Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 370: 112-113

Go To Section
Go To Section

Pliny: Natural History

23bonum, et postea quendam e servis Neronis. maxime tamen mirum est hanc gratiam penetrasse et in castra: aquilae certe ac signa, pulverulenta illa et cuspidibus horrida, unguuntur festis diebus, utinamque dicere possemus quis primus instituisset! ita est nimirum, hac mercede corruptae orbem terrarum devicere aquilae! ista patrocinia quaerimus vitiis, ut per hoc ius sub casside unguenta sumantur.


V. Quando id primum ad Romanos penetraverit non facile dixerim. certum est Antiocho rege Asiaque devictis urbis anno dlxv P. Licinium Crassum L. Iulium Caesarem censores edixisse ne quis venderet unguenta1 exotica: sic enim appellavere. at, 25Hercules, iam quidam etiam in potus addunt, tantique est amaritudo ut odore prodigo fruatur ex utraque parte corpus.2 L. Plotium, L. Planci bis consulis censorisque fratrem, proscriptum a triumviris in Salernitana latebra unguenti odore proditum constat, quo dedecore tota absoluta proscriptio est; quis enim non merito iudicet perisse tales?


VI. Cetero terrarum omnium Aegyptus accommodatissima unguentis, ab ea Campania est copia rosae. Iudaea vero incluta est vel magis palmis, quarum natura nunc dicetur. sunt quidem et in Europa volgoque Italia, sed steriles. ferunt in maritimis



of Nero—so that this must not be considered a privilege of princes! Yet what is most surprising is that this indulgence has found its way even into the camp: at all events the eagles and the standards, dusty as they are and bristling with sharp points, are anointed on holidays—and I only wish we were able to say who first introduced this custom! No doubt the fact is that our eagles were bribed by this reward to conquer the world! We look to their patronage forsooth to sanction our vices, so as to have this legitimation for using hair-oil under a helmet!

V. I could not readily say when the use of unguentsIntroduction of scent at Rome. first made its way to Rome. It is certain that in 189 b.c. the censors Publius Licinius Crassus and Lucius Julius Caesar issued a proclamation forbidding any sale of ‘foreign essences’—that being the regular name for them. But, good heavens! nowadays some people actually put scent in their drinks, and it is worth the bitter flavour for their body to enjoy the lavish scent both inside and outside. It is a well-known fact that Lucius Plotius, the brother of Lucius Plancus who was twice consul and censor, when proscribed by the Triumvirsa was given away in his hiding-place at Salerno by the scent of the unguent he had been using—a disgrace that acquitted the entire proscription of guilt, for who would not consider that people of that sort deserved to die?

VI. In other respects Egypt is of all the countriesPalm-tree scent. in the world the best adapted for the production of unguents, but Campania with its abundance of roses runs it close. But Judaea is even more famous for its palm-trees, the nature of which will now be described. It is true that there are also palms in Europe, and they are common in Italy, but these are

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938