St Valentine's Day

It's St Valentine's Day, so what better time to talk about...aphrodisiacs.

Our word aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love.

Aphrodite was a girl who got around. I suppose that's part of the job description.

Her most famous lover was Adonis. Adonis was killed by the God Ares who'd transformed himself into a boar (the pig kind, not the party kind) to off his rival. The death of Adonis made it into religious festivals, paintings, and the odd poem.

A guy called Theophrastus, who was a student of Aristotle's, had a few things to say about aphrodisiacs. He declared that corn-flag, which has a bulbous root and which, "boiled, pounded and mixed with flour, makes bread sweet and wholesome," would work as an aphrodisiac.

Truffles, garlic, leeks, and a type of orchid called satirio were all considered aphrodisiacs. So for dinner tonight, I recommend truffle and leek soup with garlic.

It's said that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great not to let the soldiers drink mint tea, because it would make them horny. Not that there was much chance of soldiers drinking mint tea. Unwatered wine was more their thing. Hippocrates on the other hand, said that mint reduced your sperm count and caused erectile dysfunction.

The Greeks also practiced love magic. However, almost all the spells and charms I've come across are to improve male potency, so it seems what we're really looking at are early versions of viagra. In The Acharnians by Aristophanes there's a bride who's given a special wine to rub on the bridegroom every night to make sure he doesn't stray. Theophrastus, who I mentioned before, talked of a lotion which when rubbed on the penis produced 12 erections in succession. One assumes he tried it. That's not the only penis lotion, by the way. Ancient writings are chock-a-block full of penis lotions. The mind boggles.

Nestor's Cup is a rather cool love magic system which has survived. Here is a Wikimedia Commons of the underside of the cup.

The inscription underneath says:

I am Nestor's Cup,
Good to drink from.
Whoever drains this cup,
Desire for beautiful-crowned Aphrodite
will fall upon him.

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