"...[sleeping potions such as opium or mandragora are applied] to such [people] as shall be cut, or cauterised .... For they do not apprehend the pain because they are overborn [overcome] with dead sleep .... But used too much they make men speechless.”
Pedanius Dioscorides was a celebrated Greek physician, botanist, pharmacologist and surgeon. He travelled with the armies of the Roman Emperor Nero. Dioscorides' foremost work is the five-volume De Materia Medica, the precursor of all modern pharmacopeias.
Dioscorides describes how wine made from mandragora can induce anaesthesia - in the sense of an absence of sensation - in people about to undergo surgery or a cauterization of their wounds. Although this condition did not amount to general anaesthesia in today's sense of the term, Dioscorides usage of the word "anaesthesia" anticipated Holmes' recommendation to Morton by almost 1800 years.
Pliny the Elder
Refs and Further Reading
Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics