In Greek and Roman mythology the Astomi, also known as the Gangines, were an ancient race of mouthless people, unable to speak, eat or drink, who survived by inhaling air and scents through their nostrils.[1][2] Some sources claim that they lived entirely on the scent of apples, and could be killed by the smell of “corrupt air”.[3]

The Greek historian and diplomatic Megasthenes (died c. 290 BCE) was one of the first to write about India, in his book Indica, now lost.[4] The origin of the myth of the Astomi may be rooted in a mistranslation by Roman historians of the Greek word Megasthenes used in his now lost text to describe them, άδτοπος, which can mean either “without mouth” or “speechless”, “silent”. Megasthenes may have been describing a form of yogic mortification he had witnessed in Pataliputra, India, known as air swallowing, in which the penitent holds gravel, wood or stone in the mouth to prevent ingestion or speech.[1]

See also

  • Holy maid of LeominsterKnown only as Elizabeth, she was installed in the rood loft above the chancel of the priory of Leominster, in Hereford, by its prior in the late 15th or early 16th century.