Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 352: 548-549

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Pliny: Natural History

64sed nihil facile reperiatur mulierum profluvio magis monstrificum. acescunt superventu musta, sterilescunt contactae fruges, moriuntur insita, exuruntur hortorum germina, fructus arborum [quibus insidere]1 decidunt, speculorum fulgor adspectu ipso hebetatur, acies ferri praestringitur, eboris nitor, alvi apium moriuntur, aes etiam ac ferrum robigo protinus corripit odorque dirus aera, in rabiem aguntur gustato eo 65canes atque insanabili veneno morsus inficitur. quin et bituminum sequax alioquin ac lenta natura in lacu Iudaeae qui vocatur Asphaltites certo tempore anni supernatans non quit sibi avelli ad omnem contactum adhaerens praeterquam filo quod tale virus infecerit. etiam formicis, animali minimo, inesse sensum eius ferunt, abicique gustatas fruges 66nec postea repeti. et hoc tale tantumque omnibus tricenis diebus malum in muliere exsistit et trimenstri spatio largius, quibusdam vero saepius mense, sicut aliquis numquam. sed tales non gignunt, quando haec est generando homini materia, germine e maribus coaguli modo hoc in sese glomerante, quod deinde tempore ipso animatur corporaturque. ergo cum gravidis fluxit, invalidi aut non vitales partus 67eduntur aut saniosi, ut auctor est Nigidius.

XVI. (idem lac feminae non corrumpi alenti partum si ex

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Book VII

Capito. But nothing could easily be found that is more remarkable than the monthly flux of women. Contact with it turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seeds in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees falls off, the bright surface of mirrors in which it is merely reflected is dimmed, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled, hives of bees die, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison. Moreover bitumen, a substance generally sticky and viscous, that at a certain season of the year floats on the surface of the lake of Judaea called the Asphalt Pool,a adheres to everything touching it, and cannot be drawn asunder except by a thread soaked in the poisonous fluid in question. Even that very tiny creature the ant is said to be sensitive to it, and throws away grains of corn that taste of it and does not touch them again. Not only does this pernicious mischief occur in a woman every month, but it comes in larger quantity every three months; and in some cases it comes more frequently than once a month, just as in certain women it never occurs at all. The latter, however, do not have children, since the substance in question is the material for human generation, as the semen from the males acting like rennet collects this substance within it, which thereupon immediately is inspired with life and endowed with body. Hence when this flux occurs with women heavy with child, the offspring is sickly or still-born or sanious, according to Nigidius.

XVI. (The same writer holds that a woman’s milk does not go bad while she is suckling

  • aThe Dead Sea.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938