Stuff the Suda Says: Medea’s Oil

The Suda is a Byzantine Encyclopedia presenting a great deal of information about Greco-Roman antiquity. Some of the material is invaluable; much of it is strange.But if you want more, a translation is available for free in the amazing Suda Online.


Mêdea: Genitals; also, plans.”

Μήδεα: τὸ αἰδοῖον καὶ τὰ βουλεύματα.


Mêdeia: Kolkhian, daughter of Aietes, most talented of women at magic potions. She made Jason unharmed when he yoked the fire-breathing bulls to plow the earth. And after he took the golden fleece, he also took Medeia with him. This is why Greeks call naphtha [flammable oil] Mêdea’s oil.

Μήδεια, Κολχίς, ἡ Αἰήτου θυγάτηρ, φαρμακιστάτη γυναικῶν· ἥτις ἀσινῶς ἐποίησε τὸν ᾿Ιάσονα ζεύξαντα τοὺς πυριπνόους ταύρους ἀρόσαι τὴν γῆν. καὶ λαβὼν τὸ χρυσόμαλλον δέρας ἠγάγετο τὴν Μή-δειαν. ὅτι οἱ ῞Ελληνες τὴν νάφθαν καλοῦσι Μηδείας ἔλαιον.


Naphtha: this has three forms. Commonly it is called naptha [feminine]. It is also found in the neuter form, though in Plutarch we find the masculine naphthos. The Greeks also call it Mêdeia’s oil, while the Persians call it naphtha.”

Νάφθα: τριγενὲς τοῦτο· κοινῶς μὲν γὰρ ἡ νάφθα, εὕρηται δὲ καὶ οὐδετέρως τὸ νάφθα, παρὰ Πλουτάρχῳ δὲ καὶ ὁ νάφθος. ὅτι οἱ μὲν ῞Ελληνες Μηδείας ἔλαιον ταύτην καλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Μῆδοι νάφθαν.


Medea Dagons

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