Pliny the Elder's Phamacopoea

    PLINY THE ELDER'S PHAMACOPOEA

Octobre 2012                    André J. Fabre               

In his De Naturalis Historiae Pliny the Elder gives ample evidence that, from the first century A.D., the Roman world had a full knowledge of medicinal drugs. In this respect, Pliny could be regarded as one of the founders of our modern pharmacology.His work is of paramount importance in the history of sciences.

     Pliny's work, De Naturalis Historiae is not intended to promote new ideas or new techniques but present what could be called the first attempt in History to developp a new concept of mass knowledge industry. This concept  is clearly stated in XXIX.19 : " Aliena memoria salutamus, aliena vivimus will opera, alienis oculis agnostimus ".

     On this basis, the scope of this study is to evaluate, from our modern criteria, the enormous amount of knowledge  accumulated by Pliny the Elder two thousand years ago .

     Obviously some parts of Pliny's erudition did not stand the wear of time but, in reference to the current development of sciences in such fields as phytotherapie and ethno-botany, many informations contained in "De naturalis historiae" could lead the way to further researches.

     A last word will go to computers : as presented in this study, use of data processing can be expected to bring  a powerful help for better understanding of ancient medical texts.

                    

 Book

Subject

                 I.         

Pliny's table of contents, index, and bibliography as he wrote them.

                II.         

Astronomy and meteorology.

               III.         

Geography of the Western Mediterranean.

              IV.         

Geography of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, continental and northern Europe.

               V.         

Geography of Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.

              VI.         

Geography of Asia; summary overview and wrap-up of world geography.

            VII.         

Anthropology and human physiology.

           VIII.         

Land animals: elephants, lions, tigers, panthers; cows, horses, asses, mules, sheep, goats; mice, dormice and a few others.

              IX.         

Marine animals: whales, dolphins, fish, shellfish, etc.

               X.         

Birds; animal reproduction; the five senses.

              XI.         

Insects, then comparative zoology, fumblings toward a taxonomy.

            XII.         

Exotic plants, spices and perfumes: from India, Egypt, Mesopotamia etc.

           XIII.         

More plants, including aquatic plants.

          XIV.         

Plants: the vine and wine.

           XV.         

Plants: the olive tree; oil and its uses; fruit and nut trees.

          XVI.         

More trees, mostly evergreens.

         XVII.         

Fruit trees and vines and the art of planting them.

       XVIII.         

How to run a farm.

          XIX.         

Garden plants, including a long section on flax.

           XX.         

More garden plants: mostly vegetables.

          XXI.         

Flowers.

         XXII.         

Miscellaneous plants, including dye plants.

       XXIII.         

Medicinal properties of wine, vinegar, oil, nuts, fruit.

      XXIV.         

Medicinal properties of trees and herbs.

        XXV.         

Medicinal properties of herbs.

      XXVI.         

Major medicinal herbs. The book opens with a section on new diseases.

     XXVII.         

Minor medicinal herbs, in roughly alphabetical order.

    XXVIII.         

Medicinal uses of the human body's own products (and discussion of charms); of animal products.

      XXIX.         

Medicinal uses of animal products, continued; but the book starts with a long stiff diatribe against doctors.

        XXX.         

Medicinal uses of animal products, continued; this time the book starts with a preamble about magic arts.

      XXXI.         

Medicinal uses of marine products: salt, plants, sponges, etc.

     XXXII.         

Medicinal uses of marine animals.

    XXXIII.         

Metals: mostly gold, silver and mercury.

   XXXIV.         

Metals: bronze and lead; but mostly a discussion of statues, in fact.

    XXXV.         

Uses of earth; but starting with pigments, is mostly a discussion of painters, although the end of the Book goes back to sulphur.

 

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