On the Poppy, from Hortulus


  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Walafrid is one surprise after another. I knew that the poppy came into widespread use in Europe during the Crusades, when the crusaders brought it back with a lot of other Arabic medicine. But he's a couple hundred years early for that. The Moors had been in Spain for a century or more by his time, so maybe that is where he got it. A couple hundred years after him Europeans would be sneaking off to Spain to study in Moorish universities, but I don't think any had been founded yet in his time.

    And I wonder where he came up with the bit about Ceres/Demeter taking poppy to ease her pain.... maybe some of the Roman medical writers? Walafrid certainly had access to Galen and probably others. He is a wonderment.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,462 admin

    It is widely believed among herbalists (although I don't know the source) that an opium tincture was the drink that caused forgetfulness in the Odyssey.  “Presently she cast a drug into the wine of which they drank to lull all pain and anger and bring forgetfulness of every sorrow.”

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    They certainly knew about and used poppies very anciently in the Middle East--(I vaguely remember that there is archaeological evidence going back to the Bronze Age at least, but can't recall the specifics...) and Homer, probably an Ionian, would have known about that. The ancient Greek medical texts record its use. But the catch is that hardly anybody in northern Europe read Greek or had access to Greek manuscripts in Walafrid's time. The surviving manuscripts of Galen's stuff and other classical medical books are all Latin translations, so far as I know. Not 100% sure, but I don't think they even knew Homer except in Roman re-tellings. So I've been trying to guess his sources from the Latin texts known to be at Reichenau, Fulda, and the big library at St. Gallen.

    Of course if there was an exception to the rule, Walafrid would be it. Who knows what he might have come up with from Byzantium, by way of his connections at court. He'd be a guy worth cultivating and bribing, and books would obviously be among his very favorite things.

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