Herb cultivation in the Mycenaean Age on the basis of „lists of herbs” (MY Ge 602‒608)
The six tablets found in 1954 in the so-called House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae, forming an unusual series numbered MY Ge 602–608, contain not only personal names, but also lists of aromatic herbs or spices. In the present article, the Mycenaean Greek plant names attested in these tablets are carefully discussed. A comparison with the scientific descriptions of herbs in Dioscurides’ Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς (łac. De materia medica) clearly demonstrates that all of the plants mentioned in the Mycenae Ge tablets were frequently used in medical practice. The small quantities also suggest a highly specific (in particular, pharmacological) purpose. On the basis of these observations, the author suggests that the House of the Sphinxes, situated outside the citadel of Mycenae, belonged to an ancient physician who was a subject of the king of Mycenae. He was probably obliged to heal the ruler and his family, representatives of the royal court and royal guests, as well as the king’s warriors, stationed at Mycenae, and perhaps permanent dwellers of the suburb. Other people mentioned in the tablets in question seem to represent ancient herbalists (Gk. ῥιζοτόμοι) who collected herbs (or cultivated spices) not only for the royal healer, but also for other needs of the palace of Mycenae.
Keywords: ancient herbalists, herbs, House of the Sphinxes, Linear B, Mycenae, Pedanius Dioscorides, phytotherapy
© Farm Pol, 2018, 74(5): 277–287