Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 150-151

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Pliny: Natural History

19alia figura, aliud miraculum exerenti se terra ad primas serpentium vernationes bipedali fere altitudine, rursusque cum isdem in terram condenti, nec omnino occultato eo apparet serpens, vel hoc per se satis officioso naturae munere, si tantum praemoneret tempusque formidinis demonstraret.


Nec bestiarum solum ad nocendum scelera sunt, sed interim aquarum quoque ac locorum. In Germania trans Rhenum castris a Germanico Caesare promotis maritimo tractu fons erat aquae dulcis solus, qua pota intra biennium dentes deciderent compagesque in genibus solverentur. stomacacen medici vocabant et scelotyrben ea mala. reperta auxilio est herba quae appellatur britannica, non nervis modo et oris malis salutaris, sed contra anginas quoque et contra serpentes. folia habet oblonga nigra, radicem 21nigram. sucus eius exprimitur et e radice. florem vibones vocant, qui collectus prius quam tonitrum audiatur et devoratus securos in totum annum a metu anginae praestat. Frisi gens tum fida, in qua castra erant, monstravere illam, mirorque nominis causam, nisi forte confines oceano Britanniae veluti propinquae1 dicavere. non enim inde appellatam, quoniam ibi plurima nasceretur, certum est etiamtum Britannia libera.


Book XXV

shape, and is an amazing plant in other ways; for when snakes begin to cast their slough it springs up to the height of about two feet, and then buries itself in the ground when snakes do so, and while it is concealed no snake at all is anywhere to be seen. This by itself would be a kindly service of Nature, if it only warned us and pointed out the time of danger.

Nor is it beasts alone that are guilty of causing injury; at times waters also and regions do theDiseases caused by waters and regions. same. When Germanicus Caesar had moved forward his camp across the Rhine, in a maritime district of Germany there was only one source of fresh water. To drink it caused within two years the teeth to fall out and the use of the knee-joints to fail. Physicians used to call these maladies stomacacea and scelotyrbe.b A remedy was found in the plant called britannica, which is good not only for the sinews and for diseases of the mouth, but also for the relief of quinsy and snake-bite. It has dark, rather longc leaves, and a dark root. Its juice is extracted even from the root. The blossom is called vibones; gathered before thunder is heard, and swallowed, it keeps away the fear of quinsy for a whole year. It was pointed out to our men by the Frisians, at that time a loyal tribe, in whose territory our camp lay. Why the plant was so called I greatly wonder, unless perhaps, living on the shore of the British ocean, they have so named the britannica because it is, as it were, a near neighbour of Britain.d It is certain that the plant was not so named because it grew abundantly in that island: Britain was at that time an independent state.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938