|The Natural History of Pliny
Naturalis Historia (Latin for "Natural History") is an encyclopedia
written circa AD 77 by Pliny the Elder.
It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman empire to
the modern day, and was one of the first reference works developed in the
Classical period to examine natural and man-made objects, both organic and
mineral, as well as many natural phenomena. It became a model for all later
encyclopedias in terms of the breadth of subject matter examined, the need to
reference original authors, and a comprehensive index list of the contents. The
work was dedicated to Titus. It is the only work by Pliny to have survived.
TRANSLATED in 1856,WITH
COPIOUS NOTES AND
ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE LATE JOHN
BOSTOCK, M.D., F.R.S.,AND H. T.
RILEY, Esq.,B.A.,LATE SCHOLAR OF
CLARE HALL, CAMBRIDGE,
(Full translation here.)
BOOK XIX - The nature and cultivation of Flax and an
account of various garden plants.
Chapter 27 Parsnips -
Among these there is a kind of wild parsnip, which grows
spontaneously, by the Greeks it is know as Staphylios (Authors
footnote: There is some doubt as to the identity of this plant, but Fee, after
examining the question, comes to the conclusion that it is the Daucus Carota, or
else Mauritanicus of Linnaeus, the common carrot, or that of Mauritania.
Sprengel takes it to be either this last or the Daucus guttatus,a plant commonly
found in Greece.
There is a fourth kind (the Daucus Carota of Linnaeus),
also, which bears a similar degree of resemblance to the parsnip; by our people
it is called the gallica," while the Greeks, who have distinguished four
varieties of it, give it the name of '' daucus." We shall have further occasion
to mention it among the medicinal plants.
BOOK XX - Remedies derived from the garden plants
Chapter 15. (5.)—THE STAPHYLINOS, OR WILD PARSNIP:
TWENTY TWO REMEDIES.
The staphylinos, or, as some persons call it, ''erratic
parsnip," is another kind. The seed of this plant, pounded and taken in wine,
reduces swelling of the abdomen, and alleviates hysterical suffocations and
pains, to such a degree as to restore the uterus to its natural condition. Used
as a liniment, also, with raisin wine, it is good for pains of the bowels in
females ; for men, too, beaten up with an equal proportion of bread, and taken
in wine, it may be found beneficial for similar pains. It is a diuretic also,
and it will arrest the progress of phagedaenic ulcers, if applied fresh with
honey, or else dried and sprinkled on them with meal. Dieiiches recommends the
root of it to be given, with hydromel, for affections of the liver and spleen,
as also the sides, loins, and kidneys; and Cleophantus prescribes it for
dysentery of long standing. Philistio says that it should be boiled 'in milk,
and for strangury he prescribes four ounces of the root.
Taken in water, he recommends it for dropsy, as well as in
cases of opisthotony, pleurisy, and epilepsy. Persons, it is said, who carry
this plant about them, will never be stung by serpents, and those who have just
eaten of it will receive no hurt from them. Mixed with axle-grease, it is applied
to parts of the body stung by reptiles ; and the leaves of it are eaten as a
remedy for indigestion.
Orpheus has stated that the staphylinos acts as a philtre,
most probably because, a very-well-established fact, when employed as a food, it
is an aphrodisiac ; a circumstance which has led some persons to state that it
promotes conception. In other respects the cultivated parsnip has similar
Though the wild kind is more powerful in its operation, and
that which grows in stony soils more particularly. The seed, too, of the
cultivated parsnip, taken in wine, or vinegar and water, is salutary for stings
inflicted by scorpions. By rubbing the teeth with the root of this plant,
tooth-ache is removed.
Chapter 16 - GINGIDION : ONE REMEDY.
The Syrians devote themselves particularly to the
cultivation of the garden, a circumstance to which we owe the Greek proverb,
There is plenty of vegetables in Syria. “ Tetanus, or contraction of the
muscles, in which the head is twisted round or stretched backwards.
Among other vegetables, that country produces one very
similar to the staphylinos, and known to some persons as *'gingidion," (also
known as the wild carrot or French carrot) only that it is smaller than the
staphylinos and more bitter, though it has just the same properties. Eaten
either raw or boiled, it is very beneficial to the stomach, as it entirely
absorbs all humours with which it may happen to be surcharged.
Book XXV - CHAP. 64.—FOUR VARIETIES OF THE DAUCUS: EIGHTEEN
Petronius Diodotus has distinguished four kinds of daucus, which
it would be useless here to describe, the varieties being in reality
in number. The most esteemed kind is that of Crete,2
the next best being the produce of Achaia, and of all dry
localities. It resembles fennel in appearance, only that its leaves
are whiter, more diminutive, and hairy on the surface. The stem is
upright, and a foot in length, and the root has a remarkably
pleasant taste and smell. This kind grows in stony localities with a
The inferior sorts are found growing everywhere, upon declivities
for instance, and in the hedges of fields, but always in a rich
soil. The leaves are like those of coriander,3
the stem being a cubit in length, the heads round, often three or
more in number, and the root ligneous, and good for nothing when
dry. The seed of this kind is like that of cummin, while that of the
first kind bears a resemblance to millet; in all cases it is white,
acrid, hot, and odoriferous. The seed of the second kind has more
active properties than that of the first; for which reason it should
be used more sparingly.
If it is considered really desirable to recognize a third variety
of the daucus, there is a plant4
of this nature very similar to the staphylinos, known as the
erratica," with an oblong seed and a sweet root. Quadrupeds will
touch none of these plants, either in winter or in summer, except
indeed, after abortion.6
The seed of the various kinds is used, with the exception of that of
Crete, in which case it is the root that is employed; this root
being particularly useful for the stings of serpents. The proper
dose is one drachma, taken in wine. It is administered also to
cattle when stung by those reptiles.