Pliny the Elder - Carrots A.D. 77

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Pliny the Elder - Natural History - Carrot or Daucus References

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 History Part 1 - A Brief Timeline


 History Part 2 - Neolithic to AD 200 - Origins and development


 History Part 3 - AD 200 to 1500 - From Medicine to Food


 History Part 4 - 1500 to 1700 - Evolution and Improvement in the Renaissance


 History Part 5 - 1700 to date - Science & Enlightenment - the modern carrot evolves


 History of Carrot Colour - Explores, in some detail the theories of the road to domestication and the origin of Orange Carrots


 History in WW2 - Takes an in depth look of the role of carrots in World War Two, reviving its popularity


 Illustrations of Carrot in Ancient Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

The Natural History of Pliny

Naturalis Historia (Latin for "Natural History") is an encyclopedia written circa AD 77 by the a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, 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 known to have survived.


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


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 properties;

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.


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.



Petronius Diodotus has distinguished four kinds of daucus, which it would be useless here to describe, the varieties being in reality but two1 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 southern aspect.

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 "pastinaca5 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.

1 Fée remarks, that the account given by Pliny has not the same precision as that of dioscorides, who describes three varieties of the Daucus.

2 Fée is inclined to identify the Daucus of Crete and Achaia with the Daucus Creticus of Fuchsius, the Athamanta annua of Linnæus. Desfontaines identifies it with the Athamanta Cretensis of Linnæus.

3 This kind is identified by Fée with the seseli ammoïdes of linnæus, and by littré with the ammi majus of linnæus,the common or greater bishop's weed.

4 Identified by Sprengel with the Daucus Mauritanicus, and by Brotero and Desfontaines with the Daucus carota, var. a, our Common carrot. Fée seems inclined to identify it with the Athamanta cervaria of Linnæus, Mountain carrot, or Broad-leaved spignel. The account given by Pliny is, however, a mass of confusion.

5 Or "wild parsnip." See B. xix. c. 27.

6 For the purpose of expelling the dead fœtus, according to Dioscorides, B. iii. c. 83.

(Antoine Laurent Apollinaire Fée (1833)  - Commentaires sur las botanique et la matière médicale de Pline;. Paris, Publisher C.L.-F Panckouke - Comments on the botany and medical matter of Pliny - Fée 1789- 1874 a botanist , pharmacist , mycologist and pteridologist  French)

Fée was a pharmacist submayor military in 1809 and participated in the campaign of Spain as the official pharmacy.

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