Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 152-153

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Pliny: Natural History

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VII. Fuit quidem et hic quondam ambitus nominibus suis eas adoptandi, ut docebimus fecisse reges. tanta res videbatur herbam invenire, vitam iuvare, nunc fortassis aliquis curam hanc nostram frivolam quoque existimaturis; adeo deliciis sordent etiam quae ad salutem pertinent. auctores tamen quarum inveniuntur in primis celebrari par est effectu earum 23digesto in genera morborum. qua quidem in reputatione misereri sortis humanae subit, praeter fortuita casusque et quae nova omnis hora excogitat, milia morborum singulis mortalium timenda. qui gravissimi ex his sint discernere stultitiae prope videri possit, cum suus cuique ac praesens quisque atrocissimus videatur. et de hoc tamen iudicavere aevi experimenta, asperrimi cruciatus esse calculorum a stillicidio vesicae, proximum stomachi, tertium eorum quae in capite doleant, non ob alios fere morte conscita.

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A Graecis et noxias herbas demonstratas miror equidem, nec venenorum tantum, quoniam ea conditio vitae est ut mori plerumque etiam optimis portus sit, tradatque M. Varro Servium Clodium equitem Romanum magnitudine doloris in podagra coactum veneno crura perunxisse et postea caruisse

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Book XXV

VII. It was one of the ambitions of the past toPlants named after persons. give one’s namea to a plant, as we shall point outb was done by kings. It was thought a great honour to discover a plant and be of assistance to human life, although now perhaps some will think that these researches of mine are just idle trifling. So paltry in the eyes of Luxury are even the things that conduce to our health. It is but right, however, to mention in the first place the plants whose discoverers can be found, with their properties classified according to the kinds of disease for which they are a remedy. To reflect indeed on this makes one pity the lot of man; besides chances and changes and the strange happenings that every hour brings, there are thousands of diseases that every mortal has to dread. To distinguish which are the most grievous of them might be considered almost an act of folly, since every man considers that the particular disease from which he is suffering atThe most painful diseases. the moment is the most awful. On this point, however, the experience of time has concluded that the disease causing the sharpest agony is strangury from stone in the bladder; next comes disease of the stomach, and after that pains produced by diseases of the head; these being about the only diseases that are responsible for suicides.

I myself am amazed that the Greeks have describedHarmful plants. even harmful plants, and not the poisonous ones only, since the state of human life is such that death is frequently a harbour of refuge even for the most excellent of men, Marcus Varro relating that the Roman knight Servius Clodius, owing to the severe pain of gout, was forced to rub his legs all over with a poison, after which that part of his body was as free

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938