Silphium: The Miracle Plant The Romans Wiped Out


Miracle contraceptive, wonder drug, aphrodisiac, the origin of the heart symbol, and hemorrhoid cure??? Tiktok, National Geographic, even FACEBOOK are all obsessed with this plant, Silphium, which grew over 2000 years ago here near Cyrene, Libya. It’s been called THE most effective contraceptive of the ancient world. But the ancient randy Romans boinked this plant into extinction by the first century CE. Making Silphium the first victim of human-induced extinction.

But is this story actually true? Who killed Silphium? And what does it have to do with a Beaver based birth-control? Let’s find out!

This video was researched and co-written by Deborah Melo.

The illustrations were created by our illustrator

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The Silphium Motif Adorning Ancient Libyan Coinage: Marketing a Medicinal Plant
Riddle, J., & Estes, J. (1992). Oral contraceptives in ancient and medieval times. American Scientist, 80(3), 226-233.
Reassessing the Role of Anthropogenic Climate Change in the Extinction of Silphium
The Economic Condition of the Main Cyrenaican Cities (North-Eastern Libya) from the Hellenistic to the mid-Roman period: textual analysis
Pliny’s Historia Naturalis
Pliny the Elder’s Silphium: First Recorded Species Extinction
John Riddle Eve’s Herbs
Ibn Sina, A. A System of Medicine (Arabic Text); Bulaq: Cairo, Egypt, 1877; Volume 2.
Asciutti, Valentina(2004)The Silphium plant:analysiso f ancient sources
Douaa Elalfy Silphium, the Extinct Plant
Monika Kiehn, Silphion revisited, Medicinal Plant Conservation…
Amy Richlin Pliny’s Brassiere
Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance
Applebaum, S. (1979). Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene
Manam W. B. Saaed, Yacoub M. El-Barasi & Rebeh O. Rahil (2019) Our present knowledge about the history and composition of the vegetation and flora of Libya
Theophrastus: Enquiry into Plants
De Materia Medica – Dioskorides
Gynaecology – Soranus
Mahmut Miski Next Chapter in the Legend of Silphion: Preliminary Morphological, Chemical, Biological and Pharmacological Evaluations, Initial Conservation Studies, and Reassessment of the Regional Extinction Event

Music by Epidemic Sound:

Video/Images provided by Getty Images and

Maps provided by maptiler/Geolayers


About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at
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