Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 116-117

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Pliny: Natural History

Ophiusam in Elephantine eiusdem Aethiopiae, lividam difficilemque aspectu, qua pota terrorem minasque serpentium obversari ita ut mortem sibi eo metu consciscant, ob id cogi sacrilegos illam bibere, adversari ei palmeum vinum.


Thalassaeglen circa Indum amnem inveniri, quae ob id nomine alio potamaugis appellatur, hac pota lymphari homines obversantibus miraculis. Theangelida in Libano Syriae, Dicte Cretae montibus et Babylone et Susis Persidis nasci, qua pota Magi divinent.

Gelotophyllida in Bactris et circa Borysthenen. haec si bibatur cum murra et vino, varias obversari species ridendique finem non fieri nisi potis nucleis pineae nucis cum pipere et melle in vino palmeo.


Hestiaterida a convictu nominari in Perside, quoniam hilarentur illa, eandem protomediam, qua primatum apud reges obtineant, casigneten quoniam secum ipsa nascatur, nec cum aliis ullis herbis, eandem dionysonymphadem, quoniam vino mire conveniat.

Helianthes vocat in Themiscyrena regione et Ciliciae montibus maritimis, folio myrti. hac cum adipe leonino decocta, addito croco et palmeo vino,



The ophiusaa he speaks of as growing in Elephantine,Ophiusa. which also belongs to Ethiopia, a plant livid in colour and revolting to look at, to take which in drink causes such terrible visions of threatening serpents that fear of them causes suicide; wherefore those guilty of sacrilege are forced to drink it. An antidote is palm wine.

The thalassaegleb we are told is found along theThalassaegle. river Indus, and is therefore also called potamaugis,c to drink which causes men to rave, while weird visions beset their minds.

The theangelis,d Democritus says, grows on MountTheangelis. Lebanon in Syria, on Mount Dicte in Crete, and in Babylon and Susa in Persia; the Magi take it in drink to gain power to divine.

The gelotophyllise grows in Bactria and along theGelotophyllis. Borysthenes. If this be taken in myrrh and wine all kinds of phantoms beset the mind, causing laughter which persists until the kernels of pine-nuts are taken with pepper and honey in palm wine.

According to the same authority the hestiaterisfHestiateris. is a Persian plant, so named from its promotion of good fellowship, because it makes the company gay; it is also called protomedia,g from its use to gain the highest position at Court; casignete,h because it grows only in company with its own species, and not with any other plants; also dionysonymphas,i because it goes wonderfully well with wine.

Helianthesj is the name given to a plant withHelianthes. leaves like those of the myrtle, growing in the district of Themiscyra and on the mountains along the coasts of Cilicia. A decoction of it in lion’s fat, with saffron and palm wine added, is used, he says, as an ointment

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938