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Bolbos

(209 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βολβός; bolbós, bulbus). Name of the underground, tuberous roots, like onions and potato tubers, of various plants, especially the Allium varieties (cf. Dioscorides 2,214ff. = 2,178-182 [2. 232-235]) (leek, πράσον), namely Allium cepa (onion, κρόμμυον), Allium scorodoprasum (garlic, σκόροδον) and Allium schoenoprasum (chives, σχοινόπρασον). The magical herb μῶλυ of the Odyssey, the leaves of which Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,15,7 compares to the σκίλλα (squill, Urginea maritima), belongs to the broadleaf Allium varieties, as also the false mandrake ( Allium vict…

Leguminous plants (pulses)

(237 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( ervum, Columella 2,10,34 et passim, Plin. HN 18,57; 18, 139 et passim; ervilia, Plin. HN 18,58 et passim; Columella 2,13,1; ὄροβος/ órobos, related to ἐρέβινθος/ erébinthos ‘peas’). Collective name for small-seed legumes. These belong to the following genera: a) Vicia with the subgenus Ervum L. (among these V. ervilia (L.) Willd., the bitter vetch, cf. Columella 8,8,6); b) lens, lentil ( lens, Cato Agr. 35,1; 116; 132,2; 158,1; Columella 2,10,15 et passim; Plin. HN 18,57 et passim; lenticula, Plin. HN 18,123; Columella 2,7,1; 11,10; 8,8,6; φακός/ phakós, Hebrew ʿaḏā…

Asphodelos

(204 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ἀσφόδελος ( asphódelos) is said to refer to that of the seven white- and pink-flowering species of the Liliaceae genus Asphodelus most frequent around the Mediterranean, Asphodelos microcarpus, which has been mentioned since Homer (Od. 11,539. 573; 24,13) and Hesiod (Op. 41) among others as native to the meadows of the earth and the underworld [1. 68 and fig. 108-111]. With reference to Greek authors, Dioscorides 2,169 ([2. 1. 234ff.] = 2,199 [3. 245f.]) and Plin. HN 22,67-72 praise it as a medicinal plant of manifold use. The albucus of Plin. HN 21,109 has been…

Shrew

(449 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (Greek μυγαλῆ/ mygal, Lat. sorex or Old Latin saurex and mus araneus, 'spider mouse'). Due to its secretive habit, this insectivore family of mammals with various species was hardly known in Antiquity. It was often confused with the ordinary mouse. Pliny describes the ears of the sorex as hairy (HN 11,136) and the tip of the tail as similar to that of the cow or lion (ibid. 11,265). Their hibernation is correctly mentioned by Plin. HN 8,223 (referring only to the garden shrew [1. 175]). Much superstition and magic was reported: supposedly, egrets ( ardeola) and shrews pre…

Ereike

(137 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἐρείκη; ereíkē is first mentioned in Aesch. Ag. 295 and Theophr. Hist. pl. 1,14,2). The genus Erica comprises c. 500 species, most of all African shrubs and trees. In the maquis of Greece, however, only three species of the Ericaceae family are represented, amongst them the brier Erica arborea l. which grows like a tree and flowers in spring; in contrast, the popular honey flora, mentioned by Pliny (HN 11,42) and Dioscorides (1,88 [1. 82] and 1,117 [2. 106]), belongs to the autumn flowering ones. In Italy, on the other hand, el…

Peas

(200 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The seeds of several legumes of the Vicieae group of genera of the order Leguminosae are called peas (Old High German arawiz, related to ὄροβος, órobos, and ἐρέβινθος, erébinthos). They have been cultivated for food in the Near East since the Mesolithic and in southern and central Europe since the Neolithic. Primarily they are Pisum sativum L. (also elatius and arvense, πίσ(σ)ον/ pís(s)on or πίσος/ písos, from which proper names such as Pisa and Piso derive), and also several varieties of chickpea, Cicer arietinum L., common in the East, named after the similarit…

Flamingo

(176 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Phoenicopterus ruber L., φοινικόπτερος; phoinikópteros, phoenicopterus). Wader named after its partly scarlet red wings; distinctive, shy brooding bird in north Africa and southern Asia, today also in the Camargue (southern France). It was first mentioned as a rare import by Aristophanes (Av. 270ff.) and also by Cratinus (fr. 114 Kock = 108 Edmonds). The observation of huge flocks made by the Alexander-historian Cleitarchus (FGrH 137 F 21) is reflected tendency (without naming the fla…

Cedrus

(235 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (κέδρος, kédros, Cedar). This evergreen genus of conifer was common throughout the northern hemisphere during the Cretaceous and Tertiary, but largely died out during the second to last ice age. Only in the Himalayas ( C. deodara), in Lebanon (only approximately 400 trees left) and Asia Minor ( C. libani = libanotica, in the Taurus and the Antitaurus), on Cyprus ( C. brevifolia) and in the Atlas (below 2,700 m, C. atlantica) do related species still grow. As early as c. 2750 BC, the aromatic and durable wood of the cedar was being exported to Egypt from the T…

Raven

(590 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The common raven, Corvus corax (κόραξ/ kórax, apparently derived from korós, 'black'; the juvenile, κορακῖνος/ korakînos, e.g., in Aristoph. Equ. 1053; Lat. corvus), originally distributed throughout Europe and Egypt (Ael. NA 2,48; smaller in Egypt, according to Aristot. Hist. an. 9(8),28, 606a 23 f.) and at least as large as a buzzard, is the largest of the European songbirds. Its characteristic call is 'kronk' or 'prrruk', but its vocalizations are otherwise highly varied (64 sounds, according to Ful…

Mosquito

(424 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (ἡ ἐμπίς/ empís, ὁ κώνωψ/ kṓnōps, Diminutive κωνώπιον/ kōnṓpion, Lat. culex, culicellus, culiculus; conops: Dioscorides Longobardus 3,23) is the general name for these buzzing insects which cause irritation by sucking blood. Aristotle gives a clear account at Hist. an. 5,19,551b 27-552a 8 and 1,1,487b 3-5 (so [1]) of the development of a midge of the genus Chironomus including the metamorphosis of the empís. The culices ficarii which help to pollinate figs are wasps of the type Blastophaga psenes (Plin. HN 11,118; 15,80 and 17,255). The common mosquito is t…

Mushrooms

(291 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (μύκης, -ητος or -ου/ mýkēs, Latin mucus, mucor, -oris or σφόγγος/ sphóngos, σπόγγος/ spóngos, Latin fungus) are rarer in Greece than in Italy, where they were used as food despite the possibility of poisoning (Plin. HN 22,97: cibus anceps, ‘doubtful food’, and 22,92: temere manduntur, ‘they were eaten rashly’). They were considered to be produced by fermentation of the earth after heavy rainfall (cf. Plin. HN 22,94 and 100) or generated by tree roots (from their sticky sap, ex pituita: Plin. HN 22,96). Some trees, such as oaks, allegedly produce edible mush…

Plane tree

(210 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (πλάτανος/ plátanos, poet. πλατάνιστος/ platánistos, Lat. platanus) is the tree Platanus orientalis L., found in southern Europe at least since the time of Homer (Il. 2,307-13). According to Plin. HN 12,6, the plane tree crossed the Ionian Sea to Sicily, and thence to Italy. It was later naturalized in northern Europe. The broad (πλατύς/ platýs, 'broad, wide') leaves, after which it is named, provided goodly shade for rest, as in Plato's Phaedrus (Plat. Phdr. 229a-230b). In antiquity, the tree was favoured as a graft stock for slips of e.g. pear (Pal…

Lithika

(682 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (λιθικά/ lithiká, Lat. lapidaria from líthos or lapis, ‘stone’). Books composed of mineralogical information as well as of special magical-medical effects attributed to precious stones. They are part of the physiká-literature that began its expansion in the 2nd cent. BC, and were influenced by Oriental ideas, describing the magical powers of organic and inorganic nature affecting man in terms of sympathy and antipathy. The generally apocryphal collected works appeared under the names of legendary magicians suc…

Grass­hoppers

(438 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] The word ἀκρίς/ akrís (from κρίζειν, ‘to scream’) attested since Hom. Il. 21,12 describes all species of Saltatoria same as locusta (since Naevius in Varro, Ling. 7,39 basic meaning ‘equipped with joints’ or ‘jumping’). This also applies to the synonyms βροῦχος/ broûchos = bruc(h)us, βρύκος/ brýkos, μάσταξ/ mástax, πάρνοψ/ párnops (Aristoph. Ach. 150 and Av. 588; Ael. NA 6,19; Paus. 1,24,8) or κόρνοψ ( kórnops; Str. 13,1,64 [613]) and ἀττέλαβος ( attélabos; Hdt. 4,172) = attelebus (Plin. HN 29,92). Regarding their biology, Aristot. Hist. an. 5,28,555b 18…

Carrot

(199 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] This biennial vegetable, Daucus carota L., that grew wild in Europe and belonged to the family of the umbelliferous plants σταφυλῖνος ( staphylînos), was called καρωτόν ( karōtón), δαῦκον ( daûkon: Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,15,5), Latin pastinaca, daucus. Through cultivation the originally dry and woody root became pleasant-tasting, nutritious and sweet. Dioscorides (3,52,1 Wellmann and Berendes) describes the one purple-coloured ornamental flower of the staphylínos ágrios in the middle of the otherwise white umbel and recommends (cf. Plin. HN 20,30…

Nightjar

(90 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Caprimulgus europaeus L.). The curious earth-coloured bird has its name αἰγοθήλας/ aigothḗlas (Lat. caprimulgus, i.e. 'goat-milker') from the statement in Aristot. Hist. an. 8(9),30,618b 2-9 (= Plin. HN 10,115; Ael. NA 3,39) that it sucks the udder of goats at night [1. 72], causes their milk to dry up and makes the animals blind. In reality the bird flies about at night catching insects with its rather wide beak. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 Leitner. Keller 2, 68 f.  D'Arcy W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds, 1936 (repr. 1966), 24 f.

Bal­sam

(197 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (βάλσαμον; bálsamon), also balsam sap or inferior wood balsam (ὀποβάλσαμον or ξυλοβάλσαμον), the aromatic resin of the Burseracea Commiphora (= balsamodendron) opobalsamum (including gileadensis), which is tapped in the summer. Balsam was only known since Theophr. Hist. pl. 9,6 only as a product of two gardens from Palestine (Judea near Jericho) and from Arabia (Str. 16,2,763). Dioscorides (1,19,1-5 [1. 1.24ff.] = 1,18 [2. 45ff.]; following Theophrastus) describes the small bush, which resembles the vin…

Rhubarb

(120 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( reubarbarum sive reuponticum in Isid. Etym. 17,9,40, usually ῥᾶ/ rhâ, ῥῆον/ rhêon in Dioscorides 3,2 Wellmann and Berendes, rhecoma in Plin. HN 27,128, in the Middle Ages rhabarber), plant of the knot-grass family (Polygonaceae) Rheum rhabarbarum L., R. officinale L., R. rhaponticum L., named rha ponticum after the river Rha (= Volga) on the Black Sea (Amm. Marc. 22,8) and hence probably introduced from Asia. Plin.  HN 27,128-130 (similarly Dioscorides 3,2) recommends the ground-up root externally for its warming and astringent…

Emerald

(95 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] (σμάραγδος/ smáragdos, Lat. smaragdus or zmaragdus). Greenish gemstone, variety of beryl, in the famous ring of  Polycrates [1] (in Hdt. 3,41) among others, one of the 12 stones of  Aaron (Ex 39,10). Theophr. De lapidibus 25 [1. 66] mentions the copper mines of  Cyprus and an island near Chalcedon as the main places where the stone is found. Plin. HN 37,62-75 distinguishes 12 types depending on their origin. Particularly transparent and shiny mirroring specimens were highly regarded. Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg) Bibliography 1 D. E. Eichholz (ed.), Theophr…

Roe

(368 words)

Author(s): Hünemörder, Christian (Hamburg)
[German version] ( Capreolus capreolus). A small genus of deer, spread as far as southern Europe, whose way of life was hardly known in Antiquity. Capreolus in Columella describes not only the roe deer (9,1,1) but also a two-tined gardening tool (11,3,46) and the shoots of a vine (e.g. 4,14,1 and 5,6,26). Its short and slightly branching antlers, which are allegedly not shed, are mentioned in Plin. HN 11,124. In Roman authors the usual Latin name was probably caprea (e.g. in Varro Rust. 3,3,3; Ov. Met. 1,442; Columella 9 pr.; Hor. Carm. 3,15,12: lasciva caprea; Plin. HN 8,228: absent in …
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