhere, but the better sort grows on Helicon, a mountain celebrated also for other plants. Next after the white hellebore of Oeta that of Pontus is most approved; the third place is taken by that of Elea, which is said to grow among vines, and the fourth by hellebore of Parnassus, which is adulterated by hellebore from the neighbouring country of Aetolia. Of these the black kind they call melampodium; with it they fumigate and cleanse houses, sprinkling it on sheep, and adding a formal prayer. This kind is gathered with even greater formalities. First a circle is drawn round it with a sword; then the man who is going to cut it looks at the East with a prayer that the gods will grant him permission to do so. He also keeps on the lookout for a flying eaglefor generally one is present when men cutand if an eagle flies near, it is a sign that the gatherer will die in that year. The white too is not easy to gather: it is very oppressive to the head unless garlic is eaten beforehand, wine swallowed every now and then and the plant dug up quickly. Some call the black kind ectomon, others polyrrhizon. This purges by stool, but the white kind does so by vomiting, and carries away what might cause diseases; once regarded with horror it afterwards became so popular that most scholars took it regularly to sharpen their brains for their studies. It is well known that Carneades, when preparing to reply to the works of Zeno, purged himself with hellebore, and that Drusus among us, most illustrious of our tribunes of the people, who was cheered by all the commons standing before him but charged by the aristocrats with causing the Marsic War, was on the island of Anticyra cured of epilepsy by means of this medicine. For there it is very safe to take the drug because they add to it sesamoides, as I have already said. In Italy it is called veratrum.
Both hellebores when ground to powder, either by themselves or combined with that of radicula, with which I said wool is washed, cause sneezing, and both cause sleep. But the roots selected are the thinnest, short, and as it were cut off; only the bottom is used, for the top, which is very thick and like an onion, is given as a purge only to dogs. The old physicians used to choose the root with the most fleshy skin, thinking that the pithy part they obtained from such was more delicate. This they used to cover with moist sponges, and when it swelled they would split it lengthwise with a needle; then they would dry the thin strips in the shade, and so use them. Today they administer the shoots themselves, just as they are, that grow from roots with the heaviest skin. The best hellebore as a sharp, hot taste, and gives out dust when broken. It keeps, it is said, its efficacy for thirty years.
XXII. Black hellebore is a cure for paralysis, madness, dropsy without fever, chronic gout and diseases of the joints; it draws from the belly bile, phlegms and morbid fluids. For gently moving the bowels the maximum dose is one drachma; a moderate one is four oboli. Some have mixed scammony also with it, but to add salt is safer. A larger dose given in sweet substances is dangerous; used as a fomentation it disperses films over the eyes. Therefore some have also pounded it and made an eye salve. It matures and clears up scrofulous sores, suppurations and indurations; fistulas also if it be taken off on the third day. With copper scales and sandarach it removes warts. With barley meal and wine it is applied to the abdomen for dropsy. It cures phlegms in cattle and draught animals if a spray be passed across the ear and taken out at the same hour on the next day; with frankincense, wax and pitch, or with pisselaeon it cures itch in quadrupeds.
XXIII. The best white hellebore is that which most quickly causes sneezing. It is, however, far more terrifying than the black sort, especially if one reads in our old authorities of the elaborate precautions, taken by those about to drink it, against shivering, choking, overpowering and unseasonable sleep, prolonged hiccough or sneezing, fluxes of the stomach, vomiting, too slow or too long, scanty or too excessive. In fact they usually gave other things to promote vomiting, and drove out the hellebore itself by medicine or enema, or more often d they used even bleeding. Furthermore, even when the hellebore proves successful, the various colours of the vomits are terrifying to see, and after the vomits comes the worry of watching the stools, of superintending the bath, of attention to the whole body, all these troubles being preceded by the great terror caused by its reputation, for it is said that meat, if boiled with it. is consumed. It was a fault of the ancient physicians that because of these fears they used to administer this hellebore in smallish doses, since the larger the dose the quicker it is eliminated. Themison gave doses of not more than two drachmae; his successors actually increased the amount to four, because of the fine testimonial given to hellebore by Herophilus, who compared it to a truly courageous general; having aroused all within, it itself marches out in the van. Moreover, a wonderful discovery has been made; hellebore cut with scissors, as we have described, is passed through a sieve; the skinwith which they empty the stomachremains behind, while the soft part passes through, and is given to stop the vomiting when the purging is too violent.
XXIV. Care must be taken, even with happy treatment, not to administer hellebore on a cloudy day; for to do so is followed by unbearable torture.
Indeed, there is no doubt that summer is a better season to give it than winter. For seven days previously the body must be prepared by acid foods and by abstinence from wine; on the fourth and third days before, an emetic must be taken, and on the preceding day there should be abstinence from dinner. White hellebore is given even a in a sweet medium, although most suitably in lentils or pottage. Recently the method has been discovered of splitting radishes, inserting hellebore, and then pressing the radishes together again, so that the property of the purge penetrates them; the hellebore is thus administered in a modified form. Vomiting begins after about four hours, and the whole business is over in seven. Thus given hellebore is curative of epilepsy, as has been said, giddiness, melancholia, insanity, wild distraction, white leprosy, leprous sores, tetanus, palsy, gouty affections, dropsy and incipient tympanitis stomachic affections, spasmodic grins, sciatica, quartan fever that yields to no other treatment, chronic cough, flatulence and recurrent gripings.
XXV. Hellebore is never prescribed for old people or children, or for those who are soft and effeminate in body or mind, or for the thin or delicate; for women it is less suited than for men, unsuitable too for the nervous or when the hypochondria are ulcerated or swollen, very bad when there is spitting of blood, pain in the side, or sore throat. Applied externally with salted axle-grease it cures pituitous eruptionse on the body and also suppurations of long standing. Mixed with pearl barley it kills rats and mice. The Gauls when hunting dip their arrows in hellebore, and say that the meat when the flesh round the wound has been cut away tastes more tender. Flies too die if pounded white hellebore and milk are sprinkled about. Phthiriasis too is cured by the same preparation.
XXVI. To Mithridates himself Crateuas ascribed one plant, called mithridatia. It has two leaves, like those of the acanthus, springing from the root, with a stem between them which supports a rose-pink flower.
XXVII. A second plant was attributed to him by Lenaeus, scordotis or scordion, a description of it being in the hand of the King himself; it is one cubit high; its stem is quadrangular, its form is branchy, and the leaves, which are downy, are like oak leaves. It is found in Pontus on rich, moist plains, and is of a bitter taste. There is also another kind of it, with broader leaves and like wild mint, both kinds being useful for very many purposes, both by themselves and also with other ingredients to make antidotes.
XXVIII. Two kings have claimed to be the discoverer of polemonia; accordingly some call it by that name and some philetaeria, while the Cappadocians call it chiliodynamia. It has a thick root, thin branches with clusters hanging from the ends, and black seed. In other respects it is like rue, and it grows in mountainous districts.
XXIX. Eupatoria too enjoys the prestige of a royal discoverer. It has a ligneous stem, dark, hairy, and a cubit or sometimes more in height; the leaves, arranged at intervals, are like those of cinquefoil or hemp, and have five indentations along the edge; they too are dark and feathery. The root is useless, but the seed taken in wine is a sovereign remedy in cases of dysentery.
XXX. Centaury is said to have been the treatment given to Chiron when an arrow fell on his foot as he was handling the arms of Hercules, who was his guest; for which reason some call it chironion. Its leaves are broad and longish, serrated all round the edge; thickly from the root grow jointed stems three cubits high. On these are heads like those of poppies. The root is enormous and reddish, soft and easily broken, up to two cubits in size, streaming with juice and bitter with something of sweetness in it. It grows on hills with a rich soil, the most esteemed in Arcadia, Elis, Messenia, Pholoe and on mount Lycaeus; on the Alps too and in very many other places. In Lycia indeed they also make a lycium from it. Its power to cure wounds is so strong that even pieces of meat, they say, coalesce if they are boiled with it. The part used is the root, the dose being for the patients for whom it will be prescribed two drachmae only. It should be pounded and taken in water if fever be present; those without fever should take it pounded but in wine. The juice of the decoction cures also the diseases of sheep.
XXXI. There is a second centaury, surnamed lepton, a plant with small leaves; some call it libadion, because it grows along the side of springs. It is like origanum but with narrower and longer leaves; it has an angular, bushy stem a span high, a flower like that of lychnis, a slight root of no use in medicine, but with healing qualities in its juice. The plant itself is gathered in autumn, and the juice is extracted from the leaves. Some cut up and soak the stems, extracting the juice at the end of eighteen days. This centaury the Romans call the 'gall of earth' on account of its extreme bitterness, while the Gauls call it exacum, because a draught of it evacuates from the body by stool all harmful drugs.
XXXII. There is a third, centauris surnamed triorchis. Those who cut it nearly always wound themselves. The juice it gives out is of the colour of blood. Theophrastus relates that it is defended by a species of hawk called triorchis, which attacks those who gather it. From this too it has received its name. The uninformed confuse these characteristics and assign them all to the first kind of centaury.
XXXIII. Clymenus is a plant called after the king of that name. It has leaves like those of ivy, many branches, a hollow stem girded with joints, a strong smell, and seed like that of ivy; it grows in wooded, hilly districts. I shall say later what diseases it cures if taken in drink; but at the moment I must point out that, while it cures, even men are made sterile by the draught. The Greeks have said that it is like the plantain, with a square stem and seed-bags intertwined like the tentacles of the polypus. The juice too is used in medicine, as it has very great powers of cooling.
XXXIV. It was a king of the Illyrians named Gentius who discovered gentian, which, though it grows everywhere, is most excellent when it grows in Illyria. The leaf is like that of the ash but of the size of a lettuce leaf; the stem is tender and of the thickness of a thumb, hollow and empty, with leaves at intervals, sometimes three cubits in height, and growing from a pliant root, which is darkish and without smell. It grows abundantly a on watery slopes near the foot of the Alps. The parts used are the root and the juice. The nature of the root is warming, but it should not be taken in drink by women with child.
XXXV. Lysimachus too discovered a plant, still named after him, the praises of which have been sung by Erasistratus. It has green leaves like those of the willow, a purple flower, being bushy, with small upright branches and a pungent smell. It grows in watery districts. Its power is so great that, if placed on the yoke when the beasts of burden are quarrelsome it checks their bad temper.
XXXVI. Women too have been ambitious to gain this distinction, among them Artemisia, the wife of Mausolus, who gave her name to a plant which before was called parthenis. There are some who think that the surname is derived from Artemis Ilithyia, because the plant is specific for the troubles of women. It is also bushy, resembling wormwood, but with larger and fleshy leaves. Of the plant itself there are two kinds: one higher and with broader leaves, the other soft and with more slender leaves, growing only near the seaside. There are some who in inland districts call by the same name a plant with a single stem, very small leaves, abundant blossom bursting out when the grapes are ripening, and with a not unpleasant smell. The sort that some call botrys, and others ambrosia, grows in Cappadocia.
XXXVII. According to tradition nymphaea was born of a nymph who died of jealousy about Herculesfor this reason some call it heracleon, others rhopalon because its root is like a cluband therefore those who have taken it in drink for twelve days are incapable of intercourse and procreation. The most valued kind grows in the district of Orchomenos and at Marathon. The Boeotians call it mallon and eat the seed. It grows in watery places, with large leaves on the top of the water and others growing out of the root; the flowers are like the lily, and when the blossom is finished a head forms like that of the poppy; the stem is smooth. In autumn is cut the root, which is dark, and is dried in the sun. It reduces the spleen. There is another kind of nymphaea growing in the River Penius in Thessaly. It has a white root, and a yellow head of the size of a rose.
XXXVIII. In the age too of our fathers King Juba discovered a plant to which he gave the name euphorbea, calling it after his own physician Euphorbus. This man was the brother of the Musa we have as the saviour of the life of the late Emperor Augustus. It was these brothers who first adopted the plan of bracing the body by copious douches of cold water after the bath. Before this the custom was to bathe in hot water only, as we find that it is also in Homer. But the treatise also of Juba on this plant is still extant, and it makes a splendid testimonial. He discovered it on Mount Atlas; it has the appearance of a thyrsus and the leaves of the acanthus. Its potency is so great that the juice, obtained by incision with a pole, is gathered from a distance; it is caught in receivers made of kids' stomachs placed underneath. Fluid and like milk as it drops down, when it has dried and congealed it has all the features of frankincense. The collectors find their vision improved. It is employed as treatment for snakebite. In whatever part of the body the bite may be, an incision is made in the top of the skull and the medicament inserted there. The Gaetulians who gather the juice adulterate it out of weary disgust by adding milk, but fire is a test of genuineness, for that which is adulterated emits a nauseating smell. Far inferior to the Atlas juice is that which in Gaul comes from the ground-olive, which bears a red berry like kermes. Broken it resembles hammoniacum, and even a slight taste leaves for a long time a burning sensation in the mouth; after a while this increases until it dries up even the throat.
XXXIX. The physician Themiso too has spread the fame of a common plant, the plantain, having published a treatise about it as though he were the discoverer. There are two kinds of it: the smaller, with narrower and darker leaves, resembles the tongue of a sheep; the stem is angular and bends downward. It grows in meadows. The other kind is larger and enclosed with leaves as it were with sides. Since these leaves are seven in number the plant is sometimes called heptapleuron. The stem too of this is a cubit high; when it grows on wet soils it is much more efficacious. It has a wonderful power to dry and brace the body, having a cauterizing property. There is nothing that checks so well the fluxes called by the Greeks rheumatismoi, that is, catarrhs.
XL. Akin to the plantain is buglossos, which is like the tongue of an ox. The most conspicuous quality of this is that thrown into wine it increases the exhilarating effect, and so it is also called euphrosynum, the plant that cheers.
XLI. Akin too is cynoglossos, which is like a dog's tongue, and a most attractive addition to ornamental gardens. It is said that the root of the kind with three seed-bearing stems, if taken in water, is good for tertians, and that with four for quartans. There is also another plant like this which bears tiny bars. Its root taken in water neutralizes the poison of and snakes.
XLII. Another plant is buphthalmus, which is like the eyes of oxen, having leaves like those of fennel, a bushy plant growing around towns, with .... [tender?] stems that are boiled and eaten. Some call it calchas. This plant with wax added disperses fatty tumours.
XLIII. Whole tribes too have discovered plants. Scythia first found out about the one called scythice, which grows round Lake Maeotis. One of its qualities is great sweetness, and it is very beneficial for the complaint called asthma. Another great merit of it is the freedom from hunger and thirst enjoyed by those who keep it in their mouths.
XLIV. The same people find the same property in their hippace, which has the unique quality of affecting horses in the same way. It is said that on these two plants the Scythians can fast from food and drink even for as long as twelve days at a time.
XLV. Thrace found out about ischaemon, which is said to stanch bleeding when a vein has not merely been cut but even severed. It creeps along the ground as does millet the leaves are rough and downy. The kind that grows in Italy, stuffed into the nostrils, and also when used as an amulet, stanches bleeding.
XLVI. The Vettones in Spain discovered the plant called vettonica in Gaul, serratula in Italy, and cestros or psychrotrophon by the Greeks, a plant more highly valued than any other. It springs up with an angular stem of two cubits, spreading out from the root leaves rather like those of lapathum, serrated, and with a purple fruiting-head. Its leaves are dried into a powder and used for very many purposes. From it are made a wine and a vinegar, good for the stomach and the eyesight. So great is its fame that the home in which it has been planted is considered to be safe from all dangers.
XLVII. In Spain too was discovered cantabrica, found by the Cantabri in the period of the late Emperor Augustus. It grows everywhere, having a rush-like stem a foot in length, on which are small, longish flowers, shaped like a work-basket, in which are very tiny seeds. Nor have the Spains been backward in other search after plants; for example, even now today it is the custom at the more festive gatherings, to mix a drink, the 'hundredplant potion', by adding to honey wine a hundred plants, in the belief that such is both very healthful and very pleasant. Nobody, however, now knows the kinds of plants used and their exact number, although a definite number is given in the name.
XLVIII. Our own generation remembers the discovery of a plant among the Marsi. It grows also among the Aequicoli around the village of Nervesia, and is called consiligo. It is beneficial, as we shall point out in its own place, in desperate cases of consumption.
XLIX. Servilius Democrates also, one of our foremost physicians, recently discovered the value of what he called hiberis, although in the verses he wrote on its discovery he assigned this to an imaginary person. It grows chiefly near old monuments, ruins, and the waste land beside highways. It is an evergreen, with leaves like cress, a stem a cubit high, and with seed that can scarcely be seen. The root has the smell of cress. It is used more efficaciously in summer, and only when freshly gathered will it serve. There is difficulty in pounding it. For sciatica and all complaints of the joints it is, with a little axle-grease added, very beneficial. The longest application is four hours for men and half as long for women; then the patient must go down to the hot water of the baths, and afterwards must be rubbed all over the body with wine and oil. The treatment should be repeated at intervals of twenty days, if any hint of pain persists. This treatment cures all hidden fluxes. The application is not made when inflammation is acute, but only when it has gone down.
L. Animals too have discovered plants, and among the chief is the chelidonia. For by means of it swallows cure the eyes of the chicks in the nest, and restore the sight, as some hold, even when the eyes have been torn out. There are two kinds of it. The larger kind is bushy, and its leaf is like that of the wild carrot, but bigger, the plant itself being two cubits high, the colour light and the blossom yellow. The smaller has leaves like those of ivy, rounder and less pale. The juice is like saffron juice and pungent; the seed resembles that of the poppy. Both plants blossom when the swallow arrives and wither when he departs. The juice is extracted while the plants are flowering, and is gently boiled down with Attic honey in a copper vessel over hot ashes, being a sovereign remedy for dimness of vision. The juice is used both by itself and in the eye-salves called chelidonia after the plant.
LI. Dogs too have found a plant by which they cure loss of appetite, and eat it in our sight, but in such a way that it can never be identified, for it is seen only when chewed up. This animal shows yet greater spitefulness in its secrecy about another plant; for there is one by which it is said to cure itself when bitten by a snake, but it does not crop it when a human being is looking on.
LII. With greater frankness deer have shown us elaphoboscon, about which we have written, and after yeaning have made known seselis and the black bryony, as we have pointed out;
LIII. dittany also by feeding on it when wounded, the weapons at once falling out. The latter grows nowhere except in Crete, with branches very slender; it resembles pennyroyal and is burning and harsh to the taste. Only the leaves are employed; it has no flower, no seed and no stem; its root is slender and without medicinal value. Even in Crete it does not grow widely, and the goats are wonderfully eager to hunt it out. A substitute for it is false dittany, which grows in many lands, like true dittany in leaf but with smaller branches, and called by some chondris.
It is recognised at once, as its properties are less potent, for the smallest quantity of true dittany, taken in drink, bums the mouth. Those who gather them store them in a piece of fennel-giant or reed, which they tie up at the ends, to prevent their losing efficacy. There are some who say that both plants grow in many places, but that while the inferior kinds are found on rich soils, true dittany is only seen on rough ground. There is also a third plant called dittany, unlike the others in appearance and properties; the leaves are those of sisymbrium and the branches are larger, but there is the established conviction that whatever simple grows in Crete is infinitely superior to any of the same kind to be found elsewhere, and that the next best herbs are those to be found on Mount Pamassus. Report says that simples grow besides on Mount Pelion in Thessaly, on Mount Telethrius in Euboea, and throughout Arcadia and Laconia, and that the Arcadians indeed use, not medicines, but milk in the spring season, because it is at this time chiefly that herbs are swollen with juices which, when the beasts graze, medicate their udders. But the milk they drink is cow's milk, since kine will feed on almost any kind of plant. The potency of plants becomes clear from two striking examples of their action even on quadrupeds: horses that have grazed around Abdera and what is called `the bounds of Diomedes' go raving mad, as do also the asses that graze around Potniae.
LIV. Among the most celebrated plants aristolochia received its name, as is clear, from women with child, because they considered it to be αρίστη λεχούσαις, that is, 'excellent for women in childbed.' Latin writers call it 'earth apple,' distinguishing four kinds of it: one with round tubers on the root, and with leaves partly like those of the mallow and partly like those of ivy, but darker and softer: the second is the male plant, with a long root of four fingers' length, thick as a walking-stick; the third is very long and as slender as a young vine, with especially strong properties, and is called by some clematitis and by others cretica. All kinds of this plant are of the colour of boxwood, and have small stems and purple blossom. They bear small berries like caper berries. Only the root has medicinal value. There is also a fourth kind, called plistolochia, more slender than the one last mentioned, with dense, hair-like masses for a root, and of the thickness of a. stoutish rush, which some surname polyrrhizos. All kinds have a drug-like smell, but that of the rather long and slender root is more agreeable; its fleshy outer skin in fact is even suitable for nard ointments. These plants grow on plains with a rich soil. The time to dig them up is at harvest; the earth is scraped off them before they are stored away. The most valued root, however, comes from Pontus, and in every case the heaviest specimens are preferred; for medicines the round is more suitable, for snake bites the longer kind, but its greatest fame is that, if only it is applied to the uterus in beef after conception, it forms according to report male offspring. The fishermen of Campania call the root that is round 'poison of the earth', and I have seen them scatter it over the sea, crushed and mixed with lime. The fish rush to it with wonderful greed, forthwith die, and float on the surface. The kind called polyrrhizos is reported to be very beneficial for sprains, bruises, and falls from a height, if the root is taken in water, for pleurisy and the sinews if the seed is used, and to be tonic and warming; it is reported to be the same plant as satyrion.
LV. But we must mention also the properties and uses of these plants, and begin with snake bite, the worst ill of all. Cures then are: the plant britannica; the root of all kinds of panaces taken in wine; both flower and seed of chironium taken in drink or applied in wine and oil; what is called ox cunila, which is specific; polemonia or philetaeris, the dose being four drachmae of the root in neat wine; teucria, sideritis, and scordotis in wine, specific remedies for snake wounds, the juice or leaves or a decoction being taken in drink applied; the root of the greater centaury in doses of one drachma in three cyathi of white wine; gentian, particularly good, whether fresh or dried, for snake bites in doses of two drachmae taken with pepper and rue in six cyathi of wine. The smell too of lysimachia keeps snakes away. Those who have been bitten are given chelidonia in wine, and to the bites is applied in particular betony, the power of which is said to be so great that snakes enclosed in a circle of it lash themselves to death. For the bites is given its seed, the dose being a denarius with three cyathi of wine, or else it is ground and three drachmae of the powder are given in a sextarius of water; the powder is also applied locally. Cantabrica too is used, and dittany, and aristolochia, a drachma of the root in a hemina of wine, but the dose must be repeated several times. Aristolochia in vinegar also makes a useful application, and so does plistolochia, in fact the mere hanging of this above the hearth makes all snakes hurry from the house.
LVI. Argemonia too is good, a denarius of its root being taken in three cyathi of wine. It is proper for more details to be given about this plant, and about the others, when the first mention is made of them, and the first mention of each should be when I deal with that medical treatment where its use will prove most effective. It has leaves like those of the anemone, divided like those of celery, a head like that of the wild poppy upon a small stalk, the root also being like that of this poppy, and saffron-coloured juice that is pungent and sharp. It grows in cultivated fields. We Romans distinguish three kinds of it, and the one esteemed is that the root of which smells like frankincense.
LVII. An agaric grows as a white fungus on trees around the Bosporus. A dose is four oboli crushed and two cyathi of oxymel. The kind that grows in Gaul is considered of inferior strength; further, the male is firmer and more bitterthis kind causes headachesbut the female is softer, and at first its taste is sweet, but afterwards turns bitter.
LVIII. Echios of either kind is like pennyroyal its foliage is used for chaplets. The dose is two drachmae in four cyathi of wine; likewise with the second kind, which is marked by a prickly down, and also has little heads like a viper's; this is taken in wine and vinegar. Some give the name echios to personata ('masked plant') whose leaf is broader than that of any kind, and which bears large burs. A decoction of the root of this is given with vinegar as a draught. Henbane crushed with the leaves on is given in wine, especially for the poison of asps.
LIX. No plant however is so renowned among the Romans as hiera botane ('sacred plant'). Some call it asistereon, and Latin writers verbenaca. This is the plant which I mentioned as carried to the enemy by envoys. With this the table of Jupiter is swept, and homes are cleansed and purified. There are two kinds of it; one has many leaves and is thought to be female, the other, the male, has fewer leaves. Each kind has several sprigs that are slender, a cubit long and angular; the leaves are smaller and narrower than those of the oak; the indentations too are deeper, the blossom is grey, and the root long and slender. It grows everywhere in flat, moist localities. Some authorities do not distinguish these two kinds but make of them one only, since both have the same properties. Both kinds are used by the people of Gaul in fortune-telling and in uttering prophecies, but the Magi especially make the maddest statements about the plant: that people who have been rubbed with it obtain their wishes, banish fevers, win friends and cure all diseases without exception. They add that it must be gathered about the rising of the Dog-star without the action being seen by moon or sun; that beforehand atonement must be made to Earth by an offering of honeycomb and honey; that a circle must be drawn with iron round the plant and then it should be pulled up with the left hand and raised aloft; that leaves, stem and root must be dried separately in the shade. They say too that if a dining-couch is sprinkled with water in which this plant has been soaked the entertainment becomes merrier. As a remedy for snake bites it is crushed in wine.
LX. There is a plant like verbascum which is often taken for it in error, but the leaves are less pale, the stems are more numerous, and the blossom is yellow. When thrown away it attracts moths to itself, and for this reason at Rome it is called blattaria, or moth verbascum.
LXI. Molemonium exudes a milky juice which thickens like gum. It grows in moist localities, the dose being one denarius given in wine.
LXII. Cinquefoil is known to everyone, being popular for its actually producing strawberries. The Greeks call it pentapetes, pentaphyllon, or chamaezelon. When it is dug up it has a red root, which as it dries becomes black and angular. The name is derived from the number of the leaves. The plant itself buds and sheds its leaves with the vine. It is also used in purifying houses.
LXIII. For snake bite is also given in white wine the root of the plant that is called sparganion.
LXIV. Four kinds of daucus were distinguished by Petronius Diodotus. There is no point in giving the details of these, as there are but two species. The most highly valued grows in Crete, the next in Achaia and everywhere in dry districts; it resembles fennel, but has paler, smaller and hairy leaves, a straight stem a foot high, and a root with a very pleasant taste and smell. This kind grows on rocky soils that face the south. The other kinds grow everywhere on earthy hills and cross-paths, but only if the soil is rich; they have leaves like those of coriander, a stem a cubit high, round heads, often more than three, and a wood-like root, which when dry is worthless. Its seed is like that of cummin, while that of the first kind is like millet, white, sharp, and scented and hot in all kinds. The seed of the second kind is more powerful than that of the first, and for this reason should be used sparingly. If one really desires to add a third kind, there is one like staphylinus, called wild carrot, with longish seed and a sweet root. A quadruped, summer and winter, refuses to touch any of these plants except after miscarriage. Of the Cretan kind the root is used, chiefly for snake bites, of the other kinds the seed. The dose is one drachma taken in wine; it is given also to quadrupeds that have been bitten.
LXV. There is a therionarca, different from the magical plant, that grows in our part of the world, a bushy plant with greenish leaves, a rose-coloured flower, and fatal to serpents. This plant too benumbs any kind of wild creature it touches.
LXVI. Persolata, a plant everybody knows, is called by the Greeks arcion; it has leaves larger, more hairy, darker and thicker even than those of a gourd, and a white, large root. This is taken in wine, the dose being two denarii by weight.
LXVII. The root of cyclamen also is beneficial for the bites of any kind of snake. The plant has smaller, darker and thinner leaves than those of ivy, with no corners but with white spots; the stem is short and hollow, the blossom purple, the root so broad that it might be taken for that of the turnip, and having a dark skin. It grows in shaded spots, is called by our countrymen tuber terrae, and ought to be grown in every home if it is true that wherever it grows no evil spells do any harm. They call it 'amulet', and say that if it is added to wine intoxication comes at once. The root is also dried, cut up fine as is done with the squill, and then stored away. This is boiled down to the consistency of honey. It has however a poisonous quality of its own, and it is said that if a woman with child steps over this root she miscarries.
LXVIII. There is also another cyclamen with the surname of cissanthemos, differing from the preceding one in that it has jointed stems of no value, winds itself round trees, and bears berries like those of ivy, only soft, and a handsome, white flower; the root is of no value. The berries only are used these are sharp to the taste and sticky. They are dried in the shade, crushed, and cut up into lozenges.
LXIX. A third kind of cyclamen has been pointed out to me with the surname of chamaecissos, which has only one leaf, and a branchy root fatal to fishes.
LXX. Among the most popular of plants is peucedanum, the most esteemed kind of which grows in Arcadia; next to this comes the one growing in Samothrace. Its stem is slender, long, like fennel, and leafy near the ground; the root is dark, thick, juicy, and with a strong smell. It grows on shaded mountains and is dug up at the close of autumn. The tenderest and deepest roots are the favourites. These are cut up with bone knives into strips four fingers long and pour out their juice in the shade, the cutters first rubbing their head and nostrils with rose oil lest they should feel vertigo. Another juice also is found sticking to the stems and dripping from incisions in it. It is considered good when it is of the consistency of honey, of a red colour, with a strong but pleasant smell, and hot to the taste. This is used for snake bite, as well as the root and a decoction of it, to make many remedies, the juice however being the most efficacious; it is made thinner by bitter almonds or rue and is taken in drink, while rubbing over the body with it and oil protects people from snakes.
LXXI. The smoke of ebulum also, a plant known to everybody, drives snakes away.
LXXII. The root of polemonia, even when merely attached as an amulet, is specific against scorpions, and also against poisonous spiders and the other smaller venomous creatures; aristolochia against scorpions, or four-oboli doses of agaric in four cyathi of wine stirred up with it, vervain too with wine, or vinegar and water, against poisonous spiders, so also cinquefoil or daucum.
LXXIII. Verbascum is called phlomos by the Greeks. There are two primary kinds of it: the pale, which is thought to be male; the other is dark and is regarded as female. There is a third kind, that is found only in woods. The leaves of verbascum are broader than those of cabbage, and hairy; the stem is upright, and more than a cubit high. The seed is black and of no use. The root is single, and of the thickness of a finger. The plants also grow in flat country. Wild verbascum has leaves like those of elelisphacus and tall, while the branches are of a woody texture.
LXXIV. There are also two sorts of phlomis, both shaggy and with round leaves, growing near the ground. A third is called lychnitis, by some thryallis; it has three or at most four leaves, which are thick and fleshy, and suitable for lamp wicks. It is said that, placed in the leaves of the kind we have called female, a fig does not even begin to go bad. It is almost superfluous to distinguish these various kinds, because they all have the same properties. A draught for the sting of scorpions is made from the root and rue in water, which is as efficacious as it is bitter.
LXXV. Thelyphonon is a plant called scorpion some because its root has the shape of one. A mere touch of it kills scorpions, and so it is taken in drink for their stings. It is said that a dead scorpion, if smeared with white hellebore, comes to life again. Thelyphonon kills every kind of quadruped if its root be applied to the genitals, the leaf indeed, which is like that of cyclamen, does so before the end of the same day. The plant itself is jointed, and grows in shaded places. Good for scorpion bite is the juice of betony ore plantain.
LXXVI. Frogs too have their poisons, brambletoads a virulent one, and I have seen Psylli putting them to a contest loosed from heated pans, and that though their bite brings speedier death than the bite of asps. A helpful remedy is phrynion taken in wine, a plant that some call neuras, and others poterion, having small flowers and many fibrous roots with a pleasant scent.
LXXVII. Likewise alisma, which some call damasonion, others lyron. The leaves would be like those of the plantaisi were they not narrower, more jagged, and bent downwards; in other respects the two are alike, even in their many veins. It has a single, slender stem, a cubit high and like a thyrsus at the top, with many close-set roots, slender like those of black hellebore, acrid, scented and juicy. It grows in watery places. The other kind of tile same plant is found in woods; it is darker, and has larger leaves. The roots of both kinds are used for the poison of frogs and of the sea-hare, the dose being a drachma by weight taken in wine. Cyclamen is another remedy for the poison of sea-hares. The bites of a mad dog also have a highly venomous character, a remedy for which will be found in cvnorrhodum, of which I have spoken already, in the plantain, and for all bites of wild beasts in betony with old neat wine, taken as drink or applied locally.
LXXVIII. Peristereos is the name of a plant with a tall stem covered with leaves and sprouting out other stems at the top. It is a great favourite with doves, whence too conies its name. It is said that dogs never bark at those who have this plant about them.
LXXIX. Next after these plagues come the poisons that men devise for themselves. Remedies for all these and for sorceries will be found in the famous moly of Homer, which is the best, next the antidotes of Mithridates, and also scordotis. Centaury too taken in drink evacuates by stool all poisonous drugs, as does the seed of betony taken in honey wine or in raisin wine, or drachma doses of the powder may be taken in four cyathi of old wine; but the patients must be made to vomit and take a second draught. It is said that those who take this powder every day will not be hurt by any noxious drugs. When poison has been drunk help is given by aristolochia, the dose being the same as for snake bites, by the juice of cinquefoil, and by agaric taken after previous vomiting, the dose being a denarius by weight in three cyathi of hydxomel.
LXXX. Antirrinum or pararinon is the name given to wild lychnis, a plant like flax, having no root, a flower like that of the hyacinthus, and seed like the muzzle of a calf. The Magi hold that those rubbed with it improve in beauty and can be hurt by no noxious drug; likewise if anyone wear it on the arm as an amulet.
LXXXI. They say the same of the plant they call euplia, and maintain that those rubbed with it win a finer reputation. They also say that those carrying artemisia about them are not hurt by noxious drugs, or by any wild beast, and not even by the sun. This plant is also taken in wine to counteract the effects of opium. Seaweed is said to be a specific, and it is also taken in drink for the poison of frogs.
LXXXII. Pericarpum is a kind of bulb. There are two species of it; one has a red outer skin, the other is like the dark poppy, but its properties are stronger than those of the former; both however are warming. For this reason the plant is administered to counteract hemlock, as is also frankincense and panaces, and chironium in particular. The last is also used for poisoning by fungi.
LXXXIII. But we will go on to add also the various kinds of remedies for each disease attacking the various parts of the body, beginning with the head. Mange is cured by the root of the Heraclian water-lily, ground up and applied, either with pitch or by itself. Polythrix differs from callithrix in having pale, rush-like shoots and more numerous and larger leaves. The main stem too is larger. It strengthens and makes to grow more thickly hair that tends to fall out.
LXXXIV. Lingulaca too may be used, that grows around springs, the root of which, reduced to ashes, is beaten up mixed with the lard of a black sow, care being taken that it is one which has never farrowed; and then it is a great advantage if the application is made in the sunshine. The root of cyclamen is used in a similar way. Dandruff is removed by the root of hellebore boiled down in oil or in water. Headache is cured by the root of any kind of panaces crushed in oil, by aristolochia, by hiberis attached for an hour, or longer if the patient can stand it, a bath being taken at the same time. Daucum also is a cure. Cyclamen too with honey, if pushed into the nostrils, clears the head, sores on which are healed by the same used as ointment. Peristereos also is effective treatment.
LXXXV. Cacalia or leontice is the name of a plant with seeds like tiny pearls hanging down among large leaves, and mostly found on mountains. Fifteen grains of it are steeped in oil, and with this the head is rubbed in the contrary way to the hair.
LXXXVI. From callithrix also is made a snuff. This plant has the leaves of the lentil; the stems are very slender rushes and the root is very small. It grows in shady, moist places, and has a hot taste.
LXXXVII. Hyssop crushed in oil is good for phthiriasis and itch on the scalp. The best comes from Mount Taurus in Cilicia, the next best from Pamphylia and Smyrna. Upsetting the stomach, it purges by stool if taken with figs, by vomitings if taken with honey. Pounded with honey, salt, and cummin it is also supposed to counteract the poison of snake bites.
LXXXVIII. Lonchitis is not, as most people have thought, the same plant as xiphion or phasganion, although the seed is like a spear point; for it has leaves like those of the leek, reddish near the root and more numerous than on the stem, little heads like the masks of comedy, which put out a small tongue, and very long roots. It grows in thirsty soils.
LXXXIX. Xiphion or phasganion on the other hand grows in moist soils. When it first leaves the ground it presents the appearance of a sword, has a stem two cubits high, and a fringed root like a filbert, which must be dug up before harvest and dried in the shade. The upper part of it, beaten up with frankincense and mixed with an equal quantity by weight of wine, extracts bone splinters from the head and all suppurating matter in the body, or any snake bones that have been trodden on; the plant also counteracts poisons. Headache is relieved by rubbing with hellebore beaten up and boiled down in oil or rose oil, or by peucedanum in oil or rose oil and vinegar. The latter made lukewarm is good for the pains generally felt on one side of the head, and also for giddiness. The body is rubbed over with the root to promote perspiration, for it has heating properties.
XC. Psyllion is called by some cynoides, by others chrystallion, by others sicelicon, and by others cynomyia; it has a slender root of no use in medicine, numerous twigs with grains like beans at the point, leaves not unlike a dog's head and seed not unlike a flea: hence too its name. The seed is in berries, and the plant itself is to be found in vineyards. Its cooling and dispersing properties are very strong. The part used is the seed. For headache it is applied to the forehead and temples in vinegar and rose oil or in vinegar and water. For other purposes it is used as liniment. An acetabulum thickens and coagulates a sextarius of water; then it should be beaten up and the paste applied as liniment to any pain, gathering or inflammation. Wounds in the head are healed by aristolochia, which also brings away fragments of bone in other parts of the body, but especially in the head; the same with plistolochia. Thryselinum is not unlike celery. The root of it chewed clears away catarrhs of the head.
XCI. It is supposed that the sight is improved by the greater centaury if the eyes are fomented by an infusion of it in water; while by the juice of the lesser centaury with the addition of honey gnats are removed, cloudiness and films are dispersed, and scars smoothed out; also that albugo even of draught animals is made better by sideritis. But chelidonia is a wonderful cure for all the above-mentioned eye troubles. The root of panaces with pearl barley is applied to the eyes for fluxes. For checking such fluxes the seed of henbane is taken in wine in doses of an obolus with the same amount of poppy juice. Juice of gentian too is used as ointment, and it is also used instead of poppy juice as an ingredient of the more pungent eye salves. Euphorbeum too improves the vision of those whose eyes are anointed with it. The juice of the plantain is dropped into the eyes for ophthalmia. Films are dispersed by aristolochia, by hiberis attached to the head, and by cinquefoil. Fluxes and eye-diseases generally are made better by verbascum. To fluxes is applied peristereos in rose oil or vinegar. For cataract and film lozenges of cyclamen are dissolved and applied; the juice of peucedanum, as we have said, poppy juice and rose oil being added, is good for improving the vision and for films. Psyllion rubbed on the forehead arrests fluxes.
XCII. Some call the anagallis, acoron. There are two kinds of it: the male with a scarlet flower, and the female with a blue one; neither is more than a span in height, the stem being tender, and the leaves tiny, round and lying on the ground. They grow in gardens and on moist ground. The blue-flowered kind blossoms first. The juice of either kind, applied with honey, disperses film on the eyes, suffusions of blood from a blow, and reddish argema; the results are better if the ointment is made with Attic honey. It dilates the pupils, and so these are smeared with it before perforation for cataract. These plants also cure eye diseases in draught animals. The juice also clears the head if poured through the nostrils, but it must be rinsed out afterwards with wine. A drachma dose of the juice is also taken in wine for snake bites. It is a wonderful thing that cattle avoid the female plant, or if deceived by the resemblancefor the only difference is in the flowerthey have partaken of it, they at once seek as a remedy the plant called asyla. We Romans call it 'cat's-eye'. Some instruct the diggers to say nothing until they have saluted it before sunrise, and then to gather it and extract the juice, for so they say its efficacy is at its greatest. About the juice of euphorbea enough has been said. Ophthalmia, if there is swelling, will be benefited by wormwood beaten up with honey, and also by powdered betony.
XCIII. Aegilops is cured by the plant of the same name, which grows among barley and has a leaf like that of wheat; either the seed may be reduced to powder, mixed with flour and applied, or the juice may be used. This is extracted from the stem and juicy leaves after taking away the ears, and then it is worked into lozenges with the flour of three-month wheat.
XCIV. Some physicians used to employ the mandrake also; afterwards it was discarded as a medicine for the eyes. What is certain is that the pounded root, with rose oil and wine, cures fluxes and pain in the eyes. But the juice is used as an ingredient in many eye remedies. Some give the name eircaeon to the mandrake. There are two kinds of it: the white, which is also considered male, and the black, considered female. The leaves are narrower than those of lettuce, the stems hairy, and the roots, two or three in number, reddish, white inside, fleshy and tender, and almost a cubit in length. They bear fruit of the size of filberts, and in these are seeds like the pips of pears. When the seed is white the plant is called by some arsen, by others morion, and by others hippophlomos. The leaves of this mandrake are whitish, broader than those of the other, and like those of cultivated lapathum. The diggers avoid facing the wind, first trace round the plant three circles with a sword, and then do their digging while facing the west. The juice can also be obtained from the fruit, from the stem, after cutting off the top, and from the root, which is opened by pricks or boiled down to a decoction. Even the shoot of its root can be used, and the root is also cut into round slices and kept in wine. The juice is not found everywhere, but where it can be found it is looked a for about vintage time. It has a strong smell, but stronger when the juice comes from the root or fruit of the white mandrake. The ripe fruit is dried in the shade. The fruit juice is thickened in the sun, and so is that of the root, which is crushed or boiled down to one third in dark wine. The leaves are kept in brine, more effectively those of the white kind. The juice of leaves that have been touched by dew are deadly. Even when kept in brine they retain harmful properties. The mere smell brings heaviness of the head andalthough in certain countries the fruit is eatenthose who in ignorance smell too much are struck dumb, while too copious a draught even brings death. When the mandrake is used as a sleeping draught the quantity administered should be proportioned to the strength of the patient, a moderate dose being one cyathus. It is also taken in drink for snake bite, and before surgical operations and punctures to produce anaesthesia. For this purpose some find it enough to put themselves to sleep by the smell. A dose of two oboli of mandrake is also taken in honey wine instead of helleborebut hellebore is more efficaciousas an emetic and to purge away black bile.
XCV. Hemlock too is poisonous, a plant with a bad name because the Athenians made it their instrument of capital punishment, but its uses for many purposes must not be passed by. It has a poisonous seed, but the stem is eaten by many both as a salad and when cooked in a saucepan. This stem is smooth, and jointed like a reed, of a dark colour, often more than two cubits high, and branchy at the top; the leaves resemble those of coriander, but are more tender, and of a strong smell; the seed is coarser than that of anise, the root hollow and of no use. The seed and leaves have a chilling quality, and it is this that causes death; the body begins to grow cold at the extremities. The remedy lies in using the warming nature of wine before the vital parts are reached; but taken in wine hemlock is invariably fatal. A juice is extracted from the leaves and blossom, for the best time to do so is when the hemlock is in flower. A better juice is extracted from the crushed seed and thickened in the sun for making into lozenges. It causes death by thickening the bloodthis is its other outstanding propertyand for this reason spots are to be seen on the bodies of those who have been killed in this way. This juice is used instead of water as a solvent for drugs. There is also made from it a poultice to cool the stomach. Its chief use however is as a local application round the eyes to check summer fluxes and to allay pains in them. It forms an ingredient of eye salves, and it checks all catarrhs generally. The leaves also relieve every kind of swelling, pain or flux. Anaxilaus is responsible for the statement that if the breasts are rubbed with hemlock from adult maidenhood onwards they will always remain firm. What is certain is that an application of hemlock to the breasts of women in childbed dries up their milk, and to rub it on the testicles at the time of puberty acts as an antaphrodisiac. I should not like to give directions about remedies in which hemlock is recommended to be taken by the mouth. The most powerful hemlock grows at Susa in Parthia; the next in Laconia, Crete and Asia; in Greece however the strongest is found around Megara, after which comes that of Attica.
XCVI. An application of wild cremnos to the removes rheum, and with the addition of pearl barley reduces swellings.
XCVII. Molybdaena, that is plumbago, grows everywhere, even on cultivated land; it has a leaf like that of lapathum and is thick and hairy. If the eye is licked occasionally with this plant when chewed, there is removed the species of eye trouble called lead.
XCVIII. Capnos trunca, the popular name of which is chicken's feet, growing among ruins and on wall-banks, has very slender branches which are far apart, a purple flower and green leaves; its juice disperses films, and so it is an ingredient of eye salves.
XCIX. Similar both in name and in its properties, though a different plant, is the bushy capnos, which is very delicate, and has the leaves of coriander, the colour of ashes, and a purple blossom. It grows in gardens and crops of barley. Used as ointment for the eyes it improves the vision and, like smoke, produces tears, and to this fact it owes its name. It also prevents eyelashes that have been pulled out from growing again.
C. Acoron has the leaves of the iris, only narrower and with a longer foot-stalk; it has dark roots and less veined, though in other respects these too are like those of the iris, pungent to the taste, with a not unpleasant smell, and carminative. The best come from Daspetost [place unknown, possibly misread by Pliny] in Galatia., then come Cretan roots, but they are found most abundantly in Colchis near the river Phasis and wherever there are watery districts. Fresh roots have a stronger smell than stale, and the Cretan are paler than those of Pontus. They, like the iris, are dried in the shade in slices a finger in length. There are to be found those who give the name of acoron to the root of oxymyrsine, and for this reason some prefer to call this plant acorion. It has powerful properties as a calorific and discutient, is good for cataract and dimness of the eyes, and its juice is taken internally for snake bites.
CI. The cotyledon is a tiny plant on a tender little stem, with a very small fleshy leaf, which is concave like the hip joint. It grows in maritime and rocky places, fresh green in colour, and with a root that is oval like an olive. The juice is medicine for the eyes. There is another kind of cotyledon with dirty-green leaves, which are broader and closer together than those of the other, spread round the root as though it were an eye; the taste is very harsh, the stem longer than that of the other kind but very slender. It is used for the same purposes as the iris.
CII. Of the aizoum there are two kinds, the larger of which is planted in earthen pots, and is sometimes called buphthalmos, zoophthalmos, tergethron (because it is useful for love-philtres), hypogeson (for it generally grows under eaves), although some prefer to call it ambrosia or amerimon; Italians call it great sedum, or eye, or little finger. The other kind is rather small, and is called erithales, trithales (because it flowers three times), erysithales, isoetes, sedum by Italians, and both are called aizoulm, because they are always green, or sempervivum. The greater aizom grows to even more than a cubit in height and is thicker than a thumb. At the point the leaves are like a tongue, fleshy, rich with copious juice, as broad as a thumb, some bent to the ground and others upright, so that the circle of them is like an eye in shape. The smaller aizoum grows on walls, ruins, and roof-tiles; it is bushy from the root and leafy to the top, with narrow, pointed and juicy leaves, and a stem a span high. The root is not used.
CIII. Resembling this is a plant that the Greeks call wild andraehle, the Italians inlecebra. It has very small leaves, but broader than those of aizoum, and the head is shorter It grows in rocky districts and is gathered for food. All these have the same properties; they are cooling and astringent. Fluxes of the eyes are cured by an application of the leaves or of the juice used as ointment. For it cleanses sores of the eyes, replaces lost tissue and makes them cicatrize; it unglues the eyelids when sticky. These plants also cure headaches if the temples are smeared with the juice or leaves; they neutralize the bite of venomous spiders; for aconite, however, an especially good antidote is the greater aizotim. It is also said that those who have this plant on their persons are not stung by scorpions. They also cure earache, as does the application of a moderate amount of juice of henbane, or of achillea, of the smaller centaury, of plantain, of peucedanum mixed with rose oil and poppy juice, and of acoron juice with rose leaves. But all these juices are warmed and injected with a strigil, cotyledon being good even for pus in the ears if warmed deer's marrow is added, or the juice of crushed root of ebulum strained through a cloth, then thickened in the sun and, when needed, diluted with rose oil and warmed. Vervain cures swollen parotid glands, as does the plantain, and sideritis with old axle-grease.
CIV. Polypus in the nose is treated successfully by aristolochia with cyperus.
CV. For the teeth remedies are: chewed root of panaces, chewed root of chironia especially, the juice too if the teeth be rinsed with it, the root of henbane chewed with vinegar, and that of polemonia. The plantain is chewed, or the teeth are rinsed with the juice of the decoction in vinegar. To eat the leaves also is useful, even if the gums are purulent; or the seed of the same plant heals abscesses and gatherings in the gums. Mistolochia too strengthens gums and teeth, as does vervain chewed with its root, or the juice of a decoction in wine or vinegar used as a mouth-wash, and also that of the root of cinquefoil boiled down to one-third in wine or vinegar. Before it is boiled down it is washed in sea water or salt water, and the decoction should be kept in the mouth for a long time. Some prefer to use the ash of cinquefoil as a dentrifrice. The root of verbascum too is boiled down in wine to make a mouth-wash for the teeth, for which purpose also hyssop is employed and the juice of peucedanum with poppy juice; or the juice of auagallis roots, by preference of the female plant, is poured into the nostril opposite to where pain is felt.
CVI. Erigeron is called by us Romans senecio. If a line is traced round it with an iron tool before it is dug up, and if one touches a painful tooth with the plant three times, spitting after each touch, and replaces it into its original ground so as to keep it alive, it is said that the tooth will never cause pain thereafter. This plant has the appearance and softness of trixago, with small, reddish stems. It grows on tiled roofs and on walls. Its name was given to it by the Greeks, because it is of a hoary colour in spring. Its head is divided by many pieces of down, like those of a thorn, that grow out from between the divisions, which is why Callimachus gave it the name of acanthis, and others pappus. Apart from this, however, the Greeks are not in agreement about this plant. Some have said that it has the leaves of rocket, others of the oak but much smaller; some that the root is useless, others that it is good for the sinews, others that it chokes if taken in drink. On the other hand some have given it with wine for jaundice, and as a cure for all complaints of the bladder, heart, and liver. They have said that it brings away gravel from the kidneys. They prescribed for sciatica a drachma with oxynael after a walk, this dose being also very useful in raisin wine for colic; they recommended it also as a salad with vinegar for the internal organs a generally, and they planted it in gardens. There have been some who distinguished a second variety, but without pointing out its qualities, prescribing it to be taken in water for snake bite, and to be eaten by epileptics. I myself shall treat of it only in so far as the Romans have found out by experiment how to use it. Its down, with saffron and a little cold water, is applied crushed to eye fluxes and, roasted with a grain of salt, to scrofulous sores.
CVII. Ephemeron has the leaves of a lily, but smaller, a stem of the same length, a blue flower, a seed of no value, and a single root of the thickness of a thumb, a sovereign remedy for the teeth if it is cut up into pieces in vinegar, boiled down, and used warm as a month wash. And the root also by itself arrests decay if forced into the hollow of a decayed tooth. Root of chelidonia is crushed in vinegar and kept in the mouth, dark hellebore is plugged into decayed teeth, and loose teeth are strengthened by either of these boiled down in vinegar.
CVIII. A plant that grows in rivers they call the bath of Venus. In it is a worm which is rubbed round the teeth or plugged with wax into the hollow of a tooth. Care must be taken that the plant does not touch the ground after being pulled up.
CIX. We call ranunculus a plant which the Greeks call batrachion. There are four kinds of it: one with fatter leaves than those of coriander and nearly as broad as those of mallows, of a leaden colour, with a tall, graceful stem and a whitish root. It grows on moist and shaded cross-paths. The second is more leafy, with more indentations in the leaves, and with taller stems. The third is the smallest, with a strong smell and a golden flower. The fourth is like it, but the flower is of the colour of milk. All have a caustic property; if leaves are applied raw, they raise blisters as does fire. Accordingly they are used for leprous sores and itch, and to remove scars on the skin; they are ingredients of all caustic preparations. They are applied to mange, but are removed quickly. The root if chewed up for toothache too long breaks off the teeth, and the dried root chopped flue makes a snuff. Roman herbalists call it strumus, because it cures scrofula and superficial abscesses, if a piece of it is hung up in the smoke. They believe that if it is replanted the maladies they have cured break out again, a similar criminal use being made of the plantain. Sores inside the mouth are cured by juice of plantain, and also by the chewed-up leaves and roots, even if the mouth is suffering from a flux; sores and bad breath are removed by cinquefoil, sores by psyllium.
CX. I shall also give some prescriptions for offensive breath, which is a very embarrassing complaint. For this purpose myrtle leaves are taken and an equal weight of leaves of lentisk with half the quantity of Syrian gall-nuts. This compound, when beaten up and sprinkled with old wine, may with benefit be chewed in the morning, or one may be made of ivy berries, cassia and myrrh, in equal quantities, added to wine. If the nostrils are the seat of the trouble, even though a cancer-like growth is present, dracontium seed beaten up with honey is very useful. Bruises disappear under applications of hyssop, and scars on the face are removed by rubbing with mandrake.