MORE ANCIENT SOURCES
Josephus, War 7.6.3 (1st cent. A.D.)
(178) Now within this place there grew a sort of rue,1 that deserves our wonder on account of its largeness, for it was no way inferior to any fig tree whatsoever, either in height or in thickness; (179) and the report is, that it had lasted ever since the times of Herod, and would probably have lasted much longer, had it not been cut down by those Jews who took possession of the place afterwards; (180) but still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side, there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself;2 (181) its color is like to that of flame, and towards the evening it sends out a certain ray like lightning: it is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; (182) nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless anyone take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. (183) It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, (184) they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need anyone be afraid of taking it into their hands. (185) Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called Demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive, and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. (186) Here are also foundations of hot water, that flow out of this place, which have a very different taste one from the other; for some of them are bitter, and others of them are plainly sweet. (187) Here are also many eruptions of cold waters, and this not only in the places that lie lower, and have their fountains near one another, (188) but, what is still more wonderful, here is to be seen a certain cave hard by, whose cavity is not deep, but it is covered over by a rock that is prominent; (189) above this rock there stands up two [hills or] breasts, as it were, but a little distant, one from another, the one of which sends out a fountain that is very cold, and the other sends out one that is very hot; which waters, when they are mingled together, compose a most pleasant bath; they are medical indeed for other maladies, but especially good for strengthening the nerves. This place has in it also mines of sulphur and alum.