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Among the whole range of animated beings, the human fe- male is the only one that has the monthly discharge,1 and in whose womb are found what we term "moles." These moles consist of a shapeless mass of flesh, devoid of all life, and capable of resisting either the edge or the point of the knife; they are movable in the body, and obstruct the menstrual discharge; sometimes, too, they are productive of fatal consequences to the woman, in the same manner as a real fœtus; while, at other times, they remain in the body until old age; in some cases, again, they are discharged, in consequence of an increased action of the bowels.2 Something of a very similar nature is produced in the body of the male, which is called a "schirrus;"3 this was the case with Oppius Capito, a man of prætorian rank.

It would indeed be a difficult matter to find anything which is productive of more marvellous effects than the menstrual discharge.4 On the approach of a woman in this state, must will become sour, seeds which are touched by her become sterile, grafts wither away, garden plants are parched up, and the fruit will fall from the tree beneath which she sits. Her very look, even, will dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt the edge of steel, and take away the polish from ivory. A swarm of bees, if looked upon by her, will die immediately; brass and iron will instantly become rusty, and emit an offensive odour; while dogs which may have tasted of the matter so discharged are seized with madness, and their bite is venomous and incurable.

In addition to this, the bitumen which is found at certain periods of the year, floating on the lake of Judæa, known as Asphaltites, a substance which is peculiarly tenacious, and adheres to everything that it touches, can only be divided into separate pieces by means of a thread which has been dipped in this virulent matter.5 It is said that the ant, even an insect so extremely minute, is sensible of its presence, and rejects the grains which it has been carrying, and will not return to them again.6

This discharge, which is productive of such great and singular effects, occurs in women every thirty days, and in a greater degree every three months.7 In some individuals it occurs oftener than once a month, and in others, again, it never takes place. Women of this nature, however, are not capable of bearing children, because it is of this substance that the infant is formed.8 The seed of the male, acting as a sort of leaven, causes it to unite and assume a form, and in due time it acquires life, and assumes a bodily shape. The consequence is, that if the flow continues during pregnancy, the child will be weak, or else will not live; or if it does, it will be full of gross humours, Nigidius says.

(16.) The same author is also of opinion, that the milk of a woman who is giving suck will not become impure, if she should happen to become pregnant again by the same man.9

1 Some of the "simiæ " are subject to a periodical discharge, analogous to that of the human female; but, according to Cuvier, it is in smaller quantity, and not at stated periods. The females of various other animals, when in a state to receive the male, have a discharge from the same parts, but totally different in its properties, and the mode in which it makes its appearance. Virgil, Geor. B. iii. 1. 280, et seq., refers to this subject.—B.

2 Pliny makes some further remarks on these substances in a subsequent place, see B. x. c. 84; where he says they are produced without the intercourse of the male; this point has been much discussed, and is perhaps scarcely yet decided.—B.

3 There is no actual resemblance between moles and schirri; they are produced by different causes, and exist in different parts of the body. Moles are always formed in the womb, and probably have some connection with the generative functions; while schirri are morbid indurations, which make their appearance in various parts of the body. Hippocrates gives some account of moles, in his work on the Diseases of Women. They are also noticed by Aristotle.—B.

4 All the poisonous and noxious effects which were attributed by the ancients to the menstrual discharge, are without the slightest foundation. The opinions entertained on this point by the Jews, may be collected from Leviticus, c. xv. ver. 19, et seq. Pliny enlarges upon this subject in a subsequent place. See B. xxviii. c. 23.—B.

5 Both Josephus, Bell. Jud. B. iv. c. 9, and Tacitus, Hist. B. v. c. 6, give an account of this supposed action of this fluid on the bitumen of Lake Asphaltites; the statement is no doubt entirely unfounded, but it is a curious instance of popular credulity.—B.

6 There are still somewhat similar superstitions in existence, even in this country among others; it is not uncommonly believed that meat will not take salt from the hands of a female during the discharge of the catamenia.

7 This statement is without foundation.—B.

8 The fact is true, that females in whom the menstrual discharge does not take place, are seldom, if ever, capable of conception; but it does not depend on the cause here assigned. See the remarks of Cuvier, Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 82, and Ajasson, vol. vi. p. 173.—B.

9 Pliny clearly alludes to an opinion expressed by Galen, in which he says, "that if women while giving suck, have sexual intercourse, the milk becomes tainted." Hardouin remarks, that Pliny shows considerable caution here in bringing forward Nigidius as the propounder of these opinions, the truth of which he himself seems to have doubted.

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