previous next


[15arg] That Carneades the Academic purged his stomach with hellebore when about to write against the dogmas of Zeno the Stoic; and of the nature and curative powers of white and black hellebore.

WHEN Carneades, the Academic philosopher, was about to write against the books of the Stoic Zeno, he cleansed the upper part of his body with white hellebore, in order that none of the corrupt humours of his stomach might rise to the abode of his mind and weaken the power and vigour of his intellect; with such care and such preparation did this man of surpassing talent set about refuting what Zeno had written. When I had read of this in Grecian history, I inquired what was meant by the term “white hellebore.”

Then I learned that there are two kinds of hellebore distinguished by a difference in colour, white and black; but that those colours are distinguished neither in the seed of the hellebore nor in its plant, but in the root; further, that with white hellebore the stomach and upper belly 1 are purged by vomiting; by the black the so-called lower belly is loosened, 2 and the effect of both is to remove the noxious humours in which the causes of diseases are situated. But that there is danger lest, when every avenue of the body is opened, along with the causes of disease the juices on which the principle of life depends should also pass away, and the man should perish from exhaustion because of the destruction of the entire foundation of natural nourishment.

[p. 261] But Plinius Secundus, in his work On Natural History, wrote 3 that hellebore could be taken with the greatest safety in the island of Anticyra. 4 That for this reason Livius Drusus, the former tribune of the commons, when he was suffering from the so-called “election” disease, 5 sailed to Anticyra, drank hellebore in that island, and was thus cured of the ailment.

I have read besides that the Gauls, when hunting, dip their arrows in hellebore, because the wild animals that are struck and killed by arrows thus treated become tenderer for eating; but because of the contagion of the hellebore they are said to cut out a large piece of flesh around the wounds made by the arrows.

1 The small intestine, see note on xvii. 11. 2.

2 The large intestine.

3 xxv. 52.

4 There were three places of this name, all celebrated for their hellebore, which was regarded as a cure for insanity. One was in Locris, on the Corinthian Gulf; the second was on the Maliac Gulf at the foot of Mt. Oeta. The third, usually considered the most important, was a town of Phocis on the Corinthian Gulf. See Thes. Ling. Lat. s.v., where Plin. N. H. xxv. 52 is assigned to the last-named, in spite of iasula. Baumgarten-Crasius, Suetonius, refer the reference in Calig. xxix to an island, which they do not, locate. In Hor. Ars. Poet. 300, tribus Anticyris may refer to three Anticyras, but is more probably used in a general sense.

5 See note on xvi. 4. 4.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: