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A Socratic Leaf Charm For Headache (Charmides 155b–157c), Orphic Gold Leaves, And The Ancient Greek Tradition Of Leaf Amulets

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Chapter Summary

Near the beginning of Plato's Charmides Socrates describes a remedy for headache that combines the application of a leaf and the singing of an incantation. Scholars have long noted how Socrates contrasts his 'Thracian' brand of healing with Greek medicine, a contrast which they connect with the sage's better known arguments in the Gorgias, but there are some equally important eschatological allusions. The 'Orphic Gold Tablets' are inscriptions on gold foil found in graves of late classical and Hellenistic date throughout the Greek world,albeitmost plentifully in Magna Graecia, Crete and Thessaly. The Thracian source for Socrates' composite leaf-and-incantation remedy gives us, moreover, insight into the texts of the Thessalian gold tablets. The Petelia tablet, containing an eschatological narrative designed to protect someone 'when he was about to die', was found in an amulet case of Roman date and probably referred to itself as 'a leaf of Memory'.

Keywords: ancient Greek tradition; orphic gold leaves; Plato's Charmides Socrates; Socratic leaf charm



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