This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
"By whom the potion was administered is conjectured only from a passage in St. Jerome,* who says that a certain Lucilia killed her husband or her lover by giving him a philtre, which was intended to secure his love, but the effect of which was to make him insane. This Lucilia is supposed to have been the wife or the mistress of Lucretius, but by whom the supposition was first made, I am not able to discover."† Suetonius relates the same thing of Caius Caligula, who although, when he arrived at manhood, endured fatigue tolerably well, was still occasionally liable to faintness, owing to which he remained incapable of any effort. He was not insensible to this disorder of his mind, and sometimes had thoughts of retiring.‡ "Credi-tum," he continues, "potionatus a Caesonia uxore, amatorio quodam medicamento, sed quod in furorem verterit."§
"It is thought that his wife Caesonia administered to him a love-potion, which threw him into a phrensy." It is in allusion to this that Juvenal writes:
"Tamen hoc tolerabile, sinon Et furere incipias, ut avunculusille Neronis Cui totam tremuli frontem Caesonia pulli Infudit." ||
* Epist. dissuas: ad Rufinum C. 22. Tom XII. p. 245. ad Varon:
† Remarks on the life and poems of Lucretius, p. vi, (Bonn's Classical Library). ‡ Probably to Anticyra, a Greek town situated at the mouth of the the river Spcrchius, and reputed to produce the genuine hellebore, recommended by the ancient physicians as a cure for insanity, whence the well known adage, "Naviget Anticyram".
§ Sueton. Calig. 50. || Juvenal. Sat. vi. v. 614.
"Some nimbler juice would make him foam and rave, Like that Caesonia to her Caius gave, Who, plucking from the forehead of the foal The mother's love, infused it in the bowl: The boiling blood ran hissing through his veins, Till the mad vapour mounted to his brains." These concoctions were publicly sold at Rome, their ingredients consisting of herbs of various kinds, in the culling and testing of which the shepherds were often employed. The remora, or sucking-fish, certain bones of the frog, the astroit, or star-fish, and the hippomanes were also used. Horace informs us that dried human marrow and liver were also had recourse to:
"Exsucta uti medulla et aridum jecur Amoris esset poculum."* That his parch'd marrow might compose, Together with his liver dried, an amorous dose. Del Rio † and Wallick ‡ assert that to the above were likewise added nail-parings, sundry metals, reptiles, and the intestines or particular birds and fishes, and even semen virile and sanguis menstruus. During the concoction of these filthy, disgusting, and abominable compounds, the Infernal Deities were earnestly invoked.
Of all the above ingredients the most famous was the hippomanes, which, according to Wier, was a piece of flesh upon the forehead of a young colt, of a black or brown colour, in size and shape like a fig, which the mare is said to bite off as soon as she has foaled, the mare forsaking her offspring when prevented from so doing; hence the hippomanes, which was in reality nothing more than a caul or part of the omentum attached to the head of the foal, as it is also sometimes to that of infants, was thought to be particularly effective in conciliating love, especially when calcined or reduced to powder, and swallowed in some of the blood of the person beloved. This superstition is, however, in some degree excusable, if it be considered that, even in the present day, many persons in our own country firmly believe the human caul to have the power of saving its possessor from drowning; and that in the good old times, it was regarded as a visible indication that Providence had designed the infant so furnished for the service of religion, such children, whether male or female, being destined, in consequence, for the cloister.
* Hor. Epod Lib. Carm. V. 1708. See also the admirable notes of Dacier aud Sanadon upon the above ode.
† Disquisitionum Magicarum, Lib. III. Quaestio III. De Amatorio Mala-ficio, page 7.
‡ Cinq livres de l'imposture et tromperie des diables. Lib. II., p. 216,1569. § De Margarum Daemonomania. Lib. I., Cap. III., p. 27.
Virgil thus mentions it as one of the ingredients of the philter that Dido caused to be made for her previously to her committing suicide:
"Falcibus et messae ad Lunam quaeruntur alienis Pubentes herbae, nigri cum lacte veneni. Quaeritur et nascentis equi in fronte revulsus Et matri praeruptus amor."* "Herbs are brought, by moonlight mow'd With brazen scythes, big, swol'n with milky juice Of curious poison, and the fleshy knot Torn from the forehead of a new foal'd colt To rob the mother's love." The following curious account of the wonderful effects of the hippomanes, and which fully justifies the etymology of that word, is given by Pausanias:
* Æneid, Lib. IV.,v. 13, 14, 15, and 16.
"Among these (offerings) you may behold those of Phormis Menalius.. . . His gifts in Olympia are two horses and two charioteers, one of which horses the Ælians assert to have been made by a magician, of brass, into which metal he had previously infused the hippomanes, and which, in consequence, possessed the power of exciting in horses a mad desire for coition. The horse so made by the magician was, both in size and shape inferior to many horses which are dedicated within Altis, and was rendered still more deformed by having no tail. Horses desire connection with this image not only in spring, but every day throughout the year, for, breaking their bridles or running away from their drivers, they rush into Altis and attack the horse in a manner much more furious than if it was the most beautiful mare, and one they were acquainted with. Their hoofs, indeed, slip from the side of the image, but nevertheless they never cease neighing vehemently and leaping furiously on the figure till they are driven off by the whip or by some other violent means, for till such methods are applied, it is impossible to disengage them from the brass." *