Psylli (Seli) were a native Libyan tribe inhabiting Ancient
See also: Ancient Libya
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder (Hist. Nat., vii 14) places the
Psylli on the Syrtic
coast above the Garamantes, and gives Psyllikos Kolpos as an early
name of the Syrtic Gulf.
According to John C. Murphy, "the
Psylli were the displaced remnants
of an ancient Libyan tribe that lived on the Gulf of Sidra. Conquered
by the nomadic Nasamones, the
Psylli became a well-known
Herodotus described "a tribe that met with extinction"
after the desert wind dried up their water holes (IV.173). Pliny the
Elder said that they were "almost exterminated" in a war with their
neighbours, the Nasamones, but the descendants of those who escaped
"survive today in a few places" (VII.2.14).
Strabo does not mention an
unsuccessful war against either the desert wind or the
only that the
Psylli were still in existence, occupying "a barren and
arid region" (XVII.3.23) below the Nasamones. Later writers,
especially poets, bestowed on the
Psylli a reputation as great snake
In his Roman History,
Cassius Dio makes reference to the
being sought out by
Octavian to draw out the snake venom with which
Cleopatra had poisoned herself (LI.14). According to Dio, the Psylli
were completely immune to snake bites and were all male(LI.14). Lucan,
speaking of the Psylli, whose peculiar property it was to be unhurt by
the bite of serpents with which their country abounded, wrote:
"Of all who scorching Afric's sun endure, None like the swarthy
Psyllians are secure: With healing gifts and privileges graced, Well
in the land of serpents were they placed: Truce with the dreadful
tyrant death they have, And border safely on his realm the grave"
Pharsalia ix. 891, trans. by Rowe)
See also: Snake venom
It is claimed that the
Psylli employed tests by animals in order to
find out if their offspring was genuine and at the same time if their
wives were faithful. Infant
Psylli were subjected to snake-bites. If
the infant died of the snakebite, illegitimacy was supposed to be
^ a b c "Serpent worship". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.
Archived from the original on 2009-07-15.
^ John C. Murphy, Secrets of the Snake Charmer ISBN 1450221262,
9781450221269 iUniversity 2010, p. 8
Smith, Richard L. (December 2003). "What Happened to the Ancient
Libyans?". Journal of World History. 14 (4): 459–500.
Sanhajas de Srayr