Ancient history excerpts — Remedies for head-ache and for wounds on the head

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Pausanias (c. A.D. 143-176)
Description of Greece

2.28.1 The serpents of Corinth

The serpents, including a peculiar kind of a yellowish color, are considered sacred to Asclepius, and are tame with men. These are peculiar to Epidauria, and I have noticed that other lands have their peculiar animals. For in Libyaonly are to be found land crocodiles at least two cubits long; from India alone are brought, among other creatures, parrots. But the big snakes that grow to more than thirty cubits, such as are found in India and in Libya, are said by the Epidaurians not to be serpents, but some other kind of creature.

Pliny the Elder (c. A.D. 23-79)
Natural History

29.36 Remedies for head-ache and for wounds on the head

A good remedy for head-ache are the heads taken from the snails which are found without shells, and in an imperfect state. In these heads there is found a hard stony substance, about as large as a common pebble: on being extracted from the snail, it is attached to the patient, the smaller snails being pounded and applied to the forehead. Wool-grease, too, is used for a similar purpose; the bones of a vulture’s head, worn as an amulet; or the brains of that bird, mixed with oil and cedar resin, and applied to the head and introduced into the nostrils. The brains of a crow or owlet, are boiled and taken with the food: or a cock is put into a coop, and kept without food a day and a night, the patient submitting to a similar abstinence, and attaching to his head some feathers plucked from the neck or the comb of the fowl. The ashes, too, of a weasel are applied in the form of a liniment; a twig is taken from a kite’s nest, and laid beneath the patient’s pillow; or a mouse’s skin is burnt, and the ashes applied with vinegar: sometimes, also, the small bone is extracted from the head of a snail that has been found between two cart ruts, and after being passed through a gold ring, with a piece of ivory, is attached to the patient in a piece of dog’s skin; a remedy well known to most persons, and always used with success.

For fractures of the cranium, cobwebs are applied, with oil and vinegar; the application never coming away till a cure has been effected. Cobwebs are good, too, for stopping the bleeding of wounds made in shaving. Discharges of blood from the brain are arrested by applying the blood of a goose or duck, or the grease of those birds with oil of roses. The head of a snail cut off with a reed, while feeding in the morning, at full moon more particularly, is attached to the head in a linen cloth, with an old thrum, for the cure of headache; or else a liniment is made of it, and applied with white wax to the forehead. Dogs’ hairs are worn also, attached to the forehead in a cloth.

Pliny the Younger (c. A.D. 62-113)

9.6 Pliny complains about how grown men enjoy the chariot races

I have spent these several days past, in reading and writing, with the most pleasing tranquillity imaginable. You will ask, “How that can possibly be in the midst of Rome?” It was the time of celebrating the Circensian games: an entertainment for which I have not the least taste. They have no novelty, no variety to recommend them, nothing, in short, one would wish to see twice. It does the more surprise me therefore that so many thousand people should be possessed with the childish passion of desiring so often to see a parcel of horses gallop, and men standing upright in their chariots. If, indeed, it were the swiftness of the horses, or the skill of the men that attracted them, there might be some pretence of reason for it. But it is the dress1 they like; it is the dress that takes their fancy. And if, in the midst of the course and contest, the different parties were to change colours, their different partisans would change sides, and instantly desert the very same men and horses whom just before they were eagerly following with their eyes, as far as they could see, and shouting out their names with all their might. Such mighty charms, such wondrous power reside in the colour of a paltry tunic! And this not only with the common crowd (more contemptible than the dress they espouse), but even with serious-thinking people. When I observe such men thus insatiably fond of so silly, so low, so uninteresting, so common an entertainment, I congratulate myself on my indifference to these pleasures: and am glad to employ the leisure of this season upon my books, which others throw away upon the most idle occupations. Farewell.

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