previous next


The tithymalos is called by our people the "milk plant,"1 and by some persons the "goat lettuce."2 They say, that if characters are traced upon the body with the milky juice of this plant, and powdered with ashes, when dry, the letters will be perfectly visible; an expedient which has been adopted before now by intriguers, for the purpose of communicating with their mistresses, in preference to a correspondence by letter. There are numerous varieties of this plant.3 The first kind has the additional name of "characias,"4 and is generally looked upon as the male plant. Its branches are about a finger in thickness, red and full of juice, five or six in number, and a cubit in length. The leaves near the root are almost exactly those of the olive, and the extremity of the stem is surmounted with a tuft like that of the bulrush: it is found growing in rugged localities near the sea-shore. The seed is gathered in autumn, together with the tufts, and after being dried in the sun, is beaten out and put by for keeping. As to the juice, the moment the down begins to appear upon the fruit, the branches are broken off and the juice of them is received upon either meal of fitches or else figs, and left to dry therewith. Five drops are as much as each fig ought to receive; and the story is, that if a dropsically patient eats one of these figs he will have as many motions as the fig has received drops. While the juice is being collected, due care must be taken not to let it touch the eyes. From the leaves, pounded, a juice is also extracted, but not of so useful a nature as the other kind: a decoction, too, is made from the branches.

The seed also is used, being boiled with honey and made up into purgative5 pills. These seeds are sometimes inserted in hollow teeth with wax: the teeth are rinsed too, with a decoction of the root in wine or oil. The juice is used externally for lichens, and is taken internally both as an emetic and to promote alpine evacuation: in other respects, it is prejudicial to the stomach. Taken in drink, with the addition of salt, it carries off pituitous humours; and in combination with saltpeter,6 removes bile. In cases where it is desirable that it should purge by stool, it is taken with oxycrate, but where it is wanted to act as an emetic, with raisin wine or hydromel; three oboli being a middling dose. The best method, however, of using it, is to eat the prepared figs above-mentioned, just after taking food. In taste, it is slightly burning to the throat; indeed it is of so heating a nature, that, applied externally by itself, it raises blisters on the flesh, like those caused by the action of fire. Hence it is that it is sometimes employed as a cautery.

1 "Herba lactaria."

2 Because goats are fond of it. See B. xx. c. 24.

3 Known to us by the general name of Euphorbia of Spurge.

4 The Euphorbia characias of Linnæus, Red spurge. An oil is still extracted from the seed of several species of Euphorbia, as a purgative; but they are in general highly dangerous. taken internally.

5 "Catalonia."

6 "Aphronitrum. " See B. xxx. c.46,

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 Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: