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Such was the state of medical knowledge in ancient times, wholly concealed as it was in the language of the Greeks. But the main reason why the medicinal properties of most plants remain still unknown, is the fact that they have been tested solely by rustics and illiterate people, such being the only class of persons that live in the midst of them: in addition to which, so vast is the multitude of medical men always at hand, that the public are careless of making any enquiries about them. Indeed, many of those plants, the medicinal properties of which have been discovered, are still destitute of names—such, for instance, as the one which we mentioned1 when speaking of the cultivation of grain, and which we know for certain will have the effect of keeping birds away from the crops, if buried at the four corners of the field.

But the most disgraceful cause of all, why so few simples are known, is the fact that those even who are acquainted with them are unwilling to impart their knowledge; as though, forsooth, they should lose for ever anything that they might think fit to communicate to others! Added to all this, there is no well-ascertained method to guide us to the acquisition of this kind of knowledge; for, as to the discoveries that have been made already, they have been due, some of them, to mere accident, and others again, to say the truth, to the interposition of the Deity.

Down to our own times, the bite of the mad dog, the symptoms of which are a dread of water and an aversion to every kind of beverage, was incurable;2 and it was only recently that the mother of a soldier who was serving in the prætorian guard, received a warning in a dream, to send her son the root of the wild rose, known as the cynorrhodos,3 a plant the beauty of which had attracted her attention in a shrubbery the day before, and to request him to drink the extract of it. The army was then serving in Lacetania, the part of Spain which lies nearest to Italy; and it so happened that the soldier, having been bitten by a dog, was just beginning to manifest a horror of water when his mother's letter reached him, in which she entreated him to obey the words of this divine warning. He accordingly complied with Her request, and, against all hope or expectation, his life was saved; a result4 which has been experienced by all who have since availed then- selves of the same resource. Before this, the cynorrhodos had been only recommended by writers for one medicinal purpose; the spongy excrescences, they say, which grow5 in the midst of its thorns, reduced to ashes and mixed with honey, will make the hair grow again when it has been lost by alopecy. I know too, for a fact, that in the same province there was lately discovered in the land belonging to a person with whom I was staying, a stalked plant, the name given to which was dracunculus.6 This plant, about an inch in thickness, and spotted with various colours, like a viper's skin, was generally reported to be an effectual preservative against the sting of all kinds of serpents. I should remark, however, that it is a different plant from the one of the same name of which mention has been made in the preceding Book,7 having altogether another shape and appear- ance. There is also another marvellous property belonging to it: in spring, when the serpents begin to cast their slough, it shoots up from the ground to the height of about a couple of Feet, and again, when they retire for the winter it conceals itself within the earth, nor is there a serpent to be seen so long as it remains out of sight. Even if this plant did nothing else but warn us of impending danger, and tell us when to be on our guard, it could not be looked upon otherwise than as a beneficent provision made by Nature in our behalves.

(3.) It is not, however, the animals only that are endowed with certain baneful and noxious properties, but, sometimes, waters8 even, and localities as well. Upon one occasion, in his German campaign, Germanicus Cæsar had pitched his camp beyond the river Rhenus; the only fresh water to be obtained being that of a single spring in the vicinity of the sea-shore. It was found, however, that within two years the habitual use of this water was productive of loss of the teeth and a total relaxation of the joints of the knees: the names given to these maladies, by medical men, were "stomacace"9 and "sceloturbe." A remedy for them was discovered, however, in the plant known as the "britannica,"10 which is good, not only for diseases of the sinews and mouth, but for quinzy11 also, and injuries inflicted by serpents. This plant has dark oblong leaves and a swarthy root: the name given to the flower of it is "vibones,"12 and if it is gathered and eaten before thunder has been heard, it will ensure safety in every respect. The Frisii, a nation then on terms of friendship with us, and within whose territories the Roman army was encamped, pointed out this plant to our soldiers: the name13 given to it, however, rather surprises me, though possibly it may have been so called because the shores of Britannia are in the vicinity, and only separated by the ocean. At all events, it was not called by this name from the fact of its growing there in any great abundance, that is quite certain, for at the time I am speaking of, Britannia was still independent.14

1 In B. xviii. c. 45.

2 As Fée remarks, this dreadful malady is still incurable. notwithstanding the eulogiums which have been lavished upon the virtues of the Scu- tellaria laterifolia of Linnæus, the Alistma plantago, Genista tinctoria, and other plants, as specifics for its cure.

3 Dog-rose, or eglantine. See B. viii. c. 63.

4 An unwarranted assertion, no doubt.

5 He alludes to a substance known to us as "bedeguar," a kind of gall-nut, produced by the insect called Cynips rosæ.

6 Or "little dragon." The Arum dracunculus of Linnæus. See B. xxiv. cc. 91, 93.

7 In c. 93.

8 As Fée remarks, the influence of water impregnated with selenite upon the health is well known.

9 Fée says that this disease was an "intense gastritis, productive of a fetid breath." It would seem, however, to be neither more nor less than the malady now known as "scurvy of the gums." Galen describes the "sceloturbe," as a kind of paralysis. "Stomacace" means "disease of the mouth;" "sceloturbe" "disease of the legs."

10 Sprengel and Desfontaines identify it with the Rumex aquaticus, but Fée considers it to be the Inula Britannica of Linnæus. The Static, armneria, Statice plantaginea, and Polygonum persicaria have also been suggested.

11 The pseudo-Apuleius, in B. xxix. t. 7, says, that if gathered before thunder has been heard, it will be a preservative against quinzy for a whole year.

12 The flower of the Inula Britannica, Fée says, is much more likely, from its peculiarities, to have merited a peculiar name, than that of the Rumex.

13 Lipsius, in his Commentaries upon Tacitus, Ann. i. 63, has very satisfactorily shown that it did not derive its name from the islands, of Britain, but from a local appellation, the name given by the natives to the marshy tracts upon the banks of the Ems, between Lingen and Covoerden, which are still known as the "Bretaasche Heyde." Munting and Poinsinet de Sivry suggest that it may have received its name from being used as a strengthener of the teeth in their sockets, being compounded of the words tanu, "tooth," and brita, "to break."

14 And therefore comparatively unknown.

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