6.0084 R: Psylli (1/17)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 16 Jun 1992 15:50:35 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0084. Tuesday, 16 Jun 1992.

Date: Tue, 16 Jun 92 08:07:23 CST
From: (James Marchand) <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Psylli

I am sure that Oliver Phillips does not need bibliography on the Psylloi.
When the word occurs in Modern Arabic, it is by a person who is familiar
with the classical references, so that it is no more Arabic than Psylli is
English. H. Treidler's article in Pauly-Wissowa offers all the source
material one might need. Pliny (VII.II.13 f.) discusses the people who are
immune from snakebite, including the Psylli, named after their king, Psyllus,
whose spittle protects from snakebite. He mentions also the Marsi, who
get into the story of the asp in the Physiologus. When they hear the song
of the snake charmer, Marsus, they put one ear to the ground and put their
tail in the other, so that they cannot hear him. The Psylli could put a
snake to sleep by the odor of their bodies, cf. Gellius (IX.XII.12), quo-
ting Cinna: Somniculosam ut Poenus aspidem Psyllus (I quote the Loeb trans-
lation) "As Punic Psyllus doth the sleepy asp." As the note in Loeb points
out, Psyllus came to be the common name for snake charmer (as did also, by
the way, Marsus). I cannot resist: I hope all this does not seem too
Psylli of me.
Jim Marchand