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The Birth Control of Yesteryear • Damn Interesting

Cyrene coins depicting silphium

Approximately 2,600 years ago-- around 630 BCE-- the Greek island of Thera was plagued by drought and overpopulation. According to legend, an assortment of settlers were selected to sail south to establish a colony in more hospitable climes. The men and women apprehensively put to sea, and the gaggle of enterprising Greeks eventually erected the city of Cyrene on Africa's northern tip. There, the settlers encountered a local herb which would ultimately bring them and their progeny fantastic wealth.

The prized plant became such a key pillar of the Cyrenean economy that its likeness was stamped upon many of the city's gold and silver coins. The images often depicted a regal-looking woman sitting in a chair, with one hand touching the herb and her other hand pointing at her genitals. The plant was known assilphium or laserwort, and its heart-shaped fruit purportedly brought the ancient world a highly sought-after freedom: the opportunity to enjoy sex with very little risk of pregnancy.


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The title is right. That IS damn interesting.

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