Monday, February 21, 2011

Appetitive: Horace and Poison

Propertius II and I finally finished our Horace allotment! Our last poem was Horace Epode 17, which was an odd way for Horace to end his final book of poems. This is one of many steps that make me feel better about applying for graduate school.

This last poem depicted a conversation between Horace and a witch named Candidia, a character in many of the Epodes. The poem, and many others in the Epodes including the one about garlic, mention or deal with poison. The Latin word for poison is venenum (n). It is the equivalent of the Greek word το φαρμακόν [1], which not only means poison, drug, medicine, tincture, dye, etc. It is a complicated term with many meanings.

Poisoning is an equally fascinating topic in the Ancient World. The Greeks did not have a lot poisoning and it was often considered a womanly and foreign art. Paul Cartledge mentions in a recent article that the Greeks were much less into poisoning than the Romans. The Romans had a fascinating attitude toward poison. As they lacked modern forensic techniques, it was difficult for Romans to tell the difference between poisoning and other forms of death because some poisons left similar marks on the surface.

Poison was also a bit of a toxic topic in the ancient world. Women were considered to be those who brewed and administered poisons, often accused little no proof. One of the most interesting things (to me) about the trial speeches in Cicero's Pro Caelio is the way that the speech manoeuvrings around the poisoning accusation.

  1. For a long discussion of the complexities of  in the Phaedrus, see Derrida's Dissemination.

No comments:

Post a Comment