Pliny The Elder and The Mouthless Race of The East Indian Astomi Tribe

Countless texts have been passed down to us through the ages which speak of weird, magical and mysterious races.

From fairies, to dog-headed humans and colossal fire breathing Dragons, the texts passed down to us have inspired great tales of imagination, and have encouraged us to continue to ask questions about the world we live in.

One such example of a seemingly strange race of people, are the Astomi, as recorded by the Roman scholar, Pliny The Elder (23-79CE). 

Who Are The Astomi

The Astomi tribe are described as hairy people originating from the top of the Ganges river near the East India border.

Despite their overly hairy appearance, Pliny The Elder goes on to describe the way in which these people gained nourishment. He claims the Astomi didn’t eat or drink, as they were a mouthless species, but instead found their appetites appeased through the scent of plants and apples. A stronger than normal scent however, could have easily killed them. Due to the lack of digestive foods, they were a thin and bony species.

As Pliny the Elder set out to write his 37 volumes of natural history, he goes on to say:

“At the very extremity of India, on the eastern side, near the source of the river Ganges, there is the nation of the Astomi, a people who have no mouths; their bodies are rough and hairy, and they cover themselves with a down plucked from the leaves of trees. These people subsist only by breathing and by the odours which they inhale through the [p. 2132] nostrils. They support themselves upon neither meat nor drink; when they go upon a long journey they only carry with them various odoriferous roots and flowers, and wild apples, that they may not be without something to smell at. But an odour, which is a little more powerful than usual, easily destroys them.”

The Astomi were not the only strange tribes people in India, as Pliny also writes of another two races – the Trispithami and the Pygmies – who resided in the mountains, and were just 27 inches tall.

Though it’s not known if the Astomi people were real or fictitious, they are just one of the many races of people which have been written about throughout history, but are an interesting species nonetheless.