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In medicine, we give the name of white squill to the male plant, and of black1 to the female: the whiter the squill, the better it is for medicinal2 purposes. The dry coats being first taken off of it, the remaining part, or so much of it as retains life, is cut into pieces, which are then strung and suspended on a string, at short distances from each other. After these pieces are thoroughly dried, they are thrown into a jar of the very strongest vinegar, suspended in such a way, however, as not to touch any portion of the vessel. This is done forty-eight days before the summer solstice. The mouth of the jar is then tightly sealed with plaster; after which it is placed beneath some tiles which receive the rays of the sun the whole day through. At the end of forty-eight days the vessel is removed, the squills are taken out of it, and the vinegar poured into another jar.

This vinegar has the effect of sharpening the eyesight, and, taken every other day, is good for pains in the stomach and sides: the strength of it, however, is so great, that if taken in too large a quantity, it will for some moments produce all the appearance of death. Squills, too, if chewed by themselves even, are good for the gums and teeth; and taken in vinegar and honey they expel tapeworm and other intestinal worms. Put fresh beneath the tongue, they prevent persons afflicted with dropsy from experiencing thirst.

Squills are cooked in various ways; either in a pot with a lining of clay or grease, which is put into an oven or furnace, or else cut into pieces and stewed in a saucepan. They are dried also in a raw state, and then cut into pieces and boiled with vinegar; in which case, they are employed as a liniment for the stings of serpents. Sometimes, again, they are roasted and then cleaned; after which, the middle of the bulb is boiled again in water.

When thus boiled, they are used for dropsy, as a diuretic, being taken in doses of three oboli, with oxymel: they are employed also in a similar manner for affections of the spleen, and of the stomach, when it is too weak to digest the food, provided no ulcerations have made their appearance; also for gripings of the bowels, jaundice, and inveterate cough, accompanied with asthma. A cataplasm of squill leaves, taken off at the end of four days, has the effect of dispersing scrofulous swellings of the neck; and a decoction of squills in oil, applied as a liniment, is a cure for dandriff and running ulcers of the head.

Squills are boiled with honey also for the table, with the view of aiding the digestion more particularly; used in this way, too, they act upon the inside as a purgative. Boiled with oil, and then mixed with resin, they are a cure for chaps on the feet; and the seed, mixed with honey, is applied topically, for the cure of lumbago. Pythagoras says that a squill, suspended at the threshold of the door, effectually shuts all access to evil spells and incantations.3

1 See B. xix. c. 30.

2 The squill is still regarded in medicine as one of the most energetic of all the vegetable productions, as a diuretic, an expectorant, and, in large doses, an emetic. Squill vinegar is still the form in which it is usually administered. Columella gives a somewhat different account of the mode of preparing it.

3 Theocritus says that the squill effectually protects statues and tombs from outrages being committed upon them; and it was so customary to plant them about the graves, that it became a proverbial saying, "He is frantic enough to pluck squills from a grave." Theophrastus states that squills were employed in certain expiatory ceremonials.

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