Pelagonius on the Sun and Horses

Pelagonius was the author of a Latin manual of veterinary (Ars veterinaria), specifically horse medicine, parts of which (including the ‘pious words’ in 283) also survive in Greek translation. These short excerpts from the very substantial book were translated by Ɔ. Martiana (Unhistorize), with some borrowing from Anne McCabe, A Byzantine Encyclopaedia of Horse Medicine, p.161-162.


Pelagonius to his Arzygius, greetings!

(1) I greatly admire you for praising horses so often, and for always loving them – and not unworthily are you attached to something so noble and so beloved by all, as even the Sun himself, the lord of the sphere (dominus orbis), the ornament of the cosmos (decus mundi), who, satisfied only with the service of horses, grants us the light we daily hope for either with his horses or through them – and so I would imitate you myself, and write something in their praise, if I could write something worthwhile. But my poor tongue produces little or nothing of literary worth (sermonem); yet it may be presented to the public, since I have begun to speak of cures and medicines for horses.

So do you, who are able, carry on praising, you who are worthy of writing in a literary style (sermone) – it is enough for me to heal what I love, and I am content to flourish from your brilliance. For whatever is in us is to be sought in you, and whatever is in you shines forth in us. So, this book describes cures and medicines through which the body of animals, and especially horses, remains healthy and lively; and I pray that receive it with pleasure, and read it with even more pleasure.


Chapter 283

(1) Another. If a viper, spider or ‘spider mouse’ has bitten (the horse), it is good to pour earth (full) of ants(!) into its throat together with wine, or to rub the wound itself (with this medicine).

And let pious words (verba religiosa) not be lacking, (2) for the Sun, who is the particular lord of horses, strengthens the medicine when he is invoked. Invoke him as follows when you begin to pick up the earth of moles(!): “With your ray, divine Sun, who are hot and cold, this much you took from me!” Say this and pour the medicine described above into (the horse’s) throat.

The invocation runs as follows in Latin and Greek, respectively:

“Ictu, Sol divine calide et frigide, tantum mihi abalienisti.”

“Δέσποτα Ἥλιε θερμὲ καὶ ψυχρέ, τοσοῦτόν με ἀπηλλοτρίωσας.”