Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
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Among the whole range of animated beings, the human fe-

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male is the only one that has the monthly discharge, [Note] and in whose womb are found what we term "moles." These moles consist of a shapeless mass of flesh, devoid of all life, and capable of resisting either the edge or the point of the knife; they are movable in the body, and obstruct the menstrual discharge; sometimes, too, they are productive of fatal consequences to the woman, in the same manner as a real fœtus; while, at other times, they remain in the body until old age; in some cases, again, they are discharged, in consequence of an increased action of the bowels. [Note] Something of a very similar nature is produced in the body of the male, which is called a "schirrus;" [Note] this was the case with Oppius Capito, a man of prætorian rank.

It would indeed be a difficult matter to find anything which is productive of more marvellous effects than the menstrual discharge. [Note] On the approach of a woman in this state, must will become sour, seeds which are touched by her become sterile, grafts wither away, garden plants are parched up, and the fruit will fall from the tree beneath which she sits. Her very look, even, will dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt the edge of steel, and take away the polish from ivory. A swarm of bees, if looked upon by her, will die immediately;

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brass and iron will instantly become rusty, and emit an offensive odour; while dogs which may have tasted of the matter so discharged are seized with madness, and their bite is venomous and incurable.

In addition to this, the bitumen which is found at certain periods of the year, floating on the lake of Judæa, known as Asphaltites, a substance which is peculiarly tenacious, and adheres to everything that it touches, can only be divided into separate pieces by means of a thread which has been dipped in this virulent matter. [Note] It is said that the ant, even an insect so extremely minute, is sensible of its presence, and rejects the grains which it has been carrying, and will not return to them again. [Note]

This discharge, which is productive of such great and singular effects, occurs in women every thirty days, and in a greater degree every three months. [Note] In some individuals it occurs oftener than once a month, and in others, again, it never takes place. Women of this nature, however, are not capable of bearing children, because it is of this substance that the infant is formed. [Note] The seed of the male, acting as a sort of leaven, causes it to unite and assume a form, and in due time it acquires life, and assumes a bodily shape. The consequence is, that if the flow continues during pregnancy, the child will be weak, or else will not live; or if it does, it will be full of gross humours, Nigidius says.

(16.) The same author is also of opinion, that the milk of a woman who is giving suck will not become impure, if she should happen to become pregnant again by the same man. [Note]

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Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
<<Plin. Nat. 7.12 Plin. Nat. 7.13 (Latin) >>Plin. Nat. 7.14

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