Phænias, in the fifth book of his treatise on Plants, speaks of one which he calls the Sicilian cactus a very prickly plant. As also does Theophrastus, in his sixth book about Plants, who says, “But the plant which is called the cactus exists only in Sicily, and is not found in Greece: and it sends forth stalks close to the ground, just above the root. And the stalks are the things which are called cacti: and they are eatable as soon as they are peeled, and rather bitter; and they preserve them in brine. But there is a second kind, which sends up a straight stalk, which they call πτέρνιξ; and that also is eatable. The shell of the fruit, as soon as the outer soft parts have been taken away, is like the inside of a date: that also is eatable; and the name of that is ἀσκάληρον.” But who is there who would not place such belief in these assertions as to say confidently that this cactus is the same as that plant which is called by the Romans carduus, or thistle; as the Romans are at no great distance from Sicily, and as it is evidently the same plant which the Greeks call κινάρα, or the artichoke? For if you merely change two letters, κάρδος and κάκτος will be the same word. And Epicharmus also shows us plainly this, when he puts down the cactus in his catalogue of eatable vegetables; in this way—“The poppy, fennel, and the rough cactus; now one can eat of the other vegetables when dressed with milk, if he bruises them and serves them up with rich sauce, but by themselves they are not worth much.” And in a subsequent passage he says—“Lettuces, pines, squills, radishes, cacti.” And again he says—“A man came from the country, bringing fennel, and cacti, and lavender, and sorrel, and chicory, and thisles, and ferns, and the cactus, and dractylus, and otostyllus, and scolium, and seni, and onopordus.” And Philetas the Coan poet says—
A fawn about to die would make a noise,
Fearing the venom of the thorny cactus.