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Sardonic grin

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Phoenician mask dated to the 4th century BCE, found in Tunis.
Phoenician mask dated to the 4th century BCE, found in Tunis.

The ancient author, Isidore of Seville in his work (Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX) mentions a surprising plant – herba sardonica – which was supposed to have surprising lethal properties. The victim who took a decoction from this Sardinian herb died with a smile on his face.

Such a drink was usually served to decrepit elderly or condemned to death criminals, and then they were thrown from the rocks or beaten to death. The aforementioned smile was called “a sardonic grin”. Died after death, he had a wide smile, revealing teeth, and facial paralysis. For a long time, scientists did not know what plant poison was produced from.

Recently, however, scientists are virtually certain that herba sardonica described in ancient medical literature is identical to Oenanthe crocata, or saffron sprinkler. This plant, unlike many poisonous plants, has a pleasant, sweet taste and pleasant smell.

Sources
  • Naukowcy odkryli zioło, wywołujące diaboliczny uśmiech, "WP.pl"
  • Zabójcy z ogrodu, "Świat wiedzy", 1/2014
  • Isidore of Seville, Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX, XIV, 6, 40

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