Silphium
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Basic Information

Silphium was (being now extinct) a herb, probably similar to giant fennel, which was much regarded in the classical Mediterranean and near East, being regarded as worth its weight in silver.

It was used, amongst other things, as a food seasoning (for which, apparently, asafoetida could be an acceptable substitute), for a variety of applications in herbalisitic medicine and, perhaps most significantly, as a contraceptive and/or abortifacient.

Known to be hard to cultivate, silphium seems to have been driven into extinction by overharvesting, possibly coupled with a fashion for meat harvested from animals fed on the plant.

This also may - or may not - be the plant in whose stalk the titan Prometheus smuggled fire to mankind from Mount Olympus.

Sources

Bibliography
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