Classical Quarterly 48 (1):262-268 (1998)

Pauly's Real-Encyclopädie knows of two women named after the attractive looking,but allegedly unappetising fish, cλπη. The first is mentioned several times in theelder Pliny, who on one occasion refers to her as an obstetrix, while the second features in the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus as a writer of παγνια. In a recent issue of this journal J. N. Davidson has made the suggestion that they were one and the same person. Salpe's παγνια, Davidson argues, would not have consisted of light or frivolous verse, but of a compilation of prose recipes of a kind that is to be found in a section of a London magical papyrus which is headed παγνια Δημοκρτου. Such recipes might well have cohabited with the kind of practicalmedical advice reportedly given by the Salpe referred to in Pliny. His case is superficially attractive since, as will be seen, such a collocation of practical help and frivolity is easy to parallel in magical and other subliterary texts. It needs to be scrutinized, however, in the light of a fuller presentation and consideration of the evidence than is to be found in his note. First, it is worth describing at greater length the phenomena in question, which are much more common than one would gather from a reading of Davidson and which are, I suspect, not as yet as familiar to the scholarly world as they should be.
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