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But with reference to cantharides, there has been considerable controversy on the subject, seeing that, taken internally, they are a poison, attended with excruciating pains in the bladder. Cossinus, a Roman of the Equestrian order, well known for his intimate friendship with the Emperor Nero, being attacked with lichen,1 that prince sent to Egypt for a physician to cure him; who recommending a potion prepared from cantharides, the patient was killed in consequence. There is no doubt, however, that applied externally they are useful, in combination with juice of Taminian2 grapes, and the suet of a sheep or she-goat. As to the part of the body in which the poison of the insect is situate, authors are by no means agreed. Some fancy that it exists in the feet and head, while others, again, deny it; indeed the only point that has been well ascertained is, that the wings3 are the only antidote to their venom, wherever it may be situate.

Cantharides are produced from a small grub, found more particularly in the spongy excrescences which grow on the stem of the dog-rose,4 and still more abundantly upon the ash. Other kinds, again, are found upon the white rose, but they are by no means so efficacious. The most active of all in their properties, are those which are spotted with yellow streaks running transversely across the wings, and are plump and well-filled. Those which are small, broad, and hairy, are not so powerful in their operation, and the least useful of all are those which are thin and shrivelled, and present one uniform colour. They are put in a small earthen pot, not coated with pitch, and stopped at the mouth with a linen cloth, a layer of full-blown roses being placed upon them; they are then suspended over vinegar boiled with salt, until the steam has penetrated the cloth and stifled them, after which they are put by for use. They have a caustic effect upon the skin, and cover the ulcerations with a crust; a property which belongs also to the pine-caterpillar5 found upon the pitch-tree, and to the buprestis,6 both of which are prepared in a similar manner.

All these insects are extremely efficacious for the cure of leprosy and lichens. It is said, too, that they act as an emmenagogue and diuretic, for which last reason Hippocrates used to prescribe them for dropsy. Cato of Utica was reproached with selling poison, because, when disposing of a royal property by auction,7 he sold a quantity of cantharides, at the price of sixty thousand sesterces. (5.) We may here remark, too, that it was on the same occasion that some ostrich fat was sold, at the price of thirty thousand sesterces, a substance which is preferable to goose-grease in every respect.

1 See B. xxvi. c. 2.

2 See B. xxiii. c. 14.

3 It has been ascertained by experiment that the vesicatory principle resides in the wings more particularly. Ajasson remarks, that it is possible that the ancients may not have known the genuine Cantharides, the Canth. vesicatoria of modern medicine.

4 See B. xxiv. c. 74.

5 "Pityocampæ." See B. xxiii. cc. 30, 40, and B. xxviii. c. 33.

6 See B. xxviii. cc. 21, 33, 42, and B. xxx. c. 10.

7 At the sale, under his supervision, of the property of Ptolemy, king of Cyprus.

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