previous next


We have already,1 when speaking of the marine productions, described the various kinds of sponge. Some authorities make the following distinctions: they regard as males2 those sponges which are pierced with more diminutive holes, are more compact in form and more ready to imbibe, and are stained, to satisfy luxurious tastes, in various colours, sometimes purple even: those, on the other hand, which have holes, larger and running into one another, they consider to be females. Among the male sponges, too, there is one kind, harder than the others, the name given to which is "tragi,"3 and the holes of which are extremely small and numerous. Sponges are made white artificially; the softest being chosen for the purpose, and after they have been steeped the whole summer through with the foam of the sea. They are then exposed to the action of the moon and hoar-frosts, being turned upside down, or, in other words, with that part upwards by which they formerly adhered to the rocks, the object being that they may become white throughout.

That sponges are animated beings, we have already stated; and not only this, but they have a coat of blood4 even, adhering to them. Some say that they regulate their movements by the sense of hearing, and that at the slightest noise they contract themselves, and emit an abundant moisture: when such is the case, it is said, it is impossible to tear them away from the rocks, and consequently they must be cut, an operation during which they emit a sanious secretion. Those sponges, too, are preferred to all others, which are grown on spots with a north-east aspect, the physicians assuring us that these retain the breath of life the longest of all; a circumstance which renders them additionally useful to the human body, from the union which is thereby effected of their vital principle with our own.5 It is for this reason, too, that they are preferred as fresh as possible, and in a moist state rather than dry. They are not so useful, however, if applied with hot water,6 and still less so if they are oiled, or applied to the body when just anointed. The compact sponges, it is thought, have less adhesive power than the others.

The softest kind of sponge are those employed for tents.7 Applied with honied wine, sponges reduce swellings of the eyes, and are extremely useful for the removal of rheum from those organs, the very finest and softest being of necessity selected for the purpose. Sponges are applied, also, with oxycrate, to defluxions of the eyes, and, with warm vinegar, for head-ache. In addition to these properties, fresh sponges are resolvent, emollient, and soothing; but when old, they lose their healing properties for wounds. They are employed, also, in medicine, for cleansing sores, and for either fomenting or cover— ing the parts fomented, till some other application is made. Applied topically, they have a healing effect upon running ulcers, and upon sores on the bodies of aged persons. Fractures, too, and wounds are most effectually fomented with sponge; and when surgical operations are performed, it instantly absorbs the blood, so as to allow the incision to be seen. Sponges are applied, also, as a bandage, to inflamed wounds, sometimes dry, and, in some cases, moistened with vinegar, wine, or cold water. Soaked in rain-water, and applied to the incision, they prevent cuts recently inflicted from swelling. They are used as an application for such parts of the body, though apparently uninjured, as are threatened with occult humours which require to be dispersed; as also for reducing the tumours known to us as "apostemes," the parts being first fomented with a decoction of honey. Sponges are employed, also, for affections of the joints, steeped in vinegar and salt, or in oxycrate: in cases, however, where the attack is attended with fever, water alone is used with the sponge. Soaked in salt and water, sponges are applied to callosities; and, with vinegar, they are used for stings inflicted by scorpions.

In the treatment of wounds, sponges are sometimes used as a substitute for greasy wool, either with wine and oil, or with salt and water; the only difference being, that wool acts emolliently upon sores, whereas sponge has an astringent action, and absorbs the vitiated humours. To dropsical patients, bandages of sponge are applied, either dry or steeped in warm water or oxycrate, according as there is a necessity for soothing the skin, or for covering it up and drying it. Sponges are applied, also, in all those diseases where warmth is required, being first soaked in boiling water and then squeezed out between a couple of boards. Employed in this manner, too, they are very useful for affections of the stomach and for the excessive heats attendant upon fever. Steeped in oxycrate, they are good for diseases of the spleen, and in vinegar for erysipelas; nothing, in fact, being equally efficacious. Sponge, when thus used, should ways be so applied as amply to cover the adjacent parts that are not affected.

Employed with vinegar or cold water, sponge arrests hæmorrhage; soaked in warm salt and water, and frequently renewed, it removes the lividity which results from a recent blow. Used with oxycrate, it disperses pains and swellings in the testes. To bites inflicted by dogs, it is a good plan to apply sponge, from time to time, cut fine, and moistened with vinegar, cold water, or honey. Ashes of African8 sponge, with juice of cut-leek and a mixture of salt and cold water, are good, taken internally, for patients suffering from discharges of blood: applied topically to the forehead, with oil or vinegar, they are curative of tertian fevers. The sponge of Africa, more particularly, soaked in oxycrate, disperses tu- mours. Ashes of any kind of sponge burnt with pitch, arrest the discharge of blood from wounds; though some recommend, for this purpose, the sponge with large pores only, burnt with pitch. For affections of the eyes, sponge is burnt in vessels of unbaked earthenware; the ashes being found highly efficacious for granulations of the eyelids, fleshy excrescences, and all diseases of those parts which require detergents, astringents, or expletives. For all these purposes, however, it is the best plan first to rinse the ashes. When the body is in a diseased state, sponge acts as a substitute for body-scrapers and linen towels, and it protects the head most efficiently against the action of the sun.

Medical men, in their ignorance, comprehend all sponges under two names; African sponge, the substance of which is tougher and firmer; and Rhodian sponge, which is softer and better adapted for fomentations. At the present day, however, the softest sponges of all are those found about the walls of the city of Antiphellos.9 Trogus informs us that the softest tent sponges are found out at sea, off the coast of Lycia, upon spots from which the sponge has been previously removed: we learn, too, from Polybius, that these fine sponges, suspended over a patient's bed, will ensure him additional repose at right.10

We will now turn to the remedies derived from the marine and aquatic animals.

SUMMARY.—Remedies, narratives, and observations, nine hundred and twenty-four.

ROMAN AUTHORS QUOTED.—M. Varro,11 Cassius12 of Parma, Cicero,13 Mucianus,14 Cælius,15 Celsus,16 Trogus,17 Ovid,18 Polybius,19 Sornatius.20

FOREIGN AUTHORS QUOTED.—Callimachus,21 Ctesias,22 Eudicus,23 Theophrastus,24 Eudoxus,25 Theopompus,26 Polycritus,27 Juba,28 Lycus,29 Apion,30 Epigenes,31 Pelops,32 Apelles,33 De- mocritus,34 Thrasyllus,35 Nicander,36 Menander37 the Comic writer, Attalus,38 Sallustius Dionysius,39 Andreas,40 Niceratus,41 Hippocrates,42 Anaxilaüs.43

1 In B. ix. c. 69.

2 No such distinction, of course, really exists; sponge being in reality a fibrous tissue formed by minute animals.

3 "Goats," literally.

4 See B. ix. c. 69. He probably alludes to the semifluid thin coat of animal jelly which covers the sponge in its recent state, and is susceptible of a slight contraction on being touched.

5 A fanciful notion, certainly.

6 Hot water renders them greasy, so to say; an inconvenience which may be remedied by steeping them in an alkaline solution, or in urine.

7 "Penicilli."

8 See B. ix. c. 69.

9 See B. v. c. 28.

10 An absurdity, of course.

11 See end of B. ii.

12 Called C. Cassius Severus Parmensis, according to some authorities. H was one of the murderers of Cæsar, and perished, the last of them by a violent end, about B.C. 30. He is supposed to have written tragedies, epigrams, and other works. See Horace, Epist. B. i. Ep. 4, 1. 3.

13 See end of B. vii.

14 See end of B. ii.

15 Cælius Antipater. See end of B. ii.

16 See end of B. vii.

17 See end of B. vii.

18 See end of B. xviii.

19 See end of B. iv.

20 This personage is entirely unknown. It may possibly be a corruption for Soranus, a poet of that name (Q. Valerius Soranus) who flourished about 100 B.C. See also B. xxxii. c. 23.

21 See end of B. iv.

22 See end of B. ii.

23 Beyond the mention made of him in c. 9 of this Book, nothing whatever is known of him.

24 See end of B. iii.

25 See end of B. ii., and end of B. vi.

26 See end of B. ii.

27 See end of B. xii.

28 See end of B. v.

29 See end of B. xii.

30 See end of B. xxx.

31 See end of B. ii.

32 He is also mentioned in B. xxxii. c. 16, but beyond that, nothing whatever appears to be known of him. He must not be confounded with Pelops of Smyrna, one of Galen's preceptors, who flourished in the second century after Christ.

33 See end of B. xxviii.

34 See end of B. ii.

35 See end of B. ii.

36 See end of B. viii.

37 A celebrated Comic poet, a disciple of Theophrastus, and the inventor of the New Comedy at Athens. Only a few fragments of his works survive.

38 See end of B. viii.

39 A physician, of whom, beyond the mention made of him in B. xxxii. c. 26, no further particulars appear to be known.

40 See end of B. xx.

41 A Greek writer on plants, and a follower of Asclepiades of Bithynia. He is supposed to have flourished in the latter half of the first century B.C. His medical formulæ are several times quoted by Galen. See c. 31 of the succeeding Book.

42 See end of B. vii.

43 See end of . xxi.

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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

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

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
30 BC (1)
100 BC (1)
hide References (3 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: