A Curse from Teos For One of Our National Disasters: Woe for the Drug-Makers!

SGDI 15632 (Teos, c. 475 BCE; from Buck, Greek Dialects: Ionic Inscriptions, 3)

“Whoever should make deadly drugs for the Teian community or for an individual, destroy him and his family. Whoever stops the importation of grain into the Teian land or repels it as it is being imported either with skill or device and on sea or on land, destroy him and his family.”

Tean

Here’s the inscription from PHI Greek Inscriptions, Teos 261

ὅστις ∶ φάρμακα ∶ δηλητήρια ∶ ποιοῖ ∶ ἐπὶ Τηΐοισιν ∶ τὸ ξυνὸν ∶ ἢ ἐπ’ ἰδιώτηι, ∶ κε͂νον ∶ ἀπόλλυσθαι ∶ καὶ αὐτὸν ∶ καὶ γένος ∶ τὸ κένο ∶ ὅστις ∶ ἐς γῆν ∶ τὴν Τηΐην ∶ κωλύοι ∶ σῖτον ∶ ἐσάγεσθαι ∶ἢ τέχνηι ∶ ἢ μηχανῆι ∶ ἢ κατὰ θάλασσαν ∶ ἢ κατ’ ἤπειρον ∶ ἢ ἐσαχθέντα ∶ ἀνωθεοίη, ∶ ἀπόλλυσθαι ∶ καὶ αὐτὸν ∶ καὶ γένος ∶ τὸ κένο.

 

Aristotle (On Plants) and Galen (varia) define deleterious medicines (δηλητήρια φάρμακα) as those that are fatal to human beings, such as poisonous venom or substances coming from hemlock (or concentrations of opium, henbane etc.). Of course, such things are weaponized fairly early in human history as this threatening inscription above from Teos illustrates.

Early medical authors understood the moral obligations of physicians and pharmacologists:

Galen, Method of Medicine 816k

“There is, therefore, a safe limit of medical treatment for one struggling admirably according to the practice of medicine against a sickness—and it is also the safeguard of ability for the one who is trying to soothe the pain. Beyond this is the work of a poor doctor, resulting in the end of the patient’s life with the sickness.

It is a flatterer’s act to try to please the patient, because this places pleasure not health as the primary aim. Practitioners descend into these kinds of extremes in many ways but especially in different types of treatments among which are chiefly the so-called anodyne medicines which are made from the poppy or seed of henbane, the root of mandrake, the storax or any other kind of thing.

Doctors who yield to the sick and use too much of these sorts of drugs destroy their patients with the pains as much as those who give them at the wrong time, in the wrong measure, or not at all.

Therefore, just as in everything else in life—in habits and actions—here the appropriate guideline to take is “nothing in excess”. The appropriate marker is the health of the sick…”

ὅρος οὖν ἐπὶ καμνόντων τῷ κατὰ τὸν λόγον τῆς τέχνης ἀγωνιζομένῳ γενναίως πρὸς τὸ νόσημα τὸ τῆς Kἰάσεως | ἀσφαλές· ὥσπερ γε καὶ τῷ πραΰνοντι τὰς ὀδύνας ἡ τῆς δυνάμεως φυλακή. τὸ δ᾿ ἐπέκεινα τῶνδε σκαιοῦ μὲν ἀνδρὸς ἔργον ἐστίν, ἅμα τῷ νοσήματι καὶ τὴν ζωὴν ἀφελέσθαι τὸν ἄνθρωπον· κόλακος δὲ τὸ χαρίζεσθαι τῷ νοσοῦντι, σκοπὸν ὧν πράττει θέμενον ἡδονήν, οὐχ ὑγείαν. ἐμπίπτουσι δ᾿ εἰς τὰς τοιαύτας ὑπερβολὰς ἐν πολλαῖς μὲν καὶ ἄλλαις ὕλαις βοηθημάτων οἱ ἰατροί, μάλιστα δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς καλουμένοις ἀνωδύνοις φαρμάκοις, ὅσα δι᾿ ὀποῦ μήκωνος, ἢ ὑοσκυάμουσπέρματος, ἢ μανδραγόρου ῥίζης, ἢ στύρακος, ἤ τινος τοιούτου συντιθέασιν. οἵ τε γὰρ χαριζόμενοι τοῖς νοσοῦσι πλεονάζουσιν ἐν τῇ χρήσει τῶν τοιούτων φαρμάκων, οἵ τ᾿ ἀκαίρως καὶ ἀμέτρως γενναῖοι μηδ᾿ ὅλως χρώμενοι διαφθείρουσιν ὀδύναις τοὺς κάμνοντας. ὥσπερ οὖν ἐν ἁπάσαις ταῖς καθ᾿ ὅλον τὸν βίον ἕξεσί τε καὶ πράξεσιν, οὕτω κἀνταῦθα τὸ μηδὲν ἄγαν αἱρετέον, ὅρον ἔχοντα τὴν ὠφέλειαν τοῦ κάμνοντος.

Scholia bT ad Il. 1.594

“[The Sintian men]: Philokhoros says that because they were Pelasgians they were called this because after they sailed to Brauron they kidnapped the women who were carrying baskets. For they call “harming” [to blaptein] sinesthai.

But Eratosthenes says that they have this name because they are wizards who discovered deadly drugs. Porphyry says that they were the first people to make weapons, the things which bring harm to men. Or, because they were the first to discover piracy.”

Σίντιες ἄνδρες] Φιλόχορός φησι Πελασγοὺς αὐτοὺς ὄντας οὕτω προσαγορευθῆναι, ἐπεὶ πλεύσαντες εἰς Βραυρῶνα κανηφόρους παρθένους ἥρπασαν· σίνεσθαι δὲ τὸ βλάπτειν λέγουσιν. ᾽Ερατοσθένης δέ, ἐπεὶ γόητες ὄντες εὗρον δηλητήρια φάρμακα. ὁ δὲ Πορφύριος, ἐπεὶ πρῶτοι τὰ πολεμιστήρια ἐδημιούργησαν ὅπλα, ἃ πρὸς βλάβην ἀνθρώπων συντελεῖ· ἢ ἐπεὶ πρῶτοι ληιστήρια ἐξεῦρον.

Herodian, 3. 5

“He also gave them some deadly drugs to give to him in secret if they were able to persuade some of the cooks or waiters, even though [Albinus’] friends were suspicious and advising him to safeguard himself against a deceptively clever adversary.”

ἔδωκε δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ δηλητήρια φάρμακα, ὅπως τινὰς πείσαιεν, εἰ δυνηθεῖεν, ἢ τῶν ὀψοποιῶν ἢ τῶν πρὸς ταῖς κύλιξι, λαθεῖν καὶ ἐπιδοῦναι αὐτῷ <καίτοι> ὑποπτευόντων τῶν περὶ αὐτὸν φίλων καὶ4 συμβουλευόντων αὐτῷ φυλάττεσθαι ἄνδρα 6ἀπατεῶνα σοφόν τε πρὸς ἐπιβουλήν·

Image result for ancient greek Teos
A coin from Teos

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