Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 392: 182-183


Pliny: Natural History

calthae.1 non levior ei quam scopam regiam appellant, quamquam folia eius olent, non flores.


XVI. Baccar quoque radicis tantum odoratae est, a quibusdam nardum rusticum appellatum. unguenta ex ea radice fieri solita apud antiquos Aristophanes priscae comoediae poeta testis est. unde quidam errore falso baccarida2 eam appellabant. odor est cinnamomo proximus. gracili solo nec 30umido provenit. simillimum ei combretum appellatur, foliorum exilitate usque in fila adtenuata, et procerius quam baccar. haec sunt unguenta3 tantum. sed eorum quoque error corrigendus est qui baccar rusticum nardum appellavere. est enim alia herba sic cognominata quam Graeci asaron vocant, cuius speciem figuramque diximus in nardi generibus. quin immo asaron invenio vocitari, quoniam in coronas non addatur.


XVII. Crocum silvestre optimum. serere in Italia minime expedit, ad scripula usque singula areis decoquentibus. seritur radicis bulbo. sativum latius maiusque et nitidius, sed multo lenius, degenerans ubique, nec fecundum etiam Cyrenis, ubi semper


Book XXI

the caltha being strong.a No less strong is the scent of the plant which they call royal broom, though it is not the flowers that smell, but the leaves.b

XVI. Baccar too, which is called by some fieldBaccar. nard, has scent in the root only. That unguents used to be made by the ancients from this root we have a witness in Aristophanes, a poet of the Old Comedy. Whence some used to commit the error of calling it by a Greek name, baccaris.c The scent is very like that of cinnamon. It grows on a thin dry soil. Very like it is the plant called combretum,d taller than the baccar, and with leaves so thin that they are mere threads. These are only used as unguentse But the mistake of those also must be corrected who have called baccar field nard. For there is another plant with this surname, which the Greeks call asaron, whose shape and appearance we have described among the varieties of nard.f Moreover, I find that the plant is styled asaron, because it is not used in the making of chaplets.

XVII. Wild saffron is better than any other. ToSaffron. grow it in Italy is most unprofitable, as a whole bed of saffron yields only a scruple of the essence. It is propagated from a bulb of the root. The cultivated saffron is broader, larger and more handsome, but much less potent; it is degenerating everywhere, and is not prolific even at Cyrene, where grows a saffron whose flowers have always been very famous.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938