Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 393: 214-215

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Book XXV

draught. Henbane crushed with the leaves on is given in wine, especially for the poison of asps.

LIX. No plant however is so renowned among theHiera botane. Romans as hiera botane (“sacred plant”). Some call it asistereon, and Latin writers verbenaca. This is the plant which I mentioned as carried to the enemy by envoys.a With this the table of Jupiter is swept,b and homes are cleansed and purified. There are two kinds of it; one has many leaves and is thought to be female, the other, the male, has fewer leaves. Each kind has several sprigs that are slender, a cubit long and angular; the leaves are smaller and narrower than those of the oak; the indentations too are deeper, the blossom is grey, and the root long and slender. It grows everywhere in flat, moist localities. Some authorities do not distinguish these two kinds but make of them one only, since both have the same properties. Both kinds are used by the people of Gaul in fortune-telling and in uttering prophecies, but the Magi especially make the maddest statements about the plant: that people who have been rubbed with it obtain their wishes, banish fevers,c win friends and cure all diseases without exception. They add that it must be gathered about the rising of the Dog-star without the action being seen by moon or sun; that beforehand atonement must be made to Earth by an offering of honey-comb and honey; that a circle must be drawn with iron round the plant and then it should be pulled up with the left hand and raised aloft; that leaves, stem and root must be dried separately in the shade. They say too that if a dining-couch is sprinkled with water in which

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938