Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 186-187


Pliny: Natural History

secundum fontes nascitur, origano simile, angustioribus et longioribus foliis, anguloso caule palmum alto, fruticante,1 flore lychnidis, radice tenui et supervacua, suco efficax. ipsa herba autumno legitur, sucus e fronde. quidam caules concisos madefaciunt diebus xviii atque ita exprimunt. hoc centaurium nostri fel terrae vocant propter amaritudinem summam, Galli exacum, quoniam omnia mala medicamenta potum e corpore exigat per alvum.


XXXII. Tertia est centauris cognomine triorchis. qui eam secat rarum est ut non vulneret sese. haec sucum sanguineum mittit. Theophrastus defendi eam inpugnarique colligentes tradit a triorche accipitrum genere, unde et nomen accepit. inperiti confundunt haec omnia et primo generi adsignant.


XXXIII. Clymenus a rege herba appellata est, hederae foliis,ramosa,caule inani articulis praecincto,2 odore gravi et semine hederae, silvestribus et montuosis nascens. quibus morbis pota medeatur dicemus, sed hic indicandum est, dum medeatur, sterilitatem pota etiam viris fieri. Graeci plantagini similem esse dixerunt, caule quadrato, folliculis cum semine inter se inplexis veluti3 polyporum cirris. et sucus autem in usu, vi summa in refrigerando.


Book XXV

It is like origanum but with narrower and longer leaves; it has an angular, bushy stem a span high, a flower like that of lychnis, a slight root of no use in medicine, but with healing qualities in its juice. The plant itself is gathered in autumn, and the juice is extracted from the leaves. Some cut up and soak the stems, extracting the juice at the end of eighteen days. This centaury the Romans call the “gall of earth” on account of its extreme bitterness, while the Gauls call it exacum, because a draught of it evacuates from the body by stool all harmful drugs.

XXXII. There is a third, centauris surnamedTriorchis. triorchis. Those who cut it nearly always wound themselves. The juice it gives out is of the colour of blood. Theophrastusa relates that it is defended by a species of hawk called triorchis, which attacks those who gather it. From this too it has received its name. The uninformed confuse these characteristicsb and assign them all to the first kind of centaury.

XXXIII. Clymenus is a plant called after theClymenus. king of that name. It has leaves like those of ivy, many branches, a hollow stem girded with joints, a strong smell, and seed like that of ivy; it grows in wooded, hilly districts. I shall say later what diseases it cures if taken in drink; but at the moment I must point out that, while it cures, even men are made sterile by the draught. The Greeks have said that it is like the plantain, with a square stem and seed-bags intertwined like the tentacles of the polypus. The juice too is used in medicine, as it has very great powers of cooling.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938