Nepenthe // (Ancient Greek: νηπενθές) is a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a "drug of forgetfulness" mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt.
Description in the Odyssey
ἔνθ᾽ αὖτ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ἐνόησ᾽ Ἑλένη Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα:
αὐτίκ᾽ ἄρ᾽ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον,
νηπενθές τ᾽ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.
Figuratively, it means "that which chases away sorrow"; νη, ne, i.e. "not" (privative prefix), and πενθές, from πένθος, penthos, i.e. "grief, sorrow, or mourning"; so, literally, it means 'not-sorrow' or 'anti-sorrow'. In the Odyssey, in the passage quoted above, nepenthes pharmakon (i.e. an anti-sorrow drug) is a magical potion given to Helen by Polydamna the wife of the noble Egyptian Thon; it quells all sorrows with forgetfulness.
- In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, book 4, canto 3, the effect of the drink is extended: "such as drinck, eternall happinesse do fynd" (verse 43). Spenser likens Nepenthe to the magic potion from Ariosto's Orlando furioso.
- Erasmus mentions Nepenthe in the opening paragraphs of In Praise of Folly.
- Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven": "Quaff, oh quaff this kind Nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
- Norman Douglas's novel "South Wind" takes place on a fictional island named Nepenthe, which seems to exert a drug-like effect on the residents.
- Sentenced's song "Nepenthe" revolves around the wish to forget via alcoholic means "All the tears and the fears and the lies and the cries of the past."
- Uttered during host segment 1 by Bill Corbett's character Brain Guy in Season 9, Episode 1 (The Projected Man) of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as a protective invocation against angry ghosts, which turned out to be the howling hunger-pangs of Kevin Murphy's character Professor Bobo.
- The band Opeth wrote a song called "Nepenthe" on their album "Heritage".
- In H.P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider", "But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe." and "For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men."
- Kostas Karyotakis' second poetry collection was called "Nepenthe".
- Adam Lindsay Gordon's Ye Wearie Wayfarer refers to "respite and nepenthe bringing" (verse 22)
- In Shelley's Prometheus Unbound the Spirit of the Hour envokes nepenthe in a description of the earthly effects of the liberation of Prometheus (Act 2, Scene 4, Verse 61).
- American singer-songwriter Julianna Barwick's sophomore album is called "Nepenthe".
- νηπενθές. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- Homer; Murray, A.T. (translator) (1919). "4.219-221". Odyssey. "4.219-221". (in Greek). At the Perseus Project.
- νη-. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
- πένθος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.