Drugs of Death and Madness; Also, How Boars Get High

Galen, De Simpl. Med. 11.752.3

“For this reason, mandrake, hemlock, henbane and poppies, those types of substances I was just mentioning, if someone uses them moderately, then they become rather concentrated in their faculties. But if they take more, they are not only compressed but already a bit numb. If they take the maximum sample, they are no longer numb, but already necrotic.”

διὸ καὶ μανδραγόρας καὶ κώνειον, ὑοσκύαμός τε καὶ μήκων, αὐτὰς δὲ λέγω νῦν τὰς πόας, εἰ μὲν μετρίως τις χρήσαιτο, πυκνωτικαὶ ταῖς δυνάμεσιν ὑπάρχουσιν· εἰ δ’ ἐπὶ πλέον, οὐ πυκνωτικαὶ μόνον, ἀλλ’ ἤδη καὶ ναρκωτικαί· εἰ δ’ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον, οὐκέτι ναρκωτικαὶ μόνον, ἀλλ’ ἤδη καὶ νεκρωτικαί.

 

Plutarch, Table Talk III 649B

“The condition [ivy mixed with wine] induces in those who drink it is not drunkenness but a disruption and madness, just many other substances of this sort like henbane make the mind move manically.”

ὃ γὰρ ἐμποιεῖ τοῖς πιοῦσι πάθος οὐ μέθην ἄν τις εἴποι, ταραχὴν δὲ καὶ παραφροσύνην, οἷον ὑοσκύαμος  ἐμποιεῖ καὶ πολλὰ τοιαῦτα κινοῦντα μανικῶς τὴν διάνοιαν.

 

Aelian, Varia Historia 1.7

“There are boars in the wild who are also not uninformed about the art of medicine. These animals, as it seems, whenever they forget themselves and eat henbane, they drag themselves backwards in their weakness. Even though they are experiencing spasms, they still make it to the water and there they grab crabs and eat them eagerly. These creatures are the antidote for their suffering and they make themselves healthy again.”

Ἦσαν ἄρα οἱ σῦς οἱ ἄγριοι καὶ θεραπείας ἅμα καὶ ἰατρικῆς οὐκ ἀπαίδευτοι. οὗτοι γοῦν ὅταν αὑτοὺς λαθόντες ὑοσκυάμου φάγωσι, τὰ ἐξόπισθεν ἐφέλκουσι, παρειμένως ἔχοντες [οὕτως] αὐτῶν. εἶτα σπώμενοι ὅμως ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα παραγίνονται, καὶ ἐνταῦθα τῶν καρκίνων ἀναλέγουσι καὶ ἐσθίουσι προθυμότατα. γίνονται δὲ αὐτοῖς οὗτοι τοῦ πάθους φάρμακον καὶ ἐργάζονται ὑγιεῖς αὐτοὺς αὖθις.

Image result for medieval manuscript crazy boar

The Wild Boar of Erymanthus by Tomislav Tomi´c

 

 

5 responses

  1. Regarding the first paragraph, I think the meaning of πυκνωτικαὶ ταῖς δυνάμεσιν ὑπάρχουσιν is that those herbs sharpen the faculties, they give one more strength and/or energy or help one become more focused. If the dose is increased, they are not only energetic, but already narcotic (πυκνωτικαὶ μόνον, ἀλλ’ ἤδη καὶ ναρκωτικαί), and the overdose is lethal (οὐκέτι ναρκωτικαὶ μόνον, ἀλλ’ ἤδη καὶ νεκρωτικαί). So there should be a progression from πυκνωτικαὶ > ναρκωτικαί > ναρκωτικαί, which is not evident if you choose to translate these with “concentrated” > “numb” > “necrotic”. Just a thought.

      • Ah, ok. It just wasn’t obvious to me from the translation if the substances themselves are numbness/narcose/death *inducing* (to humans taking them) or concentrated/numb/necrotic in and of themselves. I would go with the former.

  2. Pingback: Galen on the Judicious Use of Narcotics « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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