t h e   c l a s s i c s   p a g e s   l e t t e r s

Loxias, I'm doing research for a paper on early contraceptive methods in
Ancient Greece and Rome.  I once attended a medical conference at
Rutgers University on the subject, but that was long ago.  Can you
provide me with references, websites, etc. that may enable my search?

This info is from an article in Omnibus 12, Nov 1986 by John Godwin - the tone of the article is salacious rather than scholarly, so he is a little sparing with the references!  

"phalangium ... a hairy spider with an enormous head. Inside it are two worms: tie these with deer skin as an amulet on women before sunrise as a contraceptive" (Pliny) (see refs to phalangium in Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary)  

"smear the membrum with cedar gum and peppermint before congress"  

"swallow snail-droppings (or pigeon-droppings if preferred) mixed with wine and oil." (Pliny) [if you can face sex after that, you deserve to get pregnant JG]  

For coitus interruptus see Lucretius 5: at the crucial moment the woman "forces the furrow away from the ploughshare, diverting the blow of the seed." All accompanied by lascivious writhings of the body - apparently a technique much favoured by prostitutes not wishing to interrupt their careers.  

For the morning after try "jumping up and down in a squatting position with the heels held against the buttocks." (Hippocrates) [Make sure you draw the curtains first. JG]  

Aristotle recommended the use of olive oil as as a spermicide [which it was still being used for in 1931 acc to JG]  

Other recommendations included alum and/or vinegar or reliance on the powers of prayer and ritual: "Wear a cat's liver or a lioness's womb in an ivory tube on the left foot."  

Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, goes in for a kind of magic: "If a woman does not want to become pregnant, make her drink a mixture of beans and water - as thick a mixture as possible - and she will not conceive for a year." This is because beans were thought by some (eg the followers of Pythagoras) to be capable of containing human souls, deposited there through reincarnation.  

Have fun