The treacle of the Testa d’Oro

A gilded human dead and the faded inscription THERIACA ANDROMACHI can be seen on the spot of the old Testa d’Oro pharmacy in Venice, near the Rialto Bridge. This ancient pharmacy was famous for making the best treacle in Venice, so much so that the authorities allowed them to prepare the drug three times a year, instead of just once like all other apothecary shops. Theriaca (also known as Confectio Andromacha or Electuarium Anodynum cum opio) was a famous drug used as panacea, antidote for snake bites and poison, and last resort drug for patients in terminal stages. The recipe was first devised by the ancient Greeks, completed by emperor Nero’s personal physician, Andromachus, and perfected by the Venetians during the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Theriaca contained some 40 to 60 ingredients, its preparation lasted up to 12 years, and was thus extremely expensive. It contained, among others, opium and viper flesh. In Transylvania it was used until the nineteenth century and was brought in by Italian merchants.