Psyllians, Psylli



Greek Name: Ψύλλοι

Latin Name:


Cultural Notes

No cultural information available in Herodotos text, see other testimonia.

Geographical Notes

Live on the borders of the Nasamones

Citations in Herodotos

4.173 perished in sand storm

Key Passages in English Translation

[4.173] On the borders of the Nasamones is the country of the Psylli, who perished in this way: the force of the south wind dried up their water-tanks, and all their country, lying in the region of the Syrtis, was waterless. After deliberating together, they marched south (I tell the story as it is told by the Libyans), and when they came into the sandy desert, a strong south wind buried them. So they perished utterly, and the Nasamones have their country.

English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Retreived from <>

Key Passages in Greek

[4.173]  Νασαμῶσι δὲ προσόμουροι εἰσὶ Ψύλλοι. οὗτοι ἐξαπολώλασι τρόπῳ τοιῷδε: ὁ νότος σφι πνέων ἄνεμος τὰ ἔλυτρα τῶν ὑδάτων ἐξηύηνε, ἡ δὲ χώρη σφι ἅπασα ἐντὸς ἐοῦσα τῆς Σύρτιος ἦν ἄνυδρος. οἳ δὲ βουλευσάμενοι κοινῷ λόγῳ ἐστρατεύοντο ἐπὶ τὸν νότον (λέγω δὲ ταῦτα τὰ λέγουσι Λίβυες), καὶ ἐπείτε ἐγίνοντο ἐν τῇ ψάμμῳ, πνεύσας ὁ νότος κατέχωσε σφέας. ἐξαπολομένων δὲ τούτων ἔχουσι τὴν χώρην οἱ Νασαμῶνες.

Other Testimonia

Strabo, Geography Book 2, chapter 5; Book 13, chapter 1; Book 17, chapter 3

Pausanias, Description of Greece Book 9, chapter 28

M. Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia (ed. Sir Edward Ridley) Book 9, chapter 839

Other Commentary

Perseus Encyclopedia:

Psyllians, a Libyan tribe

W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotos:

προσόμουροι. Strabo (838) places the Psylli east of the Nasamones; H. obviously places them on the west, on the south coast (ἐντός) of the Syrtis.

ἐπὶ τὸν νότον. For similar wars with the elements cf. the Getae, 94. 4 n., and Arist. Eth. Nic. iii. 7. 7 (the Celts are said not to fear the waves). Strabo (293) rightly criticizes this latter story.

Pliny (vii. 14) more probably puts down the partial destruction of the Psylli to the Nasamones; H. himself implies (εἰσί) the destruction was not complete, and the Psylli are often mentioned later; they were famous as snake-charmers.

Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898):

(Ψύλλοι). A Libyan people, the earliest known inhabitants of the district of North Africa called Cyrenaïca. Pliny (Pliny H. N. vii. 2Pliny H. N., 13) speaks of them as able to heal wounds caused by serpents. Persons of this race are said to have been brought to the bedside of Cleopatra after she had been bitten by the asp (Suet. Aug. 17, with Peck's notes).


No information available at this time.