To listen to the way people talk, you’d think abortion and birth control were a modern phenomenon. Not so. As John M. Riddle, J. Worth Estes and Josiah C. Russell say in their paper, ‘Birth Control in the Ancient World’, it’s been going on ‘ever since Eve’. And believe it or not, it was big business.
Silphion, known in later times by its Latin name, Sylphium, was grown in the seventh century BC by Greek colonists who founded the city of Cyrene in what we know today as Libya. Sylphium was a member of the genus Ferula, commonly known as the giant fennel.
It was so effective as a contraceptive and abortive agent, that it was featured on coins, in plays (Aristophanes in The Knights), in poetry (the Roman poet, Catallus), and in medical and botanical literature (Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, and Greek botanist Theophrastus). Read More