Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 206-207

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Pliny: Natural History

servant: unum tuberibus radicis rotundis, foliis inter malvam et hederam, nigrioribus mollioribusque, alterum masculae, radice longa, quattuor digitorum longitudine, baculi crassitudine, tertium longissimae, tenuitate vitis novellae, cuius sit praecipua vis, quae 96et clematitis1 vocatur, ab aliis cretica. omnes colore buxeo, caulibus parvis, flore purpureo. ferunt baculas parvas ut cappari. valent radice tantum. est et quae plistolochia vocatur, quarti generis, tenuior quam proxime dicta, densis radicis capillamentis, iunci plenioris crassitudine. hanc quidam 97polyrrhizon cognominant. odor omnium medicatus, sed oblongae radici tenuiorique gratior, carnosi enim est corticis, unguentis quoque nardinis conveniens. nascuntur pinguibus locis et campestribus. effodere eas messibus tempestivum, desquamato2 terreno servantur. maxime tamen laudatur Pontica et in quocumque genere ponderosissima quaeque, medicinis aptior rotunda, contra serpentes oblonga, in summa

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Book XXV

four kinds of it: one with round tubers on the root, and with leaves partly like those of the mallow and partly like those of ivy, but darker and softer: the second is the male plant,a with a long root of four fingers’ length, thick as a walking-stick; the third is very long and as slender as a young vine, with especially strong properties, and is called by some clematitis and by other cretica. All kinds of this plant are of the colour of boxwood, and have small stems and purple blossom. They bear small berries like caper berries. Only the root has medicinal value. There is also a fourth kind, called plistolochia, more slender than the one last mentioned, with dense, hair-like masses for a root, and of the thickness of a stoutish rush, which some surname polyrrhizos. All kinds have a drug-like smell, but that of the rather longb and slender root is more agreeable; its fleshy outer skin in fact is even suitable for nard ointments. These plants grow on plains with a rich soil. The time to dig them up is at harvest; the earth is scraped off them before they are stored away.c The most valued root, however, comes from Pontus, and in every case the heaviest specimens are preferred; for medicines the round is more suitable, for snake bites the longer

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938