Philter, Philtre

Philter, Philtre (Gr. φίλτρον, love-charm, lovepotion). A superstitious belief in the efficacy of certain artificial means of inspiring and securing love seems to have been generally prevalent from very early times; and among the Greeks and Romans (among the latter in the later days of the republic, and under the emperors) love-charms, and especially love-potions, were in continual use. It is not certainly known of what these love-potions were composed- nor can we rely entirely on the details given us on this subject by classic writers, and their commentators in later time-but there is no doubt that certain poisonous or deleterious herbs and drugs were among their chief ingredients, to which other substances, animal as well as vegetable, are said to have been added, coupled with the employment of magic rites. Thessaly had the credit of producing the most potent herbs, and her people were notorious as the most skilful practicers of magic arts, whence the wellknown "Thessala philtra" of Juvenal (6:610). These potions were violent and dangerous in operation, and their use resulted often in the weakening of the mental powers, madness, and death, instead of the purpose for which they were intended. Lucretius is said to have been driven mad by a love-potion, and to have died by his own hand in consequence-though the story does not perhaps rest on sufficient authority; and the madness of the emperor Caligula was attributed by some persons to love-potions given him by his wife Coesonia by which also she is said to have preserved his attachment till the end of his life. In the corrupt and licentious days of the Roman empire the manufacture of love-charms of all kinds seem to have been carried on as a regular trade; the purchasers, if not the makers of them, being chiefly women. The use of philters seems to have been not unknown during the Middle Ages; and in the East, the nurse of superstition of all kinds, belief in the power of love-potions lingers probably down to the present day

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