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Treating of the medicinal virtues of agates, Pliny distinguishes between the Indian agates, which were a remedy for diseases of the eyes and those from Egypt and Crete which were especially adapted for curing the bites of spiders or scorpions.
This latter quality was probably attributed to the agate because it was believed to have a cooling influence upon the body. Damigeron directs that when used to cure the bites of venomous creatures the stone should be reduced to a powder, which was to be strewn over the wound; sometimes, however, this powder was dissolved in wine and administered internally.
As an agate, if held in the mouth, was supposed to quench thirst, it was recommended at an early period for the care of fevers and inflammatory diseases.
In Byzantine times the use of agate for inflamed eyes and for headaches is still advised by Psellus (eleventh century), who adds that it checks menstruation and prevents the accumulation of water in cases of dropsy. This he attributes to the wonderful absorbent power of the stone.
It seems most probable that here some kind of hydrophane has been confounded with the agate. The other use, that of checking hemorrhages, presupposes the use of a red variety of agate.