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Silphium, the Ancient Birth Control Plant

The symbol of the heart, that image we use, to show how much our heart swells for our loved ones, comes from an ancient seedpod, not the piece of muscle thumping inside our chest.


“We can make love as long as we have silphium.”

— Catullus (pp A. Bellows)

The ancients loved this plant too much, driving it to extinction, leaving only a naked lonely heart symbol behind.

This is a Greek coin minted in the North Africa city of Cyrene to celebrate the silphium plant. It became more valuable than silver because it allowed the ancients to thoroughly enjoy intercourse without worrying that sooner or later the lady is going to get pregnant. It was so valuable coins were minted to celebrate the fact silphium only grew in Cyrene. As the Vanna White look-alike is explaining on the face of the coin, "these seeds you see me pointing to with my right hand make this place here between my legs so much more spreadable." Notice she's referring to a seedpod, ready to make more tea from it.

The silphium plant was only found in one place; on the coast of North Africa. It was so hard to grow it was extinct by the time Rome went dark. This is ferula glauca, its nearest relative.

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