garlic to the lodestone



garlic to the lodestone;

Original French:  le Ail, a l’Aymant:

Modern French:  le Ail, à l’Aymant:

Among the examples of pairings whose antipathies are not as vehement as the hatred thieves have of a certain usage of Pantagruelion.



Plutarch, Platonic Questions, book. vii., chapter 7 [No mention of garlic] “And neither amber nor the loadstone draws anything to it which is near, nor does anything spontaneously approach them. But this stone emits strong exhalations, by which the surrounding air being impelled forceth that which is before it; and this being drawn round in the circle, and returning into the vacuated place, forcibly draws the iron in the same movement. In amber there is a flammeous and spirituous nature, and this by rubbing on the surface is emitted by recluse passages, and does the same that the loadstone does. It also draws the lightest and driest of adjacent bodies, by reason of their tenuity and weakness; for it is not so strong nor so endued with weight and strength as to force much air and to act with violence and to have power over great bodies, as the magnet has. But what is the reason the air never draws a stone, nor wood, but iron only, to the loadstone? This is a common question both by those who think the coition of these bodies is made by the attraction of the loadstone, and by such as think it done by the incitement of the iron. Iron is neither so rare as wood, nor altogether so solid as gold or a stone; but has certain pores and asperities, which as far as inequality is concerned are proportionable to the air; and the air being received in certain positions, and having (as it were) certain stays to hang to, does not slip off; but when it is carried up to the stone and is forced against it, it draws the iron by force along with it to the stone. Such then may be the reason of this.”

Plutarch (c. 46–120 AD), Platonic Questions. Thomas North, translator. New York: Crowell, 1909. lib. vii., cap. 7, § 1;. Adelaide

Garlic to the Loadstone

Table-Talk II, Question 7

1. Once, when small fish of all sorts were served to us, Chaeremonianus of Tralles pointed out one with a sharp, elongated head and said that the echeneïs resembled it; he had seen (he said) the echeneis while sailing off Sicily and had been amazed at its power, for during the course of the voyage it had been responsible for no little loss of speed and delay until the look-out had caught it sticking to the outer face of the vessel’s hull. At this, some laughed at Chaeremonianus for accepting a mythical and unbelievable fabrication; others chatted about the “antipathies” [1]; and one could hear much else and also the following about things antipathetic: the sight of a ram stops a mad elephant; if you point an oak twig at a viper and touch it, the viper is brought to a standstill; a wild bull is quieted and made gentle if bound to a fig-tree [2]; amber moves and attracts all light things, except basil and whatever is wet with oil; the loadstone does not attract iron rubbed with garlic. Indeed these things are subject to a clear test, but it is hard (they said) to determine the cause, if not altogether impossible.

1. Bolus of Mendes, the former of Democritus exposed by Callimachus, wrote a Sympathies and Antipathies (in nature); see Diels, Frag. d. Vorsokratiker, Demokritos 300. 1–5; cf. infra, iv. 2, 664 c.

Plutarch (c. 46–120 AD), Moralia. Volume VIII: Table-Talk, Books 1-6. P. A. Clement, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1969. 2.7.1, p. 175. Loeb Classical Library


Book 1, Ch 1. But that the story of the loadstone might not appear too bare and too brief, to this singular and sole known quality there were added certain figments and falsehoods, which in the earliest times, no less than nowadays, used to be put forth by raw smatterers and copyists to be swallowed of men. As for instance, that if a loadstone be anointed with garlick, or if a diamond be near, it does not attract iron[5]. Tales of this sort occur in Pliny, and in Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum [Tetrabiblos]; and the errors have been sedulously propagated, and have gained ground (like ill weeds that grow apace) coming down even to our own day, through the writings of a host of men, who, to fill put their volumes to a proper bulk, write and copy out pages upon pages on this, that, and the other subject, of which they knew almost nothing for certain of their own experience.

[Note 5: Baptista Porta says (p. 211 of the English version of 1658): “It is a common Opinion amongst Sea-men, That Onyons and Garlick are at odds with the Loadstone: and Steers-men, and such as tend the Mariners Card are forbid to eat Onyons or Garlick, lest they make the Index of the Poles drunk. But when I tried all these things, found them to be false: for not onely breathing and belching upon the Loadstone after eating of Garlick, did not stop its vertues: but when it was all anoynted over with the juice of Garlick, it did perform its office as well as if it had never been touched with it: and I could observe almost not the least difference, lest I should make void the endeavours of the Ancients. And again, When I enquired of Marines, whether it were so, that they were forbid to eat Onyons and Garlick for that reason; they said, they were old Wives fables, and things ridiculous; and that Sea-men would sooner lose their lives, then abstain from eating Onyons and Garlick.”

The fables respecting the antipathy of garlick and of the diamond to the operation of the magnet, although already discredited by Ruellius and by Porta, died hard. In spite of the exposure and denunciations of Gilbert, these tales were oft repeated during the succeeding century. In the appendix to Sir Hugh Plat’s Jewel House of Art and Nature, in the edition of 1653, by D. B. Gent, it is stated there (p. 218): “The Loadstone which … hath an admirable vertue not onely to draw Iron to it self, but also to make any Iron upon which it is rubbed to draw iron also, it is written notwithstanding, that being rubbed with the juyce of Garlick, it loseth that vertue, and cannot then draw iron, as likewise if a Diamond be layed close unto it.”]

Gilbert, Book 1, Ch 14, p 32. Plutarch and Claudius Ptolemy[88], and all the copyists since their time, think that a loadstone smeared with garlick does not allure iron. Hence some suspect that garlick is of avail against any deleterious power of the magnet: thus in philosophy many false and idle conjectures arise from fables and falsehoods.

[Note 88: The garlick myth has already been referred to in the note to p. 1. The originals are Plutarch, Quæstiones Platonicæ, lib. vii., cap. 7, § 1; C. Ptolemæus, Opus Quadripartitum, bk. i., cap. 3. The English translation of the latter, by Whalley (London, 1701), p. 10, runs: “For if the Loadstone be Rubbed with Garlick, the Iron will not be drawn by it.”]

Gilbert, William (1544–1603), On the magnet, magnetick bodies also, and on the great magnet the earth. London: Chiswick Press, 1600. Project Gutenberg


Aymant; as, Aimant; an Adamant, or Loadstone

Cotgrave, Randle (–1634?), A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongue. London: Adam Islip, 1611. PBM


Aymant, s.m. acier très dur: A trop peindre fault l’aymant. (Greban, Mist. de la passe., 1584)

Godefroy, Frédéric (1826–97), Dictionaire de l’ancienne langue Française. Et du tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe Siècle. Paris: Vieweg, Libraire-Éditeur, 1881-1902. Vol. 1 p. 543. Lexilogos – Dictionnaire ancien français

Garlic to the Loadstone

Plut. Q. Conv ii. 7, 1, 641 c. iv 62, v. 37.

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Internet Archive

le ail à l’aymant

Légende antique: «La pierre d’aimant n’attire point le fer quant il est frottee d’ail», dit Plutarque en ces Symposiaques (l. II, quest. 7). Cf. ce que Rabelais dit plus loin (l. V, ch. 37) du Scordeon. Une écrivain médiéval, Philippe de Méaières, raconte encore que des nautionniers méridionaux ayant un jour frotté leur boussole, ou calamite, ils perdirent leur direction: car cette «souillure empêche l’aiguille de regarder l’étoile belle, clair et nette» (l’étoile polaire ou tramontane). (Paul Delaunay)

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 360. Internet Archive


Ch. 3 p. 27 “Similarly we must believe the physician, when he says that this sore will spread or cause putrefaction, and the miner, for instance, that the lodestone attracts iron; just as each of these, if left to itself through ignorance of the opposing forces, will inevitably develop as its original nature compels, but neither will the sore cause spreading or putrefaction if it receives preventive treatment, nor will the lodestone attract the iron if it is rubbed with garlic; [n 21] and these very deterrent measures also have their resisting power naturally and by fate; so also in the other cases, if further happenings to men are not known, or if they are known and the remedies are not applied, they will by all means follow the course of primary nature; but if they are recognized ahead of time and remedies are provided, again quite in accord with nature and fate, they either do not occur at all or are rendered less severe.” [Note 21 A current belief; compare Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, I, p 213, for an instance of its occurrence in Plutarch.]

Ptolemy, Claudius (c. 90-c. 168 AD), Tetrabiblos. Frank Egleston Robbins, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Loeb Classical Library, 1940. Cam.2 p1 Book I (beginning). Thayer


Encore une fois, la plupart de ces exemples se retrouvent dans le De latinis nominibus de Charles Estienne. Le nenufar et la semence de saule sont des antiaphrodisiaques. La ferula servait, dans l’Antiquité, à fustiger les écoliers (cf. Martial, X, 62-10).

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.

le ail, à l’aymant

Frotté d’ail, l’aimant n’attire plus le fer selon Plutarque, Symposium, II, vii.

Rabelais, François (1494?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 505, n. 23.


Adamant and similar words are used to refer to any especially hard substance, whether composed of diamond, some other gemstone, or some type of metal. Both adamant and diamond derive from the Greek word αδαμαστος (adamastos), meaning “untameable”. Adamantite and adamantium (a metallic name derived from the Neo-Latin ending -ium) are also common variants.
Adamantine has, throughout ancient history, referred to anything that was made of a very hard material. Virgil describes Tartarus as having a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine (Aeneid book VI). Later, by the Middle Ages, the term came to refer to diamond, as it was the hardest material then known, and remains the hardest non-synthetic material known.
It was in the Middle Ages, too, that adamantine hardness and the lodestone’s magnetic properties became confused and combined, leading to an alternate definition in which “adamant” means magnet, falsely derived from the Latin adamare, which means to love or be attached to.[1] Another connection was the belief that adamant (the diamond definition) could block the effects of a magnet. This was addressed in chapter III of Pseudodoxia Epidemica, for instance.
Since the word diamond is now used for the hardest gemstone, the increasingly archaic term “adamant” has a mostly poetic or figurative use. In that capacity, the name is frequently used in popular media and fiction to refer to a very hard substance



Posted 22 January 2013. Modified 28 April 2020.

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