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But among the Romans there is no plant that enjoys a more extended renown than hierabotane,1 known to some persons as "peristereon,"2 and among us more generally as "verbenaca."3 It is this plant that we have already4 mentioned as being borne in the hands of envoys when treating with the enemy, with this that the table of Jupiter is cleansed,5 with this that houses are purified and due expiation made. There are two varieties of it: the one that is thickly covered with leaves6 is thought to be the female plant; that with fewer leaves,7 the male. Both kinds have numerous thin branches, a cubit in length, and of an angular form. The leaves are smaller than those of the quercus, and narrower, with larger indentations. The flower is of a grey colour, and the root is long and thin. This plant is to be found growing everywhere, in level humid localities. Some persons make no distinction between these two varieties, and look upon them as identical, from the circumstance of their being productive of precisely similar effects.

The people in the Gallic provinces make use of them both for soothsaying purposes, and for the prediction of future events; but it is the magicians more particularly that give utterance to such ridiculous follies in reference to this plant. Persons, they tell us, if they rub themselves with it will be sure to gain the object of their desires; and they assure us that it keeps away fevers, conciliates friendship, and is a cure for every possible disease; they say, too, that it must be gathered about the rising of the Dog-star—but so as not to be shone upon by sun or moon—and that honey-combs and honey must be first presented to the earth by way of expiation. They tell us also that a circle must first be traced around it with iron; after which it must be taken up with the left hand, and raised aloft, care being taken to dry the leaves, stem, and root, separately in the shade. To these statements they add, that if the banqueting couch is sprinkled with water in which it has been steeped, merriment and hilarity will be greatly promoted thereby.

As a remedy for the stings of serpents, this plant is bruised in wine.

1 "Holy plant."

2 "Pigeon plant."

3 Our "vervain." It was much used in philtres, and was as highly esteemed as the mistletoe by the people of Gaul. It is no longer used in medicine.

4 In B. xxii. c. 3.

5 On the occasion of the Feasts of Jupiter in the Capitol, prepared by the Septemviri.

6 The Verbena supina of Linnæus, Recumbent vervain.

7 The Verbena officinalis of Linnæus, Vervain or holy plant.

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