This week's imponderable claims about the ancient world and a howler from the 'popular' press over the past couple of weeks:

First off, the Times tells us of a baldness cure:

Hippocrates recommended a blend of pigeon droppings, cumin, horseradish and beet-root, and the Ancient Egyptian remedy included toes of a dog and hoof of an ass.

The Telegraph also weighed in:

# Ancient Egyptians reportedly rubbed their shiny pates with a mixture of lion, hippopotamus, crocodile, cat, snake, and ibex fat. One of Cleopatra's cures - a paste of ground horses' teeth and deer marrow - was tried on Julius Caesar.

# Hippocrates wisely observed that castrated eunuchs resist hair loss but few men were lining up. Instead, he recommended a mixture of cumin, pigeon droppings, horseradish and beetroot to restore mangy manes.

The Western Mail on the medicinal properties of strawberries:

Strawberries have been valued as a healthy food since as long ago as 200BC, when the Romans cultivated them for their medicinal qualities. They believed the strawberry could bring relief from depression, infections and fevers, as well as problems with kidneys, liver and blood.

The Tyler Telegraph has the oft-repeated cheesecake claim, without actually specifying the cheesecake (which the larger article is about):

The ancient Egyptians had developed ovens, of sorts, for processing these bakery products, but it was really the ancient Greeks who are given most credit for making what we think of today as cakes. For the most part, though, these "cakes" were more often served either as snacks between meals or as a part of the meal, rather than in the traditional way we think of consuming cakes today.

The word "cake" in the English language probably is of Old Norse derivation. The ancient Greeks called their cake plakous, meaning "flat." The Romans were probably the first to regularly use cheese on their cakes, sweetening them with honey, as well, and offering them in small servings as a gift to their gods. The Romans took the art of baking these products to a new level, as they incorporated yeast to leaven their products.

From the wine column of the Tribune Review:

As Suetonius sagely observed, every emperor's reign eventually passes.

From Today's Zaman:

Predicting one’s future through drink residue is actually a very old tradition, and one that is still popular in Turkey. The ancient Romans told fortunes by reading the lees left over in wine glasses, while the Chinese still use tea leaves.

From the Union comes an aspect of Aphrodite I've never heard of:

In ancient Greek religion, Aphrodite was known as the queen bee and her priestesses, worker bees.

From the Perth Sunday Times:

Julius Caesar used solar distillation to produce drinking water for his soldiers in Egypt 2000 years ago.

From a did-you-know type thing in the Union Sentinel:

The ancient Greeks gave a pinch of salt to guests (only in their right hands, though) as a symbol of welcome.

... and we'll conclude with a lengthy item about the birth control properties of silphium from Medgadget, which might be a blog:

The prized plant became such a key pillar of the Cyrenean economy that its likeness was stamped upon many of the city's gold and silver coins. The images often depicted a regal-looking woman sitting in a chair, with one hand touching the herb and her other hand pointing at her genitals. The plant was known as silphium or laserwort, and its heart-shaped fruit brought the ancient world a highly sought-after freedom: the opportunity to enjoy sex with very little risk of pregnancy.

As word of the birth-control wonder-herb spread through ancient Europe, Africa, and Asia, a market for the versatile fennel developed rapidly. The seeds became widely used among the world's wealthier nations, including the citizens of ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and India. By some accounts the silphium seed was also a potent aphrodisiac, a property which considerably compounded its perceived value. The Roman bard Catullus famously alluded to its sexual properties in one of his love poems, where he declared that he and his lover would share as many kisses as there were grains of sand on Cyrene's silphium shores. More plainly, "We can make love so long as we have silphium."

For centuries the north African city thrived on its laserwort bounty. The seeds of the fickle fennel came into such high demand that they were eventually worth their weight in silver. The Roman government went so far as to store a cache of the herb in the official treasury. Most of the primitive silver and gold coins from Cyrene were stamped with images of the silphium, some depicting just a single heart-shaped seed. It is thought by many historians that this ancient icon of unfettered lovemaking is the origin of today's ubiquitous "I love you" heart symbol.

Unlike many other medicines of its time, silphium was not thought of as a mere folk remedy; Scholars and doctors of the day openly praised the plant's effectiveness as a contraceptive. Ancient Rome's foremost gynecologist--a physician named Soranus--wrote that women should drink the silphium juice with water once a month since "it not only prevents conception but also destroys anything existing." Alternatively, a tuft of wool could be soaked in the juice and inserted into the vagina as a pessary. The herb's effectiveness and widespread use is evidenced by the observation that Rome's birth rate decreased during laserwort's heyday, despite increasing life expectancy, plentiful food, and relatively few wars or epidemics.

Unfortunately, modern science will probably never determine whether the fennel's extract was an effective form of parenthood prevention, nor will it measure laserwort's merit as a medicine. By the end of the first century AD, following a fifty year decline in silphium numbers, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder recorded the plant's lamentable extinction. The last remaining stalk of the laserwort was snipped and sent to Emperor Nero as a "curiosity," and thus ended six hundred years of reliable birth control.

We conclude with a howler: a rather long-lived Herodotus in this claim about the Seven Wonders:

The first Seven Wonders of the World date back to the period 305-240BC when historian Herodotus and scholar Callimachus of Cyrene drew up a list.

... you can just picture Herodotus, "You call that a wonder? Why in my day we had real wonders ... none of this Alexandrian technobabble ..."