Conium  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Poison Hemlock is a common European plant, Conium maculatum that contains the alkaloid coniine and was probably the state poison of ancient Greece, and the purported poison used in the execution of Socrates.

Socrates

In ancient Greece, hemlock was used to poison condemned prisoners. The most famous victim of hemlock poisoning is the philosopher Socrates. After being condemned to death for impiety in 399 BC, Socrates was given a potent infusion of the hemlock plant. Plato described Socrates' death in the Phaedo:

"The man … laid his hands on him and after a while examined his feet and legs, then pinched his foot hard and asked if he felt it. He said ‘No’; then after that, his thighs; and passing upwards in this way he showed us that he was growing cold and rigid. And then again he touched him and said that when it reached his heart, he would be gone. The chill had now reached the region about the groin, and uncovering his face, which had been covered, he said — and these were his last words — 'Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Pay it and do not neglect it.' 'That,' said Crito, 'shall be done; but see if you have anything else to say.' To this question he made no reply, but after a little while he moved; the attendant uncovered him; his eyes were fixed. And Crito when he saw it, closed his mouth and eyes."

Although many have questioned whether this is a factual account, careful attention to Plato's words, modern and ancient medicine, and other ancient Greek sources point to the above account being consistent with Conium poisoning.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Conium" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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