Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 418: 42-43

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Pliny: Natural History


XV. Sternumenta pinna gravedinem emendant, et si quis mulae nares, ut tradunt, osculo attingat sternutamenta et singultum. ad hoc Varro suadet palmam alterna1 manu scalpere, plerique anulum e sinistra in longissimum dextrae digitum transferre, in aquam ferventem manus mergere. Theophrastus senes laboriosius sternuere dicit.


XVI. Venerem damnavit Democritus ut in qua homo alius exiliret ex homine, et, Hercules, raritas eius utilior. athletae tamen torpentes restituuntur venere, vox revocatur, cum e candida declinat in fuscam. medetur et lumborum dolori, oculorum hebetationi, mente captis ac melancholicis.


XVII. Adsidere gravidis, vel cum remedium alicui adhibeatur, digitis pectinatim inter se inplexis veneficium est, idque conpertum tradunt Alcmena Herculem pariente, peius, si circa unum ambove genua, item poplites alternis genibus inponi. ideo haec in consiliis ducum potestatiumve fieri vetuere maiores velut omnem actum inpedientia, vetuere 60vero et sacris votisve simili modo interesse, capita autem aperiri aspectu magistratuum non venerationis causa iussere, sed, ut Varro auctor est, valetudinis,



XV. Sneezing caused by a feather relieves aSneezing. cold in the head, and sneezing and hiccough are relieved by touching with the lips, it is said, the nostrils of a mule. For sneezing Varro advises us to scratch the palm of each hand with the other; most people advise us to transfer the ring from the left hand to the longest finger of the right, and to dip the hands into very hot water. Theophrastus says that old people sneeze with greater difficultya than others.

XVI. Sexual intercourse was disapproved of bySexual intercouse. Democritus, as being merely the act whereby one human being springs from another. Heaven knows, the less indulgence in this respect the better. Athletes, however, when sluggish regain by it their activity, and the voice, when it has lost its clearness and become husky, is restored. It cures pain in the loins, dulness of vision, unsoundness of mind and melancholia.

XVII. To sit in the presence of pregnant women,Various unlucky and lucky acts. or when medicine is being given to patients, with the fingers interlaced comb-wise, is to be guilty of sorcery, a discovery made, it is said, when Alcmena was giving birth to Hercules. The sorcery is worse if the hands are clasped round one knee or both, and also to cross the knees first in one way and then in the other. For this reason our ancestors forbade such postures at councils of war or of officials, on the ground that they were an obstacle to the transaction of all business. They also forbade them, indeed, to those attending sacred rites and prayers; but to uncover the head at the sight of magistrates they ordered, not as a mark of respect, but (our authority is Varro) for the sake of health, for the habit of baring the head

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938