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Antonii Musae De herba Vettonica liber, Pseudoapulei Herbarius, Anonymi De taxone liber, Sexti Placiti Liber medicinae ex animalibus, ediderunt E. Howald et H. E. Sigerist, Leipzig-Berlin 1927 (Corpus medicorum latinorum. Vol. 4).
Pseudo-Apuleius’ Herbarius is a late-antique treatise on herbal remedies; it is transmitted within a corpus of texts concerned with herbal and animal remedies that also contains the De herba vettonica of Pseudo-Antonius Musa, the De taxone, and the Liber medicinae ex animalibus pecoribus et bestiis vel avibus of Sextus Placidus (or Placitus) Papyriensis.
Despite its explicitly provisionary nature and its methodological limitations, the critical edition of reference for the Herbarius is that of Howald and Sigerist. According to these editors, the transmission of this late-antique corpus of medical texts can be divided into three families of manuscripts (classes α, β, and γ); these, in turn, go back to three hyparchetypes that date to before the 7th c. AD and do not relate their contents in a homogenous manner. The collection is transmitted by a large number of manuscripts: in particular Howald and Sigerist claimed that a countless number of manuscripts from classis β existed “per totum orbem terrarum.” More than fifty codices are mentioned in the preface to their edition, and the stemma codicum locates thirty-nine of these within the textual transmission.
The tone of the collection’s prefatory letter is quite similar to the one found before the Medicina Plinii: the author’s goal is furnishing the reader with a guide to therapeutic remedies for various afflictions so that he can avoid the intervention of doctors, a group described as useless, greedy, and often more harmful than the maladies they ought to cure (“saeviores ipsis morbis”). Consequently, as in the case of the Medicina Plinii, the Herbarius presents itself as an alternative to medical professionals, who are characterized by unhealthy greed and a weak sense of responsibility.
The collection opens with an index of maladies (tituli morborum) for which herbal remedies are proposed; this is followed by an explanation a capite ad calcem containing many digressions; in all, 193 diseases are treated, one of which has not been included and eighteen of which the editors integrated in the text.
The Herbarius contains 130 chapters corresponding to the various herbae. At the end of the treatise proper, Howald and Sigerist have added sections called additamenta that were already present in the archetype; these include a short text entitled Praesidium pastillorum, auxilium sanitatis, quod utebatur imperator Augustus and a brief treatment of mandrake root called the Effectus herbae mandragorae (§131). Every chapter is accompanied by an illustration of the herb considered (though admittedly not every codex preserves these drawings) together with descriptions of how to prepare remedies from it, these being placed under the heading of the various maladies that can be treated by the given herb’s medicinal properties. The chapters often include a final section on the nomina herbae, where various names for the same herb are enumerated.
About the chronology of the text’s composition, the Medicina Plinii, which was probably written in the first half of the 4th c. AD, furnishes a secure terminus post quem, since it appears to have been a source for the Herbarius. It is harder to determine a terminus ante quem, but Marcellus Empiricus may provide such a date if certain scholars are correct in proposing that he relied on the Herbarius in composing his De medicamentis (395-415 AD). We may thus conclude that the Herbarius was probably written in the 4th c. [D. Paniagua; tr. C. L. Caterine].