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415. A love potion. Alexandria, 3rd cent. B.C. (Theocritus, Idyll 2, exc. G)

A dramatic representation of a courtesan's attempt to win back a handsome lover.

Where are my bay-leaves? Go get them, Thestylis. And where are my drugs? Put a wreath of crimson wool round the bowl, so I can bind my dear lover, who is cruel to me. It's now the twelfth day that the beast hasn't even come near me and he doesn't know if I'm dead or alive; cruel man, he hasn't knocked on my door. I'm sure that Love has gone off with his fickle heart elsewhere, and so has Aphrodite. I'll go to Timagetus' wrestling-ring tomorrow, so I can see him, and I'll complain about how he is treating me.

But today I will bind him with what I burn here. Now, Moon, shine brightly, and I will sing to you softly, goddess, and to Hecate underground, before whom even dogs tremble as she comes from the graves of the dead and their black blood. Hail, Hecate unapproachable, and guide me until I am finished; make these drugs of mine in no way inferior to Circe's or Medea's or blonde Perimede's.

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

First barley melts on the fire. Sprinkle them on, Thestylis. Fool, where have your wits flown to? You curse, do you also think you can make fun of me? Sprinkle it on and say as follows: 'I sprinkle the bones of Delphis.'

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

Delphis has hurt me. So I burn this bay on Delphis. As they catch fire, crackle loudly and are consumed in an instant and I can't even see their ashes, so may Delphis' flesh be consumed in flames. Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

Now I'll burn the bran. Artemis, you can move the power of Death and anything else that is immovable-Thestylis, dogs all round the city are barking; the goddess is at the crossroads. As quick as you can, clash the cymbals.

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

Now the sea is still; the winds are still, but the pain in my heart is not still, but the whole of me burns for him; instead of a wife, he has made me miserable, a fallen woman, no longer a virgin.

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

As I melt this wax with the goddess's assistance, so may Delphis from Myndus melt with desire. As this bronze wheel of Aphrodite's spins, so may Delphis spin in front of my door.

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

I shall pour three libations and say three times as follows, 'O goddess: whether a woman lies beside him or whether a man does, let him forget that person as fast as they say Theseus once forgot fair-haired Ariadne on Naxos.'

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

Coltsfoot is an herb that grows in Arcadia, and for it all the swift mares and colts run mad through the mountains, swift mares. May I see Delphis like that; may he rush to this house like a madman, from the glistening wrestling-ring.

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.

Delphis lost this, the fringe of his cloak. I now shred it and throw it in the wild fire. Ai ai, painful Desire, why have you drunk the black blood from my flesh, all of it, like a marsh leech stuck to me?

I'll grind up a lizard and bring it tomorrow for him to drink. Now, Thestylis, take these flowers and knead them over his threshold, while it's still night, and say in a whisper, 'I knead the bones of Delphis.'

Magic wheel, draw that man to my house.Return to the top