Fragments of this lost commentary on the Aeneid were recently found near a monument to Saint Raphael. The work, dated to 420 CE, was signed only with the name “Louis.” This comment is on Book VI when Aeneas and Sibyl subdue Cerberus in the underworld. Edited by Dani Bostick
Seeing Cerberus’ neck bristling with snakes,
the priestess tosses him a treat laced with honey
and medicated grains. Opening his three throats,
rabid with hunger, he scarfs down what she tossed, and
his huge backs relax as he falls to the ground, spread
out across the entire cave.
Cui vātēs horrēre vidēns iam colla colubrīs
melle sopōrātam et medicātīs frūgibus offam 420
obicit. Ille famē rabidā tria guttura pandēns
corripit obiectam, atque immānia terga resolvit
fūsus humī tōtōque ingēns extenditur antrō.
6.420 she tosses a treat laced with honey and medicated grains
Here “treat” is a pot brownie. 420 is an extraordinary number. If one were to sail from Carthage to Alba Longa with a stop in Sicily, the journey would be 420 miles. Here, however, is not the number 420. You see, 4 is April, the fourth month of the year, and 20 is the twentieth day of the month (the 12th day before the Kalends). On this day, almost everyone enjoys cannabis.
Ovid once wrote, “Caesar, in April you have something which might take control of you” (Fasti 4.20). He added, “Aeneas, manifest piety, carried through fire sacred things and his father on his shoulders, other sacred things.” Ovid is telling us that Aeneas imported cannabis, “sacred things,” into Italy as a trafficker of drugs. We also know that oracles use such drugs frequently.
For these reasons, the treat consumed by Cerberus was not full of opiates, but rather cannabis. Since the treat was not only drugged with honey, but with “medicated grains,” which we call “cannabis,” Cerberus immediately passes out when he eats it. When men consume cannabis, some lose their minds and rage in reefer madness, others, calm as stones, rest on the sofa and, eager for food, satisfy their hunger with snacks.
6.420 melle soporatam et medicatis frugibus offam
Hic “offam” est crustulum cannabis.
420 est numerus extraordinarius. Si quis, commoratus in Sicilia, a Karthagine ad Albam Longam navigaret, iter CDXX milium passuum esset. Hic tamen non est CDXX, sed numerus diei. Nam IV est Mensis Aprilis, quarta mensis anni; XX est vicesima dies mensis, a.d. XII Kal. Ea die paene omnes cannibi fruuntur.
Ovidius olim scripsit: “Caesar, in Aprili, quo tenearis, habes” (4.20). addidit, “Aeneas, pietas spectata, per ignes sacra patremque humeris, altera sacra, tulit.” nobis dicit Aenean cannabim, “sacra,” in Italiam mercatorem medicamentorum portavisse. Scimus etiam vates medicamentis saepe fruari.
Quibus de causis, offa a Cerbero comesta non est plena papaverum, sed cannabis. Cum offa non modo melle, sed etiam “medicatis frugibus,” quas “cannabim” vocamus, soporata esset, Cerberus ea comesta subito obdormivit. Cum homines cannabim consumunt, alii furibundi insania cautum furiant, alii placati velut lapides in toro conquiescunt avidique cibi latrantem stomachum cenulis leniunt.
Vide: Hesychius, s.v. kannabis
Kannabis: A Skythian herb for burning which has the kind of power that it completely dries out anything subject to it. It is a plant similar to linen from which Thracians make ropes (Cf. Herodotus 4.74.)
κάνναβις· Σκυθικὸν θυμίαμα, ὃ τοιαύτην ἔχει δύναμιν, ὥστε ἐξικμάζειν πάντα τὸν παρεστῶτα. ἔστι δὲ φυτόν τι λίνῳ ὅμοιον, ἐξ οὗ αἱ Θρᾷσσαι ἱμάτια ποιοῦσιν. ῾Ηρόδοτος (4,74)
“Kannabisthênai: to extract and burn cannabis.”
κανναβισθῆναι· πρὸς τὴν κάνναβιν ἐξιδρῶσαι καὶ πυριασθῆναι
N.B. This discovery may have been satirical. The Hesychius is real.
One thought on “The Aeneid’s Pot Brownie, Commentary on 6.420”
I have many favorite parts of this, but I think the scholiast’s turn to Ovid to explain Aeneas’ use of drugs in the underworld is amazing. Also, Aeneas as a drug trafficker is a modern reception the world needs.