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date: 05 December 2020


  • John Scarborough


From earliest times, drugs formed an important part of *medicine, and *Homer has the first record of good drugs and bad drugs (poisons). Folklore incorporated many data on toxic substances, and in the legends Homer's *Circe and *Euripides' *Medea link *magic with poisons. Yet simultaneously there is another understanding of drugs and their actions: Pindar (Pyth. 3. 51–3) reflects *Asclepius' medicine as curative with drugs, surgery, and magical incantations. Drugs were contrasted to foods, but ancient thought overlapped the two, much as moderns fuse medical and culinary uses of *spices. Mycenaean Linear B tablets (see pre-alphabetic scripts (greece)) record prized spices (e.g. saffron, cumin, etc. ), and they were basic in drug lore throughout antiquity. Pharmaceuticals included animal products (*honey, beeswax, blister beetle solutions, fats, marrows, bloods, etc. ), as well as oil seeds (e.g. sesame, linseed (flax)); odours identified specific cheeses, taste determined high-quality drugstuffs, and the study of aromatics led to the widespread production of perfumes, exotic and otherwise (Theophrastus, On Odours).

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