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27 I have spoken of those wounds which are mostly inflicted by weapons. My next task is to speak of those which are caused by the bite, at times of a man, at times of an ape, often of a dog, not infrequently of wild animals or of snakes. For almost every bite has in it poison of some sort. Therefore if the wound is severe, a cup should be applied straightway of it; if slighter a plaster, especially that of Diogenes. If that is not at hand, then one of the others I have recommended against bites; failing such, the green plaster called Alexandrian; if not even that is to be had, then any one which suits recent wounds, so long as it is not greasy. Salt is also a remedy for bites, especially dog-bite, if a hand is then placed over the bite and struck by two[p. 113] fingers of the other hand; for this brings out sanies; and brine-pickle may also be appropriately bandaged upon such a wound. But especially if the dog was mad, the poison must be drawn out by a cup; next, if the wound is not among sinews and muscles, it must be cauterized; if it cannot be cauterized, it is not amiss to bleed the man. After cauterizing, applications are to be put on as for other burns; if the wound is not cauterized, such medicaments as are powerful corrosives. After this the wound should be filled in and brought to healing, not by any new method, but as already described above. After the bite of a mad dog some send the patients at once to the bath, and there let them sweat as much as their bodily strength allows, the wound being kept open in order that the poison may drop out freely from it; then follows the administration of much wine, undiluted, which is an antidote to all poisons. And when this has been carried out for three days, the patient is deemed to be out of danger. But when too little has been done for such a wound, it usually gives rise to a fear of water which the hands call hydrophobia, a most distressing disease, in which the patient is tortured simultaneously by thirst and by dread of water. In these cases there is very little help for the sufferer. But still there is just one remedy, to throw the patient unawares into a water tank which he has not seen beforehand. If he cannot swim, let him sink under and drink, then lift him out; if he can swim, push him under at intervals so that he drinks his fill of water even against his will; for so his thirst and dread of water are removed at the same time. Yet this[p. 115] procedure incurs a good danger, that a spasm of sinews, provoked by the cold water, may carry off a weakened body. Lest this should happen, he must be taken straight from the tank and plunged into a bath of hot oil. But as an antidote we should give especially the one which I put first, when that is not at hand, another; it is to be given in a draught of water, if the patient does not dread water yet; and if the bitterness is objected to, honey is to be added; if dread of water has already seized him, the antidote can be swallowed as a pill. Serpents' bites again need a not very different treatment, although in this the ancients had very various methods so that for each kind of snake some prescribed one special kind of remedy, some another; but in all it is the same measures which are the most efficacious. Therefore first the limb is to be constricted above this kind of wound, but not too tightly, lest it become numbed; next, the poison is to be drawn out. A cup does this best. But it is not amiss beforehand to according to incisions with a scalpel around the wound, in order that more of the vitiated blood may be extracted. If there is no cup at hand, although this can hardly happen, use any similar vessel which can do what you want; if there is not even this, a man must be got to suck the wound. I declare there is no particular science in those people who are called Psylli, but a boldness confirmed by experience. For serpent's poison, like certain hunter's poisons, such as the Gauls in particular use, does no harm when swallowed, but only in a wound. Hence the snake itself may be safely eaten, whilst its stroke kills; and if one is stupefied, which mountebanks effect[p. 117] by certain medicaments, and if anyone puts his finger into its mouth and is not bitten, its saliva is harmless. Anyone, therefore, who follows the example of the Psylli and sucks out the wound, will himself be safe, and will promote the safety of the patient. He must see to it, however, beforehand that he has no sore place on his gums or palate or other parts of the mouth. After the suction, the patient should be put into a warm room, in such a position that the part bitten is inclined downwards. If there is no one at hand to suck out the wound, or to cup it, the patient should sip goose or mutton or veal broth and provoke a vomit; further a live chicken should be cut through the middle, and whilst warm applied forthwith over the wound so that its inner part is in contact with the patient's body. It will also do to slaughter a kid or lamb, and immediately to put the hot flesh upon the wound. The plasters also should be applied which have been mentioned above; the most suitable is the Ephesian plaster, or that noted next after it. There is ready help in on of the antidotes; if none is at hand, it is necessary to take in sips a draught of strong wine with pepper, or anything else which will stir up heat, to prevent humour from coagulating internally; for most poisons cause death by cold. All diuretics also are useful, because they dilute the diseased matter. Such are the general remedies against bites of any kind. Experience has taught, however, that anyone bitten by an asp should in particular drink[p. 119] vinegar. The case of a certain boy is said to demonstrate this, for having been thus bitten, partly on account of the bite, and partly owing to excessively hot weather, he was tormented by thirst, and being in a dry place found no other fluid, so he drank the vinegar he chanced to have with him, and was saved. I believe this happened because although vinegar is a refrigerant, it has also the faculty of dissipating. Hence it is that earth sprinkled with it froths. Therefore it is likely that by the same faculty humour which is condensing inside a patient is dissipated by it, and so health is restored. There are also against certain other reptiles remedies which are well enough known. For the scorpion is itself the best remedy against itself. Some pound up a scorpion and swallow it in wine; some pound it up in the same way and put it upon the wound; some put it upon a brazier and fumigate the wound with it, putting a cloth all round to prevent the escape of the fumes, afterwards they bandage its ash upon the wound. The patient should also drink wine in which have been steeped the seeds, or at any rate the leaves, of the herba solaris, which the Greeks call heliotropion. It is good also to apply to the wound bran soaked in vinegar, or wild rue, or roasted salt with honey. I have known, however, practitioners who merely let blood from the arm of those stung by a scorpion, that and nothing more. For the sting of a scorpion also, or for that of a spider, it is good to put on garlic mixed with rue and pounded up with oil. But when cerastes, or dipsas, or haemorrhois has [p. 121]bitten a man, poley-germander roasted, equal in amount to an Egyptian bean, is divided into two draughts, a little rue being added. Trefoil also and wild mint and allheal-juice, with vinegar, are equally efficacious. Costmary, casia, and cinnamon may appropriately be taken in draughts. For the bite of a chelydrus, allheal-juice or laser 4 grams, or leek-juice in 250 cc. of wine, may be taken, and a quantity of savory eaten. Over the bite either goat's dung, or barley-meal boiled with vinegar should be applied, or rue, or catnip pounded with salt, with honey added. This last is equally efficacious for the bite of a cerastes. But when a venomous spider has done the harm, in addition to the surgical treatment, the patient should be plunged often into the hot bath; and take equal quantities of myrrh and bryony berries in 250 cc. of raisin wine; or radish seeds or darnel root in wine; bran boiled in vinegar is to be put on the wound, and the patient is kept in bed. But the foregoing classes of reptiles belong to foreign countries, and are especially poisonous, and they are mostly generated in hot countries. Italy and colder countries are healthier in this respect too, for the reptiles they produce are less dangerous. Against them sufficient remedies are betony or convolvulus or centaury or agrimony or germander or burdock or sea parsnip; any one or two of these is pounded up and taken in wine . . . and applied to the bite. It must be remembered that all snake-bites are more harmful when either the reptile or the man is hungry. Hence snakes are most injurious when[p. 123] brooding, and it is of the greatest importance when there is danger from snakes not to go out before taking some food. It is not so easy to render assistance when poison has been taken in food or drink, first because patients do not perceive it at once as when bitten by a snake; and so are unable to afford themselves any help immediately. Moreover, the mischief starts, not from the skin, but from within. But the best thing, as soon as any one has perceived it, is to swallow a quantity of oil at once and vomit; then, when the praecordia have been emptied, to drink an antidote; or failing that undiluted wine. There are, nevertheless, certain remedies proper for particular poisons, especially for the milder ones. If a potion of cantharides has been swallowed, all-heal pounded in milk should be given or galbanum with the addition of wine, or milk by itself. If it be hemlock, hot undiluted wine with rue should be taken in a large quantity, then the patient should be made to vomit; and after that laser is given in wine; and if free from fever he should be put into a hot bath; if not free, he should be anointed with heating remedies. After this, rest is necessary. If it be hyoscyamus, honey wine should be drunk hot, or milk of any kind, especially asses' milk. If it be white-lead, mallow or walnut juice rubbed up in wine is best. If a leech has been swallowed, vinegar with salt is to be drunk. When milk has curdled inside, either raisin wine or rennet or laser with vinegar. If any one has eaten fungi that are not used, a [p. 125]radish or purslane is to be eaten alone or with a draught of salt and vinegar. Such fungi may be distinguished from the sorts in use by their appearance, and may be rendered safe by suitable cooking; for when boiled in oil, or along with a pear-tree twig, they lose all their noxious property. Burns are likewise the product of external violence, and so it seems to follow that I should speak of them here. Now they are best treated by leaves either of lily or of hound's tongue or of beet, boiled in old wine and oil; any one of the above applied at once brings healing. But the treatment can also be divided into: first, a stage of moderately exedent and repressant applications both to check blisters and to roughen the skin; next, a stage of soothing applications for healing. Among the former is lentil meal with honey, or myrrh with wine, or Cimolian chalk pounded up with frankincense bark and mixed with water, and when it has to be used, diluted with vinegar. Subsequent applications include anything that is greasy; but the most suitable is that containing lead slag or yolk of egg. There is also another treatment of burns, namely, while the inflammation lasts, to keep lentil meal and honey on the wound; next, when the inflammation has subsided, flour with rue or with leek or with horehound, until the crusts fall off; then vetch meal with honey, or iris ointment or turpentine-resin, until the ulceration is clean, and finally dry lint.
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