Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 371: 524-525

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Pliny: Natural History

omnium1 quae fastidiis . . .2 cuminum amicissumum. 161nascitur in summa tellure vix haerens et in sublime tendens, in putribus et calidis maxime locis medio serendum vere. alterum eius genus silvestre quod rusticum vocant, alii Thebaicum, si tritum ex aqua potetur in dolore stomachi,3 in Carpetania nostri orbis maxime laudatur, alioqui Aethiopico Africoque palma est; quidam huic4 Aegyptium praeferunt.

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XLVIII. Sed praecipue olusatrum mirae naturae est; hipposelinum Graeci vocant, alii zmyrnium. e lacrima caulis sui nascitur, seritur et radice. sucum eius qui colligunt murrae saporem habere dicunt, 163auctorque est Theophrastus murra sata natum. hipposelinum veteres praeceperant in locis incultis, lapidosis iuxta maceriam seri—nunc et repastinato seritur et a favonio post aequinoctium autumnum—quippe cum capparis quoque seratur siccis maxime, area in defossum cavata ripisque undique circumstructis lapide; alias evagatur per agros et cogit solum sterilescere. floret aestate, viret usque ad vergiliarum occasum, sabulosis familiarissimum. vitia eius quod trans maria nascitur diximus inter peregrinos frutices.

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Book XIX

of all the seasonings which gratifya a fastidious taste, cummin is the most agreeable. It grows on the surface of the ground, hardly adhering to the soil and stretching upward, and it should be sown in the middle of spring, in crumbly and specially warm soils. Another kind of cummin is the wild variety called country cummin, or by other people Thebaicb cummin. For pounding up in water and using as a draught in cases of stomach-ache the most highly esteemed kind in our continent is that grown at Carpetania, though elsewhere the prize is awarded to Ethiopian and African cummin; however some prefer the Egyptian to the African.

XLVIII. A herb of exceptionally remarkable natureAlexanders; caper. is black-herb,c the Greek name for which is horse parsley, and which others call zmyrnium. It is reproduced from the gum that trickles from its own stalk, but it can also be grown from a root. The people who collect its juice say that it tastes like myrrh, and Theophrastusd states that it sprang first from sown myrrh seed. Old writers had recommended sowing horse-parsley in uncultivated stony ground near a garden wall; but at the present day it is sown in land that has been dug over and also after a west wind has followed the autumn equinox. The reason for the old plan was that the caper also is sown principally in dry places, after a plot has been hollowed out for deep digging and stone banks have been built all round it: otherwise it strays all over the fields and takes the fertility out of the soil. It blossoms in summer and continues green till the setting of the Pleiads; it is most at home in sandy soil. The bad qualities of the caper that grows over seas we have spoken of among the exotic shrubs.XIII. 127.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938