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The Fée Verte Absinthe Forum - The Oldest, Largest, Most Authoritative Absinthe Forum. _ The Absinthe Library _ Plinii Secundi: Historia Naturalis

Posted by: Oxygenee Oct 9 2003, 05:23 PM

We'll I'm almost certainly the only one here who has ever worried about this, but the sloppy references to Pliny the Elder's writings on absinthe have always bugged me.

All modern references to Pliny and absinthe, derive not from the original, but to a few lines translated into French in a footnote in Edmond Couleru's 1908 book "Au Pays de l'Absinthe". Couleru incorrectly identifies his extract as coming from Book 37 (XXXVII) of the Historia Naturalis, wheras, as I found out after some tedious searching, the section devoted to absinthe in actually in Book 27 (XXVII). Couleru (or his printers) inserted an extra X. All modern authors, including Madame Delahaye, repeat Couleru's error.

Pliny in fact goes into far more detail than the brief note usually quoted indicates, so being an ex-classics scholar, and having far too much time on my hands at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to provide a translation of the full section.

Pliny begins:
"There are several kinds of absinthe: that called Santonic from a city of Gaul, the Pontic from Pontus, where cattle grow fat on it and because of it are found without gall; there is none finer than this: the Italian is far more bitter, while the pith of the Pontic is sweet. About its use all agree, for it is a plant very easy to find and among the most useful; moreover it is honoured uniquely in the rites of the Roman people in that at the Latin festival when four-horsed chariots race on the Capitol the victor drinks absinthe, because, I believe, our ancestors thought that it was an honourable reward to be given health...."

You can read my entire translation in Adobe PDF format, and see some pictures of a very early edition of the book, on my website:

Ave atque vale

Posted by: Marc Chevalier Oct 9 2003, 05:30 PM

Good Lord, Oxygenée ... you have found the definitive correlation between absinthe-drinking and toga parties.

Let us go forth from this place to another place and recreate an absinthine toga orgy.

AVE MARIA (or something like that)

Posted by: Rimbaud Oct 9 2003, 05:37 PM

Very interesting, Oxy!

Posted by: Donnie Darko Oct 9 2003, 06:06 PM

Good Lord, indeed! The fact that you have a 15th century copy of Pliny the elder's writings is in itself astounding.

When it says the victor of the races drinks absinthe, by what do they mean "Absinthe"? During that time period it was just a non-alcoholic herbal tonic, no?


"Sanguis Bibimus Corpus Edimus Tolle Corpus Satani Ave Versus Christus Ave Satani"--from The Omen score. dev.gif
Jerry Goldsmith said Ave Maria was an inspiration to write that score...

Posted by: Wolfgang Oct 15 2003, 02:57 AM

Thank you for sharing this very precious bit of historical information with us and congratulation for your wise discovery.

Posted by: Kallisti Oct 15 2003, 03:30 AM

also, btw, we linked it from the wormwood pages. yum!

Posted by: Provenance Jan 7 2012, 06:49 AM

and dismemberment better than memory
at recalling what was torn from the body
and what was given back in carefully labeled bags

J. Ake

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