Οἱ συνεχῶς ἐτῶν οὐκ ὀλίγων ἐφεξῆς γενόμενοι λιμοὶ κατὰ πολλὰ τῶν Ῥωμαίοις ὑπακουόντων ἐθνῶν ἐναργῶς ἐπεδείξαντο τοῖς γε μὴ παντάπασιν ἀνοήτοις, ἡλίκην ἔχει κακοχυμία δύναμιν εἰς νόσων γένεσιν. οἱ μὲν γὰρ τὰς πόλεις οἰκοῦντες, ὥσπερ ἦν ἔθος αὐτοῖς παρασκευάζεσθαι κατὰ τὸ θέρος εὐθέως σῖτον αὐτάρκη πρὸς ὅλον τὸν ἐφεξῆς ἐνιαυτὸν, ἐκ τῶν ἀγρῶν πάντα τὸν πυρὸν αἴροντες ἅμα ταῖς κριθαῖς τε καὶ τοῖς κυάμοις καὶ φακοῖς, ἀπέλιπον τοῖς ἀγροίκοις τοὺς ἄλλους Δημητρίους καρποὺς, οὕς ὀνομάζουσιν ὄσπριά τε καὶ χέδροπα, μετὰ τοῦ καὶ τούτων αὐτῶν οὐκ ὀλίγα κομίζειν εἰς ἄστυ. τὰ γοῦν ὑπολειφθέντα διὰ τοῦ χειμῶνος ἐκδαπανῶντες οἱ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἄνθρωποι τροφαῖς κακοχύμοις ἠναγκάζοντο χρῆσθαι δι’ ὅλου τοῦ ἦρος, ἐσθίοντες ἀκρέμονάς τε καὶ βλάστας δένδρων καὶ θάμνων, καὶ βολβοὺς, καὶ ῥίζας κακοχύμων φυτῶν, ἐμφορούμενοι δὲ καὶ τῶν ἀγρίων ὀνομαζομένων λαχάνων, ὅτου τις ἔτυχεν εὐπορήσας, ἀφειδῶς ἄχρι κόρου, καθάπερ καὶ πόας χλωρὰς ὅλας ἕψοντες ἤσθιον, ὧν πρότερον οὐδ’ ἄχρι πείρας ἐγεύσαντο πώποτε. παρῆν οὖν ὁρᾶν ἐνίους μὲν αὐτῶν ἐν τοῖς ἐσχάτοις τοῦ ἦρος, ἅπαντας δ’ ὀλίγου δεῖν ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ θέρους ἁλισκομένους ἕλκεσι παμπόλλοις κατὰ τὸ δέρμα συνισταμένοις, οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν ἰδέαν ἅπασιν ἴσχουσι· τὰ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῶν ἦν ἐρυσιπελατώδη, τὰ δὲ φλεγμονώδη, τὰ δ’ ἑρπυστικὰ, τὰ δὲ λειχηνώδη, καὶ ψωρώδη, καὶ λεπρώδη. τούτων μὲν ὅσα πρᾳότατα, διὰ τοῦ δέρματος ἐξανθήσαντα τὴν κακοχυμίαν ἐκ τῶν σπλάγχνων τε καὶ τοῦ βάθους ἐκένωσεν· ἐνίοις δέ τισιν ἀνθρακώδη τε καὶ φαγεδαινικὰ γενόμενα μετὰ τῶν πυρετῶν, ἀπέκτεινε πολλοὺς ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ μόλις ὀλιγίστων σωθέντων. ἄνευ δὲ τῶν κατὰ τὸ δέρμα παθημάτων πυρετοὶ πάμπολλοι ἐγένοντο, διαχωρήσεις γαστρὸς ἐπιφέροντες δυσώδεις καὶ δακνώδεις, εἰς τεινεσμοὺς καὶ δυσεντερίας τελευτώσας, οὖρά τε δριμέα, καὶ αὐτὰ δυσώδη, τὴν κύστιν ἐνίων ἑλκώσαντα. τινὲς δ’ αὐτῶν ἐκρίθησαν ἱδρῶσι, καὶ τούτοις δυσώδεσιν, ἢ ἀποστήμασι σηπεδονώδεσιν. οἷς δ’ οὐδὲν τούτων ἐγένετο, πάντες ἀπέθανον ἢ μετὰ φανερᾶς φλεγμονῆς ἑνός γέ τινος τῶν σπλάγχνων, ἢ διὰ τὸ μέγεθός τε καὶ τὴν κακοήθειαν τῶν πυρετῶν. ὀλιγίστων δὲ φλέβα τεμεῖν ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς νόσου τολμησάντων ἐνίων ἰατρῶν, (ἐδεδίεσαν γὰρ εἰκότως χρῆσθαι τῷ βοηθήματι διὰ τὸ προκαταλελῦσθαι τὴν δύναμιν,) οὐδενὸς εἶδον αἷμα χρηστὸν ἐκκριθὲν, ὁποῖον ἐκ τῶν ὑγιεινῶν σωμάτων ὁρᾶται κενούμενον, ἀλλ’ ἤτοι πυρρότερον, ἢ μελάντερον, ἢ ὀῤῥωδέστερον, ἢ δριμὺ καὶ δάκνον αὐτὴν τὴν διαιρεθεῖσαν φλέβα κατὰ τὴν ἐκροὴν, ὡς δυσεπούλωτον γενέσθαι τὸ ἕλκος. ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ συμπτώματα μετὰ τῶν πυρετῶν, καὶ μάλιστα τοῖς ἀποθανοῦσιν, ἐγένοντο βλάβην τῆς διανοίας ἐπιφέροντα σὺν ἀγρυπνίαις καὶ καταφοραῖς. οὐδὲν δὲ θαυμαστὸν, ἐναντίοις ἁλῶναι νοσήμασί τε καὶ συμπτώμασι τοὺς τότε νοσήσαντας, αὐτούς τε διαφέροντας ἀλλήλοις οὐ ταῖς φύσεσι μόνον ἢ ταῖς ἡλικίαις, ἀλλὰ καὶ ταῖς ἔμπροσθεν διαίταις, ἐναντίαν τε δύναμιν ἐχούσας ἐδηδοκότας ἐν τῷ λιμῷ τροφάς. ἤσθιον μὲν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὧν ηὐπόρουν· ἀνομοίου δὲ τῆς εὐπορίας οὔσης, ἔνιοι μὲν ὀξεῖς, ἢ δριμεῖς, ἢ ἁλυκοὺς, ἢ πικροὺς ἔχοντα χυμοὺς ἐδέσματα προσηνέγκαντο, τινὲς δ’ αὐστηροὺς, ἢ στρυφνοὺς, ἢ ψύχοντας σαφῶς, ἢ ὑγροὺς ἱκανῶς, ἢ γλίσχρους, ἢ φαρμακώδεις. οἶδα γοῦν ἐνίους μὲν αὐτίκα διὰ μυκήτων ἐδωδὴν ἀποθανόντας, ἐνίους δὲ διὰ κωνείων, ἢ ναρθήκων, ὀλίγους δ’ ἐξ αὐτῶν μόγις διασωθέντας.
(Galen, De rebus boni malique suci 6.749-752K = C.M.G. 18.104.22.1689-391)
The famines that occurred continuously, many years in a row, in many peoples subject to the Romans have shown to those who aren’t completely without understanding what great power bad juices have in the generation of diseases. Now the inhabitants of the cities have the habit of providing for themselves, right after summer, sufficient grain for the entire following year, taking all wheat from the fields, along with the barley, beans and lentils, and leaving for the country people the other fruits of Demeter, the ones we call pulses and legumes, after having taken a sizable portion to town from those as well. So, having exhausted what remained during the winter, the people in the country were forced to use unwholesome foods throughout springtime, eating twigs and shoots of trees and bushes, and bulbs, and roots of indigestible plants. They also filled themselves with so-called wild herbs, whichever ones there happened to be large quantities of, and they used them freely and to satiety, as they also cooked and ate all sorts of green grasses that previously they had never so much as tasted even to try. As a result one could see some of these people by the end of spring, and virtually all of them at the beginning of summer, victim to numerous ulcers that formed on the skin; and they did not all have the same look, for some were similar to erysipelas, others to phlegmon, others to herpes, and yet others to lichen, scabies or lepra. The most benign ones, when breaking through the skin, purged the bad juices from the entrails and from deep within the body; but in others these turned into anthrax and gangreen, accompanied by fevers, and they killed many, only a very few being narrowly saved, and only after a long time. As for those whose skin was not affected, they too were gripped by numerous fevers, inflicting malodorous, pungent evacuations of the bowels, ending in tenesmus and dysentery, and acrid urination, also malodorous, and causing ulcerations of the bladder in some. For some the sickness took the form of sweats, these too malodorous, or putrid abscesses. As to those who had none of these things, they all died either due to noticeable inflammation of some organ or other, or because of the intensity and virulence of the fevers. In those very rare cases where a doctor had dared to open a vein in the early stages of the illness (a remedy which they were afraid to use, with reason, given the weakened condition of the patients), they never saw good blood being secreted, such as can be seen flowing from healthy bodies, but either yellowish blood, or blackish, or whey-like, or acidic and corroding the incised vein itself when flowing out, making it hard for the wound to scar over. In some, especially in those who were dying, the fevers were accompanied by symptoms that involved loss of the mental faculties along with insomnia and lethargy. And we shouldn’t be surprised that the people who were sick in those days fell prey to different diseases and conflicting symptoms, as they differed from each other not only in constitution and age, but also by their previous diets, since during the famine they had eaten food with contrasting properties. For everyone ate that which he had in abundance; but since this abundance varied, the juices of the food that some fed on were acrid, sour, salty, or bitter, while those of others’ were dry, or astringent, or had a clear cooling effect, or were too liquid, or viscous, or medicinal. I know for instance that some died straight away from eating mushrooms, others from hemlock or wild fennel, and just a few of them only barely recovered. (tr. David Bauwens)