, i. e. lotus-eaters
), a people on the N. coast of Africa, between the Syrtes, who first appear in mythical, but afterwards in historical geography. Homer (Hom. Od. 9.84
, et seqq.) represents Ulysses as coming, in his wanderings, to the coast of the Lotophagi, who compassed the destruction of his companions by giving them the lotus to eat. For whoever of them ate the sweet fruit of the lotus, lost all wish to return to his native country, but desired to remain there with the Lotophagi, feeding on the lotus, and forgetful of return. (The poetical idea is exquisitely wrought out by Tennyson in his Lotos-Eaters,
works, vol. i. pp. 175--184.) The Greeks of the historical period identified the country of these Lotus-eaters with the coast between the Syrtes, where they found an indigenous tribe, who used to a great extent (Herodotus says, as their sole article of food) the fruit of a plant, which they therefore supposed to be the lotus of Homer. To this day, the aboriginal inhabitants who live in caves along the same coasts eat the fruit of the plant, which is doubtless the lotus of the ancients, and drink a wine made from its juice, as the ancient Lotophagi also did (Hdt. 4.177
This plant, the Zizyphus Lotus
or Rhkamnus Lotus
(jujube tree) of the botanists (called by the Arabs Séedra
), is a prickly branching shrub, bearing fruit of the size of a wild plum, of a [p. 2.206]
saffron colour and sweetish taste (Herodotus likens its taste to that of the date).
It must not be confounded with the celebrated Egyptian lotus, or water-lily of the Nile, which was also used for food. (There were, in fact, several plants of the name, which are carefully distinguished by Liddell and and Scott, Gr. Lex. s. v.
The ancient geographers differ as to the extent of coast which they assign to the Lotophagi. Their chief seat was around the Lesser Syrtis, and eastward indefinitely towards the Great Syrtis; but Mela carries them into Cyrenaica. They are also placed in the large island of MENINX or Lotophagitis, E. of the Lesser Syrtis. (Hom. Herod. ll. cc.
; Xen. Anab. 3.2. 25
; Scylax. p. 47; Mela, 1.7.5; Plin. Nat. 5.4. s. 4
; Sil. 3.310; Hyg. Fab. 125
; Shaw; Della Cella; Barth; Heeren, Ideen,
vol. ii. pt. 1. p. 54; Ritter, Erdkunde,
vol i. p. 989.)