Nicander: Alexipharmaca and Georgica

Nicander of Colophon was a Greek poet, who probably lived in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. He was the author of two surviving poems, 'Theriaca' and 'Alexipharmaca', and also of several other poems that are now lost. Some excerpts from his 'Georgica' have been preserved by Athenaeus; it is likely that this poem influenced Vergil when he wrote his Georgics ( see Quintilian, 10.1.56 ), but to what extent is unknown.

This translation is by A.S.F.Gow & A.F.Scholfield (1953). Because all of Nicander's poems contain a bewildering number of plant names, wherever possible links have been provided to the relevant wikipedia articles, in line with the translators' notes in their 'Index of Fauna, Flora etc.'

However, in many cases, the identification of the modern plant name is far from certain. As the translators say: "The interpretations of Ancient Greek plant-names put forward by those who have given much time and thought to the study differ widely; many are tentative and uncertain, while some plants have far defied identification . . . and in Nicander the difficulties of identification, already formidable in themselves, are enhanced by the doubt whether the poet knew what he (or his authority) was talking about."



    The Greek text of the 'Alexipharmaca' can be found on the Poesia Latina website.

Even though the peoples from whom you and I, Protagoras, have derived our births did not set up the walls of their strong towers side by side in Asia, and a great space separates us, yet I can easily instruct you in the remedies for those draughts of poison which attack men and bring them low. You indeed have made your home by the tempestuous sea beneath bossy Arctus, where are the caverns of Lobrinian Rhea and the place of the secret rites of Attes; while I dwell where the sons of the far-famed 10 Creusa divided among themselves the richest portion of the mainland, settling by the tripods of Apollo in Clarus.

You must, to be sure, learn of the aconite, bitter as gall, deadly in the mouth, which the banks of Acheron put forth. There is the abyss of the Wise Counsellor {Hades} whence few escape, and there the towns of Priolas fell crashing in ruins.

All the drinker's jaws and the roof of his mouth and his gums are constricted by the bitter draught, as it wraps itself about the top of the chest, crushing with evil choking the man in the throes of heartburn. The top of the belly is gripped with pain -  20 the swelling, open mouth of the lower stomach, which some call the 'heart' of the digestive vessel, others the 'receiver' of the stomach - and the gate is closed immediately upon the beginning of the intestines where a man's food in all its abundance is carried in. And all the while from his streaming eyes drips the moisture; and his belly sore shaken vainly throws up wind, and much of it settles below about his mid-navel; and in his head is a grievous weight, and there ensues a rapid throbbing beneath his temples, and with his eyes he sees things double, like a man at night overcome with unmixed wine.  30 And as when the Silens, the nurses of the horned Dionysus, crushed the wild grapes, and having for the first time fortified their spirits with the foaming drink, were confused in their sight and on reeling feet rushed madly about the hill of Nysa, even so is the sight of these men darkened beneath the weight of evil doom. This plant men call also Mouse-bane, for it utterly destroys troublesome, nibbling mice ; but some call it Leopard's-choke, since cowherds and goatherds with it contrive the death of those great beasts  40 amid the glades of Ida in the vale of Phalacra. Again they name it Woman-killer and Crayfish. And the deadly aconite flourishes amid the Aconaean mountains.

For one so poisoned gypsum to the weight of a handful will perhaps be a protection, if you draw thereto tawny wine in due measure with the gypsum reduced to fine powder - let it be a full cotyle of wine - and add stalks of wormwood, cutting them from the shrub, or of bright green horehound which they call Honeyleaf; administer also a shoot of the herbaceous, evergreen spurge-olive and rue, quenching in vinegar and honey  50 a red-hot lump of metal between the jaws of the fire-tongs, or dross of iron which the flame of the fire has separated within the melting-pot in the furnace; or sometimes just after warming in the fire a lump of gold or silver you  should plunge it in the turbid draught. Or again you should take leaves, half a handful's weight, of the ground pine; or a dry sprig of pot marjoram from the hills, or cut a fresh spray of field basil, and cover them in four cyathi of honey-sweet wine. Or you may take some broth, still meaty and undiluted, made from a domestic fowl  60 when the forcible glow of the fire beneath the pot reduces the body to pieces. Also you should render down the fresh meat of an ox abounding in fat and satisfy the stomach to its full capacity with the soup. Again, sometimes you should pour the juice of balsam into some drops of milk from a young girl, or else into water, until the patient discharges from his throat the undigested food. Sometimes too you should cut out the curd from the stomach of the nimble beast that sleeps open-eyed {hare}, or of a fawn, and give it mixed in wine; at other times cast the roots of the purple mulberry into the hollow of a mortar,  70 bray them mingled with wine, and give them boiled in the labours of the bee. Thus may you ward off loathsome sickness though it threaten to master a man, and he may once again walk on unfaltering feet.

In the second place consider the hateful brew compounded with gleaming, deadly white lead whose fresh colour is like milk which foams all over when you milk it rich in the springtime into the deep pails. Over the victim's jaws and in the grooves of the gums is plastered an astringent froth, and the furrow of the tongue turns rough on either side,  80 and the depth of the throat grows somewhat dry, and from the pernicious venom follows a dry retching and hawking, for this is severe; meanwhile his spirit sickens and he is worn out with mortal suffering. His body too grows chill, while sometimes his eyes behold strange illusions or else he drowses; nor can he  bestir his limbs as heretofore, and he succumbs to the overmastering fatigue.

Give the patient at once a cupful of oil of the Premadia- or Orchis- or Myrtle- olive, so that the stomach being lubricated may void the evil drug;  90 or else you may readily milk the udder's swelling teat and give it him; but skim the oily surface from the draught. And you may infuse sprigs or leaves of the mallow in fresh sap and dose the sufferer with as much as he can take. Or again pound sesame seeds and administer them also in wine; or else heat and cleanse in water the ashes of vine twigs, and strain the lye through the interstices of a newly woven basket, for this will retain the sediment. Moreover if you rub down the hard stones of the persea in gleaming olive oil, they will ward off injury -  100 the persea which once on a time Perseus, when his feet bore him from the land of Cepheus and he had cut off the teeming head of Medusa with his falchion, readily made to grow in the fields of Mycenae (it was a recent gift of Cepheus) on the spot where the scabbard-chape of his falchion fell, beneath the topmost summit of Melanthis, where a Nymph revealed to the son of Zeus the famed spring of Langeia. Or else you should break up in roasted barley the sap which congeals upon the frankincense bushes of Gerrha; also as helpful you should dissolve in warm water the tears from the walnut-tree or from the plum or those which ever drip in plenty on the elm-twigs110 and drops of gum, so that he may vomit up part of the poison, and part render wholesome as he yields to the hot water when the sweat moistens his body. And again he might sate himself with a meal which he has taken or with strong wine and so escape an inglorious death.

When a liquid smells of the corn-eating blister-beetle, that is to say, like liquid pitch, refuse it, for on the nostrils it weighs like pitch and in the mouth like freshly eaten berries of the juniper. Sometimes in a weak infusion these creatures produce a biting sensation upon the lips,  120 or again deep down about the mouth of the stomach; at other times the middle of the belly or the bladder is gnawed and seized with griping pains, while discomfort attacks men where the cartilage of the chest rests over the hollow of the stomach. And the victims are distressed in themselves: swooning delusions hold in bondage what is human in them, and the victim is brought down unexpectedly by pain, like the freshly scattered thistledown which roams the air and is fluttered by every breeze.

At times administer to the patient doses of pennyroyal mixed with river water, making a posset of them in a mug.  130 This was the rich draught of the fasting Deo; once with this did Deo moisten her throat in the city of Hippothoōn by reason of the unchecked speech of Thracian Iambe. At other times take from your pot and mix with the round seeds of flax a rich draught brewed from the head of a hog or of a lamb or from the horned head of a goat which you have but lately cut off, or even, maybe, from a goose, and give it until the man is sick; and let him by tickling his throat stir up in the gullet below the entire mass of polluted food still undigested. At times you should draw the fresh milk of a sheep in a clyster-pipe,  140 administer a clyster and so empty the useless faeces from the bowel. At another time a draught of creamy milk will help the sufferer; or you should lop the green tendrils of the vine when they are fresh-burdened with leaves and chop them up in grape-syrup; or take from crumbling soil the ever sting-shaped roots of scorpius and steep in the bees' produce. The plant grows high like asphodel but sheds its stalks when withered. Also you should take four drachmas' weight of Parthenian earth which Phyllis brings forth under her mountain-spurs,  150 the snow-white earth of the Imbrasus which a horned lamb first revealed to the Chesiad Nymphs beneath the rush-grown river-banks of snowcapped Cercetes. Or brew a drink of boiled-down must of twice that quantity, and into it shred some sprigs of rue, kneading the herbs with rose-oil, or sometimes soak it in iris-oil, which has often cured an illness.

If however a man thoughtlessly taste from loathsome cups a draught, deadly and hard to remedy, of coriander, the victims are struck with madness  160 and utter wild and vulgar words like lunatics, and like crazy Bacchanals bawl shrill songs in frenzy of the mind unabashed. To such a case you should administer a cupful of hedanian wine, 'Pramnian', unmixed, just as it gushed from the vat. Or cast a cupful of salt into water and let it dissolve. Or else you should empty the fragile egg of a chicken and mix with it the sea-foam upon which the swift petrel feeds. It is with this that it sustains life, and also meets its doom, when the fishermen's destructive children assail with their tricks the swimming fowl; and it falls into the boys' hands as it chases the fresh and whitening surge of foam.  170 Do you also draw from the bitter, violet-hued sea - the sea, which, with fire too, the Earth-Shaker has enslaved to the winds. For fire is vanquished by hostile blasts: the undying fire and the expanse of waters tremble before the north-west winds; though the unruly sea, swift to anger, lords it over ships and over the men who perish in it, while to the rule of the abhorred fire the forest is obedient. Again, common oil mingled with wine or a drink of grape-syrup mixed with snow will stay the pain, 180 what time the reapers with their pruning-hooks lop the heavy, wrinkled vintage of the hedanian and the psithian vine and crush it, while with a humming sound bees and the tree-wasp, wasps and buzzers from the hills fall upon the grapes and feast their fill of sweetness, and the mischievous fox ravages the richer clusters.

Take note too of the noxious draught which is hemlock, for this drink assuredly looses disaster upon the head bringing the darkness of night: the eyes roll, and men roam the streets with tottering steps and crawling upon their hands; 190 a terrible  choking blocks the lower throat and the narrow passage of the windpipe; the extremities grow cold; and in the limbs the stout arteries are contracted; for a short while the victim draws breath like one swooning, and his spirit beholds Hades.

Give the patient his fill of oil or of unmixed wine until he vomit up the evil, painful poison ; or prepare and insert a clyster ; or else give him draughts of unmixed wine, or cut and bring him twigs of sweet bay or bay of Tempe 200 (this was the first plant to crown the Delphian locks of Phoebus) ; or else pound some pepper with nettle seeds and administer them, or again infuse wine with the bitter juice of silphium. Sometimes you may offer him a measure of scented iris-oil and silphium shredded in with gleaming oil. Also give him a draught of honey-sweet grape-syrup, and a foaming vessel of milk which you have slightly warmed over the fire.

There are even means of promptly averting the oppression caused by deadly arrow-poison, when a man is overcome with anguish from drinking it. First, his tongue begins to thicken from the root 210 and weighs upon the lips which are heavy and swollen about the mouth; he suffers from a dry expectoration, and his gums break open from the base. Often too his heart is smitten with palpitations, and it is his fate that all his wits are stunned and overthrown by the evil poison; and he makes bleating noises, babbling endlessly in his frenzy; often too in his distress he cries aloud even as one whose head, the body's master, has just been cut off with the sword; or as the acolyte with her tray of offerings, Rhea's priestess, appearing in the public highways on the ninth day of the month, raises a great shout with her voice, while the people tremble 220 as they hearken to the horrible yelling of the votary of Ida. Even so the man in his frenzy of mind bellows and howls incoherently, and as he glances sidelong like a bull, he whets his white teeth and foams at the jaws.

You must even bind him fast with twisted ropes and make him drunk with wine, with gentle force filling him to satiety even against his will; then force his gnashing teeth apart in  order that under your mastering hand he may vomit up the  deadly stuff. Or divide up and boil till soft over a bright fire  the young gosling of a free-feeding goose; 230 you should also give him the wild fruit of the rough-barked apple-tree grown upon the hills after cutting off the inedible parts; or even those  kinds that pertain to the fields, such as the spring seasons bring forth for girls to sport with; or again pear-quinces, or else the  famed fruit of the grim Cydon, which Cretan torrents have fostered. Or sometimes, after sufficiently pounding all these with a mallet, you should soak them in water and then throw in some fresh and fragrant pennyroyal and stir in together with apple-pips. Also you may soak up some fragrant rose-oil or iris-oil into wool 240 and let it drip into his parted lips. Yet hardly may a man after countless sufferings at the end of many days launch with safety his unsteady steps, while his startled gaze roams this way and that. This is the poison with which the nomads of Gerrha and they who plough their fields by the river Euphrates smear their brazen arrow-heads. And the wounds, quite past healing, blacken the flesh, for the stinging poison of the Hydra eats its way in, while the skin, turning putrid with the infection, breaks into open sores.

But if a man taste the loathsome fire of Colchian Medea, 250 the notorious meadow-saffron, an incurable itching assails : his lips all over as he moistens them, such as comes upon those whose skin is defiled with the snow-white juice of the fig-tree or by the stinging nettle or by the many-coated head of the squill, which fearfully inflames the flesh of children. But if he retain the poison, there settles in his gullet a pain which at first eats into it and presently lacerates it from below with desperate retching as he disgorges the poison from his throat; and at the same time the belly also voids the polluted scourings, even as a carver pours off the turbid water in which the meat was washed.

260 Now sometimes you should cut and administer the crinkled leaves of the oak, or else those of the Valonia oak together with the acorns; or you should draw fresh milk in a pail and then let the man swallow his fill of the milk after retaining it in his mouth. At times to be sure shoots of knot-grass will help, or else the roots boiled in milk. You should also infuse vine-tendrils in water, or equally well shoots of bramble which you have chopped. Further, you should strip the green hulls of a well-grown chestnut-tree that cover the thin-skinned nut 270 where the dry husk encloses the inner flesh of the nut so hard to peel which the land of Castanea brings forth. You may suitably extract the inmost pith of the giant fennel which received the spoils of Prometheus's thieving, and at the same time throw in a quantity of leaves of the evergreen tufted thyme and of the berries of the styptic myrtle; or you might perhaps soak the rind of the chamaeleon-thistle, 280 which has a smell like that of basil . The furrow of the victim's tongue grows rough at the base and inflamed from below, and his heart wanders within him. In his frenzy he gnaws his tongue with his dog-teeth, for at times his madness overmasters his wits, while the stomach blinds with wanton obstruction the two channels of liquid and solid food, and rumbles with the wind it has penned within, which circulating in a confined track often seems like the thunder of stormy Olympus, or again like the wicked roaring of the sea 290 as it booms beneath rocky cliffs. Distressed though he is, despite his efforts scarce can the wind escape upward; yet medicinal draughts can at once make him void egg-shaped stools, like the shell-less lumps which the free-feeding fowl, when brooding her warlike chicks, sometimes under stress of recent blows drops from her belly in their membranes ; sometimes under stress of sickness she will cast out her ill-fated offspring upon the earth.

The familiar astringent draught of wormwood steeped in freshly pressed grape-syrup will check his pain; 300 sometimes too you may cut up the resin of the terebinth-tree, or else the tears of the Corsican pine, or again of the Aleppo pine which makes moan on the spot where Phoebus stripped the skin from the limbs of Marsyas; and the tree, lamenting in the glens his far-famed fate, alone utters her passionate plaint unceasingly. Give him also plenty of the flowers of the bright hulwort, fatal to mice, or strip the low-growing shoots of rue, and spikenard, and take also the testicle of the beaver that dwells in the lake; or rub down an obol of silphium with a toothed scraper, or else cut off the same quantity of its gum. 310 Sometimes too he may be given his fill of the wild goat's marjoram, or of milk just curdling in the pail after milking.

But if a man in his folly taste the fresh blood of a bull he falls heavily to the ground in distress, overmastered by pain, when, as it reaches the chest, the blood congeals easily, and, in the hollow of his stomach, clots; the passages are stopped, the breath is straitened within his clogged throat, while, often struggling in convulsions on the ground, he gasps bespattered with foam.

You should cut off for him some juicy wild figs, 320 soak in vinegar, and then mingle the whole with water, stirring together the water and the astringent draught of vinegar; or drain away the burden of his surcharged belly. Also you should strain through a porous bag of fine linen some stirred curd either from a fawn of roe or red deer or from a kid; or again if you take some from the nimble hare you will bring healing and help to the sufferer. Or give him three obols' weight of well-powdered  soda, and mix it in a sweet draught of wine; mix too a pound weight with equal parts of silphium and of its gum, 330 and seed of cabbage soaked thoroughly in vinegar. And give him a sprig of flea-bane with its ill-coloured leaves. Or you should bruise some pepper and buds of the bramble-bush; then you will easily dissipate a mass of congealing blood, or break it up if it has lodged in the vessels.

Do not let the agonising drink of the hateful buprestis escape your knowledge; and you should recognise a man overcome by it. In truth, when bitten, its contact with the jaws seems that of soda; it has an evil smell; and all about the mouths of the stomach arise shifting pains; 340 the urine is stopped and the lowest : part of the bladder throbs, while the whole belly is inflated, as when a tympanitic dropsy settles in abundance about the mid navel, and all over the man's limbs the skin is visibly taut. This creature too, I fancy, causes swelling in plump-bellied heifers or calves, whenever they bite it as they graze. For this reason herdsmen name it buprestis {"cow-inflater"}.

Mix for the patient a draught of well-dried navel-figs from a flourishing tree in wine three years old; or you might also crush them together with a mallet, 350 dissolve them over a fire, and give as an antidote to his sickness. And when he recovers his appetite give him again his fill of this honey-sweet drink, sometimes adding milk to the mixture; or else cast in and mix with wine the dry fruit of the date-palm or wild pears that have long been dried, or the fruit of the common pear, or of the cordate pear, or sometimes myrtle-berries; or let him even, like a new-born child, put his lips to the nipple, and calf-like draw a draught from the breast, even as a new-born calf fresh from the womb, butting the udder, forces out the quickening flow from the teat. 360 Or else you may give him his fill of some warm and greasy drink and compel him to vomit unwilling though he be, forcing him with your fingers or with a feather; or cut and twist from papyrus a curved throat-tickler.

But if fresh milk turn cheesy in the hollow of a man's stomach, then, as it collects, suffocation overcomes him. Give him three draughts, one of vinegar between two of grape-syrup, and purge his costive bowels. Or further, grate into a draught the root of silphium from Libya, or else some of its gum, and administer it dissolved in vinegar. 370 Or again, you may add to the mixture dispersive lye or a fresh-blooming sprig of Cretan thyme. Sometimes the clustered fruit of the eucnemus well-steeped in wine is a help. Also a drink of curd, they say, disperses the clots; so too the green leaves of mint mixed either with a draught of honey or with an astringent one of vinegar.

Consider now the thorn-apple, whose aspect and whose taste upon the lips are like milk. At once unwonted retchings agitate the throat of the drinker, and by reason of the pain at the mouth of his stomach 380 he either vomits up his food stained with blood, or else he voids it, foul and fill of mucus, from his bowels, like one suffering from the spasms of dysentery. Sometimes worn out with the parching struggle his limbs give way and he falls to the ground, yet has no wish to moisten his dry mouth.

You must either administer draughts of milk, or else perhaps grape-syrup, slightly warmed and mixed with it in his cup. Moreover the flesh from the plump breast of a sleek fowl, softened on the fire and eaten, can be a help; so too is gruel if swallowed by the bowlful; 390 also the creatures which beneath the roaring of the rocky sea ever feed about the weed-clad crags: some of these he should devour raw, others boiled, many of them after broiling over a fire; but dishes of sea-snails or of the purple limpet, of crayfish and pinna and of the brown sea-urchin will be far more helpful, and scallops; neither . . . the trumpet-shell or sea-squirts that revel in the seaweed.

Let not the hateful draught of pharicum escape your memory - for you are not ignorant of it: it causes grievous suffering in the jaws. Know that to the taste it is like spikenard; but it sends men reeling 400 or sometimes out of their senses, and in a single day it can easily kill a strong man.

Now you may either weigh out and administer some of the purse-like root of the fair-flowering mountain nard which the headlands of Cilicia nourish by the brimming Cestrus, or else well-ground Cretan alexanders. Take also the iris itself and the head of the lily, abhorred of Aphrodite, seeing that it was her rival for colour; wherefore in the midst of its petals she attached a thing of shame to vex it, making to grow there the shocking yard of an ass. 410 Or else you may shave his head, and having cut the hair from the roots with a keen-edged razor, take it, and after heating along with it fresh barley-meal and the dry leaves of rue, which in its feeding the caterpillar is quickest to spoil, soak in vinegar and plaster thickly about his temples.  

Let no man in ignorance fill his belly with henbane, as men often do in error, or as children who, having lately put aside their swaddling-clothes and head-bindings, and their perilous crawling on all fours, and walking now upright with no anxious nurse at hand, 420 chew its sprays of baleful flowers through witlessness, since they are just bringing to light the incisor teeth in their jaws, at which time itching assails their swollen gums.

Give the patient either pure milk to drink as a remedy or else fenugreek, which is grown for fodder and puts forth curving horns amid its windswept leaves - a great boon when it floats in common oil. Or else you should give him dried nettle seed, or even the raw leaves of the nettle itself in plenty to suck, or chicory and garden-cress and what they call perseum, 430 and besides these, mustard and radishes in plenty, and mingled with them slender spring onions. A head of garlic with well-grown cloves just taken in a drink also averts disaster.

Learn further that when men drink the tears of the poppy, whose seeds are in a head, they fall fast asleep ; for their extremities are chilled; their eyes do not open but are bound quite motionless by their eyelids. With the exhaustion an odorous sweat bathes all the body, turns the cheeks pale, and causes the lips to swell; the bonds of the jaw are relaxed, 440 and through the throat the laboured breath passes faint and chill. And often either the livid nail or wrinkled nostril is a harbinger of death; sometimes too the sunken eyes.

Of all these symptoms you must not be afraid, but devote yourself entirely to succour, filling the failing man with boiling-hot wine and grape-syrup. Or else make haste to break in pieces the labour of the bee of Hymettus. (Bees were born from the carcase of a calf that had fallen dead in the glades, and there in some hollow oak they first, maybe, united to build their nest, and then, bethinking themselves of work, 450 wrought round it in Demeter's honour their many-celled combs, as with their feet they gathered thyme and flowering heath.) There are times when, prizing open his dog-teeth, or into his drooping jaws, you should squeeze with a tuft of fleecy wool some fresh, fragrant rose-oil or iris-oil or again oil of the sleek olive; and let him drain a thick flock saturated with it. And forthwith rouse him with slaps on either cheek, or else by shouting, or again by shaking him as he sleeps, in order that the swooning man may dispel the fatal drowsiness and may then vomit, ridding himself of the grievous affliction. 460 And dip cloths first in wine and then in warm oil, and rub and chafe his chilled limbs with the liquid; or again, mix them in a bath-tub and dip his body in it, and at once immerse him in the hot bath and so  thaw his blood and soften his taut, dry skin.

Also you should learn to know the dire and fateful drink of the deadly sea-hare, offspring of the waves of the pebbly sea. Its odour is that of fishes' scales and of the water in which they have been scoured; its taste is fishy like that of rotten fish, or of unwashed when scales taint the dish. 470 A sordid creature with its  slim tentacles, it resembles the new-born young of the calamary  or of the octopus or the fugitive cuttlefish, which stains the sea black with its gall directly it perceives the fisherman's crafty assault. Over the limbs of the poisoned spreads the  dusky pallor of jaundice, and piecemeal their flesh melts away and dwindles, and food is utterly loathsome. At times the surface of the flesh swells and grows puffy about the ankles; the eyes are swollen, and as it were luxuriant blossoms settle upon the cheeks. For there follows a scantier flow of urine, which is sometimes red, 480 at others still more bloody in colour. Then the sight of every fish is hateful to his eyes and in his disgust he loathes food from the sea.

Give the patient a sufficient draught of Phocian hellebore or the gum of new-grown scammony in order that he may void both the draught and the filth of the evil fish; or else he should milk a she-ass and drink the milk, or he should dissolve smooth-skinned sprigs of the mallow in a pot. Then again he is given an obol's weight of cedar pitch ; or else let him eat his fill of the scarlet fruit of the pomegranate, the Cretan kind, 490 the wine-red, and the sort they call Promenean, also that from Aegina, and all those which partition hard, red grains into sections by a covering like a spider's web. Or else you should squeeze the flesh of grapes through a strainer, like olives oozing beneath the presses.

But if a man whose throat is constrained by parching thirst fall on his knees and draw water from a stream like a bull, parting with his hand the delicate, moss-like plants, then, approaching eagerly along with the water there rushes upon him in its desire for food the blood-loving leech, 500 long flaccid and yearning for gore. Or when a man's eyes are shrouded beneath dark night, and without thinking he drinks from a pitcher, tipping it up and pressing his lips to its, the creature floating on the surface of the water passes down his throat. At the point to which first the stream drives and collects them, the leeches fasten on in numbers and suck the body's blood, settling now at the entrance where the breath always gathers to pour through the narrow pharynx, and sometimes one clings about the mouths of the stomach inflicting pain, 510 and swallows a fresh repast.

You should administer to the patient a draught of vinegar mixed in his cup, and sometimes with it snow to eat, or ice fresh frozen by the north winds. Or you should dig up some moist, brackish soil and brew therewith a turbid potion to give him strength; or draw actual salt water, and either warm it at once beneath the late summer sun or heat it steadily over a fire. Or else you should give him rock salt in plenty or the salt flakes which a salter ever gathers 520 as they settle at the bottom when he mingles water with water.

Let not the evil ferment of the soil injure a man; it will often swell up in his chest, at other times it will choke him, when it is fostered over the viper's coil deep in its lair, sucking up the monster's venom and the noxious breath from its mouth. This is the evil ferment which they call Fungi in general, for to different kinds different names have been assigned.

Now do you cut of either the head of a cabbage with its coats of leaves or the green fronds of rue, and administer them. Or else crumble the bloom of copper that has had long use, 530 or ashes of the vine in vinegar. Sometimes grate the root of bindweed or some soda into an infusion of vinegar, or a leaf of the cress which grows in garden-plots; and citron too, and the biting mustard. You should also reduce to ashes in the fire the lees of wine or the droppings of the domestic fowl, and then let the man thrust his hand hard down his throat and vomit up the deadly poison.

But if hurt come from a draught, hard to cure, of the sorcerer's lizard, slippery-skinned and utterly reckless, which they call the salamander, and which not even a fierce flame can harm, 540 then on a sudden the base of the tongue is inflamed and then the victims are overcome with chill, and a fearful trembling burdens and loosens their joints. They stagger and crawl upon all fours like an infant, for the faculties of the mind are utterly blunted, and livid weals spreading thick over the skin blotch the extremities as the poison is diffused.

Give the sufferer frequent doses of the tears stripped from the pine-tree mingled with the bee's rich produce; or boil down the leaves of the budding ground-pine together with the cones which the pine puts forth. 550 And sometimes mix the nettle's seed with the finely ground meal of bitter vetch, and dry them. Sometimes too you should sprinkle cooked nettles with crumbling barley-groats, dress well in oil, and force the patient to eat in plenty even against his will. Again, pine-resin and the sacred produce of the bee and the root of all-heal and the delicate eggs of the tortoise are curative when you mix them on a hot fire; curative too the flesh of a hog abounding in fat when boiled down together with the limbs of the sea-turtle which swims at large with weak flippers; or else with those of the mountain tortoise that feeds on tree-medick, the  creature 560 that Hermes the Gracious endowed with a voice though voiceless, for he separated the chequered shell from the flesh and extended two arms from its edges. Further, either you should bend to your service the tadpoles' impudent parents and eryngo roots with them, or you should throw into a pot a sufficient quantity of scammony and cook it. With these fee the sick man to satiety, and though he be near to death, you will save him.

If a man imbibe a draught from the sun-loving toad or from the dumb and green-hued toad which in the springtime cling to the bushes, sleek, and licking up the dew, 570 one of them, the sun-lover, induces a pallor like fustic and causes swellings in  the limbs while the breath issues continually in long gasps and forced, and smells foul at the mouth. Whereas the voiceless one that frequents the reeds sometimes diffuses the yellowness of boxwood over the limbs, 580 and sometimes bedews the mouth with a flow of bile. Sometimes too a man suffers from heart-burn, and persistent hiccups convulse him. And it causes the seed, now of man now of woman, to drip on, and often scattering it over their limbs it renders it infertile. But you should give the patient the flesh of a frog boiled or roasted; sometimes pitch which you have mixed with sweet wine. And the spleen of the deadly toad averts the grievous oppression - the vocal toad of the fen, which cries on the sedge , the first harbinger of delightful spring. Further, for such patients you should sometimes pour out wine in abundance, cup after cup, and induce the man to vomit, reluctant though he be; or else heat over a fire a big-bellied vessel and keep the sick man always warm, and let him sweat profusely. Also you should clip and mix with wine the roots of tall-growing reeds which are nourished by the toads' native marsh, 590 where as tiny creatures they swim about with their feet, or roots of the life loving galingale, female and male; and dry the man's body by ceaseless exercise, keeping him from all food and drink, and exhaust his limbs.

Also do not neglect litharge, which brings suffering when its hateful burden sinks into the stomach and wind circulates and rumbles about the mid navel, as in a violent colic which overpowers men, smiting them with sudden pains. The victim's flow of urine fails; then the limbs swell 600 and the skin has the appearance of lead.

Give the patient either a double obol's weight of myrrh or a fresh infusion of sage, or else cut him hypericum from the hills, or sprigs of hyssop, or again a spray of the wild fig and seed of celery from the Isthmus, beneath which the sons of Sisyphus buried the youthful Melicertes, slain by the sea, and established games. Or else you should roast pepper along with rue and grate them into wine, and so rescue him from deadly sickness. You should also give him fresh buds of henna, or the firstling fruit of the pomegranate 610 with the flower still upon it.

[See that you do not pluck the dangerous, pine-like yew of Oeta: it is the giver of lamentable death, and only a copious draught of unmixed wine can bring instant help when it chokes the pharynx and the narrow passage of a man's throat.]

[Some remedies medicinal for a man against noxious fungi Nicander in fact set down in his book, but in addition to these the myrtle whose twigs Dictynna abhors, and which Hera of the Imbrasus alone receives not for her garland, 620 seeing that it adorned the Cyprian queen on mount Ida, when the goddesses were roused to compete in beauty with one another - from this in some watered glade take as a healing boon the scarlet fruit that waxes and is warmed with the wintry rays of the sun, and pounding them with a pestle strain the juice over fine linen or with a rush sieve and administer a cup containing a cyathus - or more, for a larger dose is serviceable since this draught is not harmful to men - for that is in fact sufficient cure if you drink it.]

And now hereafter you will treasure the memory of Nicander the singer, 630 and observe the command of Zeus, Protector of Friendships.


[68]    Athen. 3.126 B :   Greek text

Nicander in the first book of his two Georgica showing the use of groats also mentions the word mystron [spoon hollowed out of bread] in the following words :

But when you prepare for eating a freshly-killed kid or lamb  or even a chicken, sprinkle the bottom of hollow vessels with unripe wheaten groats and pound them down; then stir up together with fragrant oil. And when the broth seethes, pour it over them . . . but smother by clapping on the lid, for as it stews the coarse meal swells. And when it simmers gently, eat it with hollow scoops of bread.

[69]   Athen. 2.52 E :   Greek text

Oaks, the delight of Pan

says Nicander in the second book of the Georgica.

[70]   Athen. 9.369 B & 4.133 D-E :   Greek text

(a) Nicander in his Georgica mentions the French turnip. (b) And that to whet the appetite they also ate turnips treated with vinegar and mustard Nicander makes plain in the second book of his Georgica, saying . . . (c) Nicander of Colophon mentioned mustard {in Th. 921} and in his Georgica.

But sow turnips on a threshing-floor levelled with a roller, so that they may grow to the shape of low kneading-tables. The turnip . . . for two stocks, turnip and French turnip, both of them long and solid, are to be seen in our garden-plots. French turnips you should wash and dry in the north winds;  they are welcome in winter to those who stay idle indoors, and if soaked in hot water they revive. But the roots of the  turnip you should cut into fine slices after gently washing the dry outer skin, and then let them parch for a little while in the sun; or else dip a number of them in boiling water, and then plunge them into bitter brine; or again pour white must and vinegar into the same vessel in equal quantities, and then immerse them in it and cover with salt. Again, you may pound raisins and the mordant seed of mustard with a pestle and pour them in. And at the same time moist lees of vinegar . . .

[71]   Athen. 9.371 B :   Greek text

Nicander in the second book of his Georgica says:

And along with them a tall stem of fennel, along with them too roots of stone sperage, and even the slatternly carrot as well, Cretan alexanders, and sow-thistle, and hound's tongue, and endive; with them pound also the bitter leaves of cuckoo-pint and the plant which is called 'bird's milk'.

[72]   Athen. 9.372 E :   Greek text

Nicander of Colophon in the second book ofhis Georgica makes mention of this practice, calling kolokyntae {gourds} 'sikyae', for, as we have said before, that was what they used to be called. And this is what he says:

But as to the gourds themselves, when you cut them, put cords through them and dry them in the open air. Then hang them up in the smoke so that in winter your servants may fill a sufficiently ample pot and may gobble them up with no need to work .  .  . the woman who grinds corn pours in pulse of all  kinds. Into it men cast strings of gourds after a thorough cleansing, and mushrooms too, and ropes long since plaited of dried vegetables . . .

[73]   Athen. 9.395 C :   Greek text

Nicander in the second book of his Georgica speaking of Sicilian doves says

And you should rear in your home Dracontian doves which lay two eggs at a time, or doves of Sicily; for it is said that neither kites harm them, nor (?) snakes their eggs.

[74]   Athen. 15.683 A - 684 F :   Greek text

Nicander in the second book of his Georgica, likewise enumerating flowers which are suitable for wreaths, speaks of the Ioniad Nymphs and of roses as follows :

But the flowers of Ionia you should sow, and all such as come to full growth you should transplant. Of gilliflowers there are two kinds, one is yellow and like gold to look upon; the others, those which the Ioniad Nymphs proffered in their yearning as a pure chaplet to Ion in the lands of Pisa; for, pursuing a wild boar with his hounds, he had overtaken it, and in Alpheius's stream he washed the bloodstains from his limbs at eve before passing the night with the Ioniad Nymphs.

But from the thorny rose you should cut shoots and plant them in trenches making them two full palms in length. First, those which Midas of Odonia, when he forsook his kingdom in Asia, raised in the lands of Emathia, ever crowned with full sixty petals in a ring. Second, the roses of Nisaea by  Megara; neither is Phaselis nor the city which reveres the  White-browed Goddess to be spurned, the flourishing city by the waters of Magnesian Lethaeus.

Sometimes plant shoots of the strong-rooted ivy in trenches, sometimes even a spray of the white-berried ivy from Thrace or else the white kind or that with wandering tendrils. They should be plucked as young shoots, and you should strengthen and make them to grow into a single head, fastening the twisted ends deep in freshly plaited baskets in order that two golden clusters may unite and be linked right up to the flaunting crown, the green foliage sheltering them on either side.

From seed no doubt spring the cupped flowers {lilies} that put forth heads, whose petals are white, whose centres saffron-stained. These some poets style krina, and others leiria, others again ambrosia, and many Aphrodite's Joy, for the lily rivalled the hue of her skin. But the thing of shame uprising in its midst has been named the yard of a braying ass.

The iris however is grown from roots - the dwarf iris and that which is like the mourning hyacinth but grows with blossoms swallow-hued, keeping pace with the swallows' coming; and both kinds put forth in folds their ruthless leaves,  and the new-born flower-cups seem ever to have drooping lips. So too grow the flowers of dazzling hue, corn-cockle and plantain; nor shall the camomile in bloom be counted nought, nor the well-known ox-eyes which uplift their head so high,  nor the wallflower that vies with the rising beams of the Sun god. But tufted thyme you will plant on . . . in order that, as  its long sprays creep forward, the wind may blow through  them or that it may hang downwards in its desire for draughts of water.

But of the poppy itself . . . cast away the petals, in order that you may preserve its capsule undevoured by caterpillars, for in truth all creeping things settle upon the petals as they open and feed upon the capsule which is like dewdrops, full as it is of honey-sweet fruit. But when the petals are gone, the heat or else the buffeting winds easily harden the flesh, and the creatures get no firm foothold when they hope to find food, and often their footsteps slip when they essay the solid heads . . .

A good depth of manure in the pot brings on the shoots of marjoram and the young sprigs of the frankincense-tree, and all other plants which gardens furnish to make chaplets for toiling men . . .

Yes, and delicate ferns and the acanthus which resembles the white poplar, and the crocus which closes in the spring, henna too and scented bergamot-mint and all other lovelinesses that unsown a meadow rears in hollow, watered spots, ox-eye and fragrant flower-of-Zeus, chrysanthemums and also hyacinth and low-growing violets, dark, and abhorred of Persephone among flowers. And of their company are the towering all-scent and the cornflags which encircle the graves of virgins  lately dead, and sparkling anemones which with their dazzling  colours lure living maidens from afar.

And everybody plucks elecampane or gleaming blue-daisy and sets it down by the roadside shrines of gods or upon the  statues themselves, as soon as he sees them, gathering sometimes,  too, fair lupins, or else the gold-flower and lilies that fade upon  the tombstones of the dead, and salsify with its grey beard, and modest cyclamens and garden-cress, which men call the garland of the Netherworld Captain.

[75]   Athen. 2.51 D :   Greek text

And Nicander besides in his Georgica explains also that it (the mulberry) appears earlier than other fruits, and he always calls the tree morea, as do the Alexandrian writers too.

And of the mulberry, which is the delight of little boys and is the harbinger to man of the pleasant season of fruit.

[76]   Athen. 2.54 D :   Greek text

The Euboeans named it {i.e. the sweet chestnut} lopimon and karyon, but others balanos

says Nicander of Colophon in his Georgica.

[78]   Athen. 2.60 F :   Greek text

And fungi are generated from the soil, and only a few of them are edible, for the majority choke the eater . . . And Nicander in his Georgica states also which are the deadly ones, and says

Horrid pains are in store from the olive and from the pomegranate and the holm-oak and the oak . . .  the choking weight of puffy fungi that cling to . . .

And he says also,

When you bury the foot of a fig-tree deep in dung and moisten it with a constant flow of water, there will grow on the roots fungi of the harmless kind. You may gather any of these cultivated on the root, but not those which grow on the ground.

(The remainder could not be read.)

[79]   Athen. 2.61 A :   Greek text

And then you will cook some champignons with them, 

says Nicander in the same passage.

[80]   Athen. 2.71 D :   Greek text

Nicander in his Georgica says

At the same time they lop off the side-growths of the date-palm and bear away the 'cabbage', which children delight to eat.

[81]   Athen. 3.72 A :   Greek text

Nicander in his Georgica says

Of beans sow the Egyptian, so that in summer you may contrive garlands with its flowers, and that, when the pods of ripe fruit have fallen off, you may hand them to youths who have long craved for them as they feast. But the tubers I boil down and serve at banquets.

[82]   Athen. 3.72 A :   Greek text

What Nicander calls 'tubers' Alexandrian writers call colocasia; as the same writer has it

Having stripped the colocasium from its bean and shredded it into . . .

[83]   Athen. 3.92 D :   Greek text

And Nicander of Colophon in his Georgica enumerates the following kinds of shell-fish :

Or all such shell-fish also as feed in the depths of the brine - sea-snails and whelks and clams and mussels, the clinging children of the sea-goddess, and the den of the pinna itself.

[84]   Athen. 9.366 D :   Greek text

Nicander of Colophon mentions mustard and in his Georgica says, 

And the mordant seeds of mustard. 

And again:

Garden-cress and pepper-grass and the dark-leaved mustard.

[85]   Athen. 9.370 A :   Greek text

Nicander in his Georgica says :

The cabbage is smooth, but at times the wild form may intrude into sown gardens and flourish with an abundance of leaves, either the curled kind. . . with leaves, or the green, which turns red and looks parched, and the ill-coloured Cumaean which is like the soles wherewith men cobble second-hand sandals. This men of an older generation style a prophet for vegetables.

[86]   Athen. 2.35 A :   Greek text

Nicander of Colophon says that wine {oinos} was so called after Oineus :

And Oeneus squeezed it out into hollow cups and called it oinos.

[87]   Athen. 2.49 F :   Greek text


The fruit they call the cuckoo's.

[90]   Schol. Ther. 349

The word ἀμορβεύειν signifies 'to attend' and 'to minister to'. Nicander in another work writes:

Oxherds attend to the teams of mules.

[91]   Schol. Alex. 298

For he habitually calls bitter, pungent things 'astringent'. For example, he describes unripe grapes as 'drawing up', 'astringent'.

When a draught of unripe grapes draws up the lip.

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