Indians: Phylarchos on roots for sexual restraint (early second century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Indians: Phylarchos on roots for sexual restraint (early second century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified April 25, 2024,

Ancient authors: Phylarchos, Histories = FGrHist 81 F35a-b, as cited by Apollonios (second century BCE), Historical Wonders / Historiae mirabiles 18 (link) and by Athenaios, Sophists at Dinner 1.18d-e (link; link to FGrHist).

Comments: These brief citations of Phlyarchos (a writer in the early second century before the time of Polybios), show that he dealt with Indian matters, in this case referring to supposed herbal means of ensuring sexual restraint among Indian youths and men. For further ethnographic materials from Phylarchos, also see the discussion of Galatian or Celtic meals (link).


(F35a, as cited by Apollonios) In the twentieth book of his Histories, Phylarchos says that a white root from India, which is cut and mixed with water and which is spread on the underside of the feet, causes men who spread it on themselves to forgot about sex and become similar to eunuchs. For this reason, some of those who are not yet men spread it on themselves and they do no have erections until death.

(F35b, as cited by Athenaios) Phylarchos says that among the presents which the Indian king Sandrokottos sent to Seleukos there were aphrodisiacs so powerful that when placed under the feet of lovers they caused, in some, ejaculations like those of fowls, but in others they inhibited them altogether.


Source of translations: F35a translated by Harland. F25b from C.B. Gulick, Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1927-41), public domain (passed away in 1962 and copyright expired), adapted by Harland.

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