Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 204-205

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Pliny: Natural History

statim intellegitur. dictamnum enim minima potione accendit os. qui legere eas in ferula aut harundine condunt praeligantque ne potentia evanescat. sunt qui dicant utramque nasci multifariam, sed deteriores in agris pinguibus, veram quidem dictamnum1 94non nisi in asperis. est et tertium genus dictamnum vocatum, sed neque facie neque effectu simile, folio sisymbri, ramis maioribus, praecedente persuasione illa quicquid in Creta nascatur infinito praestare ceteris eiusdem generis alibi genitis, proxime quod in Parnaso. alioqui herbiferum esse et Pelium montem in Thessalia et Telethrium in Euboea et totam Arcadiam ac Laconicam tradunt, Arcades quidem non medicaminibus uti sed lacte circa ver, quoniam tum maxime sucis herbae turgeant medicenturque ubera pascuis. bibunt autem vaccinum, quoniam boves omnivori fere sunt in herbis. potentia earum per quadripedes etiamnum duobus claris exemplis manifesta fit. circa Abderam et limitem qui Diomedis vocatur equi pasti inflammantur rabie, circa Potnias vero et asini.

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LIV. Inter nobilissimas aristolochiae nomen dedisse gravidae videntur, quoniam esset ἀρίστη λεχούσαις. nostri malum terrae vocant et quattuor genera eius

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Book XXV

It is recognised at once, as its properties are less potent, for the smallest quantity of true dittany, taken in drink, burns the mouth. Those who gather them store them in a piece of fennel-giant or reed, which they tie up at the ends, to prevent their losing efficacy. There are some who say that both plants grow in many places, but that while the inferior kinds are found on rich soils, true dittany is only seen on rough ground. There is also a third plant called dittany, unlike the others in appearance and properties; the leaves are those of sisymbrium and the branches are larger, but there is the established conviction that whatever simple grows in Crete is infinitely superior to any of the same kind to be found elsewhere, and that the next best herbs are those to be found on Mount Parnassus. Report says that simples grow besides on Mount Pelion in Thessaly, on Mount Telethrius in Euboea, and throughout Arcadia and Laconia, and that the Arcadians indeed use, not medicines, but milk in the spring season, because it is at this time chiefly that herbs are swollen with juices which, when the beasts graze, medicate their udders. But the milk they drink is cow’s milk, since kine will feed on almost any kind of plant. The potency of plants becomes clear from two striking examples of their action evena on quadrupeds: horses that have grazed around Abdera and what is called “the bounds of Diomedes” go raving mad, as do also the asses that graze around Potniae.

LIV. Among the most celebrated plants aristolochiaAristolochia. received its name, as is clear, from women with child, because they considered it to be λεχούσαις, that is, “excellent for women in childbed.” Latin writers call it “earth apple,” distinguishing

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938