Did the Romans really have so much sex that they drove a plant that supposedly provided birth control to extinction? It would appear that they did, but nature also helped them.
The decadence of the Roman Empire is extremely well documented. From the mighty feasts and extreme violence to their sexual perversions, they rarely left a stone unturned. So it would not surprise you that they drove a plant to extinction by having sex. So how did the plant become extinct through sex? The plant was called silphium, or silphion and it was a herb that grew along the coast. The Greeks first came across its apparent ability to prevent pregnancy, and when the Romans heard of its powers they grasped onto it like no other. They learned that when the leaves were ground up and put into a resin it reduced the risk of falling pregnant.
Roman Birth Control
The Romans loved sex, but they weren’t fans of big families. They were well aware of the need to breed, but the fun of sex outweighed the need for a large family. Now Roman birth control was not a new thing, they famously had condoms, but given that they were expensive and very few people had the soap to clean them, condoms were an unattractive item to many. When the plant became widely known the vendors who were selling the medicine made a fortune. The vendors who sold the herb were un-bashful about what it did or how to use it. Towards the end of the plants survival it was worth its own weight in silver.
The Romans placed strict limits on its yearly harvest to try and protect the wild growing plant, but given it was a coastal plant the limits were nearly impossible to enforce. Given its high price smugglers would sneak into protected areas and take what they could. It is said that Emperor Nero swallowed the last pill made from the herb.
So it would definitely appear that the Romans drove the plant to extinction. Many professionals today say the plant would not have worked as birth control, that it was nothing more than a fable peddled to make money. Even if the plant did or didn’t provide birth control to Romans there is no way now of ever testing the veracity of the claims. Just be glad there are better and more effective ways of birth control today.