Medicina Plinii

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The Medicina Plinii is a collection of medicinal remedies created in Latin by an unknown author, known as Plinius Secundus Junior , at the beginning of the 4th century . There is no personal connection between the author and Pliny the Elder or his nephew Pliny the Younger .


The author draws his material mainly from volumes 20 to 32 of the Naturalis Historia (= NH) of the older Pliny (1st century). Since these are largely classified according to medicinal products and their animal or vegetable nature, but Medicina Plinii according to diseases or indications, several NH positions are often compiled for one prescription. As with Pliny, there are no quantitative data and the preparation is only briefly described, but emphasis was placed on good availability and short production times.

For some recipes no corresponding passages were found in Pliny, so for 1, 3, 4-5 (vlceribvs in capite). Here there are both quantities and manufacturing instructions. The substances used spuma argenti , cerussa , cera are typical of the emplastra of Scribonius Largus in his compositions , which may have been used here.

In 1, 26 (vomicae) there is also a combination typical of Scribonius Largus: opium, incense, saffron.

Recipe 2, 2 (syntexis) with remedies by the methodologists , such as precise dietary instructions , bathing in seawater, which could be taken from the treatment of Caelius Aurelianus , is also out of the ordinary .
So the author largely relied on the NH, but also used other sources.


The text is divided into a foreword and 3 books, in which drugs and treatments are listed according to complaints. These are available in Book 1 and 2 after already in the Edwin Smith Papyrus (around 1500 v. Chr.) Encountered scheme "from head to toe" ( a capite ad calcem or from head to toe arranged), headache up corn . This is followed by complaints that affect the whole body such as fever, skin diseases, poisons and animal bites.

The preface

The book is aimed at laypeople, who should thereby become independent of doctors - especially when traveling. The scolding of the greed for money and inability of the doctors is reminiscent of similar remarks on NH 29/11.

The diseases

Symptoms such as cough (1, 24), diseases such as consumption (2, 1), parasite infestation and cosmetic recipes such as dyeing the hair black (1, 5) are juxtaposed in a disorderly manner. The names are partly Greek (e.g. 1, 8 Epiphoris), partly Latin (e.g. 1, 6 Avricvlis). Often the disease is not defined or described.

The remedies

The remedies include herbal, animal and mineral substances from medicine and folk medicine, substances from the dirty pharmacy and elements of magical medicine.

Of the 1153 listed substances, 53.7% fall on folk medicine, 12.0% on rational medicine, 23% on magical medicine and 8% on the dirty pharmacy.

Rational medicine and folk medicine

Drugs and regulations that correspond to today's understanding of medicine are considered rational, so in the case of a rash, the advice to avoid skin contact with the sick person and a sulfur-containing paste. Folk medicine ranges from substances such as cantharides and bryonia , which are still used today by alternative practitioners , to hedgehog ash in oil and the like. that have come out of use (1, 18).

Magical medicine

The magical precepts range from usages such as 'left hand picking' (3, 23) to massive practices (3, 21):

"Dantur carnes edendae bestiae occisae eo ferramento quo homo ante occisus est."
"One gives the meat of a wild animal to eat that has been killed with the knife with which a person was previously murdered." (Translation by Gertler)

All magical medicine comes from the NH of Pliny. But Pliny Secundus Junior shifts the emphasis by using these magical means disproportionately. Moreover, Pliny often does not recommend these remedies, but only lists them. Sometimes he also distances himself. He comments on a magical recipe that one should try it, "since a certain measure of hope in misery gives joy" (NH 30, 104). Plinius Secundus Junior, on the other hand, recommends his recipe without reservation.

Filthy pharmacy

The Medicina Plinii contains numerous substances from the dirty pharmacy , urine from various living beings including humans, animal excrement, manure, ear dirt, etc. The substances are already listed in the NH of Pliny.

Further use and text transmission

At the beginning of the fifth century, Marcellus Empiricus almost literally adopted around 400 prescriptions in his work De Medicamentis . The script has come down to us in numerous manuscripts from the 8th to 12th centuries. The oldest is the Codex Sangallensis 751 (9th century).

Parts of the Medicina Plinii are contained in the Physica Plinii , a later compilation of medical-pharmaceutical texts. This is also preserved in numerous manuscripts and was first published in 1509 by Tommaso Pighinucci in a printed version. The Medicina Plinii , however, was published by Valentin Rose in 1875 . In 1964 the richly commented edition of Alf Önnerfors appeared .

Text editions and translations

  • Plinii Secundi Junioris qui feruntur de medicina libri tres. Edited by Alf Önnerfors, Berlin 1964 (= Corpus medicorum Latinorum. Volume 3).
  • Hans Gertler: The text of the Medicina Plinii in German translation after the new edition Önnerfors 1964 in: About the meaning of the "Medicina Plinii Secundi Junioris" , Habilitation thesis Erfurt 1966.
  • Kai Brodersen : Plinius' small first-aid kit (Medicina Plinii, Latin and German) , Franz-Steiner-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2015. ISBN 978-3-515-11026-6



  1. ^ Gundolf Keil: A capite ad calcem. In: Werner E. Gerabek, Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil, Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1.
  2. Hans Gertler, B, II, your medical significance